Thursday, December 18, 2008

Birthday Cake for the Birthday Boy

So we have a friend named Wilman from the Domincan Republic. He's here on a college exchange program and he is very studious. It is a little astounding. I have never studied like that in my whole life. Maybe that's my problem... Anyway, he turned the big 21 so we threw him a birthday party and he asked if I could bake him a cake!

Awesome!

Wilman's Birthday Cake

December 13 2008
Name of cake: Wilman's Birthday Cake
Occasion: Wilman's 21st Birthday
Constituents: Many layers Dorie's devil's food cake filled and frosted with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream

This cake was a lesson in patience, egg whites, and label reading.

Wilman requested a chocolate cake with white frosting. I decided to make Dorie's devil's food cake from the Devil's Food White Out Cake, but instead of filling and frosting with the billowy marshmallow frosting in the book, I decided to pair it with swiss meringue buttercream. I thought the marshmallow frosting might be too much for our Dominican friend. And I like that swiss meringue buttercream.

The party was Saturday night, so Thursday I made the frosting. Now, Dorie's recipe is in conjunction with her perfect party cake, and is enough to fill and frost a four layer (torted) cake. Since I was planning on torting the cake I figured the same amount of frosting would be perfect.

I decided to use the leftover egg whites I had sitting pretty in the freezer. I also decided to cut the sugar in half, like I did for Julie and Noah's wedding cake. For those of you who haven't made a SMBC, you take your sugar and your egg whites and beat them over a pot of simmering water until the temp of the meringue is 160 F. After the eggs come to temperature, you pull them off the heat and beat until cool. Then you add a ton of butter and a little vanilla extract and beat like crazy until the whole mess becomes a beautiful, velvety, lovely frosting.

So my leftover egg whites must have been past their prime, because they didn't make a very big meringue nor very much frosting. I looked at it for a long while, decided it must be enough because that's what the recipe called for, packed the frosting in a tub and went to bed.

Friday after work Annmarie came over to keep me company while I baked the cakes. Dorie's recipe makes two decadent 8 inch cakes. They came together easily and without mishap, but after letting them cool I looked at them with concern as they seemed shorter than I thought they ought to be. But like the frosting, I decided it should be right and so I went on to split the layers and start stacking the cake.

Wilman's Birthday Cake

I stacked the four cake layers with thin layers of buttercream, and had just enough frosting left to do a crumb coat around the outside of the cake. Hmm. That's not enough frosting. Also, the cake looked a little short. Hmm. That's not enough cake. But it was 3 in the morning so I went to bed.

The next morning, the day of the party, I took inventory of my pantry. I was out of bittersweet chocolate and I needed two whole ounces for another round of cake. I debated on substituting more cocoa powder and butter (I found in RLB's Cake Bible a conversion), but my roommate needed to hit the grocery store too so we shuffled out of the apartment together. And then we went to the liquor store for more rum (not for the cake), and then to another grocery store for a Christmas wreath and some lunch. And then, back home.

So I started in on the next round of cake. Again, everything came together fine and quickly. The cakes baked up and didn't seem like they were much higher than the previous night's batch. I made another round of frosting with the rest of the defrosted egg whites and proceeded to stack another three layers of cake (I saved the fourth layer for a snack later in the week...and because I was worried there wasn't enough frosting). (Math break: I stacked another two layers of cake. Two.)

Wilman's Birthday Cake

And rightly so--the second batch of frosting was only enough to fill the next two layers and frost the top. Those darn old egg whites! Also, with this batch of frosting I needed to dip into my roommate's butter stash, which I figured he wouldn't mind (although I don't think I asked him). This will become important in a few paragraphs...

So I accepted my fate--that I was going to have to make a third round of swiss meringue buttercream. I was miffed, to say the least. As I separated three fresh eggs and began to beat the sugar and whites over a pan of simmering water, I thought back to Julie and Noah's wedding cake. I needed two and a half batches of the same frosting to frost all three layers of cake. So why did I need the same amount to fill and frost this cake? As I looked at the marvelous volume these egg whites were achieving, I decided there really is a shelf life to frozen egg whites.

Lesson number one.

For this last batch of frosting, all of the butter came from my roommate's stash. The frosting came together pretty quickly, and I could almost do it from memory by this point! I felt pretty cool.

Until I tasted the frosting. The salty, salty frosting.

Salty.

My roommate's butter stash was salted butter.

Dangit.

Lesson number two.

I bet it wouldn't have been so salty tasting if I hadn't halved the sugar. But oh well. My roommate actually liked the frosting--he said it was a good sweet/salty balance. To me, it just tasted like salty butter with a hint of vanilla. I couldn't taste any sweet at all.

And then, I realised that the second batch of frosting, which was already on the cake, was 1/3 salty butter.

Sigh.

My roommate pointed out that the vanilla ice cream we were going to serve the cake with would probably overpower all that salty frosting and nobody would notice. I agreed, and so I finished frosting the outside of the cake with the salty frosting and topped it with chocolate shavings from the left over bittersweet chocolate.

Wilman's Birthday Cake

Joelf and Annmarie both remarked that I was quite calm in the face of this cake trauma. They were right; I was calm. I was also a little disappointed but oh well. I figured it would be a good story for The Blog.

Everybody complimented me on the cake, which I couldn't take seriously. The frosting was salty, people! However Joelf was right--the ice cream totally overpowered the saltiness so maybe that's why they thought it tasted so good.

The funny thing is, the next day as I was cleaning up, I found an abandoned piece of cake where the only thing that was eaten was the salty frosting. What shenanigans were these? Did a deer get a piece of cake?

Wilman's Birthday Cake

Happy Birthday Wilman!!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Butterscotch Pecan Cake

The first year I lived in this apartment, my then-roommate and I decided to have people over for dinner about once a month. This way, we could save a little money by not going out, but we'd still get a chance to see our friends. We both decided it was a great idea, but it never really happened.

Fast forward three years, and two roommates later. I brought up the idea of monthly dinner parties with Joelf and he was 100% on board. We began to assess what it would take for us to host dinner parties: rearranging the apartment so that we could expand the table and have up to 10 people over at once, place settings for 10, serving platters and bowls (neither of us owned any), a few more wine glasses, low ball glasses for cocktails, candles, table linens, more utensils, appropriate dinner party music and centerpieces.

