Emma's Birthday Cake


(Thanks for all the kind words about Ian’s quilt!)
The birthday cake that was requested for Emma’s party, Angel Food. My first time making it. Whenever I make a classic, something like this, for the very first time, I almost always go to The Best Recipe. That cookbook is one every budding cook should have in my opinion. Its not as sexy as most of the cookbooks coming out these days (although they recently reissued this cookbook with a bit more sex appeal, but mine is the original version, with no photographs, lots of pencil drawings, very much like its magazine origin, Cooks Illustrated). But this book will make a cook out of you. If you have a piece of meat, a squash, want to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie, anything, this cookbook will tell you the basic science behind what the ingredients do (for example, I never really knew why they used ingredients like lard in biscuits when I was growing up, I just figured it was what the cook had around, or maybe just tradition).
Anyway, a dozen egg whites and a lot of whipping later, the cake came out beautifully crusty on the outside (the recipe told me I was going for an almost macaroon-like texture on the surface and I watched it like a hawk during the last bit of baking time), and light as a feather on the inside. Whew! This photo was taken just before the strawberry halves were added.
Which brings me to my next question. Its time for me to take the bazillion hundred photos currently on my computer off before I tempt fate more than I feel I already have. How do you guys catalog your photos when you take them off the computer? In the past, I move them onto disks, and store them in a box, but this feel inefficient to me. I’m hoping there’s a better way to preserve them. And quicker. Last time I did this little exercise it took me the better part of a day. So please, what’s the secret? Is there a secret? Can we create a secret? Help!

31 Comments
  • Sarah Jackson

    November 16, 2009 at 8:32 pm Reply

    first, Emma has excellent taste in cakes and that one looks amazing.
    second, I’ve gotten an external hard drive to keep photos on for longer term storage. They’re cheap enough now to do that, and it’s much less time consuming.

  • Susan

    November 16, 2009 at 8:50 pm Reply

    An external hard drive is a great idea. They are really cheap right now. You could also put photos from various months/events/whathaveyou on CDs and then make a CD cover that looks like a contact sheet sampling of the photos on the disk. Then store them in a cute box.

  • karen

    November 16, 2009 at 9:25 pm Reply

    We’ve just been discussing this very same issue here. My dh said that a hard drive is a nice option, BUT they do fail. He said that with important stuff, you have to have redundancy…. so a hard drive AND DVDs, or multiple hard drives might be the answer.

  • christina

    November 17, 2009 at 3:00 am Reply

    oh that cake looks lovely and delicious!!
    But ugh about pictures and computers I am the worst, they go on and never come off. I really need to start backing them up atleast once a month making it a priority!! I have two computers that we don’t use that I need to get pictures off of. {{covers head with bag}}

  • liz

    November 17, 2009 at 3:51 am Reply

    happy birthday emma, and love the quilt, ian!
    as for the pics — i have recently been worrying about what to do with mine, and here’s my solution:
    as i download to my computer fro the camera (almost daily sometimes) the pics go into a monthly folder – sept2009 for example. many go onto flickr to share.
    not long ago, i purchased ‘carbonite’ online backup and i LOVE it. it’s $5/month for unlimited backup, and runs automatically without slowing down your system. after a big initial backup, as you add new files, they are automatically backed up somewhere in cyberspace.
    lastly, and external hard drive to transfer the monthly folders and free up some computer space, after carbonite backs them up.
    hope that helps! i would be devastated if anything ever happened to my millions of photos.

  • Erin | house on hill road

    November 17, 2009 at 4:03 am Reply

    that cake looks beautiful! we were the opposite here: devil’s food!
    as for the photos: external hard drive. that is what we do. but i am thinking about carbonite or something like that, too. i need to do a bit more research on that.

  • Nancy

    November 17, 2009 at 6:04 am Reply

    Thanks for the tip about the cookbook–I’m always looking for books with terrific basic recipes, and I love the “why” of ingredients and cooking techniques!
    Just thinking about backing up photos makes me feel queasy. I do an external hard-drive backup PLUS CDs. In theory, these CDs would be stored somewhere other than our home, but that hasn’t happened yet.
    One thing about CDs: I’ve heard that some day the technology might not be available to read them (think floppy disks, or 8 track tapes). I’m sure I’ll remember this around the time we’ve fried our last computer with a CD drive some years hence.

  • curiousbird

    November 17, 2009 at 6:11 am Reply

    Happy Birthday, Miss Emma!
    Also, external hard drive all the way. Go for a big one and feel secure knowing all your photos are safe.

