Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake!

After spending months planning, weeks testing, two days baking, syruping, filling and frosting, and about two hour's worth of freaking out, Sam and Andrea's wedding cake was finished. In a garden on a beautiful warm Portland afternoon, about 75 friends and family gathered to celebrate the lovely couple, and eventually eat cake.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake

July 30, 2011
Name of Cake: Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
Occasion: Sam and Andrea's Wedding
Constituents: one two layer, 12 in Golden Dream Wedding Cake filled with White Chocolate Lemon Buttercream and frosted with Italian Meringue Buttercream, one two layer, 9 in dairy-free chocolate cake (the deep passion cake, syruped with spiced rum syrup) filled with fresh raspberry coulis and frosted with vegan cream cheese frosting, one two layer, 6 in Deep Chocolate Passion Wedding Cake filled with Midnight Ganache and frosted with Italian Meringue Buttercream. Phew!

I decided to borrow a friend's kitchen to bake the wedding cake. They have a pet-free kitchen with a good amount of counter space, dishwasher, microwave, and AC. All things I do not have. Plus, they were out of town so I could feel free to bake into the wee hours and swear loudly.

Here's my mobile kitchen:

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake

The wedding being on a Saturday, I decided to bake and syrup on Thursday and fill and frost on Friday. That worked out really well. The cakes were all still really moist on Saturday evening, and all the buttercreams had a chance to sort themselves out. I always find they taste better on the second day. Also, this kept the cakes refrigerated for a good 48 hours before sitting out for half a day in 83°F weather.

With the exception of the frostings and the raspberry coulis, all the recipes came from Rose's Heavenly Cakes. Seeing as I've got about 20 cakes left in the book to bake, taking on such a task as baking a wedding cake was much easier when the recipes were from a very known and very trusted source. It was like having my best friend be my sous chef (which I wish he was...just saying Joelf).

The two chocolate cakes were the cake from the Deep Chocolate Passion Wedding Cake, which is the same cake us Heavenly Bakers have used for the Ice Cream Cake, the Designer Baby Grands, and the German Chocolate Cake. This recipe uses oil instead of butter which made it perfect for the dairy-free layer (the 9 in tier). This is an easy to make cake that is moist and little spongy--sort of like the texture of a box cake, but way WAY better.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
flowers for the cake

Rose splits her wedding cake recipes into two batches: the 6 and 9 inch tiers, and the 12 inch tiers. Which made it perfect for me as I was baking the 6 and 9 inch Deep Chocolate etc cakes and the 12 inch Golden Dream etc Cake.

The 6 inch cakes got the Milk Chocolate Ganache Syrup; the syrup needs to be applied while it is hot so these two cakes got syruped first. The cakes need 140 grams of syrup total, which is a little more than a third of the recipe given (technically I divided the recipe by 3.5). Once these cooled completely and firmed up a bit they were wrapped airtight and refrigerated.

The 9 inch cakes were getting a spiced rum syrup. I based the recipe off of the amaretto syrup for the Almond Shamah Chiffon, however I remembered that the tasting cakes were really wet from using the full amount of syrup so in actuality I only used about 3/4 of the total syrup made. This turned out to be the perfect amount to keep the cakes moist but the rum flavor wasn't very pronounced. Also, I removed the top crust of the cake to better absorb the syrup. The crust came off in the same manner and almost as easily as the top crust of a genoise, which led me to think this cake is halfway between a butter cake and a genoise. That discussion merits a whole post on its own. Again, the cakes were wrapped and refrigerated.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
6 and 9 inch tiers syruped and hanging out

At this point I wanted a change of pace and decided to make the vegan frosting. After all my tests I discovered vegan frostings do much better when they can have a couple days in the refrigerator to firm up and settle down. I had decided to use the Rich Vanilla Frosting since it looked the creamiest and had that intriguing flavor from the apple cider vinegar. I doubled the recipe since it was only for one 8 inch layer.

