Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cranberry Crown Cheesecake

This week's Heavenly Cake is a sour cream cheesecake baked inside a ring of pretty ladyfingers. Rose gives the option of making the ladyfingers yourself or cheating and buying the Savioardi biscuits at the store. Since I just arrived back in Portland Sunday afternoon, I decide to cheat and buy the biscuits. Alas. I hang my head in shame.

Cranberry Crown Cheesecake

December 27, 2010
Name of Cake: Cheater's Cheesecake
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: sour cream cheesecake with ladyfingers and a cranberry topping

I can't remember who mentioned that the store bought ladyfingers are also pretty delicious, but I have to agree. I enjoyed munching on the cut off ends last night as the cheesecake baked.

Since I cheated on the ladyfingers, all I had to do last night was bake the cheesecake. That was really simple. So simple, that I didn't even bother starting on the cake until midnight. (Okay, so that really wasn't on purpose.)

This cheesecake gets mixed up with the KA instead of in the food processor. The cream cheese and sugar are creamed together then the eggs, the lemon juice, vanilla, and lastly the large amount of sour cream. There's more sour cream than cream cheese in this cake!

I decided to experiment and since I haven't tasted the cake yet I can't tell you how it turned out. I had some light sour cream at home (purchased for the Apple Cinnamon Crumb Cake--didn't realise it was not full-fat) but not enough. I decided to try using full-fat plain yogurt for the remaining amount, mainly because I wanted an excuse to buy a big tub of full-fat yogurt. And, because I was curious to see if it would work. It turned out to be 400g light sour cream and 326g of full-fat plain yogurt.

After taking the five minutes to mix this batter together, it is poured into the ladyfinger-lined pan and baked for 45 minutes. After baking, the cheesecake is left in the oven for an hour, then left on the counter until room temperature, then refrigerated for eight hours. By the time the cake was finished baking, it was about one am. I decided to leave the cheesecake in the cooling oven overnight.

Cranberry Crown Cheesecake

This morning I got a good look at the baked cheesecake before I put it in the refrigerator. It looked very pretty, not a crack or a crevice on top, and just a tad jiggly in the center. The cake will relax in the refrigerator until this evening, when I'll bring it to Cookie's house to share with her family visiting from out of town.

Well, it is now Tuesday night and I still need to finish this post!

About an hour before going to Cookie's house, I made the cranberry topping. The defrosted cranberries are combined with sugar, water, and cornstarch in a pan, and boiled for about a minute to activate the cornstarch. Once the topping cools down it is poured over the cheesecake and it is ready to eat!

The store bought ladyfingers softened up nicely, while the tops remained a little crunchy in a good way. The cheesecake was still really soft in the middle--which seems to be a problem I keep encountering--but still really delicious. The yogurt didn't seem to negatively affect the cake at all. Cookie, who normally doesn't like cheesecake, liked this one. The lemon complements the tart cranberries very nicely. Cookie felt the ladyfingers didn't contribute much taste-wise, and would have preferred a graham cracker crust. That would have been more flavorful but the ladyfinger crown is so dramatic!

Cranberry Crown Cheesecake

A good cheesecake; light, tangy, and creamy. Beautiful presentation, really easy to make. A winner!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Crumb Cake

There is a version of this cake in The Cake Bible (called the Sour Cream Coffee Cake) and it is one of my favorites. I've tried the peach variation, and in one instance I paired the apple version (made partially with whole wheat flour) with strawberry ice cream which turned out to be wonderful. When I saw Rose had a similar version in Heavenly Cakes, I must admit I wasn't too interested in trying it out. But then Cookie picked it for Free Cake week, and here we are.

Cinnamon Apple Crumb Cake

November 22, 2010
Name of Cake: Apple Cinnamon Crumb Cake
Occasion: Free Cake Week!
Constituents: a sour cream coffee cake with apples and cinnamon and a crumb topping

I have yet to meet a person who has not loved this cake.

Even when I take the cake out too early and the middle is a bit mushy and undercooked. They still love it!

I really should pull out TCB and RHC to compare recipes, but I think the main difference is that this one, from RHC, has you add the crumb topping towards the end of the bake so that it doesn't burn. In TCB, you tent the cake with foil after a certain point.

Cinnamon Apple Crumb Cake
just look at that lovely thick batter!

Otherwise they are pretty much the same.

This cake is really cinnamony, in a good way, and the apples add a nice soft fruity layer. The cake itself is a lovely dense sour cream coffee cake that melts in your mouth with a wonderful full flavor of vanilla with a tang. There are some nice textures in this cake, from the dense cake crumb, the soft juicy apples, and the crunchy crumble. What's not to love?

Cinnamon Apple Crumb Cake
see?  even though the center is undercooked, the cake was gobbled up and universally loved.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Coleen's Big Birthday Cake

My dear friend Coleen celebrated her 60th birthday last week, and asked me to bake her birthday cake.  Her partner was throwing her a big to-do and wanted a cake that would feed about 30 people.  Of course I said yes, how could I not?

