Not All That Glitters is Gold!

This year (as every year) New Year’s Eve party cake was requested (thankfully.) I love to make them. A couple of days later a follow up request for a silver 2022 topper which was an excellent suggestion. I decided to learn to work with isomalt to create the numbers, rather than buying some. It never hurts to add a new skill.

It took some practice to learn the method (how hot to boil it, the amount of water to add, how long to cool after it reaches the optimum temperature, and more.) It took a lot of practice and failures.

Some were boiled too long and discolored. Some were too thick, some never cleared.

Finally I found the correct combination. And the resulting sugar numbers were acceptable.

Once the temperature is 320 let the molten sugar sit for a few seconds to clear some of the bubbles then place the pan into cold water to stop the cooking.

After the sugar is cold, place some sticks on the back and “glue” them in place with some molten sugar. Once they are cool turn the numbers (or stars) over and dampen slightly with your finger, then sprinkle sparkly glitter on the damp sugar and spread with a brush to cover completely and let dry.

Frost the cake and add the numbers. I used plastic straws in the cake to give the numbers and stars more support. Once the numbers were in place I added the stars, staggering their height. The colored straws gave the impression of fireworks. (I hope.) Lots of fun and an opportunity to learn new skills.

Extreme Chocolate Cake

Makes two 9” round cakes
INGREDIENTS

(Makes one 10’ ROUND CAKE [and two 5”] – quantities are in parenthesis.)
• 2 cups white sugar (3)
• 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (2 2/3)
• 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (1 ¼)
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (2 ¼)
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (2 ¼)
• 1 teaspoon salt (1 ½)
• 2 eggs (3)
• 1 cup milk (1 ½)
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil (¾)
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (3)
• 1 cup boiling water (1 ½)
Frosting
• 3/4 cup butter
• 1 1/2 cups (125g) unsweetened cocoa powder
• 5 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar 624g (1c confectioners sugar = 117g)
• 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. (SEE QTY FOR 10” CAKES)
  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. (For cupcakes,
    portion ¼ scant cups in each cupcake paper.
  3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean or 205
    internal temp. 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.
    (This recipe will frost 36 cupcakes.)
  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.

    Isomalt
  6. Mix isomalt and water in a 4:1 ratio in a stainless steel or non stick pan
  7. Heat under medium high heat until the isomalt reaches 320 deg F
  8. Remove from heat and let sit for a few moments to allow the bubbles to subside then place the hot pan in water for a few seconds to stop the isomalt cooking.
  9. Carefully pour the molten solution into dry molds and let cool.
  10. (I wear heat proof silicone gloves while working with molten sugar. It is very hot!

    NOTES
    a. Do NOT let the internal temp exceed 210 deg F or the cake will be overdone.
    b. Fill cupcake papers 2/3rds full. This will allow space for the cupcakes to expand and create a nice
    domed shape.

Sugar Snow-Globe Cake

I saw a technique for making sugar domes on Netflix’s School of Chocolate. Initially, I thought that looked like a fun and easy skill to learn. I soon discovered it was fun. Plus I had the added incentive of wanting to make a snow-globe cake for my granddaughters. I envisioned an evergreen tree and snowman under the dome.

‘Simply’ pour a little (1-2 Tbl depending on ring size) molten (hard crack) sugar/glucose mixture inside a ring mold, resting on 3 layers of plastic wrap stretched (not too tightly) and sealed across a large bowl.

Press down on the outside of the ring and keep increasing the pressure until the sugar reaches the side of the mold and starts to dome up. If the sugar is too hot it can melt the plastic wrap, too cold it won’t spread to the edges of the ring mold. No matter what you do, your fingers will burn. (After this I purchased some heat resistant silicone gloves.)

It was about now that I decided to make the cake an actual snow-globe. There is no way to pick it up and shake it, but a life time of skiing around snow makers gave me an idea. If I could blow the ‘snow’ (or powdered sugar) from inside the dome it would look like it was snowing.

I changed my plan from a small dome on shell tart to a 5” fondant covered cake. Now I had to make the domes bigger and higher.

I saw a method for making the globes (the author was actually making sugar bowls, but inverted would be perfect.) Ann Reardon – How To Cook That has a great tutorial.

Use helium quality balloons so the molten sugar doesn’t melt them. Ann explains using water filled balloons to disperse the heat and keep them from bursting when covering with the sugar.

