Straight Down the Middle

As we near the end (of some peoples playing season,) one of my golf buddies invited our foursome and families over for a patio dinner before the weather starts turning cold(er). I offered to bring a cake along to the dinner. This is what I made this morning

It’s my extreme chocolate cake with buttercream frosting.

The trees are gum-paste cones made by wrapping thin gum-paste around a form, then set to dry overnight.

Of course, I rarely hit it straight down the middle!!

Advertisements

Three Times a Charm

Time flies when you are having fun! The past year was filled with several personal achievements and lots and lots of fun, my granddaughter’s third birthday being the best of them. Much of my time and energy was applied to writing short stories and novellas. I published two novellas during the past twelve months and am working on a book of short stories and flash fiction. The novellas, The Star Alliance and The Quantum Butterfly Effect are available on Amazon. Buy a copy, or read for free on Amazon Prime and let me know what you think.

D2AA03A7-4C00-445D-97F9-B0500131ACC0This year’s birthday theme was Disney’s “Frozen.” Grace loves all the Disney princesses (Ariel from “The Little Mermaid” is her favorite.) As a special surprise, Princess Elsa and her sister Anna, visited Grace’s birthday party! (I was Chef Louie.)img_0023-1

Keeping with the theme I made a six layer “Frozen” cake, two 10″ vanilla as the base, two 8″ chocolate in the middle and two 5″ vanilla for the top. I offset the layers to provide a ledge for the characters of Anna and Olaf, the snowman.

The cakes were crumb coated with buttercream to which I added a few drops of purple and blue food coloring with minimal stirring. This provided the swirling ice sheet pattern to the cake. Remember to put some aside for coloring to be used as the trees, tree trunk and snow. (I also made a half sheet cake to assure there was enough for everyone at the party. I left this with the frozen ice design rather than frosting with the meringue.img_0009-1

The frosting was a basic meringue stabilized with boiling corn syrup. It needs to be img_0012-3applied and sculpted to the cake quickly as it firms rapidly and will skin over when cool. Again, put some in a piping bag to use as icicles and touch up around the cake.

Blue food color spray added the ice highlights which really finished the cakes. The figurines made great toys for the birthday girl, Princess Grace.

 

Busy Bakery Day

Here are some samples of one and two bite pastries I am making for a party of about 200 people. We are meeting tonight for a party progress meeting. I decided to give the group a sample of some of the varieties of desserts I am baking for the event.

 

I have both lemon and mango curd filled profiteroles, cream patisserie filled eclairs and tartlets, vanilla cake with pink icing and raspberry drizzle and vanilla cake with chocolate drizzle. There are mini-raspberry cheesecakes, blueberry and apply mini pie bites, chocolate brownie cups with chocolate mousse and a raspberry drizzle. Some of these were made ahead and frozen until today. The tartlets, eclairs, profiteroles and all icings, drizzles and frostings were made this afternoon.

A productive bakery day!

Which Way to Carnegie Hall?

Everyone knows how to get to Carnegie Hall, right? I am considering making bite size desserts for a gala at our temple with about 200 people expected to attend. Conventional wisdom indicated I will need 4-600 individual desserts. Perhaps you can see why I have not yet committed to this task. Allotting 2-3 desserts per person I should also have 5 or 6 dessert options, too many and it’s overwhelming (for the attendees and the baker!)

blueberry lemon and mango keylime profiteroles

So, back to Carnegie Hall. Practice, practice, practice. For anyone who follows my blog you know mistakes to not leave the house, so I practice everything first. I also experiment with different flavors and combinations. For instance, I made profiteroles last week. One was to be a mango/key lime and the other a lemon/blueberry. They were fine, except the key lime overpowered the mango. I will have to try again. Practice, practice, practice. The lemon was fine, if a bit intense.

vanilla cake and swiss meringue buttercream frosting

A couple of days ago I made some vanilla cake bites with Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting. It was a new cake recipe, I was looking for something a bit lighter, plus a new buttercream. This one uses a Swiss meringue (egg whites and sugar whisked over simmering water in a bain marie. The frosting was delicious but a bit of a pain in the butt. I would use this if I could have  several desserts that use the same frosting. I may just divide it into aliquots and color them differently to make an easy differentiation.

chouxI make choux fairly often so don’t really need to practice, but the little choux pastries are a good way to try the different filling flavors and icings. I made these choux in an hour or two last week, used a dozen or so for experimenting and froze the other 4 dozen. If I decide to do this project I will take a day and make 200 or so. I just need enough freezer space.