A quick recap of how this frosting is made: sugar, water, soy milk powder, corn syrup and a pinch of salt are cooked over medium heat to 230°F. This syrup is left to cool down to room temperature. The shortening is beat into the syrup, and vanilla extract, apple cider vinegar, and almond extract are added for flavor.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
i tried to get my ducks in a row

The doubled amount of syrup never came up to temperature before the soy milk powder browned. So I threw that out.

I decided to make two single recipe batches of syrup and combine them when beating in the shortening. My first attempt never came up to temperature before the milk powder browned again.

By this time I was frustrated, and confused. I decided to take a break, go have dinner, and try again later. After a little yelling and fit having.

After a couple of hours I returned to the kitchen, armed with my own pots and my other thermometer. I made two single batches of syrup with no problems. FINALLY. I left them to cool while I got on the 12 inch tier.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
this is a giant pile of dry ingredients

Let me here make a public service announcement to all home bakers wanting to bake a two layer 12 inch cake. This is a huge amount of batter and it probably won't fit in your Kitchen Aid mixer. You know that the batter for two 9 inch cakes pretty much fills up your mixer bowl 2/3 to 3/4 full. The recipe for two 12 inch cakes is essentially like doubling a recipe for two 9 inch cakes. IT WILL NOT FIT IN YOUR MIXER.

You could, if you have it, make two batches of a recipe for two 9 inch cakes (except that you'll need to figure out the leavening situation using the Rose factor in The Cake Bible). There is no 9 inch cake recipe for the Golden Lemon Almond Cake, there is only the bundt recipe which is about 1/3 the recipe of the two 12 inch tiers. So what I did is this, and it seemed to have worked. I prepped everything as if I was going to mix all the batter at once, down to combining the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet ingredients in another. Then I split all that into two batches (by weight) thereby hopefully getting the right amount of leavening into both batches. Like I said, it seemed to have worked.

I did decide to try to bake both layers at the same time but here's my next warning. If you do decide to bake this behemoth in a regular sized oven, they'll be staggered on two shelves. You'll have to switch the pans halfway through and possibly have some foil ready to tent the cake on the top rack. In my case the top cake's top browned early on and was actually finished a couple of minutes before the other (even after switching halfway through). In hindsight I wish I had baked one layer at a time, either by refrigerating the other filled pan or even holding off on mixing the second batch until the first cake was already out of the oven.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
syruped and overnighted at room temperature

The top of cakes are poked with holes and brushed with the lemon-turbinado syrup right after coming out of the oven. After 20 minutes they are turned out and the bottoms are treated similarly. The directions then say to let the cakes cool completely, wrap them airtight, leave them out at room temperature for 24 hours, then you may do with them what you like.

I wish I had remembered that part at the beginning of the day! I would have baked this cake first.

Last thing I did on day one was finish the Rich Vanilla Frosting and store it in the refrigerator.

Then I went home and pretty much collapsed into bed.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
 the cake table was under a fig tree

Friday came and I was determined to stay in a good mood. Today was frosting day! This shouldn't be too complicated, or take too long.

I started off with the White Chocolate Lemon Buttercream, which was the filling for the 12 inch tier. I knew it needed a couple of hours to rest before it could be completed so I thought I could knock that out and while it cooled start the next thing.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
white chocolate lemon buttercream

After melting white chocolate and butter in a double boiler, a bunch of eggs are whisked in and cooked to 140°F. As I stirred and stirred I wondered why we needed this step, and then remembered it was probably to cook the egg to a food service appropriate temperature, as well as to thicken the custard. This custard is then refrigerated, stirring every 30 minutes, until about 70°F. I made a half recipe to fill the 12 inch tier, and it cooled down in about an hour.

Then even more butter (yay butter) is creamed, the custard and lemon oil mixed in, and then this whole mix needs to stand at cool room temperature until spongy and no warmer than 70°F. I put it in their basement and it took pretty much the whole dang day to cool down to 70°.