  • Melissa Crowe

    November 17, 2009 at 6:33 am Reply

    Yup, we keep ours (and all our music) on an external hard drive.

  • Rachel

    November 17, 2009 at 6:39 am Reply

    Ooh, this is really going to make your hiney cringe, but I’ve *never* stored my pictures on my computer. I used an external hard drive exclusively. I catalog them on the EHD by year, and then burn 2 copies to DVD (lasts longer than CD) every now and then. I send one copy to my mother in Ohio in case of a fire, and store the other in the (dry) basement.
    EHD is the way to go!

  • Peanut

    November 17, 2009 at 7:06 am Reply

    Happy Birthday Emma.
    Congrats on your cake it looks delicious. Making angle food cake from scratch feels like such an impressive accomplishment (I’ve done it once- I thought the miniscule amount of flour involved was pretty funny).
    My husband recently set me up with an external hard drive to back up my computer (mostly pictures). It’s not very big and pretty cool looking and my back-up software (Time Machine) runs in the background on a regular schedule. I have a Mac and this was really easy to set up (he basically plugged it in and Time Machine popped up and that was it); I don’t know what you need to do for a pc if that’s what you’ve got. I’m thinking of periodically making an extra back-up onto DVD but haven’t figured out how to do that yet. I also keep really important pictures (i.e. wedding pictures, special vacations, etc.) on CD. Rachel’s suggestion of storing some of your back-ups off site is a good one. I might con my sister into giving me a little shelf space at her house.

  • Amy Hodge

    November 17, 2009 at 7:18 am Reply

    Beautiful cake! All my photos that I don’t have room for on my computer are backed up on two different external hard drives (since we have had hard drives fail, I can’t bear to have just one copy). But copying them all over to the hard drive CAN take hours. I do think it’s easier than burning CDs, which in my experience can screw up a lot, causing you to remake the same disc several times. There isn’t much of an easy way. Although, if you already have these photos online somewhere like Flickr, you could consider that your backup….

  • Paula

    November 17, 2009 at 7:49 am Reply

    Didn’t read all the above, but I’ve read that you should burn 2 discs,–store one copy someplace other than your house…then burn to an external drive. They’re cheap now…or will be once black friday rolls around.
    Happy Birthday to Harper!

  • Paula

    November 17, 2009 at 7:50 am Reply

    WHoops…delete that happy birthday …I’ve got 2 blog windows open & soulemama’s harper is turning one. SHeese.

  • erinvega

    November 17, 2009 at 9:41 am Reply

    we use an external tera drive for ours! i have them catalogued by year, and within the year i have different folders that suit us to somewhat organize them further. so, basically, when i take the photos off my card, i stick them on the tera drive. i never have them sitting on my computer. but i can access them just as easy as if they were. it’s really great.

  • Heather

    November 17, 2009 at 9:51 am Reply

    Just happened on your blog!! So darling!! What a creative and fun life you lead!! Thanks for share’n!!

  • Heather

    November 17, 2009 at 10:58 am Reply

    For 20 bucks a year, I upload everything to flickr, sort them into sets, and they are always there! You can set them to private, or leave them public. It will archive it by the date taken, too…so you can see where you were a year ago or two years ago, or for as long as you have had a digital camera!

  • Stacey

    November 17, 2009 at 12:25 pm Reply

    Angel food is my favorite, but I’ve never tried to make one myself, maybe it’s time to try. I used CD’s for awhile to backup and about a year ago bought an External Hard drive. Neither are organized at all, but they are off the computer (I lost a whole bunch of baby pics when our last HD failed). I like the idea of something like carbonite, but I think I’d like to organize my HD a bit first, kinda like computer spring cleaning.

  • oona

    November 17, 2009 at 2:42 pm Reply

    Angel food cake is my absolute favourite cake – with hand whipped cream and berries or ripped off in chunks by itself. Amazing that you made one from scratch.
    I heart cooks illustrated.
    I had to comment re: the photos. We just lost stuff on an external hard drive…
    Our solution for the future? Redundant redundancy. Automatic back ups to one external hard drive… plus backing everything up on another external hard drive. plus dvds for the good stuff. But I still worry about discs becoming irrelevant by the time my 3 year old is 25. I don’t know. It’s the big question. You’ll probably need a USB port expansion dock.

  • Tara Thayer

    November 17, 2009 at 3:19 pm Reply

    bless you blair, for opening up this question! i had so much to say about the angel food, but now i’m all onto the back up question.
    i will look into this carbonite thing…and i haven’t figured out how to use my flickr account to back up everything…not just the ones i share and blog…
    but please, everyone! learn from my mistake! do not trust it all to one external hard drive! i’ve lost a lot, twice. idiot.
    now: my great grandmother would eat ANY dessert and say it wasn’t fattening: just “air and egg whites!” that’s wishful thinking for you.

