Monday, January 31, 2011

Cradle Cake

This week's Heavenly Cake is magical cake alchemy at its best. A tender, buttermilk yellow cake is baked inside a crispy, nutty dacquoise--something I would never have thought possible. Magic, I tell you!

Cradle Cake

January 30, 2011,
Name of cake: Magic!
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: buttermilk cake, chocolate/pecan dacquiose, frosted with leftover caramel ganche

The original cradle cake won the Pillsbury Bake Off in 1953, and my hat is off to the ingenious woman who figured out what to do with her leftover egg whites (or leftover egg yolks, as the case may be). The cake batter calls for egg yolks plus buttermilk and all the usual cake suspects, and the egg whites are used to make the dacquoise.

A dacquoise is a meringue to which nuts and possibly other stuff has been added--in this case unsweetened chocolate and toasted pecans. I love dacquoise because it isn't all sweet and cloying like a regular meringue, yes still retains that crisp/chewy texture that meringue is famous for.

Cradle Cake

By the way, I've decided eggs are my most favorite food, simply because of all the amazing ways they can be manipulated into such widely varied textures. I scrambled an egg for breakfast and then a few hours later I was looking at a bowl of glossy white meringue peaks and marveled that they were originally the same thing. Plus--when fertile and left alone, they sustain and grow babies. Freaking amazing. Eggs, you rock.

Cradle Cake

To these glossy white peaks the ground toasty nuts, chocolate and a little bit of sugar is folded in, and then spread along the inside of the baking pan. I have a couple different loaf pans, neither the size Rose recommends for this recipe, but I chose the smaller of the two pans because it had a nonstick surface. I was having a hard time believing the dacquoise was going to come out of the pan so I hoped going nonstick would hedge my bet.

I didn't use all the dacquoise since the pan was smaller, and I didn't want a very thick layer of dacquoise. I figured the thinner the layer, the crisper it would turn out to be. The little bit I didn't use I spread at the bottom of this little mini cake pan I have and baked alongside the cake. It got a bit burnt, but it was still edible, and pretty good.

Cradle Cake

The buttermilk cake is the usual two-stage butter cake, and is spread gingerly over the dacquoise. The dacquoise looked like it kept slipping down the sides of the pan--was that because the pan was nonstick? Or was the meringue not stiff enough? Before I scraped the cake into the pan I re-spread the dacquoise up the sides.

The cake batter sat primly on top of the meringue like oil on top of water, which fascinated me. I also wondered if maybe I didn't measure something properly as it looked like there wasn't enough cake batter.

Cradle Cake

After about 45 minutes, the cake was baked and looked like this:

Cradle Cake

Magic!

After cooling in the pan for an unusually long time (20 minutes), I nervously unmolded the cake. It actually came out pretty much in one piece, but one corner of the dacquoise did fall off. Still, I was pretty happy with the way it turned out. Well, I thought the top looked ugly, but that was easily taken care of.

Cradle Cake

Look what I found in my freezer!

Cradle Cake

It was still delicious, and after a little re-beating to fluff out and soften, the ganache was good as new and just enough to hide the top of the cake.

Ah, much better.

Cradle Cake

The cake is ridiculously tender and melts in your mouth, while the dacquoise retains its classic crisp/chewy texture. The bitter, toasty, nutty dacquoise is nice next to the mellow cake, and the caramel ganache is awesome. I don't really think the cake needs frosting to be enjoyable, but I'm not complaining.

Cradle Cake

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Genoise Tres Cafe

My clinic is next door to a bustling coffee place, and if you're in the right treatment room you can hear them banging the thingy to pack the cup with espresso grounds as well as hear their dishwasher. That treatment room also has a teeny tiny little bathroom that I don't encourage people to use (there's a perfectly good one just 5 steps away), as it is so compact that you can wash your hands in the sink while still sitting on the toilet, and 98% of the time it smells like coffee.

Sometimes I'll take a moment between appointments to stand in the teeny bathroom and inhale the deep roasty aroma of coffee, for it smells better than it tastes in my opinion. I know to say such things out loud in the land of Stumptown is close to blasphemy, but there you have it. I don't really like to drink coffee. I love the smell of it, and the promise it holds of long Sunday brunches or warming up after a cold wet day, but I don't like to drink it. I do, however, love coffee in my dessert so when it came time to bake this cake I was really excited.

Genoise Tres Cafe

January 24, 2011
Name of Cake: No need for my morning black tea thanks
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: one 9 in golden genoise with espresso powder, syruped with espresso syrup, frosted with mocha whipped ganache

The genoise is easy enough to make: beurre noisette and vanilla extract are kept warm while the eggs and sugar are first warmed in a double boiler then beat like crazy for about 6 minutes. I like to set the timer for those 6 minutes and then see how much I can get done in that amount of time, and let me tell you a lot can get done in a mere 6 minutes while those eggs are beating away.

