Monday, May 31, 2010

St. Honore Trifle

This week is the Heavenly Baker's free cake week, and I chose the decadent and wonderful St Honore Trifle. The HCB made this trifle in early May, and everyone said such wonderful things about how delicious it was that I decided this would be not only be my free cake choice, but also my birthday cake.

me, with the freaking huge trifle of deliciousness

May 23, 2010,
Name of Cake: A Freaking Huge Trifle
Occasion: HCB, and my birthday/housewarming party
Constituents: genoise cake, chiboust pastry cream, fresh strawberries, whipped cream, booze

The crowning glory of this trifle is the beautiful nest of spun sugar that is placed on top. I, however, chose to skip the spun sugar as I had something else with which to top my trifle:

birthday kitty

This came all the way from Bath, via Melinda. I received it the day I was baking the trifle, the day before the party. How timely and perfect!! Thank you Melinda!! You are a most thoughtful and sweet internet friend, and I appreciate you :)

This trifle consists of several components, and upon first (and second and third) reads the recipe seems like it will be laborious and time consuming. However, I found that not to be the case.

On Thursday, I cleared away a corner of countertop, found my saucepan, and moved some boxes in order to get to my liquor stash. Not because I needed a drink, which I did, but because I wanted to make the Grand Marnier syrup for the cake. This is when I discovered I had about 1 tablespoon of Grand Marnier left, but I substituted with Triple Sec which seemed to turn out all right. The syrup is really easy: sugar and water are brought to a boil and then immediately removed from the heat, covered and cooled. Once cool the liqueur is added, and you're finished. No problem.

st honore birthday trifle

Saturday I got to making the rest of the components. By this time, more boxes in the kitchen had been cleared away, the baking box had been found, and the counters were pretty clear. It was also my only major task for Saturday, and what a fun Saturday it turned out to be. I spent the whole day in the kitchen making chiboust pastry cream (the best stuff on earth!), my first well-risen genoise (hooray!), and a pound of beurre noisette.

st honore birthday trifle

Then, as if all that wasn't enough, I got to assemble all these yummy components into one freakin huge trifle. After scraping off the top and bottom crusts of the genoise layers, they are split in half and cut to fit into the trifle bowl. Each layer is spread with a mixture of orange marmalade and, in my case, Triple Sec. A layer is placed marmalade side down in the trifle bowl, syrup is applied to the top side, pastry cream is spread over the top and cut strawberries are sprinkled over the cream. Lather, rinse, and repeat until all the components are used. I had to sort of smush down all the layers to have enough room for the top layer of cake and pastry cream. At this point the trifle is covered in plastic wrap and sent to the refrigerator for an overnight rest.

The next day, just as people were starting to arrive, I whipped up the cream for the topping and clumsily piped it on with the biggest tube I had. A few more strawberries on top, the little kitty with a candle, and ta-da! Trifle!

st honore birthday trifle

This trifle was excellent. It was creamy and soft. It was bright and fruity. It was mellow with vanilla and punchy with booze. It was so, so good. Cookie fell in love with it and immediately got up for a second serving. I had more before bed that night. It was delicious.

It was still pretty good the next day, but after 48 hours this trifle just becomes kind of mushy and not so great. But really, why would it last more than 48 hours anyway?

Many people talked about the St Honore trifle being such a production to make that they don't really see themselves making it again. Sure, I spent a whole day putting it together but it was great fun and to my mind not laborious like I feared. I can definitely see myself making it again, as long as I have lots of people to feed it to!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ode To A Tiny Kitchen

Thank You, Tiny Kitchen

The Gateau Breton was the last thing I will have baked in my kitchen before I pack it up and move into the new apartment. I would just like to say thank you, tiny kitchen, for the 5 years of baking extravaganzas you have supported.

And for anyone using the excuse that your kitchen is too small to do any baking, then think again.

aaand we're out of counter space

In this kitchen, with that little counter space, I began my attempts to make pie dough:

Look!  I Made Turnovers!

Gluten free pie dough:

heavenly apple pie

Gluten free cake:

GF cupcake!

The first pre-lazy baker project:

drippy gooey caramel

A ridiculous guitar shaped cake (with help from Joelf):

Victorian Rock 'n' Roll Guitar Heroes

These two celebration cakes:

engraduation cakes

And this wedding cake:

julie and noah's wedding cake!

Thank you, tiny kitchen, for all the baked goods you helped me create over the years, and for all the people you've helped me nourish with sweet celebrations and laughter.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Gateau Breton

I almost didn't make this cake, as I am in the middle of packing up my apartment. I already packed away all of my baking gear, but squirreled away the tools I would need for this cake just in case. After reading Raymond and ButterYum's posts on their cakes, I decided that I could make one more cake in this kitchen. For old time's sake.

