Monday, May 2, 2011

German Chocolate Cake and My Big News

Before I get to this cake from Rose's Heavenly Cakes I need to apologize for my absence from the blogging world the past couple months. I haven't done much baking in the past couple months, and the little baking I've done has actually been for charity (unless you count the box mix lemon bars and canned cinnamon rolls that I broke down and made). But, I think I have a pretty good reason. I'm about four months pregnant with my first child!! I'm finally starting to get my energy back so hopefully I'll have time to join in on some of the baking and blogging fun for at least the next few months.

Now, on to the cake. This week was Free Choice Week for the HCBers, and I was craving German Chocolate Cake. Since neither my husband or myself need an entire 9 inch layer cake around the house I cut the recipe in half and made a 6 inch layer cake. It worked out pretty well except that since I had to overlap the bake even strips it seemed to cause my cake to fall apart a little on one of the sides. Fortunately that was nothing that a little chocolate icing (ganache with some extra powdered sugar to thicken it up) wouldn't fix. This cake was really pretty simple to make. The only other issue I ran into was the filling thickened a bit too much, but I just heated it a bit prior to spreading it on the cake.

The taste verdict: I liked how moist the cake was, but I wished the filling was a little sweeter. I think I've learned that I like my cakes a bit sweeter than Rose. My husband really liked this cake. When I told him that I thought it could stand to be sweeter he said he didn't think there was anything wrong with it.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Golden Lemon Almond Cake

I guess it's been a few weeks since I last posted. I started my new job and have something else going on that's kept me from doing any baking with the exception of a few charity items that I had already committed to. Since this week was free choice week with the Heavenly Cake Bakers I really wanted to bake this cake. This cake had ranked really high with the rest of the group, and it sounded like a pretty simple cake to make. I had already purchased the lemon oil so I didn't have to go looking for that.

This cake came together pretty quickly. With the exception of getting the ingredients out the only other part that took much extra time was toasting the almonds and then cooling them. I stuck mine in the freezer after toasting them so they would cool quicker. I didn't really take any progress pictures. I've found that I'm taking fewer progress pictures now that I have a nice, new camera. I just don't want it getting messed up whereas with my old one I didn't really care that much. I did get a picture of it when it came out of the oven.

Since I finished the cake fairly late Tuesday evening I only had a tiny sliver of it and then had a normal slice the next day, but the recipe mentions that it's better the next day. I do agree that there was more flavor the next day, but I always love the taste of bundt cake or bread that's still a little warm. Daniel and I decided this is definitely one of top cakes I've made. I just loved the strong lemon flavor and the crunch of the sugar on the outside from the syrup mixture. (I had to use a little granulated sugar in my syrup because I ran out of turbinado, but it still seemed to work well.)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cradle Cake

This week's cake for the Heavenly Cake Bakers was the Cradle Cake. Some of the other bakers were really looking forward to it, but I never really saw what was drawing them to it until I tasted it. It doesn't really look that special, but it tastes amazing. I made the cake Thursday night because I knew I had other baking projects to do and wouldn't have time for everything on the weekend. Besides I'm still in between jobs so I have a little extra time to bake during the week. (I start my new job on February 7th. It was supposed to be tomorrow, but not all of the paperwork was done on time.)

The dacquoise came together pretty easy. It didn't really seem to want to spread up the sides of the pan that well so I had to mess with it again after I had the cake batter ready.

The cake batter was just a simple buttermilk cake recipe that was really quick to make.

After I spooned the batter inside the dacquoise I realized that my pan was actually 10 inches instead of 9 so I had to push some of the dacquoise back down towards the batter.

I was very glad this wasn't going to be the top of the cake because it looked pretty ugly when it came out of the oven with all of the cracks around the edge of the cake part.

The cake looked much better once I removed it from the pan, but it definitely needed something on top. I decided to go with the glaze because it was much quicker, and Daniel wanted some cake.

I didn't have enough patience to wait for the cake to completely cool before cutting it. I absolutely loved this cake. The cake is very tender with a sweet, crunchy crust. Daniel said this was probably his favorite cake so far.

Double Chocolate Loaf with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Spread

Today's recipe for the BAKED Sunday Mornings group was an incredibly easy double chocolate loaf. The only thing that would make this easier would be weights in the recipe for dry ingredients.

All you have to do is mix the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl and the wet ingredients separately. Then mix in the wet ingredients and stir in the chocolate. I used Callebaut semi-sweet callets because that's what I had, and I've been trying to use up ingredients that I already have rather than buying new ingredients for everything I make. I guess that made it a touch sweeter, but it still wasn't overly sweet.

While the loaf cooled I made the peanut butter cream cheese spread and then stuck it in the fridge. Daniel and I had a slice after lunch, and to me it was good but a bit heavy. Daniel really liked it. The outside dried a bit so it was crusty on the outside and moist on the inside which is a quality that he loves in dessert.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Whipped Cream Cake

Last night I really needed a break from job search activities. The last couple days I've had four interviews - two phone screens and two on-site. That's good, but it's also very tiring. So, when I got home yesterday I decided I would take a break by walking my dog and then baking a cake. I wanted to participate in free choice week for the HCB group anyway.

