Cake Decorating: Minis!

I feel like it’s been forever since I posted my  white almond wedding cake recipe, but I’m finally here to show you what I ended up doing with the eight mini cakes that I made. Well, what I did with six of them. I had to eat one to make sure I was happy with the recipe before sharing it (I was), but then I had an odd number of cakes so I had no choice but to eat another one too. No one like odds numbers, least of all me.

Another thing that kept me from posting last week is that I was tasked with designing a wedding cake. This stressed me out to no end, let me tell you. But that is for my next post, where I plan to go into detail about all of the stress that produced. I didn’t even take any pictures of how I decorated it. TOO MUCH PRESSURE. But I learned quite a bit in the process that I think is worth sharing.

The cake was due on Friday, and then on Saturday (when I usually blog) I felt an overwhelming NEED to clean the grout on my kitchen floor. In other words, I was looking for someone to punch me in the face but couldn’t find anyone. So I did that, then went on a ten mile walk near my house (Seriously, where are the face punchers when you need them?) and basically spent all of Sunday feeling exhausted.

But I am back and still representing for them gangstas all across the world, still hitting them corners on the lo-lo’s, girl.

Or, you know, baking and stuff.

So let’s get to the point! I created these three mini cakes because not only do I love how three little cakes look on a cake stand, but because I wanted to try out three different icings/fillings to see which one my neighbors thought was tastiest for the wedding cake. I also wanted to try painting with some gold dust, since I’d finally bought a decent brand where that was actually possible. I definitely think that when you make three mini cakes it’s a good idea to make them visually compliment each other. I chose a palette of gold, blue, orange, violet, and white.


 

This first cake was covered in a white chocolate ganache that I colored blue. Later, when I tried dying the buttercream the same color I noticed they didn’t quite match. I’m sure it has a lot to do with the base color of whatever you’re trying to dye. I iced it using the upside-down method and then painted on some gold luster dust by mixing it with a little vodka. The dust I used is made by Rolkem. After I finished I just flipped the cake over and removed the paper, revealing a crisp edge.

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To finish it off I piped some buttercream blobs on the top in the colors I used for my other cakes. Looks sort of royal!

For the next cake I again used the upside-down method. I covered it in white buttercream and then added some violet and blue to give it a sort of watercolor look. This may remind you of my Ode to Maine cake, where I go into more detail on how to get this look. But really it’s as simple as dabbing on the colors you want and then scraping it smooth.

To finish this cake up and tie it together with the others, I decided to place some beautifully orange mums on top. Cut all but 2 inches of the step off of your flower(s), then cut a length of straw that is just a little longer and stick it in the cake. Stick your flower step in the straw hole and voila!

For the third cake I again went with the upside-down method (shocker). This time I divided my buttercream into three colors and used piping bags to create stripes. The stripes become more distinct as you smooth the cake.

To create the chocolate sails I melted some white chocolate, smoothed it out on some parchment paper, then splattered it with some of my liquid gold dust mixture. You can place it in the fridge for fifteen minutes while it hardens, then break it up into several jagged pieces and stick them in the cake. I also decided at the last minute to paint the top of the cake gold and add some gold stripes on the side. This is best achieved with a cold cake, obviously.

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Here is a closer look at the final product. Notice I added even more gold to the white buttercream on top of the blue ganache cake. And some MORE gold to the white cake with the mums. You can just call me Queen Midas from now on, I won’t mind.

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Subtle, but so pretty!

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Here you can definitely tell how the blue ganache is a lot brighter than the blue on the other cakes. Definitely need to keep that in mind the next time I try to mix and match icings.

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A huge rainstorm just ended when I attempted to take these pics. I think this is the point where I rushed to get inside. The humidity was off the damn charts and not only were the cakes forming condensation, but my camera was fogging up like crazy.

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Case in point.

Hopefully that is the last of my humidity issues this summer.

Hahaha. Haha. Ha. 😦

Until next time!

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White Almond Wedding Cake: Don’t Nix the Mix!

It seems that more and more brides are opting to make their own cakes nowadays, or at the very least trying to cut costs by recruiting their baking-savvy friends. I was recently asked to make a small-ish cake for a couple (Whose wedding is this Friday, eek!) so I had been looking around for different recipes and flavor combination ideas.

The truth is you just can’t go wrong with a classic white almond cake. It’s tasty, versatile, and a step up from vanilla (But don’t get me wrong, vanilla can be amazing). It’s also likely to please everyone, which is important when your cake is small enough that multiple flavors seems unnecessary.

