Friday, October 28, 2005

Sneaking in Lemon Curd Would Be Wrong

My teacher's birthday is on Halloween, which to those of us who know her, makes a lot of sense. She would be born on Halloween.

I am making her a cake, of course, and as per her request I am making a white cake with white frosting.


I am fighting the urge to sneak something interesting into her cake, like a crunchy meringue disc, or raspberry jam or lemon curd, or white chocolate chips, or something, ANYTHING interesting, PLEASE....

She is allergic to chocolate and I love her and respect her and I will happily bake her a fabulous white cake with white frosting, but I get to complain just a little. In all fairness, she also said a banana nut cake would also be good, and I do make a killer sour cream banana cake (nuts would be easy to add) but what do you frost a killer banana cake with but sour cream ganache? Are you seeing the problem here people?

In my teacher's case I totally understand the white/white request, but for all you other white/white lovers who have no dietary reason to choose to enjoy something so boring and unimaginative, I ask you all, WHY? Why you kill me softly with your boring taste?

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Cake That Started It All

I started planning my 31st birthday cake maybe about a month before the actual day, and one day I realised that I really should be keeping notes on all my musings. Hence, the cake journal was born, and from that, this most excellent blog.

May 27 2004
Jen’s 31st birthday (The Mad Hatter Tea Party)
The Grand Cake Extravaganza
2 layers perfect all American chocolate butter cake (10 in)
strawberry mousseline buttercream
caramel cheesecake with almond flour crust (7 in)
chocolate sheets encasing and undulating over both tiers

I want a tiered cake, just to see if I can do it. Not that many people are coming (not enough I mean to warrant a tiered cake) but dash it all. I’m doing it.

Botom tier: 2 layer choc butter cake filled and frosted with strawberry mousseline buttercream. 9 in.
Top tier: cheesecake, toasted almond flour crust and toasted chopped almonds and caramel top. Caramel might have to be swirled in to prevent oozing.
Tier the sucker, heat the bathroom, and encase both top and bottom in choc praline sheets!!! It will be like a chocolate mountain! Or a volcano! What could be better than that?!?!?

I’m slightly concerned about the cheesecake because I’m not sure how high to fill the pan and the last couple of times I tried her cheesecake recipe it didn’t fully cook. But I’ll try anyway. And also; should I omit the lemon juice since I’m doing caramel? Will they clash? You know what might be cool: a hard caramel disc to place upon the cheesecake. Like a crème brulee topping. Oh my god. That could be EXCELLENT. Or, I could pulverize the caramel in the food processor and stir it in with the batter so that there would be little crunchy bits of caramel in the cake. That would go with the chocolate praline sheets. But gooey caramel sounds good, doesn’t it? Yum. Kind of a dulce de leche cheesecake. Yum. Excellent.

(5/24) so I went to the Decorette shop looking for cake pans today and discovered that a 6 in pan is teeny—too teeny for a cheesecake that more than one person will want to eat…so I decided to make the bottom tier 10 in and the top tier 7 in. This will truly be a mad cake: a 2 layer 10 in cake can feed about 50 people and I only need to feed about 15!!!! MAD, I tell you, MAD…

I’ve decided that if indeed the cake ends up looking like a volcano I’ll go back to the store and get some dancing teenagers to position on the cake to make it look like they are about to fall in the volcano. Not typically a mad hatter theme, more Polynesian, but its still mad. And dammit its MY birthday, I get to make the rules!! Off with your head!!

I made the mousseline buttercream tonight and something weird happened with the sugar syrup…you make this sugar syrup with ¼ cup water and ¾ cup sugar that you bring to a boil, take off the heat, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks, then you put the syrup back on the stove and let it boil until it gets to the soft ball stage…which I think I did, and I immediately transferred the syrup to the glass measuring cup and then I got distracted and gave the cats another round of food and put the pot in the sink and filled it up with cold water. By then the syrup had begun to harden and crystallize! So I went immediately to task with adding the “syrup” and beating the eggs furiously, etc. There were little crunchy sounds being made by the beaters…and there was a lot of “syrup” (now looking more like big sugar chunks—like rock candy kind of, or if the sugar came out of solution and chunked up) left in the cup. But after adding all the butter (which had oversoftened and I had to throw it back in the fridge to firm up—was beginning to separate) I tasted the buttercream and it was fine—very buttery and faintly sweet. The recipe said not to add more than ¾ cup lightly sweetened strawberry puree but I ended up using more like 1 ¾ cup puree. I guess that’s the advantage of using butter with a lower moisture content and not adding liquor to this buttercream—there’s plenty of leeway to dump in tons of puree. Which I did. And it is good. There isn’t this overpowering hit of strawberries when you taste it, but then the aftertaste is all strawberry goodness. Maybe four days in the fridge will encourage all of the flavors to come together.

I have to say it would be much easier to do these things with a nice little saucier and a good candy thermo and A DIGITAL SCALE.