Next up I tackled the raspberry coulis. I based the recipe off this one by Shaina Olmanson, but used two pints of raspberries, no lemon juice, added two tablespoons of rum, used maybe 3/4 cups sugar, and used three tablespoons cornstarch. I combined everything in a pot, let it macerate for about an hour, cooked the mixture until the liquid pooled slightly on the surface when dropped from a spoon, pushed it through a fine mesh strainer and set it to cool in the refrigerator. This resulted in a very berry, mildly sweet, thick puree that held it's own after slicing. I kind of modified that one as I went along so I am super happy it turned out well.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
9 inch cake insides

When I went to fill and stack the 9 inch cake, I pulled out the Rich Vanilla Frosting I has made from the night before and let it warm up to room temperature. It was GRAINY. It was a big, grainy waste of time. I still used it to make a dam around the edge of the cake, but I finally accepted that I couldn't use it to frost. WHAT THE FUDGE, FROSTING. WHY DO YOU GOTTA BE LIKE THAT.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
i would have liked to have chucked the stupid vegan frosting into a lake like this

I am still not sure what went wrong. The test I had done came out perfectly creamy and white. In fact the test is still in my refrigerator and it still looks perfect and creamy and white. I don't know what happened but I am firing this recipe forever.

After filling the cake with the raspberry coulis I scattered in one layer of fresh raspberries for fun texture, stacked the cakes, refrigerated, and went to the store. After I ate dinner. And read a magazine.

I picked up Tofutti and Earth Balance shortening sticks to make the vegan cream cheese. At least that recipe was quick and easy, didn't need a sugar syrup, and I knew would hold up well in the heat. And who doesn't love cream cheese frosting?

The recipe I linked to in my dairy free frosting post was scaled for 12 cupcakes. I decided to quadruple it to get enough to frost the cake, except I only used three cups of powdered sugar. I had less than 1/4 cup of frosting leftover. Phew! One tier done and done. The cake went back to the refrigerator.

I decided to fill the 6 inch cake with leftover Midnight Ganache, because there is not a chocolate lover alive who wouldn't love that stuff. That was also an easy thing to do because I just had to defrost the container, whip it up a bit with a spoon, and fill the little cake. Then I snuck a spoon for myself, and put the stacked little cake in the refrigerator to firm up the filling.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
love the contrast!

In the meantime, I made one batch of Italian Meringue, as shared by Warren Brown of CakeLove. His instructional video is awesome. Look how nonchalantly he pours sugar syrup into his whipping egg whites! I did it too, by the way, and it turned out great. I added one teaspoon of vanilla extract. This made about 4.5-5 cups of frosting.

I frosted my little 6 inch tier and put it to bed.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
6 inch cake insides

By this point the White Chocolate Lemon Buttercream had finally cooled itself down so I finished it up by beating it for another minute, then I filled and stacked the 12 inch tier. That cake was heavy! After chilling, I frosted the cake (I needed another half batch of Italian Meringue Buttercream) and then I was done. Huzzah.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
12 inch cake insides

Oh yes, I did place the plastic straws in the 12 and 9 inch tiers before I went home and went to bed.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
9 inch cake, ready to go

Saturday around noon I boxed up the cake and hustled to the wedding site. It was already getting hot and I was a little nervous about the cakes melting in the heat. I kept thinking of the Cake Wrecks Inspiration vs Perspiration post and hoping I wouldn't see my cake up there next week.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
ribbon is a great way to hide the gap and cardboard rounds. but on a hot day you oughta line the back of the ribbon with parchment. i did not.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
love the topper!

The cake table was ready to go so I stacked the cake (frosting already soft!), lined the bottoms of the tiers with the ribbon Andrea provided, and waited for the ladies in charge, Sam's Aunts, to come decorate the cake with flowers. Paula decorated the cake beautifully! She did such a lovely job, and was also very ingenious when the glass cake topper kept threatening to fall over (frosting too soft). She placed flowers behind it to prop it up, and it was just so lovely.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
Paula gettin' it done

The rest of the time I hovered near the cake table because I was convinced it was going to start sinking. But it never did. Even when the couple cut the cake from the top tier while it was still on the cake (I squeaked a little with each cut--what if the cake came crashing down) all held together.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake

The Aunts got down to cutting and serving the cake--which I am not so good at--so I got myself a beer. My job was finished! Everything was fine!

