Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Rhapsody 4th of July Cake

Every since I first got my hands on The Cake Bible, I have wanted to make the Star-Spangled Rhapsody cake. The thing about holiday cakes is, well, you've got to wait for the holiday to come around, and I was not going to miss this opportunity. I had been daydreaming about it for weeks. How many layers? What kind of filling? Keep the same decorative pattern?

As usual, the details of my cakes tend to result from what I have on hand. At that moment, it was a farmer's market with fresh ripe sweet strawberries, extra egg yolks from a batch of Swiss meringue buttercream, and two layers of white velvet butter cake I had in the freezer left over from baking for the Neapolitan cake last week. The cake was still not complicated enough for it to be fun for me, so somehow I decided it must be an ice cream cake. Must.

This was pretty good for a first ice cream cake. Although, I may have been a little obsessive with the over-freezing and dry ice transport. I might do a few things differently the next time.
  1. Turning my freezer to maximum seemed to make the ice cream too icy. This is probably not necessary next time.
  2. Making a Swiss Meringue buttercream is totally wasted here because the "best frosting I have ever tasted in my life" is completed dulled by the freezing process. Sadly, it became unremarkable.
  3. Freezing the decorative fruit made them all frosty! They were gorgeously vibrant right before I returned the cake to the freezer. 

Overall, I am simply very pleased with this cake. I think the red, white and blue just presents spectacularly as inspired by the Cake Bible showcase cake. This 8 inch cake also served 12 perfectly. There was apple pie too of course. So of course, you have to have both. You can't have 4th of July without apple pie.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tres Leches Cupcakes with Dulce de Leche Swiss Meringue Buttercream

This is one of my favorite cupcakes. It's sweet and rich, and surprisingly really satisfies my sweet tooth even without any chocolate. If you've never had tres leches cake (proudly displayed in Mexican bakeries and supermarkets), it's a white sponge cake completely soaked in a milk combination, topped with whipped cream and some combination of fruits or chocolate. It sounds odd if you've never had it, but hey, think about French dip and au jus - it's better when the good stuff is soaked in. Yuummm.

This recipe requires a little more work in beating up and folding in egg whites. Then the milk has to be infused somehow. And then, after all that folding and baking and infusing, you don't even get to enjoy it until you let it sit overnight. But like macarons, the wait is totally worth it. Plus, using a meat injector to soak the cake, and getting to wave my giant syringe around in the kitchen and jabbing it defenseless cupcakes is just something you know you want to try.

Naturally, this cupcake is frosted with a variation of Swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC), utilizing dulce de leche. Dulce de leche is a sort of caramalized, sweetened condensed milk. Does that not sound like heaven? You can make your own, which I've done before, but I just don't always have the time so allowed myself a little shortcut and just bought a can of it. In my opinion, when you have make a SMBC base, you're allowed.

Tres Leches Cupcakes
Makes 14-16 cupcakes

¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup coconut milk (light is OK)

Preparation: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake wells with paper liners.


  1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy on medium speed. Add egg yolks one at a time, mixing until combined. Add the vanilla and combine. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Alternately add the dry mixture with the buttermilk to the creamed butter beginning and ending with the flour.
  2. In a small bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed with clean beaters until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into cake batter.
  3. Fill paper-lined wells 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to wire rack and set aside.
  4. Stir together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and the coconut milk. Use a meat injector needle to inject warm cupcakes all over with about 1/2 to 3/4-ounce of the mixture. (you can also poke holes in the cupcakes with skewers and pour the mixture over them). Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight before frosting.
Dulce de Leche Buttercream Frosting

5 large egg whites
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 sticks unsalted butter, diced and softened
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2-1 cup of dulce de leche, room temperature

  1. Combine egg whites and sugar in a bowl placed over simmering water. Bring mixture to 150 degrees F while whisking constantly. 
  2. Transfer mixture to stand mixer bowl, fitted with a whisk attachment and beat on medium speed until mixture cools and doubles in volume.
  3. Add butter in one piece at a time, mixing to incorporate after each addition. Add salt and vanilla and mix to combine. Add dulce de leche and mix to combine.
1. Frost cooled cupcakes with dulce de leche buttercream and either sprinkle lightly toasted flaked coconut on top or dust with grated chocolate.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I Finally Got It Right: Strawberry Valentine's Macarons

I've made one hundred and eighty two million thousand "variations" (versions, renditions, interpretations...) and, behold, the first batch I've been happy with was this Valentine's one. They've just always been lopsided, cracked or footless. It's just completely baffles me how some people can churn out batch after batch of gorgeous, immaculate macarons. Not to mention all the hoity toity shops with their macaron towers. Pshah. I'll admit, I've been a little jealous walking by those shops.

