Friday, July 30, 2010

Designer Chocolate Baby Grands

I actually baked these cupcakes on July 17, but before I could post them life and a trip to Toronto got in the way. So here I am, back on the West Coast and getting back in the game!

These chocolaty cupcakes are really the deep chocolate passion wedding cake in cupcake form. As you may recall I made one tier of that cake for my friend Brains when he turned old. Hence, I will lazily direct you to Brain's Chocolate Birthday Cake to learn how this cake is made, and present my cupcakes to you in photos. Can I use the east coast-west coast time difference as my excuse? I guess I just did.

Designer Chocolate Baby Grands

July 17, 2010
Name of cupcakes: Seriously Chocolaty Cupcakes. Seriously.
Occasion:: HCB
Constituents: Rose's german chocolate cake base, soaked in milk chocolate ganache, glazed in the lacquer glaze.

Holy cow!! Is this the first time I've seen two egg yolks weigh out perfectly? Yes, it is.

no way!  two egg yolks that weigh the same as two egg yolks!

Just out of the oven and ready for milk chocolate ganache:

Designer Chocolate Baby Grands

Notice I am using those darn silicone cupcake cups again. I couldn't find my foil/paper liners! I usually have tons of those! Oh well.

Soaked in milk chocolate ganache:

Designer Chocolate Baby Grands

I thought my milk choc ganache was too dark chocolaty, and hence not enough contrast to the cake. I should have used the chocolate mix that I did for Brains, because his MCG was delicious!! Lesson learned.

And cupcakes freshly lacquered:

Designer Chocolate Baby Grands

I have no idea what happened to the 12th cupcake.

And here's where I run off into obsessive photography land. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Designer Chocolate Baby Grands

Designer Chocolate Baby Grands

Designer Chocolate Baby Grands

Designer Chocolate Baby Grands

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chocolate Banana Stud Cake

I made this cake in January 2010, and since it wasn't "in the oven" I don't know when you all are reading about it. Cookie was going to a potluck and she asked me to bake a cake for her, which I agreed to as long as she promised to do like my mother and tell everyone she baked it. She laughed, agreed, and I lent her Rose's Heavenly Cakes so she could pick out her cake. We were baking the delicious Chocolate Streusel Coffee Cake that week but she wanted something more appropriate for a dinner potluck. Even though she claimed she was undecided, Cookie kept turning back to the photo of the Stud Cake. A couple of days later I showed up at her house with a bag of my favorite baking gear and we got to it.

Chocolate Banana Stud Cake

January 8, 2010
Name of Cake: The Stud
Occasion: Cookie's Potluck
Constituents: One layer chocolate-banana cake frosted with ganache and decorated with many white and semi sweet chocolate chips

The only piece of baking gear I had forgotten at home? My scale! Argh! I warned Cookie that due to the imprecise method of measuring we were forced to use, the cake may end up terrible and she might not want to tell anyone she baked it. She said she was willing to take the risk, and if no one liked it she would tell them she bought it from a bakery. Now that is friendship.

The first thing we did was make the ganache. It is a simple, straightforward kind of ganache, where the dark chocolate is processed until fine, the cream scalded and poured through the feed tube while the food processor emulsifies and smooths everything nicely. In our case, this wasn't what happened. Cookie's food processor refused to work properly, and the chopped chocolate chunks just flew around the bowl instead of getting processed. So we tried the blender--no dice--and decided to simply melt the cream and chocolate together. We did it slowly, in a double boiler, and everything worked out a-ok. Phew!

The cake base is pretty similar to the very delicious Sour Cream Banana Cake in The Cake Bible, with the addition of what I call the cocoa paste. This is merely cocoa powder whisked together with boiling water to form a smooth paste and bring out, as Rose puts it, "mega flavor components." Usually I do this in a glass pyrex bowl with a lid, but as long as the bowl is covered--to prevent the loss of moisture via evaporation--then all is good. (I remember being miffed that my Cake Bible chocolate cakes were always dry, until Rose shared another baker's discovery--that we were all losing moisture by not covering the boiling water as it cooled. The world-wide smacking of palms against foreheads must have been deafening!) Anyway, Cookie was out of plastic wrap and I didn't bring my covered pyrex bowl. In desperation I started hunting around and found a clean jam jar with the lid! I decided to forgo the whisking of the chocolate and the boiling water, and just shook the jar furiously until I guessed everything was all mixed up nicely.

Chocolate Banana Stud Cake

The rest of the cake assembly, mixing, and baking went smoothly.

After I frosted the cake, Cookie got to the task of studding the ganache with chocolate chips. She decided to do a combination of white and semi sweet chips, which I think came out nicely.

Chocolate Banana Stud Cake

She was a little dismayed that the chips were different sizes and that there were gaps, but I think in the end she was pleased with the general appearance.

