Monday, April 28, 2014

This is Not a Cupcake Blog

...but they do tend to show up anyway.  Sometimes.

I've been cooking up all sorts of experimental flavors this week (my fridge is filled with all sorts of fun stuff), and I'll post something about those soon.  But sometimes it's nice to just make a batch of something without any guessing or weirdness that doesn't require any special purchases, and that's the story of these chocolate cupcakes.

These are Sweetapolita's Chocolate Birthday Cupcakes (there is NO BUTTER in that cupcake recipe.  I was horrified and checked it three times) with her whipped vanilla frosting--I'm normally not a fan of powdered-sugar-based frostings (blanket term: American buttercream) but this one is pretty damn good.  And it's almost completely hands-off as long as you've got a stand mixer.  Amazing.

These were taken to a potluck to accompany a hotdog bar.  All was right with the world.

(A note about cupcakes: they are not my gift.  I am finally getting to the point where I don't overfill the damn things, but that's really the best I've got.  I use them for cake tasting and when I need something quick--like this!--and that's about it.  Team cake for life.)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Cake in the Way Back Machine

Finally found a picture from Lauren's bridal shower, in July...2012?  That seems like a long time ago.  I might be wrong.  Anyway!  This was my first Cake For An Occasion and while my frosting technique has gotten better, the cake recipe is still solid.

(my picture appears to have broken, sorry!

This is Sweetapolita's Orange Ginger Carrot Cake, with the original white chocolate replaced with cream cheese frosting (with orange zest in it) at Lauren's request because she knows what's up.   That's a little candied ginger on top--I tried my best to make it curl and be pretty but it didn't do much other than sit there and be tasty.  Somehow we all survived even without photogenic baked goods (the horror, right?).

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Spring Cake on a Whim

So here's how things go with me.

I see something--in this case, Sprinkle Bakes' really lovely Speckled Egg Malted Milk Cake:

Complete with phyllo nest.  Fancy!

...and I have to make it.  The cake is a play off malted milk eggs, which as it turns out are HELLA DIFFICULT to locate two days before Easter.  Learn from my mistakes, kids.

Observe: our cake template.  Someday I'll figure out how to cover a cake in a crunchy candy shell.

Didn't have an occasion handy for making such a thing, and it's a lot weirder to bring an entire huge cake to the office than it is a plate of cookies or something, so I offered it up to Claire's family for their Easter get-together.  They accepted, and then her mom invited me to come along with the cake.  Can't say no to that.

I ended up malt-ing Smitten Kitchen's vanilla buttermilk cake recipe (my go-to) via a half cup of malted milk powder, which is pretty handy stuff.  Had to get some chocolate in there somewhere so I used a thin layer of ganache between the layers instead of frosting.  

Obviously, the best part of making this thing is speckling it--you make a paint with vanilla and cocoa and flick it onto your cake with a brush.  Since I figured this would make a huge mess I made a splatter zone with a beach towel, a hammer, and a couple nails.

I think it worked--I haven't found any spots on the wall.  Yet.

I want to do this to every cake I make, it's so much fun in a way that only terribly messy things can be.  Final result?

Obviously I had to stick a bunch of candy in this thing, you know me.

This ended up being a pretty sizable cake--three 8" layers plus frosting and filling.  Obviously this falls into the category of non-problems, but I'm going to need to source some bigger cake boxes.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The first birthday cake of 2014

...did not happen until March.  Need to line up some more late winter birthdays around here.

Dad requested "a chocolate layer cake, with maybe some coconut.  And can it look unusual?"

Of course, Dad.

(Chocolate cake with coconut cream filling, chocolate frosting, and Trader Joe's roasted coconut chips, which are delicious.)

Bake two square chocolate cake layers.  Stack them and cut off the corners.  Snack on said corners while making coconut cream filling.  Fill and frost, then go entirely overboard with the roasted coconut flakes.  Find a cake-themed card.  Eat the cake.  Help parents disassemble the rest of the cake and wrap and freeze all the pieces individually for later consumption.  I think it lasted the better part of a month, which shows remarkable self-control on their part.  Props, parents!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Other cakes of 2013

Bridal shower cake for a White Shower for Melissa, made in collaboration with our friend Claire, who delivered and assembled it like a badass.
Lemon cake, lemon curd, vanilla buttercream.
(Flower and ribbon both 100% inedible, please do not eat.)

Giant Little Debbie cake for my dad for Father's Day. 
Chocolate cake, meringue filling (mysteriously disappeared, whoops), chocolate frosting, ganache, white chocolate swirl.
(As you can see, stuck to the sides of the box like crazy, for maximum Little Debbie-esque realness.)

Birthday cake for Lauren, with orbiting satellite cupcakes.
Chocolate Octoberfest cake with brown sugar buttercream, candied pecans, and sprinkles.

Birthday cake for my brother.
Three layers of spicy carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and hand-picked red sprinkles from my large collection of multi-colored sprinkles.

Cake for my mom's surprise birthday party.
Vanilla buttermilk cake with malted vanilla buttercream and Whoppers.  Frosting was tinted a totally uncooperative shade of purple which refused to photograph correctly, but the cake (and the party) were both pretty good.

