Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Bella's Barbie

I always wish that I could redo each cake I make and make all sorts of improvements. With this order for a barbie cake from my goddaughter "Bella" I had a chance to practice Barbie cake making (my second) and fondant (my third attempt). It turned out OK. OK, I was pleased. Besides a big repaired rip by Barbie's rear and the slightly (no, completely) unsymmetrical decorations on her dress, I was reasonably satisfied with the attempt at fondant, which I really do not like making, partially because it is tricky and mostly because it just does not taste very good, so I am always hesitant to put it on a cake. But the effect is nice, especially on the barbie dress, where the hard-to-correct pleats and wrinkles actually add to the appearance of the dress and there is little smoothing required. So bring on the Barbie cakes. I am ready!
The Recipe
My standard go to chocolate cake recipe.
For chocolate frosting/filling I used a chocolate-rum pastry filling that I learned in my one and only dessert baking class. I can't seem to find a similar one online and I use an old stained xerox copy when I make the recipe. If anyone ever reads this and wants the recipe, I will add it on. But since the dawn of Facebook, I find my blogging time severely reduced :). And my readership even further reduced. From about 2 people to 0. So basically this is my own online archive of cake making. So note to self- use the stained pastry filling recipe in flour covered binder marked desserts.
The mother of the birthday girl was kind enough to give me some preserved cherries, so I mixed those in with the pastry filling, which was a nice addition as chocolate on chocolate is just a bit too rich. If I get a chance I will use the remaining 2.5 jars of cherries to make this recipe that I absolutely love yet rarely have enough cherries/chocolate/booze on hand to make without pre-planning. 
The I topped the Barbie with a standard marshmallow fondant recipe, some left over rum-flavored whipped cream (yeah, it was a children's party, but a few tsp's never killed anyone) and edible (but controversial) silver beads, that are luckily still available here in Latvia. 

The Result
I was happy, Bella was happy, all involved parties were happy enough and I was happy to get some feedback about ooohs and ahhs from other parents, that always gives me a bit of a boost. No children were traumatized by the legless doll torso that I was able to use for this cake, shipped to me by mom in the States, which is also good. Not much more to comment on this one, just happy I could document it while still in my memory. Happy Birthday, my dear Bella! Start planning for next year!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Beyblade cake

The Idea:
While I made this cake about a year ago or so, I finally got a cord for my phone, that served as a weak substitute for my camera for a while while the camera wasbeing replaced. A friend of a friend asked if I would be willing to make a Beyblade themed cake for her son. I of course being always ready for an edible challenge, said yes. This was by far the most difficult cake I had ever attempted to make.
My standard chocolate cake
Chocolate Italian meringue buttercream
Home made Fondant
Royal icing for lettering, decoration
Silver decorating balls

The Result
I almost cried (actually I might have) thatsomeone was actually going to pay me for this monstrosity. I was deeply unsatisfied with my result because looking back it was not so bad, but it could well have been out of a when cakes go bad website. Oh well. Practice, practice, practice. I am almost sure it tasted really good though.

Valuable lessons learned:
- Practice alot with fondant before making a asymetrical, angled cake;
-Putting light fondant over chocolate buttercream leaves you with dirty looking fondant! The pictures are forgiving, but the yellow looked a bit mud-smeared.
-When in doubt cover the cake in decorations made of fondant!!  If I were to make this again, I would go nuts with the blue and green fondant "beyblades" all over. from the feedback I got, these were a hit with the party guests.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Heart Wedding Cake

The Idea:
About 2 months ago I was asked to make my friend's brother a wedding cake. I had only once before made a dessert for a wedding and that was an order for 12 cheesecakes. Cheesecakes I know. Cheesecake I can do in my sleep (and at 7 months pregnant back then I was most likely half asleep). But a wedding cake is different. This stresses me out abit because what if the bride (who I hardly know at all) has been dreaming about this cake for her whole life?  Well, initial communication revealled it must not be the top of the list, because after a relatively simple description for a white, heart shaped, berry adorned cake that is not too sweet, I was a bit relieved. As the date drew closer I had devised a plan to actually make the cake heart shaped (this included the elaborate construction of a cardboard/string/plastic wrap shell that would let the cake cool and solidify the middle custard layer). This was necessary as I could not find/afford to buy a large heart shaped baking pan.

