Sunday, 5 April 2015

Chocolate Meringue Cloud Cake


Spring is here, finally! This winter was a tough one – it seemed like the dreary weather was never going to end and that the short days were going to drown me. Anyone else felt like this?? But as soon as daylight savings hit, so did Spring! And I was compelled to make a cake that was a nod to the feel of the season.

Opportunity arose: it was my dear friend’s birthday. She loves chocolate cake, one of her favorites being a ganache covered cake. There was this Smartie cake, and this Mint Chocolate cake that I made for her in the past. This year, it was a chocolate meringue cloud cake

Check out the verdict at the end of the post!
 
Meringue disks pre-baking.
Meringues
Ingredients
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
¼  teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
Blue and pink gel food colouring

Directions
1.  Preheat oven to 250 F. Trace 3 circles (of the cake pan that you will use; I used 5” rounds) onto parchment paper.  Place circle side down onto baking sheet. Place a sheet of parchment on another baking pan.
2.  In a large metal bowl, beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt to soft peaks.
3.  Add vanilla and beat.
4.  Gradually add sugar and beat until stiff.
5.  Take out half the meringue. Add pink gel food colouring to the remaining meringue and whip until incorporated. Add to a piping bag.
6.  Clean out mixing bowl, add back the white meringue and add blue gel food colouring. Whip until incorporated and add to a piping bag.
7.  Pipe two disks of one colour and one disk of a different colour, tracing the circles leaving a small gap between the line and meringue disk. The meringue disks will expand a bit while baking. Keep the disks fairly flat – I only did 2 layers.
8.  With the remaining meringue, pipe designs for decorating the outside of the cake onto the other baking sheet.
9.  Bake for 2.5 hours or until they are thoroughly dry. Leave in oven with heat turned off for another hour.
10.Store in a Tupperware container.
 
Meringue decorations, post-baking.
Chocolate Cake
Adapted from here.

Ingredients
¾ cup + 2 Tablespoon flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup + 2 Tablespoon cocoa powder
1 beaten egg, room temperature
½ cup strong coffee
½ cup buttermilk, room temperature
¼ cup canola oil
½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of two 5-inch round cake pans with parchment. Grease and flour the sides.
2.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, add flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Sift in cocoa powder and mix with the paddle attachment.
3.  Add the remaining ingredients and beat until smooth (approx. 1 minute).
4.  Pour into pans and bake for around 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
5.  Cool completely before assembling.

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Ingredients
75 grams dark/bittersweet chocolate
3 large egg whites
¾ cup sugar
1 cup butter, cubed, room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions
1.  Place chocolate in a bowl over simmering water until melted. Take off heat and cool near to room temperature.
2.  Place egg whites and sugar in a heat proof bowl over simmering water. Beat continuously by hand until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F.
3.  With a stand mixer, beat mixture with a whisk until stiff and glossy (about 5 minutes). Mixture should be at room temperature before moving onto the next step.
4.  Switch to a beater attachment and beat in cubes of butter one at a time. Beat on high until smooth (may take 15 minutes).
5.  Once buttercream is smooth, add salt and vanilla and beat to mix.
6.  Dump melted chocolate into the buttercream and beat until completely blended, scraping down the sides every once in a while.
*If the buttercream is really soft, place in fridge for 15 minutes to stiffen.

Assembly
1.  Cut cake layers in half to make 4 layers.
2.  Place first layer on cake plate. Spread a layer of buttercream.
3.  Place a meringue disk on top. Spread a layer of buttercream on top.
4.  Place next cake layer and repeat layering. Finish with final cake layer.
5.  Cover the entire cake in buttercream and decorate with meringues and sprinkles.









Verdict: I was really happy with this cake! “Cloud” cake is the perfect description – so fluffy and light in texture. The cake is fluffy, the meringue is fluffy, and the frosting is fluffy! I’ve made a lot of cakes for my friend in the past, but she said that this might be her favorite!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Sweet and Salty Cake


Happy Birthday to the huz! This post is actually pretty late. I blame the rainy Vancouver winter and its sensational ability to drain the energy out of me. But it’s been sunny lately and dare I say, the worst of the dreary weather is over (please please!)?

Enjoy!

Sweet and Salty Cake
Adapted from the Highway to Heaven cupcake.  

