Saturday, February 28, 2015

Five months' worth of cake!

Since September I've gotten a new job and made a lot of cake. Some of it was photographed and some of it wasn't, because I need to get better about that. New job and lots more coworkers means I'm making more birthday cakes--not a bad thing at all. I'm looking for an occasion to use my new 4-inch cake pans, by the way, so if anyone needs the world's tiniest cake...?

A quick retrospective:

August: Scott's birthday cake! Vanilla cake, bourbon vanilla frosting and Whoppers. Photos by his lovely wife Cait (you all remember Cait, right?)

October: Jenna and Zach's wedding cake! Layers included s'mores (graham cake, marshmallow and chocolate ganache filling), sweet potato and ginger with marshmallow filling, and salted caramel. 

December: My coworker Dolores' birthday cake. She, like most of my new coworkers, loves Reeses Cups, so this is a chocolate cake with peanut butter filling, vanilla frosting and teeeeeny tiny peanut butter cups on top of more peanut butter dollops on top. She took these pictures and then we demolished the cake for breakfast.

And at the end of January I made the prettiest cake ever and I TOOK NO PICTURES. It was for my coworker Katheran's Golden Birthday, also known as a champagne birthday or star birthday (31 on the 31st, in her case). With that in mind, I made her a three-layer champagne cake with vanilla buttercream filling and frosting, studded with gold sugar pearls and little edible gold stars on top. Why I failed to take a picture of this, I will never know. Trust me, it was pretty--and pretty tasty, as long as you weren't a five-year-old. They weren't crazy about the champagne taste. (Maybe someday, little ones.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Anniversaries: A Cake Philosophy

Basically this whole saving the top tier of your wedding cake nonsense is bull.  Yes, cake can keep well in the freezer--but for a few weeks, people, not 12 months.  You'll thaw it out, have a couple bites, go eugh, and then throw it away.  WASTE OF CAKE AND MONEY.


For Leah and John's wedding, I told them that we should eat all the cake (we did our best) and I'd make them another one when their anniversary rolled around.  John requested sprinkles, Leah requested lemon, so in the spirit of marriage and compromise I made them one with both.

Admire my gorgeous cake plate, ignore my dirty coffee table.

They were lovely and shared it with us--because let's be real, top tiers of cakes still feed a handful of people, it's a lot to eat by yourself.

So stop freezing your top tiers, people!  Spread the gospel: fresh cake tastes better.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Cake testing and re-homing

After searching everywhere for a graham cracker cake recipe and eventually having to build one myself, you can imagine how ridiculous I felt when I opened up my Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and there was one staring at me.  I should have checked there first, Deb has everything.

I wanted to test out the recipe but didn't want to end up with an entire cake in my apartment (sitting there, taunting me).  I baked, filled, frosted, and decorated (when in doubt, cover it in ganache and throw sprinkles at it), then put it out to pasture on Facebook until a friend picked it up for another friend's birthday.

Smitten Kitchen's graham cracker cake, with milk chocolate ganache filling, vanilla Swiss buttercream frosting, and more milk chocolate ganache (salted this time) poured on top.  The sprinkles come out this time every year and they are some of my favorite things--little tiny leaves and pumpkins and yellow triangles I've never quite figured out.

Would've loved to eat it all myself but the birthday girl had two slices so I'm guessing it was okay.  Will be pulling the recipe out again for a wedding next month.  Fall baking is the best baking.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Jon and Whitney Get Married (With Lots Of Desserts!)

Whew!  August was busy, sorry 'bout that.  A couple friends got married and put me in charge of the dessert table and things got a little out of hand.

This is only a portion.  The football helmets are important.

What started out as "we don't really want cake" evolved into "well maybe just a little cutting cake" evolved into what you see above (and below).  We ended up with a three-tier cake, caramel brownies (bride's choice), lemon bars (groom's choice), and popcorn cookies to go with the cinema theme.  The cake is lemon with lemon curd filling on top, chocolate with raspberry filling in the middle, and vanilla with vanilla buttercream on the bottom, all slathered with a truly absurd amount of vanilla buttercream and decorated with white and dark chocolate film strips.  (Those are a project for a different post.)

Popcorn cookies!  Don't knock 'em til you try 'em, they're actually fantastic.

Even though the wedding was held on what felt like the hottest weekend of the summer, everything got to the venue without incident, the chocolate transfers didn't melt (I was so worried about this that I brought ribbon to wrap around the base of each tier just as an insurance policy--didn't end up needing it, so now I've got some nice silver ribbon sitting around).  There were some little to-go boxes on either side of the dessert table for people to take home leftovers, but there weren't too many, which is how I know I did my job right.  I still have a firm no cupcake policy, but I'd definitely do the brownies or lemon bars thing again.  Good choices all around.

Photos by the team at Unveiled Studio, who were EVERYWHERE at this wedding and did a fast and fantastic job--they had photos up during the reception!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Raspberry Lemon Bridal Shower Cake

Let's talk about frosting, y'all.  (With some crappy cell phone pictures!)

Rule #1: You never have enough frosting.
Rule #2: Do you have some time?  Make some Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  Make some more.  It'll be worth having it stashed away.

So!  Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  It is delicious.  It starts out with egg whites (I use ones from the carton, because they're pasteurized and no worries about separating eggs) and sugar in a double boiler.  Stick a candy thermometer in it and whisk 'em up until they hit 160 F.

