Girly Cake

This is a graduation cake that I made today. The customer wanted something very girly and suggested makeup, shoes and the eiffel tower. This is what I came up with. I had a lot of fun making the fondant pieces. The customer was thrilled and it really made my day.

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Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake

I really enjoyed making the Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake.   This recipe had three parts: the cake, the mousseline and the fudge icing.  I had read and reread the recipe several times last week and the part that I was a little nervous about was the mousseline.   Part of my tepidation had to do with the strawberry butter that was a key ingredient in the mousseline.  I looked for the American Spoon brand but couldn’t find it (no surprise really since I live in a small town).  I went ahead and bought a strawberry spread but was not sure about it.  After I got home from the store I looked up some info about fruit butter and found that fruit butter actually contains no butter at all  – it gets its name because it has such a smooth and spreadable consistency.  After further reading I decided that since I already had fresh strawberries, I would just go ahead and make my own fruit butter.  It was very simple – we baked the sweetened fruit in the oven until it had reduced and was quite thick.  I loved the end result and plan on making some other flavors too for use on toast or even as a glaze for meat.

Later that evening I started baking the cake.  It seems that I always forget to take the eggs out ahead of time so then I am sitting around waiting for them to come to room temp.    But once I could actually get started, the cake went together very easily. I melted the chocolate, mixed the liquid ingredients and made the batter.   I skipped making the cupcakes and just made two 9” rounds.  The thought of white chocolate in my cake was really making my mouth water and I couldn’t wait to taste it.

Next came the mousseline.  The recipe requires that you heat a sugar syrup to firm stage and mix it with the egg whites to make a meringue.  Unfortunately I don’t have an instant read thermometer that went as high as needed, so I ended up using a candy thermometer in the syrup.  There wasn’t much liquid in the pan so I had to constantly tip the liquid to go over on the thermometer.  Eventually we got to the right temperature and I added it to the egg whites which were beaten to stiffpeaks.  Sometimes I have trouble getting my egg whites to nice stiff peaks but I found out the secret to that is using cream of tartar.  (I watched a little video on Rose’s website last week.) My egg whites were nice and stiff and were ready to add to the butter. Rose’s instructions warned that the concoction would look curdled before it would come together and I was happy to know that since that is exactly how it happened.   I just pressed on and soon it turned into a creamy and beautiful mousseline.

Next came assembling the cake.  I had a little trouble with the cake crumbling when I split the layers.  I think it would have been fine except that you are supposed to layer the mousseline and strawberry butter between each of the layers.  I thought it would be difficult to spread the strawberry butter on top of the mousseline and decided it might be easier to spread the mousseline on the top of the layer and then spread the strawberry butter on the bottom of the next layers so that when it was assembled it would all come together correctly.  Unfortunately, it was a bit too much handling of the cake and it crumbled a bit, but not to the point of disaster.  Next time I think I would do as Raymond did and layer the strawberry butter first and then the mousseline.

Then for the finale – making Miss Irene Thompson’s Dark Chocolate Frosting.  According to the book,  Miss Thompson, on her deathbed, gave this recipe to a co-publisher of a magazine and made her promise that if it was ever published it would bear her name.  It was very easy to make.  I used unsweetened and 60% Ghirardelli chocolate and melted it at 50% power in the microwave.  I have found that this works quite well and is faster and much less of a mess than doing it in the double boiler.  Then you add butter, corn syrup and vanilla. It came together in a snap.  I then poured the frosting (which was quite thin at that point) over the top of the cake.  The icing just smoothed right down on top and dripped sporadically down the sides.  I went back with a small spatula and added more on the sides of the cake.  I let it all rest for about half an hour as suggested and then poured another layer of icing down the sides.  I smoothed the sides with a scraper dipped in water and voila!  Thank you Miss Irene Thompson because your recipe is exactly what I have been looking for for a while now.  I needed it a few weeks ago when I was making a Boston Cream cake and couldn’t find something suitable.   This icing recipe will be a staple for me.

Tonight we got to sample the cake.  My husband loved the cake itself.  He does not like very sweet things and this cake fit the bill for him.  I am still getting used to the different texture of scratch cakes but I quite liked the flavor.  We were both a little disappointed in the mousseline which might be because of the homemade strawberry butter but we’re not sure.  It just wasn’t as flavorful as we expected.  I would like to try it again after finding the American Spoon strawberry butter to see how that compares.   Overall I quite enjoyed the cake though, and I am very happy to have found the dark chocolate frosting recipe.