This isn’t my first time making an almond cake.  I kept seeing the same recipe posted on like every site, whether it was Pinterest, Allrecipes, or Cakecentral. I pinned it to my “Cake Recipes I Want to Try” board where it got a nice thick coating of virtual dust before I decided to give it a try. I think what what held me back is that I’m all about trying to bake from scratch and this recipe used a modified cake mix. All you were supposed to do is take a white cake mix and add some almond extract, sour cream, and a few other ingredients to doctor it up. It just feels like cheating, doesn’t it?

But while I do still strongly prefer scratch recipes I think that when it comes to a homemade wedding  cake a modified cake mix recipe is the way to go. Here’s why: When I think of wedding cakes I think of a fluffy and moist cake that melts in your mouth. Yet, it obviously needs to be easy to work with if you want to stack layers and create tiers. So therein lies the conundrum. I personally feel that cake mixes by themselves produce a cake that is too soft and fluffy to work with. On the other hand, so many scratch recipes lack that fluffy moistness we’ve come to expect. A modified cake mix essentially marries (I’m full of puns) these two  extremes into one fantastically fluffy yet sturdy cake!

Back when I made the recipe I got lots of compliments on the flavor and texture. I thought about using it again for this wedding cake, but I got it in my head that I could possibly make it even better. Harder, better, faster, stronger. You know, like Kanye. If you need another rap reference (and we all do) I liken my ambition to Puff Daddy, who as everyone knows takes hits from the 80s and makes them sound so crazy (yeah yeah!). Anyway,  I think I did it. In fact I know I did it. If I were accepting an award for this cake there is only a 65% chance that Kanye would interrupt my speech because he thought someone else did it better. Those are some pretty good odds.

So without further ado, REMIX!

Ingredients:

  • 1 box (16.5 oz) of white cake mix
  • 1/2 c (50 g) of ground almonds
  • 1/2 c (65 g) of all-purpose flour
  • 1 c (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 1/3 c water
  • 1 c (approx 250 g) plain or vanilla Greek yogurt (I used vanilla)
  • 2 tbsp (20 g) vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond paste (or more to taste)
  • 1 tsp salt

Method:

Step 1: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C

Step 2: Grease and line the bottom of whatever cake tins you’re using. I happened to be making three mini cakes so I used 4-inch tins. This batter was enough to make 8 of them.

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Step 3: Whisk together all of your dry ingredients: Cake mix, flour, ground almonds, salt, and sugar. Add your wet ingredients: Water, oil, yogurt, vanilla extract, almond paste, and egg whites (Did I forget anything?). Mix until smooth.

Step 4: Fill your tins three quarters of the way up. And if you’re wondering, why YES these are tuna cans that I transformed into cake tins. Tuna washed out first of course. Almond Tuna cake doesn’t sound very appealing. Please notice how it’s also imperative that you place these little tins on the oldest and grungiest looking cookie sheet in your kitchen.

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Step 5: Bake! All of my cakes took exactly 26 minutes. It may be a bit more or less depending on the size of your tins. I would start checking around 15-20 minutes. That’s just good practice anyway!

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Check out how nice and golden (yet not crusty) those outsides are. How white the tops are! How fluffy they are inside:

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The almond flour in addition to the regular flour really seems to help with stability. And the almond paste packs these babies with FLAVA!

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Yeah Boyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!

One more look just so you can see how delectably delightful these cakes are! You will see them again very soon in a future blog post!

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So there you have it! Give them a try and let me know what you think in the comments!

Until next time ❤

 

 

Mai Tai Chai Orange and Pineapple Cake

I know, I know–I am way late in posting this. I think it’s because my aunt asked me for the recipe and I ended up sending her some long instructions via email that tricked my mind into thinking I’d written about it here. Nopers.

But the good news is that since I’ve already typed it out once before there is a good chance I will remember at least 80% of how I made it. 😛

The spring season in Texas feels like an insanely short Maine summer. The winters can be bone-chilling,  the summers insufferably hot. But the 2-3 weeks between these two extremes is sweet perfection. I mean, the smell of orange blossoms alone is enough to make you swoon. I’m pretty sure they are what inspired me to bring this citrus cake to fruition (lol puns).

I chose the Mai Tai because I wanted the cake to taste (and look) like a fruity, summery cocktail. My original plan was to make a grenadine simple syrup for the cake layers, but my bartender friend told me it would be far too strong. He recommended a chai tea simple syrup instead, which is what they use at his restaurant.