This morning I decided to add two new pastries File Jan 10, 10 17 21 AMto my portfolio. The first, and easiest was the chocolate cookies with chocolate mousse filling. I decided to add some shaved milk chocolate and white chocolate over some of them and since I had some raspberry coulis in the fridge, I drizzled that over some to add more color.

pineapple upside down bites.jpeg

Once those were complete and I finished cleaning the kitchen, (yes, I clean everything up between each bake) I started the one bite Pineapple Upside Down cakes. I used the same vanilla cake recipe as last week. It was a little tricky miniaturizing everything and keeping them looking good. Next time I will reduce the amount of pineapple and use a quartered cherry so there will be more room for the cake.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

INGREDIENTS

  • 7 large (210 grams or 7 oz) egg whites
  • 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1½ cups (3 sticks or 340 grams) unsalted butter, softened*
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp salt (we use non-iodized fine sea salt)

METHOD

  1. In a medium pot, add at least 1-inch of water and bring to simmer.
  2. Thoroughly wash and dry the stainless-steel mixing bowl from your stand mixer* (you don’t want grease touching meringue). Add 7 egg whites and 2 cups sugar and whisk together.
  3. Place mixing bowl over pot of barely simmering water, creating a seal over the pot (bowl should be over the steam, not touching water). Whisk constantly until mixture reaches 160˚F (takes about 3 min). Sugar should be fully dissolved (you should not feel any sugar granules when rubbing mixture between finger tips). Mixture will feel hot to the touch.
  4. Wipe water from bottom of mixing bowl and transfer bowl to stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff glossy peaks form (about 15-20 min) and bottom of the bowl feels completely at room temp and not warm (important: warm meringue will melt the butter).
  5. Once bowl is at room temp, switch to paddle attachment, reduce to medium speed and add butter 1 Tbsp at a time, adding it just as fast as it is absorbed by meringue. Once all butter is in, scrape down the bowl and continue beating until it reaches a thick whipped consistency (3 min on med-high speed). If it looks lumpy or liquidy at all, keep beating until smooth, thick and whipped.
  6. Add 2 tsp vanilla extract and ¼ tsp salt and mix on med-high until incorporated (about 1 min).

Notes

*Butter should be softened at room temp about 1 hour (more or less depending on your room temperature). It should be slightly cool to the touch and not overly soft or warm. If too soft, refrigerate for 10 minutes at a time.

Vanilla Butter Cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 3/4 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk Note: I use 1% milk and add the 2 Tbl as whipping cream

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a cast-iron pan, and dust with all-purpose flour, tapping out excess. Sift together flours, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low, and add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture, mixing well after each addition.
  3. Fill pan halfway, and bake until golden around edges (time will vary depending on size of pan). Remove from oven, and let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Transfer cakes from pan to a wire rack. Let cool. Coat each with glaze just before serving.

Chocolate Mousse Filled Chocolate Cookies

INGREDIENTS (Half Recipe)

  • 1 cup butter, softened (1/2)
  • 2 cups white sugar (1)
  • 2 eggs (1)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (1)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (1)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (6 Tbl)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (1/2)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (1/4)

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth.
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla.
  4. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; stir into the creamed mixture.
  5. Spray Baker’s Joy or similar product into mini cupcake pans and fill ½ full (about a level teaspoon).
  6. Bake for 12 to 16 minutes in the preheated oven, until cookies are set.
  7. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 egg yolks (2)
  • ¼ cup sugar (2 Tbl)
  • 1 cup whipping (heavy) cream (1/2)
  • 1 package (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips (1 cup) (1/2)
  • 1 ½ cups whipping (heavy) cream (3/4)

METHOD

  1. Beat egg yolks in small bowl with electric mixer on high speed about 3 minutes or until thick and lemon colored. Gradually beat in sugar.
  2. Heat 1 cup whipping cream in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat until hot. Gradually stir at least half of the hot whipping cream into egg yolk mixture; stir back into hot cream in saucepan. Cook over low heat about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens (do not boil). Stir in chocolate chips until melted. Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, just until chilled.
  3. Beat 1 1/2 cups whipping cream in chilled medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed until stiff. Fold chocolate mixture into whipped cream. Pipe or spoon mixture into serving bowls. Immediately refrigerate any remaining dessert after serving.

Entrez Mon Ami

For Hanukkah Fran bought me a set of entremet cake pans, so of course, I had to try Zekner Ring Mold Setthem. As I had decided to make a clock face cake with mirror glaze for New Year’s eve I thought this would be a good chance to try both. I made a chocolate cake with chocolate mirror glaze for Kathy’s birthday and fresh strawberry entremet cakes for our Christmas celebration at Karen’s.

small Fresh Strawberry Cake 1

I added a little red food coloring to the strawberry cake and green to the whipped cream frosting to so they were looking a lot like Christmas, everywhere we go. I thought the texture of the strawberry cake was a little close. I may try a lighter cake and add chopped strawberries next time.

