Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache

Seems so many of the other Heavenly Cake Bakers are disappointed when we bake something chocolatey.  This is something I really cannot comprehend.  I LOVE chocolate!  In fact, one of the reasons I decided to join the Heavenly Cake Bakers was to widen my horizons and force myself to bake more things that aren’t chocolate.  But I am always very happy when the assignment involves chocolate.

This week’s assignment was the Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache.  I made sure to read through the instructions a few times before starting so I wouldn’t have any surprises.  Since the ganache needed to sit for several hours I decided to start with that.

The first step to the ganache is making the caramel.   I have three little words that I suggest everyone write in the margin of their book:  Mis en place!  I started heating the water and sugar and thought I would get everything else together while it came up to temp.  Only problem was that there wasn’t a whole lot of time and the caramel was starting to darken by the time I finished getting the food processor out, chopping the chocolate and measuring the cream.  Next time I will have everything ready before I start the caramel.

Rose instructs you to check the temperature of the caramel which turned into a bit of a challenge.  I considered skipping that step but was afraid there might be something magic about 370 degrees so I figured I had better do it to avoid any problems.   I had to tip the hot pan to get enough liquid for the thermometer and every time I checked it was only a little over 300 degrees.  As the caramel kept getting darker and darker I suddenly realized that maybe my thermometer didn’t go any higher and sure enough, that was the problem.  So I let the caramel get a bit darker and then pulled it off the heat and added the cream.  I ended up with some chunks of caramel but was able to melt them back down over the burner.  Then I added the caramel to the chocolate in the food processor.  The end result was a very lovely and tasty ganache.

The cake is baked in one 9″ cake pan and then the cake is sliced into two layers.  The ganache is used as a filling between the layers and as icing on top.

The cake was very good and the ganche, which thickened up into a fudge-like consistency, was fabulous.  I would have preferred a stronger caramel flavor as it seemed rather subtle to me, but perhaps the caramel needed to be darker.  I will make this cake again and I will probably use this ganache with some of my other recipes as well.

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Marionberry Shortcake — Takes 1 and 2

MMMM — Marionberries!  They make me think of Oregon because of course that is where they are from.  Our family lived in Oregon for 7 years and we absolutely loved it.  We loved the climate, the people, and the lifestyle.  And I loved being so close to the ocean. My vision of a perfect day is to gather the family and head to Cannon Beach.  When I mentioned that I was making Marionberry Shortcake this week, the first thing my daughter said was that she missed going to Sauvie Island.   I miss that and so much more.

Because I live in small town USA I did not think that I would be able to find any frozen Marionberries so I was absolutely thrilled when I found them at my local store.  And I have to tell you that the Marionberries are really what made this dessert fantastic.

The genoise cake was pretty strait forward to make.  You first make beurre noisette.  Then you heat your eggs over steam just until they are lukewarm.  You whip the eggs on high in the KitchenAid for about 5 minutes.  Then it is just a process of folding in the flour and the beurre noisette.

Now I ended up making my cake twice.  This was not because I made it incorrectly, but I made a very bad choice in what pan to bake it in.  First of all, I should say that I was very good and resisted buying the Nordicware Shortcake Basket pan.  I really really wanted to buy it and I even saw that the local cooking store had it available.  But right now I am trying to be really good about not spending money I don’t need to.  So, I did not buy said pan.  So I wondered what else I might use to make it feel a little special.  I decided that I could use my mini bundt pan.  Now I DID ask myself if it would be a problem to make genoise in that type of a pan.  But, I figured that if we could make a genoise cake in a rose shaped pan, I should be able to use a bundt pan.   Well  — no, it did not work.  I greased the pan well, and the cakes looked great after coming out of the oven, but when I  attempted to take them out of the pan, they were just not coming out.

So, take 2 on the cake.  Made the batter again, and this time I decided to try my little mini cocotte dishes by Le Creuset.  I greased and lined them with parchment and popped them in the oven.  They baked up very nice.  And this time, they came out of the pans very easily and looked very nice.