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
what was left as the reception wound down

People enjoyed the cake, and the dairy-allergic people were super happy to have cake, and one that they said was really good. Again, people were surprised the frostings or the cakes weren't too sweet. Many guests were pleased to discover the lemon almond cake was pound cakey, and one person exclaimed, "how could it be so dense and yet so light!" Such is the magic of Rose.

When you have 75 people standing around a pretty lawn enjoying a cake you've worked on for two days straight, there is no greater feeling I know. A big, HUGE, thanks to Rose for her foolproof and more-than-excellent cakes, and thanks to Kevin and Tu for giving me their kitchen, and lots of love to Sam and Andrea for trusting me to be a part of their beautiful day.

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake

Sam and Andrea's Wedding Cake
such a cute couple

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

No-Bake Whipped Cream Cheesecake

The No-Bake Whipped Cream Cheesecake runs circles around it's boxed counterparts, and is a delightful warm weather treat. Light and airy, yet tangy, creamy and rich like a cheesecake should be, I have discovered this cake is as good for breakfast as it is post dinner or in the middle of the night.

no-bake whipped cream cheesecake for breakfast

July 22, 2011
Name of Cake: Hot Weather Cheesecake
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: graham cracker crust, italian meringue, creme fraiche custard, and sour cream and whipped cream cheese

I didn't take any process photos. I decided to put this together before I went to work (don't be too shocked, I went to work at 1:30 pm). I need to remember NOT to bake when there is a time constraint, as the project which may seem uncomplicated will become complicated and stress me out.

The custard came together without a hitch, although I strained out a good amount of cooked egg yolk.

The problem was that the whipped cream cheese and the sour cream (in my case whole milk greek yogurt) weren't warming up to room temperature. It probably had to do with the fact that it was only 63°F outside but the recipe says these two ingredients need to be at room temperature or else the gelatin in the custard would curdle. I had to give up on that dream and had a gravelly looking cheesecake. Luckily this didn't affect the mouthfeel or taste.

The italian meringue is made and folded into the other lively ingredients. This gets put into the graham cracker shell (which is also unbaked) and refrigerated for at least 4 hours. Mine refrigerated overnight, and my friends who were in town and I ate it for breakfast. Rose warns this cheesecake is really delicate and thus a pain to cut and serve, but I think the overnight chilling helped in that regards.

I had bought fresh bing cherries from the farmer's market and made a coulis out of them. Alongside strong cups of coffee and some crispy bacon, this cheesecake was a wonderful way to start the day.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In Search of...Dairy Free Wedding Cake Frosting

So the wedding is coming up in a couple of weeks, and I was still in search of a good dairy free frosting. Their cake will be a three tier cake, and the couple requested the middle tier be dairy-free for their relatives who are apparently really allergic to all things dairy. The couple had vetoed the standard shortening-powdered sugar frosting as too sweet. I said I would go back to the drawing board.

The requirements for this dairy free frosting are:
  • not too sweet
  • looks similar to the italian meringue buttercream used in the other two tiers
  • no butter, no milk, no dairy whatsoever
  • needs to be heat stable to at least 85°F, but preferably up to 90°F (a girl can dream)
I made a one egg-sized batch of Italian Meringue Buttercream as a control:
  • 30g egg white
  • 58g sugar (divided 14g/44g)
  • 15g water
  • 91g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
testing dairy free frostings

Then I started substituting non-dairy butter substitutes in the IMBC. I used Earth's Best butter-flavored stuff in a tub, and Canoleo in a tub, and Spectrum shortening. I also started increasing the amount of sugar syrup to counter the saltiness of the margarines, and the weird "butter" flavors. This just resulted in soft, marshmallow fluff-like frostings.

