Sunday, September 27, 2009

Last night a cardboard-cake-base saved my life

Well...not really. And it wasn't last night either. The long awaited pictures of H-izzo's cake! Isn't it lovely? I admit, the side frosting job was a little shoddy - but by the time I got around to frosting it, I had run out of ideas.

The "deets":
-yellow butter cake layers doused with liquer
-sandwiching layers of whipped cream and local blackberries
-topped with a dark chocolate ganache and more whipped cream


But let me explain this whole "saving my life" story. This is a pretty small cake - probably smaller than a catalogue envelope (5" by 9"), I wanted to keep it small, but dense and full of flavour (success!). Handily, it fit on my lovely Epicurean "Handy" cutting board (picture a thin, flat, wood-composite cutting board about the size of a catalogue envelope with a 4" handle on one end - like a small rectangular pizza peel) and I had been steadily shuttling it in and out of my fridge while assembling. I had put together all the layers and had inserted a few skewers for support (wow! what a hidden lifesaver) and was JUST about to frost - when the unthinkable happened.

I dropped it. On the floor.

I think I was being too cavalier in the kitchen; whirling around my small space with cutting board in hand - when I looked away for a split second when I heard it.


I looked down, and all I could see was the top of my cake and a ring of whipped cream around it. My heart stopped.
But it started beating again when I realized - "hey, it's still upright!" It had landed as perfectly as a dropped cake could. The impact caused some of the filling to spurt out, but otherwise, it was intact. Thanks to that cardboard base and, I suppose, the skewers.
With a shaking hand and beating heart, I quickly finished decorating the cake and let it rest in the fridge until presentation time.

There's really nothing like a cake with fresh fruit - it's so underrated! I'd be tempted to make a traditional mango cake - but I don't trust myself around ripe mangoes. They'd never make it to the cake stage.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Happy Birthday T!

It was the ??th birthday of one half of my dynamic cooking buddies, T & J. This month - it was T's birthday - but I have J's ??th birthday coming up in a mere two months! That's two whole months to sketch out a cake!

I suppose it's become a bit of a tradition of mine to present my friend with a custom birthday cake for the occasion. I think in the years between school and family - we tend to overlook the tradition of presenting an actual cake! It sort of disintegrates into a birthday dessert at a restaurant or, *gasp* a birthday drink. Not that I am opposed to a birthday drink - but hey! I want to slice a cake!

I had two cake presentations this week - the H-izzo's birthday was e
arlier this week, so I had to schedule my week strategically so I could get both of them done. I didn't bring my camera to H-izzo's house, so I'll publish T's cake this post.

It was an unintentionally dense coconut cake baked in a round cake mold, 'filled' with sweet lemon curd and topped with seven minute frosting. Yes, it was quite an undertaking. I had no idea coconut cakes were! All the recipes I looked at contained a sinful amount of butter and eggs, so I opted for a buttermilk-style cake and added coconut and coconut milk (instead of buttermilk). It was baked in a round, Bundt-style cake mold and then I carved out a ring on the top, scooped out some cake, doused the whole thing in a Malibu-syrup, filled it with lemon, replaced the top cake ring and then frosted that mo-fo.

Good times.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Banana Bread...or is it Cake?

Why do they call it bread, anyway? It's not kneaded, not risen and punched down, not yeast based; nothing about 'Banana Bread' is bread! Maybe it's because it's signature shape - traditionally in loaf pans. So should it be called Banana Loaf? I prefer Banana Cake myself - I like a cake-y Banana Bread - the dense ones are too wet and the flavour of the fruit is too concentrated. I like a little more texture in my Banana Bread/Cake/Loaf - which is why it's studded with chocolate chips, toasted coconut, and pecans.


This recipe made a massive amount of cake. I managed to get three decent sized portions out of it. They are relatively flatter than a traditional cake, but meh - more to go around!

Recipe notes:
-Used 5 bananas instead of 6
-Substituted cream instead of creme fraiche
-Added two generous handfuls of chocolate chips
-Added 1/3 cup of toasted coconut (pantry orphan)
-Substituted pecans for walnuts, not toasted
-Reduced oil and sugar with no noticeable difference (reduced by about 25%)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Cuppa cake or two?

Recently I acquired yet another cookbook which features fun and creative way to decorate cupcakes. As a cupcake aficionado myself, I was immediately inspired to make some - decorated like Shibas! What's a Shiba, you ask? Only the cutest breed of dog in the world! They are a beautiful and quirky Japanese breed of dog and my family and I have been helping take care of one for years. She's my fur baby and I thought it would be an appropriate homage to her to make cupcakes with her adorable face on each one.
Unfortunately, it didn't turn out quite how I had envisioned it. The cake was great! Amazing, in fact! (Martha recipe, of course - Yellow Butter Layer Cake) But the so much. Looks decent in the photo, right? But let me tell ya - a classic buttercream is a skill to be learned. And I was schooled. Big time.
The method has three parts:
  1. Make a syrup.
  2. Heat and whisk eggs
  3. Incorporate the two and a mutha load of butter.
Step 1 and 2 went well and as planned, but Step 3 - not so much!
My problems were:
  1. The syrup was waaaaay too hot. (no thanks to my TWO thermometers!)
  2. It cooked some of the eggs (yeah, I know, eewwwwww!).
  3. I didn't strain out the egg bits - I didn't know if straining the syrup would break the syrup or not and I didn't want to risk it.
  4. There are teeny globs of egg in the icing.
  5. I know! Gross, right? But you can't taste them! And I already put three bloody sticks of butter in that mess, so it's too late!
  6. Other than the little globules of egg - they look really pretty.
End result: I didn't make little Shiba faces. I made pretty pink starbursts instead. And sprinkled them with clear sanding sugar. and they taste pretty darn good. Globules of egg and all.