The last time I made her a birthday cake was in 2006--even though we all remembered it as being two years ago.  Coleen asked for a chocolate-chocolate cake. The two cake layers were TCB's Chocolate Fudge Cake which uses brown sugar instead of white. Reading the post reminded me how delicious that cake is! I filled and frosted the cake with the Milk Chocolate Buttercream, which is a simple combination of milk and dark chocolate and butter. It was rich.

Read about Coleen's Chocolate-Chocolate Cake from 2006.
And, photos of her cake are found here.

This year, Coleen asked for a yellow cake, with a fudgy frosting and a raspberry filling. When I asked what kind of raspberry filling, she got excited about a raspberry whipped cream. I told her I was thinking about a half sheet cake, but Coleen protested, "I want a round cake!"

Round it is, my friend.

Coleen's 60th Birthday Cake

December 04, 2010
Name of cake: A Cake Fit for a 60th Birthday
Occasion: Coleen's 60th Birthday Party!
Constituents: two 10 inch yellow cake layers filled with raspberry buttercream and frosted with miss irene thompson's dark chocolate frosting

Somewhere in the middle of putting this cake together I realised I was basically recreating the Chocolate Strawberry Cake the Heavenly Cake Bakers made in June.

I chose TCB's All-American Yellow Butter Cake as the cake component for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is an awesome and delicious yellow cake. Secondly, this is one of the cakes Rose gives the base recipe for so that it can scaled up or down really easily. For two ten-inch layers, it was easy (with the help of a calculator) to figure out how much of what I would need.

For example, this many egg yolks:

Coleen's 60th Birthday Cake

The egg whites are in the freezer. I have a lot of egg whites in there.

This much butter (pork chop optional):

Coleen's 60th Birthday Cake

You can also see in the above photo I made a batch of Rose's Cordon Rose Raspberry Conserve for the whipped cream. (The whole batch is in the large measuring cup to the right of the teakettle.)

I was excited that the cakes rose as high as they did, considering that I was using cake pans that are two inches high and TCB's recipes are scaled for 1.5 inch high cake pans.

Coleen's 60th Birthday Cake

However if you looked at those photos of Coleen's chocolate-chocolate cake, those cake layers seem just as high, don't they?

I decided to torte the cake; this is a birthday party after all. Check out the crumb!

Coleen's 60th Birthday Cake

I made the full batch of raspberry whipped cream even though I was just using it as a filling. Rose mentions that the pectin in the jam is sufficient enough to prevent the whipped cream from watering out, so no need to use gelatin. That made me happy as I forgot I was out of gelatin.

After filling and stacking the cake, it was after midnight and I was ready for bed. The cake got a rest up in the refrigerator while I slept.

The next morning I decided to even out the edges of the cake.

Coleen's 60th Birthday Cake

Then came Miss Irene's Dark Chocolate Frosting. When Coleen told me she wanted a fudgy chocolate frosting, this one immediately came to mind. I thought about a good ganache or buttercream, but neither option sounded particularly fudgy to me. Plus, I remembered this frosting as being really easy to make.

I am pretty sure I doubled the recipe, and in the end had maybe 3/4 cup left over. It is mostly made over a double boiler and involves a large amount of corn syrup, and while still thick and warm you glaze the top of the cake and make a crumb coat over the sides.

Coleen's 60th Birthday Cake

Pretty.

After the fudgy frosting cools down a bit, you can use it to make decadent swirls around the sides (and top, if you like). In my cold kitchen the frosting was ready for swirls pretty soon after finishing the crumb coat. Gotta love unheated kitchens.

After swirling I kind of lost it and went out of control. I scattered Vahlrona Les Perls over the top, mounded some fresh raspberries in the middle (they looked great but tasted like water), then lined the bottom of the cake plate with raspberries and mounded in some more Perls. It is a bit much, I know, but hey--it's a birthday!

Coleen's 60th Birthday Cake

Coleen's 60th Birthday Cake

No photos of the cake at the party--too dark and too busy enjoying the party to "work." The birthday girl seemed pleased with her cake--but that could have been the bourbon talking ;)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

FFWD: Speculoos

Oops, forgot to cross post!

I don't think I've ever had proper Speculoos, or Speculaas, or Belgian/Dutch Spice Cookies. I've made them before (with the Lazy Bakers!) but since I have no idea how they are supposed to taste I don't know if what I've made is a good Speculoos. But at any rate, I enjoy them but I think I like a spicy Swedish gingersnap better.

FFWD: Speculoos

I also have discovered that when I bake cookies, which isn't very often, I like something easy and yummy, like a good ol' drop cookie. All the fancy cookies which require rolling into logs and chilling or rolling out into sheets for cut-outs is too much for my lazy brain.

FFWD: Speculoos

I have sandwiched caramel between spicy Swedish gingersnaps to great success, so I decided to do so with these.

FFWD: Speculoos

The caramel was too soft so it gooped out, but I think that just makes them more delicious. I also tried nutella (good), and homemade strawberry jam (not my favorite).

