Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happy 4th Birthday Skyebird!

I can't believe my baby is four years old! Where on Earth did the time go? Every parent hears the phrase "Don't blink" about oh, a million times, within the first month of their child's life, and rarely do we understand try as we might the implications. May I just say "wow" :) Skyebird asked me for an Arnie the Doughnut cake this year, based off of one of his favorite children's books by the same title, so imagine my excitement at the thought of creating this little guy let alone theme an entire party after it!

As part of the party, we watched the short story on DVD, made mini "Arnies" using chocolate frosted Dunkin Donuts with fondant eyes and smiles I had made and dried in advance for the craft. I was so busy playing hostess I didn't get good photos of any of the party setup, decor, craft etc. Lesson learned! Wow! Can someone say "hire a photographer?" Anyways, I twisted Dunkin Donuts arm to give me tons of small donut bags and napkins so that everyone could make their own "Arnie Homes" lol after they were done making him, that is, if he survived that long! Many didn't. May we take a moment for the fallen Arnies! Ok, glad we got that out of the way. Oh yeah! The cake! You probably want to see that, no?

I started several days in advance and yet still, ended up staying up all night on the night before the party finishing this bad boy. As always, I used a recipe from my idol Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible. I decided to try something new for this cake, rather than the usual white yellow or chocolate cake base, so this time, I present to you, a four layer white chocolate cake by the name of Rose's "Golden Luxury Butter Cake" in The Cake Bible, page 48!

Also, I finally gave Rose's fancy buttercream recipe a chance for the filling hehe, after much encouragement from her other followers, and it did not disappoint! It is a unique way of making buttercream, containing no confectioner's sugar but rather, it starts as a mixture of sugar, freshly squeezed lemon juice and water which is then cooked to soft ball stage and immediately whipped into egg yolks until completely cooled, then whipped into butter and more lemony goodness. Delish! It had the strangest visual texture to me, smooth as silk and satiny, as someone who has never strayed from traditional American confectioner's frosting. The mouthfeel was reportedly light and airy, with a warm, gentle lemon flavor that does not overpower the perfume of the white chocolate in the cake batter. I insist on the traditional buttercream under my fondant however, so that was on the outside of the cake.

As usual, everything was made with love from scratch, and all the decorations were made from my usual fondant recipe except for the ice cream thingies, those are molded chocolates I made. We actually had a chocolate lollipop tree with more "ice cream" like you see here but on sticks obviously, but again, I got so busy I forgot to photograph it. That was a big shame, as it took hours to make! Gah! The fondant, it's just your typical MMF, you can find the recipe on Cake Central as "Rhonda's Ultimate MMF". As you can see from the picture, TOTAL CAKE DEVASTATION! Yay!

Another successful birthday behind us, great memories were made, and a good time was had by all. I have never been so happy to clean up such a big mess, quite possibly, the messiest day in this home's humble history. ROCK!

Lastly, consider this a special shout out to a local fan who will be receiving another wedge of cake VERY soon, with your name on it with love! LOL Thanks for the sweet comment :)


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy Birthday Dear Hubby!

This cake was made for my sweet Husband, my best friend in this whole wide world right next to Jesus. He challenged me in requesting this cake specifically, as usually it's up to me! He used to love the original Nintendo NES system as a kid, still has one, and let me just say, it is the cause of many hours of lost sleep! I wanted to make him this cake so badly, even though it was intimidating to me as all get out. You see, in the cake world the simpler the design, the harder it is! It is very backwards! Add to that I have never done a square cake in fondant (my cheeseburger cake does NOT count LOL) or an odd shape like the bottom edges here that are sharply angled. I had no idea how I was going to pull this off, and wondered if I would have to devise a plan to excuse myself for not posting photos just in case it ended up a disaster worthy of Cake Wrecks! Luckily for him, and me (!) it is recognizable, and turned out good enough for me and more than good enough for him. I am my own harshest critic, although others have tried to test that theory bah ha ha! That's one arena where I always come out on top, unfortunately.  I had some wonderful examples on Cake Central to use as inspiration! Most importantly, I had the real deal right next to me at all times to model. At one point (insert cringe here) I practiced applying fondant to the corner of the actual console! Don't tell Thomas! Oops, too late now! Cats outta the bag! LOL