It was a major undertaking.

We made our list of all the people we know that we would want to have over for dinner, selected our first round of ten, and sent out invites.

We settled on a slightly traditional Sunday supper menu of a pork roast with roasted potatoes, braised red cabbage, and salad.

Everyone expected me to bake a cake, which I didn't. I had planned on making a pear-frangipane tart but the crust didn't work, so I baked little individual pear-frangipane things in little ramekins, but I didn't bake them in a ban-marie so they dried out and were not so great. But the pears! They were poached in rum and a vanilla bean and were SO YUMMY. Thanks, RLB (you can find the recipe in the Pie and Pastry Bible, under Pear and Almond Cream Tart).

So for November's dinner party, I felt obligated to bake a cake.

Butterscotch Pecan Cake

Nov 23, 2008
Name of Cake: Martha's Butterscotch Pecan Cake
Occasion: November Dinner Party
Constituents: 3 layers of brown sugar butter cake soaked with butterscotch sauce, filled and frosted with butterscotch cream cheese frosting, chopped toasted pecans for garnish

This cake is a little over the top.

But if you are a caramel fan, you will LOVE IT.

The first thing I did was make the frosting, as it benefits from an overnight in the refrigerator. This is because the frosting consists of a brown butter butterscotch that you cook first, then blend into an already nice and sweet cream cheese mixture. The overnight gives the butterscotch and the cream cheese time to sort out their differences and come to a harmonious agreement of sweet, tangy, caramel goodness.

experimentin'

The next day I baked the three cake layers, which are essentially yellow buttermilk cakes made with dark brown sugar. I used dark muscovado sugar for the dark brown sugar, which has a deeper, rounder, more full molassesy sugary flavor. I highly recommend substituting muscovado sugar in place of all your brown sugar needs. Especially in the butterscotch, mmmm. So much better.

Anyway, the cakes baked up without much mishap. They had that big, open crumb typical of an all-purpose cake and they were actually a bit dry and coarse. I guess that's why they needed a serious lathering of butterscotch sauce? Or did I do something wrong?

I made another round of butterscotch sauce, this time substituting Lyle's Golden Syrup for the corn syrup. This is the sauce that each cake layer soaks up before being filled and frosted. It all seemed like way too much to me--what was wrong with making a delicious and tasty butterscotch cake to go with the frosting, or making a simple brown sugar cake and going to town with a butterscotch buttercream, or covering the cake in butterscotch, skipping the frosting altogether and serving with whipped cream or ice cream on the side?

Anyhoots, I played along with the directions and basted each cake layer with butterscotch and stacked the cake. The middle layer threatened to slide right off the plate so I used a couple of straws to stake the cake, frosted the whole thing as much as I could bear, and covered the sides in pecans. Then the cake went back into the refrigerator for another overnight, in order for all that hoohah to sort themselves out, as well as to solidify everything so the cake didn't fall apart.

Butterscotch Pecan Cake

Dinner the next night went fairly smoothly; the conversation was good, if not unusual, and the roasted chicken and vegetable in a pumpkin thing turned out pretty darn good.

The cake was still a little chilled from the refrigerator and thus not as flavorful as it was later on at room temperature. It was very rich. And we all passed out from insulin shock. Just (barely) kidding about that last part.

Butterscotch Pecan Cake

At room temperature, the cake had a very pronounced caramel flavor, and was moist and very very sweet. Between all the sugar in the cake, butterscotch, and frosting we really did kill ourselves, just a little, with each slice we ate. I really enjoyed it, but I don't know if I will ever be making it again. Perhaps components of the cake--the extra butterscotch sauce warmed over vanilla ice cream is pretty damn good. Perhaps exploring other ways to celebrate butterscotch in cake form would be best.

November's Martha Stewart Living: Pecan Butterscotch Cake

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Vote!

A public service announcement; image brought to you by Cake Wrecks:




I mean it, Americans reading this post. Vote, please. Especially if you're planning on voting the same way I am. JUST KIDDING. Kind of. No seriously, JUST KIDDING. JUST VOTE. YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE.

Well, off to get my free doughnut, free coffee, and free ice cream scoop.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lazy Bakers: Smitten Kitchen's Mom's Apple Cake

My Mom doesn't have an apple cake recipe that she got from her grandmother, or a magazine from the 60's. She's Philippino, and as far as I know, they don't really do apples so much. Before you start feeling all sad for me, don't worry. She has a KILLER lumpia recipe and the best pancit EVER. I mean, who cares about apple cake when mom's frying her famous lumpia? Nobody, including myself.

But I digress. This month's Lazy Baker's project is a wonderful, fallish, apple cake entitled Mom's Apple Cake. Deb of Smitten Kitchen hoped her mother's apple cake was an old recipe passed down from the Old Country, but alas, it was an old pecipe passed down from her neighbor who got it from a magazine. Oh well.

Somebody's Mom's Apple Cake

October 14, 2008
Name of Cake: Somebody Else's Mom's Apple Cake
Occasion: Lazy Baker's October Project, and a Doula Meeting
Constituents: Cake, with apples!

When I put on my favorite jeans last week I noticed I had to use considerable effort to button them. All this baking has been getting to me, and not how I would like. So when I looked at my calendar and saw "doula meeting" coming up, I knew it was my chance to bake this cake and not eat it all by myself. Hooray for potlucks!

When I went to the store to buy the six apples, I was a little overwhelmed. So many apples! So many varieties I've never heard of before! So I went with my personal favorite, the Honeycrisp. Sweet, slightly tart, juicy, and firm; this is the perfect apple.

Somebody's Mom's Apple Cake

This cake came together pretty easily and without mishap. I used whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose, because I thought with all the moisture the apples were going to put out whole wheat pastry flour would be pretty innocuous. I was little concerned about how little batter there was for what was supposed to look like a big ol' coffee cake, but I forged ahead anyway.

Somebody's Mom's Apple Cake

After baking for about 45 minutes, I pulled this baby out of the oven. Despite my batter concerns, the cake rose well and looked pretty good. It was really, really hard not to not pick all the baked, cinnamony apples off the top. Later, when I turned the cake out, a few chunky apples fell off--and you know, you can't put them back on the cake--so I ate them. And they were delicious. Juicy, baked, cinnamony, sweet, soft apples! I couldn't wait to try this cake, but I had to wait until the next day.

