Monday, April 30, 2012

But this chocolate cake is juuuuuust right.

So I can't quite say I'm the Goldilocks of chocolate cake because I only made two this weekend instead of  the three that Goldilocks status would require, but I feel so much better after making the 2nd cake that I want to compare myself to Goldilocks.

This post has already taken a weird turn. Anyway. I woke up yesterday determined to practice buttercream roses (I learned how to make them from a YouTube tutorial that I found on Pinterest, oh the wonders of technology) and I figured well, if I'm going to defrost the buttercream I may as well make a cake to frost with it. I tried a different cake recipe (from this cookbook) - I used their German chocolate cake recipe without the part that makes it German (the frosting, which, by the way, is a misnomer because it's not actually from Germany, it was created by the German chocolate company to sell more cakes). But I digress. I didn't especially like this recipe but it may be my own fault - I divided a 9" recipe in half to get a 6" recipe, and that results in more volume than a 6" cake pan is designed to handle, which means that the cake itself takes longer than usual to set up in the center because the cake pan is not conducting heat as effectively as it should - so basically, by the time the inside of the cake is cooked, the outside of the cake is overcooked. Maybe I should have reduced the temperature of the oven and done it low and slow or something. Anyway. I digress again.

The batter was delicious for this cake as well - doesn't it look yummy?

Jeremy asked me ten times this weekend if I was baking brownies even though I said probably twelve times that I was making chocolate cakes. But I guess that's what I'm trying to find - a chocolate cake that tastes as good as brownies. I haven't found it yet. But on a positive note, our house smelled like brownies/chocolate/chocolate cake all weekend. Yum! 

I did the usual - cooled the cakes after they were baked, leveled them, torted them, filled them with raspberry jam (I just typed raspberry ham which would be very different from jam), put on a crumb coat, and put it in the fridge to chill. While that was going on, I started practicing my buttercream roses. And I am now in love with buttercream roses. I will make them and put them on anything. My clothes, my dinner, whatever, I don't care. I'll make them out of mashed potatoes if I have to. They are just SO fun to make - and SO SO SO easy. Trust me - if you can handle a piping bag, you can do this. 

After the cake had chilled, I put the roses in the fridge to chill and then started working on icing the cake. I used the petal tip to create what I call the cummerbund effect on the sides of the cake - vertical lines standing next to each other all around the cake. I guess a cummerbund would really be horizontal lines, but this is my blog so get off me. 

After the cummerbund was finished I continued using a petal tip to pipe a layer of icing in concentric circles on the top of the cake, then I switched out to the shell tip to create a shell border around the top and bottom of the cake. Finally, I placed the chilled roses on top of the cake (they were so easy to handle once they were cold because they were nice and firm). This is the finished product:
And I've gotta say I might be more proud of this one than I was of the shower cake. I just LOVE the buttercream roses. I just wish I liked to eat buttercream more than I actually do. 

So I still need to learn more buttercream piping techniques but I'm still having fun learning what I'm learning right now. The funniest part is that both Kelly and Jared/Heather want really simple cakes - nothing too fussy/fancy with lots of piping. So this is really just for my own edification. But that's ok with me because I'm having fun. :)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I want to punt this chocolate cake.

So today I started trying out chocolate cake recipes for Jared and Heather's wedding. The only thing that is good about this cake is that I discovered a frosting recipe that I will not be using. Ever again. Ever.

I used the chocolate cake and chocolate cream cheese frosting recipes from the Georgetown Cupcake Cupcake Diaries cookbook. Chocolate cream cheese frosting just sounded SO GOOD to me and I know it's good when I get it at Georgetown Cupcakes but this is the most difficult icing I've ever worked with. It is hard and dry and refuses to be piped. Absolutely refuses. I was going to work on frosting roses today but that idea went straight out the window as soon as I felt this frosting. I had to get out the widest tips I had to pipe even a minimal amount of this icing.

But let's start at the beginning.

I baked two 6" layers of chocolate cake and it was from legit the most delicious cake batter I have ever tasted. I haven't tasted the actual baked/iced cake yet but I hope it lives up to how it tasted in batter form. So anyway, I baked off the two layers:

They smelled delicious so I hope they taste just the same.

