Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Marble Cake

I'm getting all cocky now, tweaking a recipe out of a cookbook the first time I make it.  It wasn't a hard decision.  The recipe tells you the cake is going to be cracked, so there's obviously something wrong with it.  I subbed in half cake flour to reduce the gluten content and used whole milk instead of evaporated for water:milk solids ratio.

There was a lot of math in this one.  1/3 cake in a 6" pan when I didn't want to make a 9", argh.  Then I made it again, using margarine instead of butter and a regular aluminum pan instead of aluminum springform.  The butter one is on the left, margarine on the right.  The butter cake was more dense, but they both ended up the same height after being trimmed flat.  They both also developed the bubbles on top that you can see in the top photo, which were trimmed off for layering.  If you're not going to cut, fill, and frost, they'll be visible.
Neither of the cakes domed as much as I was expecting, though the margarine one domed more.  I'm attributing this to the cake pan band.  The photo in the Bible had a significant dome, which you would expect from a 9" diameter cake.  The outside is bound to bake much faster than the middle without something to even out the heat.  The original recipe has you dusting the top with powdered sugar and serving it coffee-cake style, so that was never something the author cared about.  Or maybe that was their solution to a recipe they couldn't fix.

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1-1/4 C sugar
1/4 C water
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 C butter (one stick), softened
1 C AP flour
1 C Cake flour
3/4 C whole milk
3 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

1.  Grease a 9" springform pan, line with wax paper, and grease again.  Preheat oven to 350º.

2.  Over very low heat, melt chocolate with water and 1/4 C sugar.  This can be done in short bursts in the microwave or on the stove.  Stir in vanilla and set aside to cool a bit while you make the cake batter.

3.  In a mixing bowl, combine both flours, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.  Add butter, eggs, and milk.  Beat at low speed until combined, scraping bowl.  Beat on high for 5 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.

4.  Remove 2-1/2 C batter.  This is your white cake.  Beat chocolate mixture into the remaining batter.

5.  Spoon alternate amounts of batter into cake pan.  At some point, I gave up and just started scraping it out of the bowls.  With a knife or toothpick, draw lines down the batter to form the feather pattern.
6.  Bake 55 to 60 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean and it's just starting to look browned.  If you didn't use a cake band, the top will be cracked.

7.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes on a rack.  Remove sides of pan and cool for 5 more minutes before trying to remove bottom and wax paper.  The two different flavors sometimes try to come apart from each other when you peel it.

8.  Once completely cooled, cake can be frozen.  To serve, either trim and frost or sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve "naked".

Serves 12

Difficulty rating  :)

Monday, July 16, 2018

Tea Party 2018

I introduced the crew at work to a proper High Tea.  Also, because I found out late that I had the day off and pulled this year's tea together in a week.

Mostly, I had nervous energy because Princess had to have radioiodine therapy for hyperthyroidism.  She had several benign tumors on her thyroid.  Giving her two pills a day was not an option, especially once she started to feel better and could fight me.  In the cost-benefit analysis over the year or two I expect her to live (she turns 19 in August), $1,000 for the probable cure balanced out against the cost of her meds, prescription food, frequent doctor visits, and my visits to urgent care whenever she bit or scratched me too hard.  Anyway, I had to take a few days off work because they couldn't supply a return date until the procedure was done, and the tea gave me something to do.  Turns out, my appointment to pick her up was three hours before the party!  It meant I couldn't procrastinate, which is a good thing.  I had everything baked and ready to assemble before I got her, and put on the finishing touches after.

Besides, I'm still bitter about not getting a day off last year to have a tea party!

First Course
California Roll Sandwiches
Deviled Eggs
Tuna Salad Sandwiches
White Bean Hummus on Endive
Tomato-Chive mini-Quiches

Second Course
Double Cream
Homemade Jams

Third Course
Charlotte Royale
Chocolate Almond Palmiers
Fresh Fruit

Hot Tea Assortment
Basil Iced Tea (Black tea and basil brewed together, then chilled)

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Chocolate Almond Palmiers

I've never made palmiers before, but I needed a dairy-free dessert for the tea.  I had a sheet of puff pastry in the freezer, and these are notoriously much easier than they look on the plate.

Palmiers are named because they are supposed to resemble a pig's ears.   That's if you do the rolled-up version.  I like the folded one that looks more like a fanned palm leaf.  There's less chance of an exposed arm of the roll burning before the spiral bakes.

I'm growing fond of rolling stuff out directly on the kitchen counter.  It's some kind of amalgam stone, so as long as I clean it before and after, it's like having a marble work surface.  Some things work better on the wood board, like kneading bread or dealing with sticky things.  Fondant, pie crust, and puff pastry do very well on the stone.

