Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sitcky Toffee Pudding

So although we Americans call this a cake, apparently the Brits call this a pudding. So what you'll be seeing is a cake, not a bowl full of (American) Pudding.

This is a lovely cake made with stout beer and dates, and cinnamon and nutmeg, topped with a delicious butterscotch sauce and a dollop of tangy creme fraiche. For this post in particular I wish we had smell-o-vision, because holy hannah, this cake smells good. It smells spicy and warm and comforting, and of winter treats and roaring fires. This is the cake version of cuddling up on the couch with a warm comfy blanket and a good book.

sticky toffee "pudding"

February 26, 2011
Name of cake: The Cake Version of a Warm Blanket and a Fire
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: a spice-date-stout cake with a butterscotch sauce

I almost wish we were having dark gray stormy days to go along with this cake as it would be so fitting.

First up, this cake needs a cup of stout beer. Rose recommends Guinness, which is a great beer that I like pretty much only from the tap. This is the beer with which I chose to celebrate my 25-hour 21st birthday in Copenhagen, Denmark. If I recall properly, it was the first beer that I learned to enjoy. I was a few days short of 21 in St Petersburg, Russia with Raiuchka, Jenni, and our fearless leader Tim. We spent a week in St. Petersburg at the end of May 1994 and the city was gorgeous. Previously, we had spent a week in Moscow going through some serious culture shock. Previous to that, we had spent four months in Simferopol, Ukraine as pretty much the only Americans in the city. Moscow was loaded with American tourists and holy shit, we are freaking obnoxious. It was truly a shock.

sticky toffee "pudding"
This is not the Guinness you're looking for. And yes, those are the empty quail's egg shells from a couple of weeks ago in the background.  I don't have the heart to throw them out!

Anyway, in St. Petersburg we frequented the bar at a Western hotel, and there it was that Tim introduced us to Guinness. I can't remember if the bar was Irish themed or what, but that's what we drank. We flew out of Russia on my actual birthday, and since we flew west to Copenhagen we gained an hour. Raiuchka and I had planned to do some traveling around Europe--we were both meeting other people in a week or two and decided to travel around together first. Jenni had plans to go to Southern France pretty much right away, and Tim was flying back to the US the next morning. So in Copenhagen, Raiuchka, Tim and I met up at a bar not too far from the hotel we were in, and we hoped to drink the night away. I just turned 21! We were in Europe! We just left the former Soviet block! Laundromats! Drinking water right out of the tap! No spiders in the showers! So much to celebrate.

We drank Guinness and marveled at the prosperity west of the fallen Iron Curtain, and we didn't drink the night away. We were dog tired. But we drank Guinness.

My Guinness story doesn't extend into the baking of this warm spicy date cake, as I decided to pick a stout that was made closer to home. As in, a 5 minute drive from my apartment.

sticky toffee "pudding"

This is a huge bottle of beer. There's a half liter left over; do you know how much sticky toffee pudding we could make with a half liter?

The beer is brought to a boil, baking soda is added, and the liquid is poured over the dates and left to cool. What is the baking soda for? After cooling the dates and beer are pureed to a smooth paste.

sticky toffee "pudding"

This cake is different than most butter cakes in the book. Instead of using the two stage method to mix the cake, the more familiar creaming of the butter method is used. I don't think my butter creamed optimally as my cake was 1/4 inch short, and that's the only thing I can point to as the culprit.

sticky toffee "pudding"

The eggs are added, then the dry ingredients are added incrementally alternating with the date beer paste. This is all scraped into a 9x13 pan and baked for about half an hour.

sticky toffee "pudding"

In the meantime, the butterscotch is made. Dark brown muscovado sugar, a vanilla bean, and butter are brought to a boil. Cream, lemon juice and a pinch of salt are stirred in, and that's about it.

sticky toffee "pudding"
The silpat stuck to the top of the cake when I turned it out.  Jerk.

