May 5, 2009
You will never hear the words, “When I cook I am…. clean, meticulous, wary, careful or non-destructive” come out of my mouth. This is because I am none of those things. I am destructive and messy. I have covered myself in flour, dropped red food coloring gel into the carpet, and lost a tray of deviled eggs because of my two left feet. When I am done creating in the kitchen, Alex will jokingly take a match in the danger zone under the ruse that he is going to burn it instead of clean it.
So last week, when I got my first real cake order, I prepared myself for more of the same. But it never came. Sure, my first Betty Boop lost her arm and the first cartoon bubble was missing a word but those were minor mistakes and easily fixable. The fact that the recipe was missing instructions on when to add the sugar and the first layer almost went without, it was no match for my cunning skills. One lick of the spoon and I knew what happened.
I was on the home stretch with an almost flawless victory under my belt, and then it happened. My face was a little funky from the hours of work in the kitchen; there was a little of this and a smidgen of that splattered across my cheeks. I searched the kitchen for something to help with my problem and I picked up a damp paper towel from the growing pile of discarded ones on the counter. I wiped my face vigorously, excited about clean complexion that was coming. Around the thirty second mark, I realized my mistake. I had picked up the paper towel I used to grease my cake pans and had just greased my face with the buttery remains.
Gross. I felt gross. After 3 face washings, still gross. Telling this story now, gross. So maybe from now on, I will start paying attention. Or maybe not because, quite honestly without these stories to tell, life might become a little less gross, but it would definitely be a lot more boring.
Inspiration and Recipe come from Sass and Veracity
For the cake…
2 c. sugar
1-3/4 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. natural unsweetened cocoa
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 lg. eggs
1 c. whole milk
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. boiling water
For the filling…
7 oz. sweetened shredded coconut (about 2 c.)
4 oz. chopped almonds (about 1 c.)
14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 T vanilla
1/4-1/2 c. heavy cream
For the topping…
2-1/2 sticks unsalted butter (1-1/4 c.)
10 oz. semisweet chocolate
3 T light corn syrup
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spread the coconut on one baking sheet, and the chopped nuts on another. Bake for about 15 minutes or until coconut is just beginning to brown and nuts are aromatic. Remove from oven, and stir, then set aside.
Turn the oven temperature up to 350 degrees F and prepare two 8″ x 3″ cake pans by lightly oiling, lining the bottoms with parchment, oiling again, then lightly dusting with flour. Set them on a large cookie sheet if you can. Heat some water to the boiling point — you’ll need to add it to the batter.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda and powder, and salt. Whisk a few times to blend well. Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla to the dry ingredients, and beat at medium speed for 2-3 minutes. Pour the boiling water into the mixture and mix well.
Pour batter into the prepared cake pans and place them in the oven to bake for 40-45 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center is clean after removed.
Cool the layers in the pans on a rack for 15 minutes, then remove them and cool on the racks completely. When the layers are completely cool, cut each in half horizontally to create four layers. Remove all parchment.
To prepare the filling, after removing the cake layers from the oven, turn the temperature up to 425 degrees F. Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a casserole dish that will fit inside a larger pan. Pour hot water into the larger pan to reach half way up the sides of the casserole. Cover the entire set up with foil and seal well. Bake for 45 minutes. At that point, remove the foil with extreme caution as steam will be released, and check the water level. Add more hot water to reach half way up the sides of the casserole again, seal well with foil and place back in the oven for an additional 45 minutes. The milk should be thick and the color of a rich caramel. Stir, and keep warm and covered.
To prepare the topping, melt the butter in a sauce pan. Remove it from the heat and add the chocolate in small pieces, stirring until the chocolate is melted. Stir in the corn syrup. Reserve 1 cup in a bowl and place it in the fridge to thicken, about 1 hour. Stir well occasionally until it reaches a spreadable point. Keep the remainder of the chocolate mixture at room temperature.
To assemble the cake, mix the dulce de leche, most of the coconut (save some for decoration if you wish), nuts and vanilla and stir well. The mixture must be spreadable. Pour in just enough heavy cream to achieve the desired consistency and mix well.
Place the first cake layer on a piece of cardboard cut for the cake, or the removable metal bottom of a cake pan and place it over a baking rack set above a baking sheet to collect excess glaze when the topping goes on. Divide the filling into three equal quantities. Mound 1/3 of the filling onto the first layer and spread with an offset spatula that has been dipped in water. Continue until all layers are assembled.
