A month back I was asked to bake a tiered wedding cake… after my experience with the castle cake, I wasn’t too keen to attempt dowels and seperator plates again. Eventually, we decided to go with three cakes placed on a tiered cake stand. It turned out quite pretty… even through it wasn’t the “conventional” wedding cake setup. The smallest cake was a blueberry cheesecake, and the remaining two were 2-layered chocolate fudge cakes with an almond & hazelnut meringue base. Since the cakes had to be out on display for a while before they would be cut into and served, I couldn’t use whipped cream to frost them. I decided to use buttercream instead.
The recipe I used was not my usual swiss meringue buttercream… Instead, I discovered a American buttercream recipe that calls for whole eggs. This was more convenient because I didn’t have to worry about what I would do with the many leftover egg yolks, which is the case when I make meringue buttercream. As for the taste, this buttercream has the same rich smoothness and is not too sweet either. Since it uses egg yolks, the resulting buttercream is a distinct ivory/pale yellow colour, something to keep in mind when you plan your colour scheme.
In this case, the theme for the wedding was ivory and champagne. I left the buttercream in its original color (ivory) and piped swirls and rosettes in the same shade up the the sides of the cake. Each cake was topped with a bunch of fresh champagne roses (my favourite). Working with the flowers was tricky because I had to be careful not the let them touch the frosting/cake… I wasn’t sure if roses were toxic and didn’t want to take any chances. Eventually I ended up inserting the stalks into a round styrofoam board cut-out and, lining the board with cling film, and them placing the whole set-up onto the cake. It was not easy and I didn’t really like that from certain angles, you could see the styrofoam. I’m still trying to figure out how one would go about using fresh flowers to decorate frosted cakes without having the flowers touch the frosting or cake… any ideas?
My grateful thanks to Brindha and Aarthi for allowing me to use these gorgeous pictures!
If you look closely enough at the cake in the bottom tier, you can see the styrofoam placed in the middle, into which the roses are inserted. sigh…
Filed under: Cakes, Frostings | 14 Comments
This cupcake is yet another winning recipe from this fantastic book. The recipes in it have been foolproof and the chocolate cupcake has become my vegetarian/vegan chocolate cake stalwart.This time, I decided to try a slightly fancier recipe, for maple walnut cupcakes. What makes the cupcakes unique is that the walnuts are coated with a maple syrup and cinnamon shell before being chopped and folded through the batter. Which means you get a crunch of candied walnuts with every bite of fluffy maple-flavored cake. Yum. And although the original recipe recommends a vegan maple syrup and magarine frosting, I’ve decided to pair these slightly spiced cupcakes with a cream cheese and mascarpone frosting drizzled with maple syrup. I know this disqualifies the cupcakes as vegan but they remain vegetarian.
Vegan Maple Cupcakes
(makes 14 regular cupcakes)
(adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World)
for candied walnuts:
1 cup walnut halves
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp maple syrup (use dark amber, grade A syrup)
a pinch of salt
a large pinch of ground cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 275F. Arrange walnut halves on a tray and toast walnuts for 10 minutes, until the are fragrant and golden brown. Cool nuts completely.
2. Line a baking tray with aluminium foil or silpat. If using foil, grease foil lightly.
3. In a large saucepan, combine sugar, maple syrup and salt. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon. The sugar should melt and the mixture bubbling. This will take about 5 minutes. Continue to boil for 3-4 minutes, until the mixture is a dark amber colour, thick and smells like caramel. Remove from heat and stir in walnuts and cinnamon. Coat nuts evenly with maple mixture.
4. Spread nuts out onto the lined baking sheet or silpat and allow to cool.
5. Measure out 1/2 cup sugared walnuts and chop finely to use in recipe. Extra walnuts can be used as decoration after the cupcakes are frosted, eaten or stored in an airtight container and refridgerated.
1/2 cup soy milk, at room temperature
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/3 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup maple syrup (use dark amber, grade A syrup)
1/3 cup canola or soybean oil
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup candied walnuts, chopped finely
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Whisk together soy milk and vinegar. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 10 mins to allow milk to curdle.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutemg into a large bowl. Whisk together oil, maple syrup, vanilla and brown sugar into the soy milk mixture.
3. Make a well in the dry ingredients and whisk in the wet ingredients in two batches. Whisk just until no large lumps remain, a few small lumps are okay. Do not overmix. Fold in chopped candied walnuts.
4. Pour mixture evenly into liners, filling up to 2/3rds of the liners, and bake at 350F for 20-22 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
Cream cheese and Mascarpone Frosting
3 oz cream cheese (Philadelphia), softened to room temperature
1.5 oz butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 to 3/4 cup icing sugar, sifted
3 oz mascarpone, chilled
maple syrup, to drizzle
candied walnuts, to decorate
1. Cream together cream cheese and butter with electric beaters on medium speed until smooth, about 45 seconds. Do not overbeat the mixture.
