Monday, February 22, 2010

Rose Red Velvet Cupcakes

This week is a free bake: Heavenly Cake Bakers got to pick a cake already baked (including the hundreds Marie baked before the group was set up). I asked Cookie what her vote would be, since she and her husband are responsible for taking at least half of the cake away from me. She initially chose the Whipped Cream Cake, again, but I reminded her it should be a cake I haven't baked yet. So she went with the Rose Red Velvet Cake, but requested her favorite crusty frosting. I told her I'd make cupcakes, so she could frost hers with the crispy stuff and her husband and I could have the proper (and tastier) cream cheese.

Rose Red Velvet Cupcakes

February 15, 2009
Name of Cake: Better Living Through Chemistry
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: rose red velvet cupcakes with Cookie's crusty frosting, or ECL's cream cheese frosting.

Although Rose gives instructions on how to use beets to dye the cake red, and despite the many urgings to try a beet-red cake, I went with the tried and true chemical red food dye. That stuff scares me, but it does make a cake red.

Nobody is really sure where the crazy idea to dump a while bottle of food coloring into a mild chocolate cake came from, but I think it had something to do with non-alkalized cocoa powder. When this kind of cocoa powder hangs out in an acidic batter, the resulting cake had a reddish tone to it. I think the red velvet cake is one of those things that has departed so far from its origins that no one remembers the history anymore. The stuff of legends, it seems.

The fact that no one remembers why it came to be could explain why red velvet cake recipes these days up the acid quotient with white vinegar and buttermilk, but then ruin it all with baking soda which functions to neutralize acidity. I always wondered about that. Rose did more than wonder about it; she re-tooled the recipe to get rid of both the vinegar and the baking soda.

Rose Red Velvet Cupcakes

Again, I have to give butter cakes a big hug hello. Mixing up this cake was easy-peasy. This recipe made 18 cupcakes with the cups filled half full. Next time I'd fill the cups 2/3 and get fewer cupcakes but with a nice little dome.

Rose's red velvet cake calls for only egg whites; while I was digging around in the freezer looking for my stash, I discovered a tub of Cookie's crusty frosting from 2007. Time to use it! Hooray!

Instead of making Rose's Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Frosting, I went with a basic cream cheese frosting.

Rose Red Velvet Cupcakes

The cupcakes were light, tender, and moist with a delicate crumb. However, there was no light chocolate flavor, in fact there wasn't much flavor at all. Very sad. In her notes, Rose suggests modifying the recipe to add 1/4 cup of cocoa and to decrease the flour similarly. I wish I had done that; it would have been interesting to taste what a whole 1/4 of cocoa powder would do to a red velvet cake. The recipe I've used in the past called for 2 heaping tablespoons, and that gave the cupcakes a light chocolate flavor. Unfortunately, these were just little springy vehicles for the frosting.

Ah well. Marie baked this cake last July, please go and read her hilarious post about her red velvet cake.

Rose Red Velvet Cupcakes

I don't know about you all, but I have been glued to the Olympic coverage all week. I keep vancouver2010.com open to the live results page, I've got the tv on NBC, and I'm watching the curling and hockey matches on nbcolympics.com. I am always a sucker for the Olympics, but these have special significance for me, because as this post publishes Monday morning, I'll be in Vancouver for the Olympics! I'll be back home Wednesday night, so I'll look forward to your comments and posts then. Go USA!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Double Chocolate (Not Necessarily For) Valentine's Cake

I am one of those people who grumbles and mumbles about Valentine's Day (my friend Joelf likes to call it VD). Even when I am not single, there is grumbling and mumbling. So naturally, I refused to bake this cake in a heart shaped pan and serve it on VD, and I even protested so far as to refuse to buy out of season raspberries. (Harumph!) I did bring this cake to February's doula meeting, so I did share this ode to chocolate with a bunch of people I love.

Double Chocolate Cake

February 8, 2010
Name of Cake: The Final Word in Chocolate Cake
Occasion: Doula meeting, and HCB
Constituents: one 9 in layer chocolate cake soaked in chocolate ganache, topped with whipped cream

In the book, Rose introduces this cake by saying "this may possibly be the final word in chocolate cake," and I have been thinking about that ever since I baked this cake. In many ways, I have to agree. This cake is at once amazingly delicious, serious chocolate, and almost too moist and dense for my liking. And yet, I really loved it. Go figure.

I was pretty happy to get back to butter cakes after the last two cake fails. It was like coming back to my bed after staying in weird foreign hotel rooms. Ahhh, the familiar comforts of baking a butter cake.

Double Chocolate Cake
right out of the oven

This butter cake is fancied up by getting a deep soak in ganache syrup once it comes out of the oven. I couldn't believe this little butter cake was going to be able to absorb all that ganache; Rose warns it will take about ten minutes for the cake to absorb half of the sauce and she's not kidding.

Double Chocolate Cake
and we're soaking...

Double Chocolate Cake
...and we're soaking...