Cover the sides and top of the cake with the chilled chocolate. If it’s too firm, put it in the microwave for 5 seconds and stir until it softens, but do not over use the microwave or you’ll ruin the chocolate. Make sure the warm chocolate is pourable, reheating over an extremely low flame briefly, and then stirring until glossy and smooth. Pour over the center of the cake, and with an offset spatula, gently push it to the sides and over, smoothing as you go as little as possible. Warm water to dip the spatula in works wonders for this. Allow to sit until the chocolate is finished dripping, and remove to a cake platter then refrigerate until serving. To slice, warm a knife in hot water.
– I did not need all the coconut and almonds to make a filling for the cake. I used the remainder as topping.
– The cake is very moist and was probably not the best for sculpting but it was very very very good.
– The dulche de leche took longer then an hour and a half. I tripled the filling and it took about two hours to get to the right color.
– I never added the vanilla to the dulche de leche. I am realizing that now while re-reading the directions but the filling was perfect. It was caramel rich and delicious without it. So it is up to you.
Cindy, Alex and I all tried the components separately. Cindy made a mini cake of the leftover pieces and claimed it ethereal. I thought the cake was exactly as amazing but still very rich. Milk would probably be a requirement.
I have had nothing but glowing reviews from the party the cake was made for. The birthday girl was over the moon and everyone had more than one slice than night.
There are many elements to this cake but it comes together quite nicely. The chocolate ganache frosting was some of the best that has come out of my kitchen.
Betty Boop Instructions
I bought gumpaste from our local Michael’s. The cake was a last minute kind of thing and I didn’t have time to make some.
I colored the gumpaste with Wilton’s color gel. I colored it to match her complexion. Then I rolled the gumpaste thin. I used my pasta roller to get the gumpaste as thin as possible. I took it to the 1 setting on my pasta roller.
I laid the gumpaste over the coloring page I had printed out and painted/traced her. I used the Wilton color gels to make paint. I took a half of teaspoon of the color and a couple drops of vodka and mixed it together. Once I painted the outline, I cut her out with an exacto knife. After she was cut, I painted the rest of her.
She dried within 2-3 hours (because she was so thin). Be very careful. Gumpaste is very fragile. The first Betty can tell you about that; I mean once she gets her arm back.
October 31, 2008
I am a bit of a scaredy cat. When I say scaredy cat, what I actually mean is, I am terrified of anything remotely frightening. Witches, ghosts, zombies, vampires, the dark, the list goes on and on; I have many irrational fears that come into their glory on Halloween.
These almost paralyzing fears made for quite the time trick or treating. Once, I actually threw fruit from my Carmen Miranda costume, at what I thought was a threatening Axe murder, turns out he was our neighbor. Our very friendly, until being beamed with an apple, neighbor.
So the combination of my fear and my desire for chocolate resulted in the complete exploitation of my sister. She was younger, smaller and sometimes cuter sometimes. She made the perfect sacrificial lamb. When we would come across a scary house, which I defined as almost every house that was decorated, I would send my sister in. She would bravely walk to the door, handling every ghost or goblin that came her way and ring that doorbell. I would then swoop in and get my candy along side her, free from the terror that she faced.
So my sister, this post and all of its Halloween goodness is for you. For the years of taking care of your big sister, helping her collect as much loot as you, and most importantly, keeping her from running away in terror, screaming and crying infront of her neighborhood crush. I owe you one.
(Video Instructions from the Martha Stewart Show)
1 13X9 baked cake (from a box cake mix or from scratch … any flavor) I used Chocolate
1 can cream cheese frosting (or about 2 cups equivalent from scratch) I used Vanilla
1 flower shaped cookie cutter (1.25″ wide X .75″ tall) Not needed for Halloween pops
1 package chocolate bark I used 1 package white melts and one orange melts
1 package pink candy melts or white chocolate bark
bowls for dipping
sprinkles, m&ms or something similar for top of cupcake
small plastic treat bags and ribbon to package the Cupcake Pops
candy cups and truffle boxes to individually package the Cupcake Bites
- Bake a cake from a mix or from scratch and cool completely.
- Crumble cake into a fine consistency into a large bowl.TIP: If the texture is too coarse, you can run it through a food processor.
- Add can of cream cheese frosting or homemade frosting and blend together using the back of a large spoon. Blend thoroughly.
- Roll mixture into 1.25″ – 1.5″ size balls and lay on wax paper covered cookie sheet. You may want to periodically rinse and dry your hands off in between. This is where you would make your ghost, mummy, and pumpkin shapes.
- Cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for several hours.TIP: You can speed this up by placing in the freezer for about 15 minutes.
- Remove. Begin to shape into cupcakes using a small flower-shaped cookie cutter. (see below) Take the chilled ball and roll it into more of an oval and then slide into cookie cutter. Push it into cutter until about half fills the cutter and the rest sticks out of the top in the shape of a mound. Then push the shaped cupcake carefully out of the cookie cutter from the bottom. Set right side up on a wax paper covered cookie sheet. Continue with remaining balls.
- Once shaped, cover and return to freezer. (5-10 minutes)TIP: You can leave them covered in the refrigerator overnight if you want to do the dipping on the following day.
- While cupcake shapes are chilling, begin to heat up your chocolate bark.
- Brown chocolate bark for the bottoms. Pink or white chocolate for the tops.
- Follow the instructions on the package for melting. Most recommend heating for 30 second intervals at a time and stirring in between. You can also do the double boiler method
- When you are ready to dip, remove from freezer and set up another wax paper covered cookie sheet.
- Take the cupcake shaped mixture and dip bottoms into the melted chocolate – just to the point where the mounded shape starts. Remove from chocolate, turn upside down and wiggle so that the excess starts to slide down slightly. Then lay on the wax paper upside down. If you want them to be lollipops, then go ahead and insert the lollipop sticks while the chocolate is still wet. Continue with rest of the cupcakes. You can also leave some without the sticks. They’re just as cute as Cupcake Bites. TIP: Dip end of your lollipop stick in the melted chocolate before inserting into chocolate bottoms. Not sure if this helps a lot, but it couldn’t hurt.DON’T – get water in the chocolate. Make sure your hands are completely dry. Water will cause the chocolate to separate and mess up all your hard work.
- Dry completely. (15-20 minutes)
- Once dry, dip the tops of the cupcakes in the pink or white chocolate. You may need to move it around a little to cover all the exposed areas.
TIP: Let the pink chocolate sit for a few minutes after heating to thicken. This will help it from dripping down the sides of the cupcake.
- Remove from the pink/white chocolate and turn right side up. You may need to hold and rotate it if there is any excess so that it doesn’t drip down too far.
TIP: You can use a toothpick to help cover any areas the melted chocolate didn’t cover.
- For the Cupcake Bites – just turn right side up and rest on the wax paper. Then go ahead and put a m&m on the top and add sprinkles while wet.
- For the lollipops, Continue holding and place an m&m on the top and add sprinkles. Let them dry in a styrofoam block that you have already poked holes into.
- When completely dry, cover the lollipops with small plastic treat bags and tie with a ribbon.
- For the Cupcake Bites, place in a candy cup and package in small candy truffle boxes to present individually.
Makes about 50.
You can store these in an airtight container and they will last for several days. You can also store in the refrigerator if you would like them cold.
October 25, 2008
I promise you I make more than just cakes. In fact, I am sure in the next few days there will be a dinner entry. But, (I feel safe admitting this here) I love dessert. I do; if you could be friends with inanimate objects, I would be skipping down the yellow brick road with a Chocolate Chip Cookie, laying on the beach with some Ice Cream sandwiches, and going on a nice romantic picnic with a Turtle Cheesecake.
However, society is not very accepting of this, so I think I will stick with the husband and leave the desserts for eating not socialize with. But, if I could pick a dessert for a best friend, it would be this cake. Moist chocolate cake layers filled with peanut butter cream cheese icing and topped with a chocolate peanut butter ganache. It was absolute perfection and the perfect culinary present for my best friend’s 30 birthday.
But I warn you, you may think you can handle a large belly filling piece, you cannot. You may think you can do without the glass of milk or the cup of coffee, please do not even try it; you need it to make it through. Just eat and enjoy the amazing chocolate peanut butter coma that follows.
This cake is INTENSE. Serve it in the thinnest slices possible, and keep a glass of milk handy.
Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16 (the book says, I say a heck of a lot more)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanut brittle (I skipped this)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.
3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. (Deb note: These cakes are very, very soft. I found them a lot easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer for 30 minutes. They’ll defrost quickly once assembled. You’ll be glad you did this, trust me.)
4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. (Deb note 1: Making a crumb coat of frosting–a thin layer that binds the dark crumbs to the cake so they don’t show up in the final outer frosting layer–is a great idea for this cake, or any with a dark cake and lighter-colored frosting. Once you “mask” your cake, let it chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm, then use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating. Deb note 2: Once the cake is fully frosting, it helps to chill it again and let it firm up. The cooler and more set the peanut butter frosting is, the better drip effect you’ll get from the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.)