Once it hits 160, move it over to the stand mixer and whisk away.  You did wipe down all implements/bowls/whisks with lemon juice, right?  Just in case there was any trace of fat or oil on them?  Good.  Get the stand mixer going and walk away.

While the mixer is going, cut up some butter.

A lot of butter.  (This is for a ten-cup batch of frosting.)  Revel in the amount of butter you are using.  Delight in it.  Cackle while you're cutting it up.  It needs to be softened to room temperature before you can put it in the frosting (I have shortcutted this in the microwave at low power levels.  Use caution.)

Your meringue should be expanding rapidly at this point.  Once it's thick, white, shiny, and (most importantly) the bowl of the mixer is neutral to the touch, it's time to chuck your butter in!  One piece at a time, please.  This is a good task to delegate out if you have other people around.  Continue cackling.

Once all the butter's in, walk away.  Again.  If you come back in a few minutes and it looks kind of grainy, that's a good thing.  Walk away again.  Don't come back until it looks like the crappy cell phone picture above.  Add a pinch of salt and some vanilla and whammo, frosting!  It is not enough frosting.  It is never enough frosting.

Cake assembly time!  This is one skinny-ass half-sheet lemon layer with some frosting slathered on top and some whole raspberries studded into it.  Some days you just don't want to cook down the produce, and that's okay.

Then take your heart into your hands and flip your second layer on top of the filling.  (If you freeze it first, it'll be less floppy and panic-inducing.)  Crumb coat everything, using more frosting than you could possibly think you'd need.  It is not enough.

Between that step and the next picture several things happened.  I started piping on swirly roses in a haphazard and nonsensical pattern, ran out of frosting, decided they looked bad, scraped everything off, and started over.  Piped more swirly roses on in a much more reasonable fashion, ran out of frosting.  Made another (small) batch of frosting with the rest of the egg whites.  Tinted it pink, piped on more swirly roses, ran out of frosting again.  Went to the store, bought more egg whites, came back, made ANOTHER (medium) batch of frosting, tinted it pink, finished piping the damn cake.  Filled in any little gaps and stuck the whole sucker in the fridge to firm it up. Take it out of the fridge, take a picture, box it up, back in the fridge, and here we are!


So that was my weekend.  Delivered the cake today (it's for a bridal shower, can you tell?) without issue, always the MOST fun part of the process, and it's in good hands now!  

What have we learned?

NEVER.  ENOUGH.  FROSTING.  We're done here.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Uber-Chocolate Father's Day Cake

My dad has been requesting a salted dark chocolate cake for a while now, so I decided to whip one up for Father's Day (what better occasion?).  Sweetapolita, as always, provided a beautiful recipe  that I shrunk and barely modified.  When (not if!) I make this again, I'd love to throw in some of the salted caramel buttercream in the middle to lighten everything up.  As it was, this was a big, gorgeous, totally delicious brick of a cake, with enough chocolate to kill a lesser human.  Dad loved it.  (This one also gave me an excuse to buy some fancy sea salt flakes, which were delicious and I'm going to put them in everything now.  I only wish I'd studded them around the sides of the cake as well as the top, to spread the flavor around!)

6" chocolate fudge cake with super-chocolate fudge frosting and sea salt flakes

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Summertime Means Pie Time

So yesterday I was walking through Trader Joe's and for reasons that don't follow any semblance of logic, I decided I wanted to make a pie.  The peaches were like rocks but there were lots and lots of nectarines so I bought a few and some frozen pie crusts (I am not above using frozen pie crusts and you shouldn't be either...also I'm at my parents' house this weekend and am pretty sure they don't have any vodka around for me to make my own with.)

Anyway.  This pie is kind of a mess.  I rushed the thaw on the dough and completely wrecked it, to the extent that I had to ball it all up and chill it overnight before re-rolling it today.  Inspiration for this sucker came in equal parts from Smitten Kitchen's nectarine galette and a recipe for orange-nectarine pie I found on the internet.  I mooshed them together into some sort of hot mess pie/galette shindig.  Observe!

Let's be honest here: half the reason this happened was because I wanted to make something pretty out of fruit slices.

The facts were these:

Four ripe-enough nectarines, halved and sliced but not peeled.
One pie crust, homemade or store-bought
About a quarter cup of orange juice
About a quarter cup of brown sugar
About a quarter cup of flour
One egg
Coarse sugar

Mix the OJ, sugar, and flour together.  Toss the nectarine slices in the mixture and chuck in your pie crust, either all willy-nilly or in a pretty pattern.  If you want to fold the crust over onto the filling to make a quasi-galette, I will not fight you.  If you want to put a top crust on, I won't fight you on that either (but your fruit won't get all deliciously singed on the top, so).  Brush the crust with an egg wash and sprinkle it with coarse sugar (or whatever sugar you've got).  Bake at 400 for about half an hour, or until the crust is golden brown and delicious and the fruit is just starting to char on top.

It is all sorts of delicious and is nice and tart--if your taste runs a little sweeter, sprinkle some more brown sugar over the nectarines before baking.  Lightly sweetened whipped cream would be perfect but I don't have any of that so I'll eat it straight and that's nothing to complain about.