Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cake Truffles, gourmet editions

I think that Cake Truffles are the perfect, small indulgence. It is said that the greatest pleasure on the tongue comes from the first couple of bites; and with the right cake truffle, that really is all you need. Moist cake, perfectly smooched with buttercream frosting then dipped in chocolate. But I like to take it a step further with unexpected flavor combinations that make each two-bite treat, a truly remarkable little journey for the mouth.  Some of my favorite flavors include:

Dark chocolate with caramel bits, dipped in dark chocolate then finished with a sprinkle of pink Himalayan  sea salt. (shown at right in foreground)

Mexican chocolate chile dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with Chimayo Holy Red Chile. (also shown at right in the rear of the tray)

Perfect Breakfast: Maple cake truffle center dipped in dark chocolate then topped with crispy applewood smoked bacon. (not sure? think of taking a bite of chocolate chip pancake drizzled in maple syrup with a bite of bacon as a chaser. You there? uh huh....)

Red Velvet Magic: the velvety rich Red Velvet truffle center encases a pearl of sweet cream cheese frosting before a dip in white chocolate.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What to do with a bottle of Heavy Whipping Cream?

Make cake, of course!   This is the Whipped Cream Cake from Melissa Gray's All Cakes Considered  which is credited to The American Woman's Cook Book, a popular cookbook with the great grandmother set when they were settling in to family cooking.  I decided on this cake because I had a big bottle of heavy whipping cream in the fridge that needed using before it turned into some other form on the spoiled dairy chain (and I'm not adventurous enough to make my own sour cream, et al.) It is a light, delicate vanilla cake; moist and perfect with a cup of coffee. I think anything more than a milk chocolate or light vanilla frosting would be overpowering. Fruit would also make a nice addition.

The frosting and filling is a Ghirardelli milk chocolate ganache (and that used up the bottle of cream, thankyouverymuch!). The darker glaze is the ganache straight out of the pan (cooled slightly) and the lighter is the same ganache but chilled and whipped in the mixer. I have some work to do with the ganache technique; there were quite a few air bubbles even after putting it through a fine strainer four times. And I believe my proportions of chocolate to cream were off as well. This was 1:1, with a panicky extra handful of chips thrown in when it started to look too thin.  Next time I make a glaze, I will do 1:2 with more chocolate.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Red Velvet

Red Velvet Cake cut into four layers with Swiss meringue buttercream on the inside and out. I wish I had a good picture of the inside of the cake--even I don't know how it turned out--as it was gifted to a lucky coworker in my husband's office. Then we could talk about the vibrant red and how the mild, light cocoa taste really doesn't stand up to such a bold color. 

There are a few theories on how the color came to be through the long history of this cake (recipes have been found from the 1890's). Cocoa powder contains vegetable pigments that are red only in the presence of acids. So some say that the red cake originally resulted from a reaction that occurred when the acidic buttermilk and vinegar were mixed with the cocoa. This theory works if you use a non-alkalized cocoa, such as Hershey’s (slightly acidic with a pH around 5), not a “Dutch Processed” cocoa (slightly alkaline with a pH around 8). In a contrary theory, others say the red color results from a reaction of the cocoa and the baking soda, which is slightly alkaline (pH around 8), not acidic. Devil's Food cake is also thought to have been named in reaction to the reddish hue from this cocoa chemical transformation. It is also supposed that during war times when items were rationed, red food coloring or beet juice was added to a mild chocolate cake to give a fancy appearance.

The Red Velvet Cake has become more popular in recent years, and one of the most copied recipes is of Cake Man Raven, which thanks to the oil produces a very velvety, moist cake with an eye-popping electric red color.  I personally prefer a Red Velvet that tastes a bit more chocolaty and with a traditional, but in my opinion underused, Roux Buttercream.  I chose to make this one with Swiss Meringue because I wanted to try out that recipe again, and not have it around the house because one of my little ones is very allergic to the eggs in it.  The Swiss buttercream is heavy on the butter so i like to add a cup of powered sugar at the end to sweeten it up a bit. It is the most luxurious frosting, but the silky and non-crusting finish means that it require a bit more finesse to decorate with. The commercial choice with Red Velvet is a cream cheese icing, which is nice but I still think can be too sweet if not mixed half with butter.  