The shortening test was interesting. I used the normal amount of sugar syrup and could barely get 41g shortening emulsified into the italian meringue. The shortening had the best flavor (sugar, vanilla) but like most shortening-based frostings, left a greasy feel in the mouth.

testing dairy free frostings

I went back to the drawing board.

I decided to chuck the eggs as well and look for a totally vegan frosting. Searching around, I decided to try a vegan cream cheese frosting. Then I found a really awesome vegan baking website, The founder, Mattie Hagedorn, is the kind of baker I like. He's inquisitive, scientific, and creative. Just look at his post on how to make vegan butter and I think you'll agree. I want to make the cocoa butter butter, and play around with that!!

Anyways, he posted a couple of interesting frostings that he said were warm weather appropriate. He used soy milk powder to add creaminess and a sugar syrup for stabilization and silkiness. He had a version for butter flavored sticks as well as one for shortening. I was excited to try them out. Elsewhere on his website I learned that, when baking with vegan butters, it is important to use the sticks not the tubs. The margarines in the tubs have more water and salt apparently. I wish I had known that before my initial tests! I ran out and bought Earth Balance buttery sticks and non-buttery sticks.

Mattie's Rich Buttercream Frosting and Rich Vanilla Frosting both start with combining sugar, water, soy milk powder, and either agave or corn syrup. This is slowly heated to 230°F, cooled down to about room temperature, and then the butter or shortening and flavorings are added in. When using shortening (the rich vanilla frosting), you add apple cider vinegar, vanilla, and a little almond extract. This actually gives the frosting an intriguing flavor, almost butter-like. In fact, much more butter-like than those buttery flavored sticks, which continue to taste like maple syrup to me.

My initial tests were failures as I forgot the sugar syrup needed to be heated slowly at medium heat, and was heating it on medium-high. At that heat, the soy milk powder kept burning. Initially I used agave syrup but that turned the frostings from white to a caramelly brown.

My second round of tests, two days later, came out much better. By this time I had fired the buttery flavored sticks and was working exclusively with the rich vanilla frosting, using the non-butter flavored earth balance sticks and the spectrum shortening. The spectrum frosting had a really pretty creamy white look to it; a good match for the IMBC. The earth balance shortening sticks had a better mouthfeel--less greasy.

testing dairy free frostings

The vegan cream cheese is from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and is dead simple. I halved the amount of sugar and it resulted in a creamy, lightly sweet, lightly tangy product. (You can find the recipe, probably posted without permission, here.)

The question was now, which one would stand up to hot weather the best? Unfortunately the weather here took a turn for cool and rainy, so my initial plan of frosting some cupcakes and putting them out in the sun for a couple of hours was out. So I heated the bathroom to 85°F, frosted some cheap box cupcakes, and left them alone for a couple of hours.

testing dairy free frostings

I have to add a caveat here. Of the four frostings I tested in my hot bathroom, the IMBC and the VCC had been refrigerated for at least 24 hours before the test. The two shortening frostings had been made just before the test, and I think that is why they suffered so badly in the test. The shortening frostings didn't hold up so well. The Earth Balance shortening sticks began to break down pretty quickly. The Spectrum shortening held on for about an hour but began to break down too. The control, the IMBC, never broke down but did get all shiny and turned a yucky yellow color. Shockingly, the vegan cream cheese frosting never batted an eyelash. It didn't melt, or break down, or get oily/greasy, or deteriorate in any way. Totally not what I was expecting!

testing dairy free frostings
italian meringue buttercream after 2 hours in the hot bathroom

testing dairy free frostings
vegan cream cheese frosting after 2 hours in the hot bathroom

The next morning, the sun was out so I frosted a couple cupcakes with the now refrigerated shortening frostings, and left them out for a couple of hours. It was about 84°F and the Earth Balance frosting began to break down after about an hour. The Spectrum shortening started to break down at about 90 minutes, but not too badly.