The Recipe:
Attempted frosting #1 (failed)- Swiss Meringue Buttercream. (If I had had the instuctuions here, I might have been able to save it, because no amount of whipping was able to save it from separating and curdling. I did not try heating and whipping).
I have no time left I need a reliable frosting #2 - Italian Meringue Buttercream
Cake layers (2)- Yellow cake
Filling- A recipe from my new cookbook on cakes for a lemon custard strawberry filling.
Decorated with cranberries, red grapes, strawberries (AKA, all currently available dark/red berries!)

Lessons learned-
Never ever make a new recipe for something as tricky as a gelatin layer in a wedding cake. I was so thankful that the appearance was pretty good that they may not have notice the wine-lemmon strawberry custard layer was horrible. Note to self-practice more with gelatin. It WILL eventuially harden!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Neopolitan Butterfly Birthday Cake

The Idea:
For her 5th birthday, my lovely goddaughter requested at firsts a cake with strawberries and kiwis. Some of you may remember, that Izabella's 4th birthday cake was the beginning to this blog, so in a way I could say this cake represented one year of my quest for the perfect torte. Have I found the perfect torte yet?  Not quite, but I'd like to think I am much closer than a year ago, judging by the sugar monstrosity that that 4th birthday cake was. Although I would admit, "Pink Chocolate and Strawberry" has been one of my best looking cakes to date. Izabella must bring it out in me, because in the end I was quite satisfied with this year's monstrosity as well. Perhaps the pictures do not do it justice, but I believe the cake may have weighed as much as Izabella, or at least quite a bit more than her little brother :). While I had been developing the layers in my mind for a while, I had a last minute request- "Oh yeah, could it have something to do with Butterflies?" No problem!
As a side note my current sub project in the field of tortes is figuring out how to make softer layers in the middle of the torte. Softer layers being something other than frosting. One day I will just shove a cheesecake in the middle of that torte, but now I am working on mousses, custards and what is locally known as a yogurt cake. Other requests for this cake were for something softer in the layers.

The Recipe (from the bottom up):
Base layer- Banana brownie (I use a handwritten recipe that I scribbled down once when the printer was not working, it uses 2 bananas, some whole wheat flour and low sugar/oils. Enough of that in the rest of the cake!)
Frosting- Chocolate Italian Meringue Buttercream
Cake layer 2- That perfect homemade yellow cake mixed with fresh strawberries
Top mousse layer- Strawberry mousse (which recipe... I'll have to get back to you)
Accents- Strawberries, kiwis and Chocolate Buttercream

The Result:

According to the guest of honor, the result was good. And for Izabella that is saying a lot. Having been able to take almost two full wings home after the party, I was able to taste it and it was one of my favorites (Excluding of course mocha tortes,but those are another category for me altogether). I like the result because it met one of my personal criteria to have many different flavors and textures in one torte. The brownie layer was not very heavy, but chocolaty. The yellow cake layer I liked because it had small flecks of strawberry in it, although this recipe, despite the claim that it is very moist, dries out quickly and usually I have to bake a day in advance. While standard buttercream is too much, it is perfect for accents. But that I have written before. The unintended combination of chocolate, stawberry and vanilla reminded me of the neopolitan ice cream with its 3 flavours. While never a big fan of that combination, this was a nice change.

Lessons learned:
- Find a new yellow/white cake recipe. I have used Martha Stewards White cake recently and was quite pleased. But don't ask for which cake... I think I have made about 500 in the last month, I have a lot of blog catching up to do!
-Don't make strawberry cakes in March. The strawberries are horrible tasting and wilt/start to go bad quickly. Of course, tell that to the March birthday girl.
-Mousse can take about an extra tblsp of gelatin in these amounts to be stiffer and go between layers, but the recipe as written stood up well for a thick top layer.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pumpkin Hazelnut & Chocolate Tart

The Idea

I needed a Thanksgiving Day recipe and could not decide on a pie or cake. This recipe came along in my inbox just in time to make the decision. I had toyed with an idea for a torte using all the flavors of Thanksgiving dessert- pumpkin, apple and cranberries, but I could not think of the best combination in time. I will work on it for next year. In the meantime this was a great recipe that I tweaked for my own (in)convenience.

The Recipe

Chocolate Hazelnut Pumpkin Tart from Betty Crocker. I do not use Betty Crocker products (unavailable or very expensive where I live) and their recipes are usually more advertisements for their products than anything else, but once in a while they come up with some great ideas. Most of their products can be easily substituted.