I brushed the cakes with the marionberry syrup and made up a little whipped cream for the top.

All I can say is YUMMM!  Every bite made me feel like I was back in Oregon.  Hubby thinks the recipe is a definite keeper –so much so that he even thinks we should buy the basket pan!  I’ll probably wait until next summer for that, but I think we may be making this again soon.

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Chocolate Feather Bed

I had mixed feelings about this recipe from beginning to end but after all was said and done, I thought this cake was excellent!

Normally I only make half of the assigned recipe but since we were having a gathering at our house on Monday night I  decided that this week I was going to make the full recipe.  Figures that I would decide to do this on the one recipe that actually requires more work to make the full recipe and I notice most bakers only made half this time (lol).  But that’s okay. . . it was actually worth the effort.

For some reason I thought that the ganache was supposed to be made two hours before the cake.  So, I dove right in and made the ganache.  I skipped the food processor directions and just heated the milk and then poured it over the chopped chocolate.  It was a bit unusual to have twice as much cream as chocolate in the ganache.  I kept wondering if this could be right clear up to the point that the soft peaks appeared while beating it and I felt very relieved.  Then it needed to go into the refrigerator and stirred every 30 minutes until it reached 65-68 degrees.

With the ganache made, I proceeded to make the cake.  To make the full recipe, you must make two separate batches of batter and bake two separate pans of cake. Each cake is cut in half so that you have four layers to stack with the ganache layered between.  The egg yolks and egg whites are each beat separately so I felt like I would never quit beating eggs and the recipe would never end.  It probably didn’t help that I ran out of cream of tartar after the first batch so I had to run to the store to get more.

Finally, both cakes were baked!  But then I realized that I was supposed to chill the cake before I assembled it.  That was a small problem since my ganache had just reached 66 degrees.  Hmm. . . . well, I decided that I was just going to plow ahead.  I proceeded to beat the ganache and it came out perfect (although it took longer than the 30 seconds it says it will take in the book).  I popped the warmest layer of cake into the freezer for about 5 minutes (the other one was at room temp) and I proceeded to assemble.
The layers were pretty fragile but with the help of a cake lifter it was all good.   I put a full cup of ganache on top of the first cake layer (because that’s what the recipe says), but by the second layer I could see that there was not going to be enough ganache to put a cup on each layer.  So then I just spread it thinly on top of each layer and it came out perfect at the end.  I wrapped the whole cake in saran wrap and put it in the fridge.

Monday night I pulled the cake out of the fridge about an hour before our gathering was to begin.  I put some chocolate curls on top and voila!

The cake definitely seemed to be a hit.  I say this not because people were raving about it, but because I think nearly every person went back for seconds.

I wasn’t sure about the texture of the cake layers right after I made them.  But when the cake sits in the fridge overnight, the layers meld right together and it is completely transformed into an AMAZING cake.  It is intensely chocolate but actually has a very light texture. I guess that’s why they call it a chocolate feather bed!

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Plum and Blueberry Upside-Down Torte

The last several weeks have been pretty crazy for me.  I’ve had lots to do at work and lots going on at home too.  I didn’t even get last week’s assignment done.  So I told myself that I absolutely had to get this week’s baking project done.  Since I’m headed out of town on Sunday afternoon (back to Mayo for a few days), and since I ended up having a short work day today (Saturday) I decided to stop on my way home from work to get what I needed and get to work baking.  I honestly hadn’t even looked through the recipe until this morning so hadn’t had much time to ponder anything about it.  But it looked pretty straight forward.

Of course I had only one choice when it came to the plums because of my lovely small town (note the sarcasm).  Anyway, I bought said plums and blueberries and headed home.  There is no picture of this recipe in the book so I was excited to see what it was going to turn out like.  The first step in this baking project is to make caramel.  This is done by heating sugar and water together until it turns a deep amber color. You must watch carefully so that you pull it off at the right time.  The caramel is then poured into the bottom of a prepared pan.  I decided to halve the recipe and use a six inch pan because I didn’t want to make a whole recipe and have it go to waste.

