Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Coleen and Mary's Wedding Celebration Cakes!

My two friends Coleen and Mary have been together for just about ten years. They are a fun couple of ladies who love to camp, garden, and feed people. Mary loves to vacation in exotic locales for months at a time. Coleen dreams of studying the Amazon rain forest. Their door is always open, and they are always interested in meeting new people and living life to the fullest. These are wonderful people. About a month ago, Coleen and Mary hightailed it off to Iowa where their buddhist nun friend married them in her backyard. (I still think it is complete crap that they had to get married in some other state and their marriage isn't even recognised here...but I've ranted about that before.) Since pretty much everybody wasn't able to go to Iowa, Coleen and Mary threw a party today for all their friends and family.

Then they asked me to bake the cake.

coleen and mary's wedding reception

September 17, 2011
Name of Cakes: Coleen and Mary's Wedding Cakes!
Occasion: Coleen and Mary get hitched!
Constituents: one two-layer, 12x2 inch german chocolate cake with the goop and caramel ganache, one two-layer 9x9 inch white chocolate whisper cake filled and frosted with IMBC, one two-layer 6x2 inch GF, white sugar-free coconut-pecan-carrot cake filled and frosted with agave-orange cream cheese frosting

The girls weren't necessarily interested in having a traditional, three tiered wedding cake with white frosting and the like. Mary insisted on a large German Chocolate Cake after sampling the one I brought over in July. Mary is one of seven children and most of them were coming; German Chocolate Cake is the family's go-to celebration cake. I suggested a three tier German Chocolate Cake (because how cool would that be?) but Coleen wanted a simple white-white cake, and both wanted a gluten-free cake for all their celiac friends. I warned them that a three tier cake with so many different outer frostings could look terrible and they told me to use my judgement and do whatever I pleased. As long as there was a big German Chocolate Cake, they were going to be happy.

12 inch german chocolate

After pondering the situation for a couple of weeks, I decided to make the GCC a stand alone cake, and tier the other two (the white-white and the GF carrot). Even though they would have different outer frostings, at least they'd be similar enough in color to look good stacked. Then I hemmed and hawed about square versus round cakes, and what sizes of everything there should be. Eventually, after much indecision, I decided on a round 12x2 for the GCC, a square 9x9 for the white-white, and a round 6x2 GF carrot cake to sit atop the 9x9. I almost went with a square 10x10 white-white and a 8x2 inch round GF carrot, but decided that was too much cake for 75 people, and too much complicated math for me.

The 12x2 German Chocolate Cake

german choc, again

Remembering the batter for two 12x2 layers does not fit in my tiny 4 quart KitchenAid mixer, I mixed and baked each layer separately. Interestingly, for this particular cake the leavening for a 12x2 is simply double the crazy leavening math needed. So...that was easy.

I decided to frost the sides with ganache to seal the cake and make it look more appropriate for a celebration. I also decided to use the caramel ganache on p 105 in RHC for the job, hoping the caramel notes would mesh nicely with the Goop. I used a factor of x1.5 and used all of it to make a dam for the filling and to frost the sides. The Goop was a double recipe of the one for a 9x2 and it was the perfect amount. I did forget to chop the pecans which made it difficult to cut later on. In the end I felt the ganache was too bittersweet to be a good companion to The Goop. Rose does have a suggested ganache recipe to use for the GCC; I'll have to try it next time.

I lightly syruped these cakes since I made them 36 hours ahead of time.

The 9x9 White Chocolate Whisper Cake

9x9 white/white, 6x2 GF carrot cake

The 9x9 White Chocolate Whisper Cake is in both TCB and RHC (as the cake component of the chocolate-strawberry cake). I chose to increase the RHC version by 1.5 to get two 9x9 cakes. Then, since I only have one 9x9 cake pan,I divided that in two. A little complicated, but when I compared these notes to the She Loves Me Cake, the cake flour was 300 grams in both recipes. That was nice validation.