I decided, after much fiddling, to cover the top with whipped cream instead of serving it on the side or piping it around the bottom. And, to make it look semi-fancy, I decided to try piping stars. Which I've never done before, which explains why they came out looking more like blobs than stars.

Double Chocolate Cake
blobs.

One of the doulas kindly called them "flowers." Such a nice girl.

The doulas crack me up. They insist on nice, prim, tiny slices of cake, and then for the rest of the meting they pick at and munch at and clean up the rest of the platter. I was lucky to go home with two slices! I guess they liked it. One of them asked me if it was flourless, and I can understand why. There is a melt-in-your-mouth, dense and fudgy quality to this cake that is similar to a flourless cake. I looked back at my notes and called it hot fudge, in cake form. It would be delicious with a scoop of cold, creamy, vanilla ice cream. In fact, I think that is precisely what this cake is missing.

Monday, February 08, 2010

True Orange Genoise

Heavenly Cake Bakers have been searching high and low for seville oranges in preparation for this cake, and let me tell you: it is worth it.

seville orange stack

February 7, 2010
Name of Cake:True Orange Genoise
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: one layer golden genoise, seville orange curd, frosted with triple sec ganache

Well, this cake was a bit of a bust, too.

The components were excellent. The cake itself was the bust--it didn't rise past 1 1/4 inches. I must have deflated the eggs too much when incorporating the flour. I used a balloon whisk for the first time to do so--usually I use a spatula--and it was much faster but new to the technique I must have done something wrong. The only other place I might have screwed up was not heating the eggs up enough before beating.

true orange genoise

Who knows. I decided that splitting the cake might result in too little cake and too much everything else, so I decided to frost the cake with the ganache, and serve the curd on the side.

Speaking of the curd, this curd is the bomb. I agree with whoever complained that making curd is really boring and takes forever, but holy crap the end results are worth it! The blood orange zest contrasts so nicely with the yellow-orange curd and it tastes divine.

seville orange curd

Many bakers seemed to complain that this cake was a little dry, but then admitted to not using all of the orange syrup to moisten the cake. (By the way, the orange syrup is also delicious!) I used all of it on my little cake and I'm glad I did. It kept the cake moist and gave it a lovely orange zing. I think that is the big deal with using seville oranges: they have such a strong zingy orange flavor. I don't know if the flavor could be duplicated with regular oranges.

The ganache was easy to put together, for which I am glad. When I first started making ganache it always seemed to separate on me, so I am happy to have figured out how not to do that. I forgot about Rose's suggestions to spread a thin layer of ganache on the cake when it is still fairly fluid, then drizzle on some more when it has hardened up a bit. So mine looks pretty plain, and very short.

...but it still tasted good.

true orange genoise

Monday, February 01, 2010

Individual Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes

Having a Filipino mom and growing up in California, pineapple was a staple in our home. Mom would spend time patiently carving out the little piney bits and slicing the golden flesh into chunks which my sister and I would eat out of the bowl with our sticky hands.

Individual Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes
This photo makes me salivate!
It still remains one of my most favorite fruits, and despite the grocery stores usually flying in Maui Golds--which are amazingly awesome especially when on Maui--I still tend to pick underripe pineapples. This time, with a pineapple flown in from a plantation in Costa Rica, I hit on a deliciously ripe and juicy specimen. It was really, really hard not to abandon the cake baking and just eat it right out of the bowl. Really hard. Especially since the cake was a bust. *sigh*

January 31, 2010
Name of Cake: Individual Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: Sliced fresh pineapple, 2 kinds of caramel, and a teeny bit of cake

Individual Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes
First off, I used the wrong kind of ramekins. I know, Rose tells you exactly which kind to use, but I didn't check mine as I was convinced I had the right kind. Until I saw Raymond's photos I didn't remember those kind existed! The ramekins I have are wide and shallow. This is great for creme brulee but makes for a shallow upside down cake, which was our biggest complaint: not enough cake.
Individual Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes
As you can see from the top left photo I also burnt the crap out of the caramel that goes down at the bottom of the ramekins. It looked dark (I realise now the color I had was not dark amber, but burnt), the temp looked right (it couldn't have been), but it was pretty darn bitter. This wasn't too bad in the final tasting as the pineapple caramel that gets made to top the cakes covered up most of the bitterness of the burnt stuff. If you paid attention, there was a bit of a bitter aftertaste.

Individual Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes
where's the cake? so sad.
Oh--this was a surprise: I forgot to grease and flour the ramekins but the little cakes came out cleanly, with no fuss. Can you believe that? I couldn't.

If I make this again and I might not, because I'll always prefer to eat pineapple as it is, I think I'll do what Faithy did and make a little 6 inch cake. That way I won't be buying any more extra stuff, which my tiny little kitchen cannot support.

Well, I'm off to buy another pineapple...to eat the old fashioned way!

Update: The leftover pineapple caramel glaze really is delicious mixed into plain yogurt. The pineappley yumminess almost makes up for the whole cake being a bust!