2. Add in icing sugar and cream until combined, about 1 minute on med-high speed. You can add either 1/2 cup or 3/4 cup of sugar, depending on how sweet you like your frosting. Add vanilla and cream to combine, about 20 seconds. Do not overbeat.
3. Add cold mascapone (straight from the fridge) and beat on low speed to combine. Stop when everything is mixed in, it should take about a minute. Again, do not overbeat the mixture or it will get runny. Use frosting immediately or place into an airtight container and refridgerate.
4. Pipe swirls onto cupcakes, drizzle with maple syrup and top with a candied walnut half. Serve immediately.
Filed under: Cupcakes, Frostings, Nuts, Vegan, Vegetarian | 23 Comments
A long time ago, I started looking for the ultimate butter cake recipe. You would think something as basic as a butter cake would be easy to master but no, it isn’t. I could never get the proportions, nothing tasted rich enough. And I didn’t want to have those cakes from my neighborhood bakeries as a yardstick because I knew they were made with magarine and not real butter, and likely had preservatives and flavorings in them… but the truth was, they tasted good. And my trial butter cakes were not matching up to them.
Then I came across a post on someone’s blog -it slips my mind who- and he had said that his aunt, a legendary butter cake baker, swore by the tinned Golden Churn brand of butter. So I promptly when out and bought a few tins. Fyi, these tins are REALLY expensive. Look for Golden Churn, not Golden Fern which is cheaper. The Golden Churn tin butter has a very distinctive bovine smell, almost like pure ghee. Its butterfat content (the thing that makes butter creamy and rich) is also higher than the normal block Golden Churn butter.
Okay, so now that I had my superior butter, I went searching for a fantastic recipe to use it in. After much online browsing and sending a few pleading email for people to share their recipes with me, I decided to try out 3 versions. They all worked wonderfully, but each had their own unique flavor. Before giving you the lowdown on each contender, let me share a few butter cake tips I picked up:
1. Use good butter. Pretty obvious but I still have to point it out. Look for tinned Golden Churn or European butters like Lurpak or President. The higher the butterfat content (above 82% is good), the richer your cake. I like the taste a little salt gives so if you’re using unsalted butter, remember to add a small pinch of salt in your batter.
2. Room temperature is your best friend. Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature. Anything cold will cause the batter to curdle. Take butter, eggs, milk etc. out of the fridge at least 30 mins ahead of time.
3. Cream the mixture evenly. Uneven creaming causes some pockets of the baked cake to be darker than others, because bits of sugar that have not been creamed well with the butter and eggs cook faster than the rest of the cake. Most electric beaters do not reach the corners and bottom of the mixer bowl, so you have to stop the machine every 3 minutes and scrape down the sides and bottom with a spatula. Do this 3-4 times during the creaming process to ensure that the batter is even. Also, make sure to cream the butter and sugar long enough. You want it to be a very pale yellow, almost white.
4. Do not use dark or non-stick cake pans. They cause the cake to brown too much and develop a tough and chewy crust. Not what you want in a moist, fluffy butter cake.
5. If you find your cake cooking too quickly, i.e. top is brown but the inside is still wet and uncooked, cover the top of the cake loosely with a large piece of aluminium foil. This prevents the top from getting darker while the rest of the cake continues to cook.
6. Slice your completely cooled butter cake with a serrated knife, in a slight sawing motion to retain its fluffy texture. If you cut it with a flat edged knife, the delicate crumb gets compacted and the cake becomes dense.
Okay, that’s all I can think of for now. Here are the cakes, with a short commentary for each.
This was the butter cake I was looking for. SiNfULLy rich, moist and deliciously fragrant. Can you imagine 10 egg yolks and 375g of butter in one puny 8″ cake?? And I think the addition of melted butter made the cake even more moist. When I pressed down a little on a slice, I could almost see the butter oozing from the crumb. *immediate coronary* But it tasted divine and the texture was perfect. Although I won’t be making it too often, because of health concerns (I don’t usually bother about calories but this IS a little overboard), this is the recipe I’d go to for a special occassion.
10 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1. Melt the butter in the microwave or over gentle heat on the stove. Leave to cool.