So, what's inside? Everyone knows I adore Rose Levy Beranbaum. I have learned to have people sample the recipes because the chocolate recipes are unlike other chocolate cake recipes sold in boxes LMBO, and you either love it or hate it. The caviar of the chocolate cake world, not quite to everyone's tastes but when you do fancy it, nothing ever tastes the same again. To me, they remind me of oreo cookies mixed with actual rich chocolate. Very sharp, straight to the point, matter of fact in your face chocolate flavor. It looks chocolate colored because it IS chocolate! Intense! Nevermind that, this cake is YELLOW! Just felt the need to mention that because after all, this is my blog and you can't make me stay on topic! Na-na-na-na-naaaa! Ok, seriously.  It's a yellow scratch cake, with fresh strawberry conserve/bakery  filling, wilton buttercream based spackle, and marshmallow fondant. As usual, everything is made from scratch. Nothing new there.

Marshmallow Fondant Recipe:

Buttercream Recipe:

I needed a two 10 inch cake bases to start from, as I needed to carve it all up anyhow. So, I ran into a problem. All of Rose's recipes are made for either 8 or 9 inch pans, usually single layer, sometimes double but the double recipes were not the right size. Now back in the day I would have just winged it, heh, or made two batches. I know better now. So, in The Cake Bible, her first cake book to my knowledge, in the back is a special guide for creating custom recipes for odd shaped or sized pans for classic white, yellow and chocolate cakes. She calls this the "Rose Factor". She has a base recipe for each type of cake, you use a chart that corresponds with different sizes of pans, follow a matrix design to the number of multiples of the base recipe it would need to produce two full layers of that sized cake, and go to work calculating baking powder levels with another chart. It sounds like a lot of work (it is) but Rose's recipes are worth it. Hands down. I made my custom recipe for two high 10 inch layers of cake which would later make four torted layers, and off I went.

Out of respect to Rose, I will never post her recipes in my featurettes. Please, please don't be upset, but we have quite a following on her baking blog/forum/instruction site and I just wouldn't feel right doing that to her. Now, she does post recipes herself, so check it out! Please do yourself a HUGE favor and buy her books! Even if I posted the recipe (which I won't) you really need to read her books to understand her complex cake science processes, and apply them to the recipes. Knowing the recipe isn't enough in this case, anyways. I bought all mine on, it changed my baking life!

Onward, per Thomas' request, I used classic wilton buttercream, which I then made into a spackle using Toba Garrett's method from "The Well Decorated Cake" another awesome book! That was for under the fondant. Inside was a different matter. Thomas requested a jelly like filling, similar to bakery style cakes. I have never done this before, so it was a first. After researching many different recipes I decided to just wing it and throw stuff together, making my own recipe.

Fresh Strawberry Bakery Filling:

I used two packages of strawberries, washed and pureed them in my vitamix. Then I cooked then in a pot with about 3/4 cup sugar until they smelled right. Remember, I don't taste anything I make anymore, it's all by smell! LOL Yeah, I know. I know. So, when that smelled pleasant, I added some bloomed plain gelatin powder (about 1/2-3/4 package) and little by little, cornstarch. Once it thickened up how I wanted it, keeping in mind I wanted it very thick and gelatinous so it didn't soak into the cake layers or cause things to slide or shift once stacked and covered, I let it cool. It was very simple, still had the tartness of the berries (the sugar was NOT overpowering at all) and didn't soak into the cake. Next!

I have learned the importance of using a simple syrup on my cake layers as I stack them, to preserve moisture levels as I decorate (yeah, I'm slow) and to perfume the cake further. So, this time I whipped up a syrup (1c water and 1c sugar) boiled it, then added a splash of rum. Nom! The alcohol cooks off leaving a nice perfume and a hint of sweetness. I don't use much on my cakes anymore. Practice really does make perfect. It doesn't take much, just think of how pavement looks after it starts raining for the first minute. That is what you want the cake to look like. Droplets speckled, no puddles. Thank you!