This cake I ended up baking three times, for two reasons: 1. I had a hard time reasoning out how much baking powder to use. 2. The original recipe has you remove two cups of batter from the completed mix before filling the pans. There's a gram amount for each pan. This threw me off too.

Cake attempt 1: I halved the amount of BP from the original recipe, so 2.25 teaspoons. Also, I reasoned that since the 9x9 pan holds 1.333x more volume than a 9x2 pan, I should multiply the amount of batter for the pan by 1.333 as well. This resulted in a cake that was tender but compact; not more than 1.25 inches tall in the center.

Cake attempt 2: I used the full amount of BP called for in the original recipe: 5.5 teaspoons. I'm not sure why I thought that was necessary. I still only filled the pan 1.333x more than the original amount called for. This resulted in a cake with good rise and doming, with tunneling and sides that sloped in. Still, the cake wasn't the full 2 inches high. I still had a little bit of last week's She Loves Me Cake on the table, and that rose to a nice high height. I took a look at the BP amount for that cake, and decided to try again.

Cake attempt three: I used the She Loves Me BP amount: 3.25 teaspoons. I also used all the batter, filling the pan 3/4 full. This resulted in a nicely risen cake with an even crumb. Finally!

I decided to use cakes 2 and 3 for the cake. In the photo below, cake #3 is on the bottom and cake #2 is upside down, on top. You can compare the different crumbs as well as the trapezoidal shape of #2 (upside down, that is). You can also see just how much frosting was necessary to cover that up!

white/white insides

I used the Italian Meringue Buttercream recipe at the bottom of the post. It was just barely enough to fill and frost this cake. I think I would have had enough if I didn't use so much in the filling and didn't have to patch up the funky sides as much as I needed to. At any rate, I will be making x1.5 the next time I'm filling and frosting a 9x9 just in case. Also: it is hard to make good frosting corners on a square cake! (Especially at 2am.)

I lightly syruped these cakes, too. I was worried that this one would dry out.

The 6x2 Coconut-Pecan-Carrot Cake

the cakes

This is a recipe I have modified from the original several times over the years. It is the perfect kind of recipe to modify to gluten free, as the original recipe called for whole wheat pastry flour and wheat germ, applesauce instead of butter or oil, and liquidy sugars instead of granulated. It has already deviated quite far from a standard butter cake. The structure comes mainly from the leavening, as I understand it. So subbing gluten-free flours didn't really change how the cake behaved. I love this cake for precisely that reason.

I've published this recipe on the blog before; here's a link. I halved all ingredients, used 1 cup Brown Rice flour mix and 1/2 cup sorghum, used two eggs instead of 1.5, and omitted the cardamom and xanthan gum. I also whisked the batter by hand. You can omit the maple syrup and just add more agave or honey, but I encourage you to keep the unsulphered molasses. It adds a nice warm, almost coffee-like punch. Yum.

The cream cheese frosting has also been published to this blog; just follow that link above. I halved all the ingredients to get enough to fill and frost two 6x2 inch layers. I had only dark amber agave for the frosting and it did tint it a tannish color. But not too terribly different than the IMBC it was going to sit atop.


The GCC was gobbled up fairly quickly. I got good reviews from Mary's family, which I am happy about. Anytime I am recreating a family's favorite cake I always worry. Nobody reported back that the ganache was too bitter, but then again I didn't ask directly.

The white-white cake was also well received. One partygoer told me it was the best white cake she'd ever had. I did have a little of this cake; it was good. Not dry, but not wet either. The IMBC was out of this world. I love that stuff.

The GF cake was a little dry, but I did overbake it a tad. The celiacs (of which there were more than I thought) were happy to have a cake that wouldn't kill them. Most of the time when a person with celiac goes to a party they don't get to eat the cake, so it was really wonderful of Coleen and Mary to make sure they were included. I believe in feeding everyone too, not just the people who are the easiest to feed.