I begged her to squirrel away a piece from the potluck so that I could try it, which she did.  (Again, now that is friendship!)  I found it to be a perfect melding of chocolate and banana. The crumb was moist; even after several days. I wasn't a fan of the chocolate chips; I found they moved this dessert out of the not-too-sweet category into way too sweet. Perhaps a dark chocolate chip would be better?

Chocolate Banana Stud Cake

This is one of those cakes that I loved photographing.

Chocolate Banana Stud Cake

Chocolate Banana Stud Cake

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mini Vanilla Bean Pound Cakes

These little pound cakes are the perfect size for gifting, but why would you want to give them away? Actually, I will give one of these to my best friend Joelf, who turns just as old as Cookie and I today. His favorite flavor is vanilla, and he is a lover of the pound cake. He is also a lover of booze, and as these are soaked in a boozy syrup they are right up his alley. Unfortunately he is in the Dominican Republic and cannot eat his birthday pound cake, so The Jellos and I will take one for the team. We got your back my friend. And Happy Birthday! Now go eat an empananda and a mango for me.

July 11, 2010
Name of Cake: Joelf's Birthday Cake That I Will Eat For Him
Occasion: HCB, and Joelf's Birthday!
Constituents: vanilla bean pound cakes with a vanilla rum syrup

The pound cake gets put together quickly and easily once everything comes up to room temperature. The vanilla seeds are scraped from the pod and into the sugar. Rose wants you to whirl them around in the food processor to evenly distribute the seeds, but I didn't want to dirty the processor for one simple task. I used my fingers, which were already in there rubbing the seeds into the sugar, and I think it worked out just fine.

All the dry ingredients are mixed in the mixer for a bit, then all the butter and half of the liquids are added. This gets a good mix for 90 seconds, then the rest of the liquids are mixed in two parts. I forgot about the "two parts" part and dumped all the liquid in at once. It took a few extra seconds on low to get the mixture emulsified before I could raise the speed and finish the task, but no harm done. Rose warns the mixture would look curdled but mine only did for a split second, then became thick velvety batter.

Mini Vanilla Bean Pound Cakes

I doubled the recipe to get 5 mini pound cakes. A single recipe makes two pound cakes and two cupcakes. What is with all the extra cupcakes in this book? Anyhoots, I thought of the look on The Jellos' faces if I showed up tomorrow with one little mini pound cake, and decided to double the recipe. Now I have an extra cake for work or somebody lucky!

My oven troubles have led me to believe that the little oven thermometer I bought sucks ass. I think my oven is pretty spot on temperature wise, and it is my thermometer that is 25 degrees too hot. So I set the oven for 350 and put four of the five mini pound cakes on a cookie sheet and into the oven. The 5th one wouldn't fit on the sheet so it got a little bake in the toaster oven. That one got a little burnt so I am keeping that one for myself. The other four were actually ready after 35 minutes--more proof that my oven is fine and my thermometer is not!

Mini Vanilla Bean Pound Cakes

While the little cakes bake away the syrup is made. The recipe calls for vanilla cognac, but as I refuse to buy alcohol that I will probably only use once, I substituted for rum. Raymond soaked his vanilla pods in his syrup so I did the same. Thanks for the tip Raymond--I'm glad I did! Steeping the pods caught all the little seeds that I didn't get out earlier, plus it mellowed the rum out.  Not that Cockspur rum is harsh, but you know.

Mini Vanilla Bean Pound Cakes
see all the seeds in the syrup and clinging to the pastry brush? yum.

The little toaster oven cake came out before I was ready to syrup so I've been brushing each slice with the vanilla rum syrup and it is really delicious. I can't wait to see how the others taste, after being syruped and sorted out for the next 24 hours. (And hopefully it will only take 24 hours instead of 36-48!)

Mini Vanilla Bean Pound Cakes
toaster oven slice with brushed-on vanilla rum syrup

Joelf, this year's birthday cake may not be as decadent or fancy as last year's chocolate peanut butter cake, but it is lovely and delicious all the same.  The only thing missing is you.   Happy birthday homes!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Chocolate Ice Cream Cake

In my younger days I often chose the ice cream cake from the local Baskin and Robbins as my birthday cake. I was always a firm believer in cake AND ice cream, so finding a cake that was both was a real treat. I loved the ice cream cake so much that four years ago I attempted to make a couple of homemade ice cream cakes using genoise rounds as the cakes. I also used dry ice to keep the cakes frozen, and discovered--the hard way--that it is important to let a cake that has been living under dry ice for 24 hours sufficient time to soften before serving.

In short, I was excited to see what Rose had come up with.

