Monday, September 27, 2010

Chocolate Tomato Cake with Mystery Ganache

When I first read through Rose's Heavenly Cakes and saw this cake I was pretty skeptical, but after reading some people's comments online prior to making the cake I figured it would probably turn out well. I definitely happy to have a quick and easy cake this week because I spent Saturday biking 72 miles at a charity ride and just needed something easy and relaxing to bake.

I planned ahead relatively well this time and made the ganache right after lunch so that I could ice it later in the evening. My plan was to take the cake to work for our monthly birthday celebration so it just had to be done by the end of the day. I was tempted to substitute some semi-sweet chocolate for some of the bittersweet because I tend to like my icing sweeter, but then I remembered reading that you should always try making the recipe as is first before making substitutions.

I guess I missed the part that said the chocolate was supposed to be chopped because I just put it in the food processor in big pieces. It was loud, but it worked.

You definitely can't tell that there is any tomato in this ganache.

So, after taking a break to do some other chores and watch some TV I started getting everything out to make the cake. I weigh most of my dry ingredients, and there have been a few places where the measuring method mentions sifting before measuring. I was trying to figure out if I should also be sifting to get rid of clumps before weighing so yesterday I decided to sift the cocoa while weighing and ended up getting it all over my scale. Instead being smart and wiping it off with a paper towel I ran the platform under water and guess what it stopped working. At first I thought maybe the battery needed to be replaced. When that didn't work I took it to my husband who noticed the water, and I pretty much decided it was ruined. Instead of just going to the measuring cups I drove to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and got a new scale. I was hoping that maybe they had one with 1/10 ounce measurements, but they didn't. So, after less than 30 minutes I was back on track and got all of the ingredients ready to go. My husband was able to revive the old scale so I'm hoping I can return the new one and wait to get a better one.

By this time it was getting close to dinner time, and I just wanted to get the cake in the oven so I could get dinner started so the step by step pictures were the first thing to go. This recipe is really pretty simple. I got it everything mixed and in the pans with the bake even strips around them.

I think I was a little distracted towards the end of baking time. When I first tested the cakes at 30 minutes they definitely weren't done. The centers didn't spring back at all when pressed lightly so I put them in for another 5 minutes, and the same thing happened the after that 5 minutes. I probably should have put them in for a shorter time the second time around because they looked a little dry around the edges. But, I've learned that I can fix a slightly dry cake with a simple sugar syrup - 1 part sugar, 1 part water. You stir and boil the mixture until the sugar dissolves and then brush over the cake. It's super easy, and although it would be better if it hadn't dried out in the first place that seems to help.

Next up was the construction and icing of the cake. I enlisted my husband to capture some pictures of this part. I love the cake lifter I got for setting one layer on another. It makes that so much easier and less messy.

Here I am trying to make it smooth until I realized that I was going to cover up the sides anyway so it didn't really matter how smooth they were.

And, then I did my best to imitate the wavy lines from the picture in the book.

At this point I wished I had just purchased a tube of red buttercream at the grocery store instead of making my own. I just used the recipe from the Wilton cake decorating class (cut in half) because it's really quick and I knew it would give me the consistency I needed for piping the stars. I ended up using all of my red food coloring to get this shade of red.

Then I started measuring and cutting the cookies to go around the cake. I used the chocolate fudge pirouettes because I didn't really pay attention to which ones the recipe used, and when I went to the store I figured chocolate would go well with a chocolate cake. I alternated between 4, 4.25, and 4.5 inches. I knew I hadn't really let the ganache dry enough, but I also knew I wouldn't have any time in the morning to complete it. Looking back I should have let it sit and sacrifice a little sleep to keep from having soggy cookies.

Once all the cookies were on the cake I piped the stars. I tried using piping gel and a paint brush to go back over them later, but there just wasn't enough time to get the look I wanted so I stuck with the stars. I think it still looked pretty good. And, somehow I managed to take this picture while holding the piping bag as if I was actually piping.

I took the cake to work with me today, and I told everyone there was a mystery ingredient while they were eating and let them guess until they had mostly finished their pieces. I got guesses like coffee, chile pepper, and sour cream. Everyone loved the cake and were very surprised to hear there was tomato soup in it. At least a couple people said it was very moist and light. I made sure to cut my slice and get a picture before the cake got demolished by everyone. This picture almost makes the cookies look like they weren't the chocolate ones.

