Baking, Celtic Thunder

A Very, Very Happy “Chocolate Overdose Cake” Birthday to Me

Yesterday was my 21st birthday, and I celebrated by going to class all day, coming home and napping, doing homework, and watching the first disc of The Tenth Kingdom. I fell asleep before 1am and didn’t even consume my first legal drink. I know, I’m SUCH a party animal. My birthday wasn’t all boring though, because the night before I went to the Hellogoodbye concert with one of my friends, and it was AMAZING.

Yes, we were on the side, but it was still great, nonetheless.

Because my week has been so hectic and short on free-time, and because I knew back in January that it would be like that, when I first went back to work I told my teacher that I would not be coming in on this date. I chose to designate this day as my “Epic 21st Birthday Cake Baking Extravaganza” day (I just named it that today). This way I could relax and actually enjoy the process, even though I didn’t know what I would be making at the time.

Enter the Chocolate Overdose Cake I found on Beantown Baker’s blog.

This cake has been by no means inexpensive for me to bake. I would not have been so bad if I already had a springform pan, but at least I have one now (although I would have liked for it to be deeper, oh well). I think I’ve spent nearly $30 on supplies for this, but I already know it will be worth every single penny.

I started this process by taping all of my ingredients/instructions/timings to the cabinet doors to keep them in sight, but out of the way. Then I cleared off the counter and moved everything to the tables. There’s so little counter space here that it just wouldn’t have been possible to make the cake with everything still out.

With my iPod playing my Damian and Keith playlist, the extravaganza began.

I started with the brownie layer, so I put some water on to simmer and sifted together the dry ingredients while waiting.

Note the green highlighter I’m using to cross out ingredients and steps on my printed out recipe. I’m so prepared.

Then I chopped up the unsweetened chocolate until it was rather fine. When they say unsweetened, they really mean unsweetened, because I got some on my fingers and tried it. No thank you. I won’t be doing that again.

Then I put the butter and chocolate into a bowl to put over the simmering water in order to melt it down and make it super smooth.

Then I added the sugar and mixed it all together. Then I prepared the springform pan to let the chocolate cool for a bit before I added the eggs.

Next came the dry ingredients.

Bit by bit I mixed it all together.

Until it looked like this and was ready for the pan.

Then it went into the oven for about 30 minutes and I commenced washing my bowls and utensils so I’d be ready to make the cake part. When I stuck a fork in them to see if they were done, I did as any normal person would do, and ate the moist brownie crumbs that came out with the fork. Oh My God. It was absolutely HEAVENLY. I cannot wait to dig into that layer of my cake. I’ll probably have to make these brownies just by themselves sometime.

I started prepping ingredients for the next part while the brownies were still in the oven.

I chopped more unsweetened chocolate.

This time into large-ish chunks.

I didn’t actually chop on top of the simmering water. This position just had better lighting and was less blurry.

Then there was more dry ingredient sifting.

Now the chocolate, cocoa and water melting/mixing could begin.

Once I added the sugar it looked much better and mixed much easier.

Then I mixed the buttermilk and vanilla and set it aside.

Out came the hand mixer so I could mix the eggs and sugar until it was all nice and fluffy.

I was amazed when I took a couple of pictures with the flash on as I was mixing because I swear the mixer is on in both of them. It doesn’t even look like the beaters are moving in the second picture. Aren’t I easily amused.

For some reason I failed to take pictures of mixing everything together, but it really just wasn’t that interesting. I added the chocolate to the eggs and sugar and alternated adding the dry ingredients and buttermilk/vanilla mixture.

Then everything went into the prepared cake pan to bake for nearly 40 minutes. The recipe said 30 minutes, but I guess my oven is colder so it took longer than expected.

After the cake was out and the dishes were washed again, it was time for a break to let everything completely cool before I started on the mousse. At this time I also put a bowl, my whisk, and the beaters in the freezer because they’re supposed to be “well-chilled.” I figured about 2 hours would be enough time in the freezer.

