Loretta’s Last Call, Y’all

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Wednesday I went out with my old pal Melyssa, who I’ve known since pretty much the beginning of Sophomore year. She’s the person I turn to when I want to check out a new restaurant, so when she sent me an article announcing the opening of a new Southern eatery in Fenway, I was beyond stoked! I had yet to find an authentic Country experience in Boston, and I’d all but given up hope. Enter: Loretta’s Last Call, the only place in Boston that tempted me to pull on my cowboy boots in 90 degree weather.

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The whole restaurant is a tribute to Honky-Tonk, right down to the giant jukebox with Country classics, and the hundreds of records and pictures on the walls. There’s even a stage all lit up for live music. We picked a night where there was no fellow in a ten gallon hat serenading us with a twang, but it just gives us an excuse to come back!

I was impressed with the menu even before we got there.  Along with mouth-watering dishes, the drink menu was off the charts! If you’re a fan of whiskey, Loretta’s is your place. But Melyssa  and I were in the mood for a good cocktail, and after much deliberation, we decided on The Dogwood: grapefruit juice, moonshine, elderflower liqueur, and garnished with a lemon. And of course it wouldn’t be appropriate for a good home country restaurant to not serve their specialty drinks in Mason Jars! The Dogwood was perfect, refreshing, and exactly what you need on a hot summer’s evening.

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Now, let’s get down to the food. No one makes good Southern food better than my grandmothers, let’s just be honest. They’re the reason I believe in whole milk and butter in everything that I make. But since my Grammy and Grandmama both reside in Nashville, Loretta’s is where I’ll be going when I need a good buttermilk fried chicken fix.  Generally, Melyssa and I are big chatterboxes, but once our food was served, all you could hear was the music. It was crispy, it was a little spicy, the meat so tender, and utterly satisfying. And I have to say, I’m very impressed. I can be a bit critical when it comes to food I grew up with, so I don’t give my compliments lightly. Out of all the Southern establishments I’ve patronized in Boston, I’m only wiling to make the trek to Fenway from now on. And if you’re in the mood for some good biscuits, might I suggest the Fried Buttermilk Biscuits with Maple Butter for dessert? Share it with a friend. You won’t regret it.

One thing I would like to note very quickly though: once our food was taken away, it really seemed like they were trying to hurry us out, even though the restaurant was pretty empty. Sure, there was a home Red Sox game that day, but it wasn’t over yet, so there was no rush from hungry baseball fans. We came to relax and take it all in, so in the future, let us sit for a bit, eh? We paid, and we liked it there!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, talking about the South for so long has made me miss Nashville, and so I’m going to go cry in a corner listening to some Patsy Cline for a while.

 

How was your weekend??

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Sydney in the City

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Right, well, to say that I had the time of my life in NYC would be putting it pretty lightly, I’d say. I HAD THE TIME OF MY LIFE. Even when it was down pouring, even when it was so hot that we felt like we were walking in slow motion. I wouldn’t change a second of it. And it sure is true what they say: that city certainly never sleeps. Maybe I would’ve changed that actually; Maybe we could’ve slept a smidgen more.

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I got there pretty much on time Thursday afternoon, and that evening my best friend Tori whisked me to dinner at Alice’s Tea Cup, which was just like a dream, really. If you’re even remotely a fan of Alice in Wonderland, then you’ll love this cafe’s nod to a classic. Everything is very kitschy and weird in the best way, with waitresses in vintage dress, and tables with doll heads in them. I loved it, I loved the huge tea selection, and the FOOD. The food was TOPS. It was the perfect kick-off to my big summer adventure…until it started to rain.

And not just any rain, my friend. Oh no. Hurricane rain. And as a woman of color I must tell you: water and hair are mortal enemies when it isn’t bath time. And because my little umbrella refused to be our big protector from the elements, Tori and I ran to the closest Duane Reade for both shelter, and emergency ponchos. And I’ll tell ya, those glorified saran-wrap sacks with hoods actually served us well. Sure, we got horrified stares from the pretty fashionistas on the F train, but we were relatively dry. And we just couldn’t stop laughing all the way home.

