Search This Blog

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Joys of Trifle

If you've baked more than three cakes in your life, the odds are good that you've completely screwed up at least one of them.  You have experienced that brief, fleeting moment of delight when you are convinced it's going to release perfectly from the bottom of the pan, but when you pull the pan away, a huge chunk is missing - clinging to the bottom of the pan for all it's worth.  Now you can scrape it off, slap it back into the hole, and hope no one notices...not that I speak from personal experience or anything, but another option, and my favorite, is to turn it into a trifle.

What is trifle?  Traditionally a trifle is a sponge cake, soaked in port, sherry, or wine, a layer of custard, a layer of fruit, and a layer of whipped cream.  But, I'm not very traditional. 

A trifle bowl isn't necessary as you could use any large glass bowl, preferably clear so you can see the layers.  I bought mine at Wal-Mart for about $10, which I thought was totally worth it.  I happened to have the crumbled pieces of a Duncan Hines Pineapple Supreme cake in the freezer.  (It was originally baked as a castle cake for my daughter's birthday, but refused to come out of the pan.  I literally had to dig it out of the cake pan with a I saved it for trifle.)  I let the cake thaw, and then put some bite-size cake chunks on the bottom of the trifle bowl.  Next, I layered a cup and a half of Jell-O Instant Banana pudding (the big box, the one that takes 3 cups of milk) over the cake.  The next layer was pineapple (I used fresh, but canned would be fine), followed by half of an 8oz. container of whipped cream.  Then I repeated the layers of cake, pudding, fruit, and whipped cream, and topped it with flaked coconut and garnished with cherries.
And it was fabulous.

If I'd had some bananas, I would have chopped them up and added them to the fruit layer, and if you aren't a  coconut person, it could easily be left out.  The wonderful thing about trifle is that you can mix-and-match your flavors.  Cake, fruit, pudding and whipped cream...any combination.  You can even leave out either the fruit or the pudding layer.  Chocolate cake and cherry pie filling? Yum.  Chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, and bits of peppermint candy? Awesome for Christmas.  Angel Foodcake, chocolate pudding and strawberries, or Yellow Cake and peaches, Devils Food and Pistachio Pudding... whatever you like.  Top it with chopped nuts, chocolate chips, cherries, or pieces of fruit, or heck, all off the above.

Because it's so pretty, all those nice colorful layers, it's a great dessert to take to a pot-luck.  It looks like you worked really hard on a beautiful dessert, when all you really did was dump a lot of stuff in a bowl.  Easy is awesome...and pretty!  So the next time you ruin a cake, throw it in a freezer bag and save it for a trifle, just don't eat the whole thing yourself.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Operation - Build a Table

Earlier this week my new furniture was delivered!  A giant, black leather, sectional and new tables, also black.  (Ignore the white couch, it's finding a new home later this week.)  So... now my brown curtains and pillows need to go, we need some color in here, and the big gaping space behind the corner of the sectional needs.... something.  I considered a ficus, the go-to fake plant for decorating blank spots, but I really wanted a table where I could put a big vase and change out flower arrangements seasonally.  I also wanted a place to hide all of the various charging cables that seem to multiply every other month.  So, where to find a triangular table with the exact dimensions I need?  Heck if I know, I'll just do it myself.

 I believe I mentioned that my dad has a sawmill and does a lot of woodworking, so I figured a quick trip to Ma and Pa's would supply me with everything I needed...and it did.  The table was going to be behind the couch and under a tablecloth so I wasn't concerned about it being beautiful; it just needed to be sturdy enough to hold a vase and maybe a lamp.  I should probably also mention that I come from a long line of pack-rats; my dad saves everything and is always dragging stuff home, his dad used to have a wrecker service and a junkyard... 'nuff said.  While I wouldn't call us hoarders, we are creative people that can find uses for things that others would throw away.  In fact, the legs for my table are actually the posts of an old crib that my great-uncle Luke found in a dumpster and dragged to the workshop.  

We removed the hardware and cut the legs down to size.  My plan was to build a frame for the top, and attach the legs to the inside.  I found some scrap 1"x1" lumber to make the frame, and made it the 2' by 2' by whatever the long section ended up being. Actually, because we didn't miter the ends and just stacked one end against the other, it was 24" for one piece and 23" for the other, with one of our square legs nailed to the inside.  Then we cut the front supports, which had to be angled.  The great thing about square legs and a 90 degree triangle is that the two corners are 45 degrees, which means we chopped the top of the legs from corner to corner, and didn't have to really do any math or get out a protractor.  We didn't even measure the depth, just laid the frame against it, drew a line, and cut there.  Once we had the front supports, we lined up the front part of the frame, drew a line where we wanted it, and cut off the rest.  No math is good.  Table saws are good too.  I mean, I could have done this with a hand held miter saw, but I have access to big tools and like to use them.
We brad nailed the frame to the legs, which now fit nicely into the corners.  Of course, it was after we had this part together that I decided to turn the back support around, on the off chance that it would ever be used somewhere else in the house and would need to look half decent.  So we pulled it off and turned it around so that the cut ran down the back.

At this stage, it was a little wobbly.  While adding the top would have strengthened it, I didn't want the dogs to decide to jump off the back of the couch onto the table, knocking the whole thing down.  So we needed some extra support - back to the crib!  We knocked out a few of the decorative dowels that made up the side of the crib, and cut them down to size.  (This part did require measuring to make sure the holes would be level)  It was a little awkward, but we managed to drill holes into the legs and insert the dowels.  A few brad nails later, and presto! we had braces.

I picked a piece of scrap board, positioned it to give it the overhang I wanted and then drew along the bottom, against the frame, to outline where we should cut it.  Again, no math, no measuring, because we're lazy. The board I picked for the top wasn't quite big enough, so we had to cut a little extra triangle for the back.  No biggy.  Then we brad nailed the whole top down, and went over it really well with an orbital sander to round off the edges and make it nice and smooth.

I plan on putting something with some extra color over it, but I'll wait until I've picked out new curtains.  For right now, this old curtain panel works just fine as a tablecloth, and the old photo box, with an x cut in the back, makes a great place to hide all the cell chargers and the power cord for the laptop.
Project cost? Free.  Time? About 40 minutes.  Now I just need to find the perfect vase!