There are so many cakes that sounded good, but I decided that I should make some simple that I already have the ingredients for. When I saw how simple the Whipped Cream Cake is I thought that might be good, but I was afraid it would taste too plain. But, when I looked through Marie's old posts and saw that everyone loved it I decided to go for it. Plus, it would give me a chance to use my new bundt pan that I got with my Williams Sonoma gift card after Christmas. Daniel thought I was crazy for buying a new pan until he realized that there were more crispy edges with this pan.

The batter came together really quickly. I didn't even take any pictures of the process. The only things that really took any extra time were processing the regular sugar so I could have super fine sugar and sift the dry ingredients.

Daniel was very happy when he came home to see that there was a cake baking. The cake came out of the pan with no problems, and I let it cool a little before I sprinkled some powdered sugar on top.

I originally cut some nice normal sized slices, but we each ended up wanting a little more. It has such a soft, moist crumb with a nice crispy outside edge. Daniel and I both loved it!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Elmo Cupcakes

I delivered my second cake order for the charity Free Cakes for Kids today. It was for a special needs adult who wanted either cookies or cupcakes and either Elmo or circus theme. After doing a little searching I thought Elmo cupcakes would be fun and not too difficult to make. The flavor request for the cupcakes was chocolate so I went with the Devil's Food cupcakes from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes cookbook. I'd made them before with good luck so I thought that would be a good choice again. I ended up with 28 cupcakes so that left a few for tasting because the containers I had held a dozen each. I got the cupcakes baked last night and then planned to decorate this morning.

I think I underestimated just how long it would take to decorate them. Originally I thought I would pipe the fur and the face on the cupcakes, but the one I saw online that I liked had used fondant for the face. Plus, I realized this morning that I didn't have any black food coloring so I decided to just pipe on the fur and use fondant for the eyes, nose, and mouth. The fur took a bit longer than I thought to pipe on, but there was certainly nothing difficult there.

The only thing difficult about the face was trying to get the mouth to be the right shape and then trying to stick the black part of the eyes on the white part after they were on the cupcakes. Those things wouldn't really be that hard except I was in a huge hurry. Daniel printed off a map and directions to the place I was dropping them off while I was finishing the cupcakes, and that's when I found out it would take about 40 minutes to get there. Oops! But, I got them all decorated and in their containers and managed to make it there on time! Aren't they cute?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

White Velvet Cake with Milk Chocolate Ganache

I thought I would take a little break from my job search to post the latest cake for the Heavenly Cake Bakers. I've made this cake at least a couple times before just not the icing so I was very interested to see how it would turn out. Besides, I tend to be more of milk chocolate person than a dark chocolate unless of course it's paired with mint in which case I love the either one.

I baked the cake Sunday evening, and I really didn't take many pictures because it is incredibly simple to make. I think it takes more time to wait for the eggs and butter to come to room temperature prior to starting than it does to mix the batter. Since I started the cake a little late I decided to wait to ice it until the next day.

I thought I would have time during the day, but the job search has definitely kept me busy. I've had very little down time which I guess is a really good thing. I'm not really concerned about finding something. I'm more concerned about the best jobs not moving quick enough for me, but I'm sure it will all turn out well in the end.

So, back to the cake. I finally decided before dinner that I would take a little time for myself to make the ganache and finish the cake. The ganache is also very simple to make, and when Daniel saw the icing sitting out he got excited about having cake for dessert until I told him that the ganache needed to set up for a little white before I could frost the cake. I tried frosting it after dinner, but it was still pretty runny so I stuck the messy, iced cake in the fridge until later that night. Then I got it cleaned up and decided against trying to do anything really decorative on the cake because I just didn't have time. I was happy that I finally got to use my covered glass cake stand that I got for Christmas. I was getting tired of having an ugly plastic cake container on my counter all the time so I asked for this one for Christmas, and my mom bought it for me.

Daniel and I really liked the cake. My crumb probably wasn't as small as it should be because I opted for regular sugar instead of superfine, but it still turned out wonderful. The ganache is very creamy.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Giraffe Birthday Cake

Before the holidays I ran across a charity called Free Cakes for Kids which provides birthday cakes for kids in need. I looked through their website and found that there was no requirement to be a professional baker or work out of a commercial kitchen so I thought that would be the perfect way for me to practice my cake decorating skills and give back at the same time. I emailed the director and received an application. I sent in my application a few days before Christmas, and I was super excited when I got an email back with volunteer information. Immediately I looked through the list of current cake requests to find one or two that would fit my schedule, my skills, and that sounded like fun. Since I was going to off from work today (and Daniel had to work) I thought it would be a good day to deliver my first cake.

The cake I picked was for a girl turning 18 who wanted a giraffe theme. I didn't really know what to do for it. I thought about trying to sculpt a giraffe, but I was afraid that would be a little too cutesy for an 18 year old. I found a picture online of one with a giraffe pattern and big bow (the Wilton style ones) and thought I could do something similar though I prefer the look of the simpler bows.