I stacked them up, started carving, filling, syruping and spackled. Let it chill to firm up, then made my fondant and covered it. Voila! Ok, I skipped a lot, but you get the jest of it. The fondant didn't want to cooperate due to the high humidity of the day, and my colors kept changing as the fondant sat. Yeah yeah, I've made enough cakes that I know colors deepen upon sitting blah blah blah but this was nuts. I' get it perfectly matched to the NES system next to it, then two hours later it would be green or blue! So I'd color correct it again and again, until I was satisfied with the shade of gray. Gah! Eventually, I had to decide close enough was close enough :) It still looked green/gray in photos, but in person, at least for the first day of it's cake life, it was gray LOL. Time for some new color powders I think, instead of this wilton stuff. Blech!

Happy Birthday my sweet Hero, I love you endlessly! "...and many more!!!!!!"

Till November...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Fabulous Muffin Base Recipe

Hello everyone!

How have you been? Long time no read! My fault, entirely. I know! It has been a while since I've made a cake worthy of posting hehe, since we have been on a long and wonderful vacation! Since we've been home, I've managed to make a whipped cream cake for DH and some odd ball nom noms but none that look as delicious to me as these muffins! I got this muffin base recipe from the old days of Recipezaar online, where I had a membership. This recipe has been with me for years and has seen many a-variation! It is versatile, light and fluffy, gorgeous and delightful. I've made it in muffin cup pans and mini loaf pans. I've added all kinds of fruit to my heart's content! It always comes out wonderful!

From my kitchen to yours, please enjoy this recipe and let me know how you liked it!

Blueberry Version: I mashed up the blueberries and mixed into the batter so as to make it this lovely indigo color. If you leave them whole they look absolutely lovely as well, but these blueberries were huge and in my opinion too large for the muffin cups :) I ended up needing a couple of tablespoons more of flour to get the batter looking just right due to the excessive juice they gave off once squished! Don't be afraid to experiment!

Fabulous Muffin Base & Crumb Topping

For The Base:

1-3/4 cups flour
2-1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1c sugar
2 large eggs
1/2c oil
3/4c whole milk
1tsp vanilla
2c fruit pieces or whatever

In a large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together all wet ingredients. Set aside.

For The Crumb Topping:

1 cup flour
3 Tbsp light brown sugar
2 Tbsp sugar (white or "raw")
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

In a medium bowl stir ingredients together with a fork or pastry cutter until combined, and crumbly looking. Set aside.

Finish the muffin base:

Add the fruit pieces or whatever you're adding as the feature ingredient to the dry ingredient bowl and mix until coated, then add the wet ingredient bowl to the dry ingredient bowl and gently fold just until combined. Not over mixing at this stage makes for a very fluffy tender muffin. Immediately spoon into greased muffin cups or whatever you are using, with or without liners, until about 2/3 full, and spoon about a tablespoon of crumb topping over the poured batter.

Bake the muffins:

Have ready a pre-heated oven with racks at center, about 350 degrees (170c I believe) and pop those babies in but do it gently, please :) Bake for about 25 minutes, watching carefully that they don't burn. Remove when the centers appear fully risen and set, when lightly pressed the centers feel slightly springy to the touch.



Friday, August 19, 2011

Happy Birthday Dear Daddy!

Today is my sweet Daddy's 51st Birthday, yes, on this day in history, the world was forever changed. He is the most wonderful Daddy anyone could ask for, selfless, thoughtful, protective, wise and always there when you need him. It was my pleasure to make him this cake today!

More later...


Monday, April 25, 2011

Hoppy Easter Cake for My Love!

Happy Easter Everyone!

I have had this awesome molded bunny pan from Wilton for years and years, yet until now have never used it! Well, this year I broke the standoff :) I think I had been avoiding this pan because of my fondness for fondant, and not knowing if I wanted to attempt to cover it and ruin the fine details of the pan. It seemed like such a shame to cover them up, but after my last cake I got a fun idea. Why not cover this bad boy in a thick warm milk chocolate ganache? I hoped it would end up looking like a chocolate easter bunny, and thankfully, it worked! It was such a joy to make, and fun too!