I had a slight mishap while making the mousse. I didn’t look at the recipe and so I poured both pints of heavy cream into my bowl. As I was whipping it, I kept thinking “This is so much mousse for the middle of the cake.” And then I remembered that I only needed ONE pint of it. *sigh*. At least I remembered before it got completely whipped and the chocolate was added. I just took out half and put it in a bowl so I could use it for the ganache later. I also failed to photograph the mousse-making process, but it was just melting chocolate, whipping cream and adding them together.

The I assembled the cake in the springform pan, covered it in plastic wrap, and let it chill in the fridge for an hour.

The ganache came together very nicely, even given the slightly whipped consistency of the cream. Most of the air came out of it after it was brought to a boil and then taken off the heat, so thank goodness my lack of attention to detail did not have any ill effects.

I have never used to much chocolate in one day. Let’s tally it all up: 5 1-ounce Baker’s unsweetened chocolate squares, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, and 6 4-ounce bars of Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate. That’s about 30 ounces of chocolate, which is nearly 2 POUNDS! Paired with the sugar in this cake, it’s sure to be a rich chocolate coma and sweet sugar rush to remember.

Doesn’t that look SO good already? I wanted to eat it then and there, even without the ganache.

Dripping and oozing down.

Boy did I make a big mess.

I let it chill in the fridge for about an hour and a half to set up and for the ganache to harden a bit.

STRAWBERRY TIME!

I am happy with my ganache-ing skills and especially pleased that the cake is nice and flat and as straight as I could ask for. I’ll be sure to make another post detailing the demolition of this delicious-looking (and hopefully wonderful tasting) cake.

Now it’s all wrapped up to chill in the fridge until tomorrow afternoon when I can finally dig in with some friends. It’s going to be a long, long night. . . .

At this point–and before having even tasted the final product–I think I can honestly say that this is one of the creations I’m most proud of making. It may have taken me from 10am to 7:30pm, but I would happily make this again and again, as long as I do not have to rush the process. This was the best birthday-cake-making day I could have asked for.

Baking, Celtic Thunder

Chaos and Insanity

My first week of the semester wasn’t quite what I expected. For starters, I didn’t think it would only entail two days of classes. You have to hand it to Mother Nature for making my school close down on the day I have three classes. Kudos to her, but missing classes means the course work has to be made up somehow, which brings me to my main complaint. I just had to rework the days that I would hand in assignments in one class, and it did not make me happy one bit, especially the fact that a paper due date was moved to the same day as for another paper. This semester is going to test my abilities to stay on task more than ever before, which means I need to learn how to NOT PROCRASTINATE. I have so many assignments in all of my classes that there is absolutely no wiggle room whatsoever. If I don’t stay on top of everything, it’s going to be disastrous, and I wish that was just an exaggeration.

In preparation of this week, I decided to not honor my decision to avoid baking for a little while and made some blueberry muffins to eat for breakfast as I’m going out the door in the morning. I made the To Die For Blueberry Muffins on Allrecipes.com, and I must say that they really are “to die for.” This also marked the inaugural use of my new muffin tin.

I made some of my own alterations to the recipe, and they turned out wonderfully. I did not use the cinnamon/sugar/butter topping the recipe suggested, but I did sprinkle a tiny bit of sugar on top before I put them in the oven. I also subbed in a half cup of whole wheat flour, and I couldn’t even notice that I did that. Next time around I will probably use half all purpose flour and half whole wheat flour, just to make them a bit healthier and more filling. I didn’t have it at the time, but I’ll also use applesauce in place of the vegetable oil, just because.

Unfortunately, the recipe only yielded 11 muffins, probably because I tried to fill the cups too high. I also wish they could have had a more golden coloring, but I didn’t want to leave them in the oven, for fear of drying out. I’m not sure how long I left them in, but any longer and I would not have been happy because they would have been dried out. I took them out at the perfect time to obtain maximum moisture, so in the end the coloring is just an aesthetic thing.

This snow day also yielded additional unfortunate news, beyond the changing due dates. I went to check on Fishy this afternoon to find him floating immobile on his side. He had a good long life, for a little fish, but I will miss him swimming around in his bowl on my desk, blowing bubbles up at the surface along the sides and then popping them. RIP Fishy, May 2010-January 2011.