Hence, the Mai Tai Chai was born.

New goal: Alternating layers of orange and pineapple cakes soaked in a chai tea simple syrup and iced with a delicious rum buttercream.

The orange cake recipe was easy. I used this recipe from Fine Cooking. The cake is flavored  via the zest and juice of fresh oranges. No extract here!

The pineapple cake was not as easy.  Most of the recipes online are for Pineapple Upside Down Cakes. Another issue I had was that I wanted both cake flavors to be similar in texture, since it would be weird to layer a heavy pound cake with a fluffy sponge cake, etc. What I ended up doing is adapting the orange recipe above into a pineapple cake recipe. And yes, my first attempt was a horrible failure. Did you know that pineapples are like wayyyy up there on the acid scale, laughing in the faces of bakers trying to put them in a cake?

Well, I conquered dem bitches. At least I think I did. I personally liked the pineapple cake more than the orange one, as evidenced by my eating an entire layer that could have gone on the cake.

One more thing: I don’t recommend coloring the cake batter of either cake. My original plan was to color the orange cakes orange (duh) and the pineapple cakes yellow. I baked the cakes without coloring first and they were absolutely perfect. When I baked them again with coloring added the texture seemed a little off. Plus all of that beautiful orange zest won’t show through.

So without further ado:

Orange Layer Cake

Pineapple Layer Cake (adapted from orange cake above):

  • Replace the orange juice with pineapple juice (from a large can of crushed pineapples in water). If you can’t quite get a cup of juice, just add water.
  • Add 1/2 cup of crushed pineapple that has thoroughly drained on some paper towels. You want to get as much of the moisture out as possible. Use the paper towels to press on the pineapples so that they soak up most of the juice.
  • Add 1/2 tsp of baking soda to make up for the extra acidity in the recipe

Chai Simple Syrup:

  • Bring 1 cup (8 fl oz) of water and 1 cup (200 g) of granulated sugar to a simmer. Once the sugar has melted add 1-2  Chai tea bags. Let the mixture simmer for about 5 minutes and then remove it from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature.

Rum Buttercream:

  • 1 cup (227 g) of softened unsalted butter
  • 4 cups (500 g) of powdered sugar (may need more or less)
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz) rum of your choice (I used coconut rum)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp of vanilla extract

Meringue:

  • Beat two egg whites until frothy then add a pinch of cream of tartar
  • Once the whites are no longer opaque and seem to be gaining in strength and volume slowly add 2-3 tablespoons of powdered sugar. Continue to beat on med-high until the mixture resembles marshmallow and can hold a stiff peak.

Oh geeze. Maybe my lack of pics is the real reason I never posted this recipe. I will do my best to fill in the blanks!

Decorate it!

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Step 1: After leveling all of your cake layers, soak each one with the chai simple syrup. I used a little squirt bottle I bought at Michaels but you could easily just brush or spoon it on.

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Step 2: As you can see, I opted for the upside down method. The icing is still white here because this is the crumb coat. Cover a flat surface with some parchment or wax paper (it is a good idea to secure it with tape) then glob on some frosting. Spread it out so it is wider than your cake and then place your first layer on top. When all is said and done this will actually be the top of your cake.

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Just building them up…..

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There we go. Please ignore the creepy door.

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Step 3: Give her a good ole crumb coat and place her in the fridge to set! This picture also shows how my parchment was attached to a flat surface. What it doesn’t show is that I actually stuck a cake round on the top (since the top is really the bottom…are you follow along ok?). Once the icing sets you cut the parchment paper around the cake, detaching it. Then you flip the whole thing over and peel off the remaining parchment. You’ll be left with a flat top so nice that Kid n’ Play would rap with it.

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Step 4: Divide your remaining icing into four bowls and color them different shades of orange and yellow. Did I mention that this is literally the last picture I took of my decorate process for this cake? I’m a  fantastic blogger. 😦 To be fair, this cake was made months ago and I think I’ve gotten a little better.

Step 5: To make it up to you, here is sneak peak of the cake I decorated yesterday that uses this same striping technique. As you can see, it is as easy as piping the stripes in the order that you want them and then using your bench scraper or spatula to scrape around the cake. The excess icing comes off but the stripes stay on!

