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Fusion Cheesecake

Last week we took Babydoll to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner in honor of her first A/B Honor roll of the school year. I was unable to attend the Honors ceremony for this nine weeks because of work so I promised her dinner on Friday to celebrate.

It was a decent meal, I ordered the wrong thing because I was trying to prove to Stan that it was possible to have this item on their menu and it be good. It wasn’t…hence the reason why I say I ordered the wrong thing. However, our appetizers were awesome – Babydoll loves calamari and we also ordered the Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes (a real winner there). Babydoll decided on the buttered pasta but was disappointed to get bowtie pasta instead of angel hair, but we sent it back for the right one.

The purpose of this quick blog is to tell you about their cheesecakes. Many years ago (I think this was pre-Babydoll because she wasn’t with us or maybe we had a babysitter.), Stan and I came to Cheesecake Factory for dinner and when it came time for dessert, I looked over the vast selection of cheesecakes and couldn’t find anything that I wanted to order. See, I wanted some cheesecake and I wanted some chocolate cake. When our server came back to the table and asked if we had made our choice, I asked her if there was anything in the restaurant that would satisfy my craving. I wanted chocolate cake and cheesecake at the same time. They had nothing. Sad smile I left the restaurant that night without any dessert for the first time since I had begun going there (I first had it when I went to DC for college, a long time ago).

On the drive home that night, I sat in the car and devised how to get my chocolate cake and cheesecake at the same time. I discussed it with Stan and tried it out the next weekend. It worked! I served it to my girlfriends at my dinner party that December and it was a huge hit. My first cake was a vanilla bean cheesecake with a chocolate, almond cake crust. My “fusion cheesecakes” were born that holiday season out of a need that I couldn’t find at the Cheesecake Factory.

In subsequent years, I have made many versions of this fusion cheesecake – lemon, strawberry, chocolate, plain vanilla, red velvet and whatever anyone request. So imagine my surprise, last week when I look at the cheesecake menu and I see not one, but about a half dozen cheesecakes that now have some type of cake layer in them!!!!! We haven’t been to the Cheesecake Factory in a couple of years, because 1) the wait is always ridiculous and 2) I’ve learned to make such an awesome cheesecake I don’t feel the need to go there for dessert. The one thing that is on their menu that has me coming back again and again is their Crusted Chicken Romano – and you have to get it with a white sauce (Alfredo) and not the red. That is something I haven’t been able to duplicate yet (and to think that I didn’t order it this time because I was wanted to prove a point…God what a mistake).

Back to my angst….should I be upset that what used to be one of my signature desserts is now being served at the Cheesecake Factory? The process of how it’s put together differs, but should I feel like I’ve been ripped off? Mind you, they’ve probably never heard of me and my fusion cheesecakes, but I don’t have the luxury of saying that it was mine anymore. If I told you I came up with this years before them would you believe me? It made me a little sad….

But I ordered the 30th Anniversary cheesecake because it had the cheesecake and chocolate cake combination that I wanted all those years ago that they didn’t have. I took it home and looked at it for 20 minutes (the next day, I was too tired to eat it that night and it was really late. I did mention the wait at that place is ridiculous) then I finally ate it. It was really good.

Have you been to the Cheesecake Factory and had any of the cheesecakes with the cake inside?

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HEY…as an afterthought I remember when I came up with my fusion cheesecake idea, I was pregnant with Babydoll. That’s where the crazy craving came from. MY PREGNANCY!!!

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Happy Birthday… in the heat

A few months ago I was commissioned to make a cake for someone that was present at my mothers surprise birthday party.  She feel in love with the cake I made for my mom – The Ultimate Chocolate Cake with the chocolate Raspberry filling.

Her party was scheduled for the beginning of July and she wanted to have the Maxine character from the Hallmark cards because her name is….you guessed it – Maxine.

We set this up in May and the week of I called to make my final arrangements with her – getting the venue address, confirm head count, cake flavor (she decided on Red Velvet), and time of delivery.  I had been researching for the perfect Maxine picture online and even thought about printing the picture and caption on a sugar sheet to make my life easier.  The problem with that is the Hallmark Maxine is trademarked and you are not supposed to print her out without getting permission from Hallmark.  No company that I knew would print it for me and I have not yet purchased my printer for cake decorating (still doing research on that), so what was I going to do?  I did not inherit my fathers ability to draw (nor my mothers beautiful voice, but that’s for another time), but I had to put on my big girl panties and do this.  I started by drawing it on small piece of paper to see how bad it would be.  It was bad at all Surprised smile.  I might be able to do this free hand.

Friday rolled around – two days before the event and our air conditioning goes out.  We realize this when we return from dinner at 9:30pm!  I have to slip in there that the temperature had been 98/100 degrees for the past week and a cool down wasn’t expected until Sunday evening!  I had to bake two 12 x 18 sheet cakes the next day.  I knew I wasn’t going to ice or decorate until I got to the venue because it was too hot, but I still had to bake the cakes!