Somebody's Mom's Apple Cake

When we doulas broke into the cake the next day, we found a moist, homey cake studded with chunks of cinnamony apples. It must have hit the spot because there was only a small piece left that I brought home for my roommate (phew!). To be honest, this cake wasn't outrageously amazing, but it was satisfying, good comfort food. This cake belongs with mugs of hot coffee in front of a roaring wood fire on a lazy rainy Sunday with no better place to be.

Somebody's Mom's Apple Cake

Not a bad thing, not at all.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Tale of Two Pumpkin Pies, Gluten Free Style

Annmarie called me two weeks ago and said, "I NEED PUMPKIN PIE. NOW."

I tried to entice her with spicy pumpkin bread with cream cheese frosting, but her resolution was strong. It had to be pumpkin pie, and she wasn't waiting until Thanksgiving.

Then she said something awesome: "I found GF pre-made pie crusts that come two to a pack. Now you don't have to struggle with pie dough!"

Well all right then! Let's make pie!!

Rose's Pumpkin Pie (GF)

October 11, 2008
Name of pies: Martha and Rose
Occasion: Annmarie Has Need
Constituents: Martha's Spicy Chocolate Pumpkin Pie in a GF Gingersnap Cookie Crust, and Rose's Classic Creamy Pumpkin Pie in a GF Pastry Crust

I got even more excited about this pumpkin pie thing on Saturday morning when I perused my November issue of Martha Stewart (don't hate me, BBC!) and there in full color was a triple chocolate pumpkin pie. Woo-hoo! Let's make pie!!

Martha's Chocolate Pumpkin Pie (GF)

Annmarie came over that evening and we made our shopping list. She was going to make RLB's pumpkin pie, which we have made the last two years running. The first year we made it, we decided it wasn't spicy enough. Rose purposefully scaled back the spices in order for the delicious pumpkiny flavor to shine through, but we missed the spices. So we added them back in.

Annmarie was in charge of RLB's pie, which when you aren't making a freaking pie crust comes together fairly quickly and easily. In terms of spices, she doubled the cinnamon, added cloves, ginger and cardamom. I didn't really document this pie, as it have been documented on this blog before:
So that left me to make Martha's Triple Chocolate Pie.

The triple chocolate comes from the semi-sweet chocolate that gets melted and incorporated into the pumpkin pie filling, the bittersweet chocolate that is melted and brushed over the cookie crust, and the milk chocolate that is drizzled over the top of the pie.

I skipped the milk chocolate drizzle--too lazy.

The recipe calls for a graham cracker crust, but since we were going gluten-free, we chose to do a GF gingersnap cookie crust. Yum!

I constantly forget that GF stuff doesn't absorb liquid like gluten-full things do. So when I mixed the cookie crumbs with the melted butter it shouldn't have been a surprise that it was kind of...greasy. And when I pulled it out of the oven after its prebake, it wasn't too shocking that it had fallen down into a sad little buttery lump in the middle of the pie plate. I crumbled up more cookies and added the crumbs to the plate and re-pressed out the pie shell; the crust held up but it was still really buttery. Note to self: decrease butter for a GF cookie crust.

Martha's Chocolate Pumpkin Pie (GF)

The pie filling came together pretty easily and quickly. The recipe says to bake the pie for about an hour, until the middle is set but still wobbly. After an hour in my oven, the middle was certainly still wobbly, but was it set? The sides looked much more set than the middle, but I decided that an hour bake was going to be good enough, so I pulled it out, let it cool, and refrigerated the pie overnight.

Sunday morning Annmarie came over so that we could sample our pies.

Rose's pie was creamy and delicious. The GF pie crust was flaky and buttery, but a little salty. Annmarie has decided she wants the pie to be even spicier.

Rose's Pumpkin Pie (GF)

Martha's triple chocolate pie was outrageously good. We had it two ways: cold from the refrigerator and later at room temperature. It tasted better at room temperature, had a very creamy texture, and was really spicy and chocolaty. The pumpkin flavor was muted--but it wasn't completely lost. I think the chocolate and the pumpkin were nicely balanced, but what I really loved about this pie was how spicy it was. It reminded me of a chocolate chai, which is spicy chai steamed with milk and cocoa powder--chocolaty, spicy, yet not too sweet.

Martha's and Rose's Pumpin Pies

I think I liked Martha's pie better, only because chocolate and chai spices are one of my most favorite flavor combinations. I like pumpkin pie, and Rose's is deliciously smooth and creamy, but chocolate-chai-pumpkin pie will win me over every time.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Jeremy's Chocolate Peanut Butter Birthday Cake

About a month ago Cookie's husband had a birthday, and I was commissioned to bake him a chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting. Cookie referenced a cake I made for Joelf's birthday way back when the stooges lived in 3 different states and we would spend a weekend together, just the three of us. This particular weekend we met in Seattle right around Joelf's birthday. I made him a little single layer chocolate cake with this awesome cream cheese peanut butter frosting.

(Wow, that cake was from 4 years ago, and the post? That was from my original Cake Journals, before I had even heard of blogging. That was back in my old apartment, where I used to fall asleep in the kitchen in the middle of the night as I baked. I had dial-up internet, and that photo is from a film camera. And now look at me. So grown up!)

I could have just used the same frosting recipe, but after seeing the chocolate peanut butter cake at Smitten Kitchen, I decided to try hers. I tried to persuade Cookie to let me make the peanut butter ganache too, but she refused.

Jeremy's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

September 20, 2008
Name of Cake: You Got Your Cream Cheese in My Peanut Butter
Occasion: Jeremy's Birthday
Constituents: two layers chocolate butter cake filled and frosted with cream cheese peanut butter frosting

As you might have guessed, this post is all about the frosting.

It's good frosting, people!

I was most interested in Smitten Kitchen's frosting since the one I used 4 years ago wasn't cream cheesy enough. Plus, that recipe called for all sorts of weird things, like more peanut oil. I still don't understand that. (I didn't mention it in the post, but I didn't add the oil. I mean, seriously.)

