Thursday, May 27, 2010

Croquembouche with the Daring Bakers

I've been meaning to make a Croquembouche (also known as a piece montée) for months and months, and I finally did it.  Not quite as eye-catching as I'd like, but it'll be better next time. I'll have the whole recipe and more pics really really soon, but here's one to tide you over!


Fine print:  

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lemon Squares

I promise, my baking repertoire includes more than just layer cakes! Take these lemon squares for instance.  They're not overly sweet, but they have a strong lemony flavor.  My only complaint about lemon squares is that after you've completed the none-too-short tasks of juicing and zesting the lemons, putting together the crust, and baking the final treats, you're left with... lemon bars.  They taste great, but as I stare at my bare, disemboweled lemons, I always feel like I've earned something just a little fancier.

Three cake orders in the next week though, so many more layer cakes to come!  And a really fun Daring Bakers Challenge this Thursday - stay tuned!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mint Chocolate Layer Cake

It's rare that you eat a piece of chocolate cake and feel as refreshed as if you had just brushed your teeth.  But mint does that, even when it's combined with lots of chocolate.  I've been using the chocolate and mint flavor combination a lot recently, and only by request, but I just may be coming around to this dynamic duo myself.

No picture of the inside of the cake, as it was an order - but I really like the look of the white filling against the dark cake layers.  And if you're really feeling adventurous, dye the filling green!

This recipe is for a 2-layer 6" cake.   You can double the recipe for a 3-layer 9" cake.

Chocolate Cake (adapted from Bon Appetit)

1 1/2 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate
3/4 cups hot brewed coffee*

1 1/2 cups sugar  
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour  
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)  
1 teaspoon baking soda  
scant 1/2 teaspoon baking powder  
3/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 large eggs
(use 3 eggs rather than 4 if you double the recipe)
3/8 cup (that's 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons, or 6 fluid ounces) vegetable oil

3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
scant 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

*You can replace the coffee with half whole milk, half water if you're baking for kids.  The coffee flavor is barely discernible in the cake, it just enhances the flavor of the chocolate.

Preheat the oven to 300°F and spray 2 6" pans with baking spray. Line bottoms with rounds of parchment paper and spray paper as well (you can get away without the parchment paper if you spray the pans very well and if your pans are good quality).

Finely chop the chocolate and place in a medium bowl; pour hot coffee over the chocolate. Let stand for one minute, then stir until chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

In another large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer).
Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well.
Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well.

Divide batter between pans and bake in the middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 50-65 minutes.

Cool the cake layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove parchment paper and cool layers completely.

Mint Filling

1 stick butter (4 ounces), room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon mint extract (or 1/4 teaspoon mint oil)
3 cups (about 12 ounces) powdered sugar
3-4 tablespoons milk

In a large bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer.  Add the vanilla and mint extracts.  Gradually add one cup of sugar,  beating well on medium speed. Scrape the bowl.  Add the remaining sugar, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the sugar.

Add more powdered sugar to make the frosting stiffer, more milk or water to make frosting creamier.

To save time or to really overload on the chocolate, you may want to use the mint chocolate frosting to fill the cake as well. I personally like to cut the chocolate a little with a different filling.

Mint Chocolate Frosting

4 1/2 tablespoons butter (2 1/4 ounces)
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 ounces semisweet chocolate
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon mint extract (or 1/4 teaspoon mint oil)
3 cups (about 12 ounces) powdered sugar
3 ounces (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) milk, heated to lukewarm

Beat butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes.

Blend in the melted chocolate, salt, vanilla, mint, and 1 cup powdered sugar.

Add in the rest of the powdered sugar in three additions, alternating with the milk in two additions (begin and end with the powdered sugar). Add more powdered sugar for heavier (this may be necessary if you want to pipe your frosting) frosting, or more milk for a creamier frosting.  Use immediately.


Be sure to chill the cakes before frosting.  Place a layer of chocolate cake on a plate or cake board, and place scraps of parchment paper between the cake and plate/board.  Spread a thick layer of mint frosting on top, leaving a 1/2" border at the edge (the weight of the second layer will cause the frosting to spread towards the edges).  You may have some filling left over.  Freeze for a later use (you can use it in place of the mint layer of chocolate mint brownies).  Top with the remaining cake layer, and chill while you prepare the chocolate frosting.  Frost the cake as soon as the chocolate mint frosting is done - if you can't, you'll need to rewhip the frosting, and you might need to add some milk.