2. Lightly grease and line the bottom of an 8″ round cake pan. Preheat oven to 165 degree C.
3. Cream yolks and sugar until creamy and pale yellow. Remember to scrape down the sides and bottom periodically.
4. Add in the cooled melted butter and vanilla.
5. Sift the flour and baking powder (and a pinch of salt if using) and fold carefully into the creamed mixture.
6. Scrape into pan and level surface. Bake for 45-60 mins until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
This was an interesting recipe that called for the eggs to be seperated and the yolks to be added to the butter mixture. The egg whites are then whipped and folded into the batter. The resulting cake is light and fluffy, with a delicate buttery taste. Yummy but not as rich as the previous version. I think this would taste good with a buttercream frosting, because the cake is not too heavy.
250 g butter
100 g sugar
1 tsp vanilla Essence
90 g egg yolk
1 tbsp evaporated milk
200 g cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
160 g egg white
1. Cream butter, sugar, salt and vanilla essence until light and creamy, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times.
2. Add in the yolks one at a time and beat until creamy. Add in evaporated milk.
3. Fold in seived cake flour and baking powder.
4. Whisk egg white and sugar until it holds soft peaks and fold gently into the creamed mixture
5. Pour into a 20 cm round tin (lightly greased and bottom lined) and bake at 175C for about 45 mins or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
Doris Greenspan’s Butter Pound Cake
This was a pound cake recipe so it wasn’t all that light. And it was the driest cake of the lot. But I must say that it was delicious when the slices were warmed up and slathered with some butter and jam. This wasn’t really a butter cake, but on the whole, it was a good cake.
I’ve followed this recipe from Sugar and Spice, which I think is superbly detailed.
Filed under: Cakes | 22 Comments
I’m usually not for show-stopper kinda cakes. I figure as long as it tastes good, I shouldn’t worry too much about how it looks. A few swirls of chocolate ganche, a scattering of rossettes, maybe a dash of sprinkles and dragees… that’s about it. Looks appetizing, tastes great- that’s more than enough for me.
But when you have a little girl in the family who oh-so-adorably asks you for a giant castle cake so she can feel like a princess on her 5th birthday, you can’t help but agree and throw all notions of making a ‘simple’ cake out of the window. My cousin was so excited when I started collecting paper towel rolls to make the castle towers. She had all sorts of ideas on how big the cake should be (4 tiers!!), what the color theme would be (predictable, pink and purple), and the overall look of the cake (a giant castle with 4 towers, turrets, a landscaped garden and a prince and princess- undemanding little angel isn’t she??) Of course, I explained that I couldn’t do all of that but I promised her it’d be a pretty cake, she just had to trust me. And with the implicit faith in her elder sister that only a 5-year old could muster, she said okay and returned home.
And I freaked out as soon as she was out the door.
How in god’s name was I gonna do this???
So in the next three months, I looked through endless cookbooks, browsed through sites for ideas and instructions on how I was gonna manage this. I wanted a tiered cake, a smooth finish and something that would be sturdy enough to hold up the towers and decorations. There were so many firsts for me here: first time I would be doing a tiered cake, at making fondant, working with pastillage, and assembling something with so many components.
And to make it all more challenging, the entire cake had to be vegetarian.
Okay, by now I was having a panic attack.
But eventually it all came together. It was not perfect but the birthday girl was ecstatic and that was all that mattered. I made an 8″ vegan chocolate cake for the base tier and sanwiched with buttercream. The top tier was a maple pecan cake frosted with buttercream. I made a batch of marshmallow fondant, colored it a pale yellow and rolled it out to cover the tiers and towers. The turrets were shaped with pastillage, and I used the pastillage to make tons of pearls and tiny roses to adorn the castle walls.
The cake could not be refridgerated because that would cause the fondant to lose its smoothness so I had to store the cake in my bedroom, with the air-conditioning turned on at its fullest. It was the scariest night of my life. I kept waking up to check on the cake, to see if any the towers had come apart or the entire thing had melted or collapsed. ”Never again” was my mantra that night.
But all things said, I was proud of myself. It took so much work and research to get it right and I did it all without resorting to buying anything pre-made. Everything was done by hand and that made it all the more special. And I probably would do it all over again just to see the smile on the birthday girl’s face when I brought in her cake.
Here are a few pictures of the finished cake. I originally intended to take photos of the assembly process but I was too stressed with all the work I had to do. If anyone needs details on how things were done because they are crazy enough to attempt this, feel free to mail me. I would be glad to share my experiences –mainly of what NOT to do– with you
The castle in all its glory
The back of the cake. Can you see that a little bit of the fondant tore, and I had to patch it up and do some cover up work with the vines? sigh…
Check out the unicorn candles! I thought they were perfect for this whimsical cake. The vines and leaves were piped on with buttercream. And I placed the little roses all over the cake randomly. It was quite fun making the roses and dusting them with pearl dust, although they took forever to dry
The castle doorway. The door was made with a piece of fondant and I worked the details in with a toothpick. I also liked the look of the rope of pearls around the base of the castle
The smile/grin that made it all worthwhile
Both of us. Happy that the birthday was gonna be a success, at least cake-wise. heh
Filed under: Cakes, Vegetarian | 30 Comments
I’ve been swamped with work, so much that I have not even had the time to take pictures of all the stuff I’ve been baking these past months. But the year is coming to a close and I’ve resolved to make time for this blog in 2008, no matter how busy I may get. For now, here is a hodgepodge offerring of some of the cakes I’ve made in 2007, that I never got a chance to write up in proper posts.
