Monday, December 28, 2015

The same birthday as Chairman Mao!

Since the 26th of December was Saturday, there was no cake hour. Today, however, we had a cake to celebrate the birthday of one of our colleagues from China.  Today was the closest cake hour to the date so she brought in a cake and we helped celebrate her natal day.
Good looking cake for a belated birthday!
includes a serving of fruit!

It looks pretty gooey but it wasn't!
The birthday girl disappeared but time to cut the cake!
The cake was from a local supermarket. Take one look, especially the top, and you would think it is going to be pretty gooey. But it wasn't!  The light chocolate frosting was actually made of whipped cream which, as you should know by now, is preferred because it is lighter.  The chocolate cake was fresh and moist and only one layer - good for the waistline - so you didn't get filled up. It was a good choice to celebrate with and we dutifully sang Happy Birthday to our coworker.
The whipped cream frosting kept it light!
Celebrating our colleague but not necessarily Mao!
It turns out, the 26th is also the birthday of Chairman Mao Zedong or Mao Tse-tung as it used to be transliterated - the head of the Communist party who overthrew the Kuomintang and became dictator/premier of the People's Republic. So we were told it was easier for our friend to always remember her birthday since Chairman Mao's birth would be celebrated the same day. Who knew?  There was some confusion with a Japanese colleague over the correct Chinese characters for Mao Zhedong. From this we learned that Mao simplified the Chinese characters so everyone could be taught to read. Apparently other places still use the Traditional Characters such as Japan and Taiwan.  At least now we know why there are two selections when you are choosing a language for your computer...assuming you speak Chinese.

生日快乐毛泽东 - Happy Birthday Mao - simplified characters!

生日快樂毛澤東 - Happy Birthday Mao - traditional. Yup, there is a difference!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Cookies and nuts regifted!

Holiday cookies are all too frequently given as gifts. They actually make nice presents, in our opinion, because most people pay more attention to the quality of what they are baking at this time of year.  Today we were the beneficiaries of holiday cookies gifts given to folks who don't eat a lot of sweets and are happy to have them regifted to us for cake hour!
Nice little home treats perfect for re-gifting!
Classic and good holiday cookies!!
We ended up with a small platter of home baked cookies and some plastic containers of nuts. We had the cashews today.  The cookies included some classic Italian-American holiday treats including biscotti, almond cookies, chocolate chips, rum balls and butter cookies dipped in chocolate.  You could tell these were homemade and as such were very tasty - especially the almond and the butter cookies! Thanks to the chef for doing such a good job and to the person who regifted them to us.  The cashews were a hit too!
Can't really go wrong with cashews!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas financiers - nothing to do with Wall Street! And two dead cakes!!

Today, our current colleague from France brought in some financiers. No, not a couple of her banker friends but the French pastry kind. Acording to Wikipedia, a financier is a small French cake. The financier is light and moist, similar to sponge cake, and usually contains almond flour, crushed or ground almonds, or almond flavoring. The distinctive feature of the recipe is beurre noisette. According to Wikipedia, beurre noisette is a warm butter sauce that can be used to accompany many foods, such as winter vegetables, pasta, fish, omelettes, and chicken. The sauce is also frequently used in French pastry production. (I figured I'd make that clarification for you and save you from looking beurre noisette up.)
 Mes financiers et moi! And I don't mean bankers!
Two containers with several shapes!
Notice the heart shaped one!
And several round mini-cakes!
The cakes our friend produced were indeed small cakes.  They were slightly larger than bite size - two bite size?. There were three different shapes - small loaf like, round and heart shaped!! Apparently our baker has some financier form pans readily available. I think I have actually seen them at Williams Sonoma - but I digress!  The heart shapes got eaten first. (Aww!) I guess we are a bunch of softies. They were all dusted with some confectioner's sugar which helped with the presentation if not our caloric intake. Nonetheless, they were quite good and were a perfect pre-holiday treat!
The perfect holiday treat!!
We also took care of some unfinished business - two of the cakes from the last few days were finished off by our best cake maws.  If you check out the post about the Star Wars cake, you can see what remained after that day. Our Star Wars fan knocked off the remaining parts in two sittings. The party cake remnant was almost totally eaten but a tiny piece remained for another day. The guy just couldn't get the deed done as with the Star Wars cake!
A Cake Hour Jedi for sure!
Still some of that double chocolate!
Dude, I am going to eat that and then some!
Alas, he couldn't do it. The Force wasn't with him and a bit remains. Tomorrow?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Party Leftovers