I was reading up in The Book and she made her cheesecake layers 3 in high for a tiered wedding cake…plus she gives the instructions on how long to bake it…so I guess I’ll do the same thing…fill the pan close to the top and bake it for the prescribed time. I think I’ll make the regular recipe and bake the rest of the batter as little cheesecake cupcake thingys. We’ll see.

(5/28) Made the cheesecake yesterday. Note to self: 3 cups of sour cream means 24 oz! I had to go get more sour cream.

The cheesecake recipe is crazy easy; esp if everything is at room temp. The caramel recipe is the one from Julia Child that I got out of the FoodDay and it rocks. Really easy, totally yummy. So I poured about 1/3 of the cheesecake batter into the pan (I didn’t grease it) and then I poured half of the caramel and then 1/3 of the cheesecake batter then the rest of the caramel and then the rest of the cheesecake batter, right up to the top of the pan. Then I used a butter knife to swirl in the caramel; I hope it didn’t all sink to the bottom, but that wouldn’t be bad either. Then I baked the sucker in a water bath. I forgot to take it out in time (I really could use a timer!) and it baked for 10 minutes longer than it needed and it had already pulled away from the sides and cracked something serious across the top. But oh well. At least I hope this means its totally baked all the way through. I have fears of the bottom not releasing from the pan, but I don’t think that will happen…I hope. At least this time the cheesecake didn’t sink. Didn’t get the chopped toasted almonds on top. I was worried if I put them on at the beginning of the bake they would burn. Then by the end of the bake the cake was so set the nuts wouldn’t have set in the cake like I had wanted. Maybe I should have tried anyway. Oh well.

(What I’ve failed to mention so far is that I had MAJOR cheesecake trauma the last time I tried to bake a cheesecake. In my west-facing oven of a kitchen, in the middle of a serious heat wave. In the middle of the night. The stupid cheesecake looked super undercooked after its prescribed bake time and I stuck it out on the back stoop to hopefully cool it better…and a little bit later I open the back door to see my damn cat eating the freakin cheesecake—right from the center!! Which was still undercooked!! Fuckin!!)

I baked the cakes this am after premeasuring everything last night. That is a really good system. The butter and eggs come up to room temp and all the dry ingredients are all measured out and ready to go in the mixer; the chocolate was measured out and ready to go in another bowl; I just had to grease up the pans and preheat the oven and begin mixing. Way easy. I got those cakes mixed up and the first pan in the oven in minutes instead of an hour later.

And amazing—with the right pan and fresh baking powder the cake layers are actually 1 ½ inches high like they’re supposed to be! Miracle!

Again, if I had a digital scale, things would have been a little easier, and faster. A timer would be good, too. I think I just need a battery for the one that I have. The frosting is chilled solid; won’t be able to frost until this evening. I’ve got to get the chocolate today for the sheets.

(5/29) Almost forgot to buy chocolate. One thing I forgot about that damn frosting is that it is SO emulsified that the butter will fall out of suspension just by thinking about agitating it. Which means I had to pull out the mixer and beat the frosting back into submission and it never really was the same again. So next time I use mousseline buttercream, esp if I am going to add a shitload of fruit puree, frost the cake right away. Don’t save it up. Frosting the cake was kind of a trial. But, I have to say, even though one of the cake layers isn’t thoroughly baked and the other one got dry and fell apart, the cake looks good. It is the appropriate height. Each layer is 1.5 inches high, just like they are supposed to be. Between the proper pans and fresh baking powder, I am pleased.

The cheesecake came out of the pan easily enough. The almond crust is totally soggy. But that’s okay. I used the straw technique to stabilize the cake for the cheesecake and it seems to have worked fine. Even though I forgot to even the top layer of the cake so everything is a little crooked, I guess that’s fine since it’s a mad party. I should have made it even more crooked!

The chocolate sheets were easy enough to make, but I think I didn’t temper it that well at all. I wasn’t really being super diligent about the tempering. I used the big one to spread out the choc to make the sheets. I made them thinner than ¼ inch but I think that was a good decision. They melted and were pliable much quicker. I preheated the bathroom. But still the bathroom wasn’t warm enough and I had to crank up the heat. I think the buttercream took a beating being under all that heat. I think it began to melt under the chocolate. But the choc sheets undulated nicely. And I have to remember NOT TO TOUCH THE CHOC WITH MY FINGERS when coaxing the choc to bend nicely. I made all sorts of fingerprints and discolorations from playing with the choc. That’s why I think I didn’t temper it so well. I don’t remember that happening to such a degree last time.

And I left it on the counter last night and went to bed happy, and this morning as I get up to look at it there are little pools of amber colored liquid around the base of the cake. And I don’t know if the cheesecake is dripping, or if the buttercream started to separate and that’s strawberry juice or what, so I put the cake back in the fridge for now. I’ll take it out around noon. I am a little bummed. I guess I should have put it in the fridge last night after doing the sheets and exposing this heat sensitive cake to heat. Lesson learned.