FFWD: Speculoos

All in all, a good cookie; I like the brown sugar and spices, but I would prefer something as spicy as a Swedish gingersnap.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Financier-Style Vanilla Bean Pound Cakes

Financiers have been hit-or-miss for me, so I was a little wary of these financier-styled pound cakes. I think I have pan anxiety. I didn't buy a financier pan, and unlike other cakes in this book, I wonder if the pan really does make a difference in the final product. Cakes can be turned into cupcakes, individual cakes can be made into one large cake, but financiers? They seem like they are best when the ratio of outside to inside stays fairly even. Regular sized cupcakes are too big, so it seems making these mini is a good idea. Or use a freaking financier pan. I shoulda bought the damn pan.

Financier-Style Vanilla Bean Pound Cakes

December 11, 2010
Name of cakes: damn pan
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: egg yolk-less pound cakes

Okay I'm just going to come right out and say it: I miss the egg yolks.

I made these as cupcakes--six in my silicone cupcake cups which hold about an ounce less than a regular cupcake cup--and they look lovely. They domed nicely, with a light golden color. The crumb is delicate, light, and dense with the delicious floral flavor of butter and the smoothness of vanilla. However, for all the loveliness, there is a richness missing, and it is because they are 100% egg yolk free. So sad.

Financier-Style Vanilla Bean Pound Cakes

I guess it is a cross between a pound cake and a white cake, but since my tastes run towards rich, dense, sour cream and egg yolk cakes, moving a pound cake in the direction of a white cake is the wrong direction for me.

Financier-Style Vanilla Bean Pound Cakes

At least they were a snap to make. I don't feel so regretful about them since it didn't take $30 worth of materials or a full day of work to make these little light pound cupcakes. When I get over the lack of egg yolk, they really are quite lovely. Almost tea cake-like in their dense crumb, and with wonderful flavor.

However I wonder how these would have been as proper financiers.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Chocolate Velvet Fudge Cake

This week's selection was the wonderful and easy Chocolate Velvet Fudge Cake. I baked this cake the day before I flew to California for Thanksgiving, in the midst of washing clothes (so I could pack), getting things ready for the cat sitter, and trying not to forget anything.

I have no photographic evidence of the baking, packing, presenting, or eating of the cake so you'll just have to take my word for it. Sorry this post will have no photos, pretty or otherwise.

November 24, 200
Name of Cake: The Cake TSA Didn't Care About
Occasion: HCB, and Thanksgiving
Constituents: a chocolate bundt cake

I actually have a silicone bundt pan; I bought it for nine bucks at a sale over the summer and this was my first time trying it out.

This cake is prepared like most of RLB's butter cakes, which means that after measuring everything out and dumping all the dry stuff in the mixing bowl and combining the eggs and whatever other liquids in another bowl, you can break down the mixing instructions like this:

30 sec
add butter + cocoa
1 1/2 min
eggs in two parts
30 sec between
bake 50-65 min

Well, at least I could. This is certainly the cliffs notes version and it assumes you know the basic RLB butter cake technique, but by now most of us do, right?

For the silicone bundt pan, the cake is left to cool upside down in the pan. Once cool, I covered a (handmade) cake round in foil, inverted the cake and bundt pan onto that and tightly wrapped the whole thing in plastic wrap. This got packed into my carry-on bag.

I wondered if the foil bottom or the unusual shape would set off the TSA employees, but I think the chocolate pumpkin pie I was carrying was the perfect decoy. Plus, it was Thanksgiving day and the airport was fairly quiet, and this is Portland, OR and TSA has never been the crazy assholes they are in other, larger airports. They mostly made jokes about classifying my pie as a gel so that they could confiscate it, and the cake in my carry-on luggage made it through the x-ray machine without a second glance. The pie also went through the machine, so everybody was disappointed to discover I hadn't baked a pair of very sharp scissors into it.

My mom had already baked an apple pie (from the apples in the backyard) and a pumpkin pie (from a pumpkin she roasted herself), and my sister made pumpkin squares (from cake mix and canned pumpkin). I added my chocolate pumpkin pie (canned pumpkin--mom was surprised) and saved the chocolate cake for Friday. Thanksgiving dinner was delicious and the nephew is now a walking, babbling, drooling machine which was more exciting than having 3 pies and pumpkin squares for dessert.

By Friday afternoon the pumpkin squares had been demolished (mostly by my brother in law) so I broke out the cake. My sister especially loved it--she called it a chocolate pound cake and she isn't too far off. The cake is dense, yet moist and tender with a strong chocolate punch. I used Dagoba cocoa powder this time around and I think I really like it. Dad liked the cake with whipped cream but I thought a scoop of vanilla ice cream would be a better pairing. Mostly my sister and I ate it out of hand. Mom is allergic to chocolate and doesn't like sweets that much so she didn't try it.

All in all, a great cake: simple to make, satisfying to eat. This is the perfect chocolate cake when you want a cakey snack without too much fuss.