Month: January 2020

Karen's Carrot Cake

Currently playing at the Lyric Stage until February 9, The Cake by Bekah Brunstetter centers around Della, a Southern baker who values her traditional roots, as she is faced with the task of baking a wedding cake for her deceased best friend’s daughter and her soon-to-be wife. What is The Cake without the obvious? Our own Karen MacDonald, who plays Della, is also a talented baker and shared her special carrot cake recipe with us!

INGREDIENTS:

For the cake-

  • 2 ½ cups of flour
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of dark or light brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 stick of melted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla
  • 2 cups of grated carrots (4 large carrots)

For the cream cheese frosting-

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • 4 cups of powdered sugar

TO MAKE THE CAKE:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ground cinnamon, and nutmeg, stirring all ingredients together by hand.
  2. Add your vegetable oil and melted butter to the bowl, using a hand mixer to combine all of the ingredients together.
  3. Add one egg at a time to the mixture. Pour in one tablespoon of vanilla, and mix well.
  4. Take your grated carrots and add them to the mixture, using a spatula to mix all of the ingredients.
  5. Grease two 8-inch pans and flour the sides. Line the pans with parchment paper on the bottom, then fill the two pans with the mixture. Bake for 40 minutes. After removing both pans from the oven, let the cakes cool for 15 minutes.

TO MAKE THE FROSTING:

  1. In a stand mixer, beat the unsalted butter and cream cheese, making sure both ingredients are at room temperature.
  2. Add vanilla and salt to the mixture. Afterwards, add the powdered sugar gradually.

TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE:

  1. Level the tops of each cake with a knife or cake leveler. Top one of the cakes with frosting and smooth it down into an even layer. Place the other cake on top and frost the top and sides of the cake.
  2. For an extra sprinkle of pizzazz, do crumb coating on the frosted cake. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  3. Do a final frost and decorate the cake as you wish. Slice up and enjoy!

Catch more scrumptious-looking pastries and see Karen MacDonald as Della in Lyric Stage’s production of The Cake, running through February 9.

Photo: Cake design by Lauren Corcuera

A model of Noah's Ark and animals rest atop the Noah's Ark cake

Our Props Take The Cake!

Two cakes sit on a counter, one withed flower icing and the other a chocolate cake. A bag of flour is in the background.

The Cake, a fresh and delicious play by Bekah Brunstetter, is now playing at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston through February 9th. Traditional Southern baker Della must confront her own strongly-held beliefs when asked to bake a wedding cake for her deceased best friend’s daughter Jen and her future wife, Macy. Humor and empathy are the icing on top of this heartfelt comedy.

A pink cake with small flowers piped along the top. In the background is a carrot cake sitting atop a cake stand.

What would The Cake be without the titular treat? Props Artisan Lauren Corcuera designed and created the scrumptious-looking cakes for the play’s run, as well as other pastries that appear onstage. “I made twelve fake cakes including the one Della decorates at the top of the show, the red velvet she builds, and the ‘lumpy’ gluten/dairy/sugar-free monstrosity. I also made about 30 cupcakes, 15 chocolate drizzled buns, and about 25 madeleine cookies. That’s not even counting the real baked goods!” says Lauren.

A white cake with pink polka dot icing sits on a cake stand. In the background is a chocolate cake. In the foreground are small jars of sprinkles.

These prop cakes took much longer to create than the edible kind—a lot of them were made over the course of multiple weeks. Lauren used a mixture of lightweight spackle, white glue, and acrylic paint to frost and create piping details on the cakes. 

One of Lauren’s favorite cakes to make was the Noah’s Ark cake. With extraordinary detail placed on the hand-crafted giraffes, elephants, and other animals, the cake is a centerpiece on Della’s pastry display. Lauren told us that “the Noah’s Ark cake definitely took the longest to make. I could estimate around 6-8 hours between frosting (and re-frosting) the cake parts and sculpting, painting, and placing the animals. It went through a few iterations, but it was a very fun project.”

A Noah's Ark cake depicts a boat full of pairs of animals, including giraffes, elephants, and monkeys. In the background is a carrot cake.
The Noah’s Ark cake

When reflecting on the cake creation process, Lauren says “people have been asking if I’ve decorated cakes before or if I watched a lot of tutorials, but I really just picked up some piping tips and went for it. Looking at a few style reference images director Courtney O’Connor provided, then running from there and experimenting was incredibly freeing, fun, and a little nerve-wracking. I wasn’t sure how they’d be received before bringing them in to rehearsal, but they’ve been a big hit and all of the work on them has truly paid off!”

See these extravagant cakes and beautiful pastries in Lyric Stage’s production of The Cake, running through February 9.

A cake that is iced with a pink flower design sits atop a cake stand.

The Cake production photos

Photos by Mark S. Howard

Karen MacDonald as Della
Karen MacDonald, Chelsea Diehl, Kris Sidberry
Chelsea Diehl, Karen MacDonald
Kris Sidberry, Chelsea Diehl
Karen MacDonald, Chelsea Diehl, Kris Sidberry
Fred Sullivan, Jr., Karen MacDonald
Chelsea Diehl, Kris Sidberry.
Karen MacDonald
Chelsea Diehl, Karen MacDonald
Karen MacDonald, Fred Sullivan, Jr.
Karen MacDonald, Chelsea Diehl
Kris Sidberry, Karen MacDonald

The Theater Mirror: Theater Mirror Editors Favorite Theatrical Experiences of 2019

This post is an excerpt from The Theater Mirror.

Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes”, presented by Lyric Stage. Bravo to the Lyric for taking on Lillian Hellman, who doesn’t get produced enough anymore. And what a taking on it was.  From Janie E. Howland’s set design to Gail Astrid Buckley’s costumes to the first-rate ensemble acting of this excellent cast, “The Little Foxes” was one of the more engrossing shows of 2019. High stakes and hidden motives were well played by all, but I have to give a special shoutout to Anne Gottlieb, who somehow managed to make me empathize a bit with her, despite some heinous behavior.

Lyric Stages’ “Little Shop of Horrors” – This one may not have the emotional weight of the other musical favorites on the list, but it was easily the most fun musical of the year on a mid-size stage (“Six” was a blast over at the A.R.T. too). Rachel Bertone and her creative team worked their magic again in the intimate setting of the Lyric, accentuating thecomic ingenuity of this underrated musical and making the most of its rockin’ score, much of which is delivered/augmented by the dynamite “Greek chorus” girl group featuring Crystal (Lovely Hoffman), Ronnette (Carla Martinez), and Chiffon (Pier Lamia Porter).Katrina Z Pavao killed in the role of Audrey, both comically and vocally, in what one hopes is a breakthrough role.

Lyric Stage’s “The Little Foxes” – Most years, there is at least one production of a play or musical that feels more like a theatrical achievement than simple entertainment, and in 2019 it was the Lyric Stage’s masterful staging of the Lillian Hellman classic. Superbly directed by Scott Edmiston, with a beautifully detailed set by Jane E. Howland in the intimate space of the Lyric, this portrait of a wealthy but soulless Southern family was a stunning reminder of the effect that the pursuit of money and power has on ethics and morals. The entire cast was exceptional, and nine months later I can still see and feel the horrifying demoralization experienced by Birdie, the alcoholic sister-in-law played so despairingly well by Amelia Broome. It may well have been the year’s best supporting performance – on any stage.

The Boston Globe: For new faces, a key role in 2019

This post is an excerpt of The Boston Globe’s Theater Pages.

In September, just a few months after Katrina Z Pavao received her MFA from Boston Conservatory at Berklee, she stole the show as flower-shop clerk Audrey in “Little Shop of Horrors’’ at Lyric Stage Company of Boston. The poignantly yearning quality Pavao, 25, brought to the character culminated in her heart-piercing, you-could-hear-a-pin-drop rendition of “Somewhere That’s Green.’’

WBUR The Artery: 12 Plays And Musicals That Mattered In Boston This Year

This post is an excerpt of The Artery.

The Wolves

Lyric Stage Company of Boston

The cast of Lyric Stage Company's "The Wolves." (Courtesy Mark S. Howard)
The cast of Lyric Stage Company’s “The Wolves.” (Courtesy Mark S. Howard)

This 2016 play, a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, marked an impressive dramaturgical debut by writer Sarah DeLappe, who used her youthful experience on a girls’ soccer team to create a microcosm of female adolescence. In the playwright’s words, the work is “a portrait of teenage girls as human beings” that, in the Lyric staging, proved a stretching, kicking, jumping-jacking whole and the sum of its idiosyncratic parts. Taking the form of a series of chatty warm-ups by the titular team, neatly packed into the 90 minutes allotted a soccer match, the play features random, overlapping dialogue that pings around faster than even the most deftly propelled ball. But what is most striking about it, even if you don’t catch every word amid the shifting alliances and butt kicks, is that it takes its nine strong, budding personalities seriously even as it lays out the near-comic cacophony in their heads — fed by parents, politics, schoolwork, social media and a lifetime of shared pop-cultural references. A. Nora Long was at the helm of the fast-moving, high-prancing production set on an AstroTurf slope surrounded by protective netting. And the nine Wolves, most portrayed by recent graduates of respected actor-training programs, were convincing in both their ferocity as a huddled, howling pack and their vulnerabilities as individuals bravely groping toward adulthood.

— Carolyn Clay

The Metro West Daily News: Shows that lit up area stages this year

This post is an excerpted from The Metro West Daily News’s Best Theater of 2019

“The Little Foxes,” Lyric Stage Company of Boston

Director Scott Edmiston assembled a superb cast – including Anne Gottlieb as manipulative Southern matron Regina, Remo Airaldi as her morally bankrupt brother Ben, and Amelia Broome as her kindhearted, heartbreaking sister-in-law Birdie – for a perfectly wrought production of the 1939 Lillian Hellman classic that is destined to be talked about for years to come.

The Arts Fuse: Best Stage Productions of 2019

This post is excerpted from The Arts Fuse Theater Feature.

The Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman, staged by Lyric Stage Company, Boston. Scott Edmiston directed this blemish-free production starring the sublime Anne Gottlieb as Regina Giddens, who, circa 1900, engages in psychological warfare to reclaim her share of the American dream. Hellman planned to write a trilogy about this pernicious Southern family, but completed only two entries. Her prequel, Another Part of the Forest, hasn’t been performed in Boston in years (read: decades). The Lyric Stage production of Foxes was a critical and financial success. Will someone conscript Edmiston (and cast) to stage the Hellman prequel in 2020?

Kinson Theodoris, Amelia Broome, Cheryl D. Singleton in the Lyric Stage production of The Little Foxes. Photo: Mark S. Howard.
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