Friday, April 29, 2011

Brains's Tangy Chocolate Birthday Cake

My friend Brains decided to throw a garden party for his birthday this year, to show of all the work he's done to his yard as well as have an excuse to brew a batch of beer and build a fire on the patio. Luckily, his party fell on the first day of 2011 that was 70 degrees and sunny so the turn-out was pretty good as well as in a good mood. I asked if he wanted a birthday cake, and if so, what was his request. His answers were yes, and surprise!

So I spent a few weeks in indecisive turmoil, but after Kristina pointed out that everybody's favorite chocolate cake, Miette's Tomboy, was basically a mayonnaise cake, I decided to compare it to the one Rose has in The Cake Bible.

Also, I would like to apologise for the slightly blurry photos. Unfortunately, there are a lot of them.

Down-home Mayonnaise Chocolate Cake with Sour Cream Ganache and Raspberries

April 23, 2011
Name of Cake: Tangy Chocolate and Stuff
Occasion: Brains's Birthday!
Constituents: two 9 inch layers Down-Home Mayonnaise Cake filled and frosted with Sour Cream Ganache and defrosted raspberries

The recipe in The Cake Bible is scaled for two 8 x 1.5 inch pans, but armed with my new-found discovery that typically butter and oil cakes that fill two 9 x 2 inch pans require about 400 grams flour and sugar, I decided to scale up and see what happened. The original recipe called for exactly 200 grams flour and sugar, so I doubled the recipe and figured if had somehow how leftover batter I'd bake off a couple cupcakes. I am pleased to report doubling the recipe resulted in two nice 9 inch cakes that were a little less than 2 inches in height once cooled.

Down-home Mayonnaise Chocolate Cake with Sour Cream Ganache and Raspberries

Interestingly, Rose mentions that the cakes will dip a bit in the center when they cool, but neither of my layers dipped, in fact one of them domed a bit giving the center of the cake a height of just a little more than 2 inches! I only had 200 grams cake flour so the other 200 grams is BAP, maybe that is why? Don't know.

The cake is very easy to put together. A chocolate paste is made, and it seemed a lot waterier than usual. Once cool, the mayo and vanilla are whisked in. The dry ingredients are whirred around in the mixing bowl, the mayo mix in poured in all at once and the batter is mixed for about a minute. And that is it. The batter is quite thin and fills the pans only 1/3 full. Mine were finished around 30 minutes.

Down-home Mayonnaise Chocolate Cake with Sour Cream Ganache and Raspberries

The resulting cake has a glossy crust, and like Rose describes, very moist with a tender yet coarse crumb. The mayo cake really has the others beat when it comes to a moist crumb. Good, rich, chocolate flavor that wasn't too sweet.

The ganache is one of the easier ganaches in the book, mainly because it doesn't require the food processor. I think in Heavenly Cakes the Sour Cream Ganache is food processed, but this is the old school way which I love. The recipe is for a one layer 9 inch cake, so I doubled it which was more than enough. I think doing 1.5x the recipe for filling and frosting a two layer 9 inch cake would be sufficient. But who's complaining about having extra sour cream ganache--not me.

Down-home Mayonnaise Chocolate Cake with Sour Cream Ganache and Raspberries

I used IKEA dark chocolate, which is nice because it is cheap and good and I needed over 700 grams of it. The chocolate is melted in a double boiler, and the sour cream is mixed in. And there you have it.

I thought some defrosted raspberries would go well with the tangy sour cream ganache, so I added a layer in the filling, and with the 3 tbsp left over, made a little well for them on the top of the cake.

Down-home Mayonnaise Chocolate Cake with Sour Cream Ganache and Raspberries

Everybody seemed to like the cake. Brains whined that maybe he cut himself too big a piece because it was so rich, but he was able to finish it by the end of the evening. I thought a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream kept the richness in check. Sadly I thought the raspberries weren't very noticeable, but felt the ganache was a nice compliment to the cake. Bobbi, a self-confessed frosting hater, loved this one because it reminded her of the inside of a truffle.