Last night was the annual Holiday party for the entire division.  As is the case every year, we never manage to finish the cake at said party. We stop by the next day, pick up whatever food is left over including the cake, and then have the food for lunch and the remaining cake for cake hour!
The original cake at the Holiday Party!
This is what arrived the next day!
Not as much remaining as after some previous events!
Basically a chocolate cake with chocolate mousse frosting!
This year we got some leftover duck confit, some cheese, quite a few mini-crabcakes, and the obligatory remainder of the smoked turkey breast. Some of us managed to get a decent lunch.  Covered by tinfoil, was the remainder of the cake. Upon unveiling we saw that about 20% of the cake was left which isn't bad. Sometimes half the cake isn't eaten it takes a week to polish it off. This leftover should be gone by tomorrow methinks!
I am so down on this cake!
The cake is actually a basic chocolate cake. The official description was DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE MOUSSE IN BETWEEN, AND CRUNCHY CHOCOLATE SHARDS CRESTING THE TOP WITH CHOCOLATE DIPPED STRAWBERRIES! The cake portion was good and not too heavy, and the mousse like frosting was actually very good - a nice departure from heavier and fattier frosting. People, and one person in particular, liked the cake and all were happy to participate in its consumption.
Give me two of these and I'd still want more!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Tis the season and the Glühwein is flowing with kimchi and mung bean threads!

For our holiday cake hour we feature a genuine German Glühwein - the hot mulled wine that you find all over the Christmas markets of Europe, Germany in particular.  In fact, if you are wondering through one of the markets and suddenly come upon a crowd of people it invariably means that a Glühwein stand is nearby.
Nice spread for cake hour!
The wine is ready to go!
 To go with the wine we usually have traditional Christmas baked good like Stollen and cookies.  Today we featured several kind of cookies including a gluten free item.  These were chocolate plantain pseudo-cookies. The were shaped like cookies but were a little mushy and soft and since they were gluten free they really aren't cookies. So we are going to refer to them as choco-plantain patties.  There's a bit more alliteration in that anyway.
Choco-plantain patties or pseudo-cookies! Gluten free!  Yay!
Please note that the rest of the selections were gluten full or fortified.  We had some chocolate cookies that our baker cooked to long or so she thought. The final result was that they got real hard. They tasted good, were perfect for dunking in the wine and were certainly not as hopelessly overdone as they were made out to be.
Soft marshmallow creation on the left and jawbreaking chocolate cookies on the right!
Another treat were some Italian Christmas cookies festively decorated in red and green frosting.  Also homemade by one of our colleagues who likes to dabble in the kitchen.  These were the simple buttery kind that are not too sweet and a little soft.  A lot of times they are glazed with a sugar frosting but our chef opted to top some of them with frosting and the others naked. These also went very well with the wine!
Nice buttery Italian Christmas Cookies
We also included some classic oatmeal chocolate chip cookies which is one of my holiday staples. And lastly we had some marshmallow type confection made by one of former colleagues who did some awesome baking over the years.
Oatmeal and chocolate chips make a classic!
Our gluten free advocate pushed for a determination as to which cookie was the best, but we were not going to take that kind of position. So we just concocted a bunch of categories that made sure each of the cookies won its category that way everyone was a winner.
Thrilled with his Glühwein!
These ladies are glowing for sure!
He needs some Glühwein to wash down that pattie!
Down the hatch!
A few more satisfied customers!
We dressed for the festive occasion!
And now to get skiing!
A few gifts were presented and the theme for them was mung bean and kimchi!  Figure that out!
Look what I made and then packaged to look like it's from Korea!
The kinchi mung bean buyers!
Learning that kinchi pots are stolen like lobster traps!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Force Awakens!!

Today is the day before the official release of the new "Star Wars" film.  The big release is tomorrow but one of our colleagues, a respectable fan, has his preview tickets for tonight. To mark the occasion he came up with a "Star Wars" themed cake.  To those of us it required some explanation.  Half the cake represents 'The Empire" and half the "The Rebel Alliance".  So on the top on one side of the cake is half the symbol of "The Empire" and the other part of the cake has half the symbol of the rebels.  Take a look at the two and symbols and the cake and judge for yourselves.
The Empire Symbol
Symbol of the Rebel Alliance!
Empire on the left, Rebel on the right!
The cake itself is split into two. The Empire side is a chocolate cake and the rebel side is a red velvet cake.  Clearly the baker was trying to make the statement that the two sides are unique and cannot be represented by one type of cake.  The two sides will never see eye to eye and their separation had to be emphasized in the body of the cake.  Doesn't that sound meaningful?
Colorful if nothing else!
Pretty tall cake for a single layer!
Our "Star Wars" fan decked out and ready to go!
The cake was good considering boxed cake mixes and canned frosting were used. It certainly met expectations which were somewhat lower than something from Pastiche.

Ready to polish off a nice chunk!
Missed a few cake hours and now catching up!
The remaining pieces show that there was either a preference for the chocolate or more sympathy for the Empire than the Rebels. We suspect the former.

Red Velvet on the Rebel Side and chocolate for the Empire
Slightly more folks opted for the Empire side!
With all the hype that is inundating society right now, we were happy to celebrate a small part of the current Star Wars mania!\