Sunday, 25 March 2012

Smartie Decorated Chocolate Chip Layer Cake

It was my best friend’s birthday and I knew that I wanted to present her with a cake that was covered in Smarties!   I wanted to try to make another cake from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook and I narrowed it down to the Chocolate Chip Layer Cake.  This cake was intriguing because of its flavor combination: chocolate, coffee, and passion fruit!  Odd, but apparently it works.  We’ll see!

Check out the verdict at the end of the post!

Smartie Decorated Layer Cake Parts
1.       Chocolate chip cake
2.       Chocolate crumb
3.       Passion fruit puree (I used jam)
4.       Passion fruit curd
5.       Coffee Frosting
6.       Smarties for decoration
*Everything can be made a few days in advance except for frosting.

Chocolate Chip Cake
½ cup salted butter, room temperature
1 ¼ cup sugar
¼ cup tightly packed light brown sugar
3 eggs
½ cup butter milk
½ cup oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup mini chocolate chips

1.  Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cake pan with parchment.  The original recipe suggests baking the cake as a sheet and cutting circles from them.  I used round baking pans and sliced the layers.
2.  In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars for 2 minutes until fluffy.  Add eggs and mix for 3 minutes.
3.  On low speed, gradually beat in buttermilk, oil, and vanilla.  Increase speed and beat for 5 minutes until the mixture is homogenous .
4.  Add flour and baking powder and mix on the lowest speed for 45 seconds until just combined. Fold in ½ cup of chocolate chips.
5. Pour batter into pans and sprinkle the last ¼ cup of chocolate chips.
6. Bake until toothpick comes out clean.  30-35 minutes for a sheet cake, 55 minutes for a tall round pan.
7.  Cool and cut layers or rounds to the size of the cake you want.
Before baking.

After baking.

Cutting out a round layer.

Passion Fruit Curd
½ cup passion fruit puree (I used peach and passion fruit jam)
1/3 cup sugar (I reduced to ¼ cup)
2 eggs
½ teaspoon gelatin
2 Tablespoons cold water
¾ cup cold salted butter

1. Blend passion fruit puree and sugar in a blender until sugar granules have dissolved.
2. Add eggs and blend to combine.
3. Transfer mixture into a saucepan.  Clean blender.
4. Bloom gelatin: Put cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top.  Do not stir.
5. Heat the passion fruit mixture over low heat, constantly whisking.  Once it boils, transfer mixture to blender. 
6. Add bloomed gelatin and butter.  Blend until thick, shiny, and smooth.
7. Transfer to a bowl and chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Passion fruit curd.  Will thicken as it chills.

Chocolate Crumb
1/3 cup flour
½ teaspoon cornstarch
¼ cup sugar
1/3 cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons salted butter, melted

1. Heat oven to 300 degrees F.
2. Combine flour, cornstarch, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a bowl.
3. Add butter and mix with a hand blender or stand mixer on low until you get small clusters.
4. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
5. Cool completely before using in recipe.
Chocolate crumb after baking.
Coffee Frosting
*Make frosting right before use.  Do not make ahead of time and refrigerate – it will separate.
1 cup salted butter, room temperature
½ cup icing sugar
½ cup homo milk
1 ½ teaspoon instant coffee powder
2 cups extra icing sugar

1. In a small bowl, whisk milk and coffee.
2. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar for 3 minutes, until fluffy.
3. On low speed, gradually add coffee milk and whip until fully combined after each addition.  You’ll end up with fluffy, shiny, frosting.
4. Divide frosting in half. With one half, add 2 cups of icing sugar and blend until smooth.  This will be used to frost the outside of the cake, while the original half will be used between layers. 

1. Place a cake ring (I used a spring form pan without the bottom) onto a plate. Tape a piece of acetate into a ring and place in the inner part of the cake ring.
2. Place the first cake layer in the ring.
3. Brush with passion fruit puree (I used peach and passion fruit jam instead).
4. Spread on half of the passion fruit curd.
5. Sprinkle half of the chocolate crumb on top of the curd.
6. Spread ½ of the original coffee frosting.  I just dotted the frosting over the chocolate crumb and spread it out as best I could.
7. Add next layer of cake, and repeat the process.
8. Put in freezer for 2 hours. Take out and peel off acetate. Frost sides and top with the remaining frosting.  Decorate with Smarties.  Store in freezer and defrost at least 3 hours before serving.

Puree (jam) layer.

Passion fruit curd.

Chocolate crumb.

Coffee frosting.

2nd cake layer.

Verdict: I really enjoyed this cake and so did the birthday girl and the rest of the party!  The cake itself was delicious and so was the frosting.  The passion fruit curd was an interesting addition and I was surprised by how well it fit with the chocolate and coffee flavors.  I avoided eating the Smarties because I felt that it made the cake too sweet, but I thought they made the cake look great!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Lemon Birthday Cupcakes

Another birthday and this time for a birthday boy (maybe not boy but man?) who loves lemons.  Last year I made him lemon squares that he really liked. This year, I went with lemon cupcakes with lemon frosting with cream cheese.

Check out the verdict at the end of the post!

Lemon Birthday Cupcakes
Adapted from here.
Makes 14 cupcakes.

½ cup salted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ cup cake flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ cup milk with a small slash of vinegar
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon juice

1.       Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line cupcake pan with liners.
2.       In a bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy.
3.       Add eggs one at a time and beat.
4.       In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, and salt. 
5.       Add flour mixture to butter mixture in thirds, lightly blending after each addition and alternating with milk.
6.       Add lemon zest and juice and blend just until mixed.
7.       Scoop into baking pans and bake for 16 minutes.  Cool before frosting.

