Monday, February 15, 2016

A Transporting Cake!

I had appropriated the Betty Crocker's Cake and Frosting Mix Cookbook ("featuring more than 300 recipes for every occasion") years ago from my parents' basement but it was only recently when thumbing through the candy-colored pages filled with rainbow nonpareils, glaceed cherries, and sparkling sugar that I pointed out the "Choo Choo" Birthday Train to Baby. He was immediately taken by it, remembering the sweet embrace he felt as a child when his mother made it once for him. So I thought, what a wonderful surprise if I created a special train for him--what a charming dessert with a cargo of Sweetheart candies and jelly beans for a transporting Valentine's Day! It was all really quite simple to put together and such a beautiful laugh riot--Baby's eyes became moist as the cake itself! Great for a little one's surprise party or anytime for inspiring the child in all of us. So find the recipe below and climb aboard!

Outfitted on a rustic wood slab cutting board and a pitcher of two dozen roses as back drop. The marshmallows dipped in cocoa powder with mini-marshmallows were my idea, suggestive of snow covered boulders. The wheels are peppermints but Lifesavers would certainly do, carting the sparkling sugar dusted cargo of Jelly Belly mixed jelly beans and those Sweethearts with little Valentine's Day messages on them! A Twizzler is the smokestack and string licorice made tracks.

An aerial view!

"Choo Choo" Birthday Train
(My notes in italics)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour six small loaf pans (I only used two, it was only for the two of us!), and an extra pan (for the batter that doesn't fit in the 'cars'). Prepare Betty Crocker Devils Food cake mix (yellow was Baby's preference) as directed on package. Fill each loaf pan half full of batter and pour remaining batter into the extra pan. Bake loaves 20 to 25 minutes. Cool.

Prepare Betty Crocker chocolate fudge frosting mix as directed on package (I used a can of B.C. classic chocolate frosting). Place each small loaf upside down on individual aluminium foil "plates" or large serving tray. Frost sides and tops of loaves. Decorate with hard candy circle mints for wheels and candleholders (no candles here), red 1-inch gumdrop for smokestack. Use candles on engine and first car. "Fill" each additional car with one of these: red cinnamon candies, nonpareils, peanuts, and colored decorator's sugar.

Place in line down center of table. Serve on aluminum foil "plates," one for each child, or cut in half to serve two. Little balloons, sparklers, plastic grass or wrapped, beribboned candy crackers for additional display at your discretion!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

DriveThru - Hamilton's

A quick stop into where to eat with Pete! 


Pull up a stool and possibly a few childhood memories at a new soda luncheonette in the West Village.

The mere mention of old soda fountain notions such as fizzes, ice cream sodas, sundaes, and rickeys always gets me terribly excited. How wonderful to discover that the sun-filled Hamilton's serves up these staggering delights alongside old mainstays such as juicy burgers and hot dogs. We pulled up to the marble counter although there are about 20 small tables as well. The joyful step back into a fanciful candy land from a simpler time has yet to be fully realized--I don't mean the staff needed to sport colorfully striped uniforms necessarily but I do wish the backbone of shelves offered by way of design were flooded with jars of practically glowing candy, the sound system provided a mellow, jazzy score and that there were more decorative vintage advertisements proffering sweet treats such as those surely posted in the shops of yesteryear. But the boxes of fresh ice cream, actual soda fountains and vats of malt powder on display were still quite irrepressible!

The Quick Bites:
Scrumptious black & white malt;
Refreshing chocolate phosphate, a "straight soda with a dash of acid phosphate" made me long for a lazy summer day or a good dash of spring as well;
Sturdy hearts of pale romaine (for our greens!) dressed with perfectly pungent, chunky blue cheese and shards of crispy bacon;
Hamilton double patty classic, medium rare with American cheese, drive-in approved, served with a bright dilly of a pickle and side of golden delicious fried onion rings;
Super tasty reuben sandwich corned beef sized just right for easy manageability so as not to create much of a fussy mess;
A snowball of pistachio ice cream scooped out of an old time cardboard box from Jane's in Astoria;
Butterscotch high ball shake brought out syrupy sweet childhood memories enveloped in rich vanilla ice cream!

Until Next Time:
The list goes on! Grilled cheese and tomato soup, a tuna melt, any of the "take out TV dinners" that include macaroni and cheese with green beans and stuffing.

Hamilton's is located at 51 Bank St, New York, NY, 212-661-1515,