7.27.2014

Lemon Blueberry Cake

This cake is one of the best cakes I have ever made. I can say that because I followed a recipe. So, you know, it’s not braggy or anything then, right? Right, I say!
It’s so delicious and perfect for summer! So perfect, I highly recommend you make it this summer, too!
I followed the recipe from Sally @ Sally's Baking Addiction Blog. She is super detailed in her explanation of the recipe, walking you through each step. This was awesome and super helpful! I recommend clicking over to her site for all the helpful details! But, if you are just looking for a quick look at the recipe  or ingredients, I’m your gal. Keep scrolling sister. Or brother. You go guy!


 photo ingredients_zpsc0c44657.jpg
 Cake 
1 cup (230g) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (250g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (100g) light brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature*
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups (375g) all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (240ml) buttermilk*
zest + juice of 3 medium lemons
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh (258g)  
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
Cream cheese Frosting
8 ounces (224g) full-fat cream cheese
1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter
3 and 1/2 cups (420g) confectioners' sugar
1 - 2 Tablespoons (15-30ml) heavy cream*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt
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 photo prep_zps53929e41.jpg  "Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray three 9x2 inch cake pans with nonstick spray. Set aside.
Make the cake. Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high until creamy - about 1 minute. Add granulated and brown sugars and beat on medium-high speed until creamed, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until everything is combined, about 2 full minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Set aside.

In a large sized bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Beat on low speed for 5 seconds, then add the milk, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Remove from the mixer and stir lightly until everything is just combined. Toss the blueberries in 1 Tablespoon of flour and fold into the batter. Batter is extremely thick. Do not overmix at any point. Overmixing will lend a tough, dense textured crumb.

Spoon batter evenly into 3 prepared cake pans. If only using 2 cake pans, your bake time will be longer. Bake the three layers for about 21-26 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Mine took 21 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting. Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until no lumps remain, about 3 full minutes. Add confectioners' sugar, 1 Tablespoon cream, vanilla extract, and salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add 1 more Tablespoon of cream to thin out, if desired.
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Assemble and frost. First, using a large serrated knife, trim the tops off the cake layers to create a flat surface. Place 1 layer on your cake stand. Evenly cover the top with cream cheese frosting. Top with 2nd layer, more frosting, then the third layer. Top with frosting and spread around the sides. The recipe doesn't make a ton of frosting, just enough for a light frost. Top with blueberries or lemon garnish if desired. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes before cutting or else the cake may fall apart as you cut.
Make 1 day in advance if you'd like. Extras keep well in the refrigerator for up to 3days."
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-Directions from Sally's Baking Addiction
*See her post on this recipe along with tons of helpful hints for making this cake!
Sally's Baking Addiction
Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake

