Saturday, April 30, 2011

A New Hollywood Studios

For our second day in the parks, Brett and I started at Disney's Hollywood Studios.  I was dead set on trying some new attractions at this familiar park, so we stayed clear of the ever-popular Rock 'n Rollercoaster and Tower of Terror.  In fact, instead of taking a right at the sorcerer's hat, we took a left and found a new adventure.

So no, there is not a new park.  There isn't even a new attraction.  But on Wednesday, I experienced a part of Hollywood Studios that I haven't experienced in a long time.  Which quite possibly furthers the theory that each park deserves a minimum two days in order to achieve a thorough visit.

I'll let some of my photos tell the story...

The Sorcerer's Hat

We found an Ewok on our way to Lights, Motors, Action!

We also saw a Padawan Academy.
Since Brett (Bredi) calls me Hannawan, I had to get a picture.

Mater, from Cars, was parked on the Streets of America.
We still hadn't found our way back to Lights, Motors, Action!

Singin' in the Rain with Gene Kelly & Debbie Reynolds

Lights, Motors, Action!

Lights, Motors, Action!

Lights, Motors, Action!
Herbie, the Love Bug...he split.

Lights, Motors, Action!

Lights, Motors, Action!

We found Mike Wazowski and Sully looking for the entrance to the Backlot Tour.

A topiary double to the famous water tower at Hollywood Studios.

The Backlot Tour's Disaster Canyon.

Davy Jones' Organ at the AFI Showcase after the Backlot Tour.

And the Oscar goes to...
We had a lot of fun in the store after Backlot Tour. They had a lot of cool merchandise.

On the streets of Pixar Studio, we found two Green Army Men.

Aslan's table from Narnia: Prince Caspian.

After we did the Prince Caspian attraction, we decided to head off property for some lunch at Olive Garden.  I think at this point, it's safe to say I've done everything at Hollywood Studios.  Well, at least everything I would be interested in doing.  Honey, I Shrunk the Audience?  Forget it!

The first picture is from Photopass.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Almond and Lime Mini Travel Cakes

Almond and Lime Mini Travel Cakes:

  • 10 ounces almond paste, broken into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray 2 mini muffin pans with vegetable oil spray.  In a food processor, pulse the almond paste several times until broken into small pieces; don't overprocess or the paste will become oily.  Add the eggs and pulse until smooth.  Add the butter and liqueur and pulse until incorporated.

Scrape the batter into a small pitcher and pour into the muffin cups, filling them about two-thirds full.  Bake for about 22 minutes, until the cakes are golden, puffed, and firm to the touch.  Transfer the pans to a rack and cool for 20 minutes, then invert the cakes onto rack to cool completely.


  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons hazelnut liqueur
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest, plus zest strips for decorating

In a bowl, mix the confectioners' sugar, cream, liqueur, and lime juice.  Using a handheld mixer, beat at a low speed until smooth.  Beat in the 1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest.  Spoon the icing over the cakes, allowing it to drip down the sides.  Garnish with lime zest before serving.

*Adapted from Food & Wine magazine.

Cady and I didn't add lime zest to the frosting, instead we only used it as a garnish.  Also, we didn't have mini muffin pans available, so we were able to make 10 cakes in a regular muffin pan.

After this batch turned out a little stickier than we would have liked, we returned to the store to buy a different type of almond paste and an orange, to try it with a different fruits.  You can also try it with lemons.  The three together, with the different flavors and different colors of zest would look beautiful!  Perhaps for a special occasion...

The cakes smelled unbelievably good while they were baking and they turned out really nicely.  We think they could have been better (with different almond paste), but they were pretty yummy!

When we tried it with the new almond paste and oranges, we made them truly mini, instead of regular muffin sized.  They were a little more dry, but they may have been overcooked.  They tasted good, but the general consensus favored the originals with the almond filling instead of paste.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Grandma's Birthday Cake

Let me tell you a tragic, yet triumphant tale.  A couple of weekends ago, Cady and I made a beautiful golden layer cake with chocolate icing.  It took most of the afternoon to bake and frost.  When it was finished, I decorated it with raspberries around the edge and one in the center.