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We were fortunate enough to stay at a little B & B in Brooklyn, so we got to do some exploring. On Saturday we decided to grab a quick breakfast at a nice cafe called Ted and Honey where we got breakfast sandwiches that were positively divine. I never would’ve thought to eat a leafy green salad for breakfast, but in New York, I’m up for anything. Afterwards we decided to semi-surpise my other best friend at work, then take a very wet stroll around the East Village. Tori was dying to catch at least a bit of the Germany/France game, so we ducked into a nearby bar with plenty of open tables.

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We spent the Fourth of July on top of my friend Devin’s rooftop mainly saying “excuse me” to the millions of hipsters joining us, and commenting on how terrible we thought the band playing was. We saw the Fireworks from the Brooklyn Bridge though, and that made it much better.

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Saturday was spent the exact way it should be: with your best friends, having a makeshift picnic in Central Park with items you find from Trader Joe’s, and laughing until you cried. We were supposed to meet up with our other friends that afternoon, but got there a bit early. To kill the time, Tori took me to one of her favorite cookie shops, which she’s been excited to take me to for months. If you’ve never been to Levain Bakery, then you haven’t tasted the decadence that is a gourmet cookie. This place has it made, let me tell you. It’s this tiny hole-in-the-wall that you might probably pass right by, but you wouldn’t, because the line is constantly out the door. There are only a few selections of cookies, and only cookies, and it’s WORTH IT. Must try.

Later that afternoon I corralled the group into coming with me to The High Line, an old train track that has been repurposed into a totally excellent park. It’s got trees and vine tunnels, and plenty of benches, and amazing views. It doesn’t take you long to get from end to end, but there’s so much to see and do. And if you get peckish, there’s a nice little indoor gourmet food court for you to enjoy along the way.

After we left the High Line, everyone was up for drinks, so they took me to the Art Bar, which is the type of place that you would expect in New York if you’ve ever watched Friends. It’s cozy and intimate, and there are sofas and throw pillows everywhere. The drinks are delicious, and the music was constantly on point. 

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We spent the rest of the night wandering around the West Village, admiring all the designer storefronts, and even making it to Katz’s Deli! I didn’t get a chance to order a sandwich (I’d stopped earlier at Bleecker Street Pizza for a quick slice), but that didn’t stop me from taking a billion pictures and making the patrons by the window super uncomfortable. Hey, par for the course if you want to sit near the entrance and people-watch.

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Sunday’s breakfast was by far the dreamiest. We ventured to Provence en Boîte in Carroll Gardens’ Restaurant Row, and as soon as we stepped inside, it felt like we’d just left New York and entered a little French cafe. It’s rustic and chic, and French casual, always with a hint of sophistication. And when one is in a sophisticated French cafe, one must always order French press coffee. One simply must. Our waiter was also outstandingly hilarious and friendly, so that was a plus. As the swift breeze flowed in and out of the windows, blowing the flags up and down with the warm breeze, Tori and I felt compelled to give in to the magic, and order dishes as sophisticated as the atmosphere: For Tori, Eggs Florentine, and Eggs Benedict for me. Both OUT OF THIS WORLD. And perhaps I say that a lot, but I MEAN IT. My eggs were so good, and the brioche so fluffy, that I was slightly disappointed that it had ended so soon.

We got to see an old High School best chum of mine for thirty minutes later that afternoon which was lovely. It was sad that the time was so short, but after five years, we’ll take it! I promised I’d be back and we’d do something spectacular then anyway. After, we went to a pet store called Puppies where I got Oscar an ADORABLE “I Heart NY” hooded sweatshirt that I know he (re: my mother and myself) will love.

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That night Tori took me on my first trip to Williamsburg where the mustaches and beards are plenty, and there is always the threat of a sculpting-wax shortage. I loved it. It reminded me of Allston, honestly. But far, far more expensive.

We had dinner at this totally awesome restaurant and biergarten called Radegast, where the authentic German beer flows freely and the waiters speak with faint German accents. Tori had beet latkes with the best goat cheese aioli that I’ve ever tasted (I hadn’t had any prior, so my opinion is high), and I had Swiss Chard and Beet Pieorgies. Devin ordered lamb bratwurst with Sauerkraut, and since I’m from the Midwest, I couldn’t stop myself from trying a giant bite. The prices are great, the food is good, and it really feels like there’s a little bit of Germany residing in Brooklyn.

We ended up staying out WELLL into Monday morning, which made parting a little groggy and way too quick. But we all got dressed and ready in record time, let me tell you. I grabbed a great fried egg breakfast sandwich from a kiosk in Bryant Park, and I was on my way back to Beantown.