After today, I really want nothing more than to listen to some Celtic Thunder and bake up some Best Cocoa Brownies, which I think I’ll do as soon as my suitemates clear out.

Celtic Thunder

A Coincidence? Three Times? I Think Not.

How far in advance do the songs for each episode of Glee get chosen? Certainly not a year and a half in advance. With that assumption, I believe we have ourselves a Celtic Thunder fan in a high and powerful position (at least in the tv world). It has to be. This is the third time a song that Celtic Thunder has covered has been later sung on Glee (with PLENTY of time having passed since CT released their versions). First “Hello Again” in the season one back nine premiere (George in CT, Schue in Glee), then “Baby It’s Cold Outside” on the Christmas CD (Ryan/Charley Bird, Kurt/Blaine), and now “Sway” will be in the eighth episode this season (Paul, Schue again). These aren’t exactly the most mainstream of all songs that have been done on Glee or that CT has performed, so there’s no doubt about it. Murphy’s TOTALLY a Thunderhead! However, he’s truly testing my loyalties with these songs, because while I absolutely LOVE CT’s versions of them and the lads who sing them, Murphy’s totally playing dirty with his choice of performers and placement within the show (at least for “Home Again”‘s context, which is all I’ve seen so far). All I know is there’s no possible way Schue can top my swanky tenor’s live “Sway” performances. No. Way. So he shouldn’t even try. It’s not gonna happen.

Baking, Celtic Thunder

“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Au-tumn”

Okay, so Fall started a while ago, but I’m just now getting around to making my famous apple pie. It seems like during the past couple of years I’ve been slacking in the apple-y creations department, and I guess a part of that is that I haven’t gone apple picking and come home with apples go leor (“a lot”). I guess that’s one downside to college life in NYC. I remember only making one pie at Thanksgiving and then another at Christmas last year, and nothing else apple related. I want that to change this year, though. I’m thinking about making an apple crisp sometime soon, as well. Maybe apple turnovers and something else, too. I just need to get my hand on more apples, so it looks like a trip to Trader Joe’s will be in order; if only those little buggers weren’t so heavy once you have more than a couple of them. But I suppose the end results will be yummy enough and worth the hassle of lugging them down here from Union Square.

I’m getting super impatient in waiting for my pie to be ready to take out of the oven. . . . Come on apple pie, bake up faster, le do thoil (“please”), I want to eat youuuuu.

FINALLY. May I present, total deliciousness in a 9-inch pan.

And now on a CT-related note: HAPPY 32ND BIRTHDAY TO MY DARK DESTROYER!! A Ryan, Breithlá Shona Duit!

Baking, Celtic Thunder

Such a Spooky Halloween . . . BOO!!

Where is my Halloween Spirit this year? Oh, I know, it got replaced with Christmas Spirit, thanks to the CT Christmas album that I’ve been listening to in rotation with Ryan’s. Needless to say, I haven’t made any cute Halloween decorations, bought any candy, or watched the 13 Nights of Halloween. Alas. But I did make a spooky ghost cake tonight, since it’ll be my only time with the kitchen for the next couple of days. Oh the joys of living with four other people and their social lives. . . .

I tried out a new recipe for this cake. The title led me to believe dark chocolate would be involved, but it only called for cocoa powder for some reason, and no melted chocolate at all, dark or otherwise. I baked it up in a 9×13 pan and then I attempted to cut it into a cute little ghost shape. It’s somewhat wonky, but cute nonetheless. I just wish I hadn’t accidentally added too much milk to the buttercream–it’s not nearly fluffy or set up enough for my taste; it ran right off the sides and down into the pan. If only I hadn’t run out of powdered sugar. I knew I should have bought more at Trader Joe’s when I went two weeks ago. Oh well, there’s nothing I can do about that now.

Isn’t it a spooky little ghosty?

2:30AM EDIT: Oh yeah, gotta love the joys of living with suitemates with too active and rather disrespectful/unreasonable social lives. At least I already decided I was going to stay up late . . . because it looks like I’m not going to be able to sleep anytime in the near future. . . . It’s not like I was at work from 8am-7pm or anything and wanted to sleep by 3am. . . .