This technique also required some practice. You need to be sure to use enough molten sugar or the balloon won’t be fully covered. I found covering the balloon in one smooth pour was more successful than trying to go back and filling in places that weren’t covered.

I made some white gum paste and rolled a little into balls for the snowmen. I colored some black to make buttons, eyes etc. I dyed some green and shaped it into cones. Another YouTube video demonstrated how to use cuticle scissors to snip bits to make the boughs of the trees.

Now to the engineering ‘genius’ of the cakes. To make the snow blower I procured some mini funnels (1.5” across at the top.) I connected a piece of flexible tubing (I happened to have the exact correct size and length from my beer making equipment.)

A squeeze bottle served as the air pump and a small sugar pearl blocked the sugar from pouring down the tubing. A firm squeeze on the bottle and voilà, a mini snowstorm. This is my test set up.

The cake was put on a 5” cake board which I had cut in its center, then it was crumb coated and covered in fondant. The flexible tubing was fed up through the cake board, cake and fondant and the funnel attached. The other end was fed through the checkerboard ‘tablecloth’ and two 5.25” styrofoam disks with holes cut in the center. The bottom disk had a channel cut from the bottom center to the edge to have a place for the tubing to run to the outside.

Everything was stacked, filled and covered with the sugar dome. Imagine my surprise when the girls and I tried it all together the first time, and it worked!

Slow Motion – IMHO Awesome!

Now, back to those braided fruit tarts.

Raspberry Swirl Pound Cake

Sometime around my birthday our Florida BFF send me a packet of recipes she culled from a selection of magazines. This Raspberry Swirl Pound Cake caught my eye, however, the first attempt hit the bin after QC rated it thumbs down. (Mfg agreed.)

I modified the original recipe from FoodNetwork by swapping out the AP flour for cake flour. This reduced the gluten to make a softer, lighter cake. Pound cake is not expected to be light and airy, but let’s be honest, dense, wet, stodgy cake is not terribly pleasant. I also substituted caster sugar for the cane sugar, reduced the oven temperature from 350F to 325F, increased the number of egg yolks by 2 and eliminated the almond extract. (QC and I do not like almond extract.) The final result was deemed presentable!

Raspberry-Swirl Pound Cake

INGREDIENTS
Cake
• 226g (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
• 198 (1 ¾ cups) cake flour, plus more for the pan
• 6-oz fresh raspberries
• 2 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
• 248g (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) caster sugar, divided
• 3 large eggs, plus 3 egg yolk, at room temperature
• ¼ cup heavy cream
• 1 1/8 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
• 4 drops red gel food coloring (or enough to make an intense pink color)
Glaze
• ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
• 2 tablespoons heavy cream for topping (more to thin if necessary)
• 1/8 teaspoon vanilla
• Crushed freeze-dried raspberries, for topping

METHOD

Make the pound cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325˚. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with Baker’s Joy, then line with parchment paper in two overlapping strips, leaving an overhang. Butter the parchment and lightly dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
  2. Combine the fresh raspberries, jam, 2 tablespoons cane sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring and smashing the berries with a wooden spoon, until
    thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl, pressing with a rubber spatula. Let cool.
  3. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, 1/4 cup heavy cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in a medium bowl until slightly foamy; set aside.
  4. Beat the butter and remaining 1 cup caster sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until well combined, 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and increase the mixer speed to
    medium high. Beat until pale and fluffy, 6 to 7 more minutes.
  5. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the flour until just combined.
  6. Gradually add the egg mixture and beat until combined. Scrape down the bowl, increase the speed to medium and beat until smooth and fluffy, 15 to 30 seconds.
  7. Scoop 3/4 cup batter into the bowl with the raspberry sauce and stir in the red food coloring. Transfer half of the remaining plain batter to the prepared pan and top with half of the raspberry batter; swirl together with a knife. Repeat and swirl the batters together again.
  8. Bake until the top springs back when gently pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes. (205 F internal temperature)
  9. Transfer to a rack and let cool 15 minutes in the pan. Lift the cake from the pan and remove the parchment; return to the rack to cool completely.

Make the Glaze

  1. Combine the confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons heavy cream and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon each vanilla and almond extracts in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth; thin with the remaining 1 tablespoon heavy cream, if needed.
  2. Spoon the glaze over the cooled cake and sprinkle with freeze-dried raspberries. Let set at least 20 minutes.

