Valentine’s Day Cake and Macaroni + Cheese

Valentine’s Day


I noticed on social media this year there was a lot of hating going on about Valentine’s Day. I get it, it’s a holiday designed to make you feel bad if:
you’re single
You’re in a bad relationship
You’re in a good relationship but Valentine’s Day has become this competitive thing with you and your girlfriends
You’re in a relationship, it’s good, but you hate having to muster up this false sense of romance for the sake of a holiday when you barely have time to fold your laundry.

Did I cover you? If not, I’m sorry but I’m in category number 4 so you know – I don’t have time to figure out your situation.

As I was reading through the negative posts my daughter was in my ear – “Is it Valentimes?!” Finally after days of her asking and me answering but not really taking in her excitement, I understood. Festival is important and exciting. So this Valentine’s I focused her and not making it “perfect”.  You know what?  By focusing on my kids and the joy I didn’t feel pissed that I didnt have that “perfect” day.  I just lived and it was lovely.

Saint Valentine is rumored to bring love. He doesn’t only bring true love and/ or romance. He brings love, in any form. So no matter which scenario best describes you, I know somewhere in your life there is love. Saint Valentine just wants us to let it in. Let love in.

In my case love came in the form of a whining demanding almost 4 year old little girl we call chops who was so excited to share this with me I feel humbled and overjoyed to have the honor of being her mother. (Wiping away the tears…ok)

Our original plans were to visit New York City. However we cancelled those plans after work events took all our attention and then the weather turned from 40s to -5. As I’ve said in my past posts, work is challenging right now. I need a full-time nanny. I need a full-time assistant. My husband needs a full-time assistant. Oh and we need plant and facility managers at two of the three companies we run. So, remaining calm and not being an asshole while you try to get your to dos checked off are pretty much at the top of my list every single day. Cancelling seemed easier.

Plans changed, and our new dresses were put back into closets. Our ideas about the day had to be changed, and my daughter was disappointed. However we distracted ourselves with cookbooks and if you are 4 those cookbooks better have gorgeous photos of cake. Gesine Bullock-Prado’s cookbook “bake it like you mean it” has a lot and we looked through her book and decided to make a black and white cake with hearts.

Lately we have had a lot of family and friends visiting, which we love. However we spent the entire weekend alone which was nice. Because let’s be honest, family is great but no one really understand the weird shit your family does. So as the mom, you have to at least try to control your kids weird behavior – your husband – well he’s on his own. So, I was going to enjoy making the hardest cake I’ve ever made because it was just me and my peeps. If it didn’t turn out -‘oh well.

In addition to cake, I wanted to cook some yummy comfort food because it is cold here! On the farm cold weather means lots of extra runs to check barns for burst water pipes. We also have two new liters of piglets, they need extra warmth. Our sheep usually have open barn doors but this weather requires that they be snuggled up inside their stalls. So Big Swing has been focused on animals care. That means I’m on the hook for cooking. I’m an ok cook but you aren’t going to see me making anything with the sous vide. I will leave that to Big Swing and Rory!

What I do well is casseroles, pastas, and cake. Cold weather comfort food is something I do well. My parents are both from Indiana, and I spent portions of the summer in Anderson, Indiana with my moms parents. I also went to college in Indiana – Go Boilers – basically  the Midwest is in my blood. I know how to make a casserole, yes m’am! I’m trying to incorporate different “flavor profiles” in casseroles. That’s what I did with my macaroni and cheese this weekend.

The idea started with me checking out our surplus beef and pork cuts. One of the cuts of Wagyu we always have in our freezers is brisket. It’s delicious so I’m not sure why, and lately we’ve been selling sides and even whole carcasses. So, briskest may not always be plentiful (fingers crossed). This week we had one. So I decided to cook it and use it for many applications one was in my version of adult macaroni and cheese. I used Blue Ledge Middlebury Blue cheese because we distribute their cheese into NYC and RI. It’s amazing. The farm is amazing. If you see the cheese, buy it!