  • Jenn

    November 17, 2009 at 4:11 pm Reply

    I did a bunch of research about a year ago and discovered that the cheapest place to store our pictures was in a pro flickr account. And I was going to check out smug mug because I thought maybe the price was about the same. And I haven’t done a thing since. Ahem. My husband takes care of the organization on the computer and every so often I copy them off onto CDs. I probably need to do that again one of these days.
    BTW, external hard drives need to be used every so often or they just die quietly. So if you fill up a drive and set it aside, give it a spin every now and then, at least once a year. Or else…
    Stacey, I know we’ve never met but trust me, the spring cleaning will never happen. Just go ahead and back everything up as it is now. Much better to sigh at the disorganization every now and again than lose the data to a hard drive failure. The extra money you’ll pay is far, far less than the hard drive recovery fees.

  • Jennifer

    November 17, 2009 at 10:49 pm Reply

    TWO external hard drives…one goes to a friend in case there is a total loss fire, heaven forbid, and one stays at home. When I back up onto the one at home, I then swap it for the one at my friend’s home and then back up that one again. It’s so easy and it ensures you are never in jeopardy of losing everything.

  • chess

    November 18, 2009 at 7:33 am Reply

    Why don’t you buy an external hard drives. Transfer your important files on that drive then delete those files on your computer. Anyway, I would love to try that recipe of yours. That photo makes me hungry!

  • Heather

    November 18, 2009 at 7:35 am Reply

    I do photography and I have an external hard drive and I use an automatic, online file back up system like carbonite. Every time I save a photo file, this service automatically saves it. Last year, my computer crashed and I was able to access all of my files and put them on my new hard drive, no issues. 🙂

  • Lei

    November 19, 2009 at 2:57 pm Reply

    I am a photographer and we store my photos on a RAID1 disk array, which according to my techy hubby is the best way to go. You can buy a D-Link DNS-321 with 2 SATA drives configured as RAID1, and get some geek squad type person to install it for you. It stores your photos OFF your computer, but can be accessible via ALL computers you own! Love that!
    On the cake – try chocolate angel cake sometime. Mmmmm…

  • Kathryn A

    November 19, 2009 at 7:01 pm Reply

    Hi,
    De-lurking just to agree that there is no quick and easy way for the anxiety-prone. I do an external hard drive back-up, and copy to CD. We keep all of our picture CDs (as well as some other things) in fireproof boxes in our basement. This has calmed me enough, and to avoid having it turn into such a project, I back-up as I go. I leave everything on the camera until it is full, or close. If I download something for a quick project, I just don’t delete it from the camera. Then, when camera is packed, I take however many extra minutes to load onto the laptop, burn the disc, and back-up to the Passport, all at once.
    I hope that helps!
    The short version of my 2 cents (my 1-cent) – whatever you do, pick something that you can do as you go from now on, backing up every time you empty the camera. So much easier.
    Good luck!

  • Kate

    November 20, 2009 at 6:24 am Reply

    No suggestions for photo organization – but I agree – I love Cooks Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen for recipes…If you don’t have it – definitely pick up America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book & Family Cook Book – I use them more than the rest of my cookbooks combined!

  • Jennifer

    November 30, 2009 at 9:56 am Reply

    I’m surprised no one mentioned printing photos —
    I do the EHD thing, and I burn disks, but I also am in the habit of getting my favorites printed regularly. I have photos in my collection that are of my great-grandparents as children (1880s); photographs are meant to be seen, not filed away online where someone has to have the interest in going through them. Print and share (physically, not just digitally) the photos that are important to you!

  • blair/wisecraft

    November 30, 2009 at 11:54 am Reply


    you're right Jennifer, we should stay in the habit of printing out our favorite photos (that's why we take them in the first place, to enjoy them, right?)

  • Barbara

    December 14, 2009 at 2:19 pm Reply

    Just want to chime in…I put my photos on an external hard drive, burn to CD, AND upload to Flickr. At least if there is ever a fire or something tragic at home, the photos are offsite and still accessable.

  • Barbara

    December 14, 2009 at 2:24 pm Reply

    Oh, forgot about the catalog thing. The photos are in folders and are all done by the date I transfer them, but within Flickr I also have separate folders for certain things to make it easier to find them (in case I can’t remember the date). Photos can be in more than one set. I also tag every photo with the folder date and other info (e.g. Christmas, persons name, type of craft, etc). Hope this is helpful.

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