There is absolutely nothing wrong with a pure white cake coated with a thick vanilla frosting. But there certainly are ways to boost the flavor and surprise your dessert companions.
First, you can add some zest, literally, to the cake batter. The zest of one large orange or two lemons will offer a tease of flavor. When you make the frosting, adding the juice from that orange or the lemons will again offer a flavor burst.
To go further, apply this citrus glaze to the tops of your cake layers before assembling and frosting the cake. And, this glaze can be used in other situations: to complete a newly baked muffin, to add flavor to shortbread or sugar cookies, … This glaze is a very bright surprise.
Simple Citrus Glaze
Yield: ½ cup
- 1/3 cup super fine sugar
- 2-3 tablespoons orange juice
- Optionally 1 tablespoon orange liqueur [Grand Marnier, …]
Place the sugar and orange juice in a small saucepan. Use medium heat and stir constantly until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm. Do not bring to a boil. Take off the heat and set aside until ready to use.
Apply to your cake or cookies with brush, saturating to the flavor level you desire: a little glaze for a hint of flavor or a soak to give your cake a definite citrus twist.
If using orange liqueur, begin with just 2 tablespoons of orange juice. Use 3 tablespoons of juice if not planning on using the liqueur. The flavor profiles with and without the liqueur are quite distinct.
Your options include substituting lemon or lime juice for the orange juice. Or, you can do a mélange with multiple fruit juices.
Source: inspired by Making Cupcakes with Lola by Victoria Jossel and Romy Lewis
Part of the trick to entertaining is to maintain balance with the stages of the evening. When guests come to our house — which really means when they come to our kitchen where every party seems to focus — we always have an array of appetizers ready and waiting.
As people gaze at that party food, I play bartender and I’m ready to mix, muddle and pour. But I want to get everyone sipping at the same time. This weekend, our friends were easy to serve. One person wanted his ice cold vodka and another wanted her diet soda. That left me and Suzen and I had to “catch up” time wise. I needed a quick cocktail, so we could all begin conversing and chewing at the same time.
“Gin and tonic?” Suzen asked.
“I’m feeling experimental,” I said. I was already halving a lime.
This “Ginrita” can be made in a minute and is very simple, yet very, very refreshing. Depending on your limes, you’ll get a light green color or something a tad more distinctive. This isn’t a margarita, and it isn’t a gin and tonic. It has its own distinctive flavor.
I got the idea for the Ginrita from recipes for the Clover Club, a cocktail for a hundred years ago in Philadelphia. The original clover club used grenadine instead of my sugar syrup and was cloudy because it was shaken with egg white. My drink is really a new creation and simpler to craft.
Its pure taste lets it complement many appetizers, including smoked salmon with sour cream and dill on rye bread and figs stuffed with gorgonzola, then dusted with sugar and baked until the sugar caramelizes. [Hint: there’s a pathway to start your holiday party!]
One note, a couple of years ago, we bought an ice crushing machine: you put in ice cubes, the crusher makes noise, and little ice shards go into a container. Shelf space in any kitchen is precious. There is never enough space for everything. We’ve put our espresso machine away, but this ice crusher is always there.
Crushed ice creates a much better beverage than using ice cubes. The crushed ice has more surface area, so it “chills” the beverage far quicker. If you fill the glass with crushed ice, then it actually stays colder longer. The buried ice pieces below the surface just form a thermal mass that takes a longer time to melt than would a few ice cubes bobbing about on the top of the drink.
Yield: 2 moderately sized cocktails
- 3 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice [probably 2 limes]
- 3 ounces simple sugar syrup
- 4 ounces gin
If you wish, rub the squeezed lime halves around the rim of each glass and dip the glass rim into sugar. You can even create lime-flavored sugar in advance.
Before you begin preparing the drinks, crush a dozen ice cubes and fill two cocktail glasses with ice pieces.
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Add the lime juice, sugar syrup, and gin. Shake for at least 30 seconds until very thoroughly chilled.
Pour into the ice-filled glasses. Garnish, if you wish, with a slice of lime.
Source: Brian O’Rourke