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Step 6: Unfortunately, I also did not take any pictures of myself applying the meringue. But here is a nice picture of the top of the cake so that you can see I added it in a sort of U shape. You can really glob it on however you want. I wish I would have made it cascading down the sides. Or perhaps covered the whole top. You need a butane torch to get these crispy tops, but be careful not to melt your buttercream!


Those were the main components of the cake, but as you can see I also added some fresh flowers, some (failed) candied orange slices (seriously they were so sticky and not at all candied), and a cocktail umbrella for the top. I printed out a little happy birthday sign and hot glued it to some toothpicks. All in all, not too difficult of a decorating technique!


So once again, I apologize for the super late posting of this cake! I hope that if you try it you will let me know how it turned out!

Until next time!

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Cake Decorating: When I Drip, You Drip, We Drip

My neighbor’s fantastically generous mother picked this cake stand up for me during a shopping expedition, and I’m totally in love! Teal is way up there on my list of favorite colors, and so bright and beautiful that I just know you’ll be seeing a lot more cakes decorated specifically for this stand. So a very special thanks to her since I know she reads this blog. Muah!

It’s important to note, however, that I do have a very dark past with the color teal. I’m only now beginning to get over it, really. Maybe if I share my story you’ll understand how much of an achievement it has been to incorporate this color back into my life. I am quite certain that in the end you will be inspired by how I was able to bounce back from such a traumatizing experience.

First, I grew up kind of poor at a time when every kid in the neighborhood owned a  $100 Starter jacket. You remember Starter jackets, right?

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Ahh yes. Ain’t that fresh? Everybody wants to get down like that.

I NEEDED one of these jackets. Dear God. Everyone had one. Everyone but me. Where was mine? WHERE WAS MY BEAUTIFULLY PUFFY YET MANLY STARTER JACKET?!

I didn’t even like sports, but my dream was to own a Charlotte Hornets because I loved the color combination. I must have dropped ten thousand hints to my mother. Never wanting me to the be the odd kid out, she busted her ass at two jobs so she could surprise me with one on Christmas morning. In fact, it was the very last gift she gave me. She’d hidden it underneath the chair that I sat upon. Video camera in hand, she made sure I was thoroughly disappointed at not getting one before she alerted me to the gift under my seat.

Let’s just say I’m so glad social media didn’t exist back then. Or perhaps my reaction (which consisted of a lot of happy shrieks, screaming, tears, and snot) would have gone viral and I’d be some quasi-celebrity living it up like Tila Tequila right now! Minus the craziness, of course.

One can dream, right?

But as I was saying, I have no idea if my mother still has that video. That’s not the point of the story. In my little school there was only one other person with my specific Charlotte Hornets Starter jacket. And that person happened to be the boy I was crushing on. And everyone knew I was crushing on him. So although I strutted into school, jacket in tow and a huge “Look at me, bitches!” grin on my face, it quickly turned into a frown when all of the kids accused me of getting that jacket so this boy would go out with me. And he of course avoided me like the plague. It’s not like I could just stop wearing the jacket, my mother spent a fortune on it! The winter felt eight months long, every day a punishment. The color teal became my scarlet letter, branding me as that creepy girl who wanted to Bennifer it up with her crush. And yes, the jacket was a little manlier than the ones the other girls were wearing, but my mother couldn’t have known! The tomboy gangster look was in, and she wanted me to rock it.

So yes, I blame the beauty of the color teal for this horribly scarring moment in my childhood. And it just now occurred to me that I paired it with purple for this cake. CHARLOTTE HORNET COLORS. It’s like I’m some kind of masochist.

With all that being said, I’m it back. I’m taking it all back. Charlotte doesn’t even own those colors anymore. They are mine now.

So here is how I decorated this beautiful drip cake:

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I started off by making my delicious vanilla cake batter and adding a few tablespoons of some star shaped sprinkles I had left over. This is because I wanted to make it a funfetti cake! If you’re wondering, much to my disappointment the starts did not hold their shape after baked. Still pretty though!

I then poured all of the batter into a sheet pan and threw it in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until it was golden and springy to the touch. You can of course just use cake tins, but I still only have one six-inch cake tin and I was feeling particularly lazy.

I used a pot lid (I’m so inventive, right?) to stamp out several layers of cake. Then I used an empty can of tuna to stamp out some smaller cakes. I put the smaller cakes and the scraps in a plastic bag and threw it in the freezer. The smaller cakes will make a cute top tier for a future project, and the scraps can be used for cake pops.