I thought about using Deb's posted cake recipe too, but decided against it since she said the cake was so intense. I interpreted that as really rich and sweet, so I opted for RLB's less sweet but seriously satisfying All American Chocolate Butter Cake. I didn't want to kill us with richly sweet, or even sweetly rich desserts.

Jeremy's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Where Joelf's frosting from 4 years ago wasn't cream cheesy enough, this frosting was way too cream cheesy and not peanut buttery enough. So that's why I kept adding more peanut butter--totaling about 1.25 cups. Adding all that extra peanut butter changed the consistency of the frosting from creamy to kind of spongy looking.

The frosting was still rich and intense, even though I decreased the sugar to 4 cups. It was probably all that extra peanut butter I added.

The birthday boy munched on that cake for over a week, I think. The stooges, Jeremy, and my parents all helped eat the cake when we first broke into it, but he sure took his time savoring the other half. Good for him.

Happy birthday Jeremy!

Jeremy's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Monday, October 06, 2008

rennovations

so...i did some remodeling over here at eat my cake, as you can obviously see. i was ready for a change, and wanted a cleaner look. and i widened the margins so the photos could be a bit bigger. hope you like it.
ECL

Monday, September 29, 2008

Julie and Noah's Wedding Cake, Part Four: The Results Show

The day was beautiful, the sun was shining, and the wedding was full of love and sweetness. And the cake...the cake! It was a hit.

julie and noah's wedding cake: the remains
the remains of the day

September 27, 2008
Name of Cake: Julie and Noah's Wedding Cake
Occasion: Julie and Noah's wedding!
Constituents: chocolate cake with raspberry filling, sour cream banana cake with sour cream ganache, GF agave sweetened white cake with raspberry filling, frosted with ECL's swiss meringue buttercream

My list of thank yous:
  • RLB for the Cake Bible, which has the best chocolate and banana cake recipes that always surprise people because they taste like something other than sugar. If I had a dollar for every person who came up to me and said, "Great cake," and with wonder added, "and it wasn't too sweet," I would be rich.
    And especially to RLB for her entire chapter on wedding and event cakes, where she has figured out how much batter you need for almost any size cake, how much frosting you need to fill and frost any size cake, and for calculating the exact weight of certain things like one large egg white, one cup of sugar, etc.
    And also for telling me to freeze egg whites for future use, so that when I needed 20 egg whites for the frosting I already had them sitting pretty in my freezer.
  • Marion Cunningham who in the Fannie Farmer supplied the GF cake recipe that saved my ass from certain humiliation and despair.
  • Martha Stewart and Dorie Greenspan for their Swiss Meringue Buttercreams, which were pretty much exactly the same, and thus gave me the confidence to go ahead and make, despite never making or tasting it before. (But seriously, ladies, take the sugar down a notch!)
  • Deb at Smitten Kitchen for her beautiful blog that I secretly have been envious of. She did a four-post series on her first wedding cake that was VERY informative. I read all her wedding cake posts as well as ALL the 251 comments (if you click on this link, scroll down to see the comments)--and got lots of great advice. I learned how to use a towel to transport the cakes, to tape the flower stems, to bring the cakes in separate layers, to give myself plenty of time to assemble and decorate on site, and to bring a bunch of decorating tools--just in case.
  • Brains for rescuing tossed cakeboards for me when he worked out at Leach Botanical Garden, so that I already had an 18 inch cakeboard.
  • The Decorette Shop for carrying all the baking tools an amateur baker could want, and much, much more. Even if I have to drive to Tigard to get it.
  • Annmarie for being my gluten free taster. And for listening to me talk obsessively about the cake and my cake making experience on at least four different occasions.
  • My sister Michele who helped me to understand that a medium yellow is like a sunshine yellow, not a daffodil nor a butter yellow.
  • Cheryl and Amber who helped me unload all of my cake and cake supplies when I got to the wedding site 90 minutes behind schedule, and who spent time cutting flowers and wrapping stems. Their bubbly attitude and efficient help kept me positive and unconcerned about the time.
  • Erin and Cara for helping me cut and serve the cake, as the table was rushed by eager hands holding out empty plates yelling "I want chocolate" and "I want banana!" These girls kept me from waving my chef's knife at them and yelling "YOU PEOPLE NEED TO STEP OFF, I HAVE A KNIFE."
  • Julie and Noah for having the faith and trust in me to bust out a tasty and beautiful wedding cake for their special day, knowing that I had never done it before. And for falling in love and getting married, for these two have a love that is once mature and wise and yet so sweet and innocent, such that the love they share with each other spills out and blesses all of us in their wake.

Enough talk. Here's the finished and decorated cake:

julie and noah's wedding cake!

I was pleased the yellow ribbon I bought matched her yellow roses exactly. Hooray!

It took about 2 hours total to stack and decorate. Actually, stacking the cake took mere minutes--the rest was decorating. The ribbon served to hide the gap and cardboard between the layers and stuck to the frosting without pulling it away.

The drive down to the wedding was about 90 minutes, and I kept the air conditioning on full blast to keep the cake's frostings cold. I figured that it would be easier to handle and stack the cakes if the frosting was stiff. Which it was, but boy I was freezing by the time I arrived!

IMG_3212
a wedding in the Oregon woods

I got nothing but compliments about the cake, and the entire thing was devoured pretty quickly. Cara and Erin shared one of the last pieces and I took the very last piece, a chocolate-raspberry slice. It was pretty good, and the fresh raspberries nestled in the raspberry jam was a nice touch. Good thinking, Julie and Noah!

julie and noah's wedding cake

Sorry I have no photos of the cake innards, for like I said, the cake was devoured as quickly as we could cut it. But I can tell you that each tier was two layers. Julie and Noah didn't want a ton of frosting because they don't like overpoweringly sweet things. So I decided against splitting the layers--which would have made 4 thin layers per tier, and a whole lot more work for me! But here's a shot of the chocolate cake filling:

julie and noah's wedding cake: the chocolate cake filling

The cosmos were a little droopy by the evening when we got around to cutting the cake, but no matter. It was still pretty.

julie and noah's wedding cake

Foliage I used included lemon verbena from my herb box, spearmint, solal, eucalyptus, spider mums, dahlias, cosmos, roses, and mums (I think that's what the yellow flowers were...).

julie and noah's wedding cake

As soon as the cake was cut and served, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted. I also felt so, so tired.