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Chocolate Butter Cupcakes

I just finished baking my first assigned recipe from an awesome cookbook called Rose’s Heavenly Cakes.  I have joined a group of internet bakers who are all baking the same recipe each week and blogging about their experience.  The recipe this week was Chocolate Butter Cupcakes.  I was grateful that I was starting out on a somewhat easier recipe because this week has turned into a bit of a challenge for me which resulted in having to cook in a kitchen that is not my own. My husband has Alpha One and needs a liver transplant.  This week he was unexpectedly hospitalized for an infection and I have been staying at the Transplant House near the hospital since it is several hours from our home.  I was a little worried about having everything I needed and since I left home rather hurriedly, I didn’t have time to bring baking things.  I was so happy to see that they had a KitchenAid and they also had muffin pans.  The kitchen actually was beautiful and more spacious than my own, but I felt like a fish out of water not being able to find things when I wanted them.

So there were a few “firsts” in cooking this recipe.  I don’t know if I am strange or what, but I have never sprayed and floured my cupcake liners before.  Most of the time they come right off without a problem but I have had a few times that they didn’t so I figured I’d better follow the instructions  and sprayed and floured the liners.  I noticed when I was icing the cupcakes later on that the papers pulled away very easily.  Another first was using King Arthur cake flour.  When I was in the grocery store I saw the King Arthur flour and since I had never used it before I thought I would give it a try (after all, it cost more than the other brand so it must be better, right?)  Lastly, since I wasn’t at home with all my decorating equipment, I ended up decorating with some products I have never used before.

I was very impressed with how detailed Rose was about each step of the recipe. I mixed the cocoa in the hot water and let it cool.  I mixed the liquid ingredients.  Then  I combined it all for the batter.  The recipe was really quite easy to make.  Unfortunately I didn’t have my usual scoop for filling the cupcake liners so I just scooped them in using a regular spoon.  Into the oven they went.  The first time I checked them they weren’t quite done.  You will see a big dent in one of the cupcakes in the photo where I pressed in a little heavily when I checked.  I gave them a few more minutes and they were done and looked beautiful.

For the icing I wasn’t sure what we were supposed to do so I used one of the recipes recommended by Rose in the introduction  to the cupcake section.  I started out thinking I would make the Egg White Chocolate Buttercream but somehow got confused and did the shopping for the  Golden Neoclassic Buttercream and didn’t realize until I was in the midst of making it that I had switched.  I was intrigued with the golden syrup that Rose talks about but wasn’t sure what it was.  I’m not sure if it is karo syrup that is golden versus the light or dark syrup or of it is some other brand of syrup, but I couldn’t find any so I went with the light karo.  The Golden Neoclassic was very different than any icing I had made before.

The only thing that went a bit different than the instructions was that when I had the corn syrup and sugar in the pan over medium high heat, I was supposed to watch for bubbles at the edge of the pan and let it cook a few more minutes until there were bubbles all over.  Mine went from bubbles on the outer edge to bubbling all over and bubbling out of control in a matter of seconds so I pulled it off right away.  I think this was probably due to the fact that I was working on a stove that I wasn’t familiar with and it was probably cooking a little hotter than indicated.  I was a little worried that it wasn’t going to be the right consistency since we didn’t use a thermometer,  but I went ahead and added it to the eggs.  I whipped it until the bowl had cooled, about 7 minutes, and then added the butter and vanilla.  I then added some chocolate.

Normally I would pipe the frosting onto the cupcake with a large tip, but I didn’t have my equipment and I’m not sure that this icing would have held up well with that.  It seems to be an icing that does better for just spreading .


The cupcakes would have been fine without any decoration but I decided that as long as I had all these cupcakes made I would take them to the hospital to give to the nurses as a thank you.  So I tried some nifty little squeeze bottles of Wilton icing I got from the grocery store and some plastic decorating tips. (This made me laugh because only a few months ago I got mad at a friend of mine for using these instead of the regular bags and tips.)   I was much more limited on what I could do, but for a little bit of quick decorating they were fine. The cupcakes were very good.  The texture was more dense than a typical cupcake and they were very chocolatey.  My husband really liked the buttercream as it had a little bit of caramel undertone to the flavor.   I enjoyed the unique flavor of the buttercream as well.  All in all I consider this project a success. I’m really exited about next week’s assignment – Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake.  And I’m really looking forward to being home in my own kitchen.