Honey Chamomile Cakelets

While on vacation last month, and at King Arthurs Bake shop, I learned a new word—Cakelets! I had absolutely no reason for buying a Nordicware Cakelet pan and, back home, tried it this morning for the first time. I used the Noricware recipe for Honey Chamomile Cakelets as a control for future bakes.

The recipe was simple and easy to follow, although I made a couple of changes and converted the volume measurements to weight. (I moved making the simple syrup to the beginning as reducing the liquid to a syrup takes a while and the cakelets should be coated while warm.) I find it’s convenient to measure most ingredients (such as honey) by weight. A cup of honey weighs 340g and a tablespoon weight 21g. Put your bowl directly on the scale and weight the required amount. Less mess and more accurate!

There was about twice as much honey syrup than required, so it’s quantity could be reduced by half. The cakelets released from the pan perfectly and maintained all the detail. I was very pleased with the result. The cakelets were strong honey which overpowered the chamomile but that is easily adjusted. I wonder how these would be with either a mirror glaze, or perhaps dipped in tempered chocolate. Hmmmm.

HONEY CHAMOMILE BEE CAKELETS

Recipe from Nordicware

INGREDIENTS
• 177ml (¾ cup) water
• 3 chamomile or jasmine tea bags
• 115g ( ½ cup) butter, softened (best to let come to room temp)
• 150g (¾ cup) granulated sugar
• 126g (6 tbsp) honey
• ¼ tsp vanilla extract
• 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
• 218g (1 ¾ cups) all-purpose flour
• ¼ tsp salt

TEA-INFUSED SIMPLE HONEY SYRUP:
• 237g (1 cup) water
• 2 chamomile or jasmine tea bags
• 170g (½ cup) honey
• 100g (½ cup) sugar

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Prepare Busy Bee Bitelet Pan with baking spray containing flour and use a pastry brush to evenly coat the details of the pan.

    HONEY SYRUP
  3. In a small saucepan, heat water to boiling. Steep 2 tea bags for 3-5 minutes.
  4. Reduce heat, remove bags and add honey and sugar. Cook until reduced and syrupy.
  5. Keep warm but not boiling until the cakelets are ready.

    BATTER
  6. Heat water in a saucepan until it just starts to boil. Remove from heat and steep 3 tea bags for 3-5 minutes. Cool to lukewarm and set aside.
  7. Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar. (Do not over beat)
  8. Blend in honey and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk eggs and tea.
  9. In a second small bowl, whisk together flour and salt.
  10. On low speed, add egg mixture alternately with flour into butter mixture until incorporated. Don’t over-mix to avoid air bubbles.
  11. Fill each design with batter, filling only 3/4 full. Gently tap pan on towel-covered countertop to remove any air bubbles.
  12. Bake for 15-16 minutes or until edges are lightly browned and center of cakes firm to touch.
  13. Cool cakelets in pan for 5 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack.
  14. While cakes are still warm, brush with honey syrup and serve.
  15. Clean pan and repeat with remaining batter. Makes 32 cakelets.

Strawberry Fields… Whatever

I am making my granddaughters birthday cake. Like so many girls she is really into unicorns, hence a Unicorn Cake. This will be a three tier cake, 10”, 8” and 6”. The 6” layer will have a unicorn cake topper and a multicolored flowing mane down the back. Check out that post in a few days.

The base will be my Extreme Chocolate Cake (my favorite) and the center will be a Heavenly White Cake, which is a blend between white and angel food cake. Again, stop back next week for details

Right now I am describing the strawberry cake recipe that I adapted from my Heavenly White Cake. The trick to this cake lies in the strawberry puree reduction. Placed sliced strawberries in a food processor and pulse until it is a puree. Place the puree in a small saucepan and with occasional stirring, reduce to about half the volume. This will take 30 – 40 minutes. Cover and place in the fridge until cool, (Overnight would be fine.)

I also added 1/4th tsp of strawberry extract to enhance the flavor. Any more would make it taste artificial. The Heavenly White Cake uses a cup of plain milk (I use 2% low calcium as that is what we stock in the home.) For the strawberry version I added 1 Tbl of vinegar to 1/2 cup of milk. This makes a pseudo buttermilk. I also added 1/4 cup of heavy cream hoping the final cake would be moist. The 1/2 cup strawberry reduction added the balance of the liquid.

