Well, I was all set for Vivian’s first birthday party on August 10, but due to typical one year old circumstances, it was postponed until today, August 25. This offered no problems, rather a whole new opportunity to perfect (maybe too strong a word) a mermaid themed birthday cake for Vivian.
The cake was comprised of two 12″ round merengue white cake layers and three 9″ chocolate layers. Each were crumb coated and refrigerated. Meanwhile, I made marshmallow fondant and colored portions a shades of “ocean green” colors. The entire 3 layer chocolate and 2 layer vanilla cakes were covered with fondant.Then used some of it to punch out circular “scales.”
A variety of sea “creatures” were molded from both chocolate, white chocolate (tinted pink) and gum paste. The purple “sea weed” was made from gum paste and stored at room temperature in an airtight container. These were actually made over a month ago and were fine to use today. The chocolate sea creatures were made three weeks ago and stored in the fridge.
The cakes were stacked this morning and the “sea creatures” and mermaid tails were attached using Dab-And-Hold edible adhesive.
My critique: the design and execution was good. The chocolate cake was outstanding, the meringue white cake tasted good, but was a bit dry. I am still looking for an acceptable recipe. Marshmallow fondant is too sweet, but the little figurines need to be a fixed to a smooth surface. I may give rolled buttercream next. I also found a recipe where I can substitute the cocoa ingredients to create a vanilla cake with similar crumb and moisture to my chocolate cake recipe. More experimentation!!
Extreme Chocolate Cake
- 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
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- Grease and flour the two Wilton 3D Egg cake pans.
- 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.
Meringue White Cake
• 1 cup butter (softened)
• 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
• 3 cups cake flour* (345 grams spooned & measured carefully)
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 cup milk (2% milkfat)
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 3/4 cup egg whites plus 3 tablespoons (160 g)
- Using a stand mixer, beat the egg whites with the whisk attachment until they are stiff and form peaks. This may take a minute or two. Pour the egg whites into another bowl and place them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to add them to the batter.
- Using the same bowl that you used to beat the egg whites, place the softened butter in and cream the butter for about 2 minutes (using the beater blade attachmenuntil it is white in appearance.
- Add the sugar to the butter and beat until fluffy (about another 1-2 minutes).
- In a small bowl, combine the flour (measured carefully*), salt and baking powder. Set aside.
- In another bowl, combine the milk and vanilla extract.
- Add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture alternately with the milk.
- Add the stiffly beaten eggs to the cake batter. Fold the egg whites in gently. Do not overmix at this point. If you do, your cake will become more dense.
- Grease and flour 2 9″ round cake pans. Pour the cake batter equally into the prepared cake pans.
- Bake the cakes at 350 degrees for 25-27 minutes or until the top bounces back when you touch it.
- Allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes, then loosen the edges and remove them from the pans to a wire rack, allowing them to cool completely.
- 500 g marshmallows
- 1000 g confectioners sugar
- 1 tsp white vanilla
- 2-3 Tbl water
- Grease (well with Crisco or equivalent) a heat proof microwavable bowl
- Place marshmallow in the bowl and sprinkle 2-3 Tbl water over the marshmallows
- Heat in a microwave in 30 second increments until the marshmallow is melted and smooth. Don’t overcook and burn.
- Grease (well) dough hook and stand mixer bowl and add melted marshmallow.
- Add confectioners sugar a cup at a time and stir on medium until incorporated.
- Add the vanilla during one of the sugar additions.
- Reserve about a cup of sugar to use during hand kneading
- Grease (well) your workspace and hands and turn the fondant out.
- Cover with sugar and begin kneading, adding more sugar as necessary until the fondant is smooth and not sticky.
- Use a greased rolling pin and roll the fondant out to required size. For this cake I rolled it out to about 24″ x 24″. Once kneaded and no longer sticky I folded it into quarters to make it easy to pick up and drape over the cake. Be careful. If not adequately kneaded, it will tear.
I had some leftover caramel in the fridge. It was (almost) too soft to fill chocolates (see below) but too thick to top ice cream. What a dilemma! Over the weekend I re-heated it, being sure it was 248 degrees then poured it into a hemispherical silicone mold.
I have been practicing chocolate work so I figured this would be a good way to conserve caramel and increase tempering skills, and have some chocolates for quality control consumption.
As I said, I poured the 248F liquid caramel into a mold then tossed the mold into the fridge to set. I weighed and chopped 250 grams of semi-sweet dark chocolate. You want the chocolate to be very fine so it will melt easily during the tempering. Dark chocolate is tempered by melting about 2/3rds of the chopped chocolate in a bain-marie to 120F.