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
1/3 C sugar
*2 Tb cocoa powder
*1/2 C sliced almonds

1.  Preheat oven to 425º and line two baking sheets with parchment or a silpat.

2.  Combine sugar and cocoa powder into chocolate sugar.  Place the almonds in a ziplock and smash into small pieces, but not as fine as almond meal.

3.  Sprinkle half of the chocolate sugar on a work surface.  Lay puff pastry on the sugar and sprinkle the rest on top.  Roll out pastry sheet into a 13"x13" square, smashing the sugar into it in the process.  Sprinkle the top with almonds.
4.  Fold in two sides halfway to the middle.  Then fold over again until they meet in the middle.  Fold those halves again into a single "book".  It's six layers.

5.  Using a very sharp knife, make crosswise slices less than 1/2" thick.  Place slices flat on the baking sheets, 12 to a pan.  Leave a lot of space between because they're going to spread out a lot.  If there's any chocolate sugar left on the board, use it to dust the tops of the slices.

6.  Bake for 6-7 minutes, until tops get crispy.  Flip the cookies and bake the other side for 5 minutes. Since they're chocolate, you can't go by color.  By the time they look done, they're burnt.  Remove to a rack until cooled and crisp.  Store in an airtight container or in the freezer.

Makes about 18

Difficulty rating π

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Charlotte Royale

Here's another cake I found on YouTube.  It's time-consuming and has many components, like the Swedish Princess Cake, but isn't as hard as it looks.  And you don't have to frost it.  It was never a contender for the wedding cake.  I used it to test the consistency of the White Chocolate Mousse.  Then I added gelatin (suggested by YouTube) to keep the cake from imploding.

As described in the Jelly Roll post, there are variations on this cake.  You can make a mocha roll for the outside and fill it with ice cream.  The most traditional seemed to be raspberry jam in the cake and raspberry cheesecake filling.  I used the gelatin-stabilized white chocolate mousse infused with strawberry-lavender syrup, and mixed berry jam in the cake.

The bowl part had me stumped.  All of my bowls have either a flat bottom or a dent in them.  Because a perfectly round bowl will roll everywhere.  Even the stand mixer bowl has the concave dent so you can rest it on a counter.  I finally realized my strainer is perfectly round and has a built-in stand, so I lined it very well with plastic wrap, much better than I would have a bowl.  I did not want to have to wash gelatin mousse out of the mesh.

I recipe Jelly Roll
1 recipe White Chocolate Mousse
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
*4 oz strawberry syrup
8 oz fresh strawberries
Powdered sugar for garnish

1.  Dissolve gelatin in 1/2 C cold water and allow to bloom.  Warm the strawberry syrup until it just starts to boil.  Remove from heat and stir in gelatin.  Allow to cool on the counter while you prep the cake.

2.  Line an 8" diameter bowl with plastic wrap.  Slice the jelly roll into 1/2" thick slices.
3.  Starting in the middle, arrange slices as tightly as you can, all the way to the top of the bowl.  When you get to the top ring, you'll have to cut some of the slices into creative wedges.  Any holes you leave will be filled with mousse.  It isn't a tragedy, but you want to minimize the leaks.  One advantage of using the strainer was I could hold it up to the light to look for holes.  Hopefully, you'll have several slices left at this point.  If not, take off half a layer.
4.  Slice or quarter the strawberries.  Separately, beat the prepared mousse to break it up if it has chilled too firm.  Beat in the strawberry gelatin mixture until smooth.  Pour into the middle of the cake, then drop in the strawberry slices and allow them to sink in.
5.  Top with remaining cake slices.  Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.  For longer storage, or if the cake will be left at room temperature longer than 4 hours, freeze until solid.  The mousse is almost an ice cream recipe, so it's fine.  Remove from freezer about 2 hours before serving and invert onto serving platter.  Remove plastic wrap and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Serves 10-14

Difficulty rating  :)

Monday, July 9, 2018

White Chocolate Mousse

I had a remarkably difficult time finding a recipe for this I liked.  Actually, I never did, so this is a variation on pastry cream.

We're going to start here with explaining that white chocolate is not chocolate.  It's what's left when you take all the chocolate out of a cocoa bean.  And it's usually drowned out by so much vanilla that you don't even taste the cocoa butter.  What it does for this recipe is supply extra fat and smoothness to a base that can now be enhanced by fruit, nuts, or beating in some alcohol.  It also works as cake or pie filling.

I'm starting with the Bible's pastry cream recipe and adding melted white chocolate to it.  Actually, I got halfway through the recipe and realized I was out of white chocolate, so I subbed in yogurt chips. Can we go back to the part where I don't believe in white chocolate?