Many people asked me why I don't bake for a living and I had to explain that there isn't one job I already do for a living that I would be willing to give up in order to make room for professional baking. I love baking, but I love doing it as a hobby. Plus, I don't think I would want to bake more than one wedding cake a year, and I would do it only for people that I love. Like Julie and Noah.

Julie and Noah's Wedding Cake: a photoset on flickr

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Julie and Noah's Wedding Cake, Part Three: Exhausted, and ECL's Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Well folks, the cakes are baked, filled, stacked and frosted. Each tier is sitting in its own cake box in my refrigerator, hopefully not taking on any weird odors or slowly going bad. (I cleaned out my refrigerator, I promise.)

julie and noah's wedding cake, in pieces

I looked yesterday at RLB's instructions for putting together one of these wedding cakes and she suggests baking the cakes no more than 1 day ahead of time.

!One day! Seriously? When do you make all the fillings and frostings and put the whole shebang together?

I guess my schedule for this wedding cake was pretty off; I baked the majority of the cakes on Monday and the rest yesterday (Thursday). I made the sour cream ganache and 5 batches of swiss meringue buttercream yesterday too. I really should have baked the cakes Thursday and filled and frosted Friday. I could have made the filling and frostings ahead of time on Monday. But oh well.

julie and noah's wedding cake, can't remember which layer this is

In my defense, I will say that I only hold office hours three days a week, one of which is Friday, and that I mistakenly didn't take today off and my whole day was booked. Good for my ability to feed myself and my cats, and to afford to buy all of these:

julie and noah's wedding cake: the possible decorations

I am decorating the cake with ribbon and flowers because I can't pipe icing to save my life. I figure, with the right amount of pretty things, no one will notice that the cake isn't bordered in dots or shells or what-have-yous.

I have no idea what the right amount will be, so I bought a lot. The bride informed me that her colors are a medium pink and a medium yellow, and if I had any foresight I would have asked for fabric swatches or at least more clarification on what she means by medium. I kept gravitating towards butter yellow, which really isn't a medium yellow, it is more of a pale yellow. But it looks like butter! That can't be bad, right? I hope she's happy with what I have chosen. Those dahlias are to die for.


inspiration for cake decorating from Black Sheep Bakery

I was up until three am last night making frosting, then frosting, then chilling, then boxing, then cleaning. This morning I felt like I had just come home from a birth. Tomorrow I have to get up and hit the road by 10 am. I am not a morning person, but I really want to give myself time to get to the wedding site (90 minutes away) and get the cake set up and touched up and decorated before the wedding begins at 3. Annmarie laughed when I told her how early I wanted to get there, but I reminded her of past cake events where I was 90 minutes late because I was finishing a cake that took longer than I expected. It always takes longer than I expected, so I am trying to give myself plenty of time.

By the way, that swiss meringue buttercream? I mistakenly used less than half of the sugar called for when I made the first double batch, and you know what? It was plenty sweet. I couldn't imagine what it would have tasted like if I used the correct amount!

Swiss Meringue Buttercream, Martha Stewart and Dorie Greenspan's version
(these ladies had pretty much the same recipe)
makes 4 cups
  • 4 egg whites, 120 grams
  • 1.25 cups of sugar, 250 grams (Martha) or 1 cup sugar, 200 grams (Dorie)
  • 3 sticks of butter, room temp
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Swiss Meringue Buttercream, ECL's version
makes 8 cups
  • 240 grams egg whites
  • 200 grams sugar
  • 6 sticks of butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
Plenty sweet.

Just saying.

Off to bed; good night everybody!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Julie and Noah's Wedding Cake, Part Two: GF White Cake

Thanks for everybody's encouraging comments following Wedding Cake: Part One! It is nice to know you've all got my back, in a baking, internetty kind of way.

As I mentioned in Part One I was really only afraid of the top tier, the gluten free, agave sweetened white cake. And after my first baking attempt, the fear only intensified.

September 24, 2008
Name of Cake: Top Tier of Julie and Noah's Wedding Cake
Occasion: A Wedding!
Constituents: a 6-inch Gluten Free, agave sweetened White Cake

Oh people. At first I did what I usually do when I bake a GF cake. I take RLB's butter recipe and just use GF flours plus some Xanthan gum. I still use all the other ingredients: butter, granulated sugar, eggs, milk, etc and still put the cake together the same way.

However, this time I was not only replacing the gluten flour with non glutinous flours, I was also substituting water for milk and agave syrup for granulated sugar. As you may guess, my prototype cake was a sad, sad excuse for a cake.

The poor little thing fell down into a lumpy little heap as it cooled, and the inside was chewy and slightly rubbery, as well not really tasting much like a white cake. I looked at that sad little mass and thought, "oh HELL no."

(It was so bad, I have no photographic evidence of how bad it was.)

That is when I really started to worry.

I bought a book called Baking with Agave, which said that when replacing sugar with agave you need to decrease the amount of liquid by a third and you'll need 25% less agave than sugar (for example 3/4 cup agave instead of 1 cup sugar). However helpful this was, and despite having lots of good looking recipes in the book (including many GF ones) there was no white cake recipe.

I looked at Baking 911 and found online a Good Eats episode about cake (I love Alton Brown, even though he uses butter flavored shortening--WTF is that about, Alton?) and discovered from both sites that not only does gluten contribute to the structure of a cake, but sugar does too. So basically, I had taken away all the structure of my cake. This made me sad. It made the problem seem insurmountable.

I thought of other ways to create structure in a cake and knew my salvation lay in well beaten eggs. However, baking is chemistry, people, and how was I going to make sure that all that watery agave and butter and useless flour were going to harmonize??

I googled GF agave sweetened white cake and discovered many amazing GF bloggers out there. I learned about coconut flour, which I had to order online and ship 2 day air (hasn't arrived yet). Many people baked GF but still used sugar. Others baked with agave but still used wheat flour. Very few baked both GF and with agave, and the closest I got was a recipe for yellow cupcakes from Elana's Pantry and Sheltie Girl's GF Perfect Party Cake from a Daring Baker's Challenge. Not quite good enough, but good to know!