Next, you remove the pits from the plums and then arrange the fruit in the bottom of the pan. I had PLENTY of fruit for my six inch pan so I left some of the blueberries out.

The final step is to make the batter.  You mix the dry ingredients first and then mix with the butter.  I decided to do this by hand (literally) instead of using the food processor.   Then you add the eggs and vanilla.  The batter could not have been easier to make.  I filled the pan and I was a little worried that the pan would overflow in the oven.  After I took the picture, I decided to remove a little batter.  The cake baked up perfectly and came out of the pan quite nicely.

We were pretty busy  most of the evening and so we didn’t actually try the cake until the next day.  My hubby, my daughter and I really liked it and we definitely will make it again.  I definitely liked how easy it was to make.   My husband liked that it wasn’t too sweet  yet  it was still sweet enough for the rest of us.  It was just a nice balance of flavors.

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Thank Goodness it’s Friday! This week has been crazy at work.  Most people look forward to Friday because they know that once they get through the day they have an entire weekend to relax and get caught up on life.  Well, for the last two and a half years, I haven’t had that little luxury in life.  And just for the record, I really miss it.  For a while I only worked four days a week and that wasn’t too bad.  But now that I am working five days a week, I never get two days off in a row and I always have to work on Saturday.  To make matters worse, as the week progresses, my stress level gets higher and higher.  It seems that people do not plan ahead anymore; and since my boss refuses to turn any orders down, that means that the cake orders keep multiplying as Saturday nears.  And I’m not only talking about  your average quarter sheet birthday cakes either.  People will honestly wait until the day before they want some elaborate sculpted cake.  Seriously, people!  Then of course I have the wedding cakes which are usually on Saturday and can vary in number and complexity.   By the time I get home on Saturday I am literally exhausted.

But this week was not my typical week.  This Monday, instead of getting the store stocked and getting control of the cake room after the cyclone of my typical Saturday, I got to make cakes.  Lots of cakes in fact.  I even “got” to sculpt a car cake.  So it was a busy day and not much time for looking ahead or planning.

Wednesday was the day of the mixed up cakes.  Typically people order tiered cakes  for the weekend but Wednesday we had two 3-tiered cakes and both for 50th Anniversaries.  Cake 1 was for a restaurant and was to be decorated the same as the couple’s original wedding cake.  Cake 2 was for a person who had never had a wedding cake and so their children wanted them to have one on this momentous occasion.  Well, the day went along pretty good and I had both cakes set up but the pickup times were approaching and I was still working on the decorating.   I was just finishing Cake 1 when they came back and said that the customer was there to pick it up. I really wanted to get a picture of it but there wasn’t time so off it went.  I immediately began the decorating of Cake 2 as I knew Customer 2 would be there shortly.  About 5 minutes went by and they came back and said someone from the restaurant was there to pick up their cake.  You cannot imagine my panic as I realized that they had just given Cake 1 to the Cake 2 customer!!!  I absolutely could not believe it. Luckily for all involved, after Customer 2 had loaded the cake into his car (and while Customer 1 was waiting for his cake), he came back into the bakery because he forgot something.  We were able to explain what had happened and  Customer 2 retrieved Cake 1 from his car so that Customer 1 could have it.  Customer 1 was not upset and was actually quite grateful that we had made his cake because it was a last minute order so he left quite happy.  I finished Cake 2 soon after and again it was whisked away before I could get a picture. Happily, Customer 2 liked Cake 2 even better than Cake 1 and so he went home happy.  It was a happy ending for all.  What a relief!