So now that it’s “over” I would say
mousseline buttercream should be used right away
maybe stick to regular butter to come closer to the right proportions of fat to liquid
fresh baking powder and proper cake pans make a HUGE difference
for bigger cakes a scale would have been nice
prepping and premeasuring the ingredients the night before baking is WONDERFUL
cornstarch in the cheesecake might have helped the sogginess
pay attention when tempering the chocolate (do it properly)
stop touching the sheets with your fingers!!!
maybe choc sheets melting over buttercream and cheesecake isn’t such a great idea
tiered cakes are fun
don’t let butter cakes lay around in the air for long. Wrap them up as soon as they are cool!!!!!!!!
a timer is a good invention that I should take advantage of
when to put nuts on the top of a cheesecake?
organic strawberries look nicer, and let them defrost completely
I should put the cake in the fridge after exposing buttercream and cheesecake to heat so that it can firm up again

(5/30) Post Cake Notes To Self
1. the strawberry-chocolate sensation would have been more appreciated if I had split each layer in half—now to do that, would I need more buttercream? Probably. Maybe in that case I could do alternating layers of strawberry buttercream and whipped cream with fresh strawberry slices—just to not over buttercream the whole experience.
2. the caramel note to the cheesecake was a little understated, but on the whole the cake was really rich, and kind of too sweet. Maybe the caramel was a little underburnt?
3. when removing the top tier, the buttercream on the top of the bottom layer stuck to the bottom of the cake round and came off…how to prevent that?
4. a lot of cake is gone for a cake that was supposed to be enough for 50 people.
5. the chocolate factor was good. Still, the cakes seemed a little dry.
6. the one cake layer that seemed a little undercooked wasn’t too terribly undercooked. Barely noticeable.
7. the sheets are a fancy way to present a cake. Lots of oohs and ahhs and how did you do thats?
8. still don’t know what was oozing…but both cardboard rounds were totally soaked through…

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Evil Bakers Incorporated

I have joked that Evil Pie Man and myself should get together and open up a bakery called Evil Bakers Incorporated. We are only evil in that we get you to eat way more cake pie and ice cream than you reasonably should in one sitting. Secretly you love us.

August 7, 2004
A Midsummer Night’s Dream Party
Blackberry-Orange Cake
Two layers 10 in yellow cake with blackberries and orange zest
Filled and frosted with orange neoclassic buttercream
(this was supposed to be the bottom layer of a three tier cake; the other layers were baked by Allie and Evil Pie Man)

So, I did it again. I totally messed up; the directions for yellow cake almost always throw me off; I poured all of the milk into the egg yolks, when I was supposed to add only a quarter of the milk. I’m supposed to add ¾ of the milk when I mix in the butter, and then add the egg yolks, vanilla, and the last ¼ of milk in three parts later on. Oops. This may make a difference in the final cake. I seem to remember that it did last time I made this mistake. And we’re talking ten egg yolks, and 2.5 cups of milk. If I just keep going, there is a chance that the cakes will suck and I will have to do it all over again, and get another carton of milk and another dozen eggs….and another box of butter…and maybe even more flour….if I risk it. If I don’t risk it and go get more eggs and milk, then what do I do with all those eggs and milk and vanilla (and orange zest, but I’ll get to that in a minute)??? I guess I could also buy a loaf of French bread and make a lot of French toast. Hmm. A possibility.

So to make this a blackberry-orange cake I’ve decided to fold in 2-3 pints of fresh blackberries (that I mildly squashed on the way home) into the batter right before scraping into the pans. And I added 4 teaspoons of orange zest to the yolk mixture...and I’ll add orange zest and squeezed orange juice to the frosting mix, like you would add liquor. We’ll see what happens. Last time I made orange frosting, it was for my birthday last year and I used frozen orange juice concentrate. That turned out pretty good too. But I don’t want the orange flavor in the frosting to overpower the cake. I am finding that the frosting tends to overpower the cake--and what you taste is frosting with the cake in the background; like my complaint about rice with something big and flavorful over it; the rice just serves to hold it together and add a texture and dimension, but it remains far in the background (when in my opinion the rice is just as important).

So it sounds like I am heading off to the store to get a dozen more eggs, another carton of milk, two more oranges, and a loaf of French bread. It could be worse, I guess. I could have two layers of very fallen cake. That would drive me batty.

Mmm, good French toast. That was a good idea.

The batter was so heavy with all those blackberries (I used all three pints, minus the moldy ones) that I had leftover batter (I didn’t want to overfill the pans—no more than half full). I am going to bake up nine cupcakes in a few minutes!

I think b/c of the orange zest (which made the batter taste awesome—you can still taste the vanilla, and the orange…can’t wait to try a cupcake!!!!) the batter was too acidic; it looked curdled. I guess I should have used or added some baking soda—that neutralizes acidity. The problem would be figuring out how much to add. I wonder if the cake will be off in texture or taste w/o baking soda….