For my test cake this recipe made two 6” and one 5” round cakes, 2” high. They required about 30 minutes to bake. I checked it using the spring back test, clean tooth pick check and measuring the center of the cake to be 210 deg F.

Overall, I was pleased with the moisture, flavor and texture of the cake. Combined with the Heavenly White and Extreme Chocolate cakes, marshmallow fondant and buttercream frosting, it should be a Unicorn Spectacular!

Heavenly Strawberry Cake

INGREDIENTS
• 2¾ cups sifted cake flour
• 4 teaspoons baking powder
• ¾ teaspoon salt
• 4 egg whites
• 1½ cups white sugar
• ¾ cup butter
• ½ cup milk (add 1 Tbl vinegar to make “Buttermilk” equivalent milk)
• ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• ¼ tsp strawberry extract
• ¼ tsp red food coloring
• ~250 g diced strawberries

METHOD

  1. The day before baking: Puree strawberries and reduce to ½. This will take 20-30 minutes. Place in the refrigerator, covered, overnight.
  2. Measure sifted flour, baking powder, and salt; sift together three times.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Whisk in ½ cup of puréed strawberries.
  6. Add ¼ tsp red food coloring, mixing well. (Optional)
  7. Spread batter in a 15 x 10 x 1 inch pan which has been lined on the bottom with parchment paper.
  8. 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.

Chocolat de Couverture Noir

On a visit to a Restaurant Depot my Q.C. Department convinced me to buy 11 lbs of bulk Chocolat de Couverture Noir. (64% is dark chocolate is not very bitter. I use 73% for dark bitter chocolate.) My question is… what should I make with it?

I am thinking Pain au Chocolat, chocolate croissants, chocolate chip cookies and/or brownies. Note the fluidity on the package. This chocolate is suitable for coating caramel, creams, berries and other confections.

Last year I made an over the top chocolate/orange tart. My neighbor’s orange tree has a abundance of oranges too high up for her to harvest. Hmmm……

Maybe something I made before: Eclairs? Chocolate Babka? Soufflés? Chocolate pudding? (Try the easy home made chocolate pudding recipe.) Chocolate chip scones? Lava Cake? Chocolate Fudge? Oh yes, chocolate fudge!!! (Maybe chocolate/peanut butter fudge, the QC department doesn’t like Chocolate/peanut butter fudge.)

Andy other suggestions?????

Little Jack Horner said, “Let Them Eat Cake!”

I have a recipe for fig cake, but currently have an over abundance of sliced plums in the freezer and this year’s crop is on the tree. Substituting the plums for figs was a good choice. The tartness of the plums paired nicely with the sweetness of the cake. Now, what to do with the bags of frozen figs?

Boston Cream Pie

My friend Maggie asked if I would make a Boston Cream Pie using the same recipe she used. While her dessert was reportedly delicious, (I didn’t have any) the cake did not rise to her satisfaction. So, today I made the same cake (Betty Crocker’s recipe) with nearly identical results. The recipe called for a 9” pan sprayed on the bottom only, not the sides. Some cakes, like a angel food require dry sides for the cake to “grow” up the sides so I made sure the sides were dry. It didn’t help. The cake was just over an inch thick. Cutting it in half would result in two tortilla-thick disks rather than layers of cake.

I did a search for another recipe with significantly different ingredients and method. I chose one from Martha Stewarts Everyday Living. Following the recipe as written, Martha’s cake was nearly twice as high as Betty’s

Betty’s on the left – Martha’s on the right.

As I am inept at slicing a cake in half, this challenge provided the opportunity to use the “floss” technique. A butter knife was about half the height of the cake, so I used it to position tooth pics every few inches around the cake. I then laid the floss across the toothpicks and pulled it taut cutting cleanly through the cake, exactly where I wanted, resulting in two even, level layers of cake. THAT is a beautiful trick!

(Make a note for yourself – if you are making something that uses cream-pat and ganache be sure you have some frozen eclairs on hand. They are easy to thaw out, fill and dip in the extra ganache.)

The cake was moist, the cream-pat smooth and chocolate, well you know my opinion of chocolate. Incidentally, I used the cream-pat and ganache from my eclair post elsewhere in this blog.

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!!

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.