3/4 C sugar
1/4 C flour
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 C milk
6 egg yolks
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 C white chocolate
1-1/2 C whipping cream

1.  In a medium saucepan, stir together sugar, flour, and salt.  Add milk and stir until dry ingredients are dissolved.  Heat over medium low, stirring constantly to avoid scorching, until it boils.  This will take up to 10 minutes, but don't turn up the heat.  If the bottom of the pan scorches, you have to start over.  The mixture will get very thick as the flour cooks.
2.  Lightly beat the egg yolks.  Stir in a few spoonfuls of the hot milk to temper the eggs, then return the yolks to the saucepan.  Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the mixture clumps off the spoon.  Do not boil it, or you're going to have a vanilla omelette.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and white chocolate chips.  Keep stirring until the chocolate melts.
3.  Place a piece of plastic wrap touching the mixture so it doesn't form a skin.  Refrigerate until completely cooled, about 2 hours.

4.  Beat the cream to stiff peaks, just short of butter.  I recommend the stand mixer.  Beat into cooled cream custard until uniform.  It only takes a minute to get everything mixed.  The mousse is now ready to be used.  It can be cake filling, pie filling, cream puff filling, or even a dessert on its own.  If desired, you can beat a tablespoon of liqueur into the cream before combining it with the custard.  Vanilla and white chocolate are both blank slates.

Makes about 4-1/2 cups

Difficulty rating  :)

Friday, July 6, 2018

Jelly Roll

Here was an easy way to use up a jar of last year's jam.  Again, I'm not fond of jam cakes, but it's part of my learning process.

Jelly rolls have to be made with all-purpose flour, so they don't fall apart when you roll them.  They need structure.  And there isn't any butter or shortening.  The only fat is from the egg yolks.  This means this cake isn't going to be moist.  That's what the jelly filling is for.

You can use the techniques here for any kind of rolled cake, just like you can change the fillings in a cinnamon roll once you've made the basic dough.  You can make a chocolate cake and do a mocha roll, or a Yule log, or any other kind of rolled cake.  The main difference between the way I'm making it today and most jelly roll recipes is that I'm rolling it from the long side instead of the narrow one.  The narrow one makes larger slices that are a full serving.  Going up the long side produces smaller and far more slices, which are better for tea or if there's more than one dessert.  At a potluck, you can serve twice as many this way, and guests are more likely to take a slice when there are multiple desserts.

The downside was that I had to make a full-sized cake.  It's really hard to roll a small one.  You could stack it, though.  This recipe would work for petit-fours.  The tiny cubes would hold up to cutting and frosting better than a cake-flour cake.  This batter is also very thick and could be piped into ladyfingers or Nilla-style cookies.

3/4 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 C sugar
about 1/2 C powdered sugar
10 oz smooth jam or jelly of choice

1.  Grease a 15-1/2" by 10-1/2" jelly roll pan (or as close as you can get) with shortening.  Line with wax paper, then grease again.  The cake is only going to be about half an inch high, so don't worry if the paper barely goes up the sides.

2.  Preheat oven to 375º.  In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
3.  In another small bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.  Slowly add 1/3 C sugar and beat to firm peaks.
4.  In a larger bowl, beat egg yolks until pale and fluffy.  Add 1/3 C sugar and beat until lemon-colored and falls in ribbons.  Beat in vanilla.

5.  Fold flour into egg yolks until it barely starts to combine.  Add the egg whites and fold everything together until uniform.  Don't stir hard or beat the batter.  You'll deflate the egg whites and create too many gluten strands.
6.  Pour batter into prepared cake pan.  Spread with an offset spatula, trying not to deflate the batter too much.  Make sure it gets into the corners.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until slightly golden and top of cake springs back when touched.

7.  While cake is baking, sprinkle 1/3 C powdered sugar on a clean dish towel.  Think of it as flouring a board for rolling out pie crust or cookies.  As soon as you pull the cake out of the oven, invert it onto the towel.  Be careful; I burned my arm.  Remove wax paper.
8.  Roll up cake, with the towel inside where the jam will be.  This way, the cake cools in the roll shape and does not tear later.  Place on a cooling rack until room temperature.

9.  Unroll cake.  You can leave the towel under it, since it needs a wash at this point anyway.  If the jam is too thick, thin with a bit of warm water.  Spread over the inside of the cake.  I stopped a little short of the inside, so it wouldn't be a double layer, and kept it thin at the outer edge in case anything squished forward.  The left and right sides should have jam all the way to the edges.
10.  Roll the cake back up, minus the towel.  Cut off the two outer ends and snack on the crusty edges.  If serving right away, plate and dust with powdered sugar.  If serving later, wrap in plastic so it doesn't dry out and refrigerate.  Dust with the sugar when ready to serve.

