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?


  1. Anonymous2/11/05 14:28

    Hi Jen,

    Perhaps you can turn your love of cakes into a commercial enterprise. remember how Mrs Fields got started?

  2. The problem is, after this week of too many cakes I was sooo burnt out on cakes that I didn't even consider baking for a month or so. I don't like being burnt on baking!

  3. Anonymous2/11/05 15:19

    me gustan mucho las tortas

    by exequiel medina

  4. Oh, Honey... Grand Mariner is a really cool sailor. I suspect what you used was Grand Marnier. ;)

  5. Actually, Dagny, I really did use this hotty sailor with red hair and an accent I couldn't quite about tasty.