May 9, 2010
Name of Cake: Gateau Breton
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: one buttery cake

Gateau Breton

This cake is on the Quick and Easy list, and that's no joke. I think it may have taken longer to separate the eggs than it did to mix the batter. It was so quick and easy that I didn't bother to snap any process photos. Oh well.

This batter is thick and buttery, and smells so good. It reminded me of that stage in butter cake mixing when you've beaten the butter and dry ingredients together for 90 seconds--before the eggs and majority of the liquid goes in. It is thick and lovely like that.

The only mishap there is to talk about is that I had the oven at 350 instead of 325, so it was baked about 5 minutes early. It also didn't rise above the pan like it should, so maybe that is why?

I couldn't wait much longer after I turned the cake out of the pan, so I cut myself a slice while it was still warm. It was delicious. Dense, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth. The almonds play well with the butter and the rum is a good accessory. I would love to try this with Kirsch, and also with the high fat European butters as called for. Today I used good ol' Tillamook butter and it was still wonderful. This is one of those teacakes that would be good with coffee or tea, at breakfast (but then again, I think most cakes are good for breakfast), with fresh fruit (peaches! blueberries!) and creme fraiche, or simply as is. This cake is a winner!

Gateau Breton

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Brains' Birthday Cake

Brains had his big ol' 40th birthday at the end of April and he asked me to bake his birthday cake. Of course! He usually goes for the chocolate-chocolate-chocolate kind, but this year decided to liven things up with raspberries. Can do, my friend.

Then I looked at my calendar and realised that not only was I not going to be able to come to his party, but that I needed to drop off his cake two days before the event, and I had to put the cake together the night before that. The original idea was to fill the cake with some killer ganache and fresh raspberries, but if I really did do that Thursday night his cake would be all mushy and possibly moldy by Sunday. Even if he did refrigerate it the whole time. So I changed my plans to raspberry ganache (my favorite ganache by the by), and thought about ways to keep the cake chocolaty and moist. After perusing Rose's Heavenly Cakes, I decided to model his cake after the Deep Chocolate Passion Wedding Cake. A two layer chocolate cake syruped with milk chocolate ganache, filled and frosted with raspberry ganache, and glazed in the lacquer glaze.

April 22, 2010
Name of Cake: Chocolaty Chocolate Chocolate
Occasion: Brains' 40th Birthday
Constituents: (named above)

I had planned to spread the making of this cake over four days, however that all fell apart as soon as the week began. I had made Cookie's Hamburger on Sunday, the Whoopie Pies on Monday, and I had planned to make the ganache Monday as well (its a day off, so usually I have the time for long baking projects). The milk chocolate ganache and lacquer glaze were to be made Wednesday after work, and the cake baked and assembled Thursday. The plan was to take the cake with me to work on Friday and deliver it immediately afterwards to Brains' house. As I said, that all fell apart and I made everything Thursday afternoon and evening. It took about six hours!

Firstly, I made the cake, following the recipe Rose gives for the German Chocolate Cake. It's the same cake as the Deep Chocolate Passion Wedding Cake, scaled for two 9 inch layers. I was excited to try my hand at Rose's new breakthrough chocolate cake. This cake is made with oil instead of butter, and is put together sort of like a sponge cake. The eggs are separated, and the yolks and oil are beat together with cocoa powder paste. Rose says to beat until it resembles buttercream, which it sure did.

Brains' Deep Chocolate Passion Birthday Cake

The dry ingredients are added to the oil/yolk mixture in two parts, and the batter naturally becomes very thick.

Brains' Deep Chocolate Passion Birthday Cake

The egg whites are then mixed in, without prior whisking, and after being beaten for a couple of minutes the batter is thin and soupy. This gets poured into the 9 in pans, both of which are only 1/4 full, but don't worry; the cakes rise nicely to the top of the pans!

Brains' Deep Chocolate Passion Birthday Cake

The fun part is that the cakes need to be unmolded as son as they are pulled from the oven in order to preserve what Rose calls "the delicate foam structure" of the cakes. She's not kidding; in the time it took for me to unmold one cake the other had sunk a little sadly in the pan. I think next time I'll leave the other pan in the oven to try and prevent that. And really, in the end, nobody will ever know. Frosting covers a multitude of sins.

Brains' Deep Chocolate Passion Birthday Cake

As the cakes cooled I flipped to the recipe for the Raspberry Ganache, as found in the recipe for the Moist Raspberry Ganache cake. As I have said before Raspberry Ganache is my favorite ganache to date. I love the tang the raspberries bring to the chocolate. Rose has changed her recipe slightly for Heavenly Cakes to include a bit of white chocolate, which she says tames the tartness of the berries. To be honest I didn't really notice a difference, but I wasn't tasting The Cake Bible's rasp ganache side by side with the Heavenly Cake's rasp ganache...although that would be fun. In my kitchen ganache takes about 3 hours to cool to spreading consistency so I put it all together and set it close to the window to hopefully hasten the cooling process.

