Glückliche Runden Geburtstag

That is “Happy Round Birthday” in German if you are wondering. The “round” birthdays are the ones that end in 0. In Germany and in Scandinavian countries the Round Birthdays are celebrated as great events often with hundreds of guests. No matter where you live, a Round Birthday is a milestone we all hope to meet.

In our office, we celebrated Brenda’s Round Birthday of 70 years. I borrowed a clever idea from my friend Joan who, on the occasion of our friend’ Betty’s 90th Round Birthday, baked 90 cupcakes with candles on each one.

So, I set about baking 70 cupcakes, decorating them in bright colors and putting candles on each. Then, I formed them in the shape of the number 70. It was a hit again! I’ll hope you’ll do it for someone’s next Round Birthday. Hint: Leave plenty of time to light all the candles before the guest of honor arrives. If it’s a really BIG Round Birthday, it could take several people to do the job.

For more office birthday ideas, have you read “The Office: Mary Ann and the Beating?” Oh you must!  Click here to read.

Foolin’ Around…Cupcake Love

Husband and son are out for baseball practice getting ready for a double header. Me, I’m home alone with some Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Cupcakes I made, frosting, and a pastry tube.

Some say it was the Magnolia Bakery that started the cupcake trend. In 2011, cupcakes were named by The Food Channel to be one of the top ten dessert trends. Some reports say cupcakes are on the bubble and that bubble will soon burst. Others say the cupcake trend is going strong and will not die out.

I say it doesn’t matter….if cupcakes stop being popular and the long lines to buy them disappear along with the shops, make them yourself.  Whether these cute confections are boom or bust, I’ve been making them since age ten and eating them long before that. I have no plans to stop now.

And, just a note, Red Velvet Cake, a popular recipe for current trendy cupcakes, has been around a long time too. I’ve been making that since 1971 when my older sister’s boyfriend’s mother gave us the recipe (now that’s a mouthful!). A Google search revealed varied accounts of its history, but it goes way back. In my opinion, the recipe is best left to cakes – the Red Velvet recipe made into cupcakes tends to run dry having such a small space to gather and hold moisture.

Hands down, the very best homemade cupcake is the Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Cupcake. It holds its moisture in the small cup and the frosting is perfectly sweet and yummy without overkill. I featured the recipe in an earlier blog in “Steaks and Cakes.

Easy designs with a simple small round tip.

About 25 years ago a friend gave me a pastry tube, professional quality. He knew I liked to bake and made the leap that I should own a pastry tube. I’ve moved that pastry tube six times since then to various cities, apartments and homes. Now, home alone with the cupcakes, I was finally ready to fool around with the pastry tube.

Playing with a pastry tube is a lot of fun but messy when you keep changing the tips like I did. However, I’ve just taken my cupcake decorating to a new level. Get yourself a pastry tube and spiff up anything you make.

Stoking the Small Businesses in Wilmington, North Carolina — Part I

Many antebellum homes like this one can be seen on a stroll through the city.

Wilmington, North Carolina, located on the Cape Fear River, is the quintessential Antebellum city. Incorporated in 1739, this charming city and its port played a key role in the Civil War — it was a major base for Confederate blockade runners. The Union Army captured the city in the Battle of Wilmington but since the battles took place a distance from the city, many antebellum homes and buildings are still standing.

The view along Front Street

A walk down Front Street along the Cape Fear River takes you back in time, yet you know you are in the 21st Century with attractive shops and restaurants. Local beaches — Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach — are nearby, as is Cape Fear Community College and the verdant campus of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

Battleship USS North Carolina is parked in the harbor. Take a tour on this ship that was in service during WWII. The kids will love it -- it is like traveling through a maze in the belly of the ship!

Buying local and keeping small businesses in business is important to me having grown up in a family who owned a chain of restaurants. We depended on  local people to help build and grow the business. A trip to Wilmington is a always on my list when I’m at the beach. Come with me on my stroll while I visit some special places today.

Hot Pink Cake Stand

A real sweet find on Front Street

When you walk down Front Street, you can’t miss this storefront and its bold sign, so I wandered in to see what was baking. I discovered a charming place with a counter where you can take a break and enjoy a cake and tea. Their “open kitchen” means they are busy baking the cakes all in the open where everyone can see. They aren’t ignoring you, they are just on a deadline, except for Whitney who was serving the customers the day I came.  I chose four cupcakes to take back to the beach — cookies n’ cream, peanut-butter chocolate, “Hostess” cupcake, and coconut. They were all moist and delish.

Whitney chooses my cupcakes. I ask her if I can blog about them and she says, "Sure if you say something sweet!"

Sometimes fancy cupcakes are just that — fancy — but blah with no distinct flavor like they were all made in the same mixing bowl. Not these! Their cupcakes rival the Georgetown Cupcakes I get back home in the D.C. area. (INMHO even better!) Since January 21, 2010, Jody Carmichael, owner and cake artist, sees to it that the cakes are always fresh, beautiful, and on time for your special event!! Visit the Hot Pink Cake Stand when you are in Wilmington.

With Hurricane Irene on the way, why not stock up on some cupcake provisions?

The Italian Gourmet Market

Bruschetta seasoning ready for tasting at the Italian Gourmet Market.

I stepped in and Valerie asked me if I wanted to try the bruschetta seasoning. Most, if not all (I didn’t read every label), of the stock in this enticing market is from Italy. Owner Frank Delia travels often to Italy seeking the best Italian foods. The bruschetta seasoning, manufactured by Cannamela, is a recipe of salt, garlic, black pepper, crushed chillies and basil. Valerie had some olive oil on a plate with the seasoning sprinkled on top. I dipped the bread in the seasoned oil…SOLD! I’ll take a jar. They also carry a selection of fresh pastas — had I been at home cooking and not at the beach I would have tried some. What a delight. Visit the Italian Gourmet Market on Front Street, you’ll be glad you did.

Stay tuned for the next blog posting where I visit Fire & Spice.