This cake is served warm, about 15 minutes after coming out of the oven. This just enhances the comforting and warm feeling the spices and butterscotch invoke. The cake is soft, the butterscotch a tad lemony but also deep and satisfying. The creme fraiche mellows out the sweetness of the caramel, and the toasted pecans give a nice crunch and almost a toasty savory quality. This is one of the times I feel all four components come together in a synergistic rush of pure, delicious, cakey joy.

sticky toffee "pudding"

sticky toffee "pudding"
check it out--you can see the cake reflected in the butterscotch, plus all the vanilla seeds

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wedding Cake Tasting, part two: Chocolate!

So on to part two of the cake tasting. Part one is covered in my Free Cake post for the Heavenly Cake Bakers, the Golden Lemon Almond Cake. The lovely couple are self proclaimed chocolate lovers, and wanted the top tier of their cake to be a chocolate-chocolate love bomb. I decided to do the Chocolate Passion cake for the top tier, which is Rose's German Chocolate Cake base with a milk chocolate syrup. In order to keep it from being too rich, I chose the light whipped ganache as the filling, and the Swiss Meringue Buttercream for the frosting.

I did a version of this cake for my friend Brains for his birthday last year. I never got to try it (sob) but he extolled the virtues of the contrast between the milk chocolate and dark chocolate cake, and loved the hell out of the lacquer glaze. The Heavenly Cake Bakers did a version of this cake as the Designer Chocolate Baby Grands last summer. So, this cake is no stranger.

deep chocolate passion cake with light whipped ganache and swiss meringue buttercream

I hemmed and hawed about what chocolate to use for the cocoa powder, syrup and ganache. I decided to go Valrhona for the chocolate bars, but decided to go Felchin for the cocoa powder. It has a nice high cocoa butter content (22-24%) but alas, I didn't notice it isn't alkalized. I don't know if it negatviely affected the final cakes which were dark and chocolaty and moist, but I will probably switch over to Valrhona cocoa powder for the actual wedding cake. Its cocoa butter content is a tad less (20-22%) but it is alkalized.

Also! I discovered a great website for buying chocolate--Chocosphere! Not only does it have the best prices I could find on the internet for pretty much any kind of chocolate I might be looking for, but it turns out that the warehouse is located about 30 minutes south of Portland. Which meant I could forgo the shipping charges and take a trip to Tualatin to pick up my chocolates. Awesome. Seriously--go take a turn around their website if you haven't before--they really do have pretty much EVERYTHING.

vahlrona milk chocolate

Anyway, back to the cake tasting. For the middle tier, the wedding couple has a special request. They have some dear family members that are VERY allergic to dairy (including butter). So no ganache filling, no SMBC frosting. We could still use the same cake base as it is dairy free, but we thought about doing a raspberry jam filling with fresh raspberries, and I said we could try the regular powdered sugar-shortening buttercream. I also said we could syrup this layer of the cake with a boozy syrup, and we brainstormed liquors that would possibly be a good match. I told Sam to come up with four different liquors and I'd split the cake in quarters for us to try. He came up with Tuaca, spiced rum, Kahlua, and Maker's Mark. I calculated I wouldn't need more than a couple of teaspoons of each, so I bought airplane sized bottles at the liquor store. (To syrup two layers of a quarter of a 6 inch cake is about 42 grams of sugar syrup, to which I added a teaspoon of booze.)

deep chocolate passion cake with light whipped ganache and swiss meringue buttercream

So when baking these cakes, I chose to make a full recipe of the German Chocolate Cake, which makes two 9 inch cake layers, or four 6 inch cakes. I only have two 6 inch cake pans, and was worried about what the rest of the batter would do while it waited for its chance to bake. So I baked two 6 inch layers and one 9 inch layer. Curiously, the 6 inch layers didn't rise the full 2 inches, and the 9 inch layer didn't rise evenly.

deep chocolate passion cake with light whipped ganache and swiss meringue buttercream

I decided to use the 9 inch layer to make the dairy free middle tier, so I cut the layer in half, and cut each half into four slices. These I syruped and wrapped up to soak overnight, labeling each paper plate with what booze they were flavored with.

At about 1 am I decided I had better make the light whipped ganahce for the 6 inch top tier. Half the recipe of the ganache for the Chocolate Featherbed yields 2 cups of frosting, of which I think I really only needed 1/3 cup to fill the 6 inch cakes. The rest is in the freezer, hopefully until the wedding!