A couple weeks ago, I made a double batch of macs intended for a party: half lemon curd buttercream filling, and the other half was a salted caramel popcorn mac. They were beautiful, but I was convinced they were underdone, and put all of them back in the oven on a "warm" setting to stiffen up and dry out for a few minutes.  I won't give you the blow-by-blow, but even after allowing them to mature, singing to them and pleading with them, they were brittle, crunchy, and just plain wrong. I had to chuck them.

Maybe it's my ego, or my stubbornness, or the crazy coming out (yeah, I'm a catch), but I just couldn't accept defeat. I folded them exactly 50 strokes, baked them at a low 280 degrees for a solid 16 minutes and gave them plenty of room in between so they wouldn't run into each other.

Me: This is getting to be an expensive hobby -  I keep making these things and throwing them away. I just. Can't. Give up!

BF: *Exhasperated look* You're being a perfectionist.  Your macarons are great.

Me: But they're not quite right. If I keep doing it over and over, maybe I'll get it right. Wait. Isn't that the definition of insanity, or something? Repeating the same behavior and expecting different results?

BF: As long as it keeps making you happy, you should keep doing it.

Me: So crazy is OK, if I'm happy?

For my Valentine, who's simply always encouraging.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dad's Dark Chocolate Ganache Covered, Fresh Banana and Peanut Butter-Mousse Filled Yellow Birthday Cake


Happy New Year with a very very very late post. This cake is not even something I made this year but deserves a special post nonetheless. This was Dad's birthday cake from just before Christmas and it was one that was very carefully thought out. But I'm just going to be honest - I've newly rediscovered this phenomenon called "sleep", and I haven't baked a thing since the New Year except maybe a DiGorno's. And I'm not sorry at all. Christmas and New Years were the perfect end to 2011 with some time off of work, a great family gathering at my boyfriend's and then an epic ski trip with a big group of wonderfully silly and awesome friends.

My sister and I really had to puzzle this cake out. If we ever cooked or baked anything just for him, he'd obligingly eat it, but generally speaking, my dad doesn't really have a sweet tooth. We brain stormed and recollected the bits and pieces of our childhood for any memory for a sweet or treat that he favored. What we determined was that the cake would have to have peanuts or peanut butter, a simple classic yellow cake, dark chocolate and maybe caramel. Something like a snickers bar. What I ended up with was a four layer yellow cake with fresh banana filling, peanut butter mousse, and a dark chocolate ganache. Sorry. I can't do simple. Not worth my time.

I'm not a fan of yellow cake but this yellow cake was light, moist and fluffy thanks to an adaptation of a Cake Bible recipe. It was so light and fluffy, in fact, that if I were to make it again, I'd torte it in fewer layers so it could hold up a little better. This is a yellow cake that I'd gladly eat again and serve to my favorite people. The peanut butter mousse (by far my favorite part) tasted just like a Snickers ice cream bar. I could've eaten scoops of that stuff. The airy mousse paired perfectly with the fluffiness of the cake. I sliced up some ripe bananas to go in between the layers and topped the whole thing off with a my favorite dark chocolate ganache.

As an afterthought, I made some chocolate curls and melted some almond bark for the writing. We brought this cake to Dad's surprise birthday party and my uncle's sushi restaurant. There wasn't a teeny tiny piece left. I think he liked it.

One would think that having been a science major in college, and having worked in research all my adult life, I'd be better at documenting what it is I'm adapting in the kitchen. Alas, let's hope that I scribbled down on my stained and tatterred baking notepad how it was exactly that I formulated this creation so that the "experiment" can be repeatable...