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Brown Sugar Pound Cake

This beauty is all Southern: rich brown sugar, sweet pecans, cream cheese frosting.  A heavy crumb that is pure pound cake through and through. If Red Velvet cake is Tennessee Williams, then this Brown Sugar Pound Cake is Flannery O’Connor. Not so much a Misfit as it sat pristine upon the cake stand, but I wouldn’t have been surprised to spy a salesman drive by with a prosthetic leg in his backseat after I took the third bite. 

Recipe was another from All Cakes Considered by Melissa Gray. 

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hot Wheeled Cake

I leveled up my cake decorating with this sweet sports coupe for my sweet boy Beck's 4th Birthday Party. As usual with my 'process' I was really far behind and wished I had another half day to work out the details and maybe do some awesome gum paste (makes very hard and detailed) accents like exhaust pipes and rearview mirrors.

This cake started out as two 9 x 13" and one 9" vanilla pound cakes stacked with a sturdy buttercream filling (nothing fancy like fruit--the goal was something stable to withstand the carving).  I also froze the cake over night before the carving.

Next came the basic shape and then my wonderful husband applied his artistic skills to map out the sculpting and to make some great detailed cuts.  By the time the fondant went on it was midnight, and then I stayed up another two hours hoping that it wouldn't fall apart.

Details came the next morning, and after having experienced this one, I'm really excited to do another sculpted cake and improve on my technique. I was planning on doing some hot-rod flames, but we settled on doing a quick paint job with blue luster dust.

... and just like that, it was gone!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

White Daisy Cascade

This cake shows the incredible smoothness that can be achieved with a crusting buttercream.  There is a bit of technique involved in getting that ultra-smooth finish, and after I finally got it down, it was almost a shame to cover it up with little white fondant daisies.

But what an elegant and simple design--I'm sure I'm not the first one to do something like this, but I know that I hope to do many more in this style. I just love it.

We Had a Ball

Being my youngest son, Carter LOVES, LOVES, LOVES balls of all kinds, a sports themed birthday party was a natural.  This cake was baked in Wilton's sports ball pan, that also thankfully had a template for the soccer ball pattern. The side soccer balls are the pressed sugar pre-made decorations (the kind I would normally scoff at, but now praise when time is short)

As it was, I was finishing decorating the cake when the guests arrived. I would have liked to have done a better job at the grass (especially because the color green came out so well), but needed to get it finished and pack the magic away as the house filled up.  

Dia de Los Muertos Wedding Cake

I love this cake. There are so many things I think I would have done differently on it, but I still just adore the concept.  It is pink fondant with fondant cut out flowers and buttercream brush embroidered 'calaveras' or sugar skulls.

The wedding topper is one that I really wanted for our own wedding, but was strongly urged to reconsider by my mother, who just didn't get the appeal of Dia de Los Muertos figures.

Wilton Class Cakes

Everyone has to start somewhere, so last summer I took my 30+ years (yes, my mom had me decorating birthday cakes for my dog when i was 8 years old) of cake decorating experience to Michael's Craft Store once a week for the Wilton Method Cake Decorating Classes.  I finished Course 1, 2, 3 and did all but the last cake on Course 4 (we were out of town and I got a bit sugared out after four months of caking).

If you've taken a Wilton Class, these cakes are probably familiar:
Course 1, Buttercream Transfer

We did drop flowers:

and then the final cake was with a border and roses on top,

Course 2 focused mostly on royal flowers of all sorts that we saved for the final cake,
a buttercream basket weave oval (I still don't know what I'm going to do with those pans).

I also practiced on a few cakes outside of class

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Grown-up Birthday Cake.

 A Grown-up Birthday Cake, that's what this is. Swiss meringue buttercream is the best to taste, but not so easy to color and frost with. No crusting. The rest of the decor were some royal daisies that were made in my Wilton class. Simple and elegant. . . . and frosting to lick fingers for.