Down-home Mayonnaise Chocolate Cake with Sour Cream Ganache and Raspberries

I liked the cake, and I loved how easy it was to make. I am not the biggest fan of Best Foods Mayo (Hellman's on the east coast) as it is made from soybean oil and I am sensitive to soy. I was hesitant to experiment with a canola oil mayo as I was worried it would throw the recipe off and I was giving this cake away. When we made Miette's Tomboy, we basically made our own mayo by emulsifying canola oil and eggs. I now realise the Tomboy really is the improved version of this cake. This was a good, moist, easy, chocolaty cake so no regrets, but given the choice I would go Tomboy every time.

Down-home Mayonnaise Chocolate Cake with Sour Cream Ganache and Raspberries

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cookie's Go-To Birthday Cake

Cookie turned 29 (again) on tax day, and with her brother and his family in town her mother cooked up a big dinner to celebrate. I was invited as well, since I was bringing her birthday cake. Mrs Tran must have enjoyed the cake because she told me I could come over for dinner anytime I wanted.

April 15, 2011
Name of Cake: White on White, part four
Occasion: Cookie's 29th Birthday....again
Constituents: two 9 inch layers White Velvet Cake filled with Cookie's homemade Cordon Rose Strawberry Conserves, frosted with her favorite crispy white frosting

That damn frosting. It is the basic frosting of butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract (I doubled the amount of extract from the recipe I published here) and in this case, water instead of milk. It is so sugary sweet. This version I think crusted over the best of any I have done because I used water instead of milk to thin it out. I only have whole milk in the house and whole milk prevents crusting. This frosting is usually thick and paste-like which makes frosting a delicate cake when you're already late for the party a little troublesome. I decided to thin it out even more by adding more water, which unfortunately curdled the whole thing. I thought about warming it up and seeing if that would help, but I was out of time so I left it curdled. I have to say it was easier to frost the cake as it was softer, but maybe the proper solution would be to keep the butter/frosting around 70 degrees instead of adding more liquid.

The cake was easy to put together, and baked up nicely. I've baked this cake so many times I really don't have much else to say about it.

white velvet cake with homemade strawberry conserves and crispy white frosting
not the best photo...but you get the idea

Cookie gave me a jar of her beloved strawberry jam for filling the cake. I am guessing it was a 12 oz jar and it was the perfect amount. Cookie (and her husband Cabbage) picked the strawberries and she canned them herself so she's very attached to her strawberry jam. So much so that even though I had plenty of my own hand-picked and canned Cordon Rose Strawberry Conserve to use she insisted I use hers. I can't blame her for being so proud of her product.

When I arrived at Cookie's dinner party, her niece and nephews asked with trepidation if the cake had alcohol in it. I am guessing they weren't allowed any of Mrs Tran's Rum Raisin Cake and were worried it would happen again. They danced around with excitement when I told them there was no alcohol, and thus began the countdown to cake.

white velvet cake with homemade strawberry conserves and crispy white frosting
another mediocre photo but the cake was good I SWEAR
 It was a good cake. Although I enjoy a white cake, as you all know I prefer something more rich and dense like an all-egg yolk cake. I loved the combination of the strawberries with the soft white cake, and well, you know how I feel about the frosting. But Cookie loved it, and that's all that matters. Happy birthday my fine crusty friend!

How many times has Cookie turned 29?
2010: A hamburger birthday cake
2009: White on White, part two (with pretty flowers!)
2008: White on White, part one
2007: the famous strawberry-topped cake

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ginger Cheesecake

Ginger is something that I have grown to appreciate. My mom would sneak it into food when I was little but my sister and I didn't like it and would protest dramatically when we tasted it. I pretty much avoided it until I moved to Portland to study acupuncture. To my dismay, I learned that ginger is a key herb in our Materia Medica, as it promotes healthy digestion, warms the digestion, stimulates the immune, and even kills parasites. Our Pacific Northwest climate is cold and damp--the kind of cold that seeps into your bones and slows you down--which means warming herbs such as ginger are even more important. Slowly I began to accept ginger into my life, and yet when I saw this cheesecake in Rose's Heavenly Cakes I initially thought, eew! I am happy to say that this cheesecake is delicious, and maybe, even slightly healthy.

Ginger Cheesecake

April 25, 2011
Name of Cake: If You're Gonna Eat Cheesecake at Least Protect Your Spleen Qi
Occasion: HCB Free Cake Week
Constituents: cheesecake with ginger juice and a spicy gingersnap crust

Rose gives the recipe to make your own gingersnaps, and even make a bunch of cute gingerbread people to encircle the cake, but I opted out. I did buy a box of IKEA gingersnaps, which are cheap and delicious. Oh no, I have leftovers!