Celtic Thunder

Lots of New Music

Last week I finally received my copy of the Celtic Thunder Christmas CD. One word: ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY-BEYOND-AMAZING! There are no words to describe my love for these songs. I can’t wait to see and hear this show in person in December. I’m counting down the days (well, not quite yet, but the idea is in the back of my mind).

I’m also insanely excited for the release of the Christmas DVD on November 22nd–just in time for Thanksgiving so I can watch it with a friend when I’m home that week. She’s in agreement with that plan, so it’s happening. It’s also perfect because now I can just have it shipped to my house and I don’t have to pay sales tax; anything to save a buck. At least I’ll have something to keep me happy during break, since reading Moby-Dick isn’t exactly number one on my list of fun things to do.

I can’t wait to see Damo singing “Winter Wonderland” and “Our First Christmas Together”. Nor can I wait to see Keith sing “Last Christmas” and “All I Want for Christmas”, and in that white suit of his *insane squees*. I think my favorite song on the CD is EASILY “Last Christmas”, and with his white suit, I think–no I KNOW– I’m going to be a puddle as soon as I see the DVD and then at the show. I need a big poster of him in that outfit.

Thank you to whoever took these screen shots from the preview video before Amazon took it down.

In other CD release news, Ryan released his solo CD the other day. It was sold out within MINUTES on CDbaby.com. Supposedly they only received 100 copies of his CD in the first shipment. Um, WHAT? Oh Ryan, you should have arranged for MORE in that first batch. He said more were on their way today, but that probably won’t even be enough to satisfy all of the back orders. For the sakes of all the Ryan fans, thank goodness they had MP3 downloads on the site as well. I however, in my poor state, wasn’t going to pay $18.95 for 11 MP3s when the hard copy was only $19.95 plus tax/shipping. I opted to download his CD from iTunes for the time-being for $9.99, and will ask for the hard copy for Christmas. I have this thing about wanting hard copies of CDs/DVDs/books. There’s just something about holding the product in your hands.I think I can also safely say that some of his merchandise will be on my wish-list. It’s gonna be a very Celtic Thunder Christmas, I think, what with all the solo merch being released and thought up.

All I can say about his CD is WOW! He wrote 10 of the 11 songs himself, and all of these songs are phenomenal. So far, I think my favorite is “Go If You Want To”.

All of this new music being released so close together is making it hard to decide what to listen to. Do I want Christmas? Or do I want RYAN? It’s just not a fair choice to have to make.

Celtic Thunder

The Very Belated Celtic Thunder Boston Adventure: Part 2

Written while waiting for my bus back to NYC on 10/9.

After writing the first section while sitting by the pond, I grabbed a hot chocolate at Dunkin Donuts and headed back down to the venue. There were some people waiting by the stage door, but for the time being I chose to enjoy my cocoa away from them. I waited near two other women a bit away from the door, and we started chatting about the lads and the women’s lads.

We soon scooted up towards the other fans because more Thunderheads were arriving. The security guards kindly asked them to stand on the bricks behind the granite curbing, but did they listen? No, they did not. At. All. Talk about unruly invasion of personal space once lads starting coming in and out.

I believe Paul came out first, and as soon as they say him, they literally MOBBED him. I didn’t even want to get near, because it was just crazy. Who knew middle-aged women could be so pushy and invasive. Instead, I took a picture from above and somewhat afar. Yay for being so tall and for the zooming abilities of my camera.


The same thing  happened as each lad came around. It was absolute insanity, and I felt bad for the lads. I really didn’t want to be pushy, so I only managed the Paul picture and one picture of Keith’s profile. Probably the most memorable part of that time of the day was that after Keith went on the bus, he came back out with his longboard (skateboard, not surfboard unfortunately). He stepped out to the sidewalk, got to the street, threw his board onto the street, and FLEW DOWN THE MIDDLE OF STUART STREET, seemingly without a care in the world. My gosh, though, that lad needs to be careful.