I think all that French toast and turkey breakfast sausage made me sleepy.

The cakes seem especially tender and on the verge of falling apart; I have to be careful when layering this cake…is it b/c of all the berries? Decreases stability (less batter to hold it together)? It smells awesome. I am excited. Hopefully those cupcakes will rock.

The cupcakes DO rock—the orange flavor is light and remains in the background…like the first hit is the blackberry, then the vanilla, then the orange…EXCELLENT. The crumb is still tender and fine. I am pleased.

Now I am supposed to paint the basement, but I would rather eat another cupcake and take a nap. Damn.

Cake was good. Got good reviews too. Not too sweet. Frosting wasn’t overpowering. Blackberries stayed in the foreground. Moist. Orange stayed as a hint in the background. I bet tomorrow the frosting will be even more orangier. Wonder if that will be better. Blackberries did sink to the bottom of the cake. Maybe next time I’ll place the bottom layer upside down so that it will look like cake-berries-filling-berries-cake. I wonder if tossing them in flour was helpful to keep them from being too spoogy? It certainly didn’t accomplish what I had hoped for; to keep the all the berries from sinking to the bottom of the cakes.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Zen Buddhism Isn't Always So Stuffy

This is a carrot cake from a recipe book that I got at a Zendo in the Catskill Mountains. I was there for a shiatsu seminar and the place is amazing--so beautiful! The chef had a reputation for being a great cook, and he wrote a cookbook which I ended up buying. In the dessert section he has this recipe for a healthier carrot cake. So I decided to try it out. Its pretty tasty, and really decadent. Not that we had carrot cake when we were there. There wasn't anything so fancy when we were there; still the food was excellent.

August 29, 2004
Green Corn Full Moon Ceremony
Coconut-Pecan Carrot Cake
3 layers coconut-pecan carrot cake (recipe from 3 Bowls)
filled and frosted with orange-cream cheese frosting

Okay, dumbass, a 9 x 13 inch pan is the big rectangular pan….the same amount of batter that will fill that will fill two round 9 in cake pans. So next time you decide you want to make a 2 layer carrot cake based on the recipe from 3 Bowls, you don’t have to double the batter!!

Hence, I am making a four layer carrot cake.

I used half graham flour and half WWPF [whole wheat pastry flour](supposed to use all WWPF) and the cakes rose quite nicely, smell good, aren’t sinking as they cool (keep your fingers crossed).

For a recipe from a zendo, this cake really gilds the lily. We got toasted coconut, toasted pecans, carrots, cinnamon, vanilla, orange zest, whole wheat, honey, maple syrup…good lord, sensory overload yet? But I am very excited to see what this cake tastes like.

Next I need to figure out how much frosting I am going to need to make. Doubling the batch from the book probably won’t be enough, but of course, I don’t know how much one batch will make. Enough to frost a 9 x 13 in cake obviously. But if we are talking a four layer carrot cake, that’s three layers of filling, and each layer is usually about ¾ cup of frosting, and so we are already talking 2 ¼ cups…right? I suck so bad at math. Maybe I will fill it and frost the top, but leave the sides bare. Just to not overdo it. Like I haven’t done that already.

This cake takes a lot of prep time. You have to toast the coconut and the pecans and the wheat germ. You have to zest the oranges, grate the carrots…oi. (and when you’re a dumbass and double the recipe, you have to do a lot more of each)
Some cool things to know:
One standard orange will yield about 2 tsp of grated zest
One 24 oz jar of applesauce will yield 2 ½ cups (dry cups)
One typical sized jar of honey is a little more than 1 ¼ cups
The cakes are super moist; they felt underdone when the time was up and the cake tester came out clean and they were beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. So keep that in mind; they won’t spring back like a butter cake would but when they begin to pull away from the pans and its been about 40 minutes, they are done.

I am a little surprised how nicely they rose, considering there’s no butter-baking powder reaction to poof up the cake. (that’s the reaction, right?) And I didn’t meringue the eggs or anything like that either. In fact, I didn’t even pull out the mixer. Too lazy. I beat it all up with the lovely balloon whisk which seemed to have done a great job. So, the question is, is it really all about the baking powder and the pans?

The next two cakes are baking in my air bake pans: the not as great ones that take a little longer to bake up than the regular aluminum pans that unfortunately I love because they work so well. So perhaps that will give me a clue as to the preceding question—is it all about the baking powder and the pans?

Well, they seemed to have risen quite nicely as well, but maybe not as high…nope, not as high. The cakes from the air bake pans are ¼ in shorter than the cakes from the aluminum pans. So, the pans will influence the height of the cake.

