Saturday, April 30, 2011

moose lodge

Unfortunately, I had to spend my one weekened day this week going to a wedding. Chris and I spent a total of 8 hours in the car today just getting there and back again. The wedding was in the boondocks of Pennsylvania with the reception held at the Moose Lodge Family Center. Yes, it was as bad as it sounds. And they MISPELLED my name on the place card. C'mon, man!

They had strange signs posted everywhere, about bowling nights and family counseling and the evils of smoking. I grabbed the sign shown above because I took a fancy to it.

I meant to get a picture of the cake but the lighting was horrific inside and I never shoot with a flash. The cake was three tiers covered in white buttercream with a piped shell border and a cascade of purple buttercream roses. Someone had stuck their thumb deep into the side of the cake and I wished I had an offset spatula with me to fix the offending crater.

I can't wait to get baking again next weekend. I have been thinking about a Neapolitan ice cream cake...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

coconut smackdown

coconut cake two ways
I decided to work on an ultimate coconut cake this week. I wanted to give it a better name, though, than just coconut cake. I've always wanted to make up one of those names where the consonants are deliberately messed with or left out like Tastykake, Sno Ball, Krispy Kreme or The Simpsons' wacky Kwik-E-Mart.

So from here on, this cake will be know as:

---wait for it---


I already knew how I wanted to finish the cake----a thin coating of coconut buttercream and stripes of untoasted and toasted coconut. The actual cake is what gave me pause. Should the cake have coconut in it or should the filling have the coconut? I didn't want to put coconut in both because I intended to cover the entire finished cake in coconut.

So I made two versions and am dying to know---which version would have you licking the crumbs off the counter?

Version 1 (on the left)
Cake: white cake with coconut mixed in
Filling: passion fruit curd

Version 2 (on the right)
Cake: white cake soaked with coconut syrup
Filling: coconut cream topped with toasted coconut

Let me know in the comments below!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

ice cream break

white chocolate ice cream with salted macadamias
I've been working on so many cake related things recently that I decided I needed a brief hiatus. With summer around the corner, I decided to churn some ice cream this weekend.

At work we make a salted cashew ice cream that is one of my personal favorites. The ice cream base has cornstarch in it as the thickener (instead of egg yolks) in order to keep the pure white color of the milk. Once the base is churned in the ice cream machine, BUTTERED and SALTED cashews are stirred in. Butter and salt in ice cream? Oh yeah. So good. Of course I would want to try my own spin on the recipe at home.

White chocolate, as you know, is pure sugar, so adding a salted nut to it made perfect sense to me. I chopped the macadamia nuts then roasted them in the oven with butter and salt. Once the ice cream finished churning, the nuts, and all that melted butter and salt, were cool enough to fold in.

The white chocolate made the smoothest ice cream base I've tasted in a long time. And the salted macadamias were, to use the vernacular, REDONKULOUS.

mango sorbet
I used a recipe from the Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto. I recommend buying this book if you are interested in a foolproof way to make ice cream or sorbet at home. You learn two base recipes, plain and chocolate, that you can add different ingredients to in order to make different flavors. The sorbet recipes are just as simple. You make a single batch of simple syrup, then add different amounts of fruit puree to it.

The finished sorbet tasted just like biting into a fresh mango. I sandwiched a scoop in between two home made graham crackers, closed my eyes, and tried to remember what summer feels like.

Next weekend I'll be working on another cake with Anthony and hopefully in my spare time I'll be working on a killer coconut cake. Stay tuned my friends.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

christening cake

red velvet christening cake
This cake was for a pair of adorable twin boys, Aiden and Dylan. They had a christening today on Staten Island, and Anthony and I provided the cake. We filled this cake with cream cheese frosting, but covered it in buttercream because buttercream is more stable when you have to stack multiple cakes.

Anthony made quite a few versions of the cross on this cake. There was one particularly large version that brought to mind that line from the Exorcist, "THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU!" I'm not going to lie---I did spend some time chasing my poor husband Chris around the house, waiving that cross and yelling that line.

We ended up using a smaller version of the cross, adding a generous amount of gold luster dust to it, so that it was more fit, as Anthony said, for a Staten Island Jesus. It also reminded me of the pictures of Jesus I saw as a child---you know the ones. The kind where He is glowing and golden. Perchance it was luster dust back then, too?

After we delivered the cake, we stopped at Restaurant Depot and I GOT MY OWN MEMBERSHIP CARD! Oh yeah. Gonna do some serious damage with this baby. (Chris, you're not reading this, are you???) I bought a few pans with lids for all the ice cream I make and I bought parchment paper, too, so I will FINALLY have paper that perfectly fits my half sheet pans. All you bakers out there know what I'm talking about. There's nothing more frustrating than trying to cut your parchment paper (that stuff that comes in a roll) down to size so it sits neatly inside your half sheet pan. ARG. What a waste of time and parchment paper...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

s'mores cake

s'mores cake
I started off with a much more complicated idea for this cake, but ended up simplifying it quite a bit. I originally wanted to make a graham dacquoise (a French style meringue cake) and layer it with ganache then wrap it in a flexible marshmallow layer on outside----too fussy and not American enough. It would have been amazing, but a little too close to froufy plated dessert land. Also, the essential s'mores flavors---toasted marshmallow, chocolate and graham cracker---were getting lost. I scaled back to a chocolate cake covered in fluffy, toasted marshamallow frosting and I was not disappointed (besides, any day I get to torch something, I am a happy camper).

My final version tasted delicious, but there are two tweaks I would make.

MORE MARSHMALLOW. Instead of the cake to filling ratio at 2:1, I would make it more even so the marshmallow filling stands up better to the chocolate cake. I also would cut up some hand made marshmallows into tiny cubes to garnish the top of the cake. Very Oriol Balaguer.

MORE FUDGE. I would also add some of the fudgey glaze to the layers of the cake to add a little more richness. I would layer the marshmallow first, the fudge next and then the graham crumbs. The fudge would help the cake layers look more distinct so that the graham crumb wouldn't sink into the marshmallow. I'm looking for perfectly distinct layers.

I have to give Alex, our sous chef at work, a shout out for this cake. She's been drizzling chocolate so on the top of cakes at work now for a while and it certainly looks terrific. That's what I tried to recreate here.