Chocolate Cake
Ingredients
3 cups flour
2 ¾ cup sugar
1 cup dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon + 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cup buttermilk
1 ½ cups strong brewed coffee, warm
3 eggs, beaten and at room temperature
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 1/3 cup canola oil

Directions
1.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of 3, 8-inch pans with parchment and grease and flour the sides.
2.   In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Sift in cocoa powder and mix with the paddle attachment until combined.
3.   Add buttermilk, coffee, eggs, vanilla, and oil. Beat until completely mixed.
4.   Divide into pans and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

While baking, make the coffee syrup:

Coffee Syrup 
Ingredients
½ cup strong brewed coffee
½ cup sugar

Directions
1.   Combine coffee and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil for 2 minutes.
2.   After taking the cakes out of the oven, drizzle with coffee syrup. Let cakes cool completely.

Caramel Sauce (can make ahead of time)
Ingredients
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
¾ teaspoon salt
A wedge of lemon
½ cup heavy cream, warmed
¾ teaspoon vanilla

Directions
1.   In a pot over high heat, combine sugar, water, and salt. Squeeze a wedge of lemon. Cook until very dark (almost burning) by occasionally swirling the pan.
2.   When you get to the desired colour, take off the heat and carefully add the cream (be careful of the steam!) and stir.
3.   Strain to get rid of clumps and stir in vanilla. Cool before using. Store in the fridge and heat in the microwave a little to loosen.

Ganache (can make ahead of time)
Ingredients
6 oz chopped dark chocolate
¼ cup + 3 Tablespoons butter, cubed
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoon light corn syrup

Directions
1.   In a double boiler over medium low heat, combine all ingredients until the chocolate melts. Stir to combine.
2.   Let cool before using. Store in the fridge and microwave a little to make pliable.

Assembly
1.   Place first layer of cake on serving plate. Spread ganache on top. Drizzle with caramel.
2.   Top with next cake layer and repeat. Top with final layer and add remaining ganache and caramel.
3.   For added effect, pierce the top with ripple chips and drizzle with caramel. If not eating immediately, wrap the sides with acetate to prevent drying out.





Verdict: This cake was a show stopper! I loved the chips with the sweet cake – sweet and salty. And the huz definitely liked it. I served with a drizzle of extra caramel.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Recycling and Revamping



Holidays – done.
….

That was me taking a breather. It was nice though, I slept until noon every day like most people. Right? No?? Oh.

So what to do when you want to bake for your friends’ birthdays but are kinda lazy but obviously don’t want them to know that you’re lazy and instead think that you’re a super considerate and amazing baker and/or friend? The answer is to recycle and repackage old tried and true recipes as a revamp.

Here’s a fun way to package a cake.  Basically take any cake recipe and bake it as a sheet cake. Cut out rounds and layer it in jars with your favorite frosting. To add texture, crumble crunchy bits in between the layers, like cookies, or chocolate bars, or nuts.

Here’s my take on Jar Cakes:
Chocolate Cake and Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting from my previous post
·    Because I wanted enough for 5 jars, I cut the cake recipe in half and baked in 9 x 13 inch pan for about 22 minutes. I also cut the buttercream recipe in half.
·    After the cake is cool, cut out rounds that fit into your jars. I used a biscuit cutter.
·    Alternate cake, frosting, and crunchy bits in layers. It’s best to use a pastry bag to pipe the frosting.

BOOM! Revamped!! Friends are impressed.





Here’s my take on revamping the trusty old butter cookie to make Spiral Cookies:
The butter cookie recipe is from this previous post.
·    I cut the recipe in half
·    Roll out to 2-3mm thickness rectangle
·    Spread a thin layer of your favorite jam and roll tightly. Don’t worry if the jam oozes out – just spread it on the outside of the roll.
·    Roll in sprinkles. Wrap in plastic wrap and tighten even further.
·    Refrigerate to harden before slicing and baking at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes or until slightly golden.

BAM! Revamped! Friends are super excited.


Before baking.

After baking.




Ps. The great thing is that people who are sick of your baking will be blown away. They will be thoroughly tricked into thinking you made something new. But you didn’t. And it’s awesome. You’re welcome.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Bake and Trade 2014


I organized a Bake and Trade (aka cookie exchange) at the office again this year and I have to say, I took it up a notch. We had the Christmas music playing like last year, but we also voted for what we’d like to have for our first bite. The winner (the only savory treat – jalapeno cornbread muffins) got a box of really pretty cupcake wrappers. 

I also gave out the cutest party favors – mini holiday cookie cutters. Whenever I wondered if I was going overboard, I thought, what would my friend Gabbie do? Because Gabbie always goes the extra mile when throwing parties and basically everything in life. For example, for Halloween, she gives out Starbucks travel mugs to the parents!!! What parent wouldn’t love that??

So anyways, I asked myself, what would Gabbie do, and I’m pretty sure she’d do something even more extravagant, so I went ahead with my Bake and Trade party at work. And it was fun!

Thank you to everyone who participated! We had such a wonderful variety of treats!