One roll is at least 12 servings the long way and 8 the short way

Difficulty rating  π

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Unicorn Poop

I had some egg whites left over from an upcoming cake filling and decided to have fun.

This is pretty much the same recipe as the Peppermint Meringues, just with more varieties of food color and a lot more of it.  I opted for disposable pastry bags.  You could change the extract to vanilla, lemon, or whatever you like, but shouldn't unicorns poop peppermint?

*3 egg whites
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/3 C sugar
1/2 C powdered sugar
1/8 tsp peppermint extract
food coloring
edible dust or glitter (optional)

1.  Preheat the oven to 200º, 175º if you have a convection setting.

2.  In a stand mixer, whip the egg whites on high until foamy.  Add salt and whip to soft peaks.

3.  With the mixer still running, slowly stream in the granulated sugar.  This should take another few minutes.  Once the whites achieve firm peaks, add the powdered sugar and extract.  Beat long enough to be sure they're going to hold volume, but don't let them get dry.
4.  Divide the whites into however many colors you want to use.  I got out three bowls.  I went for pastel with my color, but you can saturate as dark as you want.
5.  Load up a separate pastry bag with each color, then combine them into one larger pastry bag fitted with whatever 1/4" tip you like.  I think I used #32.
6.  Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment.  Pipe out "poop" shaped mounds.  The colors will swirl on their own as they pass through the combined tip.  My yellow was a little slow out of the gate, but I had made less of it anyway.
7.  Bake the cookies for 2-3 hours (depending on size), rotating the pans halfway through.  If they start to brown before that, turn down the heat.  Once dry, turn off the oven and leave the door cracked.  Let the cookies stay in there another hour to finish drying.  (oh, and don't make them on a humid day.)

8.  Spray with the edible dust (if using).  Store in an airtight container and serve within a couple of days.  Less, if it's humid out.

Make about 2-3 dozen, depending on size

Difficulty rating  :-0

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Cake Supplies

I spent a lot at Michaels before the Princess Cake.  I'm considering it an investment, with all the cakes I'm going to be making this year.  I also picked up other stuff for planned projects.  Michaels isn't super far, but I rarely go in that direction, so it feels like an expedition.

Most of the items were on my list, like cake pan bands.  I'd never heard of them before, but the science behind them is sound.  You put a cold, damp piece of cloth around the outside of the cake pan so the outside edges of the cake don't bake faster than the inside.  It produces a flatter cake, and you don't have to trim off the outside "crust".  It's the same concept as placing a baked custard in a pan of water before placing it in the oven.  I don't know if it made the Princess Cake any flatter, but it made a difference around the rims.
Not on the list was gel food colors, but when I saw them I realized that my box is about two decades old. Yep, don't make cakes much.  I bought them and tossed the old ones.  I do need to buy drops for a different project, but these will take me through most cakes.

I really didn't want to buy a fondant roller.  Unitasker.  However, fondant will pick up the pattern of a wood rolling pin.  I already have to scrub my counter and use that for rolling because all of my boards have some kind of texture.  I got the smallest and cheapest they had.  There were tons of cool fondant shaping and patterning gadgets.  Most were food-safe versions of what you use on modeling clay.  I'm only buying those if something requires it.  I'm not buying a "fondant cutter".  Seriously?  Knife or pizza cutter.  Flower pattern cutouts...I'm going to avoid fondant flowers if at all possible.

I did find out that some of the pans I might need to get for my cousin's cake are cheaper there than at the cake supply store I went to the day before.  That's good, so I can order them online and get them shipped to Virginia.  There may even be coupons.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Swedish Princess Cake

YouTube popped this into my recommendations.  I watched about four videos of how to make one of these gorgeous cakes and decided I was up to it.  You can watch this one to see the procedure I followed, and where I deviated from the video.

I'm not using any of the recipes the videos provided, just the method.  This is what the last two posts were building up to.  I'm not using raspberry jam because I don't like it, and because I have a pantry full of other jams I haven't finished from last year's canning.  I'm also using fondant instead of marzipan because I don't like almond extract flavor.  The marzipan is probably easier to use, and has a better taste if you happen to be a fan.

The common theme I found in the videos was that the smaller the cake, the prettier the dome effect.  Single-serve ones, about 3" in diameter, were too cute.  It's also a lot of work, and produces a lot of cake scraps, but so worth it for the applause.  I made a 6", about eight servings if no one is greedy.  It's a 3-layer cake!  When you get into 8" cakes, the height to diameter ratio starts to work against the effect.  It would still serve a party of 12-16.  I wouldn't go bigger than that, or you're making triple batches of buttercream.