Wedding Cake 3: Leah and John

When the girl you've known since you were 8 tells you she's getting married, of course you offer to make her cake.  Duh.  This was my last wedding of the summer and I was in it and baking for it and that was quite the day.

150-ish guests meant I had a pretty good chance of feeding everyone without resorting to the (totally valid) sheet cake method, and I could let the bride and groom choose their own flavors for their own cakes--two households, both alike in dignity, yada yada yada.  As you can imagine, this led to a vast number of flavors for testing.

(This is not all of them.  This is some.  Thankfully it was also Leah's mom's birthday so I sent some home with them.)

We ended up with two very different, very lovely cakes, which I will now describe for you as they are inscribed on my memory until the end of time.

John's cake:
Bottom and top tiers: funfetti cake, filled with vanilla funfetti frosting, covered in vanilla buttercream, and rolled in sprinkles.  WITH SIXLETS AROUND THE EDGES, because we needed more color.
Middle tier: lemon cake, vanilla buttercream filling and frosting, with funfetti piping around the base.

Leah's cake:
Bottom and middle tiers: Lemon cake, raspberry filling, raspberry buttercream frosting.
Top tier: Chocolate cake, raspberry filling, raspberry buttercream frosting.

(Guess which one is which)

I'm making another sprinkle cake this summer so I'll take you through the process then, but suffice to say it involves buying pounds of sprinkles and having the courage/stupidity to pick your (beautifully baked, beautifully frosted, perfectly smooth) cake up, turn it sideways, and plop it down in a pan.  It also involves a lot of profanity.  Stay tuned.

Photo by Jarron at Dei Gratia Photography, who was nice enough to take lots of cake pictures mostly for my benefit.

Wedding Cake 2: Haley and Seth

Haley and Seth are beautiful humans who had a dessert bar at their wedding that they let me contribute to--by which I mean that I needed to practice covering a cake in sprinkles and they indulged me.  Even though I just made a bitty cake that only had to get to Bowling Green, it managed to completely slide off its base in transit and ended up looking less pretty than it should have.  Thankfully nobody was paying attention because there was so much other great stuff going on, and I cunningly used neon-colored candy and sprinkles on the cake itself to distract from any imperfections.

(Lemon cake with ginger bourbon peach buttercream, rolled in sprinkles and topped with jellybeans, because we're all adults here.)

It is important that you note that the dessert bar banners said TREAT YOSELF.  This is vital.

Photo by the amazingly talented Carrie and Ganer of Sur La Lune Photography

Wedding Cake 1: Melissa and Chey

I ended up involved in a lot of weddings last summer, and I ended up doing cake in some form for three of them.  Melissa's wasn't the first one I volunteered for but it did end up being the first wedding I did, which experience.  Several hundred people, three hours away, in a two-door Honda Civic.  No sweat.  After Melissa agreed to the rules (1. No fondant; 2. I don't have to feed everyone with one cake) I made some cupcakes, we picked out some flavors, I did some very bad math and things were rolling.

(The delightful real-life consequences of the Cupcake Permutation Chart, which is a real thing that totally works.)

As it turns out, you need a lot of cake to feed several hundred people.  A fridge full of cake, in fact.

We ended up with six half-sheet cakes (vanilla and chocolate, with vanilla or chocolate frosting) and two tiers for the show cake.  This is what I refer to as "a fuck-ton of cake."  Just in case I use that term again later.

I don't actually remember how I fit all this AND another person in my car.

Despite an impending storm of Biblical proportions, a little road flooding, some minor highway construction, and doing it all in a dress, all cake ended up where it needed to be, I got the show cake stacked up and piped with no issues, and then we set the whole thing on fire because it was the groom's birthday and these people do things right.

(Chocolate on top, vanilla on the bottom, vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream all around.  Can't argue with the classics.)

Photo by Kyle and Jennifer Stevenson of Stevenson Photo

Obligatory Introductory Post

A few years back, I realized that celebrations deserve tasty food, made with love, and decided to take things into my own hands.  It's possible that I was looking for a creative outlet to vent into, as I was halfway through grad school at the time (in something not cake-related).  It's also possible I was just tired of eating bad cake.  I started experimenting in a tiny kitchen, I bought too many pans, I bought a KitchenAid, I bought a cake freezer, and last summer I made wedding cakes for three friends and birthday, shower, and random it's-Tuesday-let's-eat-this-thing cakes for many more.  Some of those will be covered retroactively and we'll see where we go from here.

About me: I'm pretty much self-taught, I buy pounds of butter at a time, and yes, I do have a chest freezer in my kitchen that's filled with whatever I can't eat or pawn off immediately--everything from cake and frosting to ice cream, cookie dough, and whatever else won't fit in my other freezer.  There's a couple pounds of pulled pork and some biscuits in there now.  I don't believe in fondant, I do believe in ice cream cake, and that's all you need to know for now.

Up next: last year's wedding cake rundown.  Not for the faint of heart.