Recipe Adjustments

The recipe calls for a hazelnut spread with cocoa. Being in Europe, the grocery store has about 10 choices of hazelnut chocolate spreads on the shelves, but for some reason I decided to make my own using this recipe. If price was my motivation, I am not sure that I came out on top, but I did figure out that a coffee grinder is an excellent tool for making nut butter. I have tried making nut butter in my small food processor that I burn the motor out on in about 10-20 months from purchase and have not been successful. The coffee grinder zipped the hazelnuts into butter in a fraction of the time it would have taken in a food processor. Good to know. My home made "nutella" was not quite spreadable and had the consistency of play-dough, so the chocolate layer came out thicker than it was supposed to be. I also whipped the egg whites and folded them into the filling thinking this would lighten up the filling and give it more volume.

The Result

I was happy with the result and my guests were very complimentary, but I am never sure if they are just being nice since I am such a nut about my deserts. I do have to say by the end of the night there was none left which is always a good indicator. I concentrated on not making such a gigantic monstrosity as usual so I would not have much left over.

If I were to make this recipe again, I would almost double the pumpkin filling. Even with whipping the egg whites, the filling was just barely there and the chocolate, which was supposed to be more of an accent, was the main part of the tart. My guests even commented, "There is pumpkin in this?"

The tart was not very sweet, which I liked, but still rich and chocolaty.

I could not find my camera as usual during the dinner party, so you will have to do with the one picture I took during preparation ;) I will update if my guest who took a picture emails it to me! (Done!)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Step One to a Tiramisu Torte

The Idea:

Faced with preparing an Italian dinner, only one option jumped to mind for dessert-tiramisu. Of course I inevitably toyed with making it into a torte, but better take one thing at a time and try to master tiramisu before I turn it into a torte. Rome wasn't built in a day after all. Oh boy, I kill myself.... but moving on. I was never a big tiramisu fan until I was in Italy with a die hard tiramisu fan and he managed to turn me into a tiramisu lover. Not a big challenge, who doesn't love coffee, booze, custard, cake and chocolate?

The Recipe:

I chose this recipe because after sorting through hundreds of recipes online, calorie guilt got the best of me and I decided to try for a whipped egg white vs. whipped cream version. More or less any colored alcohol was mentioned in all recipes from rum to chocolate liqueur to brandy. This one has brandy. This recipe also uses shaved chocolate vs. cocoa.The Result:

I was happy with the result. I have tasted better and worse. This was lacking certain decadent richness, but I can accept that due to the egg vs. cream issue. I definitely over soaked the lady fingers and have no one to blame but myself. The recipe clearly said QUICKLY soak lady fingers in coffee. The chocolate shavings were too big, cocoa would have been better for dusting the top.

What I would do differently next time/how I would use this info to get a torte recipe:

Next time I would try making a coffee, brandy and sugar glaze and make giant lady finger recipe disk for torte layers. For the filling I would incorporate a combination of heavy cream and egg whites- perhaps more fat would hold up better between the layers. Instead of chocolate shavings I would use sweetened cocoa to dust the filling and if making a torte I would top the whole thing with a ganache.

If you happen to have a good tiramisu recipe, please leave me a comment!

(Update: Since I can't seem to comment on my own blog, In response to Dace:

Man bija personīgais strīds, bērniem ēst jēlu olu tiramisu vai nē. Visi pārdzīvoja. Arī nezinu, vai tiramisu varētu ganache noturēt, bet tas būtu neautentiskās tortes versijā. Nepretendēšu uz autentisku tiramisu torte, tikai tiramisu "inspirētu" torti! ;)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy halloween!

In order to get this up before Halloween is completely over this year, I will quickly post my Halloween/Birthday cake for my son's shared birthday/Halloween party on Saturday. THE IDEA: Pretty clear :) Based on this recipe from blogger I Am Baker.
Cake: Red Velvet Cake
Frosting: Italian Meringue Butter Cream
Ganache: Just plain Ganache
Ghosts: Spooky Meringues with green frosting pen eyes

All in all ok, but a few lessons learned:

  1. Frost cake before hitting the punchbowl.

  2. Use just a little bit of ganache. You can always add more. I still have some that dripped down off the cake, off the cutting board onto the garage floor. I really must go clean that up before the cats get at it! (Then I will have a whole different kind of mess to clean up, but that is really not the most important point here...)

  3. Red velvet cake really needs allot of red food coloring. I used everything I had at home (3 tubes/bottles) and it was not enough. The result was a bit more on the pink velvet side!

  4. I really must stop hurrying. The effect and effort would be so much better if I slowed down while decorating. I will get there one day. A yummy messy cake is in the end, still yummy.
Good question. I have a bit of a pause from family birthday celebrations right now, but a national independence day torte (Latvia) may revisit the red velvet cake again! I need to experiment more with different frostings. The IMBC is great, but getting a bit old.