Since I had so much luck making the mocha light whipped ganache I followed my hybrid Hanaa technique again. It worked, and came together really quickly too. Hooray! I filled the 6 inch cake, wrapped it up and put it to bed in the refrigerator. Then I went to bed.

Sunday morning I was greeted by this mess on my kitchen table:

syruped cakes, plus other crap

I made my third batch of Swiss Meringue Buttercream, and frosted the 6 in deep choc passion cake. I assembled the dairy free, boozy layers with homemade raspberry jam and raspberries in the filling. I made a batch of typical shortening and powdered sugar frosting--how is it that people like that crap?

experimental dairy free cake

At the tasting, Sam and Andrea gave a thumbs up to the deep choc passion cake and the SMBC. We decided I need to go back to the drawing board on the dairy free frosting. (I have an idea!) Sam and Andrea liked the spiced rum with the chocolate and raspberry filling the best. They also asked for a different take on the raspberry filling. (I have an idea!)

We had split up the tasting spoils and so Monday I went back to the cakes to see how they held up. The boozy cakes were exceptionally moist--bordering on wet--and the booze was more pronounced. The deep choc passion cake was dry! What!

deep chocolate passion cake with light whipped ganache and swiss meringue buttercream

Anyhoots. That is the story of the cake tasting that was. The actual wedding is in in July. Stay tuned friends.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mrs. Tran's Rum Raisin Birthday Cake

My best friend Cookie called me up a week ago and told me her mom's birthday was coming up, and that she wanted a big party. Mrs. Tran was inviting 20 guests and Cookie said she would cater the dinner. Her sister offered to do the appetizers, then Mrs. Tran asked Cookie if I would make her a birthday cake. I was touched she wanted me to do her cake, and happily agreed. Then Cookie told me when her party was--the day before the wedding cake tasting--and I kind of panicked. Then Cookie told me what her mother's request was, and again, a little panicking. She wanted a four layer rum raisin cake--heavy on the rum--with a buttercream frosting. Ok, I thought, no problem. I can figure something out.

rum raisin birthday cake

February 19, 2011
Name of Cake: Rum! and stuff
Occasion: Mrs. Tran's Birthday
Constituents: two 9 in genoise cakes, split and syruped with rum syrup, filled with vanilla-rum raisin pastry cream, and frosted with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

A search around the internet for a rum raisin cake yields all these dense, bundt style cakes with lots of heavy spices. I knew that was NOT was Mrs. Tran was looking for, so I made something up.

I decided to go with genoise, as it needs a liberal syruping anyways and hence would be a good rummy cake. Also, it would be light which would keep the four layer cake from being overwhelming. I remembered the St. Honore Trifle which had two split genoise layers--done.

I decided to fill the cake with vanilla bean pastry cream, because there is no one on Earth who doesn't love that. I wasn't sure where the rummed raisins were going to go--in the cake? In the pastry cream? Both? I was afraid the raisins would fall to the bottom of the cakes so decided to put them in the pastry cream.

rum raisin birthday cake

When it came to buttercream, I decided the Swiss Meringue buttercream is a classic and more importantly, simple buttercream that would mellow out all the rummy components. Plus, I needed a batch for the cake tasting, so I could make it once and use it twice. (I actually ended up making it thrice and using all of it.)

The Monday before the party, I soaked a bunch of raisins in a combination of rum, vanilla rum, and a couple of used vanilla pods.

rum raisin birthday cake

This is what they looked like Saturday morning:

rum raisin birthday cake

Thursday, I set to work making the pastry cream. I decided on Dorie's recipe in Baking From My Home to Yours as it looked easy as well as rich and delicious. The recipe made 2 cups, I decided I'd need 3 cups to fill three layers. I also decided Cookie would like the extra cup to herself as she is in love with pastry cream, so I doubled the recipe. In doubling the recipe I needed a DOZEN egg yolks, but due to the egg yolk conspiracy I actually needed FOURTEEN egg yolks (I converted the recipe to grams...can't help it). FOURTEEN. EGG YOLKS. That is A LOT.