One could draw parallels between including the people with celiac by giving them cake and bread they could eat, and making sure the people who love each other can be included in the ritual of getting married, but that would be me gearing up for another personal rant. So I will leave it here, and just say congratulations to my dear friends Coleen and Mary. May you have a long life together of love, joy, and good food, surrounded by the people who love you!

me and my peeps!

Italian Meringue Buttercream
adapted from a recipe by Warren Brown

This is the best way to celebrate butter I have found yet. Yields enough to fill and frost a two-layer 9 inch cake.

  • Egg whites (room temperature) 150g
  • Sugar 214g, and 72g
  • Water 59g
  • Butter (room temperature) 454g (4 sticks)
  • Vanilla extract 1 tsp
In the bowl of your mixer, place the egg whites and beat at low speed.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, stir the 214 grams of sugar and the water together until the sugar is moistened. Place on medium-high heat (or high, if you feel daring) and let it go until the sugar is dissolved. If you have a gas burner you can turn the flame way down, or if it's electric, take the pan off the heat.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks; add the 72 grams sugar. Let the mixer keep on mixing while you bring the sugar syrup up to temperature.

Turn the heat under your sugar syrup back up, or put your pan back on the burner. Heat until the syrup comes to 245°F.

Pour your syrup slowly into your beating egg whites. You are aiming for between the whirling whisk and the sides of the bowl. Keep a steady stream!

Once all the syrup is in, let the meringue continue beating for a bit to even out the temperature and start to cool down. I will let it go for at least of couple of minutes; sometimes more if I am occupied. You can stop beating the meringue after a couple of minutes and put the bowl in the refrigerator for a little bit to hasten cooling. You want to get it around 75°F before adding the butter.

Continuing with the whisk attachment, on medium to medium-high speed add the butter in chunks at a steady rate. If the mixture starts to look curdled, don't panic, and don't stop the KA. Let it beat the frosting back together. If it seems to be taking a long time, turn up the speed. You can out-stubborn this curdling business.

Once all the butter is added and things look pretty, add the vanilla and beat for another minute to evenly distribute.

This frosting can be used right away, or refrigerated or frozen for later use. Always bring the frosting back to room temperature before using. You'll probably want to beat it for a minute or two to restore its lofty texture.

And please, go watch this video by Warren Brown, because he will demonstrate how to do it and everything will be clear.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

She Loves Me Cake

I'm still not clear why this cake is called She Loves Me, but I do know that I Love This Cake, so maybe that's what I'll call it around these parts. The cake is essentially The Cake Bible's All-Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cake, which no kidding, is my favorite cake, especially when paired with raspberry ganache. So guess what I did with this cake.

she loves me cake with raspberry ganache

September 12, 2011
Name of Cake: I Love This Cake
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: one 9x9 yellow butter cake, frosted with raspberry ganache

There are only a few minor differences between the She Loves Me Cake and the All-Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cake. From the etc etc Yellow etc Cake, Rose scaled the recipe down by a factor of about .834. (I know this because I stood with my calculator punching in numbers by trial and error until I hit upon the right fraction.) However, the amount of salt remains the same, the milk is a little less than x.834, and the vanilla is only decreased by 1/4 teaspoon, which I think is less than the x factor. Of course, the baking powder follows its own rules.

So, if you wanted to turn this recipe into two 9x1.5 inch layers, as in The Cake Bible, just multiply the SLMC by 1.2 and you'll be about right! If you want to turn this into two 9x2 inch layers, the cake flour needs to be about 400 grams, which means almost doubling the SLMC. Plus obeying the weird-ass rules of baking powder (the smaller the pan the more you need, proportionally speaking).

she loves me cake with raspberry ganache

Anyways...the She Loves Me Cake calls for either a 10-cup specialty pan or a 10-cup tube pan. I didn't want a bundt cake, mostly because I don't like frosting bundt cakes, and omitting the ganache wasn't an option. Then I remembered I had a 9x9 square pan, and that is an 11-cup capacity pan. (Technically, it is more than 11 cups but less than 12, but I've bored you enough with decimals so I thought I'd skip it.) Square pan it is, with no modifications.