Genoise Tres Cafe
the obligatory photo of beaten eggs for a genoise

After the six minutes are up, the espresso powder is mixed into the eggs and one cup is whisked into the butter/vanilla mix and set aside. The Wondra flour is folded into the eggs in two parts, after which the butter/vanilla/eggs are folded in. And then the genoise batter is scraped into a pan and off it goes to bake.

Genoise Tres Cafe

Like all genoise, after baking it needs to be unmolded right away. Here is my genoise, cooling prettily on the counter.

Genoise Tres Cafe

In the meantime a simple syrup with the addition of espresso powder is made. I was supposed to add Kahlua to the syrup, which would have been nice as I love Kahlua, but I didn't have any and was too lazy to go get some. This syrup is brushed all over the cake once both have cooled and you've peeled the top crust off.

Genoise Tres Cafe

Now for the ganache. It seems many had trouble with the ganache going all curdled and yucky and as that has been my fate several times with the whipped ganache, I decided to throw all caution to the wind and do a combination of Rose's instructions for whipped ganache by hand and Hanaa's quick whipped ganache.

Genoise Tres Cafe

While the cream heated on medium low heat I finely chopped my chocolate. I skipped Hanaa's suggestion to first nuke the chocolate a tad as I don't have a nuker. I added the chocolate to a metal bowl and poured the scalded cream, vanilla, and espresso powder in. After letting it sit for a minute I used a silicone spatula to stir the mix until the chocolate was melted and smooth. I filled a glass bowl with icy water and set the metal bowl inside, stirring with the spatula until the mixture was cool to the touch. Then I busted out the hand mixer and mixed on med-low just until traces of the beater could be seen. I stopped the hand mixer, pulled the bowl out of the ice water, and finished whipping the ganache by hand with a balloon whisk. When the ganache was almost set enough to frost I left it alone for a minute or two to set up on its own, then I frosted.

Genoise Tres Cafe

Phew! That sounded complicated, but it ended up in a curdle-free whipped ganache, for the first time in my life. Thanks Hanaa!

Genoise Tres Cafe

Frosting the cake was easy and fun, and even though I knew this cake would taste much better a day later when the syrup is evenly distributed, I cut a slice and had a taste. I really liked the contrast in the texture of the cake (moist, light) with the flavors of the cake (bold, bitter). I love how the coffee takes the edge off the sweetness and enhances the chocolate in the ganache. I don't think this would have worked half as well if the cake was a butter cake, so coffee genoise, you are my new friend.

Want more? Coffee, delicious coffee cakes

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Heavenly Coconut Seduction Cake, frosted two ways

Hello and welcome to another installment of Heavenly Cake Bakers: Free Cake Week. Marie is building more Free Cake Weeks into rotation as we near the end of the bake-through. As I look at my list of cakes--what's been baked by the group, what I've baked, what's left--the last category is getting slim indeed. We only have one flourless cake left (Zach's La Bomba!) and by the end of this month, only two sponge cakes left. Can you believe it?

Anyways, these Free Cake Weeks are for us bakers to either re-do a failed recipe or bake a cake we had missed when the group baked it (or one of the cakes Marie baked before the group was formed). I almost skipped this week, as I had a lot of white cake with milk chocolate ganache over the last week, plus French Fridays with Dorie's upcoming cake, Michel Rostang's Double Chocolate Cake, plus I went to a post-holiday cookie party Saturday night and came home with about 3 dozen cookies. So Sunday morning when I woke with a killer sugar hangover the thought of more sugar sounded terrible. A sizeable pot of Earl Grey didn't cut through the headache, nor did eggs and toast, nor did a little post-breakfast couch coma. There was no way I was baking.

I felt terrible about this decision, but I was feeling terrible in general.

Heavenly Coconut Seduction

January 17, 2011
Name of Cake: Is there any way I could make this more savory?
Occasion: HCB
Constituents;one 9 inch layer heavenly coconut seduction cake, frosted with whipped cream and coconut flakes or frosted with light whipped ganache and coconut flakes

This morning, Monday, I awoke fresh and alive! Hooray for health. Not only that, but did I see blue sky peeking out from behind those dark gray clouds? What better way to celebrate not feeling shitty and a break from the gloomy rainy days than by baking a cake?

I resolved to try one piece and get the rest of it out of the house ASAP.

I chose to bake something quick and easy: the Heavenly Coconut Seduction Cake. One cake layer: a white cake using cream of coconut as the liquid, with pulverized dried coconut flakes mixed into the cake batter. A simple frosting: whipped cream with coconut flakes. I could do that.