Making pastry cream after 18 months of RHC is easy peasy. Five million egg yolks and sugar are whisked together in a saucepan. Milk and a vanilla bean are brought to a boil in another pan, and slowly stirred into the yolks. Then, while madly whisking away, the mixture is cooked until it thickens. Once thick and lovely, it is strained into a bowl, a piece of plastic wrap is pressed against the surface, and shoved into the refrigerator to cool.

rum raisin birthday cake--the pastry cream, before raisins

Friday after work I made the two genoise layers. I don't think they rose as high as previous genoise has, but they were still pretty good and I split them in half for the syruping. I had made a rum syrup a few days ago--you can see it in the jar in the top right corner of the photo.

rum raisin birthday cake

After syruping, each cake layer was wrapped up and set aside to soak. I then made a batch of Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMBC). For some reason, I chose to make a single batch, 4 cups, to frost the outsides of the cake and to frost another 6 in cake for the upcoming tasting. In hindsight, I should have at least doubled the recipe, but hindsight is always 20/20 as they say.

The next morning, the Saturday of the party, I pulled out all components and got ready to assemble.

rum raisin birthday cake--all the components

The SMBC was stiff and cold, but after an hour I decided it was ready to go. I rebeat it in the mixer, and it fell apart and curdled for a while. I wasn't sure it was going to pick itself back up but eventually the buttercream did come back together, nice and creamy. But it didn't look like it would be enough to amply frost the cake. It wasn't, so I hurredly made another batch. Luckily, I had five thousand egg whites leftover from making a double batch of pastry cream as well as lemon curd hanging out in the refrigerator.

rum raisin birthday cake--the filling

The second batch of buttercream came together well and as I tried to frost the cake I realised the big problem was how cold my kitchen was. My kitchen doesn't have any heat source besides the oven, and it was a cold morning. So I turned to the room I could heat up the quickest--my bathroom. I cranked up the heat and made a makeshift table out of a stool and a board, and brought the cake, the frosting, and my offset spatulas in there. After a minute or two the buttercream began to soften to a normal spreading consistency and I could finally get a passable frosting job done.

Then I decided to do something with all the extra super plump, super rummy raisins.

rum raisin birthday cake

Mrs. Tran was reported as saying her birthday cake was "a dream come true" and that it was "exactly what she wanted." Apparently it was well received--not too sweet, nice and rummy, creamy and delicious.

rum raisin birthday cake

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Golden Lemon Lavender Almond Cake, and 72 hours in the kitchen

Hello lovely readers. I just spent Friday through Sunday in my kitchen, baking three different cakes, making four fillings, seven syrups, and three different frostings (one frosting I made three times). I went through about four dozen eggs and five boxes of butter! And when I was done with that, I grabbed my placenta kit and went to somebody else's kitchen to encapsulate their placenta. It is nice to be busy, but it is also nice to be able to sit on my couch under a blanket.

Luckily, one of the cakes I baked this weekend qualifies as my free choice cake, which I am thankful for because I couldn't imagine washing another round of baking related dishes just yet.

golden lemon lavender almond cake

February 21, 2011
Name of Cake: Prototype of the bottom tier
Occasion: A Cake Tasting for a Wedding
Constituents: Golden Lemon Almond Cake with lavender, syruped with turbinado-lemon-lavender syrup, filled with either White Chocolate Lemon Buttercream or White Chocolate Vanilla Bean Buttercream, Frosted with Silk Meringue Buttercream. Or as cakelettes, no fillings or frosting.

So my friends Sam and Andrea are getting hitched this summer and hired me to do their wedding cake. I know! Isn't that awesome? We met last month and got all excited about cake flavors and syrups and frostings and whatnot. So I told them we should meet again to do a tasting and finalize the cake in a month. Yesterday (Sunday) was that tasting.

At our first meeting they told me they are big fans of the lemon, and I excitedly pulled out my copy of Rose's Heavenly Cakes and pointed out the Golden Lemon Almond Wedding Cake to them. They were receptive, but wanted a whiter frosting, and also wanted chocolate for the other two layers. No problem, I said, excitedly flipping to the Chocolate Passion Wedding Cake. We could do the top layers with this cake, and frost all three layers in a white buttercream so they all match. (Bummer--it would have been so fun to do the lacquer glaze for a three tiered cake!) Then they mentioned lemon-lavender. No problem, I said, I can figure that out.