There are equal amounts baking powder to baking soda in this cake, probably b/c of the applesauce? I couldn’t figure it out. Maybe that is helping the cake to rise so nicely, considering I didn’t have any butter and sugar to cream and I didn’t use the mixer to incorporate tons of air and I didn’t whip up the eggs into an airy mass and I used coarse flours (incl wheat germ!). But I did sift the dry ingredients a couple of times! Its just like The Sphinx, it goes right up to the point of being confusing. Terribly mysterious.

Seppo says to grease the pans, but I went ahead and floured them too. I am glad I did that. Would have been helpful to have lined the bottoms of the pans with parchment. As much as I dislike that step. The first 2 layers of cake didn’t really stick to the bottom of the pans, but they did a little. Parchment paper. The very last cake I unmolded stuck to the pan. Like really stuck to the pan. It came out in two pieces; not too disastrous. So yeah. Two words (say it with me, kids!): parchment paper.

do i talk too much? it’s my cake journal.

I am soo tired, its 2:35 am, I am going to go to bed. I don’t think the cakes will dry out overnight; they are so moist! I am not waiting for them to cool completely so I can wrap them airtight. I am going to bed and leaving them on the counter to finish cooling. Goodnight to you.

(8/30) I am not so excited about the cream cheese frosting. Its too cream cheesy. And I upped the honey quotient and the vanilla and orange quotients and its still just too cream cheesy. And I doubled the batch and it made just under four cups of frosting. Not enough to fill and frost a four layer cake. Not even enough to fill and top a four layer cake. So I have a three layer cake that is filled and topped. Good enough. But still displeased about that frosting. We’ll see how it holds up tonight. What the peeps and homies say.

They loved it. But I am not so pleased. But I’m glad the Cake Whore [that was my prototype name; abandoned it for evil cake lady] came through yet again.

(9/8) kinda creepy…but I’ve still got part of the abandoned cake layer in the fridge and it hasn’t spoiled yet! Wiggy!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Week Of Too Many Cakes

This extravaganza happened in the last week of April through the first week of May. Two birthdays, one art opening and a wedding. Now don't get excited, I didn't bake the wedding cake, but as part of the bride's attache' I was mighty busy. I'm really not sure how I got this all done. Never again!

The bride in question is a huge bavarian cream fan, and as she is just about to move back to Portland she feels she deserves a welcome back cake. Preferably with bavarian cream. And she requested I post a photo of her wedding cake, even though I didn't bake it. I told her if I ever got around to developing my film I just might post her cake...

Note to reader: this is a huge fatty of a post, so curl up in chair and get readin'

April 28, 2005
Bridal Shower Prototypes
Bavarian Cream “Cakelettes”
Bavarian Cream with Grand Marnier

Okay so I didn’t use a vanilla bean. These are just prototypes to see if one can really use Bavarian cream in a mold without using cake. But I did add Grand Marnier. This is my thought: I could use the leftover Grand Marnier sauce from the Golden Grand Marnier cakes to drizzle over each “cakelette.”

Okay so the problem is that I didn’t grease the molds b/c I was worried the grease would interfere with the taste of the creams. And I really wanted to see just how nonstick this nonstick finish is. And I can’t get the creams out of the pan. Hmm.

I guess I could have lined each mold very carefully with plastic wrap, but I’m not sure if I could successfully line each mold with plastic wrap and still have the flower design come out well. Next time I make prototypes.

Also I wonder: if I seriously pressed in a small round of biscuit, like put it in there and then put something heavy in there to press out the flower design, would it work? And then make a bunch of little charlottes?

After leaving them to warm up to room temp and much shaking of the pan, the little guys fell out one by one. And none of them look great. But they taste good. Very creamy. I think it’s a better texture than the first round. But after licking my fingers and picking out a little bit of the cream left in the pan I am coughing and phlegmy. No cream for me. Damn.

(5/1) The Grand Marnier was a great touch, esp if the cream isn’t made with a vanilla bean. Never tried the sauce to go with it. Oh well.

April 30, 2005
Regenia’s Birthday
Birthday By Chocolate, Gluten Free Style
Two layers gluten free chocolate spice cake (doctored mix)
Two cocoa meringue discs
Chai chocolate buttercream
Chocolate Chip Whip Cream
Chocolate cream glaze

(4/28) I can already feel myself passing out from all that chocolate…..

So far I have only baked the two cake layers. I used a gluten free mix, to which I added vanilla extract (can you believe none was called for? Heathens.) and cinnamon and cloves. Makes it a little spicy. I debated on cardamom, but chickened out. But cardamom will be in the glaze, oh yes it will. These gluten free cake mixes turned out two nice cakes. They rose well and have a dark glossy look to them. Smelled good. Texture, we’ll see. I wrapped them up separately in lightly greased plastic wrap and heavy duty foil and stuck them in the fridge. Hope that they will be fine until Sat.

I wanted to assemble the whole cake ahead of time, but because I insist on putting whipped cream in the middle, I can’t pre assemble. I just think that for all that chocolate, it will be nice to have a little dairy in the middle to temper everything. Am I imposing my tastes on Regenia? Perhaps. I am willing to admit that perhaps I am doing that.