Ginger Cheesecake
ALOT of leftovers

The cookies are crumbled with salt, mixed with melted butter, and pressed into the pan.

Ginger Cheesecake

The ginger flavor comes from ginger juice, which you make by squeezing grated ginger and catching the juice. Grating the ginger is a tad time consuming, but only in comparison to the few minutes it takes to mix the batter. I'm not sure if I was supposed to strain the grated ginger through cheesecloth, but I just bundled up the grated stuff in my hand and squeezed out the juice.

Ginger Cheesecake
the bundled up juiced ginger remains

The cheesecakes in this book are more sour cream than cream cheese, which creates a creamy, soft, tangy product.

Ginger Cheesecake

I guess my oven was a little hot as the cheesecake browned by the end of the bake time.

Ginger Cheesecake

It was hard to set this cake aside overnight in the refrigerator as I wanted to try it out immediately. I was so curious to see how I would like this gingery cheesecake.

Ginger Cheesecake
maybe not the best representation of the cheesecake, but i like the light and detail anyways

I like it. You have to be at least okay with ginger to enjoy this cheesecake; five years ago I would not have enjoyed it at all. It is soft and creamy and I love the gingersnap crust. I know there isn't enough ginger to protect my Spleen Qi from all the dairy and sugar, but it is delicious enough to take the risk!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Southern (Manhattan) Coconut cake with Silk Meringue Buttercream

This is Rose's take on a classic coconut cake, usually filled and frosted with seven minute frosting and festooned with lots and lots of sweetened flaked coconut. She switched out the marshmallow fluff (seven minute frosting) for her signature Silk Meringue Buttercream and recommends fresh or frozen unsweetened coconut for the festooning. What you get is a delicious coconut cake with a truly silky frosting that tastes a lot like french vanilla ice cream, only in frosting form. This would make a perfect party cake for the coconut lovers out there.

southern (manhattan) coconut cake with silk meringue buttercream

April 17, 2011,
Name of Cake: the furry yellow cake
Occasion: HCB
constituents: 2 9 inch layers of white coconut cake filled and frosted with a coconut silk meringue buttercream (smbc) and decorated with flaked coconut

The cake is a butter cake, with just egg whites and the addition of coconut milk.

I had just, two days earlier, baked the White Velvet Cake from The Cake Bible, which is scaled for two 9 x 1.5 inch pans, and the amount of cake flour and sugar needed was 300 grams each. So you might imagine my surprise when, for this cake, for two 9 x 2 inch pans 400 grams of both flour and sugar are called for. I thought that maybe we needed more flour and sugar because of the coconut, but just now I was flipping through Rose's Heavenly Cakes and it seems like for two 9 inch cakes about 400 grams is right--except for the Devils Food Cake, which only calls for 225 grams for two 9 inch cakes. That's just about half! AND, the German Chocolate Cake only calls for 150 grams total flour. People, this is FASCINATING.

southern (manhattan) coconut cake with silk meringue buttercream
the completed batter

Something was not right about my oven, as the cakes appeared finished and the sides were pulling away, yet when they cooled they both sunk in the middle. I was mad; I had to take a break away from the cake and fume for a bit.

southern (manhattan) coconut cake with silk meringue buttercream
just out of the oven--before the sinking

The Silk Meringue Buttercream has three components and what looks like a daunting amount of steps. I just have to remind myself to tackle the recipe one component at a time, and then it doesn't look that hard at all.

The first component is a funky Creme Anglaise made with coconut milk instead of cow's milk. This is a great idea to infuse some coconutty flavor into the frosting, but it makes a strange and watery product.

Next up: Italian meringue. Us HCB have made countless Italian Meringues, so I wasn't too worried. I've had the sugar syrup seize up in the cup, I've spun the sugar all over the sides of the bowl, I feel pretty good about this darn meringue. And, so pretty.

southern (manhattan) coconut cake with silk meringue buttercream

The last component is a pound of butter.

southern (manhattan) coconut cake with silk meringue buttercream

Then, the combining begins. First, the butter is beat until creamy, then the coconut anglaise is added. At first the butter and anglaise didn't see eye to eye; there was curdling, there was lack of emulsification. Instead of getting all freaked out about temperature and getting this over a pot of simmering water, I simply out-stubborned the stuff. I kept beating it, I increased the speed, and eventually the two became one. Then, the meringue is added in and all becomes silky, soft, ice cream in frosting form.