Brains' Deep Chocolate Passion Birthday Cake

After the ganache, I flipped back to the instructions for the wedding cake and made the milk chocolate ganache syrup. Her recipe comes in two batches, one for the 6 and 9 in layers and one batch for the 12 in layers. I decided to multiply the batch for the 6 and 9 in layers by .75 in order to get the right amount for just the 9 in layers. (I derived that number by the instructions when Rose says that 380 grams of the completed syrup is for the 9 in layers.) This syrup is delicious. It smells and looks like the best hot chocolate, and after syruping both cakes I did sneak the leftovers into a mug and drank them! I told Rose that when I met her a few days later and she laughed. I had a hard time finding a milk chocolate that was 40-41% cacao; most were either 38% or closer to 45%, so I did a little of both.

Brains' Deep Chocolate Passion Birthday Cake

After syruping, the cakes need to set up for at least an hour before they can be frosted. This left me with a pocket of time to do some dishes, eat some dinner, and plan ahead. Reading the instructions for frosting and glazing the cake, I realised that it would be best if the cake was frosted and refrigerated overnight before being glazed. Also, the lacquer glaze itself was better for this cake if it rested overnight in the refrigerator and was reheated in the morning. Luckily, I didn't have to be at work until noon on Friday so I did have time to complete the cake in the morning without having to wake up ridiculously early.

Brains' Deep Chocolate Passion Birthday Cake

The recipe for the lacquer glaze is in Heavenly Cakes several times, but none of them are for a two layer 9 in cake. I took the proportions for the Bernachon Palet d'or Gateau, which is for a one layer 9 in cake, and multiplied it by 1.5. I reasoned that the circumference was the same but the height was different, and so I didn't need a complete doubling of the recipe. I also knew that I would have leftover glaze, and that it would freeze and defrost fine for another day.

Brains' Deep Chocolate Passion Birthday Cake

I also realised that I needed a cardboard cake round for the cake so that I could glaze it. Yikes! It was way too late to go out and buy one, so I made my own. I remember Rose saying somewhere that homemade rounds aren't so great as the edges usually aren't smooth. I traced out a 9 in circle on some cardboard using the removable bottom from a tart pan, and cut very slowly and deliberately. I wanted a smooth edge! I have to say, I think I did a pretty good job. I covered this round in heavy duty foil, and when the cake was ready, I filled and frosted it on the round. I heeded Rose's instructions to make the frosting as smooth as possible so that the glaze could cover well and not expose any imperfections. I even heated up my bench scraper to smooth out the sides and top, and to bevel the edge.

Brains' Deep Chocolate Passion Birthday Cake

At this point, it was close to midnight. The cake was syruped, filled, frosted, and smoothed. The glaze was made and cooled. Everything went into the refrigerator for an overnight, and I hit the sack.

The next morning I reheated the glaze in a double boiler. Rose says it coats best for this cake at 82-85 degrees. When the glaze was pourable I took its temperature and it was about ten degrees hotter than that. I waited for the glaze to cool and by the time the temperature said it was 85 degrees, the glaze looked pretty thick. I trusted my temperature reading and poured it over the cake. It remained thick, and didn't really move so well over the cake. I needed to pull out my offset spatula and pretty much frost the cake with the glaze. This lead to what was probably a pretty thick layer, but as I knew how good the lacquer glaze tastes, I wasn't too worried. I just wondered what went wrong.

Brains' Deep Chocolate Passion Birthday Cake

Here is where I stopped thinking clearly: I placed the cake on the cake plate without bothering to affix the cardboard round to the plate. This became apparent when I carried the cake out to my car in the cake carrier. By the time I got to the car (half a block away) the cake had slid off the center of the plate and was stuck to one side of the carrier. Argh! I drove to work very slowly and once there, made some tape loops and solved the problem. I shared some of the glaze that had stuck to the inside of the carrier with my first patient, who thought it was incredible.

After work I dropped off the cake, and told him I would try to stop by after my lecture. (I was in a weekend seminar, which is why I couldn't meet Rose and Woody at the book signing Saturday, and why I couldn't come to Brains' birthday party Sunday afternoon. It was a busy weekend!) Sunday evening I had a terrible headache and was so tired from all the week and weekend shenanigans that I told him I wasn't coming, and to save me a piece of his cake. I tried getting in touch with him Tuesday evening, but we didn't talk until Thursday, and he had just eaten the last piece of cake! Dangit!

So although I never got to eat the cake, I did sample pretty much all the individual components, and they were all delicious. So I can only assume the sum was as good, if not better, as its parts. Brains told me that it was the perfect semisweet chocolate bliss. I consider that a sign of a job well done.

Past birthday cakes for the Brains:
2004: Peeps and Fluff
2006: Trying to Live Up to the Name "Evil Cake Lady"
2009: Hard Chocolate Frosting, boo