I bought chocolate chai bars from Dagoba with which I was going to make the glaze, but I just noticed that they are milk choc bars…won’t do. The proportions would be all off and I am not prepared to sit down and figure them out. But, I am totally going to steep the cream in cardamom pods and cinnamon and ginger etc. This choc bar may become my favorite. It is damn good.

I have some light whipped ganache in the freezer leftover from Allie’s birthday cake, and I hope I have enough. As long as I use it sparingly, I have enough. Yikes. Maybe I should make a choc buttercream….give the cake that silky texture…then we’ll have a crunchy, creamy, dense, silky thing going on. I like that. Maybe I can use that dagoba choc after all. Hmmmmmmm.

I was really reluctant to make the meringue discs but they were really easy to make. I made them a little stiffer, using 100% granulated sugar. Cause I didn’t have any powdered. However, I think that one recipe should make one meringue disc; I think that I am not letting the meringue ooze properly from the bag. I made one and a 1/3 disc with one batch. Then when I was piping out the rest of the disc with the second batch I was letting it ooze better (I think) b/c it was a thicker ring. Then I made a bunch of kisses with the rest of the meringue. Either I can use them on top of the cake or crumble them into the whipped cream or I can eat them myself. Whatever. At this point I am too sugared out to care. Off to bed.

(5/1) I made the chai choc buttercream and it kicked ass. I used the really easy milk choc buttercream recipe—basically you whip up the butter and melt the choc (½ milk and ½ bitter) and then beat it into the butter. I love that. No sugar syrup, no separated eggs…good times. The bc was strong enough to perfume the entire cake.

The whipped cream was the kind with the gelatin to stabilze it…I added chopped choc chips to it. I was reluctant to make this recipe b/c I thought it would be difficult, but it was really easy. And it held its shape well and never watered out, even after being at room temp for 12 hours.

The cakes shrunk in diameter more than the usual ¼ inch. I had to recut the meringue discs. In fact, the second disc that was from two different batches never really held its shape well and fell apart. So I just pieced it together. But interesting. The second batch of meringue didn’t dry as hard as the first batch did. Curious.

The glaze should have been fine but as I began to pour it over the cake, I noticed that it was beginning to separate. I think I have figured out why: I stir and agitate it too much. If this is a super-saturated solution, which it is kinda, then the more agitation, the more likely it will fall out of suspension. But once it dried, you couldn’t tell. Glazing the cake was a pain in the ass. But it looked great. And I can’t think of a better way to finish off the cake—more buttercream would have been way too much. WAY too much.

This cake was like 5 ½ inches high! It was also really heavy. I had eaten meringue pieces and choc and bc and whipped cream etc all day, so once I got my piece of cake, I just couldn’t finish it. It was even hard for me to enjoy it. Just way too much. Also, I didn’t like the texture of the cakes. It was grainy—not even a coarse crumb, but literally grainy as if things didn’t dissolve or incorporate. But the flavor was fine. You couldn’t really taste the cinnamon and cloves in the cake—at least not that I can remember. Jenn said it’s the best cake I’ve made yet! Thanks, Jenn.

Wrapping the cakes in lightly greased saran wrap was a great idea. I am glad I thought of it! Oh—and the freaking buttercream—letting it sit out at room temp it got totally hard!! I guess my house isn’t “room temp.” I started to remelt it over a double boiler but then decided just to beat the crap out of it. And even then, once it rested and I stopped paying attention to it, HARDENING. And Regenia said the whipped cream layer saved the cake from being way too much. I agree. I just can’t handle too much choc.

The shittiest part about this cake experience was having to wash the mixing bowl and beaters after every step and having to cut up all the choc by hand. So things I am now coveting are: a real cuisinart, and another mixing bowl.

May 4, 2005
MHC Second Art Opening
Cakes and cakes and cakes

Yes, I have been obsessed with cakes lately.

These are my thoughts for the mhc cakes: make 8x8 squares, possibly fill and definitely frost the tops, make a bunch of different kinds, cut them up into squares, and just put one out at a time. Make it simpler. Once we cut up those little flower cakelettes, the prettiness was ruined. Plus it took a lot of work to do all of those cakelettes. So I am going to try it this way. I figure each 8x8 square can yield 16 to 25 servings. So four cakes would give me 64-100 servings. Maybe I’ll do five cakes. I am thinking of asking Alma choc if she would give me some choc to make ganache with or something.

This is the menu thus far:
1. Yellow cake with mascarpone frosting and fresh strawberries
2. Spice cake (like flower prototypes)
3. Lemon-lavender cake
4. Banana cake with sour cream ganache
5. German choc with coconut pecan frosting?

Maybe cakes 2 and 3 could be made in a nice bundt pan and then just cut real thin. That could work too. Hmmm.