Technically I'm supposed to add a bunch of flaked coconut to the frosting, but I thought that would just make it a pain in the butt to frost the cake, so I opted out.

This frosting is a pale butter yellow--no surprise there--and really is very silky. It is a bit rich but not terribly so.

southern (manhattan) coconut cake with silk meringue buttercream
you can see where all the frosting filled up the sunken cake

Now to assemble the cake. I added a layer of coconut flake in the filling, and then frosted the rest. The temperature of my buttercream must have been off because as I frosted it threatened to break--it was oily and the more I agitated the frosting on the cake, the more it looked like it was going to separate. So I just tried to get it done quickly and efficiently.

I also decided to use the regular sweetened coconut as it is softer than the unsweetened chips I found. I did add the chips to the outside edge and a little in the middle of the cake too.

southern (manhattan) coconut cake with silk meringue buttercream

The cake is rich and lovely and perfect for a celebration. Maybe because Spring is slowly showing up around here, but I think this would be a wonderful cake for a Spring celebration or garden party. Or pretty much whenever.

southern (manhattan) coconut cake with silk meringue buttercream

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Miette's Tomboy

When I was staying with my sister in San Francisco to help her out at the birth (and post partum) of my favorite nephew in the world, she told me there was a Miette down the street from her apartment. It wasn't the main store (that one is in the Ferry Building) but we walked down there (slowly--she was very pregnant) to check it out. I was hoping there'd be a Tomboy to sample so that I would have an inkling of what this cake would be like. The store was cute and inviting with a French-pastel kind of feel to it. Lots of jars of hard candy that looked so good you just wanted to reach in and grab some. There was no Tomboy in their bakery case, but we bought a cupcake and a slice of something similar to sample.

at miette in 2009
Miette in San Francisco
 They were good, but dare I say the Tomboy we made for this week's Heavenly Cakes assignment was better? Well, I just did, and I meant it.

April 11, 20100
Name of Cake: Awfully Frilly for a Tomboy
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: one 7 inch chocolate cake filled and topped with vanilla mousseline buttercream

Miette's Tomboy

This cake is supposed to be baked in a 6x3 inch pan, but can also be baked as two 6x2 inch layers. I thought I had a 6x3 inch pan, but what I really had was a 7x3. I decided one extra inch in diameter would be just fine, and got it ready for baking.

The cake is rich and chocolaty, with a texture reminiscent of box cake--a coarse, open crumb that is moist and fudgy, yet better than a box cake as it isn't full of weird chemicals, and was made from scratch with fresh ingredients.

Well, almost fresh as it calls for buttermilk and my buttermilk has been happily fermenting away since January. I've had it for so long I can't remember why I bought it in the first place, but that is exactly why I love fermented dairy.

Miette's Tomboy

This cake is a little more unusual than most of Rose's chocolate butter cakes. Instead of blooming the cocoa powder in boiling water, chopped 70% chocolate is melted in boiling water. Cocoa powder is also used, which gives the cake that deep chocolate flavor, but it is sifted in with the rest of the dry ingredients.

Miette's Tomboy

Mixing this cake is an interesting departure from the two usual ways a butter cake is made. There is the Rose two-stage method of starting with the dry ingredients and adding the butter and liquid first and eggs last, and the more common creaming the butter and sugar then alternating the flour/leavening with the liquid/eggs. The Tomboy method starts with the egg, which is whipped until light in color, and proceeds with emulsifying the oil (in place of butter) and adding the liquid (buttermilk and melted chocolate water). Lastly the dry ingredients are added, and instead of gently mixing in the flour to prevent the cake from getting rubbery as you would think, the whole mixture is brought up to medium-high and mixed for a couple of minutes. The resulting cake had a lovely texture so color me intrigued.

Miette's Tomboy

The cake is baked for almost an hour, and when mine came out it had a funky top and was only 1 3/4 inches high. Bummer; I guess that extra inch did make a difference.

Miette's Tomboy

About this time I realised I forgot to add the vanilla extract, and that I accidentally used the regular sugar instead of the superfine. Oops! Oh well.