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When the cakes were finished I ended up baking some meringues. Use 1/4 c (50 g) sugar for every egg white. Heat the whites and sugar over a double boiler until the sugar melts. Then whip on high speed until thick, glossy peaks form. Transfer it all to a piping bag with a large star tip and go nuts on your parchment paper. I decided on swirls and stars. Then bake at 175º F (80 C) for an hour and a half. Turn off the oven and leave them in there for a couple more hours. The meringues in the above picture came out horrible so I ended up redoing them. Excuse the lumpiness!

I filled, crumb coated,  and added supports via straws. The straws ensure that your cake won’t topple over and your layers will stay aligned rather than slide around everywhere. I then put the cake in the freezer for 10 minutes so the buttercream could set. Afterwards, I took it out and gave it another thick layer of buttercream.

After getting it as smooth as I could, I took some of the leftover buttercream and dyed it teal (using Americolor’s teal gel coloring). I then spread some just along the edge of my bench scraper and went around the cake again. I kept adding this teal buttercream until I was happy with the result.

Next, I made my ganache by microwaving 90 g of white chocolate and 30 g of cream (standard 3:1 ratio). Once it was all melted I added about a teaspoon of vegetable oil, then 2 drops of Americolor violet and 1 drop of Americolor red. This gave me a nice dark purple shade. I then added a few spoonfuls of the ganache to a plastic sandwich bag so that I could use it to create some artificial drips.

I spread some of the ganache over the top of the cake and used my spatula to guide it toward the edge. Then I snipped off the corner of my sandwich bag and quickly added some drips along the outer edge.

*Note: You may want to let the ganache firm up for about 10 minutes before using it. Mine was a bit runnier than I like, hence why the drips made it to the bottom of the cake.

My next step was to add some of those leftover sprinkles to the top of the cake, then plop the meringues right on top. The wet ganache helped them to stay in place, but I added more security by piping little purple and teal “kisses” using my leftover buttercream. To get the same purple color as the ganache, just mimic the same ratio: 2:1 violet to red. You don’t have to use full drops from the bottle either, since that would be a waste. I used a couple of toothpicks and just eyeballed it. I then added some colorful Sixlet candies in white, teal, and purple to add some visual interest.

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The last thing I did was add this hilariously ugly border that I wish would have been purple. Actually I wish I would have just left it off altogether. But hindsight is 20/20. If you do this, make sure your buttercream is stiff, as mine clearly wasn’t. 😛

But there you have it! A wonderfully drippy cake that looks more difficult than it actually is. Freak Nasty would be so proud!

I demand you listen to that song while baking. In fact, it’s mandatory.

Until next time

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Blueberry Crumble Scones: Your New Religion

Hello lovers.

You may remember how a while back I posted a recipe for some delicious Cheesy Chive-y Scones. I don’t make savory scones too often, but when I do they are usually packed with cheese and fresh herbs just like the scone gods intended.

You don’t want to upset the scone gods.

Today though, I’m taking a break from the savory to share with you a super easy blueberry scone complete with a sweet, oat-y crumb topping.

Warning: These scones contain no flax seeds, fennel, or any other crazy ingredient that happens to be popular at the moment. What is this, scones for rabbits? Hell no.  No Greek yogurt here. These scones use pure, unadulterated butter and regular ol’ white flour. Again, this is to appease the scone gods. If these ingredients both you just remember that the fresh blueberries and oats totally cancel all the bad stuff out.

Totally.

Here’s what you’ll need:

For the scones:

  • 2 1/4 c (285 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c (50 g)  granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c (53 g) lightly-packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp  baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick (approx 115 grams) of cold, unsalted butter: cubed.
  • 1/2 c (4 oz) milk or cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c (about 3 oz) blueberries
  • Egg wash (1 egg beaten with a splash of water)

For the crumble topping:

  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp of rolled oats

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 400º F, 204º C

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Step 1: Make your crumble topping by simply mixing the melted butter into the flour, oats, and brown sugar. Set aside.

 

Step 2: Whisk together the flour, sugars, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the cream (or milk), egg, and vanilla. Place the cream mixture in the fridge to keep it cool.

Step 3: Using a pastry cutter (like above) or two forks, work the butter into the flour mixture until only pea-sized pieces of butter remain. Place the bowl in the fridge to keep the butter cold!

Step 3: Measure out your blueberries. Notice I didn’t list a weight above. That is because of the ridiculous size variations between the fruit. One tip: Choose the smallest blueberries in the bunch. These seem to not only distribute throughout the dough easier, but are less likely to burst.