(5/1) Oh my god, I have so much work to do and I haven’t started yet…was so busy with Regenia’s cake and her and Meredith’s bday parties, and Lisa’s wedding prep….may I get through this week with grace and health…and may these cakes come together effortlessly in a good way!

(5/3) I am soooo tired. One more cake left….then its frosting time….I can do it….help……

First cake: yellow cake, baked in a 9x9x2 square pan. Had extra batter so I made five cupcakes. I cut out my own cardboard squares to support the cakes. Pain in the butt. That’s a great cake, such good vanilla, buttery flavor.

Second cake: Lemon-lavender poundcake. I used the recipe in The Book for the big cake, enough to feed 40 ppl, baked in a 12 cup bundt or a 9 cup kugelhupf (?). I had to go to the Decorette shop to get a bundt pan. And more cardboards and boxes. It was nice to go outside for a little bit. I didn’t put enough lavender in the syrup, but you can still taste as like an aftertaste the lavender in the cake. I only used 3 tbsp of lavender in the syrup instead of the gazillions of tbsp that were called for. Maybe double what I had would have been good. I think I put 2 tbsp to soak in the milk for the cake. I can’t remember now. Its all been a blur of cakeage. The cake’s bottom was all lopsided and as much as I tried to level it, the cake still slopes to one side. Oh well. People will still eat it. I brushed too much syrup on the bottom of the cake—where there wasn’t a crust—so it may be a little structurally unsound. We shall see. More syrup should go where there is a crust, or at least on the top of the cake and not the bottom. I have learned my lesson. Probably.

(5/4) Third cake: banana cake. This came off pretty well. Such a cute little layer—considerably thinner than the yellow cake, but the batter only makes one 9 in layer. So there. It smells good. I hope I get some.

Fourth cake: white spice pound cake. Here there were math issues. Doubling the recipe would make a freaking huge cake—and it would be the cake with the most amounts of each ingredient—which didn’t make sense to me. So I decided to multiply the recipe by 1.5—which comes out just right it turns out. As for the baking powder, I added +1 to the regular amount. The cake rose really super well so we’ll see about the texture.

Fifth cake: by this time, I was super super tired. This was the turtle cake. Again, a little hesitation—supposed to put it in a 9x13, but I could put it in the 9x9 square pan and have leftovers….finally I decided to make the bigger sized cake. I decided not to put choc chips in the middle filling and instead of melting choc chips to spread over the top (a dumb idea anyway) I am going to soften the leftover glaze I used on Regenia’s cake and use that. And put pecans on top.

By the way, what I refer to as "a little hesitation" was really at least 20 minutes of sitting on a step stool in the middle of the night and debating with myself about which pan to put the cake in and what would happen if I just went to bed and would there be enough cake and if I don't make the cake what do I do with the extra ingredients and if I do make the cake which pan should I put the cake in....

I organized this much better this time. I premeasured all the dry ingredients for all the cakes and set them aside in plastic tubs labeled. Everything but the baking powder. So when I needed to bake up a cake, I could just grab the premeasured ingredients and dump them in the mixer, add the baking powder and get the liquids and butter ready. Everything was much faster. And b/c I was baking two different sized cakes, while a square cake was baking I could mix up one of the pound cakes and take out the square cake and pop in the pound cake etc. That worked out most excellently. And the freaking washing. Every 20 min it seemed like. But somehow that went fairly well too.

(5/6) Still exhausted. The mascarpone cream frosting came together without a hitch. It didn’t curdle or anything like The Book warned. And it is very yummy. The strawberries looked great against the cream frosting and tasted excellent. The glaze remelted well but remained separated/curdled. There was just enough to glaze the turtle cake. I even used a piece of dental floss to mark all the cut lines as the glaze cooled and I put a half a pecan on each slice. I finally went with a herringbone pattern with the pecans after laying them all one direction and then alternating rows of vertical-horizontal. Because of the glaze and the pecan per slice they looked the most like petit fours. And the most “professional.” The sour cream ganache came together really well too—but freakin ganache always hardens up before you are done with it. Is my house too cold? I don’t think I keep my house at “room temperature.” Unfortunately later that night as I was resoftening it to scrape out of the pan and into a tub for freezing the ganache began to separate/curdle. I added more sour cream which helped that choc cream glaze I used last year…but it didn’t work. So I let it harden up in the tub and put it in the freezer. What is wrong with me and ganache? Why does it always do that?

The white spice pound cake was a little dense and chewy and not terribly moist. But it was still good. The yellow cake came out fine. The turtle cake was a little funky at first, next time I should make my own caramel, but it was great. The banana cake was awesome. And I love the mascarpone. I didn’t get to try the lemon pound cake but Allison said that the bottom was really intensely lemony. Where all the lemon syrup was. I will work on that. His favorite was the banana b/c the texture was the most perfect. Moist, tender, light, airy, etc. I would say that the yellow cake is like that too.

You know what would have been good for the lemon pound cake? To unmold it, pour in half the syrup, and stick the cake back in. Would it make it too mushy?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Why Would I Use Beets When I Can Use Chemicals?