Choc cakes8

 

I crumb coated the chocolate entremet and probably wouldn’t do that again. The idea is to make the cake as smooth as possible so the mirror glaze will be smooth when completed. The buttercream crumb coat was too slippery for the glaze to adhere properly. Maybe next time, just two coats of mirror, if needed at all.

Fresh Strawberry Cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (8 oz.) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing pans
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups (about 14 7/8 oz.) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pans
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half (equal parts heavy cream and milk to make ¾ cup)
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries (about 7 oz.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red liquid food coloring

METHOD

  1. Prepare the Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat sugar and butter with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time; beat on low speed just until incorporated after each addition. Stir in vanilla.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add to sugar mixture alternately with half-and-half, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat on low speed just until combined after each addition. Fold in strawberries and red food coloring.
  3. Divide batter evenly among 3 greased and floured 8-inch round cake pans. Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
  4. Cool cakes in pans on wire racks until cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes. Invert cakes onto wire racks to cool completely, about 1 hour.

 

Chocolate Mirror Glaze

INGREDIENTS

  • 10 g gelatin sheets
  • 125 g water = ¼ cup to bloom gelatin
  • 225 granulated sugar
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 150 g chocolate
  • 65 g heavy cream

METHOD

  1. Bloom gelatin in ¼ cup cool water (about 10 minutes)
  2. Add and mix sugar and 125 g water in a large saucepan
  3. Heat to 104C (219F) remove from heat
  4. Add 150 g finely chopped chocolate and mix until dissolved
  5. Add 30g cocoa powder and whisk until dissolved
  6. 65 g heavy cream and mix
  7. Cool to 60C (140F) add gelatin, mix until dissolved
  8. Sieve to remove any remaining lumps
  9. Immersion blend to smooth
  10. Sieve to remove any bubbles
  11. Cool to 32C (90F)
  12. Pour over cake being sure to coat the sides thoroughly

Gelatin Conversions

  • 1 (0.25 oz.) envelope granulated gelatin = 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin = 3 sheets leaf gelatin.
  • One package (1 tablespoon) of powdered gelatin equals 4 sheets.
  • 4 sheets leaf gelatin = 1 (.25 oz) envelope granulated gelatin = 1 tablespoon granulated gelatin; Agar-Agar, which is an alga based jellifying agent

Chocolate Cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans.
  2. Use the first set of ingredients to make the cake. In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla, mix for 3 minutes with an electric mixer. Stir in the boiling water by hand. Pour evenly into the two prepared pans.
  3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to cool completely.

 

3 Strikes In A Row!

As you may know, I often make a “practice” cake prior to producing the “public” cake. Thanksgiving Windtorte“Practice” cakes do not leave the kitchen, (unless they are good.) I made a practice Thanksgiving cake based on a Spanische Windtorte as seen on GBBO. It looked beautiful and tasted awful. It would have been easier to eat a half cup of sugar with a strawberry chaser.
I fell back to a standard chocolate cake but decorated with a Thanksgiving theme. The feathers are chocolate, white chocolate and butterscotch chips, warmed, mixed with corn syrup, rolled into long thick strings, braided, rolled and cut into equilateral triangles, about 2″ on each side. Fold one side and pinch together forming the feather.

 

Frost the chocolate cake using a spatula to make feathers across the top. Array 18 chocolate frosted cupcakes (I used white cake for variety for the guests) around the frosted chocolate cake. Place the feathers on the cupcakes and add a few to the front side of the turkey body.

Frost one cupcake with white buttercream, form some red dyed gum paste into the snood and waddle and invert a chocolate chip (pointy side down) into the top as an eye.

Boom!

Chocolate Cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 5 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans.
  2. Use the first set of ingredients to make the cake. In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla, mix for 3 minutes with an electric mixer. Stir in the boiling water by hand. Pour evenly into the two prepared pans.
  3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to cool completely.
  4. To make the frosting, use the second set of ingredients. Cream butter until light and fluffy. Stir in the cocoa and confectioners’ sugar alternately with the milk and vanilla. Beat to a spreading consistency.
  5. Split the layers of cooled cake horizontally, cover the top of each layer with frosting, then stack them onto a serving plate. Frost the outside of the cake.

Chocolate Frosting

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 pound confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup milk

METHOD

  1. Melt chocolate and butter in the microwave, or in the top of a double boiler. In a large bowl, combine confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and 1/2 cup of the milk. Blend in the melted chocolate mixture. Add remaining milk, a little at a time, until desired consistency is achieved.
  2. Let stand until spreadable (frosting will thicken as it cools).