This cake is made with all egg yolks, which make it rich and tender. After separating the eggs (and freezing the egg whites), the rest of cake assembly and baking is really easy. In fact, I was surprised how quickly I got my mise together. Then the cake mixes up in the two-stage method and bakes for about 40 minutes. My square cake was finished at the 40 minute mark and had domed quite vigorously. After cooling, the dome shrunk to mild proportions--probably about 1/4 inch taller in the center than the sides.

I chose the raspberry ganache to frost this cake as it is still my favorite ganache, despite my new-found love for the midnight ganache. The raspberry ganache is raspberry puree, 60% dark chocolate, and heavy cream. That's TCB version. The RHC version also adds a tiny amount of white chocolate. It is both tangy tart and bittersweet, and I love it. I had two frozen tubs in my freezer so I defrosted one while the cake baked. There was just enough in the tub to thinly coat the sides and top.

And that's all there is to it. The cake has a fine, tender crumb and speaks of rich yolks and butter. The ganache is velvety smooth and tangy-tart. Together, it is my favorite cake-frosting combination and has yet to beat. I overbaked it a tad so it is a bit dry and really crumbly, but it's nothing a scoop of vanilla ice cream can't fix.

she loves me cake with raspberry ganache

I almost forgot! This week, the Heavenly Cake Bakers are baking up the delicious and creamy Ginger Cheesecake. I made that sucker in April.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Deep Chocolate Rosebuds Cupcakes

This week's Heavenly Cakes assignment is the simple and richly chocolatey Deep Chocolate Rosebuds Cupcakes. The original recipe uses a Nordicware Rosebud pan, which makes cute little rose-shaped cakes and hence the true name of this recipe. As you know by now I hate buying specialty pans so I used my silicone cupcake cups. A Deep Chocolate Rosebud by any other name would taste as decadent.

deep chocolate (rosebuds)
spilt open to reveal the gooey ganache center

September 1, 2011
Name of Cupcakes: Chocolate Puddlecakes
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: little chocolate butter cakes, with a slightly gooey ganache center

The batter for these cakes is a basic chocolate butter cake, with one exception. Rose usually uses water as the liquid for a chocolate cake, as she feels milk brings out a bitter edge. Usually the water is boiled and mixed with the cocoa powder to bloom the cocoa and makes a bit of a paste. In the case of this cake, a little extra water is mixed with the egg yolks and added in during the second stage of the two-stage mixing process. I suspect the reason for the extra liquid is to make the batter a little thinner, but maybe it is there just to make it easier to incorporate the egg yolks. I don't know; I'm just guessing here.

deep chocolate (rosebuds) deep chocolate (rosebuds)

What takes this recipe from a simple chocolate cupcake to a deep chocolate cake is the teaspoon of ganache that is dabbed onto each cupcake right before baking. This little puddle sinks down into the cupcake as the batter rises around it, and leaves a little gooey center of serious unadulterated chocolate. The cakes themselves are the tender, velvety cake one expects from a Rose butter cake. There is nothing I would change about these cakes, including how rustic they look popped out of my silicone cups. (I did forget to grease and flour the cups, but most of them unmolded ok.)

deep chocolate (rosebuds)

These puddlecakes need no accompaniment, especially if you like your chocolate rich and strong. Otherwise, a little dab of vanilla ice cream would be nice, especially if you are serving the cakes while they are still warm.

Marie made these two years ago before the group bake through commenced (before Roses' Heavenly Cakes was published!). She used the Nordicware Rosebud Pan, and called the cakes cute enough for people to coo over.

deep chocolate (rosebuds)

I suspect the Molten Lava Cakes would be quite similar to these, as both employ dabs of ganache to get a gooey center. My Lava Cakes were quite a failure, so I don't have a taste or texture memory to compare to, just the memory of trying to make the recipe work for me :) With the Lava Cakes there was quite a bit more ganache per cake. With these Puddlecakes being as delicious as they are, I'm inclined to try the Lava Cakes again.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Peach Upside Down Cake

Is there any fruit more succulent and summery than the peach? Each juicy, fragrant peach is like a little bit of summer in your sticky hand. The smell of a ripe peach is a sweet combination of hot days and green leaves rustling in the breeze, with all the bursting hope and bustling joy a beautiful late summer day can promise.