So for yesterday's tasting, I decided to make little 6 inch cakes. Once I realised Free Cake Week coincided with the tasting week, I decided to make a bigger batch of the GLA (Golden Lemon Almond) and bake off the extra as little cakelettes for my free cake selection. But now that I am here blogging, I might as well tell you about all the GLA variations.

golden lemon lavender almond cake

I made the full 10 cup recipe for the GLA, except I scraped 400 grams into two 6 inch pans (so 800 grams batter total). The rest went into 4 cakelette molds--about 100 grams each. I knew that there may be baking powder discrepancies, but I was also about 12 hours behind in my schedule, so I didn't care.

golden lemon lavender almond cake

Here's my variation: when grinding the almonds in the food processor, I added two teaspoons dried lavender flowers. Initially I was worried about where the heck I was going to find food-grade lavender flowers, but then remembered that--HELLO--I stare at food-grade lavender every day I'm at my clinic as it is in our herbal dispensary. I can't believe I forgot about that as first! Those two teaspoons were just enough to perfume the cake but not overpower it.

golden lemon lavender almond cake

Also, when making the turbinado-lemon syrup, I threw in a packet of about half a teaspoon lavender. Since this syrup doesn't come to a boil, I'm not sure how well the lavender steeped, so I'm not sure about this extra step. I might nestle a packet of lavender in the pre-measured turbinado a week before I make the syrup or something. Don't know.

I syruped both the cakes and the cakelettes, the latter of which got the pretty little sugar sparklies. I haven't tasted a cakelette yet but they look really pretty.

golden lemon lavender almond cake

The 6 inch cakes also got syruped but today, two days after being syruped, the syrup still hadn't penetrated all the way through the cake layer. I don't think it is too big of a problem, also my apartment has been really freaking cold lately. In the summer, room temperature will be about 30 degrees warmer than it is right now. That will probably make a difference in the rate the syrup penetrates the cake, don't you think?

making lemon curd
making the lemon curd for the white chocolate lemon buttercream

When coming up with a lemon buttercream for the filling, I decided we ought to try out both the buttercream called for in the wedding cake--the White Chocolate-Vanilla Bean Buttercream, which is perfumed with lemon oil and zest--and the buttercream we used for Woody's Lemon Luxury Layer Cake--the White Chocolate Lemon Buttercream, which uses lemon curd. Besides that main difference, the latter buttercream had a good deal more butter, and the former was much easier to make. I made about 2 cups of both frostings, and filled half the 6 inch with one and the other half with the other. I marked on the cakeboard where the delineation was, and what was where, so that when we were cutting up the cake we knew what we were eating. The vanilla bean/lemon oil frosting won out, which made me happy as it was easier to make :) The lemon oil gave it a nice tart punch which perked up the whole cake and helped keep the lavender in the background.

making lemon curd

I decided to frost this cake with Rose's Silk Meringue Buttercream. I had never made it before and by the time it came to make it I was so far behind schedule I almost considered rescheduling the tasting for another day. This buttercream has three components: a creme anglaise, an italian meringue, and butter. I made a half recipe for this since I was only frosting a 6 in cake, and it turned out to be the perfect amount. All the components were easy to put together and the buttercream came together fairly well at first. I had the heaters on pretty high in the front room so that there was somewhere in my house that was about 70 degrees so I could frost the cake. My kitchen, however, was still pretty cold so after mixing up the buttercream I brought the cake and the frosting to the front room to frost. The buttercream got spongy as I frosted, then it started to separate as I frosted. The more I tried to frost, the more difficult it became. Also, it was too yellow to be considered a white frosting for a wedding. It tasted like vanilla ice cream which was wonderful. However, I fired it.

golden lemon lavender almond cake
on the left: the white chocolate vanilla bean buttercream, on the right: the white chocolate lemon buttercream

This cake is so dense and sour cream bundty, it is an interesting choice for a wedding cake. Now I wouldn't mind it at all since I am officially in love with sour cream bundts, but I wasn't sure if Sam and Andrea would be on board. Luckily, they were, phew!