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At Peace

It is late now and I am back at the Transplant House waiting for my laundry to finish drying. M has been in the hospital at Mayo receiving treatment for an infection that he has.  Now I have to be honest, when I am at home,  laundry is not on my list of favorite things to do.  But tonight as I went through the physical actions of gathering my laundry, taking it downstairs, and sorting it into the machines, I found it surprisingly comforting.  This has been such a roller coaster of a week that I guess just having something so familiar to do makes me feel like my entire world is not in chaos.  I really have been feeling at peace today and I believe it is because I have faith that everything is going to work out in the end. Even though this last year has been full of trials and frustration, I still feel extremely blessed and know that we are being watched over.

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Craving Chocolate

Yesterday we went to Madison and stopped at Whole Foods to do a little shopping.  Just walking around that store makes a person feel happy.   The produce department looks like a work of art.  They have a wide variety of cheeses and they usually have samples out so that you can try them.  After that, it’s on to the pastries and breads.  A couple of weeks ago we bought a blood orange vanilla cake that was really beautiful and tasted really good.  This week the flourless chocolate cake caught my eye and I was debating whether or not to buy it when I decided that I would go home and make one myself.  After all, I had just purchased a ten pound block of chocolate from Williams and Sonoma a few hours earlier and my mouth was watering for chocolate. 

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Blonde Brownies

I’m pretty boring when it comes to chocolate.  I am happy to stay in my little rut of eating 60% dark chocolate.  Most other chocolates really don’t even tempt me at all.  I can be around milk chocolate all day long and I not feel any desire to eat it, and the same goes for white chocolate.  However, there are a few people around me who do not share my obsession with 60% chocolate so occasionally I do force myself to try some recipes that appeal to others.

A while ago I tried a recipe for blonde brownies and I have to say that it was a really good recipe and I have made it several times.  The brownies have white chocolate and white chocolate chips in them.  Usually the recipe calls for coconut but some people in my family are a little unsure about the coconut which we usually leave out.  I was wanting to make something to send to my son in Belgium and since he did not get my chocoholic gene, I decided that I would make him blonde brownies. I decided to leave out the coconut but to add macadamia nuts. 

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Coldest Day

Here in the midwest we are having a cold spell. For the last two days the schools have been closed because of severe temperatures and weather warnings.  Last night it reached –22 degrees.  So, when I was trying to decide what I should experiment with, a recipe for a dipped confection called “hot chocolates” caught my eye.  This confection has a cinnamon marshmallow atop a dark chocolate ganache.  It required curing overnight so I made it the other day and today I dipped them.

I am still having some difficulty in getting dipped chocolates to look neat and beautiful.  However, I tried dipping some round chocolates and some square chocolates.  I ran out of tempered semisweet chocolate and when I began to temper some more semisweet, I got thinking that I might prefer these dipped in milk chocolate instead.  In the end, I think the milk chocolate ones taste the best.  The milk chocolate also seemed to dip better too and I’m not sure if I need to adjust the temperature on my machine or what.  I will have to do some more experimenting and reading on that.

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Lemon Logs

Last week I decided to try making a butter ganache filling because they are supposed to last longer than a regular ganache. I looked through my book and decided to try making the lemon butter ganache. The only problem was that one of the ingredients was fondant. I have never made confectioner’s fondant before, in fact I had never even heard of it before. But I really wanted to try this recipe so I figured I would need to figure it all out.

So one day early last week I made the fondant. I was really nervous about it because it required agitating it at the end and I didn’t exactly know what to expect and didn’t know how to know if I was doing it correctly. But I decided I would just jump right in and see what happened. It actually went very smoothly. After I had poured it on the marble slab and agitated it for about 10 minutes, it began to get opaque and very thick. Then all of a sudden, it seemed like it turned into a rock. I was afraid I had ruined it. I knew it had to cure overnight so I was just hoping that it would soften up overnight. I decided it felt lumpy and so I massaged the lumps out of it and it seemed a better texture after that. I put it into a container and left it overnight. The next day Marshall sampled it and it was very smooth. So I was hopeful that it turned out the way it was supposed to.

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Chocolate Curls

Chocolate curls are such a fun thing and I have thought that they would be fun to put on top of a cake.  So I watched a video on how to make them and set about to do it on my own.  I made a cinnamon ganache chocolate cake to put them on and we really enjoyed it.  I like my chocolate curls.  In fact, I was having so much fun making them that I made way too many and so now I have lots extra to do something else with.  Hmm….now what could I make?

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