I realised more than finding a good GF recipe, I needed to find a good cake recipe that deals with liquidy sweeteners--honey, maple syurp, molasses, or agave. I needed somebody else to figure out how the heck to bake a cake when you can't rely on creaming butter and sugar to moisten, stabilise, sweeten, and aerate. I knew that my favorite GF carrot cake rises nice and has good texture and stability despite being made with honey and maple syrup, GF flours and NO EGGS. ???How the heck does that cake do it???

So to my baking books I did retreat, and lo and behold! There in Fannie Farmer's Baking Book that I often find useless, was a recipe for a RICE FLOUR, HONEY SWEETENED CAKE. SERIOUSLY. I couldn't believe it. Replacing honey with agave would require no thought. Awesome!

I made a test cake this afternoon, and I can breathe a sigh of relief. It was quick, easy, and would you look at that cake!

GF, agave sweetened white cake

It even tastes good!

Holy crap, that's awesome!!

And to celebrate, here's the recipe!!

GF, agave sweetened white cake

GLUTEN FREE, AGAVE SWEETENED WHITE CAKE
adapted from the White Lemon Cake in The Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup light agave syrup
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup GF flour mix
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp GF, non aluminum baking powder
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp GF vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 325. Grease and flour a 6 inch round cake pan.

Beat the eggs and agave in a mixing bowl on med speed (I assume you are using a stand mixer).

Meanwhile, melt the butter being careful not to brown it, and add it to the eggs slowly.

Let the mixer continue to beat the egg mixture while, in a medium bowl, you measure out and combine the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder). Turn down the mixer to the lowest speed and slowly add the dry ingredients. Turn the mixer back up to medium speed once the dry ingredients are moistened and continue to beat, while measuring and adding the water and vanilla extract. Beat until well combined; it will look like thinned out mayonnaise, kind of.

Pour the batter into your pan; pan should be about half full. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Turn cake out of pan, and let cool completely. Do a little jig of happiness.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Julie and Noah's Wedding Cake, Part One: An Introduction

Two of my favorite people in the world are getting married this Saturday and I volunteered to bake their wedding cake.

Why not? I love them!

I am making a three tier cake:
  • 12 inch bottom: chocolate filled with raspberry jam and fresh raspberries
  • 9 inch middle: rose's sour cream banana filled with sour cream ganache
  • 6 inch top: GF, sugar free white cake filled with raspberry jam and raspberries
  • whole thing frosted with swiss meringue buttercream

I am only freaking out about the 6 inch cake.

Well, I am also freaking out about the whole thing.

So far, I have calculated that I need:
  • 953 grams cake flour
  • 1790 grams sugar
  • 147 grams cocoa powder
  • 16 sticks of butter, not including what i need for the 6 inch cake
  • one cup of sour cream
  • 4 bananas
  • 2 lemons
  • 24 eggs, not including the 6 inch cake
  • untold amounts of raspberry jam, sugar free
  • lots of fresh raspberries, this might be difficult
  • half recipe sour cream ganache, haven't even looked at it yet
  • unknown amounts of GF flour (don't know yet)
  • unknown amounts of agave syrup (don't know yet)

Stay tuned friends.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Lazy Bakers, No Rules: Rum-Vanilla Cream Pie

The August project for the Lazy Bakers, No Rules Club was this creamy looking, whipped cream covered, rum infused pie from Martha Stewart. I am all about creamy goodness, especially when there's a little kick of liquor.

September 15, 2008
Name of pie: Martha's Rum-Vanilla Cream Pie
Occasion: The Englishman is Back, and I've Gotta Catch Up
Constituents: Rum-Vanilla Cream Pie in a Pate Brisee Crust with Rum Whipped Cream

rum-vanilla cream pie

You all know how I feel about making pie crust. I am terrified of it.

But after last week's peach pie and before this coming weekend's chocolate cake with peanut butter cream cheese frosting (which I could eat all in its own) I decided to squeeze in the rum-vanilla pie.

Why you might ask? Joelf's friend The Englishman from Manchester, who stayed with us in July, has come back around for a couple of days. The Englishman was a lot of fun last July, and of course I am a little smitten with his cheeky English accent. (I am smitten with ANY KIND of accent. I can't help it.) He's staying with us in our little guest room/cave and what better way to welcome a guest then with a liquor-infused pie? (Plus this means there are more people around to help eat it!)

So despite my pie crust terror, Martha's recipe for pate brisee seemed pretty easy. All you do is food process flour, butter, a teeny bit of sugar and salt together with enough ice water to hold the dough together. Then you shape the dough into a couple of discs and refrigerate for a while. There seemed to be few places I could screw it up.

I made the dough last night and rolled it out this morning. That seemed to go okay, so after another rest in the refrigerator I blind baked the crust. Which also seemed to go okay.

rum-vanilla cream pie

Cooking the pie filling was fairly uneventful. I scraped as many vanilla seeds out of the pod with my fingernail as I could (which was pretty much all--I was a little obsessed) and cooked the milk, cornstarch and sugar in my favorite saucier. It took 5,000 years for the mixture to boil, but it finally did. I went ahead and heeded BBC's advice about not forgetting to put the filling back on the stove after whisking in the yolks. Another 5,000 years later the filling finally came back to a boil, so I pulled it off the heat, added the rum and butter, and let it sit for 10 minutes. After sitting for 10 minutes I poured the filling into the pie shell and stowed it in the refrigerator.

rum-vanilla cream pie

(the next day)

Holy crap, people, this pie is SO GOOD. I am a fan of all things creamy, and this certainly fills the bill. Several of us dug into the pie last night after an Indian dinner, and it was better than the Indian dinner.

Martha wanted me to pipe the rum whipped cream as stars onto the top of the pie, but she must not know me very well, because I am not a Piper. I basically frosted the top of the pie with the whipped cream and everybody was happy. Take that, Martha!

rum-vanilla cream pie

I will say however that the pie crust was a little like cardboard. I'm working on it, but damn if pie crust hasn't got me all in a twist. I WILL FIGURE THIS OUT. Dangit.

