Archive for November, 2008

Tiered Caramel Cakes with Caramelized Ginger Butter Frosting

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

After hosting a hectic Thanksgiving gathering, I erm, didn’t get to complete this challenge until today. I wasn’t sure I could find the time or the room in my stomach, but I couldn’t skip a cake challenge! November’s challenge, caramel cake with caramelized butter frosting, comes from Shuna Fish Lydon, from Eggbeater and the original recipe is posted here. The cake was made following her recipe exactly, but after reading about some Daring Bakers complaining about the overly sweet nature of the frosting, I added ground ginger and a bit of cinnamon to the frosting.


I decided to go with a stacked mini cake this time, well, just because. Now, I underestimated the difficulty of this mini cake. I found it a much more painstaking process to frost these little babies as opposed to a larger cake because you don’t have the weight of the cake to anchor it as you frost. Well, I had to see my idea it to its completion, so I stuck with it.

Admittedly, my mini cake resembled a wedding cake. My wedding anniversary has passed, so we found some other friends who were celebrating their anniversary. In case you don’t know who they are, they are Moomins, adorable and adventurous Finnish characters from books my husband grew up reading.




10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F

Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.

Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift flour and baking powder.

Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.

Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.

Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.

caramel syrup (though probably darker than it should be)


2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for “stopping” the caramelization process)
In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.

When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.

Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.


12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner’s sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner’s sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.
To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

Thank you Dolores from Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity, Alex from Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie and Jenny from Foray into Food for hosting this month’s challenge. To see what other Daring Bakers have come up with this month, please visit the Daring Bakers site.

Culinary Demos from the Chocolate Show

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

I’m still getting over my sugar rush from this weekend’s 11th Annual Chocolate Show. Now that the chocolate dust has settled a bit, I wanted to post some pics from the culinary demonstrations. Some might regard the demos as secondary to all the chocolate samples from the show, but personally, I think they are valuable experiences in themselves. And you get desserts at the end!


Pictured above are François Payard and his domed layer cake with chocolate ruffles. I caught the tail end of this demo so unfortunately, I’m not sure what the actual creation was. The recipes from the show are supposed to be up on the Chocolate Show site soon.


Jacques Torres is always a popular attraction. Here he is making a chocolate bowl, dipping a balloon in chocolate in a tulip-like pattern to create the bowls pictured below. They were filled with a chocolate sauce and chocolate caramel popcorn. The man works with such lightning speed, he also demonstrated this tiered chocolate cone with two-toned shortbread cookies. (Pieces were assembled beforehand, of course, but I’m still in awe over what he accomplished in under an hour.)


On Sunday, a representative from the Italy based Amedei presented a guided tasting of some of their chocolates. Amedei is regarded as some of the best chocolates in the world, and is relatively difficult to find in the US. It was created by quality-obsessed brother-sister team Alessio and Cecilia Tessieri, with Alessio scouring the earth to source the best cacao and Cecilia creating the chocolate.


We were instructed on the proper way of tasting chocolate: 1. Look at the piece -the color should be uniform with no trace of grey, or cocoa butter separation 2. Snap – there should be a sharp snap. 3. Smell the aroma. 4. Taste

Some of the aromas/tastes evoked from the various chocolates were tobacco, green tea, forest, exotic fruits, spices, nuts, etc. The Madagascar chocolates are one of Amedei’s more exotic types, with traces of minerals from the volcanic soil from which the cocoa is grown.

Another highlight was watching Rich Capizzi from Bouchon Bakery and famed restaurant Per Se. He demonstrated an uber-sophisticated “Chocolate S’mores” dish. In the photo below, he is making marshmallows and gauging the temperature of the boiled sugar by dipping his hand in cold water, and then into the melted sugar which he rolled into a ball to test its pliability. I think I’ll just use a thermometer, thank you.


Rich brough a very generous sampling of five of Bouchon Bakery’s cookies: Nutter Butters, TKO’s (Thomas Keller Oreos), Oatmeal, Shortbread, and Chocolate Chip. (It wasn’t until we were halfway into the cookies that I remembered to take photos, as you can see.)


Afterwards, we sampled the exotic s’mores plated dessert. There are several components here including a chocolate brownie, graham cracker crunch, marshmallow, chocolate cremeux shaped into quenelle and dipped in “magic crack” or chocolate shell, cocoa nib coulis, and chocolate emulsion. Phew – I hope I got it all. I’d say the cost of the desserts we sampled in this demo alone were equivalent if not more than the entrance fee to the Chocolate Show.


I also managed to squeeze in one more demo from Kate Zuckerman from Chanterelle restaurant in New York, and author of The Sweet Life. Kate demonstrated a chocolate caramel tart with crushed caramel decorations.


A very edifying and inspiring show! Now that I’m about armed with all this new found knowledge and inspiration, I’ve got to make use of the ahem, over 20 pounds of couverture that I purchased from the show…

NY Chocolate Show Opening Night & Fashion Show

Friday, November 7th, 2008

On Nov. 6, the opening night/fashion show for the 11th Annual Chocolate Show was held in New York, an event to benefit the Susan G. Komen foundation for the cure. The show has switched locations from the Metropolitan Pavilion to Pier 94, on 55th St. and 12th Ave. Pier 94 is a more spacious venue, which will hopefully better suit the large crowds. Here’s a preview, though this is probably the least populated you will see it:


A handful of vendors were set up for the preview/opening night. Among them were Éclat Chocolate, who displayed  cocoa sticks (below, left), which are melted in hot milk to create hot cocoa. They also had some spicy peppercorn chocolates shaped in disks. Oliver Kita had some fashionista chocolate shoes (below, right) adorned with what appears to be crystallized violets.


Two booths that you will not want to miss are Mary’s from Japan (below, top and bottom left) and the Italian Confederation which is comprised of several Italian vendors (below, top and bottom right). They both have some amazing chocolate available to purchase only at the chocolate show (outside of Japan and Italy, of course). Mary’s green tea truffle samples were a big hit last year and kept flying off their counter. The chocolates from the Italian Confederation table are also notable. I sampled some salted chocolates, Gianduja, and chocolates topped with lemon rinds (wow), which were excellent.


Keep in mind there will be many more vendors at the actual show, including Amadei, Jacques Torres, John & Kira’s, Valrhona (among others), and you can find the full list and more info here.

On to the chocolate fashion show! This year, former Project Runway designers and celebrity pastry chefs joined forces to create pieces under the theme of Superheroes! Here are some pieces from the show:


Left: “Villain to Mother Nature (Oil Spill) by Renee Masoomian & Vedika Webb and Right: “Viracocha” made by Steve Evetts of the Marriott Marquis and designed by Brian Bustos.
Fierce and fiercer!    


Clockwise, from upper left: “Black Phoenix” by Kit Scarbo, Fritz Knipschildt, and Torben Bang, “Ironman” by Faith Drobin and Michelle Tampakis, “Barbarella” by Gregory Fale, Richard Capizzi & Grand Marnier, “Batgirl” by Michael Plosky & Martin Howard, ”Storm” by Vanessa Greeley and Dina Sadik, modeled by Sophie Deni.

The actual Chocolate show takes place this weekend, Friday to Sunday November 7-9, 2008, and will include demonstrations by some top pastry chefs (which itself is worth the $28 price of admission), activities for children, book signings from pastry chefs, as well as  the full roster of chocolate vendors. For more info on the show, click here.

Note: Please contact me at [email protected] if any pastry artists/designers were not credited appropriately.