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I’ve just now finished my last B’Day truffle from Momofuku Milk Bar, and now it really feels like my dream adventure is officially over. But all is well. If I didn’t leave, I wouldn’t appreciate just how special these moments truly are. Miss you already, but I’ll be back.

 

Count on it.

 

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Let’s Go on a Trip

I’m off to New York for the Fourth of July Weekend, and to say I’m excited would be…like the grossest understatement in the history of understatements. Five (almost six!) years in Boston, and I have not once ventured to NYCGoing to The Big Apple used to be the big trip of the summer for my family, but the last time I stepped foot in that beautiful city was all the way back in 2004. Needless to say, I am long overdue. Here are some of the things I’d like to bring with me for the big adventure!

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Merona Stripe Weekender Duffle Handbag // River Island Ora Sunglasses // Revlon ColorBurst Lacquer Balm in “Provocative” // San Diego Hat Company Striped Sun Hat // Where’d You Go, Bernadette: A Novel // Cath Kidston Set of 2 Provence Rose Travel Laundry Bags

 

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Cupcakes and a Movie

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I had my first Cakeology experience downtown and I have to say: DELICIOUS. Not only do they have beautiful full-size treats, but mini cupcakes as well. I tried two, and I WILL BE BACK.

 

Also, finally, FINALLY saw Belle after reading about it in Entertainment Weekly for a few months now! Go see it if you love period pieces (and you know I do.)

 

Here’s the trailer:

 

Happy Thursday!

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Time for Key Lime (Pie)

This is late. This is CRAZY late. But better late than never, right? RIGHT!?

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For my work chum’s birthday I’ve been saying for months that I would make him a key lime pie, because he will eat anything citrusy. So I finally did.

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Graham cracker crusts are the easiest crusts to make in the whole wide world.  A little butter, some sugar, a little baking, and you’re in business.

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And making the filling is even easier! Like shockingly easy. Like I thought I had done something wrong, it was so easy. And what I like about the recipe I found is, you use every part of the lime. Fresh lime juice. Check. Lemon zest. Extra check. It gave it more of kick, and I think my chums really liked it.

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Graham Cracker Crust

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Key Lime Filling

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
Zest of 1 large lime
1/2 cup lime juice, from 5 limes

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter with a fork. Mix until graham cracker crumbs are moist. Press mixture into a 9 inch pie plate or dish. Pat down the bottom and sides. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown.

While the crust is baking, prepare filling. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks. Whisk until well combined. Add in the lime zest, and lime juice. Whisk well. Set mixture aside. It will thicken up as it sits.

When the pie crust has cooled to slightly warm or room temperature, pour the lime filling over the pie crust. Bake for 15-17 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a cooling rack. When cool, chill the pie in the refrigerator. The filling will set up as it cools. Chill for at least one hour before serving.

Serve cold.

 

SOURCE: Two Peas and Their Pod

 

Happy Friday!

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Birthday Weekend in Pictures!

Birthdays are great when you can spend them with friends!

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Something I don’t do very often is get very, very dressed up. And I never wear heels. It’s not that I can’t walk in them, it’s that Boston has more cobblestone streets than I’d like to count, and walking on those, with heels that could break your ankles, is not a good time. But if you can’t dress up on your birthday, when can you?

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FINALLY I can cross the Tip Tap Room off of my list of places to visit! If you’ve never been, you must go for the huge selections of beers on tap (Get it? Tip TAP Room) alone! Go for the beer, stay for the pleasantly unusual menu. Antelope Meat Loaf? Okay!

We ended up choosing the classic Steak Tips, and a special for the night: Korean Style Ribs with Kimchi! Loved it. There was a time when I would turn down any spicy food, but now that I’m older and more mature (Kind of. Not really.) I’ve learned to welcome all of the flavors into my life.

 

After dinner we went dancing at West End Johnnies on Portland Street, then hobbled home, vowing to never wear heels again.

Until next year, I guess.

 

Happy Wednesday!

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Address Me as “Your Majesty”

I’m the Birthday Princess!

Today was such a simple, such a LOVELY day.