In the meantime, I will help myself to another piece of pie.

rum-vanilla cream pie

Read about BBC's misadventures with Martha's pie.
Read about Pinknest's beautful pie, and get the recipe!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Rose's Perfect Peach Pie, ECL Style (which means less than perfect)

Oh kids. The pie is resting in the refrigerator before The Big Bake, so I can't tell you how this ends yet. But let me tell you how it began.

peach pie!

Sept 11, 2008
Name of Pie: "Perfect" Peach Pie
Occasion: Peaches!!
Constituents: Crazy Giant Fresh Peaches Between Cream Cheese Flaky Pie Crust (a two crust pie)

Last month Rose posted on her blog a beautiful peach galette that made many mouths salivate. Even I was motivated to try to make it. And you know how I feel about pie.

However, I thought that maybe a galette was a little too ambitious for me, seeing as I have pie crust issues. All that crust scared me. At least in a pie, there's a whole lot of fruit to distract from what could be a terrible pie crust. So I decided on Rose's peach pie.

(Aside: the peaches have been wild and bountiful in the last month. It has been driving me crazy. I can't eat stone fruit raw, so I have needed this pie. I might not share it.)

Last week Cookie and I dared a trip out to Sauvie Island to buy peaches. My original dream was to u-pick the peaches, but I had a mom in early labor and didn't know how much time I had to wander through a peach orchard. So I bought peaches from Kruger's Farm store. They were huge and fragrant. I wanted to buy all of them.

Last week is a big blur; at some point I went to and came home from the birth, and sometime after that I made the cream cheese crust. I decided to mix the crust the old fashioned way with my hands and a pastry cutter. This was a lot of fun for me. I am very tactile so getting my hands in the dough and feeling it transform into something soft and stretchy was exciting! I wrapped up the dough and gave it a little rest in the refrigerator. Which turned into a long rest in the freezer.

Today is Thursday, which is my day off, and so it was time to finish that pie. Last night I moved the dough from the freezer to the refrigerator to defrost. I rolled it out this evening and it was so easy! The dough even kinda felt a little silky and pillowy. Could I be getting a hang of this pasty thing? Dare I dream?

I put on The Black Keys and peeled and cut the peaches. Oh my. How sensual a ripe juicy peach can be, especially when accompanied by excellent blues rock. Good times, good times.

I decided to use golden baker's sugar for the pie instead of white sugar. White sugar has such a sharp, hard flavor. The sweetness is very direct and aggressive. Golden baker's sugar, which has some of the molasses left in it, has a strong sweetness like white sugar, but it is more round, full, and soft. The flavor, which has depth and breadth, fills the mouth. Since I had just enjoyed a multi-sensory experience slicing the peaches, I didn't want to ruin it with crappy white sugar.

So here comes the good part: after letting the peaches macerate for a while, I strained off the juices into a 4 cup pyrex measuring cup, popped it in the microwave and set it to boil on high for 12 minutes, as per Rose's instructions. The idea is to concentrate the juices before baking, so that the peach flavor is intensified but the crust doesn't get all soggy and ruined.

Apparently our microwave is a little more powerful than Rose's, because thick white smoke was billowing out of the appliance after 10 minutes, and when I yanked the door open in panic I could make out a lot of black stuff where the caramelized juices should have been.

After the smoke cleared, this is what I found in my pyrex cup:

peach charcoal

Hmm. I don't think that will be going into the pie.

Oh well.

At least the crust will stay crisp!

I went ahead and made the pie anyway. The peaches were still juicy. This is peaches, people! There will be no giving up!

Rolling out the top crust was even quicker then the bottom crust. And kind of fun! Could it be? Was I enjoying pie making?

I slipped the assembled pie in the refrigerator for one last rest, and cleaned up. And now we have come full circle, friends. During the writing of this post, the pie baked and is now cooling on the counter. Sadly, Rose says the pie is done when the juices are thickly bubbling through the slits in the top, which was barely happening. Not a lot of juices.

peach pie!

The pie needs to rest up for the next three hours, which means it will be ready to eat at 3:43 am. So we'll all just have to wait for tomorrow's breakfast.

Tomorrow's Breakfast:

Well, the pie is still amazingly juicy. I probably could have let the peaches macerate for longer, but considering I turned the peach juices into charcoal it is for the best. Just a note to myself for next time: macerate longer, microwave less. It also means that I probably could have baked the pie a little longer, until the juices thickly bubbled through the slits.

The crust? Well, the bottom crust is soggy and tasteless. Sigh. The top crust is nice and flaky, maybe not as tender as it could be. It is a little gummy, but the cream cheese tang is nice.

And the peaches--oh the peaches. Who cares about crust when you have a plateful of peaches waiting to be devoured? I actually am glad, in a way, that I burned all the juices and sugar, because that left pretty much only the peachy peachness to sing through. I think I like my pies far less sweet than Rose, so note to self for next time: less sugar, no burning.

peach pie!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Laziest Baker: Double Vanilla Poundcake

Waaay back in June, Marie, the Breadbasketcase of the Lazy Bakers No Rules club, decided we ought to bake RLB's double vanilla poundcake. I was totally excited by the project.

And never got around to doing it. Maybe I was just seeing exactly how lazy and no-rulesy we could be. (Actually, I've just been busy baking other things it seems!)

Anyway, we just decided on our project for August, and so I figured I'd better start to catch up.

August 4, 2008
Name of cake: Double Vanilla Pound Cake
Occasion: Trying to catch up with the Not-So-Lazy Bakers!
Constituents: Pound Cake...with vanilla extract and a vanilla bean

Ahh, back to what I know how to do: cake. I like baking cake.

Thanks to the lovely young Melinda, I have vanilla beans that have been waiting for exactly this occasion. I pulled one out and mmmmm, the aroma was heavenly.

vanilla bean

It was a hot day and night, and I was reluctant to turn on the oven. So I took my time prepping the ingredients with many breaks to watch The Fellowship of the Ring with my roommate (the extra extra long version). When it came time to scrape the vanilla grains out of the pod, I discovered that my (impeccably clean) finger was the best tool for the job--got the most grains out the fastest.

