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.
Last year, after fresh peach season was over, I saw a recipe for Roasted Peach and Strawberry Jam. I saved that link for a half a year, until this week, when the farmer’s market was selling BOTH fresh peaches and strawberries. It was worth the wait.
This jam isn’t cooked, but will last a couple of week if refrigerated. As if!
It is an easy and (hands on) quick recipe.
- 3 cups (350 g) hulled and cut up strawberries
- 3 cups (415 g) halved peaches
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 Tbl lemon juice
- Halve peaches and remove the stone
- Bake peach halves at 250 F for 15 minutes, then turn over, skin side up and bake for and additional 15 min
- Slice strawberries – they don’t have to be too small, but should at least be sliced in half
- Remove peach halves from oven, remove the skin and dice them, toss with the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice.
- Spread fruit on a lightly olive oil sprayed, aluminum foil lined baking sheet (with edges) for 45-60 minutes or until the fruit is very soft, but not so long as the juice solidifies.
- Remove the fruit from the over and let cool 5-10 minute.
- Pour fruit and juices into a food processor and puree until the desired consistency is obtained.
- Can and place in the refrigerator.
I asked Neil what kind of birthday cake he would like us to eat for him, as we will be unable to be with him on his actual birthday, yet what kind of birthday would it be without a cake, and why waste a cake if I am going to make one anyway? Whew!
He asked for an 8 Layer Honey Cake. After doing a (very) little research, I found a good recipe with instructions on Natshakitchen.com. The only modification I made was to reduce the size (diameter) of the cake as there will only be 3 or 4 people partaking. I didn’t reduce the size of the recipe so simply made two small (6″) cakes. (Please don’t ask about the disposition of the second cake.)
One mistake I made was to not roll the dough out to the specified 1/8″ thick. (Mine were closer to 1/4″.) I also found the frosting was too thin. Next time I would use less sour cream and more sugar, or let it set overnight in the refrigerator.
8 Layer Honey Cake (Medovik)
Cake Layers Ingredients:
- 4 Tbsp (1/4 cup) honey
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 large eggs, beaten with a fork
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (I used unbleached, organic)
Sour Cream Frosting Ingredients:
- 32 oz sour cream
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
For the topping:
- ½ lb Fresh Berries, optional
How to Make the Cake Layers:
- Add ¾ cup sugar, ¼ cup honey and 2 Tbsp unsalted butter to a medium sauce pan and melt them together over medium/low heat, whisking occasionally until sugar is melted (5-7 mins). Don’t put them over high heat or they may scorch to the bottom.
- As soon as the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and while it’s still hot, add in your beaten eggs in a slow steady stream while whisking vigorously until all of your eggs are incorporated (whisk constantly so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs).
- Whisk in the baking soda until no lumps remain, then fold in your 3 cups flour ½ cup at a time with a spatula until the dough reaches a clay consistency and doesn’t stick to your hands. Mine took exactly 3 cups flour (measured precisely, scraping off the top of the cup).
- Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces and move on to the next step right away (these roll out best when the dough is still warm)
- On a well-floured surface, roll each piece out into a thin 9″ circle (about ⅛” thick). You can sprinkle the top with a little flour too to keep dough from sticking to your rolling pin. Place a 9″ plate or base from a springform mold over your rolled dough and trace around it with a pizza cutter to get a perfect circle. (I used a 6″ cake pan and “punched” out each disk. Be sure to use plenty of flour to keep the dough from sticking.) Keep the scraps for later. Transfer the dough to a large sheet of parchment paper and bake 2 at a time at 350˚F for 4-5 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before stacking. Repeat with remaining layers.
- Finally bake the scraps separated evenly on a re-used sheet of parchment. Once the scraps are baked, cooled and firm, you can crush them with a rolling pin or pulse them in a food processor until you have fine crumbs.
How to make the frosting:
- Beat 1 cup heavy cream until fluffy and stiff peaks form (1-2 min on high speed).
- In a separate bowl, whisk together 32 oz sour cream with 2 cups powdered sugar.
- Fold the whipped cream into the sour cream and you have your frosting.
- Refrigerate until ready to use. I suggest overnight to firm up the frosting.
Assembling your Cake:
- Spread about ⅓ cup frosting on each cake layer (don’t skimp on it since the cake needs to absorb some of the cream to become ultra soft.
- Press the cake layers down gently as you go to keep the layers from having air gaps.
- Frost the top and sides with the remaining frosting.
- Dust the top and sides with your breadcrumbs, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- This cake needs time to absorb some of the cream and soften, so be patient. It’s worth the wait!
I admit it. I have a bread machine. I was consistently underwhelmed by the results from this device. Currently, it is in storage in the garage. I also have a KitchenAide mixer with a dough hook and am very pleased with the consistently good results from this device. It both mixes the ingredients and does 90% of the kneading. It would probably do all the kneading but there is something satisfying about having your hand on, and in the dough, feeling it develop the gluten into a soft, resilient ball.
