Saturday, July 26, 2014

Daring Bakers! - Surprise Inside Cake

Life has pleasantly surprised me again. But I think the only reason why, is because I have opened myself up to the possibility of surprise. A month ago, I wasn't ready to be in this place. I felt uprooted and out of sorts and just craving comfort through familiarity. But I've finally settled down, settled in, thus permitting myself to experience the out of the ordinary. It's been wonderful. 

Nothing to see here, folks. 

Certain areas of my life are harder to give up some measure of control over than others, especially when I'm feeling insecure. I want to know I am being taken care of, and in a new situation, it can feel like the only person I can rely on is myself. It's something that's a constant work in progress, and has steadily been improving in recent months, but I still fall back into those tendencies sometimes, especially in unfamiliar scenarios. Recently though...I've allowed myself to let go and embrace the unexpected. And it's resulted in a very pleasant "crazy random happenstance", if you will. 

Man, this dinosaur sure loves desserts. 

To mirror the surprises of my life, and because, well, it was this month's Daring Baker's challenge. What a happy coincidence! I've been meaning to make a cake like this for a while, so I'm glad I had an excuse. I thought about making some sort of a design inside as the surprise, but it seemed too failure prone. That is typically the type of thing I am pretty terrible at doing. So I hollowed out a section of this devil's food cake, filled it with those tiny, delicious Cadbury eggs, and covered the whole thing in white chocolate buttercream and rainbow sprinkles to hide the ugly parts, haha. Hope you enjoy. Prepare to be surprised. 

  For the July Daring Baker’s Challenge, Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to bake a cake. But not just any cake; she asked us to add in a special surprise for our eyes as well as our taste buds! 
Surprise Inside Devil's Food Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream

2 cups all-purpose flour 
  1 teaspoon salt  
1 teaspoon baking powder  
2 teaspoons baking soda  
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder  
2 cups sugar  
1 cup vegetable oil  
1 cup hot coffee  
1 cup milk 
  2 large eggs  
1 teaspoon vanilla

 Preheat oven to 325°F. In a large mixing bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Add oil, coffee and milk and mix at medium speed for 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat 2 more minutes. Expect batter to be thin. Pour into three 6 inch pans and bake 30-45 minutes (I know it's a big range) or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting. To make your cake a surprise inside cake, cut a 3-4 inch round out of your center layer. After frosting the first layer, put the second ring over it, fill the cake cavity, and proceed as usual. 

White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting 

3 egg whites
4 ounces good quality white chocolate
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp

Put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer. Melt the white chocolate about halfway in a double boiler. Remove from heat , stir until smooth , and set aside to cool.

Combine the sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan. Set over medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil and cook without stirring, until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage 238 degree F on a candy thermometer.

Immediately start beating the egg whites on medium low speed. Slowly add the syrup in a thin stream, taking care not to hit the beaters. Continue to whip until the mixture is body temperature and stuff meringue has formed.

Reduced the speed to low and add the butter 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time. When the butter is incorporated, beat on medium speed until the frosting appears to curdle. Continue to whip and it will suddenly come together. Add the white chocolate and mix well.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Beet Red Velvet Cake

Sometimes my roommate has trouble making decisions. Not on big, important things, at least I don't think so. He merely...gets bogged down in particulars? So it's often easier to just make a decision for him. Note that I do not enjoy doing this. Especially not about birthday cakes. How can one not care what kind of cake they have?! 

"Adam. Please. What kind of cake do you want, I can make anything." Know that no one ever asks for anything out of the ordinary, but I can always hope.
"Okay, I want Red Velvet," he says emphatically. 
NOOOOO. If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you might know my dislike for red velvet. There is something sinister about all that dye. But wait...
"Ugh, fine, I'll do it. But I'm going to use beets instead of food coloring." 
He looked somewhat taken aback, but didn't object. So there was indeed a way to make this cake out of the ordinary. 

It wasn't horrible! It didn't taste like beets! If I hadn't told everyone about the beets so they could prepare themselves in case it was barfworthy, I don't think anyone would have known. It's not going to be as shockingly red as it would be if you used dye, but it was still clearly red. Now I can make red velvet again without feeling gross. On the side note, the frosting on this was fantastic, a cream cheese Swiss meringue buttercream. Yeah, a little more complex than American buttercream/cream cheese frosting, but worth it to me. 