3 8" layers of Vanilla Chiffon Cake
Double batch of Buttercream icing
*1 C smooth jam of choice (as opposed to whole preserves, which I used)
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C water
1 Tb sherry (optional)
approx 24 oz (small box) white fondant
food coloring
corn starch for dusting work surface

1.  Stir together the sugar and water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil and continue to cook until sugar is completely dissolved.  If desired, stir in a bit of sherry.  Allow to cool completely.  This is your simple syrup.

2.  Trim the the cake layers even.  Place a small dollop of buttercream on a cake circle and center the bottom cake.  Drizzle with a bit of simple syrup, then spread the jam on the cake.  I should have piped a dam of buttercream around the edges first.  Fondant hides a lot of bad choices.

3.  Place the next cake layer on top of the first.  Drizzle with some more syrup, then spread a thin layer of buttercream on the cake, about the same thickness as the jam layer.

4.  Center the last cake layer on top.  Sprinkle with a bit of syrup (you may not have used all of it.)  Top with about half of the remaining icing.  Use this to frost the cake as you would any other, up the sides and over the top to make a smooth look.

5.  Spoon the remaining icing on top of the cake and mound into a dome.  This is why the fillings are so thin.  Get the dome and sides as smooth as you can, and much smoother than the photo below.  At this point, the cake is going to get very heavy.  Put the whole cake in the freezer until firm, at least 2 hours or up to a week in advance.
6.  The day you serve the cake, decorate it.  The box says not to freeze fondant.  You can do it a day or two ahead, but more than that and the cake will fall under its own weight.  Start by pulling aside about an ounce of white fondant for later, then kneading food coloring into the main fondant until there are no streaks remaining.  I chose lavender, but you can do any color you want.
7.  Dust a large work surface with cornstarch.  Roll out the fondant into a large "circle", about twice the diameter of the cake.  Get the cake out of the freezer.  If desired, heat an offset spatula over the stove and use it to smooth out any dings.  One thing I learned with this cake is that fondant hides a not-great icing job, but not a terrible one.
8.  Drape the fondant over the cake.  Let gravity do as much of the work as possible.  Press the fondant lightly into shape and stretch it as necessary.  Think of it as cling wrap that can reshape itself.  Once the fondant is smooth over the whole cake, trim off the frilly skirt it has formed at the bottom.  If there's no buttercream or cake crumbs stuck to it, you can save the fondant in an airtight bag for another project.
9.  For the rose decoration, color a small pinch of fondant pink.  Roll into a sausage, then flatten into a strip that is thinner on one long side than the other.  Roll in a spiral, with the thicker part as the base and the thin as the petals.  Pinch the bottom shut and flare out the petals a little.  Knead another pinch of fondant with green food coloring and press into the leaves.  Attach decorations to top of cake with a touch of water.
10.  Refrigerate cake until half an hour before serving.  That will give the buttercream time to soften without melting everywhere the instant you cut the cake.

Makes one 8" triple-layer cake

Difficulty rating (including sub-recipes) $@%!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Buttercream Frosting

I've never posted a buttercream icing as a stand-alone post.  See, that's what this cake project is teaching me.

It's not like this icing is anything secret.  You can get it on the Wilton website.  Plus, it's pretty much the same everywhere you go.

The secret to a stable buttercream icing is not to use only butter.  Butter tastes good, but it melts.  Shortening doesn't taste good, but it holds its shape at room temperature.  Like with a good pie crust, a mix of the two provides the product you want.

"Wait, icing is pure fat and sugar?"  Um, yep.

1/2 C unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 C shortening (butter flavored if you prefer)
1 lb powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla (vanilla powder for a whiter icing)
milk as needed

1.  Cream together butter and shortening.

2.  Gradually beat in powdered sugar, then finish with vanilla.

3.  If icing is too stiff for your needs, add milk a teaspoon at a time.

4.  Use immediately.  If not, seal air-tight in a plastic bag.  You can refrigerate it for a week, or freeze it for up to a month.  Let it come up close to room temperature, beat it again to loosen it, and it will be usable.


For chocolate buttercream, beat in 1/4 C cocoa powder.  You will need to add a bit more milk to keep the same consistency.

For an extra creamy buttercream, beat in leftover filling from the cake.  Not a lot, maybe 1/4 cup.

Makes 2 cups, enough for an 8" layer cake if you don't use it as filling.

Difficulty rating  π