Enjoy, and here’s hoping that the new year brings more sweet treats and delicious fare to everyone!
This was my very own birthday cake (yes, I am such a loser that I bake my own birthday cakes). It was a sponge cake sandwiched with strawberry and white chocolate mousse. Meringue buttercream, fresh strawberries and caramel almonds topped it off.
Delia Smith’s wholemeal carrot cake with mascarpone frosting and pecans.
Vegan vanilla cupcakes. So incredibly moist and fluffy, you have to taste it to believe it.
Oreo cheesecake. It turned out a little more dense than I would have liked… still hunting around for that perfect oreo cheesecake recipe.
Delia Smith’s very sticky prune and date cake. Almost pudding-like, this had a gorgeous ’dark’ flavor.
Vanilla cupcakes made to look like a flower garden
A chocolate raspberry confection for 2 special ladies in my dance class. I loved this cake, it looked and tasted so darn good.
My darling younger brother’s birthday cake. I came up with the combination myself, and it was soooo delicious, if I may toot my own horn. But really, this I was really proud of. A hazelnut and almond dacquoise for the base, chocolate truffle layer made with Varlhona Manjari, a sheet of devil’s food cake for the top, and everything encased with sweetened cream, chocolates and raspberries.
Filed under: Cakes | 15 Comments
Another post on Deepavali sweetmeats. This is a cashew rava (semolina) treat that is really quick and easy to put together. And shaping the the laddus is so simple, you can do it while watching TV or talking on the phone. Or you can follow what my grandmother used to do. She’d call all her daughters (6 of them, mind you… of course, if you’re not as prolific, you can call your other family members and friends to make up the numbers), get them to sit in a circle, place a large mound of laddu mixture in the center and ask them to pinch off bits and shape the mixture into balls.
This particular laddu is made with very fine rava/semolina and has a lovely cashew and ghee taste that is slightly laced with cardamon. The cashew-rava mixture is bound together with diluted condensed milk so you also have a creamy milk flavour. These can stored in an airtight container for up to a week.
Cashew Rava Laddu
(makes 30-32 small laddus)
1/2 heaped cup of cashews
1 1/2 tbsp ghee (use QBB brand for best flavor)
3/4 very fine rava/semolina (use PRIMA brand semolina. If using normal rava, grind in coffee grinder until fine)
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp caster sugar (it is important for the sugar to be very fine. Use only caster sugar, not fine grain or granulated sugar. If caster sugar is unavailable, measure out granulated sugar and grind briefly in coffee grinder until very fine)
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cardamon, freshly ground with pestle and mortar from about 8 green cardamon pods
3 tbsp condensed milk
2 tbsp hot water
1. Using a small knife, split cashews into halves. Dry roast nuts in a wok until light golden brown and fragrant. Or you can spread split cashews in an even layer on a baking tray and toast in a 375F oven for about 6-8 minutes, shaking the tray halfway. I prefer to use this method because the nuts brown more evenly.
2. Cool cashews completely and grind in coffee grinder or food processor until powdery. Use the pulse mechanism to ensure you don’t overgrind the mixture and end up with cashew nut butter.
3. Heat ghee in a wok. Add rava and stir fry over medium-low heat for about 6 minutes until the rava loses its “raw smell” and darkens slightly. You’ll know the rava is cooked when it stops sticking together and becomes slightly crumbly.
4. Once rava is ready, add ground cashews and mix quickly. Add freshly ground cardamon and mix thoroughly.
5. Turn off the heat and stir in sugar and salt.
6. Dissolve condensed milk in hot water. Mix in about 4 tbsp of this milk mixture into the rava and cashew mixture. Stir in and see if the mixture can be pressed into small balls with your fist. If the laddus disintegrate when you try to press it into a ball, add more milk mixture, a teaspoon at a time, until the right consistency is reached.
7. Shape about 2 tespoonfuls of mixture into small laddus and store in an airtight tin.
Cooked rava. The grains should become powdery and stop clumping together…
Filed under: Desserts, Indian, Nuts, Vegetarian | 7 Comments