And then we come to today which is Friday.  And because this was not my typical week, this was not my typical Friday either.  I had two large wedding cakes for today and only one wedding cake for tomorrow (Saturday).  Both of the cakes for today were quite time consuming so I spent all day working on them and headed up to deliver them about an hour before they were due.  I was about half way to where they were being delivered when I realized that I had forgotten my camera at the bakery.  I was feeling stressed for time and also didn’t want the cakes in the car any longer than necessary.  But, I finally decided that I would really regret not getting pictures so I turned around and got my camera.  to go back to the bakery and get my camera.  I drove all the way back and then headed to the deliveries for the second time.  I got the first delivery all set up, stood with my camera in hand feeling happy that I had gone back to get it, and looked down to see that the battery was dead.  Are you kidding me? I absolutely could not believe it!. So I ended up using the camera in my phone to get a picture.  I am not sure how it is going to turn out.  I did the same thing for the second delivery.  And by the way, I actually thought I might collapse while delivering the second cake  because for some weird reason they refused to give me a cart. The room I had to deliver to is  downstairs and the elevator that you take to get there is like the slowest elevator I have ever seen in my life.  I had this heavy  heavy cake and I not only had to wait for the stupid elevator to get there but just going down a floor took what seemed like forever.  I  was waiting not only for the stupid elevator to get there but to actually go down to the next floor took forever.  I was so glad when that cake was on the table and all in one piece.

So I survived my day and I survived my week.  And for once in a very long time I get to say, Thank Goodness it’s Friday!

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Designer Chocolate Baby Grands

I’ve been really looking forward to making this recipe.  Unfortunately, my rendition didn’t quite live up to my expectations.  I am attributing this to my own execution of the recipe and I will probably have to try this recipe again when I have a little more time.

The cake batter is the same batter that we used for the ice cream sandwhich a couple of weeks ago.  We really enjoyed that cake so I knew that I wouldn’t be disappointed as far as that went.   The batter mixed up easily.  I did, however, have the same problem as last time when the cocoa and water turns into a paste rather than a smooth mixture.  I am taking comfort with the fact that other people seem to be having the same problem as me and since it doesn’t seem to affect the outcome, I am just not worrying about it.  I made what I see as my biggest mistake when I filled my cupcake liners too full.  It seemed like I had about 3/4 of an inch left from the top but I only ended up with 9 cupcakes and clearly after they were baked they were not flat like in the picture.

The second step was to take the hot cupcakes and poke about a dozen holes in each one with a skewer.  Then we were to pour milk chocolate ganache over the top of the cupcakes and into the holes.   I had two sizes of skewers and I opted for the smaller one to poke the holes.  I seemed to have problems getting the ganache down inside though, and I would probably use the larger one next time.  I did feel like I had filled them pretty well, but after they sat a while I could see that there was still space in a lot of the holes.  Because of time, I did not go back and make more ganache and fill them in.

The third and final step is to make the Lacquer Glaze.   This is the part that I expected would make these little cakes over-the-top delicious.  In the picture it looks so thick and smooth and so I  expected a fudge like texture.  My glaze, however, turned out pretty thin and runny, even after it cooled a bit.  So the million dollar question is — is the glaze in the picture actually thicker than mine, or is it just that the cupcakes are very flat which makes a thicker layer of glaze possible?  I think I made the glaze correctly,  but I was having problems with my thermometer so maybe I didn’t do it exactly right. I’m not sure.

Anyway, the cupcakes were good, but not exceptionally better than any other chocolate cupcake.  Even my son, who is not really a chocoholic like myself, thought the glaze needed to be thicker. So I will have to leave it for now but when I get some extra time, I will be cooking these up again.

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Chocolate Banana Stud Cake

This weekend’s project was Chocolate Banana Stud Cake.  The recipe was fairly basic which is a good thing in my book.  I started by making a paste of cocoa and boiling water.  This is added to a mashed banana, sour cream, eggs and vanilla.  Then the dry ingredients are added alternately with butter.  Then it’s into the oven to bake.  I decided to make two 6″ rounds so that i could sample one and have one to give away.

After baking I let the cakes cool for about 15 minutes and then I removed them from the pan.  The first one crumbled a fair amount on the bottom, most likely due to the fact that I didn’t have parchment in the pan because I ran out and was too lazy to run to the store.  The second cake came out perfectly, however, so I figured I could eat the crumbled one and give the nice one away.