The other two cakes I brought for tasting were made with the German Chocolate Base, and deserve a whole post on their own. So I will save it for another day.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Quail Egg Indulgence Cake

Yes my friends, quail eggs. How unique! A quick spin around the internet will laud the amazing properties of the quail egg--healthier than a chicken egg, more rich in flavor, and with pretty little brown speckled shells. Awww...adorable.

quail egg indulgence cake

I once saw a little family of quail dart across the street and scurry under the bushes. They were all in a line, just as you think they would be, and they were really cute. It was also quite a treat as the fairly thick suburban neighborhood I grew up in didn't have many quail sightings. Here's a link to a nice website about the California Quail, which if I ever came across another one, and I could get away with it (which I couldn't), I would hug the little bird. They are just so dang cute! Look!

My good side
Originally uploaded to flickr by pendeho

Anyways, these cakes are made with quail eggs, and as the eggs were imported from California, I say thank you California quail, for giving up 10 of your eggs so I could make a cake. (No, the eggs weren't foraged from the wild, but it never hurts to be thankful.)

quail egg indulgence cake

February 13, 2011
Name of cake: Quails!
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: a pound cakey cake made with quail's eggs

Although the recipe calls for 5 quail egg yolks, it took 9 of my quail yolks to get the proper weight. Does the egg yolk conspiracy reach all the way to the little quail?

I didn't have the requisite two-person heart shaped pan, so I decided to make little cakelettes. The heart shaped pan had a three-cup capacity and my cakelettes have a one cup capacity, so I figured I'd make three little cakes and call it good. Especially after using pretty much all my quail eggs to make one batch of batter.

quail egg indulgence cake

As I assembled my ingredients I noticed that the weights of flour, sugar, and butter were equal, and the cream just a little less, and the yolks about half the weight of the flour, etc. It kind of reminded me of the pound cake, which traditionally has equal weights of flour, butter, sugar, and eggs. Still, the ratio of butter in this cake is greater than it would be for a regular butter cake, making this little cake dense, rich, and soft with a crispy buttery crust.

quail egg indulgence cake

Separating the eggs takes a bit more work than it does for a chicken egg, which if at room temperature separates so fast it is a little hair raising. Quail egg shells are tougher than the chicken's, so the top needs to be pierced with a sharp knife and sawed open a tad before you can use your fingers. With the first egg I made the mistake of doing this at the fat end of the egg, which meant I stabbed the yolk and the whole thing oozed out in a big unseparable blob. So take heed: stab the shell at the smaller end, please. The white is thicker and more mucousy than a chicken egg, and requires what Mendy called manhandling to separate. I would try to pin down the white with one of my stubby fingers while passing the yolk into my other hand; after about five or six passes usually the white would fully separate. It felt like trying to put pants on a squirrely toddler. There's kicking, there's screaming, there's running away, but eventually them pants are on them kid. Or in this case, them whites are off them yolk.

The rest of the cake making was completely ordinary. Two stage method, bake at 350, done just before the cakes pull away from the sides of the pan.

quail egg indulgence cake
I was hoping for a nice golden top, but my little cakelettes remained fairly white, and bummer--the top crust stuck in the pan. Lame.

So you only see two of the three cakelettes as I had to sacrifice one tonight for tasting so I could write this post, but I'm saving final photos for Monday morning when I have some natural light in this place. Don't be sad, I'm eating the ugliest one, just for you.

quail egg indulgence cake

The cakelette is very soft and moist, and rich. Although it is dense like an egg yolk cake would be, it isn't dense like a sour cream butter cake would be. Let's say it is somewhere between a butter cake and a sour cream butter cake in the density scale, but rich like one of those sour cream cakes. There is a little something different in the flavor of this cake that could almost be pinned as yolky...maybe...but is that because I am looking for a yolky difference?

quail egg indulgence cake

I had a good ol' time getting these quail eggs because it meant an excuse to check out the local Asian supermarket called Fubonn. As soon as I walked in I felt like I was back in the Philippines, and after finding the quail eggs--next to a bunch of Balut, that feeling intensified. I love the strangeness of foreign markets. Anyways I wandered around and found some other foods I needed to take home besides quail eggs--not the balut--some lumpia wrappers, some shanghai-style lumpia made in Seattle, and a frozen package of lau lau. I know they won't be as good as real lau lau in Hawaii, but one makes do.