The first recipe in Rose's Heavenly Cakes is an Apple Upside Down cake, but lo! There at the end of the recipe is a fresh peach variation, and when it came time to choose this week's cake (it is free cake week), I couldn't ignore this one. Two of my favorite things, a sour cream-butter cake and peaches? Yes, yes, and yes. And once again, YES.

Peach Upside Down Cake

September 3, 2011
Name of Cake: Late Summer Cake
Occasion: HCB, and peach time
Constituents: one 9 inch yellow sour cream butter cake, topped with peaches, brown sugar caramel and toasted almonds

Some may ask if I haven't yet done the original recipe why I am doing the variation? PEACHES, people. PEACHES. I am counting this recipe as completed.

This cake is relatively easy to do, but be mindful of the extra prep time needed to macerate the peaches. And be mindful of the fact that you need to peel the peaches before you macerate them. Rose's method of peach peeling begins with covering them with boiling water for a minute before shocking them in ice water. I felt a little bad for doing that to the peaches, but they were still happy juicy fruit after pulling them out of the ice water. However, I ended up needing one more peach to equal 450 grams, so I hurriedly sliced another peach without peeling it--shock and horror! Having a quarter of the peaches in the cake be with skin wasn't much of a texture/taste problem, but I wouldn't recommend skipping this step altogether.

Peach Upside Down Cake

After the peaches are sliced, they are tossed with a tiny bit of lemon juice and a couple tablespoons of light brown Muscovado and left alone for at least half an hour. This pulls some of the juices out of the fruit, plus keeps them from browning. The juices are cooked down with some butter and more Muscovado to a deep amber color, which is poured into the prepared cake pan. The peach slices are then arranged prettily on the caramel, and then set aside while the batter is made.

Peach Upside Down Cake

The batter is a good ol' sour cream-butter cake, which means it will be rich, tender, and a little dense. To add to the rich and tender factor, only egg yolks are used. The cake is mixed in the two-stage method as usual, and in a matter of minutes there's a thick and gorgeous batter plopped on top of your prettily arranged fruit. Sour cream-butter cake batters are like the Cadillac of the cake batter world. They are thick, creamy, and velvety. Despite being dense there's an airy quality to them; much like Italian Meringue Buttercream. Only the best for the beautiful ripe peach!

Peach Upside Down Cake

After smoothing out the batter the cake is popped into the oven for a good 35 minute bake. Oh, and to make things even more interesting, if you own a baking stone, the cake bakes on top of that, to further caramelize the fruit and sauce. Don't skip this step, if at all possible...

...because LOOK:

Peach Upside Down Cake

I know! So juicy and caramelized and yummy!

Peach Upside Down Cake

Peach Upside Down Cake

The cake is flipped over onto a cake plate immediately after removing from the oven, but the cake pan is left on top of the cake for a minute or two, to let the fruit dislodge nicely from the bottom of the pan. When the pan is finally pulled away from the cake, a little juicy caramel oozes out and the steamy sigh of baked peaches will fill your home with eager cake samplers.

Peach Upside Down Cake

At this point, you can sprinkle the top of the cake with your toasted almonds, and serve it warm or room temperature. I recommend warm, and even though there's a bourbon whipped cream to go along with it (actually an amaretto whipped cream would also be good) this cake needs nothing more than a fork.

Peach Upside Down Cake

Peach Upside Down Cake

Other peachy things:
Caramel Peach Grunt (and the birth of a nephew!)
Peach Hand Pies

Other upside down things:
Caramelized Pineapple Pudding Cake
Pluot Upside Down Cornmeal Cake