I am still undecided about the frosting. The cream cheese tastes good, has a good mouthfeel, and stood up to hot temperatures better than I imagined. However it seems a little lowbrow for a wedding. If the temperature isn't too hot, I might go with the Spectrum frosting. It resembles the IMBC the best and is a close runner up in taste and appearance. Plus, it seems a little more appropriate for a wedding. Stay tuned, readers.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Torta de las Tres Leches

This week, the HCB are off baking the Chocolate Tomato Cake, which I baked with group the first time around in August 2010. Since the tomato cake is a cake most of us faced with trepidation, I decided to also bake a cake that I had serious reservations about: the Torta de las Tres Leches.

This is a cake that is soaked in a whole lot of milk, which to me sounds like a horrible idea. I don't like to drink milk so why would I want to eat a cake that is literally oozing milk? Luckily, I didn't think it tasted terrible, and in fact many HCB loved the cake.

Torta de las Tres Leches

July 17, 2011
Name of Cake: the milky cake
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: one biscuit de Savioe, soaked in a milky mixture and frosted with whipped cream (more milk!)

Since I was so hesitant about this cake, I decided to make a half recipe and baked it in my 7x3 pan. This pan is getting a lot of use lately!

Torta de las Tres Leches

The cake is a simple biscuit with an ingredient list that you can count off on one hand. Eggs, sugar, cake flour, vanilla, salt. Everything but the flour is mixed together and heated over a pan of simmering water until quite warm, and then furiously beat for five minutes in the KA. Since I had a half recipe the eggs were fully beat at the two and a half minute mark. The flour is sifted onto the eggs and folded in. My cake baked for just about 30 minutes before testing as done.

Torta de las Tres Leches

Like sponge cakes of this type, the cake must be unmolded right away and left to cool completely. In the meantime, the milky stuff is made.

Torta de las Tres Leches

The milky stuff is a mixture of nonfat and whole milks with a touch of sugar, which is reduced by half. The reduced milky stuff is poured into a bowl, the sweetened condensed milk and cream are stirred in, and refrigerated until the cake is ready. And yes, if you are counting, there are four milks in this milky mix.

Torta de las Tres Leches

Once the cake is ready, it is wrapped up in plastic wrap, placed back in it's cake pan, the wrap is opened and all the milky stuff gets poured into the cake. Surprisingly, the cake slurps it all up without complaint. The plastic wrap is tucked around the cake, which gets an overnight in the refrigerator.

Torta de las Tres Leches
Violet likes milky cakes

Before serving, whipped cream is beat to stiff peaks and spread over the top of the cake. Yes, if you are counting, that makes five milks in this milky cake. As the cake is unmolded and served milky stuff pools around the bottom of the cake. For a non-milk lover like myself the pooling milky stuff does not help me find it appealing.

Torta de las Tres Leches

Surprisingly, the cake retains its texture and toothsomeness (is that a real word?). Yes, it is milky, and wet/moist, but it isn't a big soggy mess. Thank god for that, too, otherwise I'd be having none of it. The flavor is obviously really milky and slightly sweet, sort of like melted vanilla ice cream. It is not bad. I ate my slice without complaint. However, I do not think I will ever be making this again, unless by request.

I found myself wishing this cake was soaked in a whole lot of chocolate milky stuff, or coffee milky stuff instead. Either one of those I could get behind, and might try once this bake through is complete.

a sour cherry from the tree in the yard
Jenn said she'd never seen a sour cherry, so here's one from the tree in the yard

This cake has been baked twice during the bake through:
Marie made it before the bake-through became a group project in June 2009.
Hanaa guest-hosted the group's baking of the cake in January 2010.
Last Cake, Next Cake for the group bake can be found here.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Catalan Salt Pinch Cake

Looking over my list of RHC left to bake, I noticed that the majority of them are from the sponge cake chapter. Do I have a problem with sponge cakes? I always think of them as more difficult to make, usually because the large number of eggs required for most sponge cakes require separating. I don't know why that seems difficult when in reality separating eggs is pretty quick and easy.

So for this week's free choice, I knew I needed to start facing my sponge cake aversion. So I started with the sponge cake I have the most aversion to: the Catalan Salt Pinch Cake. The reviews on this cake have been mixed, and so it was easy to ignore. I'm so glad I finally got around to baking this cake as it is wonderful.