Then while the layers cooled I made the frosting. The evil, evil frosting (it looks like chicken below, hahahahahaha):

Don't get me tastes delicious. It tastes exactly like the filling in a Milky Way (minus the caramel). It's just SO HARD to work with. I torted the layers, filled them with raspberry jam, and attempted to dirty ice the cake...but this stupid frosting didn't want to stick to the cake. It just kept falling right off. I couldn't believe it. Finally I forced it to stick to the cake and put it in the fridge to cool. 

I tried piping when I took the cake out of the fridge but the cake was NOT having it. Well, the icing wasn't. I couldn't force the frosting through the small petal tip I was trying to use to make stripes on the cake or a rose. I switched the petal tip out for a large circle tip and piped a two pearl borders and then used a closed star tip to make some stars and some attempts at rosettes which also didn't work. Finally I decided to make a monogrammed cake for Jeremy and ended up with this...his monogram plus a little heart. Not the most fantastic thing I've ever produced. I'm still mad at the icing and my hand still hurts from piping. I also couldn't get the icing on the sides of the cake to smooth out. 

Oh, and can we talk about the leaning tower of cake here? I didn't do a great job of stacking this cake...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The shower cake was a success!

So as you know I'm doing wedding cakes for two weddings, one in August and one in September, and I've been practicing. So I needed to try out my first tiered cake this weekend because I was recruited by my mom to make a "mini-wedding cake" for the bridal shower she was hosting for a friend. The bride, Carolyn, is marrying a family friend, Tommy. My family and Tommy's family have been celebrating Thanksgiving together for 20 years as of this year (which I cannot believe).

So I decided to do the almond/raspberry/white chocolate cake for the shower. I started on Friday afternoon/evening by baking, torting, dirty icing, and doweling/stacking the layers, as pictured in these photos:

Notice the strips around the larger pans - to be discussed below.  
Noodle I bought these lovely cooling racks with the gift certificate you sent me! 

9" layer, torted, stacked, and dirty iced 

6" layer, torted, stacked, and dirty iced 

both layers stacked and doweled
So I did a 6" tier with two layers and a 9" tier with two layers. The 9" tier was baked off and then put onto a 12" decorative cake board as you can see in the above picture. The 6" tier was baked off and then put onto a 6" cake board as you can (barely) see in the picture just above the last where I'm holding the tiny 6" tier. 

I used "MagiCake" baking strips on the 9" layers and they really did make a difference. They're quite simple when you think about it - they're just strips of fabric that you soak in cold water and then wrap around the outside of your pan and secure with what are basically paper clips. In the oven, they keep the outside cool so that it bakes at the same rate as the inside and the layer comes out much more even on top and much more generally evenly baked. The outsides of the layers weren't as dry as they've otherwise been. I also used a simple syrup bath on each of the layers this time, just brushed on with a pastry brush after the layer was torted and stacked. That also made a huge difference in the texture and taste of the cake, and I wholly recommend it. 

To stack the cake, I placed three bamboo dowels in the bottom layer before placing the 6" layer on top, then I sharpened and drove 1 bamboo dowel through the top and bottom layers (including forcing it through the cake board supporting the 6" layer). It was very sturdy as a result. 

I refrigerated the cake overnight and then piped it yesterday. I used my shell tip in various ways as well as a straight tip to do the swags on the bottom layer. Please see below for the finished product:

I drove the cake down to McLean from Baltimore and then my mom put a really cute Cupid's Arrow she had made through the cake when I arrived for the shower (idea found on Pinterest). Everyone really enjoyed the cake and the taste was much better than the first time I made it, so I'm hoping it'll just continue to get better with time! 

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Help! I need somebody...

I need some ideas from experienced bridal shower attendees/hostesses.

What are fun games to play? My mom is throwing a shower in a couple of weeks and aside from providing the cake I'm also supposed to come up with a game to what are the cool ones? What do all the hip ladies do at bridal showers these days?