Step 4: Add the blueberries to your flour mixture and coat them well in the flour. Then create a well in the middle of the bowl and pour in your wet ingredients.

Step 5: Using a wooden spoon, begin to mix together the wet and dry ingredients. Don’t over-mix! As soon as you are unable to see any liquid dump it all out onto a lightly floured surface so you can use your hands to bring it together the rest of the way.

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Step 7: Do your best work the dough into rectangle that is about an inch thick. If you need to, add a splash more milk or cream so it all comes together. Next, brush on the egg wash. Some people only add the egg wash after the scones have been cut and laid out on the baking sheet; however, if egg wash drips down the sides of the scone it can create a “seal” in the oven that prevents them from rising properly. So egg wash the rectangle, cut the rectangle, then place on the cookie sheet. You can see my cut pattern above. This will produce smaller scones than the ones at the bakery, but a perfect size for snacking. Just as the scone gods int-okay.

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Step 8: Add the scones to a parchment-lined baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Top with the oat topping. I actually regretted not adding the topping right after the egg wash, then cutting the scones. It would have been a lot less messy to do it that way. But if you get crumble everywhere just do your best to remove it so they don’t burn in the oven.

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Step 9: Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until they look something like this! Nicely risen and golden brown. Allow them to cool on a cooling rack for a few minutes until they can be easily handled.

And there you have it!

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Flaky, buttery scones that are bursting with fresh blueberries! Because we didn’t add oats to the dough itself, the scones retain their moisture and literally melt in your mouth. Because we opted for small blueberries, the held their shape and didn’t bleed all over the scones and the baking pan.

I legit think the bursting blueberry problem is why a lot of people choose to make their scones with dried blueberries. That is literally the only reason why I believe people would subject themselves to such abuse.

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So I hope that you’ll give these a try! Remember that scones are best eaten the day you make them. Share some with friends, or freeze half of the dough for later!

 

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You can create a simple glaze by adding a bit of milk to a cup of powdered sugar. Just keep adding milk until you get the consistency that you want and then drizzle it over the top!

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Remember to arrange the scones in silly patterns and photograph them!

Until next time,

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Cake Decorating: Blackberry Marshmallow Cake, Revisited

You may or may not recognize this cake. When I first started this blog a few months ago I created an entry about it, but the sole surviving picture was taken long before this blog was even a twinkle in my little eye. I absolutely cringe when I look at it because the picture just really doesn’t do it justice.

So I decided to make it again! Blackberries are in season anyway. 🙂

In my previous post I mentioned how I have baked Robyn’s Best Chocolate Cake Recipe several times, but what I didn’t mention is that I baked it just twice this WEEK.

That’s right. You see, this recipe is my “baked” version of a “non-baked” version that you can find on Donal Skehan’s page. What can I say? I like to make things harder for myself. That recipe uses pre-baked flan cases, but with this being the USA I don’t think those exist in our supermarkets. Plus, doesn’t chocolate look so much prettier with blackberries?

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I had some serious issues putting this thing together though, so feel free to learn from my mistakes!


In the no-bake version, Sharon Hearne Smith (the recipe creator) stamps out her cake layers by pressing a springform pan into the flan layers. This ensured that the cake layers fit snugly into the springform pan, which is very important.

Well, I wanted a six-inch cake…and I don’t own a six-inch springform pan. So I was forced to improvise.

I made the three beauties on the left, but since cakes shrink away from the tin while baking you can see a gap around the edge. I tried to make up for that gap by filling in the space using tin foil. “Genius!” I thought. But alas:

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The marshmallow laughed heartily at my stupid idea. 😦 As you can see I tried to take a knife and simply cut off the extra marshmallow, but the cake is just so delicate that it ended up being a mess. In the end I decided to just eat it all and hide the evidence start over.


The second time around I had a better idea: I would bake the cake in a sheet pan and then “stamp” out layers just Sharon did!  I decided to use an old coffee container to build up the layers since it just so happened to be six inches and it is much taller than my cake tin.

As you can see, my stamped out cake layers fit in there nice and snug. But before I stuck them in there I lined the inside with parchment paper and sprayed it down really well with non-stick cooking spray.

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After the cake set I simply cut away the cardboard and voila! Distinct layers! I won’t lie—I did have to use some cooking scissors to neaten up some of the marshmallow, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the previous attempt.


So let’s talk about the filling, shall we? Since that is really the heart of the cake. You can use any cake you want, but the filling is what makes it magical!