Heavenly White Cake (Cupcakes)

INGREDIENTS                                               

  • 2 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

METHOD

  1. Measure sifted flour, baking powder, and salt; sift together three times.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add 1/2 cup sugar gradually, and continue beating only until meringue will hold up in soft peaks.
  3. Cream butter or margarine. Gradually add remaining 1 cup sugar, and cream together until light and fluffy. Add sifted ingredients alternately with milk a small amount at a time, beating after each addition until smooth. Mix in flavorings. Add meringue, and beat thoroughly into batter. Spread batter in a 15 x 10 x 1 inch pan which has been lined on the bottom with parchment paper.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes, then remove from pan and transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. This cake may also be baked in two 9 inch round pans for 30 to 35 minutes, or in three 8 inch round pans for 25 to 30 minutes.

Just a Pretty Face

As my regulars know, I am a big GBBO fan. For the past couple of years I have been mesmerized by Mary Berry’s Spanische Windtorte. When asked to bring a dessert of my choice to Thanksgiving dinner, I thought, “What a perfect opportunity to try the windtorte.” (Full disclosure, Fran suggested this, it was not my original thought.) Substituting pumpkins and colored leaves for the violets satisfied my sense of holiday decorum. Well, the result is that this was a very pretty cake and I think I would have done very well in the GBBO Technical Challenge. However, it would have been easier to eat a couple of tablespoons of pure sugar as that is exactly what it tasted like. If it weren’t for the whipped cream and berry mixture filling the cake, it would have no edible redeeming value. Pretty, but also, pretty disappointing.

I made the below recipe of French meringue and piped two 8″ diameter disks and three 8″ diameter rings onto parchment paper. These were baked at 200F for an hour. With some difficulty the meringue was lifted from the paper. One disk was used as the base and the three rings were stacked, one at a time, using several thick meringue mounds to “glue” them together. The whole structure was then baked for 45 min, again at 200F.

6 small

Once cooled, the balance of the meringue was used to “frost” the side of the cake. By this time the meringue was a bit thin and even vigorous beating could not thicken it. I should have made a new batch, but struggled on (this was just a practice cake after all.) The resultant side of the cake was not as smooth I would have liked, but was ok. I simply trimmed the bottom of the cake where meringue dripped.

The cake was filled with the whipped cream and berry mixture from the recipe below and the top added. This resulted in the very pretty cake seen above.

INGREDIENTS

For the French meringue shell

For the Swiss meringue decoration

For the filling

METHOD

  1. Line 3 large baking trays with baking parchment. Draw 2 x 20cm/8in circles on 2 of the trays and 1 x 20cm/8in circle on 1 of the trays. (You should end up with 5 x 20cm/8in circles). Preheat the oven to 200F.
  2. For the meringue shell, tip the egg whites and cream of tartar into a large spotlessly clean bowl and whisk with an electric mixer on high speed until the whites form stiff peaks. Add the caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously to make a thick, glossy meringue.
  3. Spoon two-thirds of the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm/⅝in plain nozzle. Pipe a thick ring inside one of the circles on the baking tray and continue spiraling until the entire circle is filled. Repeat with a second circle. These create the base and the top of the meringue cake.
  4. Repeat the process with the 3 remaining circles, except don’t fill in the circles, so that you have three hoops of meringue – these create the sides of the meringue shell. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  5. When the meringues are dry, gently slide 1 of the cooked, filled meringues onto a 30cm/12in heatproof (to 200F) serving plate. Spoon the remaining meringue into the piping bag and pipe 8 blobs of meringue, evenly spaced around the edge of the circle. Place 1 of the meringue hoops on top and press down very gently to stick the hoop to the base.
  6. Repeat the process with the remaining 2 hoops of meringue. Roughly pipe the remaining one-third of meringue around the sides to disguise the hoops. Using a spatula smooth out the meringue so that the sides are smooth and straight and look like a cake. Bake on the serving plate for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  7. For the Swiss meringue decoration, set a large mixing bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. Tip the egg whites and sugar into the bowl and whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the meringue reaches 70C on a sugar thermometer.
  8. Remove from the heat and continue whisking until cool and stiff. Spoon the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle. Pipe a pretty border around the base, the middle and the top edge of the meringue shell. Pipe a border around the outside edge and the middle of the filled meringue circle that will become the lid. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  9. For the filling, whip the cream and icing sugar together in a bowl until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed from the bowl. Whisk in the orange blossom water and gently fold in the strawberries and raspberries. Spoon into the cooled meringue cake shell. Top with the decorated meringue lid.