Remove from the heat and add the remaining chocolate a little at a time waiting for each addition to melt. If after all the chocolate is added and melted the temperature is still above 82F stir until it cools to 82F. Then place it back on the barely simmering bain-marie until
it reaches 85-86F. Remove the pot containing the water and the bowl holding the melted chocolate and place it next to the caramel to be dipped. The temperature of the chocolate will continue to rise a few degrees and should hold at 88F to 90F. Dip each piece of caramel, or whatever you are coating, lift it out with a fork, drain and place on waxed paper. Repeat, repeat, repeat…
I had some leftover chocolate so put some in a piping bag and set it aside to cool slightly. The rest I poured in the cleaned silicone mold to make some nice hard chocolate candies, or to re-melt sometime in the future. Who knows, I may decide to make more caramel to use up the extra chocolate I have waiting in the fridge.
When the chocolate in the piping bag was cooler but not set I snipped the end off and drizzled the lines of chocolate over the dipped chocolate to add some character.
A week ago I tried to make some chocolates for Fran’s Mah Jongg group by using the still soft caramel. They looked pretty, but it was hit or miss if there was much caramel in the chocolate candy. I also used milk chocolate which is much harder to work than the dark semi-sweet. Next I think I should make some more caramel, or maybe nougat and practice with the milk chocolate.
Salted Chocolate Covered Caramels
It wasn’t until 1861, when his light bulb turned on (notice the anachronism?) and he decided there was an untapped marketing opportunity selling his chocolates in heart shaped boxes for Valentine’s Day. He didn’t know it, but modern science has linked the chemical phenylethylamine in chocolate to feelings of excitement, attraction and even pleasure.
Last year, I went pure pastry, making heart shaped Mille-feuille.
This year, having learned how to temper chocolate for my Hot Chocolate Cake, and decided to make these candies. I found and followed an online recipe, but found it lacking. The caramel was a little too soft and the chocolate did not completely set. The tempering instructions were a little vague without specifying the suggested heating and cooling temperatures. I made adjustments based on what I learned from previous tempering and also increased the temperature of the caramel to slightly increase the hardness of the caramel.
The result was these soft, chewy, melt in your mouth chocolate caramels. Complementing the candies were 2 dozen chocolate dipped, heart shaped, shortbread cookies.
Michaels had some pink gift boxes for St. Valentine’s Day (10 boxes for $3.90 with coupon) for a nice presentation.
Helpful note: you will be busy while making this, therefore, have all equipment ready and ingredients measured
out prior to starting.
Makes approximately 24 heart shaped caramels.
- 113g unsalted butter (1 stick)
- 120 ml heavy cream or heavy whipping cream (36-40% butterfat content)
- 3 tablespoons water
- 85g (¼C) light corn syrup
- 200g sugar
- 225g high quality chocolate, milk, dark, or white
- course sea salt as needed
PREPARE PAN AND INGREDIENTS
- Lightly grease a heart shaped silicone mold. I tried the first time with a spray but the caramels came out greasy. I then changed to a light coating of vegetable shortening with better results.
- Cut butter into 8 pieces then combine with heavy cream in a small microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave 30 second bursts until hot and butter has melted.
- Set aside.
- In a small saucepan combine the water and corn syrup.
- Carefully add the sugar so you don’t splatter the sugar up the sides of the pan. Gently stir the sugar into the water and corn syrup, just moistening the sugar.
- Heat on medium until the sugar has come to a boil.
- Cover with a lid for 1 minute to melt any sugar adhering to the side of the pan. Any sugar on the side of the pan will cause the caramel to crystalize and be grainy.
- Continue cooking until the sugar reaches a temperature of 320o F and the sugar turns a light amber color around the edges of the pan.
- When the sugar reaches 320o F, slowly pour about ¼ of the butter and cream mixture then stir, using a small silicone spatula to incorporate it. Be careful, the sugar mixture will boil violently as you add the butter. Repeat with the remaining cream and butter, about ¼ at a time. Add the sugar mixture slowly and carefully to keep the mixture from bubbling over the sides of the saucepan.
- The temperature will drop when you add the cream and butter. Continue cooking for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the caramel reaches a temperature of 245o
- The moment the caramel reaches your desired temperature, pour into the greased mold. I poured the hot caramel into a heat proof 2 cup measuring cup, then into the mold. It was easier to control than straight from the sauce pan
- Cool until firm. (I refrigerated the caramel hearts.)
- Finely chop 225g of good quality semi-sweet chocolate. (I prefer dark chocolate.) The smaller amount of chocolate, the more difficult it is to control the temperature changes, but this amount was enough to coat the caramels.