And by popular demand, the recipe for Mock Skor Bars. Just some history on this treat: Every year we get super excited about this treat brought in by our colleague Allison. This year, it was brought in by Sophie and we are so happy she made it!


Mock Skor Bars
Recipe from here.

Ingredients
24 salted soda crackers
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place crackers evenly on pan.
2.  Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar and stir until melted and combined. Mixing constantly, bring mixture to a boil for 2 minutes. Pour mixture over crackers.
3.  Bake in the oven for 5 minutes.
4.  Sprinkles chocolate chips evenly over caramel and return to oven just until the chocolate melts. Spread with an offset spatula.
5.  Place pan in fridge or freezer until firm. Break into pieces and devour.

Note: I’ve made this with Ritz crackers and it is phenomenal.

I made the Mars Bar Blondies that I made for my wedding. Check out the recipe here

Check out these cute cookie cutter party favors! Love!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Some Leftover Cakes and Bakes

Over the last few months, I’ve been baking but not necessarily sharing recipes because I wasn’t completely happy with the way the cakes turned out and I wasn’t going to go back to the kitchen and re-do it to perfect it. Or things go really busy with the wedding and I didn’t have the energy to do a post. Now that I have more time, I thought I’d share some of the pictures.


First off, a boozy cake that was just not boozy enough for father’s day. Next time, be heavy handed with the whisky!


Next, a Double Strawberry Cake whose drizzle glaze was too drizzly. Next time, don’t add so much liquid to the icing sugar! Plus, I never actually tasted the cake so I have no idea if it turned out.



Halloween Cake – there wasn’t anything wrong with this cake, just a simple vanilla cake with vanilla frosting. Pretty standard.


There was also chocolate bark with Oreos. And check out these ones that my friend made for Halloween!


Here are the caramel and chocolate covered pretzel rods that my sister and I made for the wedding. These were AMAZING! But those bags of pretzel rods have so many broken ones! Boo!

So, you know how at weddings, there’s a ton of desserts left over? Well turns out my guests were those people as they went crazy over the desserts. I guess that’s what happens when there’s a lot of selection? One of the desserts that they really liked, and that my sister and I had made, were the Mars Bar Blondies. Here’s the recipe:


Mars Bar Blondies

Ingredients
2 1/3 cup flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
2 Tablespoon milk powder*
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup + 2 Tablespoon butter, softened
1 ¾ cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoon vanilla
4 Mars Bars chopped into small bite sized pieces

*You could probably get away without milk powder, but apparently it’s the magic ingredient in the baking world (Milk Bar uses it a lot!), so I threw it in. And fyi, people went crazy over these blondies.

Directions
1.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9x13 inch baking pan with parchment paper.
2.   Whisk flour, baking powder, milk powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
3.   Using a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar until smooth.
4.   Add eggs and beat after each addition. Add vanilla and beat.
5.   Add flour mixture in 2 batched, beating until almost combined.
6.   Add half of the chopped Mars Bars and mix until just combined, 10 seconds.
7.   Press the thick dough into the baking pan with an offset spatula.
8.   Insert the remaining Mars Bar pieces throughout the surface. Feel free to add sprinkles.
9.   Bake for 23 minutes or just until toothpick comes out clean. Do not over bake or they will dry out and you will be sad.
10. Cool for 20 minutes before cutting.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Toasted Coconut Chocolate Layer Cake


Guess what??? I got married! And it was everything that we could hope it would be – low key but beautiful and intimate. Imagine a conservatory in the evening with tea lights in mason jars and hanging string lights. And now, back to real life – and yet it feels different. Not the day to day routine, but just us, inside. Like we have a fun secret. That’s the only way to explain it.


So that’s what I blame the lack of posts on – just the wedding. But now that that’s over (and btw the husby said “aww, I’m kinda sad it’s over” and after which I rolled my eyes thinking about how stressed he was prior to the wedding to the point of almost calling it off!), I want to catch up on sharing some of the baking that’s been going on. And no, I didn’t make my own wedding cake – in fact, we didn’t have a “wedding cake”, just a bunch of cakes and desserts. But my sister and I did make some of the treats, but more on that later.

Anyways, first one up is a Toasted Coconut Chocolate Layer Cake that I made for my colleague’s baby shower. And this is my undercover work on finding out what flavours she likes: “Hi Sophie, do you like chocolate? You do? Ok, that’s all” (and I walk out of the room). And on a subsequent day: “Hi Sophie, do you like coconut? Yes? Ok, that’s all”, followed by the turning around and walking out. But I like to think she was surprised by the cake.

Check out the verdict at the end of the post!

Chocolate Cake
From hereI halved the recipe and baked them in 2, 6-inch baking pans.