Heavenly Coconut Seduction

Rose mentions in the notes about this cake that it could be made with coconut milk instead of the cream of coconut. The latter product is the stuff Pina Coladas are made with, and it is creamy and pearlescent and chock full of interesting chemicals. I thought about going the coconut milk route, but I still had a can of cream of coconut in the cupboard and Rose prefers that version of the cake so I decided to do it. Rose says this version is amazingly tender (I'm paraphrasing here) which is why she loves it so much. Gotta go with that, Rose rarely leads me wrong.

The cream of coconut needs to be blended up as the fat separates from the rest of the stuff, and although the food processor is recommended, stirring vigorously with a spoon for a small amount of time works too. Being the liquid component, a little bit of the cream of coconut is stirred into the egg whites and the vanilla and coconut extracts.

Heavenly Coconut Seduction

The other interesting ingredient is the coconut flake which is processed with the sugar until powdery and added to the rest of the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl.

After that, the cake is mixed in the classic two-stage technique. Which means in about two minutes the cake is mixed and ready for the oven.

Heavenly Coconut Seduction

Rose warns the cake dips a bit upon cooling, but my cake didn't dip much at all. I was expecting much worse.

Heavenly Coconut Seduction

As mentioned, the frosting is whipped cream. Rose warns that if the cake isn't going to be eaten a la minute as she recommends, the whipped cream needs to be stabilized so that it won't weep all over the cake and make it gross and mushy. I decided to go the gelatin stabilized route but somehow the portion of the cream that gets heated with the gelatin and sugar hardened to a rubbery mass upon cooling. I felt too crunched for time (I was losing my light!) to try again, so I hurriedly whipped up some cream, plopped it on the cake, sprinkled the coconut on top, and rushed through the photos you see here.

Heavenly Coconut Seduction

I tried that one slice, and it was pretty good. There was a bit more whipped cream than needed but the coconut flavor in the cake was really present and delicious. I thought the cake was a little more dense than a regular butter cake--a little more tea cakey maybe--but it was tender and light at the same time. A good cake, a solid cake. A delicious coconut cake and better than others I've tried, but I'm holding out on calling it the best until we bake the other coconut cake in the book.

Since the whipped cream wasn't stabilized, I scraped it off the cake and into a container. I wasn't going to bother telling you I did that, but I am now because of what happened on my way over to Cookie's house for craft night. I had a chunk of cake for the Jellos and the container of whipped cream on the passenger seat. The container was glass, with a glass lid, and all started out fine and dandy. I made a stop at Target and when I returned to the car, the lid of the container was cracked. In two places, forming a V. Needless to say the whipped cream was probably full of glass shards and it all went into the garbage at Cookie's house. I think I must have thrown my purse on the container or something, but what a bummer to loose the whipped cream. It had coconut in it! It was yummy!

Oh well. I decided the cake needed something so when I got home I dug around in my freezer and found some leftover light whipped ganache. I love chocolate and coconut, so I pulled out the tub and it is defrosting on the counter as I type. This will push the date I publish the post back another day, but I can't leave you all hanging.

The ganache looked curdled after defrosting so I remelted and rebeat, and then I frosted. It was just enough to cover the tops and sides of what was left of the cake, which I liberally coated with coconut.

Heavenly Coconut Seduction

The components are delicious, and I think after three days the cake is still light and tender, if not a bit drier. However the ganache is a little too strong for the cake; either a thin coat of chocolate or something else entirely would be better. Despite my resolution I still have about a quarter of the cake on my counter, but I'm not really complaining much anymore.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

White Velvet Cake with Milk Chocolate Ganache

This week's cake was on the Quick and Easy list, and that's no exaggeration. The cake itself can be cooling on your counter in 30 minutes, and the ganache took even less time. Don't be fooled by the simplicity of the recipe; this cake would be at home on a birthday table as well as a lunch counter.

white velvet cake with milk chocolate ganache

January 09, 2011
Name of Cake: white cake, chocolate frosting
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: one 9 inch layer white velvet cake, filled and frosted with milk chocolate ganache

The white velvet cake in The Cake Bible is my go-to white cake for all occasions. This is Cookie's birthday cake, and Joelf's engraduation cake.  I'm not sure if or how the recipe changed as it moved into Roses's Heavenly Cakes, but here it is.

Most of us have noticed Rose's method for mixing a butter cake, be it in a tube pan, a cake round, or cupcakes, is basically the same:

All dry ingredients (anything powdery) go into the mixing bowl.
Eggs, plus any extracts (such as vanilla) and most of any other liquids (like milk, water, cocoa paste, or sour cream) go into another bowl and lightly blended.
Butter and a little bit of liquid are set aside.