The cake itself was pretty simple. The request was for a vanilla cake. I went with another recipe from Tish Boyle's The Cake Book - the Basic Golden Cake Layers. And, I just used vanilla buttercream. I made the cake ahead of time and froze the layers. This seems to help me time-wise and helps firm up the cake prior to frosting it so I don't end up with crumbs in the icing. Then last night I iced the cake and stuck it in the fridge, and then I stayed up late coloring all of the fondant and getting the cake board covered with fondant so it could dry.

First thing I did today was put ribbon around the edge of the cake board. That is such a simple thing that really makes a huge difference in how the cake looks. Then I pulled out the fondant to cover the cake, and I realized the base color looked too pink so I added a bit of yellow and darker brown in hopes that I could fix the color. I think it turned out okay. I also think I'm getting better at covering cakes with fondant because I was much happier with how smooth it looked, and it went much quicker than previous cakes I've done. The next part of adding the pattern is what really challenged me. I have a very logical mind so trying to do something that's artistic rather than just following some method or example is difficult for me, but once all of the pieces were in place on the cake I was really happy with how it turned out. Next up was the bow which is a very methodical thing so I didn't have any major problems there, and this one was much easier than the one I made for my mom since I didn't have to worry about placing a strip of black on the edge of the ribbon. Since, I had placed the cake on a cake board that was a little bigger than the cake itself I hid it with a teal boarder which I think ties the whole thing together nicely. I wrote happy birthday and added a little tag with her age (which was also done on the original cake I found).

I was really happy with how this first cake turned out. I got lots of nice comments when I delivered it, and I really hope the birthday girl enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to making lots of cakes for this group. My favorite part of baking is getting to share with others, and giving a cake to someone who wouldn't otherwise receive one is the best way to share this.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Baked Sunday Mornings: Almond Joy Tart

Almond Joy was one of my favorite candy when I was younger. I just love the combination of chocolate and coconut cream. This recipe was pretty easy. There are several steps which all have wait times, but none of the steps are all that time consuming. It's just something that you have to plan ahead for just a little.

First you make the almond tart dough and put that in the fridge for at least an hour. You can also make the ganache for the coconut cream filling at the same time because that also has to sit in the fridge for a while (at least 4 hours).

Then the tart dough has to be rolled out and pressed into the tart pans. The recipe recommends using tart pans with removable bottoms, but both Williams Sonoma and Sur la Table just had the smaller tart pans in one piece so that's what I used. I had no problems removing them from the pan after they baked. I cut the recipe in half because after the holidays and my mom's birthday celebration we were feeling a little bit of dessert overload.

After they bake the rest is a piece of cake. You whip the ganache and add the coconut and rum and fill the tart shells. I ended up with more filling than I needed for my tarts. I don't know if my pans were actually a little smaller. After you fill them you have to put them in the fridge while you make the chocolate sauce. I decided to use some 52% Callebaut instead of doing the mixture of milk and dark chocolate. Then you pour the sauce over the tart. Since mine were filled a bit high I ended up with chocolate sauce running over the edge of the tart. It kinda looked like the Bostini I made a month or so ago.

Daniel and I split one after dinner, and we both really enjoyed it. The tart shell was a little hard. I might have cooked it a little too long, but that didn't really affect the flavor. It was really delicious.

Happy Birthday Mom!

I hope everyone had a wonderful New Years Eve! Our celebrations are normally a little different from everyone else's because December 31st is also my mom's birthday, and this year it was the big 50th. And, of course I made a cake.

I knew that I needed to make a chocolate cake, but I wasn't sure which filling to use. I got Tish Boyle's "The Cake Book" for Christmas, and I decided that her Devishly Moist Chocolate Cake sounded really good. It called for using 9x3 inch pans which I don't have, but that meant I could bake some cupcakes along with the cake for taste tests. The recipe was incredibly simple to make. She gives weight measurements for the dry ingredients which made it even easier. And, the cake was probably the most moist chocolate cake I've made. Daniel said the recipe is a keeper. I finally decided on her Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Ganache for the filling and then just used a standard vanilla buttercream for the outside with fondant on top. It definitely made for a very rich cake.

I decided to go with a classic birthday present design for the cake. I had learned how to make this black and white bow back in August when Marco Antonio Lopez and Sonia Escobar taught a class on modern cake design and thought that would be perfect for my mom's cake. It's not a difficult technique, but it took more time to make than I thought it would. You cut out pieces of white fondant for the ribbons and then use a clay extruder with black fondant in it to get the long thin strips of black. I used a brush with water to attach the black strips to the white. I think this cake was probably my cleanest fondant work. I covered the cake board well enough ahead of time so it could dry, and then I attached a black and white ribbon to the edge of the board to give a really clean look. I had planned to do a design on the white part of the cake but ran out of time. I still think it turned out really well, and I think my mom really liked it. She sure doesn't look like she's 50!