The Joy of a Wedding Cake

I made a resolution that 2012 would be a year of celebration, and so far, I’ve been successful. 2012 has been wonderfully busy, and there’s been much to celebrate!

I am so happy to be back in Florida, and I’ve been soaking up the sunshine, spending time with friends doing really important things (like watching The Bachelorette and scouting happy hour locations in downtown Orlando), and keeping up with the Shook clan (we’re a crazy crew!). Sadly, The Joy of Shooking has been a wee bit neglected.

BUT – in the spirit of celebration, I have a really BIG post for my return: a baking feat that is by far my most difficult, time consuming, and rewarding.

I started a list about a year ago of 30 things I’d like to do before I turn 30 this year. The list is still a work in progress (I’ve only got about two-thirds of it down on paper, so suggestions for my last 10 items are welcome!), and I added a really big task to this list in January: make a wedding cake.

My friends Mike and Christie got engaged over the holidays and started planning their summer wedding right away. Over my great aunt’s magical sour cream pound cake one night, we joked about making a wedding cake with this delicious recipe. Of course, in my mind this was the ultimate challenge. There was no way I wasn’t going to make this cake.

So I agreed to make a wedding cake for 150 people.

We did a few taste trial runs and a decorating sample, and the week of the wedding was here before I even had time to really think about how hard it would be to get a three-layer cake and six sheet cakes to the reception (there was a yoga mat and a very skilled friend involved).

It was such a fun adventure, and I am eternally thankful for the help that Mama Shook and my sister, Kerri, provided (though Kerri mostly just entertained us and skipped a day of school – rough life). I couldn’t have done this without them!

Also really thankful for my friend CB’s help in getting the cake to the reception site – one day we’ll open a bakery!


My mom brought over her KitchenAid, so we had 2 mixers working at the same time time all day. What did we do before stand mixers? I don’t want to think about it.


Ridiculous amounts of butter, sugar, eggs, flour, extracts, and powdered sugar were purchased over three different trips to the store. I think it was a total of about 18 pounds of butter between the cakes and the frosting. Paula Deen would be so proud!


Each 11″ x 15″ pan held a recipe and a half, so we made nine recipes for the sheet cakes alone.


They came out perfectly – I was so relieved and excited!


The 12″ round cakes were another story… (frosting took care of this little glitch)


Kerri’s contribution to this project (testing the camera on my iPad – and making playlists).


I frosted the tiered cake first, and our first batch of icing was a bit thick. But it was perfect for holding this monster together. You should also know that the top two layers are styrofoam. Because I don’t even want to think about how heavy a three-layer wedding cake made with dense pound cake would be. That’s just silliness.


The sheet cakes were much easier to frost. Frosting six of them did take a decent amount of time though.


It’s kind of amazing what piping can cover.


Finished product!

Side note: I went to bed convinced Maddi would figure out how to open the door of the laundry room, climb the hutch that I’d put this on, and eat the entire cake. Not joking. She’s a sneaky dog. Especially when food is involved.


And of course I had a photo shoot the next morning.


Then we had to get it to the reception venue, which took two trips and lots of guidance from CB – thanks for keeping cool, CB!


It arrived in one piece, and I celebrated! Congrats, Whitakers!



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The Joy of a Shook Family Christmas Feast (Part 1)

In my old and wise age of 29, I’ve realized how unique and wonderful the Shook clan is. And the holidays are my favorite time of the year to be with them. They’re just so lovable.

Mama Shook is a big reason for my love of the holidays. She spends hours in the kitchen, and the result every year is beyond delicious.

I helped with the turkey brine at Thanksgiving and Christmas this year – we made the Pioneer Woman’s turkey brine for both holidays, and it was perfect.

Measuring the apple juice:


Juice in the VERY large pot:


Adding water:



Adding bay leaves and peppercorns:


Adding brown sugar:


Adding Kosher salt:


Cutting the oranges:


Squeezing and adding them to the brine (PW’s brine just calls for the peel, but we figured the whole thing and the juice couldn’t be bad. It wasn’t.):



Adding the rosemary:



Chopping and adding the garlic:





Covered and simmering:


Covering the turkey with the cooled brine (this was a 3 person job – thanks, Papa Shook!):


And she’s ready to sit overnight:


The morning after, ready to go into the roaster:


And finally, the finished bird:



So thankful for my family and many wonderful holidays with them.