This cake was interesting, but it probably won't go on my list to make again. Next week's cake the Caramelized Pineapple Pudding Cakes with Homemade Brioche has me a little nervous. I've never made bread with yeast before, and I won't have a lot of time to spend on it this week. I've been told that brioche is fairly easy to make, but it's still a big unknown for me so we'll see how that goes.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cookbook Reorg

I like collecting cookbooks, and my collection has grown quite a bit in the last year. When we built our house we had shelves built in on one side of our island. For a while they weren't even filled up. Then earlier this year they started to overflow, and I just started pushing them to the back until one day the weight of the books caused the top shelf to fall down bringing all of my cookbooks with it. So, then I moved the ones I don't use to a cabinet and started stacking them. That left my shelves looking nice:

Recently I've also started getting cake decorating books, but since I really didn't have a good place for them I just put them in the container in my pantry with all of my supplies. A couple weeks ago after signing up for a baking class taught by Nick Malgieri I thought it might be nice to try out some of his recipes from other cookbooks first. I went to Borders to get Perfect Light Desserts with a coupon and happened to find The Modern Baker for only $5.99 as well so that added two more to the mix. So, my pile in the cabinet was growing so I figured I needed a better place for them at some point.

I was in one of our spare bedrooms last week and realized there was a large corner shelf that was pretty close to the color of our cabinets not being used. It was one that my MIL stained so even though we didn't have a good place for it we didn't just get rid of it. So, today I finally decided to move it into the corner of the breakfast room, and I put all of my baking and cake decorating books on there. It works out perfectly because most of them are very pretty books anyway. Right now it's a little sparse, but I'm sure that will change.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Apple Caramel Charlotte

I had been following the Heavenly Cake Bakers blog for a while. They are baking their way through Rose's Heavenly Cakes. I finally decided to see if I could join. I was told by Marie that I could and to just decide which cake I wanted to make my first one and let her know when I had a post up. I decided I wouldn't completely commit to making the Apple Caramel Charlotte because I wasn't sure if I was up for attempting a recipe that was 7 pages long. After giving it a few days thought I finally decided to give it a try figuring I would learn some things along the way even if it didn't turn out great. I read the recipe at least a couple times the whole way through and then read each section of the recipe prior to starting that step probably two or three times.

I started the cake Saturday afternoon. I poached the apples which was something I had never done before. I searched two different stores for a hard baking apple that was red like some of the ones mentioned in the beginning of the recipe, but ended up just using golden delicious and adding the red peel from a red delicious apple.

Then Saturday evening while watching the UT vs. Tech game I made the biscuit part of the cake, measured, and cut it up into the different pieces needed for the bottom and sides of the cake. I think I should have pulled mine out of the oven a little earlier than 7 minutes, but I was probably a little distracted by the game. Note to self, it's probably not the best idea to bake a cake during a potentially stressful football game.

After the game where the Longhorns fortunately managed to pull out a win I strained some apricot preserves and stacked the rectangular pieces of cake. One side was slightly thicker than the other, and I hoped that wouldn't cause a problem. At the time of stacking I didn't understand the reason for spreading preserves on the top piece, but when I started putting the whole thing together it made sense.

Sunday morning I had planned to go for a bike ride, but then my friend Alice asked if I would be up for going in the late afternoon instead. That worked out well because it gave me time to finish the cake the first. I thought I would end up with time for grocery shopping too, but I underestimated just how much work I had left to do. I knew today would be the day for lots of challenges. The first part was relatively easy. It was just tedious cutting the biscuit and placing them around the spring form pan and placing the round piece in the center.

Next came the hard parts - the bavarian cream. First you make a caramel, and I think mine might have ended up a touch burnt. I think my candy thermometer doesn't work with small amounts of liquid. Fortunately I didn't wait for it to hit the temperature or it would have been very burnt. Here it is with the apple poaching liquid poured in. Notice the number of pans on the stove. I had to go to my old pans to find enough small pans to make this cream, and I still had to hand wash a couple of the pans for later use.

So, here's where I made my big mistake. And, when things start going wrong I often forget about taking pictures. The recipe said to set the caramel custard aside to allow it to cool, and I decided that would be a good time for a break to eat lunch and one other thing. When I came back to the mixture it was already starting to harden. So, I quickly started trying to get the Italian Meringue done which is another problem area for me. The sugar always seems to get hard too quick when adding it to the egg whites, and I just don't really know what the meringue should look like after the hot sugar is mixed in so I don't know if it worked correctly. Fortunately I'm going to cake baking and icing classes in a couple weeks, and I've been told that we're going to cover that.

After finishing the meringue I decided that I needed to do something to get my custard back to liquid form so I stuck it in the microwave very briefly. There was no time for starting over on that step, I couldn't really work with what I had in that state, and I didn't want to give up. I also ended up with issues whipping the cream which should have been one of the easiest things. I got distracted for less than a minutes and ended up whipping it too long. I had another cup of heavy cream in the fridge so I dumped what I had and redid that. I got the filling in the cake and stuck it in the fridge.

