Monday, November 14, 2011

Boot Camp and Red Velvet Cake

I've never really been very good at going to the gym. I don't like the loud music, or the close quarters, or using machines that make me feel like I'm on a hamster wheel. As winter approaches, though, and I'm home with N. (so I can't exactly go running when it's below freezing like I did when she was still in utero), I'm starting to feel like I need to explore indoor options. When the Boy was still a babe, I went to a 24 hour fitness center at 11pm, after kid was bathed and fed and the laundry was done and the dinner cooked for the next day.  I came back feeling completely wiped, and finally decided that it wasn't worth it for me to lose sleep in order to go to the gym.  This time, I won a free month membership to our local YMCA, which I'll activate at some point, but in the meantime, I confess: I went back to boot camp.

There's something about the format of boot camp that appeals to my competitive Type A personality. First, you're expected to show up. I ace  showing up. Second, you are working out with other people. This is great motivation for me because unlike yoga, I can compare myself to every other person there, and there is always someone more svelte than I am.  Third, it's generally outside or in a public place (this one is in a very low-traffic mall early in the morning), so no special equipment is necessary, and you can potentially get some fresh air.  Sort of like running, but a bit more varied, and someone yelling at me to go faster or higher, which I tend not to do on my own (quite the opposite, exactly).  And this particular boot camp is just for relatively new moms, so even though I can't get there every day, or even every week, I get to work out with N, who now can't go in the jogging stroller to sleep for her standard half hour, because she's in nap boot camp.

N has been a horrible napper since we brought her home from the hospital.  She's been a pretty good sleeper at night, though, so our pediatrician is convinced that she can do better during the day to self-soothe and put herself back to sleep after the first sleep cycle of half an hour is over.  She prescribed nap boot camp: we are to put N. down for a nap twice a day, and leave her there for an hour and a half, checking on her every 15 minutes or so while she's awake, soberly reminding her that it's nap time.

In case you're wondering, no, she's not enjoying it.  But yes, it seems to be working.

The up side of this, for me, is that I've had not one but three orders for baked things this week, so with her doubling up on her nap time twice a day instead of doing three shorter naps with lots of fuss before putting her down, I actually have time to do more than go to the bathroom and fold a half load of laundry.

This cake is technically one of Martha's wedding cake recipes, but it's a drop-dead awesome cake to serve for any occasion.  In this case, it was the request of a friend who was being showered for her second child, and I believe that second showers are all about the mom (because often the family has enough baby gear), so her wish was my command.  Especially because I was invited, so I got to eat said cake.

AND ... this one happens to match our barn.  How did I never notice that before?

The down side: I need to go back to boot camp for moms to work off the pounds I put on eating my share of the frosting.

Martha's Red Velvet Cake

Unsalted butter, softened, for pans
2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
2 1/2 c. cake flour (not self-rising)
1 t. salt
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. canola oil
2 large eggs
2 T. red food coloring
1 t. vanilla
1 c. low-fat buttermilk
1 1/2 t. baking soda
2 t. white vinegar

For the frosting

12 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 c. confectioner's sugar
1 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Butter pans; line with parchment paper. Butter lining; dust with cocoa, tapping out excess. Set aside. Whisk together flour, salt, and cocoa in a medium bowl; set aside.

Mix sugar and oil on medium speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk until combined. Add eggs one at a time; mix well after each addition. Mix in food coloring and vanilla. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the buttermilk and beginning and ending with flour, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed.

Stir together baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl. Add baking-soda mixture to batter, and mix on medium speed 10 seconds. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake until a cake tester inserted into centers comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool completely in pans on wire racks.

Once the cake is cooled, using a serrated knife cut off the convex tops from both cakes, leaving your cakes with flat tops (unless you have perfectly flat cakes, in which case, you're out of luck). Crumble the discarded cake tops into tiny crumbs to be used as a garnish for later. Set aside.

While the cakes are baking, prepare the frosting. In a large bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, mix together the softened cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract. Add the confectioner's sugar in batches until the frosting comes together and there are no lumps. Let cool in a refrigerator until the cakes are ready to frost.

Frost your cake as you normally would, using about a third of the frosting for between the two layers, the top, and the sides of the cake. Finally, sprinkle the cake crumbs around the sides of the cake, spreading evenly.
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  1. Red Velvet Cake. Oh, wow. That looks so delicious!!! How weird it's a wedding cake? I've been to weddings in the south and red velvet cake is often served as the groom's cake. Oh, Martha!!

  2. I think I'd be really good at nap boot camp!
    Regular boot camp isn't so bad either (I agree, better than the gym!).

  3. YUMMO..This looks awesome..You have made perfectly dear..

    my blog

  4. I think that I need to go to your boot camp...but the nap boot camp sounds much more appealing. Isn't it funny that as grown-ups, we long for more naptime, and children - the ones who actually need it - fight against it?

    Would you believe I've never even tasted red velvet cake? It looks delicious.

  5. Boot camp sounds great! Keep on sweating on!

    As for nap camp? I know that one well. My daughter was a stellar night sleeper but she SUCKED at napping. Sucked. It took a lot of work to get her someone decent on the nap front. I feel you pain. Good luck to both you and your little girl.

  6. I love the mix of discipline (boot camps) and decadence (red velvet cake - scrumptious!) in this post. "Work hard play hard" at it's best!

    I hereby vow that when this pregnancy is over I will finally get my sorry self back into shape. I see boot camp in my future as well.

  7. Sleep training is bleh! Not much fun. I tried it with Nugget and would use my ipod to distract myself from his screaming....As for exercise, I've always been a gym rat! But, I know that boot camp style training really works for some people. I imagine Crossfit to be similar to boot camp. My husband is a Crossfit workout guy (if he works out at all). I hope it works for you!!! And, the cake looks awesome. (Runningmama from More Room in My Heart)

  8. One look at that cake makes me feel like I really ought to search out a boot camp myself:) I grew up at the edge of the South. Red Velvet Cake was huge...all the best girls' birthday parties had one.

    Glad the sleeping boot camp is starting to work (even though it's hard).

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  10. I think your red velvet cake is beautiful. I have a major cake craving now! Thank you for the reminder that perfection is not a realistic goal.


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