After letting the cake cool, it was time to start the persnickety mousseline buttercream. I have made the Cake Bible's mousseline many times before, and I don't remember it being so problematic. But perhaps I have wiped my memory clean of any mousseline mishaps.

Miette's Tomboy

It is important to have the butter and the meringue at about 70F for everything to go smoothly. My butter was hovering around 60F, so I cubed it and shoved it in the still-warm oven. The oven was reading at about 65F so I thought it was perfect fix.

Miette's Tomboy

The meringue is an Italian meringue, which means the egg whites are stabilised with a sugar syrup. This went off nicely without me spinning a bunch of sugar onto the edges of the bowl like usual, and there wasn't much crystallized stuff left in the pot. Hooray!

The meringue was hovering around 80F so I refrigerated for 5 minutes and re-took its temperature: 75F. I decided to stick it back in the refrigerator for another 5 minutes which unfortunately brought the temperature down to 65F. The butter by this time, which had been beaten until soft, I had left out on the counter and had dropped down to 62F. Argh! The oven was still a little warm so both mixing bowls were shoved in the oven, and getting impatient, I turned on the oven to warm to get some heat going. Eventually, both were back to 65F which I thought was good--the book says between 65 and 70F.

Let me be the voice of experience and say 65F is too cold, or at least for my kitchen 65F was still too cold for when I added the meringue to the butter and began beating, the curdling only got worse until the mixture watered out. Argh again!

I put the mixing bowl over simmering water, turned on the oven and left the door open to create some ambient heat, and eventually when the butter stuff along the sides of the bowl melted, I resumed beating the mixture. And lo and behold, I finally had a mousseline buttercream. I added an extra 1/4 tsp vanilla extract to the frosting, bringing the total vanilla to 3/4 tsp which I think might be a permanent change.

Miette's Tomboy

I piped as best I could after splitting the cake in half and filling. Even though the sun was pretty much over the horizon, I ran the cake outside and snapped a few pictures.

Miette's Tomboy

I had a slice last night, and then again this morning. Last night the mousseline was too much--too buttery, too aggressive against the cake. Today, the mousseline mellowed out, the vanilla is present, the texture is silky, and it is a perfect accompaniment to the cake. This just reinforces my feelings that Rose's buttercreams need to stand at room temperature overnight before they are fit to eat.

Miette's Tomboy

A delicious cake with an intriguing mixing process, bold in flavor and moist as they come with a silky, buttery, vanilla frosting. This Tomboy is welcome in my house anytime.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Karmel Cake

This lovely caramel cake was a snap to prepare, and just as easy to eat. It had a lovely moist, soft crumb, with the caramelly flavors taking this cake further down the road of awesome than my beloved yellow butter cake. Served with the coffee cloud cream this is a welcome addition to my growing list of Cakes That Are Good For Breakfast.

Karmel Cake

April 3, 2011
Name of Cake: The return of breakfast cake!
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: one 9 inch layer cake made with caramel sauce

First up, make the caramel. This is an interesting caramel as it is made with light muscovado, milk, and butter that you mix up before you caramelize it. Usually the sugar is caramelized first then the milk and butter are added. Caramelizing the sugar along with the milk and butter seemed to take forever (longer than the ten minutes the recipe specifies) but the resulting product made it all worth it. This caramel sauce needs to cool down for an hour or so before the rest of the cake can be put together.

Karmel Cake

The rest of the cake is put together very quickly. The dry ingredients are whirred together in the mixer for 30 seconds, the butter and caramel sauce are added and beat for 90 seconds. The eggs are added in two parts, beating for 30 seconds in between. Then, the cake is baked for about 25 minutes.

Karmel Cake

I'm not sure what was going on with my oven or my cake strips yesterday, but the cake wasn't ready even at the 35 minute mark. The sides looked dry and the top crust was set, but underneath the middle was liquid cake goo. Worried, I turned down the oven to 325 and kept on baking. It took another 15 minutes before the middle looked like baked cake, instead of raw batter. I thought the cake was probably overbaked and depressing by this time, but after unmolding and cooling, I took a slice for photos, and obviously, tasting.

Karmel Cake

Delicious! The crumb was pretty near to perfect (some tunneling, sorry Woody). The cake was moist and tender, and tasted delicious. The coffee whipped cream accompaniment was a good mixer, although I wanted to eat the cake just as it was. Great cake: simple, quick, wonderfully satisfying.

Karmel Cake