Bless Your Heart Macaroni & Cheese

(recipe by Beth Willhite)

1 brisket (I had a 20 lb piece)
6 onions

Pre-heat Oven 350
Wash/dry brisket and dust both sides with flour. Then sprinkle with pepper and salt. Use a Dutch oven or hotel pan and sear both sides of the brisket until browned. Remove brisket from pan and set aside.

Cut onions into rings and cook in same pan with either fat from brisket or by adding oil. Cook onions until translucent.

Add brisket back to pan, placing on top of onions. Cover and cook for 1 – 2 hrs depending upon size of piece. Flip piece once during cooking.

Reduce heat to 250 and bast with juices from pan. Cook until thickest portion is easily cut. Your brisket is done when the thickest part easily falls apart.

Set aside and after cooled down, store in fat. Use as wanted. This makes great tacos, sandwiches, and filling for macaroni and cheese!


Wagyu brisket

Bless Your Heart Macaroni and Cheese

1 box elbow macaroni
10 tbsp Butter (salted is our preference)
4 tbsp flour (I used Wondra)
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup mushrooms
2 cups onions (sliced into rings)
2 cups brisket (cut into cubes or shredded, recipe above)
1 cup mozzarella (shredded)
1 cup blue cheese (crumbled, I used Blue Ledge’s Middlebury Blue)
1/4 cup more blue cheese
1/8 cup breadcrumbs
Fresh thyme, a few sprigs

Boil water, cook macaroni until al dente, strain and set aside

Add 6 tbsp butter to sauté pan and melt over medium heat. Add all mushrooms to pan and cook until they have a slight char. Add all onions and cook until translucent. Add brisket and mix well. Turn heat off and set aside.

Add 4 tbsp. of butter to sauce pan and melt. Add flour, 1 tbsp. at a time whisking as mixed until all 4 tbsp. are mixed and mixture looks like dough. Add all cream, whisking constantly until mixed. Bring mixture to low boil and when begins to thicken, add cheeses.

Once cheeses are melted in sauce pan, turn off heat. Mix elbow macaroni with beef and mushrooms. Add 1/4 cup of cheese sauce to casserole dish and then add macaroni and beef and then more cheese mixing inside dish until everything is mixed together. Add 1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles to top and sprinkle 1/8 cups of breadcrumbs over top.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with sprig of thyme.



Bless Your Heart



Because You’re Mine Cake
from Bake it Like You Mean It
(Gesine Bullock-Prado, 2013) Stewart, Tabori & Chang.

This cake was the hardest and (because it turned out) most rewarding thing I have ever baked. Also, this entire cookbook is beautiful. I highly recommend buying a copy, the photos are lovely and the instructions are terrific. I have never made a jelly roll and this cake rolled beautifully.

Vanilla Cake:
1/2 cup butter, unsalted at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup buttermilk

Chocolate Roulade Cake:
24 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. coffee extract
8 egg whites
1 tsp. salt
1 cup bread flour
1/2 cup Dutch-Processed cocoa powder (Gesine suggests Callebaut Extra Brut)

15 egg whites
3 cups granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
3 lbs. unsalted butter

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp. unsalted butter

Make Vanilla Cake-
Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 10″ cake pan or ring (I used ring) with nonstick spray and line bottom with parchment. (I used crisco not spray and didn’t use parchment but I would recommend the parchment)

In the stand mixer with whisk attached add sugar and butter to mixing bowl, combine until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, waiting until each egg is incorporated
Add the vanilla bean paste.

In a separate bowl mix flour, baking powder and salt.

Measure out buttermilk.


Chops prepping


Pour 1/3 of flour into egg mixture and blend until mixed. Pour 1/3 of buttermilk until mixed. Continue until all ingredients are well mixed.

Pour into 10″ cake pan or spring pan and bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned and cake springs back when touched.

Make chocolate Roulde

Mix eggs and 1/2 sugar and vanilla and coffee extract until pale yellow in color. Set aside and wash mixer bowl.

Whisk egg whites and salt in bowl until foamy add rest of sugar and whip until stiff peaks form.

Mix flour and cocoa powder in bowl.