Catalan Salt Pinch Cake

July 10, 2011
Name of Cake: Pinching Never Tasted So Good
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: one seven inch layer almond sponge cake

This cake originated in Spain, where it is known as Pinch Bread as it originally was baked in loaf pans and people tend to eat it with their hands. This particular version is called Salt Pinch Cake as it came from a bakery called Salt, named after the nearby town of Salt. It does not mean this is a salty/savory cake, which many people, including myself, thought at first.

The cake is a simple almond sponge cake, with the usual spongy culprits of eggs, sugar, and cake flour. There isn't much cake flour as the almonds, which are toasted then ground finely, make up the majority of the flour in the cake. Lemon zest is added and that is it.

Catalan Salt Pinch Cake

The unusual thing about this cake, aside from the misleading name, is the manner in which it is mixed. A quarter of the egg whites are initially whipped with the majority of the sugar to create a thick, glossy goo. The almonds are folded in next, then here's the fun part: the rest of the eggs are added to the batter two tablespoons at a time and beat for two minutes per addition. This comes out to about twenty minutes of mixing, but luckily for those with a stand mixer it means that every two minutes you need to go back to the machine and add in another couple of tablespoons, set the timer, and walk away.

Catalan Salt Pinch Cake

After those shenanigans are over, the batter looks thick and fluffy. The lemon zest gets beat in, the flour is sifted and folded in, and the batter is finished. This gets scraped into a pan that is thoroughly lined with parchment and baked for about half an hour.

Catalan Salt Pinch Cake

I actually ended up making a half recipe as I only found enough almonds in my freezer for half a cake. I did find some almond meal that I had hoped to use for the rest of the almonds so that I could make the full recipe, but the almond meal had freezer burn and smelled awful. A half recipe it is then.

Catalan Salt Pinch Cake

I baked the cake in the 7x3 pan that I have, which made the cake shorter than it should have been. It took 30 minutes to bake, so no difference in baking time. It did take less time to cool, so I didn't have to wait a full hour before trying it out.

Catalan Salt Pinch Cake

This cake is really good! The flavor is as delicate as the texture: just a simple almond flavor with a little lemon to perk things up. I am a fan of these simple tasting tea cakes and so I like the Pinch Cake. Rose suggested pairing the cake with raspberries and softly whipped cream, but I have some Hood strawberries and it is delightful. I am glad I waited until the summer to try this cake, as it is perfect for warm summery days when you don't want a heavy dessert and have lovely fresh fruit as an accompaniment. This is the kind of cake that you can just pinch off a little every time you walk by it, and if you start making special trips to the kitchen in order to walk by the cake more often, well, don't say I didn't warn you.

Catalan Salt Pinch Cake

Here's Marie's Salt Pinch Cake and her roundup of the HCB's Pinch Cakes. Congrats to Faithy for being Featured Baker and having such a clean oven!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Lemon Canadian Crown with Homemade Ladyfingers

I SWEAR I made this cake, and it was devoured yesterday after a delicious BBQ at my friend's house. It was a perfect ending to a warm summer evening. My internet at my house has been spotty all weekend and here I am at a cafe with WiFi and I forgot my camera to upload my photos. ARGH! So the post in its entirety is on the way...but maybe not until tomorrow.

OK! Here is the post:

Rose's Heavenly Cakes gives the lemon lover many different ways to make a lemon cake. There's the Lemon Poppy Seed Sour Cream Cake and the Golden Lemon Almond Cake: rich, dense, delightfully lemony. There's Woody's Lemon Luxury Layer Cake, a torted butter cake with lemon curd filling and a lemon curd buttercream. There's the Lemon Meringue Cake, a two-layer biscuit filled with lemon curd, syruped with a pow of a lemon syrup, and frosted with a fluffy browned meringue. And there's this week's Heavenly Cake assignment: the Lemon Canadian Crown. The sides and bottom of this cake are ladyfingers and the filling is a decadent kind of lemon mousse, topped with the fluffy browned meringue. Perfect for a summer BBQ.