The kitchen was so hot that I had to put the butter back in the refrigerator to keep it from melting at room temperature! The cake came together quickly and easily, and I couldn't help but show off to Joelf the thick, creamy batter dotted with vanilla grains.

double vanilla pound cake batter

I lazily lined the entire loaf pan with parchment (couldn't be bothered to cut out a little rectangle for just the bottom) and slid the cake into the oven. About an hour later, I poked the cake with a toothpick, which came out clean. I thought the cake could have been a touch more golden, but the toothpick was clean, so I pulled out the cake.

Ten minutes later (at 1 am) the cake looked a little shrunken and wrinkled which made me think it wasn't quite finished baking when I pulled it. But oh well. What could I do now?

double vanilla pound cake

This morning I can see that the bottom of the pound cake is a little underbaked, but who cares. This cake is tender and fine with that "barely perceptible crunch" as Rose puts it from the vanilla grains. I can't really tell if the flavor is better or more round as Rose says it is, because my sinuses are little on the clogged side killing my sense of smell and the finer notes of taste. But who's complaining? I ate my pound cake for breakfast with honey-sweetened mascarpone, fresh blueberries, and defrosted strawberries I picked in June. Yum, yum, and yum. I am planning on eating the same thing for lunch and dinner as well.

today's breakfast!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Fresh Blueberry Pie

As part of my 35 things to do before I'm 36, #11 is to make a pie from berries I picked that morning.

Well, blueberry season is at its peak. And, I love blueberries. And, I remember how much fun I had last time I picked them. And looking ahead, blackberry season is right around the corner, and I don't like picking blackberries, and I really don't like all them dang seeds.

So now seemed like a good time to work on #11.

fresh blueberry pie

July 31, 2008
Name of pie: Fresh Blueberry Pie
Occasion: Time to make a pie from berries I picked that morning
Constituents: One Flaky Pie Crust and four cups of freshly picked blueberries

Because this is kind of a double post, you'll have to go to my other blog to vicariously enjoy blueberry picking on Sauvie's Island with me last Thursday. It was a good day.

I forget that pie making is not a spontaneous act. Pie dough likes a lot of time to rest up in the refrigerator. Pie dough is best if you let it sit around and sort itself out for 24 hours.

So when I came home Thursday afternoon with my bounty of blueberries I realised I had a long time to go before I could be enjoying pie. I took a deep breath, and began to assemble pie dough ingredients. I discovered a mystery flour in a jar in my cupboard--was it glutinous or not? Was it unbleached all-purpose? Was it bleached all-purpose? Was it cake flour? Was it pastry flour?

The flour looked a lot like the unbleached all-purpose I had, so chances are that's what it was. But why did I have it stored in a different jar? With no label?

Unanswered questions, friends.

I used all the unknown flour plus my unbleached all-purpose flour for the pie dough. Now, RLB recommends bleached AP or pastry flour, but I wasn't about to leave the house for flour. I thought I could just make do.

I followed RLB's instructions for a basic flaky pie crust as best I could; I still have no idea what she's talking about when she tells you to grab the openings of the bag with your fingers and knead the dough with your hands and knuckles. I kept trying to do what I think she says, but all the dough did was stick to the bag, remaining crumbly and non cohesive. So I kept on fumbling with it, thinking that maybe the dough was like mousseline buttercream, and it looks worse before it looks right. However my hands must get really hot because the butter began to soften and get melty and the dough still was a crumbly mess. Instead of refrigerating the dough for a bit like I should have, I dumped the dough out on the counter and mashed it together. Then I wrapped the mess in plastic wrap and refrigerated it for several hours, just like RLB says.

I eventually went back to it, and began the rolling out process. It kind of rolled out okay, but the butter began to melt again and I could see big patches in the dough that were just softened butter--no flour--and I got frustrated. I guess I'm not a very patient person. I wrestled the dough into the pie plate, patched up the really buttery parts with leftover dough, put it back in the refrigerator, and went to bed.

I decided that a pie made with berries I picked the day before was just as good.

The next morning wasn't the best morning for me. Many things did not go according to plan, including waking up, blind baking the pie, packing a lunch for work, and getting to work on time. I was not very chipper.

The pie crust would have been just fine if I didn't leave it in the oven too long and burn it. After all my struggles with the darn pie dough all I could do was ensure ruin and burn it?!

dangit!  i burnt the crust

I vowed to never make pie dough again. I would have cursed pie dough during my entire commute to work but I got stuck in unbelievably slow traffic and ended up cursing all of Portland for being in my way.

Like I said, I was not very chipper!

My plan was to cheat and buy a premade dough. I couldn't spend another 24 hours wrestling with pie dough. I didn't have it in me.

Work cheered me up, which it usually does. There's nothing like sticking little needles in people or shoving my elbow into the muscles of someone's back to give me a little perspective on my life. That hour or so I spend thinking about them and not at all about me is just the break I need to get me out of a mood. Thanks patients!

When I went home, I picked at my dark brown pie crust, and decided to use it anyway. What the heck. I could just eat around it if it was that terrible.

Making the filling for the blueberry pie was incredibly easy. Of the four cups of berries, you only cook down one cup with half a cup of water until the berries burst and the juices thicken. Then you add a cornstarch slurry and half a cup of sugar and stir like crazy for another minute or so. Once the jam-like stuff turns translucent you pull the pan off the heat, fold in the other three cups of berries, and spoon into the pie shell. Voila! Pie!

fresh blueberry pie

It is a very tasty pie. It tastes mostly like giant spoonfuls of fresh blueberries. I can't really taste the pie crust at all, which in this case is probably a good thing. When I eat the crust at the top, it is crisp and actually kind of flaky. It doesn't taste like anything more than very browned crust, but my guess is that it would have been quite excellent if done properly.

I like the natural sweet of the berries so I would cut down on the sugar next time--maybe only 1/3 cup sugar. Also, this morning I came across RLB's recipe for a meringue pie shell, with cocoa and bittersweet chip variations. As I was snacking on handfuls of fresh blueberries and chocolate chips when I found it, I thought a bittersweet meringue pie shell with the fresh blueberry filling would be kind of fun. And then my gluten free people would be able to eat it! And I could skip making pie dough! Win-win for everybody!

Actually, I am not giving up on pie dough. I really want to learn how to do it. I looked at Rose's blog yesterday after I burnt my crust and saw her heavenly peach galette. Her dough looks so silky and soft--it is really so beautiful. I hope that at some point in my life I will be able to make a dough like that.