Saturday morning rolled around extremely hot and miserable and not a HVAC guy in sight.  I called my mother and asked if I could pack up and head over to her house to make my cakes.  She quickly agreed AND had my dad call a church friend how was a HVAC guy to see if he could check out our system.  My husband had found two guys, but one couldn’t get to our house until after 5pm and the other he ended up getting into a slight disagreement on the phone before he even made it to our house.  After I finished running my errands that morning, I came home and passed out in the hot house on the cool leather sofa underneath the ceiling fan.  I don’t know why heat makes you sleepy.  I dragged myself off the sofa and took another shower, packed up my supplies and headed to my mothers.  (By the time I dried off, dressed and loaded up my car I had sweated again and almost felt like I need to take another shower. Sad smile

We were keeping the pooch in the basement because it actually felt like it was air conditioned down there (we really need to get that basement finished….maybe that will be the next project).  She had already decided that it was too hot to be outside anyway and was happy to be down there.

The HVAC guy got to the house and was able to fix it.  Thank God for Chuck Taylor (I show a picture, but I wasn’t there when he was – baking that cake you know)!!!  The house ended up reaching the whopping temperature of 95 degrees and it took over 12 hours to cool it down to 78 degrees.  We stayed the night in a Holiday Inn Express.  I got up early Sunday morning and headed home to shower and head to my mothers to pick up my cake and get to the venue so that I could ice and decorate the cake.

You see folks when I was packing up things I needed for my cake I forgot an integral part of my icing and wasn’t able to finish my icing so I needed to get to my mom’s a little earlier than what I thought because I still needed to make the icing (don’t you hate it when you forget something?). 

My mother came with me to the venue to be my time keeper.  When you are decorating…well when I’m decorating I can lose track of time and I wanted to be away from the venue with a few hours to spare.  She did a great job of keeping me on time and I truly appreciate her for that.  Note:  I have to take a few minutes to give my mom MAJOR props.  She always volunteers to help me with my catering events.  She never asks for a fee (I usually have to hide the money in her purse or pocket) and she has learned to work with me.  If I was to say that I have a partner she would be it.  I LOVE MY MOMMY!  Now back to the cake.

I decided to start out with the Happy Birthday message first so that I could figure out the placement of “Maxine”.

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Then with the help of some toothpicks I drew “Maxine”.  Once had everything completed my mother looked at it and said, we need something else.  So the border came about.  This was not the stiffest icing (the kind typical for decorating because of the heat and also this was the classic cream cheese frosting for a Red Velvet cake, I just didn’t want to make it too stiff.

My client loved the design of the cake

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and I was told that the guest loved the taste of the cake so I’m happy to have another satisfied customer.  In hindsight I wish I had of taken a photo from the top of the cake so that I had a top view. 

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In my defense I had been working for about 2 hours and was just happy to be finished.  I think fondant would have been better to work with in this heat, but again I needed the cream cheese icing and fondant does not come in that flavor – white chocolate but not cream cheese flavored. 

I was very proud of myself.  Another triumph for the Red Oven. Smile

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Photography 001

I don’t know if you remember, but I got this great camera for Christmas…

It’s a Nikon D3000.  There are tons of better cameras out there, but this was my first foray into DSLR world and the end to my life as a point&shoot girl.  As you guys have seen I’ve been taking pictures left and right and they haven’t all been the best.  I was extremely grateful when I discovered photo editing sites/software that wasn’t Adobe Photoshop (too complicated for my life…I’m a working mother who is trying to build a second business I don’t have time for Adobe) because I could correct some of the mistakes that I made while using the Auto and Manual settings (also trying to figure out when or when not to use flash).  Plus I’m taking pictures of the desserts I make so that they can be added to my website, I want good pictures without having to pay a food stylist for them (I’m a small business after all). 

I have often felt like I never really had enough time to post because I always  inevitably had to do picture editing and then blogging became SOOOO much more than typing my thoughts and sharing projects with everyone.  I wanted to be able to take pictures that I could use with minimal to no editing that were fabulous enough to hold you guys interested (and maybe be impressed :)).  I also wanted to be able to use the A and S settings that I saw on my camera but didn’t know what they really stood for.  I began scouring the internet for information and blogs that would give me some photography tips.  I found some good information out there and also talked with other people I know that are into photography.  My family vacation was fast approaching, so what better time to try out all of the new techniques I’ve leaned? 

Some of my pictures came out not so good…

I believe I had the shutter speed to high for these photosThis was a good photo but could have been great if I had of had on the flash.

 and then some turned out pretty good…

I can’t even begin to tell you how this happened…but WOW, I’m really proud of myself.

 

At this point I don’t feel like I can classify myself as a Photography 101 student …I’m still in the remedial class, hence the title Photography 001.  So I really would like to get feedback from you guys.  I need tips, comments and whatever you’ve got to help me become a better photographer.  As I improve and learn things I will pass them on.  Thanks a bunch…and don’t forget to send me your comments.

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