5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving. Decorate the top with chopped peanut brittle.
10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)
1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
8 ounces seimsweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half
1. In the top of d double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.
I followed Deb’s recipe and notes to a tee and also left out the peanut brittle. The freezing and crumb coat helped immensely. I also like the cake rest in the refrigerator between cycles. Between finishing the peanut butter frosting and the chocolate ganache, the cake sit in the fridge for 35 minutes. It was perfect. Word of caution: Let the chocolate ganache to most of the work dripping down on its own. Patience is a virtue that I don’t possess and tried to help it along. I would have liked a better drip effect.
October 24, 2008
Every year on my sister’s birthday, I attempt to show her that big sisters are the greatest people in the world. Since I was little there have been special events that have marked my sister’s special day. I will concede that the quality of surprise has improved from my “Birthday Haircuts” of elementary years.
For her 21st, she was proposed to by Shrek with a Irish Calladagh ring I ordered straight from Ireland. I was quite surprised that Shrek was so willing but even more surprised that my sister seemed to be contemplating a “Yes” response.
This year she was 24 and wanted to celebrate with a party and a cake. The only perquisite was that all the food including the cake came from my capable hands in the kitchen. Oh and it had to be “girly”. I was attempted for a short moment to exact my revenge with a Hannah Montana cake but couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Instead I settled on a 3 layer chocolate peanut butter cake with Swiss butter cream icing and chocolate butterflies. The technique for the butterflies came from the book Hello Cupcake and unfortunately, I do not have pictures of the process. I was too busy controlling the sprinkling techniques of my beautiful cousin.
The peanut butter parts of the cake were a little dry but I attribute that to the layers living in my freezer for a couple of days.
· 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
· 1/2 cup butter, softened
· 4 eggs
· 1 (18.25 ounce) package butter cake mix
· 2/3 cup water
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans.
2. Combine 1/2 cup peanut butter and 1/2 cup butter or margarine. Cream until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at time, mixing well after each one. Add cake mix alternately with the water. Stir until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.
3. Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 25 minutes or until cake tests done. Allow cakes to cool in pan for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
Chocolate Cake was adapted from Annie’s Eats. I used the cake recipe from her Reese’s Peanut Butter Cake. Unlike the peanut butter cake, the chocolate cake stood up very well to freezing and was delicious.
For the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled (optional)
For the cake, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 9×2” round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. Place the pans on a baking sheet.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for about 2 minutes, until thoroughly blended into the butter. Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk; add the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the buttermilk in 2 (beginning and ending with the dry ingredients). Mix each addition only until it is blended into the batter. Scrape down the bowl and add the melted chocolate, if using, folding it in with a spatula. Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans.
Bake for 26-30 minutes or until the cakes feel springy to the touch and start to pull away from the sides of the pans. Transfer to wire racks to cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.
The recipe for the Swiss Butter Cream from Smitten Kitchen can be found here.
Dark cocoa candy melts
Colored candy melts (whatever color you would like the wings to be)
Draw your butterfly wing template on a piece of paper. Place on a metal baking sheet. Cut out squares of wax paper large enough to fit pairs of wings, and some smaller ones for antennae.
Place about 1/2 cup of dark cocoa candy melts in a plastic bag, and 1/2 cup of colored candy melts in another plastic bag. Microwave in 10 second intervals, unsealed, massaging the candy melts in between, until the candy is completely melted and no lumps remain. Press out the excess air in the bag and seal. Push the mixture down to one corner of the bag and snip off a very small corner. Trace the outline of the wing template with the dark cocoa melted candy. (Do one wing at a time, outline and colored filling, otherwise it will be too set to swirl by the time you have outlined two wings.)
Use the bag of colored candy melts to fill in the outline. Be generous, so that it will spread all the way to the sides.
Rap the baking sheet against your work surface a few times until the filling and outline spread together.
Use a toothpick to swirl the edges and the filling together slightly.
Sprinkle the top and bottom of each wing with a few white nonpareils.
The melted candy will begin to cool and harden as you work. If it becomes to stiff to work with, microwave for 10 more seconds until melted again. (This step is very important – if you think you might need to reheat the candy, definitely do it. You will save yourself a lot of messed up wings by keeping the candy melted.)
Repeat this process with more candy melts until you have enough sets of wings for all your cupcakes. Let set completely.