The party was at my house, so we had the cake on Cady's new (old) cake carrier.  When I got back to my house, I had to carry a bunch of stuff into the house, including the cake.  In hindsight, I should have made two trips.  I think you know where this story is going now...

As I turned to shut my car door, the bottom of the cake carrier gave way and before I knew it, I had a four-layer perfect cake upside down on my drive way.  It took one blood-curdling scream before my mom was running out of the door to my aid.  Somehow, she managed to pick up three and a half layers and plop it back down onto the cake carrier.

Of course I didn't have a picture of the before cake, but I do have a picture of the after cake.  Mom was able to run to the store and get a basic yellow cake mix and make a half layer, in order to refrost the top.  The cake was a little bit more slanted and smashed than it was originally, but my grandma thought it looked beautiful.

"It was never on our driveway," I told her with a wink.

Golden Layer Cake:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

Let butter, eggs, and milk stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Butter, line with waxed paper, butter, and flour four 9" round cake pans.  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium high speed for 30 seconds.  Gradually add sugar, beating until well combined.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in salt and vanilla.  Combine flour and baking powder.  Alternately add with milk to butter mixture.  Spread batter in prepared pans using about 1 1/2 cups batter per pan.

Bake about 15 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched.  Cool in pans on wire rack for about five minutes.  Remove from pans; remove and discard wax paper.  Cool completely on wire racks.  Frost with chocolate icing.

Chocolate Icing:

  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 unsalted butter, cup up
  • 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla

In a four to five quart dutch oven, stir together sugar, cocoa, and salt.  Add butter and milks.  Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.  Bring to a boil over a medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  Boil gently for four minutes, stirring often.  Clip candy thermometer to side of pan.  Reduce heat and cook to 230 degrees, stirring occasionally, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from heat.  Stir in vanilla.  Cool slightly without stirring for 20 minutes or until thermometer registers between 165 and 170 and icing begins to thicken to the consistency of hot fudge sauce.  Generously ice between layers and on top and sides of cake by pouring on some of the icing and spreading with an offset spatula.

We used store-bought icing and thank God!  We used 3 cans of it by the end, thanks to having to refrost the cake after I dropped it.  Also, don't forget to frost a thin layer first as the crumb coat and let stand for a while until it has hardened.  Then you can do the finishing touches to make it look nice.  With the above recipe, you don't actually need a crumb coat because it pours.

In the end, the cake tasted delicious and Grandma loved it, so that's all that matters.  And I've learned one valuable lesson: always hold the bottom of a cake carrier, even if you think it's secure.  Also, be sure to take a picture of your finished product before you haul it off somewhere.  It might suffer some damage in the travels.

*The recipe is from Better Homes & Gardens.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ten on Ten :: April 2011

Ten on Ten: Take a photo every hour for ten consecutive hours on the tenth of each month. Document a day of your life and find beauty among the ordinary moments. Then share your beauty with us! 

I had to post today, on the 11th, because of my previous engagement with Resort of the Week yesterday.  Hope you all had a great 10th!  Look for an upcoming recipe of our mini pound cakes.  And as far as the Peptini goes: Pepsi and maraschino cherries in a martini glass.  Classy.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Cat Nap

The kittens were sleeping on Mom's bed this morning.
All lined up, with Mal in Bagheera's favorite spot.

The kittens were sleeping on the back of the living room chair this afternoon.
It just happens to be Hurley's favorite spot.
(Double uh-oh!)

Mal and Arthur finally settled on my green fleece blanket on my bed.
Ariadne was no where to be found.

I found Ariadne on the big bed with the big cats.
She looked so teeny compared to those too.
(See, told you it was Bagheera's favorite.)

She found her way back to where she belongs this evening.

Today was a pretty lazy day for them, as you can see.
They've been going crazy, running around my room and exploring everything in the last hour to make up for it, though.