Decorate with shaved chocolate and mint leaves, if desired.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Birthday Cake 2010: Almond, Chocolate, Praline & Brown Butter

Wow, it's been over 3 weeks since my birthday, and I'm just getting you the recipe now. It's been a crazy two months - lots of orders, exams to grade, finals to write. But Friday was my last class until February, so I should be here a lot more often in the coming months. I have been baking this whole time, and I have all sorts of things just waiting to post!

For the past four years, I've made a peanut butter cake with chocolate ganache and cream cheese frosting for my birthday, but I decided to change it up this year.  This year, I made a raspberry ice cream cake (coming soon) and an almond cake with chocolate praline ganache filling and brown butter moscato d'asti frosting.  It went over really well. I couldn't taste the wine in the frosting as much as I would have liked, so I'll try to remedy that next time, but otherwise I think I'll leave it as is for next time.

Almond Cake (adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum):  makes 3 9" layers

4 eggs
1 1/3 cups sour cream, separated
2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/3 cups cake flour, sifted
2/3 cups finely ground almonds, toasted and preferably unblanched
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 sticks butter (12 ounces), room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray 3 9" round cake pans with baking spray, line with parchment paper, and spray again.

In a medium bowl, stir together the eggs, 1/3 cup of the sour cream, and the extracts.  Set aside. Don't worry, it won't be smooth or pretty.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the dry ingredients - mix for 30 seconds.  Add the butter and the remaining 1 cup of sour cream, and mix on low until combined.  Mix on medium for 2 minutes to aerate batter.  Add the egg and sour cream mixture in 3 additions, beating 20 seconds after each addition.

Split the batter between the cake pans, and smooth with a rubber spatula.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until a toothpick just comes out clean.  

Let the cakes cook in their pans for about 10 minutes, then turn on to cooling rack.  Cool completely, then wrap in plastic wrap and chill until ready to frost.

Chocolate Praline Ganache Filling

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup praline

Place the chocolate in a bowl; it doesn't have to be chopped finely, but you don't want any pieces that are much bigger than a blueberry.  Bring the cream to a boil, and pour over the chocolate. Stir in the praline if desired, and chill.

The ganache should be fairly thick before you spread it on the cake, you don't want it to squish out the sides when you place the cake layers over it. A couple of hours in the fridge should be sufficient.  If it's too thick to spread when you remove from the fridge, just microwave on half power for 10 seconds or so and stir.

Brown Butter & Moscato d'Asti Frosting (enough to frost and decorate (but not fill) a 9" 3-layer cake)

3 sticks butter, browned
1 1/2 pounds powdered sugar
6-8 tablespoons heavy cream
6-8 tablespoons Frangelico (or water or your choice of liqueur)
Pinch of Kosher salt (optional)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Brown the butter, pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, and set aside to cool.  Wait for it to cool completely.

Pour the cooled brown butter into mixer bowl (paddle attachment).  Add about 1/3 of the powdered sugar, and beat.  Add the caramel syrup, and continue beating. Add half the remaining powdered sugar, and beat. Add the 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of heavy cream, and beat until smooth.  Add more cream if you'd like the frosting to be softer, and more powdered sugar if you'd like it to be stiffer. Add salt if desired.

Dye the frosting if desired.  Refrigerate until ready to use.  Re-whip the frosting right before use. If it's been in the refrigerator long (say over night), you might need to let it sit for an hour or two before it's ready to whip and frost).


Place one cake layer on a cake board, and slide scraps of parchment paper between the cake and the board.  Top with half the chocolate ganache.  Top with another cake layer and the remaining ganache.  Chill before frosting if the ganache is not thick enough to set yet.

Frost the top and sides of the cake.  When you've covered the whole cake, run your offset spatula under hot water for 30 seconds, and quickly dry it.  Run the spatula around the top and sides of the cake to smooth out the frosting (hold the spatula still very lightly against the cake at an angle, and rotate the cake on a revolving cake stand if you have one).  Remove the parchment paper, and decorate the rest of the cake as desired (borders, flowers, etc).

What a difference flowers make!


Stumble Upon Toolbar