Monthly Archives: May 2014


Dead Shirley’s Buttercream







Shirley was, to the best of my memory, a mean woman.  Not pleasant and not well put together.  Shirley was not friendly, at least not to us, although she seemed fond of her gaggle of cats.  How my family fell into buying our special occasion cakes from her I cannot say.  I was too young to know the politics of that.  I suspect that she was the relative of a friend and we were under some sort of unwritten obligation to do so.  Whatever the case, I grew up eating birthday cakes and special holiday cakes made by Shirley.  I do not know her last name but the frosting she made, in my mind,  is synonymous with a celebration.  Like many foods from childhood, one bite can take you back 20 years.   Before she passed away we were fortunate enough to get her icing recipe “Shirley’s Buttercream.” After she was gone we referred to it as “Dead Shirley’s Buttercream”.

When I first started cooking professionally I had the opportunity to try many pastries, some of which really were amazing and in some cases just ridiculously good.  Some pastries that really made an impression are baklava, Eaton mess, pavlova, and soufflés.  Not to mention the many awesome original creations by pastry chefs around the country.  One thing that has always left me unsatisfied, however, is the icing on cupcakes and special occasion cakes. . .  it’s always too refined, not sweet enough, not Dead Shirley’s!

I had given the recipe out for a few years to any colleague who wanted it, after singing the praises of my wonderfully unrefined icing of course.  One day, while working at the Ritz – Carlton in Dearborn Michigan, we had a visiting Pastry Chef from the Ritz – Carlton San Francisco.  The most amazing thing was that he was making a recipe called “Dead Shirley’s Buttercream”!  I asked him where he got it and he said from a friend who is a Pastry Chef.  Not being able to resist I asked him if he knew the origin of the name. He did not but speculated that it’s so full of sugar and fat it must have killed someone named Shirley. . .  He may have had a point!


Thyme Remembered,



Dead Shirley’s Buttercream

Makes about 1 quart (enough to ice 30 – 35 cupcakes)


360 Grams Confectioners’ Sugar

200 Grams Butter

200 Grams Shortening

15 Grams Vanilla

  1. Combine in a electric mixing bowl with whisk
  2. Start on slow until the ingredients come together then turn up slowly
  3. Beat on high 10 minutes
  4. Store in a cool place covered in plastic for up to a week, you do not have to keep in a refrigerator unless keeping for an extended period (just be careful its covered so it does not take on any off flavors)



Cooking with Friends, 72 Hour Short Ribs, Eggs at 62c, and Walls of Lettuce

I recently had the opportunity to get together with some great Chefs and collaborate on a 4 day general managers conference in La Costa Resort in San Diego, California.  Several Chefs from around the country, including myself,  flew in to help.  We are talking 15 hour days — on your feet the whole time.  There were several creative minds who refuse to do anything standard; who were always pushing the envelope.   At the end of each long day there was always time for a few drinks, because why would anyone want any extra sleep.  Good times to be sure!

It was great to see and cook with my task force brothers once again.  For 190 people we did three days of  breakfast, lunch, dinner, breaks and after parties.  There were also several amenities.  Working with these Chefs barely feels like work!

The whole event culminated with a sit down gala including my sous vide 72 hour short rib.   A great time had by all.  Wonderful to work with the team!

Chef Daven Wardynski

Chef Joshua Hasho

Chef Michael Gottlieb

Chef Breanna Metauro

Chef Marc Therrien

Pastry Chef Jaimie Hileman

Many thanks to the great chefs at La Costa for allowing us to share there kitchens with them!  An excellent team to be sure.

I would also be remiss if I did not mention the awesome team of food and beverage directors who came out to help and support!


Arrival amenity, healthy snacks


Table set for a nice picnic arrival lunch


Trail Mix Break



House Made Seltzers, fresh pressed juices, carbonated at the last minute


Nice creative signage for the sliders


Kobe sliders and crab cake sliders


Breakfast Breads


Love the sound of eggs circulating in the morning!  Eggs at 62c with spinach, duck confit            and hollandaise sauce


Granola and yogurt display


Nice garden salad buffet



Carving boards ready for meat!


Creative signage and garden herbs


A wall of living lettuce


A break with a construction theme



The final gala – butter presentation on tomato chimichurri, black salt


Butter lettuce salad, blue, candied walnuts, tomato vinaigrette


The 72 hour sous vide short rib, potato and artichoke gratin


Tro of desserts to finish it off!

 Good thymes,