You know how people say that as they get older, they don’t really care about doing it big for birthdays anymore? All they really care about is being with the ones they love? I get that. For some reason, there’s all this pressure to have a good time on your birthday, making it incredible, and that’s too much to live up to. I’d rather be close to the ones that I cherish, eat some good comfort food, then eat again. And take lots of pictures. So that’s what I did. I took pictures, ate, laughed, ate, took more pictures, went in search of more food. And it was the best birthday yet.

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I feel like Gourmet Dumpling House is one of Boston’s best kept secrets. Tucked away in the heart of Chinatown, you’ll pass by a lot of delicious options before you find this place. But there’s a reason that the line runs out the door most nights. I can say without a doubt that those are the best dumplings in Boston. HANDS DOWN. And I have had many, many dumplings. I don’t know what they do, but they do it well. It has been a staple dinner place in my friend group for many years, and those I take there know how sacred it is. And don’t you dare leave until you’ve had an order of scallion pancakes. Good gracious, now I want some.

I also brought a disposable camera that I picked up from the pharmacy. I miss the days of using film, so I’m trying to get myself back into it. So far so good. Anna was kind enough to put up with me taking “artistic” shots from the crosswalk.

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I know I’m so late to the macaron trend, but I can’t believe how much one of these can change my entire day. We went in search of the Cameo Macaron truck and found it parked by Prudential. I memorized the walk because I think I’ll be making it rather often this summer. We ate our cookies by the water and waxed nostalgic about how much we’ve grown and changed in seven years. She’s graduating and going home soon, so being with her today made this  birthday so much better.

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What am I going to do without my beautiful best friend? Ah well, we’ll manage. We always do.

 

It’s my birthday, and I’m drinking a mini bottle of Pink Moscato bubbly. This is the life.

 

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Lilac Sunday at the Arboretum!

Okay, let me start this off by saying that I didn’t actually get any pictures of the lilacs…

BUT, I did get a sunburn! Yeah!

Honestly, I head out to the Arboretum every single chance I get, but this Sunday was ESPECIALLY special because in addition to it being Lilac Sunday (a celebration of some sweet smellin’ floret), it was also a special edition of the New England Food Truck Festival! Where there is food truck, you will find Sydney.

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The “Hub” Burger from Boston’s Baddest Burgers, with provolone cheese and special garlic aioli.

 

Ahem…So…A couple things:

1. We waited for an hour and half for food because the lines were BEYOND anything I’ve ever seen. Beyond.

2. The lines were so long that the trucks actually ran out of food!

3. I saw more dogs than you can ever imagine, and it took absolutely everything I had not to burst out of line every other minute to scratch each one under the chin.

4. Next time around, a little organization will go a long way.

The entirety of Boston will crowd an area if there is even the hint of a possibility that food will be prepared then distributed from a truck. It’s a fact. I know this because I am right there with everyone else throwing my money into someone’s hands and telling them I’ll take one of everything. When you mix a mob of hungry people pushing strollers and obsessively reapplying sunscreen with a fleet of massive mobile resturants both hogging up walking paths that are quite wide, but not wide enough, you’re spelling trouble. And though my arms now bear resemblance to our little lobster friends from standing in one spot for a little too long, today and today only, I got to have my picnic at the Arnold Arboretum. And I will cherish the memory, as well as the heap of macarons I brought home.

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Here are few macaroon flavors that I’d like to introduce you to:

-Rose Petal

-Honey Lavender

-Earl Grey

-Creme Brûlée.

 

Oh yeah.  And we got those babies first, after only waiting in a five minute line. Why couldn’t they have all been like that? You rock, Cameo Macaron!

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We had fun. Do I think the Arboretum maybe wasn’t a good choice for this kind of event? Kind of.  But you just can’t beat beautiful days like today, and what better way to celebrate a clear blue sky than with piles of food?

Exactly.

 

BRING ON THE SOMERVILLE FOOD TRUCK FESTIVAL, JUNE 7TH.

 

Happy Mother’s Day, my babies.

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Lunching at The Trade Lounge

We talked about owl bodily functions, we talked about state laws when it comes to deer on the side of the road, we talked about beer, and we talked about Anthony Bourdain. My work chums are simply the best.

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Let me ask you a very, very important question: HAVE you been to the Trade Lounge?

If the answer is “no,” put down what you’re eating, and make reservations THIS INSTANT.

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Go to Trade Lounge.

 

That is all.