Finally the most rewarding part was getting to the last couple steps of laying the apples in a rose shape and brushing on the glaze. That part was really very easy. I was so happy to finish this cake. I love the way it looks, but I don't think it's one I would do again. My husband and I really prefer chocolate desserts so it just wasn't our kind of thing.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Roasted Banana Cupcakes

I had some very brown bananas yesterday, and I was in the mood to bake something so I decided on the Roasted Banana Cupcakes from
Martha Stewart's Cupcakes. The recipe was really pretty easy and quick. Roasting the bananas definitely brought out the banana flavor.

The cupcakes are topped with a honey cinnamon frosting which was almost too sweet for my tastes which rarely happens, but it did complement the banana flavor well. In the cookbook, she suggests using making multiple swirl designs, but I actually didn't own the piping tip that she recommended using so I went with my usual swirl.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

More Gumpaste and Fondant Practice

Wilton changed up their classes this summer, and I figured I would probably learn something new and get a little more practice from the new Gumpaste and Fondant course. In the class we learned how to make a big bow, some flowers, and how to cover the cake and board in fondant. I had purchased some chocolate fondant a few months ago but didn't get around to trying it so I knew I wanted to use that for the final cake, and I came up with the plan to do a chocolate and teal look for the cake. I took the Modern Decorations class in the middle of this one so I also decided to use the stencil. And, even though I knew I wouldn't have a lot of time to get the cake done because I was doing a cake balls class the night before our final class I still decided to try a new recipe with lots of parts.

So, lets start with the recipe I chose. Since I knew it needed to go well with the chocolate fondant I went with the Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cake from Rose's Heavenly Cakes. Since I knew time would be an issue I made the cakes the Sunday before and froze them:

First problem was the filling called for strawberry butter which I couldn't find here so instead of using the simple substitute I searched online for a strawberry butter recipe and made my own. It tasted good on its own but didn't give much strawberry flavor to the cake so I think it might have been too different from the one in the jar.

The next issue was that I wasn't sure if the chocolate frosting in the cake recipe was going to work under fondant. After talking to the instructor at my cake balls class I decided to go with a chocolate ganache instead which added yet another thing which I had never made before. I found a recipe which looked pretty simple in my Martha Stewart Cupcakes cookbook, and after making it I will definitely have to try that again on some of her cupcakes. It was amazingly simple to make.

The other big issue I ran into that night was the merengue. I guess I just need more practice, but every time I go to add the hot sugar to the egg whites it hardens before I can mix it in. I ended up having to redo the sugar. In the end I think the filling turned out as well as possible with my choice of strawberry butter.

I really love how nice the cake looks with just the ganache on it. I will definitely try making a cake sometime that is covered in just ganache.

So, the next day at class I got the cake covered in fondant and got my cake board covered and did one of the stencils. I ran into so many problems that night with all of those things that I wasn't able to finish the cake until the next morning. It ended up looking really nice.

Unfortunately Daniel and I were the only ones who got to enjoy it because I didn't have work that day and didn't get it done in time for Daniel to take with him. We ended up throwing out quite a lot of cake because we just can't eat that much cake ourselves. I think my limit is really a couple pieces. Next time I will definitely plan better, and I will have to try this recipe out again without the substitutions. Either way I love the coloring of the slices:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Cake Balls

My mom and I took the cake balls class together this Wednesday evening at All in One Bake Shop and had a lot of fun learning how to make them. Here's my mom at the class:

They had four different mixes of cake and icing already made up for us but went over the technique for doing that. We started with rolling out our cake balls. Here are ours after rolling them:

Then we learned multiple techniques for covering them in chocolate. The easiest was definitely the hand method where you put chocolate on your hands (with gloves on) and then roll the cake ball around in the chocolate. That method is super fast, and you get some neat texture to the chocolate. If you don't care about having smooth cake balls that is probably the best one. If you want them smooth my next favorites were then toothpick and stick methods. With the toothpick method you put a toothpick in the cake ball and dip it in the chocolate, drop it on the cookie sheet, and cover the hole with a little chocolate. That method seemed okay until the cake balls warmed up and started falling apart. You use the stick method if you want to make cake pops which I really want to do. With that one you dip the stick in chocolate and then put it in the cake ball and let it drop before dipping the ball in chocolate. There were a few other methods, but these were my favorite. Here's some in progress cake balls:

It was really fun taking this class with my mom. We already have a project in mind for Christmas time to practice what we learned, and I have Bakerella's Cake Pops book on order now so we'll have lots of projects to try out. Here's my completed cake balls: