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Archive for March, 2019

March…

Means we are a quarter of the way through the year of cakes! And the deliciousness continues, if I do say so myself. For this month’s cake, I wanted to work on my icing skills. So, with some inspiration from last year’s September edition of Food Network Magazine, I made a mermaid cake. And it’s a beaut, if I do say so myself (maybe it’s the 6+sticks of butter…).

For a delicious white cake, you need:

  • 14 tbsp unsalted butter (room temp)
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour, plus some for your pans
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla (I used the clear vanilla Christina Tosi recommended in the January cake. Solid choice.)
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk (room temp)
  • 4 egg whites (room temp)

For starters. Does anyone else get crabby when recipes call for large or small eggs? I admit, I do. Sometimes Kroger’s version of large eggs… Is not correct. So I just use the eggs I have.

Anyway. Heat your trusty oven to 350 and get to work on your pans. Butter them entirely, then line the bottoms with a round of parchment. After that, actually butter the parchment, too. We don’t want any chance of sticking or browning much. Throw some flour on the sides of your greased pan, too.

After that marathon, let’s make some batter. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt. Then, use your mixer to beat the butter, vanilla, and 1 cup of sugar on low until combined. Pump it up to medium high and paddle until you have a pale, fluffy mixture. This took about 5 minutes to get the following:

Bring your mixer back to low and add the flour concoction in two batches, alternating with the milk. Bump it back up to medium-high and go until the mixture is smooth and glossy, about a minute.

Now, beat your egg whites (I used my tiny hand mixer, as it was clean) for just a minute, until they are nice and foamy. Slowly add in the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar until you have stiff, glossy peaks of glory. This takes awhile, about 5 minutes.

Fold about half the whites into your batter, then fold in the rest. Divide your batter between the pans you worked so hard to prep.

Bake these guys until slightly browned and they start to shrink from the sides a bit (25-30 minutes). And, of course, a toothpick needs to come out clean from the center. Cool the cakes on a rack for 15 minutes, then loosen with a knife and turn them out onto a rack. Peel off the parchment and cool completely.

Now we need a boatload of icing for this guy:

  • 4 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 tbsp vanilla (again, I used the clear vanilla)

Beat the butter and salt on medium-high until smooth and fluffy. Slow the speed down to low and add your sugar, about 1 cup at a time, increasing the speed to an eventual medium-high so you don’t cover everything in sugar. Beat until fluffy, then add the vanilla and milk until nice and smooth.

Tint to your desired color; Schatzi came up with a lovely teal.

Now. Break out your serrated knife and level the tops off both cakes, after they are completely cooled. Then, cut each layer in half horizontally. I totally forgot to do the second part… So I had thick layers, and it worked just fine. Spread about 2/3 cup of icing on one cake and top it with another layer, trimmed side up.

Spread a very thin layer of icing all over the cake using your offset spatula. This is your crumb coat. Pop it in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Then, fill a pastry bag with icing with a 1/2 inch round tip. Pipe a vertical line of dots all the way down the cake. Mine were… Special.

Then, use that offset spatula to swipe the frosting to the side. We now have gills! Continue piping another line of dots that partly cover the previous swipe and repeat until the cake is covered.

The recipe suggests making a ring of dots around the top of the cake. But, we went rogue and covered the whole thing in more scales and dots. Baker’s choice!

And for the finale:

The icing is…a lot. And I clearly still have a lot of room for practice. But the actual cake part is quite perfect-spongy, light, flavorful. Highly recommend-it will definitely give people something to talk about.

*sc

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February…

… Means it’s time for cake two of my year of cakes. All I can say is better late than never, from a post perspective! Anyway, this cake also has the honor of serving as my birthday cake this year. I’m a chocolate kind of girl, so I decided to attempt the triple-chocolate mousse cake from America’s Test Kitchen. All I’m going to say is, happy birthday, me. This cake is quite heavenly. We’re talking a base layer of dark chocolate-esque nature, a middle layer of rich, semi-sweet chocolate, and a top layer of white chocolate cloud. It is satisfying, light, and not overly sweet. Read on, and try for yourself!

For mousse cake galore, you need:

Layer 1:

  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
  • 7 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (I used Ghirardelli)
  • 3/4 tsp espresso powder
  • 4 eggs, at room temp and separated
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar (crumble a bit to remove lumps)

Layer 2:

  • 5 tbsp hot water
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 7 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
  • 1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Layer 3:

  • 3/4 tsp powdered gelatin
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 6 oz white chocolate, chopped fine
  • 1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
  • Shaved chocolate for topping

Let’s start with the base layer. Put your oven rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 325. Man, if I’ve learned anything so far this year, it’s how much I can’t wait to have an oven that isn’t 30+ years old. This poor guy in my kitchen equates 300 with 500… So this was a challenge, for sure. All this is to say, if I can achieve the following results with such an oven, you with regular ovens can do anything! Anyway. Grease your springform pan (9×3″). Then melt the butter, chocolate, and espresso powder in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, stirring it every once in awhile until it’s smooth. Whisk in the egg yolks and vanilla and move on.

Next, you’re going to whisk the egg whites and salt until frothy. Add half of the brown sugar and beat until well combined, then add the remaining half and whisk on high until you get soft peaks. Scrape down your bowl about halfway through this process. Then, use a whisk to fold 1/3 of the whites into your chocolate mixture; we just want to lighten it. Use a spatula to fold in the rest of the whites and work gently until no white streaks are left. Transfer the batter to your prepared pan, and smooth off the top. Bake this layer just until the edges are firm and the middle is slightly starting to set, about 13-18 minutes. The middle should spring back when you touch it gently. Cool on a wire rack (leave in the pan) for an hour. The cake will collapse some, no worries here.

Now, let’s make the middle layer. Mix the hot water and cocoa powder and set aside. Melt the chopped chocolate in a double boiler or other setup as previously mentioned and stir until smooth. Take it off the heat, and let it cool for a couple minutes.

Get back to your (cleaned) stand mixer and whip the heavy cream, sugar, and salt at medium speed for about 30 seconds, just until it starts to thicken. Increase the speed to high and go until you’ve got soft peaks. Whisk the cocoa powder mixture into your melted chocolate until nice and smooth, then fold (still using the whisk) about 1/3 of your freshly whipped cream into said chocolate mixture. Grab a spatula to fold in the rest of the whipped cream until completely blended with no streaks. Spoon this mixture over your cooled layer of cake and tap the pan lightly on your counter a couple of times to get everything settled. Use a damp cloth to clean up any spots on your pan, and pop the cake into the fridge for at least 15 minutes to set.

We’ve reached the top! Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let it bloom for at least 5 minutes. This never looks pretty, people. Don’t worry about it. Put the white chocolate in a medium-sized bowl and then bring 1/2 cup of cream to a simmer. Take the cream off the heat and stir in the gelatin mixture until it’s dissolved. Pour the warm cream mixture over the white chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Cool until room temp, 5-10 minutes. Do stir it every once in awhile, as it thickens a bit.

Back to the stand mixer! Whip that last cup of cream on medium until it starts to thicken (just about 30 seconds), then crank it to high to get to soft peaks. Use your whisk to fold 1/3 of this whipped cream into the white chocolate concoction (again, this step is always about lightening). Per usual, use a spatula to fold in the rest of the whipped cream until you have no clear streaks. Spoon it over the bittersweet chocolate layer and smooth with the spatula (are we seeing a pattern here?). And of course, we return to the fridge for at least 2.5 hours, until nice and set.

*Oops how did a picture of an adorable cat waiting for cake he can never have get in here*

You made it! To serve, you can add some nice chopped (or curled if you’re fancy) chocolate or even cocoa powder to the top of your triple decker. Run a knife around the edges to loosen and pop the edge off your springform pan. If you’re a perfectionist/patient, run a clean knife around the edges of the cake to smooth it out (read, I was not this patient).

Voila! One of my favorite birthday cakes to date. It’s actually light, despite the rich ingredients. Great introduction to mousse, and would certainly make again. I mean, this cake was even satisfying enough for my favorite vanilla/savory flavors taste tester! It’s lengthy in print, but very doable. Give it a shot.

*sc

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