(Also, how great is the lighting at the Shook house? These photos look amazing for iPhone pics. Probably need to stage all my cooking photos here.)

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The Joy of the Annual Shook Family Gingerbread House Party

Seriously – I think this is a winner, y’all.


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The Joy of Cupcakes and More Cupcakes!

I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of making cupcakes. And let’s be honest – who doesn’t love eating cupcakes??

Two batches I’ve made in the last few weeks…

Coconut cupcakes with my favorite vanilla buttercream frosting for my friend Carol-Beth’s birthday:

Mixing the batter:


Ready to go into the cupcake liners:


Into the cupcake liners:


All baked and smelling delicious:


Mixing the frosting:


And now it’s ready to go on the cupcakes:


Finished product – Happy Birthday, CB!


And pink velvet cupcakes with more of my favorite vanilla buttercream frosting (it’s so easy and delicious!) for the Cathcart Christmas party:

Start with the butter, sugar and food coloring:


Mixing the butter, sugar and food coloring:


And now we take a quick break to show what else was going on the night I made these cupcakes:


Theresa and Ashley made peanut butter kiss cookies:


(Sadly, I just realized that I don’t have a picture of the finished product. Which means we’ll have to have another baking party soon so I can properly document the night’s productivity.)

And now mixing in the remaining ingredients for the pink velvet cupcakes:


The fluffy pink frosting:


Frosting the cupcakes:


And the delightfully pink finished product:


Cupcakes are my happy place. The end.


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The Joy of Paula Deen and Thanksgiving

So this is a little late, but I had to share – I made Paula Deen’s Caramel Pecan Cheesecake for our Shook Family Thanksgiving, and it was delicious (as all things Paula Deen are).

Here’s the recipe: Paula Deen’s Caramel Pecan Cheesecake

And here’s the only photo I managed to take (Thanksgiving gets a little crazy at the Shook house):


Seriously. Make it this holiday season – it’s divine.

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The Joy of The Pioneer Woman (and Pork Sammies with Slaw!)

Thanks to my dear friend Eva, I am a huge fan of The Pioneer Woman, and I made my first Pioneer Woman recipe 2 weeks ago. For Halloween weekend, I couldn’t resist her pulled pork and coleslaw sandwiches. Not just any ol’ coleslaw though – jalepeƱo and cilantro coleslaw.

I don’t have many pictures because it was a crazy day (due to poor planning on my part: a 5k, a wedding, and a party at my house all in the same day – who does that?), but here are the few I do have. Also, these sandwiches were heavenly.

Rough chopped onions:


Seasoned pork butt on top of the onions:


Mix Dr. Pepper and brown sugar, pour it over the pork, put the lid on, and let it do this for 6-8 hours:


So easy and sinfully good.

My fantastic brother made the coleslaw (since I overcommitted myself), so I don’t have any other pictures. I will say that I can no longer eat any coleslaw that isn’t homemade – it’s too easy and too good to do otherwise.

Here is a picture of the final product:


Thoroughly enjoyed these leftovers for a few days.

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The Joy of Banana Bread Cupcakes

Thanks to my sister Megan, I have a new favorite food site – foodgawker. So pretty. So dangerous when I’m hungry. And they have an iPhone app. Triple threat.

I had a few very ripe bananas this past week, so banana baking was in order. And foodgawker had plenty of pretty banana recipe pictures, including banana bread cupcakes. Who doesn’t love banana bread or cupcakes?

Flour mixture:


Mashed bananas:


Bananas, sour cream, and vanilla:


And now mixed:


Creaming the butter and sugar:


Adding the egg and egg yolk:


After the flour mixture and banana mixture have been added:


And into the cupcake liners and then the oven:


Fresh out of the oven (yes, they got a little deflated – more room for frosting, am I right?):


So I didn’t have all the ingredients for the cream cheese caramel frosting that’s supposed to go along with these – I made a quick vanilla buttercream from this recipe instead (also found on foodgawker):


So delicious:


Needless to say, I’m a foodgawker fan.

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