Beet Red Velvet Cake
from Korena in the Kitchen

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened 
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup beet purée 
3/4 tsp vanilla extract 
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp natural cocoa powder (NOT Dutch process)

1/2 cup cultured buttermilk 
 1 1/2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice 

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter two 6″ round cake pans, then line the bottoms with parchment paper and butter the paper. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in eggs one at a time. Add beets and vanilla.
In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients:
In a liquid measuring cup, combine buttermilk, rice vinegar, and lemon juice. Add the dry and wet ingredients alternately to the beet mixture, making three additions of dry and two additions of wet (starting and ending with dry). Mix gently to incorporate, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans  Bake the cakes in the preheated 350˚F oven for 35 – 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few point crumbs sticking to it (start checking after about 25 minutes). Run a knife around the edge of the pan, invert the cakes onto a rack, and cool completely.
When cool, split the cakes in half horizontally and frost with Cream Cheese Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting. Use about 2/3 of the batch to fill between the 4 layers, then frost the top and sides with the remaining buttercream (you might need to chill the whole thing after stacking/filling the layers if the frosting gets very soft).

Put the cake in the fridge to chill while you make the 
White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Ganache:
In a small saucepan, heat until just boiling:
5 tbsp half and half cream
2 tbsp cream cheese
1 tsp butter
Pour the hot mixture over 5 oz chopped white chocolate and let it sit for a minute to melt, then stir until smooth. Stir in a pinch of salt and let it cool until thick enough to spread.

Pour the ganache over the chilled cake and spread it gently down over the top and sides of the cake (don’t be like me – put the cake on the serving platter AFTER you cover it in ganache). Chill again to set, then take out of the fridge about an hour before serving.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Sky High Strawberry Shortcake

Happy 4th of July, my American readers, which, I'm going to just assume is the majority of you (if there are international readers out there, I would love to hear from you!). This year is the first year I'll be celebrating the 4th of July without my family, which is a weird prospect for me. It's not that the 4th is a huge deal in my family, it's just that...we've always been together, doing almost the exact same thing, for basically my entire life (save the year we were in Canada for the 4th, but we still watched Canada Day fireworks together over Niagara Falls). 

Here's what always happened: when we were younger, we would go down to the park by the river, either together or with friends, and play silly carnival games, pet baby animals, and watch the water ski team do tricks. Then we either attended a party at a house on the river's edge, or, in more recent years, staked out a spot in the park and watched the fireworks over the river. I love fireworks – certain things will never stop being awe-inspiring to me, and the 4th has the added punch of nostalgia. 

Maybe I'll start developing new traditions? Or maybe things will just be eclectic and vary from year to year. Maybe I'll make a massive strawberry shortcake like this one. It's not as big as it looks, since each layer is only 6 inches, but it's still fairly impressive. And way better than those spongy little cups and "non dairy whipped topping" (shiver). 

Sky High Strawberry Shortcake
(I can't get the italics off, guhhhh)
Adapted from Sky-High Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes
Makes one 6-inch triple layer cake; serves 8 to 10
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup buttermilk
Lightly Sweetened Whipped Cream
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar 
Fresh Strawberry Filling
2 pints strawberries, small if possible, about 1/2 pint reserved for garnish
1 teaspoon of rosewater or 1 tablespoon anisette liqueur 
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
For the Cake Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottoms and sides of three 6-inch round cake pans.  Line the bottom with a round of parchment of waxed paper and then grease with butter.
In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment or electric hand mixer, cream butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Add dry ingredients to the batter, alternating with buttermilk in 2 to 3 additions. When mixing, do not let the mixer exceed medium speed (unless using a low-power hand-held mixer). This will ensure that gluten does not form, and you have a soft airy cake. Divide patter evenly among three prepared cake pans.
Bake cakes for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cakes cool in pans for 10 minutes; invert cakes onto wire racks, carefully peel off parchment and allow cakes to cool completely.
For the Fresh Strawberry Filling & Whipped Cream
Clean and hull strawberries, and slice into pieces about the thickness of a nickel. My berries were really small and compact in the pints, so I stopped slicing when I had about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of berries. Place sliced berries in a bowl and add sugar, rosewater and vanilla. Toss to coat, cover and let berries macerate at room temperature for about an hour.
In a large chilled bowl, with chilled beaters, whip the cream and sugar until stiff. There will be about three cups.
To Assemble
Place one layer on cake stand or serving plate, flat side up. Top with 3/4 cup of strawberry filling, spooning over the entire cake layer, and trying to keep juices from running on the plate. Top with one cup of whipped cream, spreading evenly over berries. Repeat with second layer of cake, 3/4 cup of berries, and 1 cup of whipped cream. Top with remaining layer of cake. Cover with last of the whipped cream and garnish with fresh, whole berries. For best flavor, cover the cake with dome or loose plastic wrap and refrigerate for about two hours before slicing and serving.
Note: I reduced the strawberry filling slightly since I didn’t think the cake needed additional berries spooned over the cake for serving. If you’d like to serve extra sliced berries on the side, increase berries to 2 quarts, rosewater to 2 teaspoons, vanilla to 2 teaspoons and sugar to 1/2 cup.