A basic ganache is made and allowed to thicken up over several hours before icing the cakes.  Everything went exactly as directed in the recipe.  The most time consuming part of making this is probably placing the chocolate chips on the outside.  I practiced on “my” cake and spaced the chocolate chips out a fair amount which ended up looking only so-so.  For the second cake I placed the chips closer together and it definitely looked much nicer.  This cake is going to go to some friends who took it upon themselves to help us out a few weeks ago.  They just called us up and told us they were going to take care of an assignment we had because they knew we were going to be gone most of the week and wouldn’t have much time.  It was very sweet of them.

We liked the cake a lot.  I think that the banana flavor was a little too subtle though, and next time I would definitely add more banana.  Despite that, it is very good cake — moist and flavorful. We will definitely make it again.

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Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich

I have been looking forward to making this cake for the last couple of weeks.  The first time I read through the recipe I knew that I wanted to use starlight mint ice cream for this.  I know – the flavor suggestions were much more sophisticated — like coffee, vanilla bean or dulce de leche.  But for me, I could just taste this cake made with my favorite ice cream.    I have to tell you that I was not disappointed.

This recipe uses a chocolate cake that has oil in it rather than butter.  Because of this, the cake stays soft when frozen.  It is the same cake used for Rose’s German Chocolate Cake.  I wanted to try the sandwich rather than the cake so I made a half recipe in a ten inch cake pan.

The cake went together quite easily, although the first step had me worried that I had ruined the whole thing.  I was to whisk cocoa and boiling water together until smooth.  What I ended up with was a very thick paste.  I added a little extra water and didn’t know what to do so I forged ahead.  I was so sure that it had to be wrong that I kept recalculated my half recipe to see if I had added too much cocoa or not enough water.  I was worried right up until the end when it said the batter should be like a thick soup, which seemed about right to me.  I baked it for only about 20 minutes when it seemed done so I took it out.  It didn’t take long to cool and then I sliced it in half and assembled it.  I was quite impressed that the cake held together very well even when thinly sliced and had no problem moving it to be assembled.

Next came the Snowball Hot Fudge Sauce.  I melted the butter and chocolate in the microwave.  The cream and sugar are brought to a boil on the stove and then added to the chocolate mixture.  I had  no problems at all.  The sauce thickens up quite a bit as it cools.

The sandwich held together just fine for eating with your fingers and I liked the idea of using a dipping sauce as Rose suggested.  But it also looks great served on a plate with the sauce drizzled over the top.

We loved the overall flavor and textures.  I felt like this particular sauce was extremely sweet and in my opinion you could cut the sugar in half or even just go with a plain ganache.   But this recipe is definitely a keeper and one we will make again.

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Genoise Rose

I decided that I really needed to have the Nordicware rose pan in order to bake the Genoise Rose.  Yes, there are many other shapes of pans available, but the rose pan seems like a very classic and elegant shape that I could use many times in the future.  Since I wasn’t sure where I could find the pan,  I decided my best bet was to go to the specialty baking store about an hour away.  So last weekend we headed straight there and yes, we did indeed find the pan, along with numerous other pans that I drooled and debated over for far too long.  In the end, I was strong and I only bought the rose pan.  What was really funny about this purchase though, was that after running errands all day, the last stop I needed to make was to a hardware store.  Would you believe that on one of the first few aisles in that hardware store, there was the Nordicware rose pan! I guess next time I’m looking for a specialty shaped baking pan, I’ll check out the local hardware store!

Anyway, I have been admiring my beautiful pan all week and looking forward to Sunday when I would bake the genoise rose. I have never made a genoise cake before so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

The first step in the recipe is to make beurre noisette .  You must warm the butter over low heat and spoon the foam off the top of the butter.  You continue to do this until you see the solids in the bottom of the pan become browned.  This really was not a difficult thing to do, but it did require constant attention so as not to burn.