Lemon Two-Toned Frosting

½ cup butter (original recipe calls for ¼ cup of shortening and ¼ cup butter)
2 oz/55 g cream cheese
1 Tablespoon glucose (or 2 teaspoons corn syrup)
1 Tablespoon corn syrup
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 ½ cups icing sugar
Pinch of baking powder
Rind from ½ a lemon

1.    Cream butter and cream cheese until fluffy.
2.    With the mixer on low, stream glucose, corn syrup, and lemon juice.  Increase speed to medium-high and beat for 2-3 minutes until silky.
3.     Mix in icing sugar and baking powder and beat until smooth.  Add lemon rind and mix.
4.     Divide frosting in half and add yellow food colouring to one half.
5.     Add both colours of frosting to a pastry bag.

Vanilla soak
Mix 2 Tablespoons milk and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract in a small bowl.

With a pastry brush, apply vanilla soak to tops of cupcakes.
Pipe frosting.

Verdict: The birthday boy loved these lemony cupcakes.  They were a bit dense for my taste, a tad reminiscent of a pound cake. I prefer light fluffy cupcakes like this (link here) lemon chiffon cupcake.  But these got great reviews from the entourage!  If I had time, I would’ve gone out to buy those jelly candies that look like lemon slices and topped the cupcakes with them, and stuffed them with lemon curd – next time, next time.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Funfetti Birthday Cupcakes

It was my birthday and I wanted to bring cupcakes to work for my co-workers – reminiscent of those grade school days when your mom would bake cupcakes for the whole class on your birthday.  There’s a birthday layer cake recipe in the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook that I’ve been wanting to make (*surprise!) and I thought this would be a good opportunity.  What makes this a birthday recipe is the rainbow sprinkles and the vanilla theme (btw, the recipe calls for clear vanilla extract to keep the cake white, but you can use regular extract if you don’t mind the colour).  The cake recipe comprises 4 mini recipes: the cake, the cake soak, the frosting, and the cake crumb.  I took these components, adapted them a bit, and made cupcakes instead of a cake.

Check out the verdict at the end of the post!

Funfetti Birthday Cupcakes
Makes about 20 cupcakes

Birthday Cake Crumb (Make this first, or even a few days before putting the cake together)
¼ cup sugar
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
¼ + 2 Tablespoon cake flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon rainbow sprinkles
3 Tablespoon oil
½ Tablespoon clear vanilla extract

1.       Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
2.       Mix sugars, flour, baking powder, salt and sprinkles in a bowl.
3.       Add oil and vanilla and mix until there are small clusters.
4.       Spread the clusters on a lined baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Cool before using.
Before baking.

After baking.

Funfetti Cupcakes
¼ + 1/3 cup salted butter at room temperature (original recipe calls for 1/3 cup shortening instead)
1 ¼ cup sugar
3 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
3 eggs
½ cup buttermilk
1/3 cup oil
2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract (regular extract is fine, but will darken the colour of the cupcakes)
2 cups cake flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup  + 2 Tablespoon rainbow sprinkles

1.       Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.       Beat butter and sugars in a bowl with a hand-held or stand mixer until fluffy (2-3 minutes).
3.       Add eggs and mix for 2-3 minutes.
4.       With the mixer on low, stream buttermilk, oil, and vanilla.  Increase sped to medium-high for 5 minutes.  The mixture should be doubled in volume and homogenous (no streaks of fat).
5.       On low speed, add cake flour, baking powder, and ¼ cup of sprinkles until it comes together (60 seconds max).
6.       Scoop into cupcake pans, and sprinkle the remaining sprinkles on each cupcake.  Bake in oven and check for doneness at 15 minutes with a toothpick.  If it doesn’t come out clean, bake for an extra minute or two.  Cool completely before frosting.
Before baking.

After baking.

½ cup butter (original recipe calls for ¼ cup of shortening and ¼ cup butter)
2 oz/55 g cream cheese
1 Tablespoon glucose (or 2 teaspoons corn syrup)
1 Tablespoon corn syrup
1 Tablespoon clear vanilla extract
1 ½ cups icing sugar
Pinch of baking powder
Pinch of citric acid (I used a squeeze of lemon juice instead)

1.       Cream butter and cream cheese until fluffy.
2.       With the mixer on low, stream glucose, corn syrup, and vanilla.  Increase speed to medium-high and beat for 2-3 minutes until silky.
3.       Mix in icing sugar, baking powder, and citric acid, and beat until smooth.

Vanilla soak
Mix ¼ cup milk and 1 teaspoon of clear vanilla extract in a small bowl.

Cupcake Assembly
1.       With a pastry brush, apply the Vanilla Soak to the cupcakes.
2.       Pipe frosting (I used Ateco tip 847), and sprinkle with Birthday Cake Crumb.
3.       Store in the refrigerator and leave out for 30 minutes before serving.

Verdict:  The Milk Bar recipe does it again! My colleagues were super happy to receive cupcakes and I was happy to celebrate my birthday by sharing these sweet and very vanilla-y mouthfuls of deliciousness! And, I found my FAVORITE frosting.  This frosting is sooooo good! I NEVER eat frosting out of the bowl, but I was spooning this stuff into my mouth.  I wouldn’t call this a cream cheese frosting, because there is very little cream cheese, but it’s just enough to give the frosting an interesting flavor element.  I’ll definitely be using this recipe again.

Btw, best birthday ever!!!