Okay, okay. Here's what I baked up for today. You'll just have to deal with all the baking escapades being out of chronological order. Actually, I am probably the only freak who has issues with the chronological order thing.

A couple of my coworkers were a little shocked that I used food coloring instead of something natural like beets, but I think that when you are already using white sugar (a chemical, bascially) and cake flour (absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever) then who cares if a whole bottle of red food coloring went into the cake! You're still gonna eat it! And they did!

October 12, 2005
MHC’s Feng Shui Consult
There’s No Funk In My Shui
Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Wow, I’ve already eaten like four of those cupcakes (one frosted) and they are mighty tasty. They are basically a light chocolate cupcake with a lot of red food coloring. Good stuff. When I brush my teeth after eating one, my toothbrush is pink. Good stuff.

The mix was really easy and pretty quick to make. I used one tbsp regular cocoa and one even bigger tbsp special dark cocoa…maybe that’s why the cupcakes came out really dark—more maroon-ish. Also, I didn’t realize that the recipe called for two little bottles of red food coloring—dude! So I added to the one red bottle some of the red food paste/gel stuff that Cookie gave me. Thick stuff. A little goes a long way. I didn’t use much of it, but like I said, the cakes came out a dark red/maroon color. Very pretty. The texture reminds me a lot of a cake mix…lots of big air holes in the cakes. Relatively speaking. We aren’t talking huge craters or anything, but you can tell where the big air pockets were.

I only used 1 cup of sugar for the frosting (instead of the 3 cups called for) and it is just fine. Just a little sweet, but not out of control. Creamy, tangy, perfect. That rocks. I wonder if cream cheese frosting freezes well? I also froze the chestnut whipped cream…wonder if that was a good idea. Huh.

Crap. I didn’t take any pictures of the cakes. Maybe I’ll remember my camera later…

You know what? I frosted those suckers and refrigerated them for a couple of hours and when I pulled them out to come up to room temperature, the frosting looked all satiny and lovely. I got such a kick out of just looking at how pretty they were. I swear it was like they had this iridescent glow and it wasn’t because they were from a nuclear power plant. That's good times.

Peepariffic Party Playtime

the peeps are alive with the sound of music

I'm posting this one only because I love how the cake looks. I began hoarding peeps right after Easter so that I could get them cheap (cheep?). The majority of them were really hard by the time I put them on the cake--nobody really ate the peeps. But everybody took a turn throwing them all over the yard. Who knew peeps could provide hours of entertainment?

April 24 2004
Meredith’s Birthday
Peeps and Fluff Cake (its peepariffic!)
2 layers chocolate fudge cake
filled with marshmallow fluff
frosted with light whipped ganache
peeps bunnies in blue and purple along the sides of the cake and peep chicks in yellow in a circle on the top

I baked the cake layers a couple of days early and didn’t cover them well in the refrigerator; they got dry. They also didn’t rise very high; maybe I need new baking powder. Or better cake pans. I really want better cake pans.

The freakin marshmallow fluff fools you into thinking it would make good cake filling, but the awful truth is that it can’t take the pressure and oozed out the sides of the cake until I finally frosted the damn thing. There was fluff everywhere. And I used an entire jar to fill the cake! It also encouraged the top layer to try and slide off the bottom one. Note to self: if you are going to fill a cake with fluff, you have to frost right away! When it was served, there was barely any fluff to distinguish the layers.

The ganache hardened quicker than I was ready for it; but boy it stopped that cake from sliding apart! I think I had a little left over; ate it a month later with fresh strawberries, yum.

It was peeparific!

Eat This

Okay people. This is how it goes: For the last two years I have been obsessively keeping a cake journal of every cake I bake. I bake a lot of freakin cakes for no good reason except that it gives me an excuse to eat a lot of raw batter.

Friends and family love my cakes and so I get asked to bake cakes for them for their birthdays, potlucks, parties, etc. Its great fun and it gives me a chance to experiment...and eat more raw cake batter.

I take no credit for my cake success; I pilfer pretty much every recipe from THE CAKE BIBLE by Rose Levy Beranbaum (hereafter known as The Book). My sister got The Book for me three years ago for Christmas and now my copy is completely beat up: notes in the margins, frosting smeared over pages, pages falling out. I had two pages stuck together with meringue for several months before I ripped them apart to get to a recipe.

I don't make fancy cakes, I don't know how to pipe icing to save my life, I don't work with fondant or sugar flowers or any kind of hoohah like that. I just make good, damn good, cakes with tasty frostings.

So this blog is all about my cakes: what I baked, why I baked, how it tasted, tricks I've learned, info to pass on, incessant rambling about nothing in particular, etc etc etc. Like I said I have two years worth of cakes that I may try to post here...maybe I won't. I'm new to this blogging thing. Maybe I should obsessively keep a journal about blogging.