Dry ingredients are whirred on low for 30 sec to mix and aerate.
All the butter and the reserved liquid are added and beat on medium speed for 1 minute, 30 seconds.
The egg mixture is added in two parts, beating for 20 seconds between.

Scrape into whatever pan you are baking in, and bake!

See? I did that from memory. Easy.

In this case, only egg whites are used, which creates the velvety white cake so many people love. I used to dislike white cakes as I found them flavorless, but not so with Rose's recipe. This one tastes like vanilla and has the flowery perfume of milk.

white velvet cake with milk chocolate ganache

The ganache is made from milk chocolate, and I love milk chocolate. So creamy! I like to let a square of milk chocolate melt on my tongue; it melts so nicely and is so delicious! Dark chocolate, although better for you and more aligned with foodies everywhere, just doesn't satisfy me. I guess I will always be lower class ;)

As per my love of milk chocolate, I decided to only use a few grams of dark chocolate to balance out the flavor. Which was fine by me.

I was happy not to need the food processor for this ganache, as I hate my food processor. Hot milk is stirred into melted chocolate, and butter and vanilla are gently whisked in by the tablespoon. And there you have it.

white velvet cake with milk chocolate ganache

Filling and frosting the cake was fun, and simple to do. The ganache was nice and fluid, and I opted for my regular swirl as decoration.

Somehow, ganache always hardens to candy bar consistency with me. It never stays soft, so the only disappointing part of this cake was the hard frosting. The combination of milk chocolate and white cake was amazing--it reminded me of the elusive May West cakes my Uncle used to ship us from Canada--all delicate and vanilla and milk chocolaty goodness.

Cookie, although this is her favorite cake component, wasn't too excited by the completed cake because of the ganache. Truthfully, even if the ganache were soft and velvety she wouldn't like it because it wouldn't be her favorite white sugar bomb frosting.

white velvet cake with milk chocolate ganache
the hard ganache can be lifted off and eaten separately

However, thanks to this recipe, I see May West experiments in my future.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Chocolate Bull's-Eye Cakes

Golden genoise cups, vanilla rum syrup, apricot glaze and chocolate pot de creme. A delicious cake is made of delicious components, and this is no exception.

Chocolate Bulls-Eye Cakes

January 3, 2011
Name of Cakes: A Perfect Amount of Chocolate
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: see above

Happy New Year my lovely readers!

These little cakes are really easy to make and assemble, despite having several components. The liquor/sugar syrup for moistening the genoise and the apricot glaze to seal the cakes are both really quick and require very little effort. So really, it is just the genoise and the chocolate filling that demand your attention.

The best part about genoise is what happens to a couple of eggs after beating on high for 5-6 minutes. I think I have a similar photo for every genoise we've baked, but I can't help it. It is so pretty, and the best of baking alchemy.

Chocolate Bulls-Eye Cakes

I made a mistake and dumped all the flour in at once instead of in two batches. No worries; I used the KA whisk attachment to fold everything together and poured the batter into the cake pan. I actually have an individual MaryAnn pan, as I found it for eight bucks at Sur La Table this summer. For eight bucks I will indulge in a single-use pan.

Here they are just out of the oven.

Chocolate Bulls-Eye Cakes

I used my homemade vanilla rum for the sugar syrup.

Chocolate Bulls-Eye Cakes

I also used some leftover lekvar from the Chocolate Apricot Roll for the apricot glaze. Actually, what I used was the leftover apricot "glue" from the Apple Caramel Charlotte, which was made from leftover lekvar from the Chocolate Apricot Roll. Does this stuff ever spoil?

Now for the chocolate centers. Other HCB have been describing it as adult chocolate pudding and I think it is a cross between chocolate pudding and ganache. Yesterday when it was more fluid, it was like the best and most rich chocolate pudding. Today the centers have set up to a thick truffle-like consistency. Either way, it is a very good thing. Since the chocolate centers only need a couple ounces of dark chocolate, I decided to splurge and try a new brand.

Chocolate Bulls-Eye Cakes

I've been using their vanilla extract with much satisfaction so was interested in their chocolate, too. Pretty good, but expensive. That three ounce bar was $5.60!

There is a recipe for a chocolate ganache drizzle, but I found leftover chocolate butter glaze from The Bostini in the fridge and used that instead.  I also just used a spoon to drizzle, and was surprised it turned out as well as it did.

Chocolate Bulls-Eye Cakes

These are delicious cakes. There is just enough rich chocolate for my tastes, with the golden genoise to support it. The glaze adds a very light fruity flavor that just perks up all the flavors. That eight dollar pan will probably get used more than I thought, for fresh berries in the summer and this richly satisfying chocolate pretty much anytime.

Chocolate Bulls-Eye Cakes

Chocolate Bulls-Eye Cakes