Here is a tip: if, while using your stand mixer to knead bread, it walks across the table, put a silicone baking liner under the mixer. I buy a Cooks Essentials 24″ x 72″ roll every year or so.
After a long search (and many test bakes) for a “go to” white sandwich bread recipe I found one on, of all places, the back of a bag of Gold Medal flour, duh! I have changed the Method a little, but held pretty close to the Ingredients. I did try substituting butter for the shortening, no big difference, but don’t leave it out. I tried both bread and AP flour, and prefer bread. (I am making bread… why would I not use bread flour?)
- 6 to 7 cups Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour* or Better for Bread® bread flour
- 3 Tbl sugar
- 1 Tbl salt
- 2 Tbl shortening – NOTE: 1 Tbl shortening weighs 13g, easier to weigh than spoon
- 4 1/2 tsp quick active dry yeast (2 packages regular)
- 2 ¼ cups very warm water (120° to 130°F)
- 2 Tbl butter or margarine, melted, if desired
- In large bowl, with the dough hook, stir 3 1/2 cups of the flour, the sugar, salt, shortening and yeast until well mixed. Add warm water. Beat on low speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Stir in enough remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, to make dough easy to handle, not very sticky.
- Increase the speed to medium, KitchenAide (4 or 5) and knead for 7 minutes.
- Place dough on lightly floured surface. Knead until dough is smooth and springy.
- Spray large bowl (I use a dough rising bucket with snap on top) with canola, or other sprayable oil. Place dough in bowl, turning dough to grease all sides. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap (if using the bucket, spray the lid also) and let rise in warm place 40 to 60 minutes or until dough has doubled in size. (I use the proofing setting on my oven. This is a little higher temperature than recommended but the results justify the process.) Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.
- Spray the bottoms and sides of two 8×4-inch or 9×5-inch loaf pans with cooking spray.
- Gently push fist into dough to deflate. Divide dough in half. (I find I end up with two 750g dough. Gently flatten each half with shaping into a 18×9-inch rectangle on lightly floured surface. (I used to use a rolling pin, but I prefer the texture by treating the dough more gently and not deflating too much.) Roll dough up, beginning at 9-inch side. Press with thumbs to seal after each turn. Pinch edge of dough into roll to seal and form a tight seal. Pinch each end of roll to seal. Fold ends under loaf. Place seam side down in pan. Here is another point of option. You can either brush loaves lightly with butter a this point, or for a crustier crust, don’t. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place 35 to 50 minutes or until dough has doubled in size.
- Move oven rack to low position so that tops of pans will be in center of oven. Heat oven to 425°F.
- Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until loaves are deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. For the crusty crust, add a baking pan below the bread and pour a cup of water into the hot pan when you put the bread in to bake. Remove the pan and water after 10 minutes and let the bread continue to bake.
- Remove from pans to wire rack. For a softer, but still chewy crust brush loaves with butter, otherwise leave them dry; cool.
Or, you say tomato and I say potato.
I was flipping through Paul Hollywood’s bread book and saw his focaccia bread, both the Focaccia Pugliese with Tomatoes and Garlic and Potato Focaccia Pugliese. I never made focaccia before and felt these two might be a good beginning. Plus, I craftily asked Fran to put an extra potato in the shopping cart yesterday.
Pugliese is very similar to ciabatta with large holes in the crumb and a very chewy texture. It was interesting that some recipes called for no, or at least minimal kneading, others require typical 7-10 minutes of kneading and still others want extensive kneading, even during the rise to develop even more gluten for a chewier texture. I chose minimal and it developed an excellent, chewy loaf with a good crunchy crust. The stand mixer really does not care how long you knead.
My strategy was to make one recipe of bread dough, divide it in half and use one for the tomato and the other for the potato.
I also made 2 dozen chocolate dipped short bread cookies, but they were not part of this post. Just a picture for proof.
- 4 cups bread flour
- 1 tbl salt
- 2 tsp fast acting yeast
- 1 1/4 cup water
TOMATO TOPPING INGREDIENTS
- Thin slices of tomato (I used about 1/2 tomato)
- 1 tsp crushed garlic
- Sea Salt – as needed
- Parmesan Cheese – as needed
- Olive oil – as needed
- Thin slices of potato (I used about 1/3 a potato, new potatoes would be better if you had them.)
- 3-4 sprigs of rosemary from your backyard garden, which you still have to cover every
night to protect from the frost.
- Sea Salt – as needed
- Olive oil – as needed
- Add all the bread ingredients to a stand mixer equipped with the bread hook. Mix to form a good dough. If you were going to knead the dough keep the mixer running at speed 4 for 7-8 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
- Cover the mixer bowl and place in the proofing drawer of your beautiful double wall oven. It’s nice having two ovens. I used the top oven to bake the 3 baguettes I made first while proofing the focaccia, (focaccias, focaccii?) the lower.