I guess they love this blanket.
Now that everyone has calmed down, Ariadne has settled in underneath it.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Cady and I need to start a bakery.  I said that to her last night when we were baking.  This time, we made pineapple upside-down cake for my coworker.  Johnna is the afternoon group leader in my classroom, and her last day is today.  I've only worked there three and a half weeks now, but both she and Jane (the lead teacher) have been so helpful and taught me so much.

I told Jane the day we found out she quit (last week), that I wanted to bake her something.  I was thinking possibly something from those Hannah Swensen books that I was begrudgingly reading since she makes so many cookies, cakes, and pies, but Johnna actually mentioned the other day she was really craving pineapple upside-down cake.  I found a recipe at my go-to kitchen blog, Lick the Bowl Good, so I knew it was meant to be.

Here's the recipe, copy and pasted from her blog.  The recipe is adapted from Southern Cakes.  (You can find the link on her post.)

Pineapple Topping:

  • One 20-ounce can pineapple rings (save the juice)
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • maraschino cherries


  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 egg, 2 eggs for a lighter batter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp. pineapple juice

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Drain the pineapple well but save 2 tablespoons of the juice for the cake batter. Melt the butter in a 10 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Or, put the butter in a 9 inch round cake pan and put it in the oven for a few minutes as the heat melts the butter.

Remove the pan from the oven or stove and sprinkle the brown sugar over the buttery surface. Place the pineapple rings carefully on top of the scattered brown sugar and melted butter, arranging them so they fit in 1 layer. (You may have a few left over). Place a cherry in the center of each ring, and set the pan aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Use a fork to mix them together well. Add the milk and butter and beat well with a mixer, scraping down the bowl once or twice until you have a thick, fairly smooth batter, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the egg, reserved pineapple juice and the vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes more, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides.

Carefully pour the batter over the pineapple arranged in the skillet or cake pan and use a spoon to spread it evenly to the edges of the pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the cake is golden brown and springs back when touched lightly in the center. Cool in the skillet or pan for 5 minutes on a wire rack.

With oven mitts, carefully turn out the warm cake onto a serving plate by placing the plate upside down over the cake in the pan and then flipping them over together to release the cake onto the plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

We were really pleased with the way it turned out.  When we flipped it, two pineapple rings actually stayed in the pan, but you would never even notice.  We just peeled them off the pan and plopped them down in their rightful place upside down and it looked perfect!

I would have loved to taste it, but I'm not really a pineapple person.  As a child, I was looking for a after-school snack one day and found a can of diced pineapple.  I opened that baby up and ended up eating every last piece of fruit and drinking the juice.  I've never had pineapple since.  It didn't make me sick or anything, but for literally years it just didn't sound appealing.  And now I just don't eat it.

I'm a little behind on our baking adventures because last weekend we baked a four-layer cake for our grandma's birthday and I have quite a story to tell about that one.  I still need to copy the recipe from Cady's book though.  So stay tuned!

Johnna said it tasted great!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Poor Arthur

Arthur hasn't been feeling too well lately.  Last night when I got home from work, I went to check on the kittens.  The girls are doing great.  Their incisions are looking healthy and their energy levels have been back to normal.  Arthur, however, hasn't been eating very well.  When I looked at his incision, I noticed his bottom was red and swollen.  I won't go into further details, but I'm taking him in today to the humane society to see what the problem might be.  I've been pretty worried about him, so hopefully everything goes okay this afternoon!  Poor kitty.

Thursday night update: Tracy at the humane society took him today on my lunch hour.  She didn't give much of an explanation when I dropped him off.  I gathered from her reaction, that he wasn't going to die and that it wasn't just a nothing thing.  She had the doctor take a look at him after she was done with the surgery she was doing.  Tracy later told me that they were keeping him over night and he was going to be okay.

Friday night update: I picked up Arthur today on my lunch break.  She said he's doing well--although he hates being by himself.  They think he may have had some diarrhea as a reaction to the surgery, and that may have caused an infection of some sort.  Tracy gave me some Preparation H to put on his butt 4 times a day.  He doesn't like that very much.