Funfetti Cookie Crumble
Adapted from hereCan be done ahead of time and kept in an airtight container.

Ingredients
1 cup flour
¼ cup sugar
½ cup butter, room temperature
2 Tablespoons sprinkles

Directions
1.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.   Combine flour and sugar in a bowl. Cut butter into the mixture with a pastry cutter until you get small pieces.
3.   Add sprinkles and mix. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
4.   Break it apart to get big chunks and bake for another 10 minutes. Cool on baking sheet and store in an airtight container.


Coconut Ganache
Ingredients
255g dark chocolate, chopped to small pieces
1 cup whipping/heavy cream
¼ teaspoon coconut flavouring

Directions
1.   Put chopped chocolate in a bowl. Set aside.
2.   Heat cream in a small saucepan until almost boiling. Pour over chocolate and let it sit for 5 minutes.
3.   Whisk to combine.
4.   Add ¼ teaspoon of coconut flavouring and whisk. Taste it before adding more, 1/8 teaspoon at a time (coconut flavouring tastes nasty when there’s too much!).
5.   Cool to room temperature. Whip to soft peaks – as it stands, it will become stiffer.


Toasted Coconut (can be done ahead of time and kept in an airtight container)
I used about 2 ½ cups of flat dried coconut ribbons. I placed it on a cookie sheet and baked until golden in a 300 degree F oven – about 10 minutes, stir, then another 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it – coconut burns easily in the blink of an eye! Cool completely before using on cake.


Assembly
1.   Slice cakes into 2 layers each. Place a dollop of ganache on a cake plate and place the first cake layer on top.
2.   Spread a thin layer of ganache on the cake. Sprinkle on cookie crumbs. Place next cake layer on top and repeat with all layers.
3.   Spread ganache on the top and sides of the cake. Don’t worry about crumbs because you’ll cover it with coconut. The thicker the ganache layer, the easier it will be for the coconut to stick.
4.   Place toasted coconut in a bowl. Hold the cake over the bowl in one hand and grab some coconut with the other hand and place it on the side of the cake. Make sure the cake is hovering above the bowl so that the extra coconut will fall back into the bowl.
5.   Fill in gaps by delicately inserting coconut. Leave out until ready to eat!


Verdict: This cake was pretty darn awesome! The cake was super moist but fluffy and not overly sweet. Loved the coconut flavour. Unfortunately the cookie crumb lost its crunch, but it was still tasty. Everyone loved!


Monday, 13 October 2014

Star Wars Cake


Guess what? One month to my wedding. We’ve been really busy with the final details and most of the things are done. Everyone is super excited, but is it OK that I’m not? We’ve been planning it for a year, so I’m kind of done. And I feel kind of guilty for feeling this way. Anyone else felt like this? Hopefully I get a second wind and get excited closer to the date!

In the meantime, there are a bunch of baking projects. One is a Star Wars cake for a now 6 year old (What? When did that happened??) boy. I’ve made these cupcakes and this cake for him in the past. This year he requested a vanilla Start Wars cake, which was a bit challenging because I know nothing about Star Wars. And I wanted to make a version that didn’t use fondant. Here’s the final cake! I hope he likes it!!!

Star Wars Cake
Vanilla Funfetti Cake
I used this Vanilla Buttermilk Cake originally from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes 
I tossed some sprinkles on the cake batter after pouring in the baking pans and swirled it with a butter knife.

Whipped Vanilla Pudding Buttercream
Ingredients
1 vanilla pudding cup
1 ½ cups butter, room temperature
6 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Blue and yellow gel food colouring

Directions
1. Combine butter, icing sugar, and vanilla pudding cup in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with a paddle to combine.
2. Add vanilla and beat on high until fluffy.
3. Divide into 3: about 1 cup for the filling, 1/3 cup for the label and stars (yellow), and the remaining for the outer layer (blue). Add food colouring and whip until smooth and blended.



Assembly
Fill the layers with white frosting. Crumb coat the entire cake with blue frosting. Use the yellow frosting to pipe stars and the Star Wars label.
*I made a stencil for the Star Wars label with acetate. I first placed the cake in the freezer for 15 minutes, then placed the stencil on the cake and smeared the yellow frosting over top. I put it back in the freezer for about 5 minutes before carefully removing the stencil.

Smearing buttercream on my stencil.




Verdict: This is my go to recipe for vanilla cake. Dense but fluffy and moist – a very pleasant texture. The frosting was a bit sweet for my liking, but an American style buttercream crusts (as opposed to Swiss Meringue Buttercream), which I needed for a smooth and sturdy cake. I was happy with the way the stenciled label turned out. Yay, no fondant needed!