- After and hour of proofing and the dough has at least doubled in size, remove from
the oven and gently tip onto a lightly floured surface.
- Cut the dough in half and place each half on a parchment paper covered large baking sheet, or two smaller sheets.
- Gently, using your fingers form each piece of dough into a rough circle about 1/2″ thick.
- Punch your fingers into the dough making a rough wavy surface.
- Arrange the potato slices, rosemary and sea salt on one and sprinkle and rub
with olive oil.
- Arrange the tomato slices on the other piece of dough and sprinkle with sea salt, garlic, olive oil and cheese.
- Push the tomato and potato sliced down inside the dough as much as possible so the dough will rise up around, engulfing the slices.
- Place the doughs back in the proofing oven for another hour, or until at least doubled.
- Preheat the oven to 425 F convection and bake for 20-25 min until golden brown.
- Best eaten warm, but damn, not bad after it has cooled either.
As you may know, had you read my previous blogs, I am a big fan of GBBO. A couple of weeks ago, Paul directed the contestants to make a Kanellängd as part of the Technical Challenge. It looked so good (when he demonstrated the technique) I had to try. The contestants did not have the advantage of seeing Paul make this which resulted in varying degrees of success, so I had a big step up. Theirs did not look all that appealing, mine was outstanding, in both looks and taste. (Luckily, I have long arms and can pat myself on the back easily and often.) Sadly, I only made a half a Kanellängd, not sure of the final result. More sadly, a half loaf of Kanellängd is only enough for QC, snack and breakfast. Next time a full Kanellängd loaf, to have enough to share.
Kanellängd? Think cinnamon bun but not as sticky and made in a loaf. Kanellängd is akin to the Kanelbullen but is a plaited loaf and may be cut with a bread knife or simply torn at the thin spine of the plait, while Kanelbullen is the individual cinnamon bun. The house smelled like cinnamon all afternoon, which isn’t a bad thing. Try this, you won’t be sorry.
- For the dough
- 38g/1½ oz unsalted butter, melted
- 125ml/4½ fl oz full-fat milk, warmed
- 225g/ ½ lb strong plain bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- 5g salt
- 5g packet instant yeast
- 20g/ ¾ oz caster sugar
- 12g (¼) free-range egg, beaten (approximately ¾ tbsp)
- For the filling
- 5g/1½ oz unsalted butter, softened
- ½ tsp vanilla paste
- ½ tbsp ground cinnamon
- 38g/1½ oz caster sugar
- 12g (¼) free-range egg, beaten (approximately ¾ tbsp), for brushing
- For the sugar syrup
- For the icing
- 150g/5½ oz icing sugar
- ½ satsuma, finely grated zest only
- Melt the butter and gently warm the milk in a saucepan.
- Tip the flour and cardamom into a large mixing bowl and add the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Add the butter, milk, sugar and egg and turn the mixture round with your fingers. Continue to mix until you have picked up all the flour from the sides of the bowl. Use the mixture to clean the inside of the bowl and keep going until you have a soft dough.
- Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and begin to knead. Keep kneading for 10–12 minutes. Work through the initial wet stage until the dough starts to form a soft, smooth skin. When your dough feels smooth and silky, put it into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and leave to rise for 30–40 minutes, until doubled in size.
- While the dough is rising, make the filling. Cream the butter and vanilla paste together in a bowl until soft and spreadable. In a separate bowl mix the cinnamon and sugar together.
- Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knock it back. Roll out the dough into a rectangle, about 25x35cm/10x14in. Turn the dough 90 degrees if necessary, so you have a long edge facing you. Tack the back edge to the work surface, pushing down with your fingers, sticking the dough to the work surface.
- Spread the butter mixture evenly over the dough and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Roll up the dough tightly like a Swiss roll, using the tacked edge to create tension. Place on the prepared tray.
- Using a clean pair of sharp scissors, cut the roll into 7 slices (approximately 2cm/¾in each) almost all the way through. (It’s important to cut almost all the way though, otherwise it is difficult to lay alternate slices opposite each other and on their sides.) Pull each slice out to alternate sides and press down gently with your hands. Put the tray inside a clean plastic bag and leave to prove for 20–25 minutes, or until the dough springs back if you prod it lightly with your finger. Do not over prove.
- Preheat the oven to 220C/425F. Brush the loaf with beaten egg and bake for 20–25 minutes until risen and golden-brown. Cover with aluminum foil after 10 minutes if it’s browning too quickly.
- For the sugar syrup, tip the sugar and 50ml/ 1¾ fl oz water into a small pan and bring to the boil stirring until the sugar has melted. Boil until reduced by half.
- For the icing, mix the icing sugar with enough water to make a thin icing, then stir in the satsuma zest. (I forgot the zest. No problem, it didn’t need it.)
- Place the loaf on a wire rack to cool. Brush with the sugar syrup then drizzle over the icing. Leave to cool completely.