- Place about 150g of the chocolate in a double boiler or metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Place a candy thermometer or digital thermometer in the chocolate and stir frequently with a rubber spatula.
- Do not let the temperature of the chocolate exceed 120°F for dark chocolate or 105°F for milk or white chocolate. When the chocolate has fully melted, remove the bowl from heat. Wipe the bottom of the bowl to get rid of any condensation as any water in the molten chocolate will cause it to seize.
- Stir in the remaining chocolate a little at a time. Let it melt before adding more.
- Let the chocolate cool to about 82°F. If it is warmer, keep stirring and let it cool some more. If it is cooler, begin reheating in the next step.
- Once the chocolate is 82°F, place it back over simmering water. For dark chocolate, reheat to 88°F to 91°F. For milk and white chocolate, reheat to 85°F to 87°F. Remove the bowl from heat once you have reached the right temperature.
- Spread a small spoonful of chocolate on a piece of wax paper. If it looks dull or streaky, re-temper the chocolate, starting with step 2. If it dries quickly with a glossy finish and no streaks, the chocolate is in temper.
- Keeping chocolate in temper
- Once melted chocolate has been tempered, it must be used before it cools and sets. If it cools to about 84°F to 86°F and is still fairly liquid, it can be reheated to a liquid consistency.
- If it has completely cooled and solidified, it should be re-tempered. Heat it for 5 to 10 seconds at a time, stirring and checking the temperature before reheating. For dark chocolate, reheat to 88°F to 91°F. For milk and white chocolate, reheat to 87°F to 88°F. If you keep your chocolate within these temperature ranges, it will stay in temper and be liquid enough to use.
COATING CARAMELS WITH CHOCOLATE
- One at a time drop the cool caramel into the tempered chocolate
- Use one fork to flip the caramel assuring both sides and the edges are coated.
- Use the second fork to lift the coated caramel out of the chocolate and flip onto the other fork to drain some of the chocolate off the heart.
- Carefully place the chocolate on a piece of waxed paper and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
- Cool and eat.
I had the occasion to make a batch of meringue cups today and thought I would try a variation to the ganache filling I typically use. While researching another recipe on Allrecipies I saw that if, after the unsweetened, grated chocolate (4 oz) is melted in the just barely boiling heavy cream (1/2 cup) the mixture is allowed to cool to room temperature, then whipped soundly (about the head and shoulders), it will become a lighter whipped ganache which is easy to pipe into designs, or as in my case bitter kisses. The sweetness of the meringue cup paired with the bitter chocolate results in a well balanced treat.
(After taking the picture i decided to add some blue sugar crystals to sweeten the meringue cups up a bit. Obviously, it’s up to you)
Remember the yellow cake with meringue frosting from a couple of weeks ago. I bet you didn’t realize that was just a practice cake! The real one was for Fran’s work where they are working on a strategic plan. I used David’s Yellow Cake (that is just a name. It could just as easily been Ralph’s Yellow Cake, its just someone named David published the recipe first) as the basis of a commemorative cake for the City of Tamarac.
The difference between this cake and the original Yellow Cake is I used fondant to cover this cake and gum paste to make all the emblems and logos. I cheated and used sugar letters to spell “Team 4 Information Management”. My piping skills to write that much just aren’t there… yet. As usual, everything is cake or candy and edible.
It’s winter. There is a slight nip in the air, sweater weather. It’s the season for caramel corn, sugar on snow and… fudge!! We grew up with fudge every winter, chocolate, peanut butter and the combination thereof. Our fudge was grainy and sweet, not the smooth sweet soft fudge found in stores and from chocolatiers. My fudge retains all the old flavors, textures and memories of fudge years now long gone. (Full disclosure, the recipe is from Betty Crocker’s cook book.)
- 4 cups sugar
- 1 1/3 cups milk
- ¼ cup corn syrup
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
- ¼ cup butter
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- Grease bottom and sides of 8-inch square pan with butter.
- In 3-quart saucepan, cook sugar, milk, corn syrup, salt and chocolate over medium heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted and sugar is dissolved. Cook, stirring occasionally, to 234°F on candy thermometer or until small amount of mixture dropped into cup of very cold water forms a soft ball that flattens when removed from water; remove from heat. Stir in butter.
- Cool mixture without stirring to 120°F, about 1 hour. (Bottom of saucepan will be lukewarm.) Add vanilla. Beat vigorously and continuously 5 to 10 minutes, using wooden spoon, until mixture is thick and no longer glossy. (Mixture will hold its shape when dropped from a spoon.)
- Spread in pan. Let stand about 1 hour or until firm. Cut into 1-inch squares.