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7.24.2014

Kayaking Loboc River

One of our favorite things we did on our Philippines trip was kayaking the Loboc River in Bohol. We were beyond blessed to stay at the Loboc River Resort, which gave us daily views, on our rooms balcony, of the beautiful Loboc River. Another perk was that the resort had kayaks for rent for $3.50 each. On our first day, we rented their kayaks and set off from the resorts restaurant bamboo dock down the Loboc.
It was my first time kayaking so Zachary had to show me the basics, which were pretty easy. With in a minute or two I got the hang of it and we were off, down the stunning river.
There are several trees along the river that are filled with fireflies at night. We took a night ride down the river to see them. At night the river was even more like glass and so quiet. It seemed like it could have been creepy, except that it was just so peaceful, like sacredly so.  We saw a few trees filled with fireflies which made it look like the tree was decorated with twinkling Christmas lights.  It was just amazing. Our day kayak was just as peaceful and spectacular.
Reader, please get ready for a gajillion pictures. Well, at least 50. I just will never be one of those bloggers that is able to choose between 100 pictures those 2 or 3 that will awe you. I'm awed by each one, and so, for my future self, I put all 50+, so I can remember it all. I expect our mothers & grandmothers to be oohhing and ahhing over each picture out of love for us, not because they like looking at the seemingly same pictures over and over, but I realize to you, Reader, they may all really look the same. But, really they're not! Each one is from a different part of the river! The whole river was filled with mangroves & coconut trees & blue skies & beautiful green water! The beauty went on and on, Reader. I could no sooner pick my favorite pictures as " I could choose a favorite star in the heavens." Name that movie folks! Anyone? I'll give you a hint. It rhymes with Shmever Shmafter. Oh! Also, can I just say, none of these pictures are edited. I took them straight from the camera to the blog. Amazing, right!
Mangrove, coconut trees galore.
This is the underwater view. Just in case you were wondering. It was so clear you could see nothing at all.I know it doesn't look clear here, but that's just because all there was to see was water. The water was clear of debris or fish or any of those other usual river inhabiting things. I assume that's because the river was 45 m deep in some places, so all those creepy swimmies (get it? Like creepy crawlies, but they swim) were down in the deep.
One of the popular things to do in Bohol is to take a river dinner or lunch cruise down the river. The boats host a lunch or dinner buffet and live music. Thankfully, where we were staying we were never bothered by any of the boats. In fact we only saw two or three solo, quiet fisherman. Originally we wanted to do the river cruise, but after kayaking it, in the peace and quiet, it just seemed like it would spoil the beauty of the river for us.
"Here Zach, I'll pose and you take a picture. Got it? Great. Let's go!"
"Here I go."
"I'm really far now."
The water was like glass. It was so still & reflected all the beauty around it like a mirror.
"Find a flower pick it up, all day long you'll have good luck!" I found a flower to decorate my kayak with. Bohol was filled with gorgeous flora and fauna.
Exhibit A. ;)
Zachary was kayaking in front of me and went around a bend and started shouting "Heather, you have to see this!"
I came around the bend and saw a huge white cross atop a mountain. It was just amazing and such a reminder of how good God is and how really, all this beauty, is all about Him and His glory and His awesome creativity.
Later in the week, we rented a motorcycle and drove up the mountain to check out the cross.
After kayaking a bit, we decided to take a break and lay down on our kayaks. I could have stayed like that all day. This was our view. Blue skies & palm trees.
 
After our short rest, we turned around and headed back down the river to our resort. 
I loved these mini hills filling our view.
Home sweet home. The waiters helped us dock our boats & were waiting with wet towels & ice waters for us. Such great service in the Philippines!! If you visit Bohol, kayak Loboc River on your own. It was so peaceful and gave us the chance to really soak all that beauty in. We recommend the Loboc River Resort as a place to do that from, too.
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Zachary's New Toy

For months, maybe years, Zachary has been asking me if he can get a scooter. We've discussed it several times, more than I can count, and we've always settled on, "No, we'll wait." or "Chinese drivers are too crazy!" But my sweet, persistent husband is all boy, and has never given up on his scooter dreams. He wooed me over with this scooter ideas this past Spring, and we decided that in the Philippines we'd rent a scooter for Zachary to have a trial-driving run. Zachary did awesome in Bohol and so I was convinced! Okay, fine, dear, sweet one, let's get you a scooter!
 
Our bf, CJ, took us out to Li Cun, a district of Qingdao, to look at bikes. Zachary and I had gone before and scoped the bike situation out & check out the prices, so we knew exactly the one we wanted. The one we wanted was the below red beauty. 
  
We've yet to name her so for now we'll just refer to her as the Red Beauty. :) One of the major arguments Zachary had for getting the scooter was money. We will save tons of money with this scooter. Many of the places we go to are within scooter driving range and will save us at least 40 (around $7)  yuan a day, which is to school and back, and to the grocery store and back. This scooter will also be able to carry us just about any of the places we regularly go to in Qingdao.
While the boys were negotiating a cute 15 year old mechanic put Zachary's battery in, checked all the screws, made sure every thing was on tight, added a license plate & mirrors, and loaded him up with some gas.
 CJ was super excited to be helping, because it meant he got to test it out!
 
He was almost more excited about the bike than Zachary was. Too cute. 

 
 Zachary signing the deal on his bike. He got the bike, half a tank of gas, 2 (terrible) helmets & a lock for $430. 
 Zachary and Cj with Big Red!
After Zachary signed & paid for the bike, he followed CJ and I in the car, to the gas station to get a full tank. Good thing we stopped for gas, because as soon as we got under the awning, it started pouring down rain! We had to leave Zachary's bike locked up at the gas station, while we went home and waited for the rain to die down. Thankfully, it finally did, and Zachary & CJ went back to get his scooter and Zachary drove home, to park his new toy in our garage down stairs! Ya!
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