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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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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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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