 

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When Chocolate Chip Cookies Just Aren’t Enough

The sad news: My work chum, Kate, had her last day at the office today.

The happy news: We ate like champions.

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When Kate told me that this week would be her last, I immediately started brainstorming the perfect going away surprise. But the more i thought about, and the more I scoured my cookbooks for the answer, the less certain I became. So I asked her: What was her favorite go-to dessert? Her answer: chocolate chip cookies. Good. Done.

But then I thought about it: chocolate chip cookies are always amazing, and absolutely no one can tell me otherwise, but are they good for goodbyes? I guess it depends on who you ask, but for me, no way. They’re the perfect treat to have in hand for hangout sessions, good for break ups, great for sick days, and perfect for when you need a quick pick-me-up. But for goodbyes, they’re just not epic enough. So it was time to think outside of the box: how can I stay true to her favorite, while still taking it to the next level? Then it came to me: a chocolate chip cookie cake. 

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When I was little, my parents got for me one Christmas a Mrs. Fields Cookie Oven. They were just like the Easy Bake Ovens, but way better because it was like having a mall favorite right in your play room. I made tiny cookie cakes and brownies constantly, and as I set out to make Kate’s cake, it took me back. What was so good about those cakes, other than the fact that they cooked like magic under a dinky light bulb, was that they always turned out gloriously under-baked. So chewy, so yummy. And now that I’m feeling all nostalgic, I wonder what happened to it…

(Note to self: scour the basement next time I’m home. I’ve got mini cookies to make.)

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I’ve got a fun little story to tell you. Last night, I made two of these cakes. And it wasn’t because I wanted us to have one at home. It was because I didn’t exercise enough patience, and tragically broke Cake # 1.

A word to the wise: If a recipe tells you to wait until something is completely cooled before taking it out of the pan, wait until it is completely cool. In my haste to start frosting this thing, I thought that just leaving the pan on the wire rack for thirty minutes would do the trick. I was wrong. Very, very wrong. Yeah, it came out of the pan alright, but in several very large chunks. Cake #1 was hurled in pieces into both the trash and my mouth. Cake #2 went straight into the freezer as soon as it was out of the oven, and cool enough for me to handle it without an oven mitt on.

I would also like to note that this was my first successful attempt at using a pastry bag! Also, this was my first time using gel-based food coloring instead of liquid. The colors are more vibrant, you don’t taste the colors, so to speak, and it just takes a few drops to get the shade you desire. Use gel food coloring. Trust me.

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After frosting, cover your cake and pop it in the fridge overnight. It allows the buttercream to set, and makes it taste OUT OF THIS WORLD. Seriously, the buttercream was the best part, and I saved the best part for last.

One piece of this cake, and you’re done. But man, is it worth it.

 

I miss my work chum Kate already, but we had a forced office group hug, so I’m counting today as one of the best I’ve had in a while.

 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake:

What You’ll Need:

  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4  teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg  and 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325F. Throughly grease a  9 inch round cake pan, then line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper cut to size. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

With an electric mixer set to medium speed, beat the butter and both sugars together until combined. Beat in the egg, then egg yolk, one at a time until combined. Then add the vanilla. Slowly add the dry ingredients and beat at a low speed until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips using a rubber spatula.

Scoop the dough into the prepared cake pan, and use your fingers to evenly press the dough into the pan. Bake until the cake is golden, and the outer edges have started to harden; about 20-25 minutes (Watch out for cracking!) Place on a wire rack to cool COMPLETELY before removing from the pan.

Make sure to throughly wrap in plastic wrap to ensure freshness. If kept at room temperature, this can last for up to five days.

 

SOURCE Brown Eyed Baker

 

THE PERFECT BUTTERCREAM FROSTING 

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat the powdered sugar and butter together using an electric mixer on medium speed until the mixture comes together, and is throughly mixed.

With the mixer on low speed, combine the milk and vanilla extract, and slowly stream it into the butter-sugar mixture.

Once fully incorporated, turn the mixer to high speed and beat until the frosting is perfectly light and fluffy, for a minimum of five minutes. (As Joy the Baker says: “The longer the frosting is beaten, the lighter and fluffier it becomes!”)

Add dyes into the frosting for the desired color, and beat until fully incorporated.

 

Next stop: Key Lime Pie for my work chum Brad’s 25th!

 

HAPPY FRIDAY, MY LAMBS!

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