Lemon Canadian Crown with Homemade Ladyfingers

July 4, 2011
Name of Cake: Canadian Lemons
Occasion: HCB, and a BBQ
Constituents: ladyfingers, lemon curdish mousse, and meringue

Technically this post knocks two recipes off of my list as the ladyfingers are a separate recipe. You could go buy the packaged ladyfingers, which I did for the Cranberry Crown Cheesecake, but avoidance no longer. I made the ladyfingers.

Ladyfingers require you to separate eggs, beat the yolks to the ribbon stage:

Lemon Canadian Crown with Homemade Ladyfingers

Beat the egg whites to a stiff meringue:

Lemon Canadian Crown with Homemade Ladyfingers

And marry these two together. With some sugar, wondra flour, and stuff.

Lemon Canadian Crown with Homemade Ladyfingers Lemon Canadian Crown with Homemade Ladyfingers

Then there is piping. After reading the piping instructions several times all I remembered was WORK QUICKLY. So I worked too quickly, and got some sad, skinny ladyfingers to show for it. There are also some proper looking ladyfingers after I told myself to SLOW DOWN, so for a first attempt I think I did ok. I did end up with a ton of ladyfinger-like things.

Lemon Canadian Crown with Homemade Ladyfingers

The springform pan is lined with ladyfingers and the disc (if you piped the disc) gets fitted into the bottom.

Lemon Canadian Crown with Homemade Ladyfingers

This gets shoved into the freezer while you make the lemon curdish mousse stuff. It is not quite a lemon curd as there is no butter, you can use turbinado sugar instead of white, and both egg yolks and some whites are used. It gets cooked over a double boiler until thick and pooling slightly, which for most HCB took longer than the 15 minutes specified in the recipe. I listened to all of How Homelessness Works while cooking the lemon stuff, and that was a 40 minute podcast. So there you go.

After that, however, the recipe is easy peasy.

The lemony stuff cools to room temperature, heavy cream is whipped to soft peaks, they are folded together and poured into the ladyfinger shell, and put back in the freezer for at least 5 hours or up to 3 weeks. Talk about make ahead!

A couple of hours before serving, you whip up a meringue, frost it over the top, and if your broiler works you can brown the top in the there. After browning the cake needs to go back in the freezer for an hour before eating. At this point you can leave the completed dessert in the freezer for up to 3 weeks, but then you have to let it defrost before serving.

Lemon Canadian Crown with Homemade Ladyfingers

Since my broiler is broken, I used the torch, which makes me think that I could pile the meringue on top, torch the meringue, and serve it up straight away without having to refreeze. However I did refreeze as I finished the cake 5 hours before I needed it.

The torte is still frozen for these photos just in case you were wondering why the creamy lemon mousse doesn't look so creamy.

Lemon Canadian Crown with Homemade Ladyfingers

I brought it to my friend's house where she was hosting a 4th of July BBQ. We were all pet owners so we hightailed it home early to watch over our freaked out pets as our neighborhoods exploded around us. But before we did, and after we ate some delicious kebabs, we ate this cake.

Lemon Canadian Crown with Homemade Ladyfingers

"Its like a lemon cloud," one person exclaimed. She was excited. The cake got the thumbs up from all the peeps. It is light and creamy, and very lemony. The ladyfinger shell looks amazing but the delicate flavor gets lost against all the creamy lemon. This was the situation with the Cranberry Crown as well. All in all, this dessert was the perfect end to a warm summery BBQ with friends. I liked it a lot, but I think in the lemon department if I am not making a sour cream bundt then I would choose the Lemon Meringue Cake. How lovely to have so many excellent choices for a lemony cake!

Lemon Canadian Crown with Homemade Ladyfingers

Here is Marie's Lemon Canadian Crown from November 2010...
...and Marie's HCB roundup of all the Lemon Canadian Crowns from the November assignment.