Anyway, I have wandered far off topic, and so will circle back to the Quail Egg Indulgence Cake. In summation, it was good, it was rich, it was fairly easy to make, and really easy to eat. I don't know how often I will make these, as a sour cream bundt still has my heart when it comes to rich, good, easy cakes, but I'm glad I'm made them at least this once.

quail egg indulgence cake

Monday, February 07, 2011

Mud Turtle Cupcakes

This project sucked up my whole day. Not that spending a Sunday baking is terrible, but I certainly didn't think these cupcakes would turn into an all-day project. However the result is pretty, and pretty darn good.

Mud Turtle Cupcakes

February 06, 2011
Name of Cupcakes: Turtles!
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: sour cream chocolate cupcake, topped with ganache, soft sticky caramel, toasted pecans, more caramel, more ganache

The recipe warns to make the ganache first, as it takes several hours to cool down and thicken to frosting consistency. For me, it took all freaking day, in fact when I gave up and frosted last night, the ganache was still a little too runny. This morning, the leftover ganache I abandoned on the counter has thickened up to a nice frosting consistency. Same chocolate I usually use, the kitchen was as cold as usual, not sure why this time it took so much longer to firm up. Now I know what those of you who've complained about this are talking about.

Mud Turtle Cupcakes
sour cream and cocoa powder and eggs and vanilla

So after the ganache is put together and left to firm up, the cupcakes are made. These cupcakes are my favorite sour cream butter cake, which yields dense yet tender chocolate cupcakes. The classic two-stage mixing technique is used, with a little bit of variation: instead of blooming the cocoa powder in boiling water and adding a bit of sour cream to it, the cocoa powder is blended with the sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Usually in the two stage method the eggs are added in after the butter and part of the liquid (usually milk, or cocoa paste) are blended with the dry ingredients. In this case, as there wasn't any liquid, about half of the eggs/sour cream/ cocoa powder mixture is added in with the butter, and the rest added in two parts just like usual.

Mud Turtle Cupcakes

It has been a while since we've made a sour cream butter cake, so I don't remember if the velvety soft quality of this batter is typical for a sour cream etc cake. Is it? I was particularly in love, as the batter tasted a lot like soft chocolate ice cream.

The batter is enough to make 16 cupcakes, which when portioned out is about 53 grams per cupcake.

Mud Turtle Cupcakes

I only made 12 cupcakes, then made a little cakelette with the rest. It did not survive for photographs.

Mud Turtle Cupcakes

Then the waiting game began. Was the ganache thick enough yet? No? How about now? No? How about now?

Eventually, the sun set, thus losing my light, and I decided I am DONE. So I made the caramel. This caramel came together really quickly and easily, and tasted lovely. It did start to set too thickly after I pulled it off the heat, so I kept the caramel in a warm water bath while I got the cupcakes ready.

Mud Turtle Cupcakes

First, two teaspoons of ganache are spread onto the cupcake. My cupcakes came out of the oven domed but cooled fairly flat, which I hoped would keep the runny ganache on the cupcakes. Alas, it did not, and the ganache dripped over the side of the cupcakes, luckily onto the plate I put under the rack. On top of the ganache goes a teaspoon of caramel, which was really freaking sticky. Five toasted pecan halves are stuck into the caramel to resemble a turtle, kind of. On top of the pecans goes another teaspoon of caramel (I just used 1/2 teaspoon) and another teaspoon of ganache.

Mud Turtle Cupcakes

Thankfully, the ganache seemed to set up fairly quickly once it was on top of the cupcakes and mingled with the sticky caramel that threatened to set up too thickly. Can I get a happy medium here, please?

Mud Turtle Cupcakes

I liked the way the ganache was thin enough to show the caramel underneath.

I was worried the cupcake would be too sweet, but actually it wasn't. It was really rich but the toasted pecans and the caramel were perfect together, and the bittersweet ganache toned down the sugar, and the dense mellow cupcake acted as a nice soft pillow for all that action on top.

Mud Turtle Cupcakes
isn't the light great? taken at cookie's desk at her place of employment