It starts off with a blackberry compote. WTF is compote? I didn’t know either. I have learned that it is essentially just fruit (like berries) cooked in a little bit of sugar so that the fruit releases some juices and a sort of syrup is formed. It literally takes about 3 minutes. . Just throw 16-20 blackberries in a sauce pan with a couple spoonfuls of sugar and then set it to med-low heat. Crush the berries a bit with a fork and stir every once in a while until the sugar is completely melted. It will look something like this:

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Now just set it aside to let it cool back to room temperature. Meanwhile, you can make the marshmallow.

I will admit that making marshmallow is a bit of a pain in the ass. The first step in Sharon’s recipe is to bloom some gelatin at the bottom of your stand mixer. In the meantime you’re supposed to  heat up some water, sugar, and maple syrup to 130º C/260° F. Once that is achieved you set your stand mixer speed to low and slowly pour in the liquid. Once it’s all in your crank it up to med/high and let it get all thick and mallow-y. Takes about 3 minutes.

But getting the syrup to reach the bottom of the bowl with no issues is where I found I had problem. The “trick” is to pour it down the side of the bowl in one nice consistent stream, but my bowl just so happens to be practically vertical and my whisk attachment was having none of that. After my first attempt there was syrup literally everywhere but the bottom of my stand mixer bowl where it was supposed to be. Worse yet, my bowl must have been ice cold or something because the syrup was literally hardening while I was mixing it. I was a lot more successful on my second try although I have no idea what I did differently. Regardless, I took a bunch of pictures of my plight to share here. And then -OF COURSE- the very next day Gretchen over at Gretchen’s Bakery posted a S’mores Cookies recipe where she made a way easier version of marshmallow. This always happens to me. 😛

In her version she basically adds everything (including the gelatin) to the pot and heats it up, then pours the entire mixture into the stand mixer to whip at once. Seriously, so much easier. Just do that! It was like I was doing the tricky Italian version when there was this easier Swiss version hiding in the shadows. I have been enlightened.

So as a slight adaptation of her recipe, here is how I would make the marshmallow:

Place 2 packets of unflavored gelatin in a saucepan and add 1/3 cup (80 ml) of cold water. Let it sit for 5 minutes so the gelatin can bloom. Then add 1 1/4 cup (250 g) of granulated sugar and heat it over low heat until the sugar is melted. Transfer this mixture to your stand mixer and then add 1/3 cup (75 ml) of maple syrup. Whisk on high speed for 2-3 minutes until it looks like marshmallow! Thick, gooey, white, and tripled in volume.

The only picture I have is from when I did it the hard way, so ignore all the sugar syrup splattered all over the bowl. This is what you’re looking for though:

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Gooey!

And now you just lightly “swirl” in your blackberry compote. Don’t mix too much though! Right here is good.

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Once you’re happy with the swirl you have to act quickly! There is gelatin in there, after all. So whether you are using a springform pan, tin foil, or a coffee container assemble the cake as soon as possible. Cake layer, big scoops of marshmallow, cake layer, big scoops of marshmallow, etc. End with a cake layer, of course. Then throw it in the fridge to set for one hour.

After the unveiling all you have to do is liberally dust the top of the cake with some powdered sugar. Then, using a barbecue skewer that you heat up on your stove top, create a crisscross pattern on the top of the cake (it will sizzle and smoke). If you don’t have one of these metal skewers then consider placing a fun cookie cutter shape on top and then dusting the sugar around it. For example, this is actually a tool for heart-shaped pancakes, but you get the idea:

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The last step is to add some fresh blackberries. Make sure to use some really nice plump ones.

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And there you have it!

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What can I say about the way it tastes? Well, if you read my last entry then you know the chocolate cake is divine. The marshmallow is an interesting break away from your standard icings. I strongly recommend maple syrup in place of corn syrup for the marshmallow though. It just makes it taste so much better! And the little bursts of sweetened blackberry with every bite is just amazing.

I truly hope you’ll give it a try! I really want to do this again but maybe with a lemon cake a raspberry marshmallow filling. If you can think of any other flavor combinations let me know!

Until next time 🙂

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Recipe Review: Addapinch’s Best Chocolate Cake Ever. Or Is It?

If you are at all familiar with Robyn’s chocolate cake recipe over at Add a Pinch you may be wondering why the hell I’m even reviewing it. It has over 1000 votes yet still rates an absurdly high 4.8! And don’t get me wrong—it’s not absurd because the cake sucks, it’s absurd because it’s difficult to get 1000 people to agree on anything.