Mix in 1/3 of egg whites into yolk mixture. Using a large rubber spatula fold in remaining egg whites. Sift flour/cocoa mixture over eggs then gently fold in. Be patient during this step. You need to fold for several minutes, slowly and gently to get everything mixed without taking air out of egg whites.

Divide the batter evenly between two jelly roll pans

(As I said I have never made a jelly roll cake. Big Swing has a not-so-hidden talent of cake decorating though so my ultimate plan was to bake the cakes and have him assemble and decorate. However as I was starting to mix the chocolate roulade cake I thought, oh shit do i even have a jelly roll pan?! I then experienced 20 minutes of sheer panic for not planning ahead and getting this damn pan, which turned to anger, which led to me breaking the top rack on my dishwasher. Yep. That just happened.

Also, the majority of my cooking happens when my kids are awake and they are great but they are almost 4 and almost 2. So imagine a frazzled tired 42 year old with two kids awake at 5:30 am on Saturday trying to make this cake. Gesine’s words at the introduction of “bake like you mean it” echoed in my head when she said every baker needs patience. She also said you need pans, but let’s put a pin in that instruction. Patience, right, ok I can fix this. I went to my tool box and grabbed a screwdriver and pair of pliers. My kids started to fuss so I gave everyone some berries and cinnamon bread. Then I repaired my top rack, slowly. I pulled my kitchen back together and googled jelly roll pan.

Huh, jelly roll pan is a cookie sheet with slight lip. Hey i do have one of those, hot damn! My daughter, “chops” came running back into the kitchen for the 25th time that morning to ask if she could help. I said, yes. She was shocked! Up to that point I had ushered her out of the kitchen everytime she asked, so saying yes was a shock. But help she did! And in the end we all helped make this gorgeous and tasty cake

So, I only had one “jelly roll pan” which meant I divided the batter and baked each cake separately. The batter is quite thick and you don’t want to deflate the egg whites, so Big Swing came in to help at this point. He used an icing knife to spread even layers across the pan. He was in construction before the farm and he still manages construction jobs. He knows how to install Sheetrock and mud. He knows how to lay tile. So, he’s really good at making the batter smooth and even. I know – slight innuendo but really just talking about batter)

You bake the cake at 400 for 10 minutes or until the middle springs back when you depress it with your finger. Then you let it cool completely and cover with plastic wrap. Gesine recommends cooling this overnight in the refrigerator. I didn’t because I needed to get this cake going. So I let it cool outside (it’s -15 here) for 1 hour and let it come back to room temperature before rolling.

15 egg whites
3 cups granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
3 lbs. unsalted butter

Combine egg whites, granulated sugar, vanilla, and salt in stand mixer bowl. Beat until mixed and then place over a large saucepan half full of simmering water (Bain Marie) until sugar dissolves and mixture reaches 160.

Transfer back to mixture and mix until quadruples in size and mixing bowl is cool. Add butter one tablespoon at a time until mixture resembles icing.

Chocolate Ganache
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, crumbled into bits
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp. unsalted butter

Heat cream and butter over medium low until lightly boiling, pour over chocolate pieces. Let mixture sit untouched for 2 minutes. Whisk until blended. Pour into decorator bag and pipe out heart shapes onto parchment paper.

(Big Swing did this. He found it easier to work with after the ganache cooled a bit and wasn’t so runny. But there is a sweet spot here, too hot it’s runny and too cold it’s too hard.)

To assemble the cake we cut each chocolate roulade in half down the middle horizontally. (Big Swing used parchment to measure each side). Next you spread icing across cakes and spread it evenly. Roll each section and then attach to next section until you have all four sections rolled together.

Ice the bottom of one yellow cake (the yellow cake should be cut in half) and put roll on top of cake. If yellow cake is bigger, cut it to fit. Attach the top of the yellow cake to roll and ice the sides and top. So each layer of the yellow cake holds the roll together, top and bottom.

Apply icing evenly and smoothly. (We did this in two steps. He iced it once until it was smooth but then put it outside to quickly freeze and then applied more icing.)

The chocolate hearts were frozen when we applied them to the cake, the key here is apply them haphazardly.

Voila. Gorgeous cake!

Because You’re Mine Cake


 Words & Photos by Beth Willhite

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