My respect/patience during the mob scene paid off in SPADES a little while after. First came George, who chose the quiet time after the insanity to bring Carrie and Sarah out to the bus. There were only a couple of us left, and he took some time to chat, sign, and pose. I only got his autograph again, and I really should have asked for a picture, but I got my autograph and it said “Love George Donaldson, XX” :D. He came out of the bus again later, and I managed to catch his eye, and he WINKED at ME! Love you too, George. I also failed at getting a hug, but oh well. I’m happy with my autograph and wink. I can still picture it in my mind, haha.


Keith went back into the venue after coming back from skateboarding, but he only stuck around for a couple of pictures, none of which were mine. I did manage to say hello to him, though, and he asked how we all were doing.

It was down to just Pierre the security guard and I hanging around the door, and even he disappeared for a bit. I was in the middle of calling my friend, and the last person I was waiting for FINALLY came out. DECLAN! Needless to say, my friend finally picked up as he came out, and I hung up that phone SO fast, without saying anything to her. I asked him if he could sign my picture, and he said he would come back after he put his things away (he WAS carrying a few things which would have made signing somewhat complicated), so I waited patiently for him to come back like he said he would (At least for the time being he had stayed within my eyesight, unlike George at Radio City. Oh goodness, I didn’t even tell Carrie and Sarah on him when I had the opportunity. My memory just goes to bits when I’m around all of them.). In the mean time, I called back my friend after that abrupt hang-up, and she completely understood why I did what I did.

And then . . . DAMO CAME OUT!!!! It was just ME AND HIM, and I asked him to sign my sick friend’s ticket. I told him he was her favorite and about how sad she was to have to miss the show. Maybe I could have also asked him to speak to her on the phone, I bet he would have obliged. He’s so kind like that. He personalized the ticket, which said “To Lexi, Love Damian Mc Ginty”. Most of the time they just sign their name, since they’re usually in a rush or being mobbed, so this was just great for her. She’s going to love it, even though it’s not a surprise anymore because I couldn’t resist telling her about it soon after. Damo asked if I would like him to sign my program (which I was holding at the time), and I said that would be wonderful! Once again, I didn’t get a picture with him. I’m terrible about getting pictures WITH them instead of just OF them. I love that this is the second time that he’s been JUST ME AND DAMO, one-on-one. They’re all so much nicer (I mean, they’re always nice) and more willing to stay and chat if it’s just one or a couple of not crazy people around. Any more and it gets crazy and overwhelming. Damo, I love you for our time together. No, actually, I ❤ you.

And YES, I KNOW his picture looks absolutely wonky. That’s what happens when you try to Photoshop a 17 year old’s face onto his 15 year old body. Nothing is in proportion because the head is too small for the body. Oh Sharon, couldn’t someone have enlarged his head a bit so it wouldn’t be SO noticeable?

After Damo went inside the venue, Declan DISAPPEARED! He had been outside his bus before Damo came out, and now he was GONE. I was so sad. I didn’t know where he went, since he was JUST THERE. Thankfully, he soon reemerged and I was once again thrilled. I asked him to sign the picture of the two of us, and he was more than happy to do it. He recognized it as being outside the very same venue as as being very close to where we happened to be standing. Then he asked if I wanted the front or the back signed, as we looked at each other and both agreed upon the back so he wouldn’t “cover up that wonderful face” of his. Then I giggled. . . . Oh the things that lad makes me say and do *shakes head*. I also didn’t ask for my Declan hug (and it was getting EVEN COLDER) or a new picture with him. Alas. I really need to work on remembering that for the December show. As he was leaving, I told him he was great at Radio City, he said “You were there?”, I said “Yeah”, and then he smiled and went on his way.

That was supposedly the e nd of see ing people, and by that time it was almost time for my friend to meet me at the venue, so I stepped over to the other side of the door to wait. While I was texting my other friend about Damo, RYAN came quickly by and we exchanged hellos. He had seemed grumpy-ish earlier, so I didn’t want to bother him.

All in all, it was a very successful afternoon, but I can’t believe I let it end without a hug from ANYONE. Silly me.  I keep saying “next time”, but really, how many more “next times” am I going to be fortunate enough to have. I can’t keep counting on definitely having them.