The next step involved warming the eggs over steam until they were lukewarm to the touch.  Then you whip the eggs on high speed for five minutes.  The mixture was to quadruple in volume  and become “thick.”  My eggs definitely increased in volume but I wasn’t sure how thick they were supposed to get.  Does thick mean soft peaks?  I whipped the eggs for about 7 minutes and decided I’d better stop.  Later, after reading Marie’s post, and seeing that there was a video on Rose’s site, I found out that the eggs should be at a ribbon stage.  I think it would have been helpful to have that included in the recipe.

Then you gently fold in flour and cornstarch and then butter.  The recipe said that if you have whipped the eggs long enough then you should fill the pan up to about ¾” of the rim.  I think I had about an inch of space after I poured the batter into the pan so I think I must have been pretty close.

The cake went into the oven and looked lightly browned when I checked it.  I removed the cake from the pan immediately as instructed and I was so happy when my cake came out all in one piece. I prepared the syrup using Cointreau and applied it after the cake had cooled.

We actually waited almost 48 hours before we were able to sample the cake because we had so much going on.  Marshall really liked  the cake but was wishing for some berries to go along with it. Of course he is the kind of person that usually eats the cake and leaves the frosting.   For myself, who is definitely a frosting person and an ooey gooey cake kind of person, it was just way too dry for my liking.  I do think if you treated it more like a pound cake and put a berry sauce over the top of it then it would be very good.

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Coconut Cheesecake with Coconut Cookie Crust

Oh my goodness . . . I am totally in love with this cheesecake!  Now this may not seem like a bold statement to many of you but those who know me can testify that I’m pretty much take it or leave it with most things that do not involve substantial amounts of good quality chocolate.  I have to confess that I came close to not even making this recipe.  I’m kind of fickle when it comes to coconut – sometimes I like it and sometimes I don’t.  So I was discussing this with hubby and stating my arguments against making this recipe but he convinced me that I really should try it.  I am telling you, this cheesecake is wonderful!

There are three ingredients that contribute to the coconut flavor of this cheesecake.  There is coconut extract, sweetened coconut flakes, and cream of coconut.  After I finally decided to try this recipe, it looked like I wasn’t going to be able to make it because I couldn’t find the cream of coconut. You buy the cream of coconut in the  liquor section by the bitters.  We struck out the first two places we went but we struck gold in our last ditch effort.  They actually had two cans and I debated on buying them both but I was still a bit skeptical of the recipe and it was a bit pricey too.  The cream of coconut differs from regular coconut milk in that it contains solid coconut oil and so you have to process it in the food processor before using it in your recipe.

I decided that I would make the cheesecake  on Saturday night so that it could chill overnight and we could have it for our Father’s Day dinner.  I also
decided that I would cut the recipe in half and use a 6” springform pan.  The crust consists of vanilla wafer crumbs, flaked sweetened coconut, salt and butter.  I used my mini cuisinart and it went together quite quickly.

The main ingredients of the filling include cream cheese, sour cream, cream of coconut, coconut extract and egg yolks.  Apparently the egg yolks are what thicken the batter.  The flaked coconut goes only in the crust and toasted as garnish.

This cheesecake is wrapped in two layers of foil and baked in a water bath, which helps it bake evenly.  You are supposed to bake it for 45 minutes, turn the oven off  without opening the oven door, and leave it in the oven for another hour.  Somehow I really really misread these instructions.  So I opened the door several times to see if it looked done.  I cooked it another 5 minutes because it still looked runny.  At that point I went back to the instructions and realized my error so I went ahead and turned off the oven, left it in there for an hour and hoped for the best.  I was very happy when I took it out an hour later and it looked done.

So today all I needed to do was toast a little coconut to put on top before serving it.  As I stated before, we really enjoyed this cheesecake and I am sure that I will be making it many more times.  In fact, I am going tomorrow to buy the last can of cream of coconut in our town to send to my daughter who is away at school so that she can enjoy this recipe too.

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