I used, as usual, Rose Levy Beranbaums "The Cake Bible" as my assistant in the kitchen and recipe source, and determined her "Perfect Pound Cake" and was the right choice for the job. It is a classic pound cake, dense but velvety in texture that somehow dissolves in your mouth with each bite :) I suppose I have to mention that comes from my Husband, who was kind enough to be my taste-tester and commentary. For those who are new readers, I am actually a Nutritarian by some sick twist of fate and do not eat my own works! LOL I will never tire of the irony. Nevertheless, I need people to taste these things and give me ammo for this blog or else each entry would read more like "Oh! It smells so good, looks like it would be velvety in texture and absolutely delicious, but who knows!?" hehe. Where's the fun in that?

The finished cake before adornments.
I am so happy I got to make a cake for my Husband this Easter! My sweet Hero really deserved the special pampering this year above and beyond that he absolutely deserves my pampering no matter what! So, I was more than happy to deliver! Gotta love a good man! There is a saying "It is hard to find a good man, but easy to keep one!" I couldn't agree more. What a love.

I made him a real Easter Bunny and Egg too this year, finally!
I hope you all had a great Easter Holiday with your family and friends! Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Rustic Sportsmen Story Cake

The Story: A friend contacted me about doing a special cake for her 15th wedding anniversary, specifically, as a present for her sweet Husband, also a hunter. She told me the most hilarious story from which the idea for this cake was born. Basically, his first big kill (deer) had one antler missing, reduced to a nub hehe, and when he went to put the skull cap with antlers (eww, me too!) on an ant hill to clean the brains (again, eww!) their hunting dog ran off with it, and though the dog was recovered said antlers were never found! Thus, never mounted. Poor guy! Poor dog, lol. So, this cake is a symbolic representation of that story, with a replica of the antlers in question made out of fondant and mounted on a miniature fondant wall mount hehe! How appropriate! He gets to have his antlers mounted after all ;P The frame on the front is a dog's paw print to represent the antler thief of a dog (!) hopefully you were like "Duh, I see it right there!" instead of "Oh! Is that what that was supposed to be?" lol. The ant hill is self-explanitory (I love those puffy ants!) and their ant hill/hole is reminiscent of the ones in North Carolina so I am told! Last but certainly not least, the deer bullet, or whatever the technical manly man name for it is! I bet a handful of my friends who hunt are slapping their own foreheads right now reading this! Can you tell I am not a hunter? But oh, how fun this cake was to make! 

So, a breakdown. Inside this little gem is my most prized filling ever. The cake is Rose Levy Beranbaum's All-American Chocolate Butter Cake from The Cake Bible. I love her to bits still! Her recipes are worth trouble shooting for different climates, through and through and I don't regret sticking with her! Her cakes are blow-your-mind delicious, not the ordinary cake flavor one might expect (tastings are helpful I am learning!) gourmet and filled with copious amounts of science and love. Great combo, you say? My Husband is a nerd, I had to fit in somehow! 

So, each layer (there are four of these bad boys) is sprinkled with my homemade amazingly smooth vanilla bean vodka (cooked off) simple syrup for maximum moisture and aroma, and then we decided to fill it with my "Daddy's SECRET German Chocolate Frosting" recipe. I used to eat the stuff out of a bowl like a meal as a kid, eek! Being a nutritarian now, that makes me cringe but understandably to my credit, it was as fabulously divine then as it is now. Due to geographic issues, I had to use fresh coconut instead of the typical American flake version called for in the recipe, but to my surprise and relief, it turned out wonderful.  I added a healthy dose of finely chopped freshly toasted pecans for good measure! Lastly, I decided no buttercream. I crumb coated and iced this cake in a thick luscious layer of pure milk chocolate ganache aka truffle filling! It was amazing to look at, and decadent as could be. After that it was covered in Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipes for Rolled Fondant and Pastillage. Most was hand painted, and glued together using chocolate and love.

Thanks so much to my friend who ordered this from me,  trusting me with such a special occasion! They were celebrating 15 years of marriage, quite an accomplishment! Congrats to you both, the happy couple! I hope your anniversary was everything you hoped for and more! 


Sunday, February 27, 2011

It's the little things that matter...the giving cake!

This cake came about as a surprise to even me! I was sitting in our local bistro being served by a most wonderful young woman. My Husband was out of the country for the moment, and I was so lonely and sad! I had someone watching Skye three times a week so I could catch a break and have tea by myself and read, rewind. This is one such occasion. This gal, my server, always made me smile as I had tea each week, making the time I had to spend apart from my Husband that much more bearable and a little less lonely. Suddenly, I felt the Lord's whisper upon my heart, that I should do something random for this young girl using my cakery skills, whom by her service to me was providing me with so much more than merely tea, but hope...and kindness. I felt like I was supposed to ask her when her birthday was, that I would find out it was soon, and tell her I would make her a cake and deliver it, as a gift. I knew she lives here in Abu Dhabi, away from her home country and family, by herself much like I, and probably didn't have any family to celebrate with. In fact, she and I, I later learned, arrived here at the same time. Hesitatingly, I questioned God. "Really? Seriously? You want me to do what? I'll look like a fool, and those cakes take so much time to make and stress me out!" but He insisted, and promised me I the cake I made her would be a joy to make. He promised I wouldn't be too stressed to make the cake, and so with an obedient heart I approached her and asked her when her birthday was. Inside I was thinking I was nuts.

What happened next surprised me, and confirmed I wasn't nuts. She looked shocked, and said it was merely in a few days. I had the perfect amount of time to make her a cake right away! So, I showed her pictures of my cakes on my phone, and told her I wanted to make her one as a gift, no charge, no strings attached. She was shocked, again, but managed to give in to my insisting it wasn't a burden on me! I didn't tell her why I had asked, living in the Middle East, one can get into a bunch of trouble for talking to anyone about religion or God, sadly enough. Maybe she will someday read this and find out why she received that gift, that I am not so great but God is, but until then my lips are sealed. I have a toddler to care for here, I can't do that from an Arabic prison! Moving on...

The day arrived quickly, and just as promised, the cake was a joy to make. I just allowed my fingers to create whatever they wanted, and I ended up with this...

It is the first time I attempted a homemade buttercream finish instead of fondant, and while I still prefer the velvety impossibly smooth finish of fondant, this wasn't bad at all for a first attempt! I filled it with my homemade european milk chocolate ganache and made one of Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipes called Buttermilk Country Cake for the torte, which was thinly stacked for a total of four layers. The layers were also sprinkled with a fragrant simple syrup. It was so fun! The rose is fondant as are the leaves, made my hand of course and painted with edible pearl powders and painted with food coloring and a paint brush. The pearls are also my fondant, rolled into little balls and then rolled in pearl colored edible food powder. It was simple and elegant, slightly under stated so as to not overwhelm her, and of course, fun. It also just happened to be her favorite color.

This cake was so much fun, and a great lesson in learning to truly listen to the Lord's whispers and trust Him. I am so glad I did. Take care everyone, see you next time!


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Classic Candy Themed Cake

Hello everyone!

Long time no see? If you had been following, you know I was in the middle of an international move, and now, I am happy to announce I am here and all settled in! Along with the end of the year came my little love's birthday, number 3 to be exact! Since we didn't know very many people here (at all) the cake I made was smaller than I would have liked but none the less, I really enjoyed how it turned out.

I made this scratch cake with four torted layers of the most wonderful Sour Cream Butter Cake, recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's "The Cake Bible". I am a die hard Rose Levy fan! Nobody's cakes taste as incredible, and bake up as reliably (once you get the science behind the rise!) than hers. Anyways, I filled it with milk chocolate ganache I made with European Galaxy Bar chocolate (I'm here, right?) and covered it with a creamy buttercream frosting and then my fondant. All the decor is fondant as well, with edible glitter powders.

Let me tell you, I have been wanting to do a cake like this for sooo long! It was awesome to finally just create something crazy, all my own, and express what's in my heart. Apparently, my heart is filled with appreciation for old world charms and childhood whimsy! Nevermind I am a nutritarian behind all this cake baking for others, something about the visual appearance of candies made with love AND painstaking skill just warms my heart and always will.

More pics coming...