July 4, 2010
Name of Cake: Truly A Better Ice Cream Cake
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: one layer german chocolate cake split and filled with about 2 quarts of store bought ice cream (in this case, peanut butter, rocky road, and strawberry)

Chocolate Ice Cream Cake 
rocky road sliver (with a hint of strawberry)

When I told The Jellos which cake was up next, they asked which ice cream I was going to use. This reminded me that Cookie isn't much for ice cream unless it is Rocky Road, and that Cabbage has a soft spot for peanut butter anything. I, on the other hand, was hoping for either coffee or strawberry. Clearly a compromise needed to be found.

I found it in the crazy antics of my own Mom, who was so indulgent towards my sister, myself, and my Dad, that she often made two dinners: one for my sister and I, and one for her and Dad. Every now and then, she would make separate dinners for my sister and I, totaling her dinners in one night to three. Clearly she's the best Mom in the world, and not just because she would literally slave over a hot stove just so we could eat our favorite foods. Anyhoots, I decided I could split the cake in three sections and everyone could get their favorite ice cream. This also would ensure that I wouldn't go home with half the cake!

The cake component is Rose's breakthrough German Chocolate cake, which uses oil instead of butter and is kind of like a sponge cake. The egg yolks are whipped up with the oil and cocoa powder paste, to which the dry ingredients are sifted in. Then, the egg whites are added, without prior beating, and the whole shebang is whirled around until it looks thin and soupy like a box cake. This cake batter only fills the pan 1/4 of the way but as it bakes it rises to the height of the pan, and needs to be unmolded immediately after removing from the oven.

I posted a lot of process photos when I made this cake for Brains's birthday, so if you like you can click through and take a look. I baked this particular cake in the middle of the night so I didn't take any photos.

For the ice cream cake, only 3/4 of the recipe is needed and is baked in a 10 inch pan. Multiplying all the grams by .75 didn't sound that appealing but thanks to my trusty calculator I got it done. Many Heavenly Cake Bakers chose to make the full recipe and bake the extra as cupcakes but that sounded like more work than I wanted. I'm not sure what I was thinking--hello! Extra cupcakes!

After the cake cools it is split--but not in half. It is split in 3/4 / 1/4 with the thinner layer being the bottom. Why? I don't know. This bottom layer gets smushed into a 9 in springform pan, and smushed is right  This way the ice cream doesn't get a chance to ooze out the sides.

I thought about several different ways to get the ice cream spread onto only 1/3 of the cake, and decided to just eyeball it. The store-bought ice cream needed to soften and get stirred up so as to deflate a bit--there's a lot of air that gets incorporated into a tub of ice cream. In order to execute my crazy plan I needed to spread out one flavor at a time, freezing the ice cream in between.

The first flavor I grabbed was the rocky road, and unfortunately I let it get too soft, so instead of being at a frosting consistency, it was more like melty ice cream consistency. I should have put it back in the freezer to solidify a bit but I didn't--I blame it on midnight lack of judgement.

Next up after an hour in the freezer was the strawberry section. I had to take away some of the rocky road ice cream that had spread past it's intended section before adding in the strawberry and put it back where it belonged. The strawberry was also a little too soft to hold up and there was a little comingling with the rocky road, but it wasn't really too bad. Then I noticed that I had done a very poor job of dividing the cake into thirds.

Lastly was the peanut butter, and I finally figured out the right spreading consistency for the ice cream. That, and there wasn't any place the peanut butter could ooze to. So that part was pretty easy.

Here's a photo of the insides of my cake, and I know, I did a terrible job of splitting the cake into thirds!

Chocolate Ice Cream Cake

This is a shot of where the peanut butter and strawberry section meet, right after unmolding (hence a bit drippy).

Chocolate Ice Cream Cake

Before bringing the cake to The Jellos I made the hot fudge sauce. Now, I love hot fudge; I think it is my favorite mode of chocolate delivery. I found the lacquer glaze to be deliciously hot fudgy, and Miss Irene Thompson's Chocolate Frosting incredibly hot fudgy, and now we get an actual hot fudge recipe to make. It is good, and super easy, and yummy, but so far Miss Irene Thompson is the winner of my hot fudge heart.

Not that I'm complaining. I wish all the ice cream cakes of my youth came covered in hot fudge. That would have changed things.

I thought the cake was great--the cake component stays nice and soft even after being frozen overnight. If I ever have the hankering for an ice cream cake again this will be it, no question. But in all honesty my favorite part was the hot fudge!

Cookie fell in love with this ice cream cake, as it reminded her of hot summer days as a child in Southern California. She and her siblings would be running around causing a ruckus outside and the adults would bring out ice cream sandwiches. She told me this story last night as she ate the cake with a happy smile on her face, and then repeated the story to me a few moments ago over the phone. You can't beat a cake that helps someone remember good summer days as a kid.

Chocolate Ice Cream Cake