With that being said, given how many times I’ve used this recipe I feel like I have a lot to say about it that isn’t already covered in her lengthy blog post. So let’s get started!

 


I have this one neighbor who hasn’t come right out and said it, but who I suspect is not a fan of homemade cakes. She will say something like, “So, I guess you’re done with box mixes?” while in the middle of eating my from-scratch cake and I never know if she’s simply asking or if she is hinting that a box mix would taste better than whatever abomination is on her plate. When I first started “baking” cakes I used box mixes all the time (I put baking in quotes because everything is basically done for you already. I don’t consider myself a “cook” when I add hamburger to my Hamburger Helper, right?). After a while I started getting more daring with it—you know, adding an extra egg or substituting oil for butter. That sort of thing. Then I eventually gave up the mixes altogether and started baking my cakes completely from scratch.

The problem, if you’ll call it that, is that homemade cakes are different from box mixes. They just are. I think this is what is bothering my neighbor, who always uses box mixes and seems to prefer them. Homemade cakes aren’t as soft and fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth. Depending on the recipe they may be dry and need the help of a simple syrup. They can be dense, crumbly, or taste sort of egg-y. But this has been my (very limited) experience with all of the cake recipes I’ve tried. When you’re used to box cake mixes you’re sort of always on the hunt for that one recipe that is like a box mix without actually being a box mix.

So many people claim that their cake recipe produces a moist cake, but with that comes an expectation that the cake will be as fluffy as a box mix. That’s not usually the case though. They are moist but also have a larger crumb that is indicative of a homemade cake.

Onto my point (About time, right?) Robyn’s chocolate cake recipe seriously fits the bill of being moist, fluffy cake that is similar in texture to a box mix but infinitely better. And that’s what we all want!

It is the perfect cake recipe for anyone looking to make a 1-2 layer cake and slather it with buttercream. Maybe add a few sprinkles or candles. For most people that is really all that is needed! For those who wish to do a bit more decorating though, this may not be the recipe for you.

When she describes the cake as moist she is not kidding around. The cakes themselves are very fragile, just like a box mix. You’re not going to be able stack layers upon layers or carve them into any specific shape. This is in part due to the fact that the recipe uses oil instead of butter. And because of this you also won’t be able to freeze the layers to make them easier to work with; they will always have the moisture locked in.

I’m not even complaining though. So delicious.

I have torted this cake recipe in the past, but it was very difficult and I ended up breaking some of the layers so I don’t recommend it.  What I would suggest instead is just baking each layer separately, or pouring the whole batch of batter in an 11×13 baking tray and then stamping out your layers (You will have to reduce baking time by like 10-15 minutes).


Let’s talk about the batter. I mean, it couldn’t be easier to put together but it is fricken weird, right?

It starts out like a regular cake: mix the dry ingredients then add the wet ones and combine. The last picture shows a nice, thick, brownie-like batter.

But then you add a full cup of boiling water into the batter and the whole thing turns into a liquid chocolaty soup.At this point you’re like, WTF AM I DOING IT WRONG? WHY IS IT LIKE THIS AHHHH! and you check the directions again. Then she tells you to mix it for a minute or so on medium speed to “put some air into it,” so you do, just to see that there are a bunch of air bubbles in your soup now.

But you press on. It’s almost as if she’s right there whispering in your ear, “Trust meeeeee!” (but not as creepy of course) and when the cake comes out it is fricken PERFECT.

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The recipe is essentially idiot-proof, which is great because I am known to be an idiot. For example, I only have one six-inch pan (seen above) and so I have to keep reusing it if I want more than one cake. I would just add air into my chocolate soup again each time, which probably goes against every baking rule ever. But the only difference I noticed between each cake (I made 3 six-inch cakes using her recipe) is that the dome got higher and each time. Ideally you should use the batter right away and not just let it sit there.

Another thing I want to say about this cake recipe is that the quality of your ingredients matters, at least when it comes to the cocoa powder you use. Think about it this way—the cocoa powder you choose has  direct influence on how “chocolatey” your cake ultimately turns out, so don’t skimp here. Get the good stuff!


I’ve used this recipe to make a regular cake with chocolate frosting, a peanut butter cup cake, and just recently, my marshmallow blackberry cake. Whatever you do with it, there is no doubt that it will please everyone at the table. 🙂

 

Until next time!