Archive for the 'Cakes' Category

cosmic dome cake

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

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This Filbert Gateau with praline buttercream, filbert (or hazelnut) genoise and ganache glaze was perhaps the most frustrating Daring Baker’s Challenge for me yet, which really shouldn’t have been since it IS cake, and I should be fortunate I was in my element. I want to attribute it up to the heat and the fact that this wasn’t the most seasonally appropriate cake to make, but I just wasn’t as inspired with this month’s challenge.

I thought I’d experiment with this cake by trying a dome shape. I received a Betty Crocker bake and fill kit a few years ago, which included a dome baking pan. I didn’t actually bake the cake in the pan (the depth of the center would mean increased baking time = dry cake). Instead, I baked the cake as a sheet and cut out circles of various sizes to fill the cake.

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The praline wasn’t sufficiently incorporated into buttercream, hence the chunks. It still tasted delicious but I knew that piping anything decorative on the surface of the cake would be nightmare. I decided to try it but as expected, the constantly clogging tip just wasn’t working. (While I think I’ve done a decent job covering up the blemishes between touching up the cake and avoiding photographing at certain angles, I can technically still say that the buttercream is part of the decoration, as that was a requirement in this challenge.) Anyway, after some deliberation I decided I would decorate with chocolate modeling paste.

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I rolled out the modeling paste onto a thin sheet and cut circles out of it, and painted the circles with edible gold dust.

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Cutting out and arranging the circles proved meditative and helped quel an otherwise frustrating experience. In the end, I was pleased with the mod/abstract aesthetics of the cake. But right up until the end, even cutting the cake proved challenging. The firmer chocolate circles pressed into the soft sides of cake from the pressure of the knife, so I had to freeze the cake to firm it up and wait another day to actually cut into the cake.

Another challenge down and boy am I glad this one is over. To see what other Daring Bakers have concocted this month, click here.

Variations on a Theme: Encore de l’Opéra

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

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You could say I’ve been on an Opéra kick lately. I made the above shortly after the completion of May’s Daring Baker’s challenge and I’m posting this just in case the food blogging world hasn’t seen enough Opéra cakes lately. After having tried a less traditional pistachio-apricot Opéra last time, I was curious to try the classic flavor combination of espresso syrup-soaked almond joconde, mocha buttercream, ganache and chocolate glaze and used the recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets. These flavors did not disappoint. Actually, that’s an understatement. I made these for a party and people’s eyes bulged out after taking a bite.

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My next Opéra variation was for my boss’ 50th birthday. I made a Frangelico-espresso syrup soaked almond joconde, with peanut butter mousse, ganache, and chocolate glaze. My boss loves the designs of the luxury hand woven leather goods manufacturer Bottega Veneta, so I created a chocolate bow inspired by their classic woven patterns. The bow was made from chocolate modeling paste, onto which I imprinted the criss-cross design. I cut out strips, formed them into loops, and arranged the loops into a decorative bow. For the stitching detail, I used a decorative comb used to created ridges on the sides of cakes. The triangular teeth had the perfect spacing to create a repeated indented pattern that resembled stitching. The entire bow was dusted with gold dust.

Opéra Cake with Apricot Mousse and Pistachio Buttercream

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

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I was sooo excited when I found out this month’s Daring Bakers challenge was an Opéra cake. I’ve enjoyed my share of similarly quadrilateral shaped layer cakes in Paris, always wondering how they were done (and mostly questioning how those sides were cut with such laser-like precision).

This month’s Opéra cake challenge was a marriage of recipes from Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion. While the Opéra cake is typically made with joconde, dark chocolate ganache, and buttercream, the twist for this month’s challenge was to keep the colors and flavors light, i.e. no dark chocolate, coffee, etc. I decided the light theme would be well suited for Mother’s Day, so I ultimately decided upon a combination of almond joconde flavored with apricot-kirsch syrup, pistachio buttercream, apricot mousse, apricot glaze. This flavor combination was inspired by a class on petits gateaux that I took with Chef Chad Pagano at the ICE. I filled it with fresh apricot chunks, and the top is decorated with white chocolate swirls, chopped pistachios and specks of edible gold leaf.

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For the buttercream recipe, I used an old standby which can be found on a previous post (with modified quantities). I mixed pistachio paste into the basic buttercream at the end and it was delicious. Sugar Chef made an amazing creation and was kind enough to post her recipe and photo on the Daring Baker’s non-public site and I basically used her mango mousse recipe to create my apricot mousse. For the glaze, I used agar agar dissolved in apricot juice. I also used syrup flavored with kirsch and apricot juice to moisten the cake. The white chocolate swirls were a bit tricky. Instead of just drizzling the chocolate over the top of the glaze, I drizzled it over silpat which I topped with chopped pistachios while the chocolate was still liquid. I then carefully transferred the fragile, hardened white chocolate web onto the top of the cake. I did this perhaps unnecessarily complicated maneuver so the pistachio bits would adhere only to the chocolate, not the glaze. Finally, I added a few small bits of edible gold leaf.

I’m thrilled these seemingly daunting cakes were finally demystified! Though there are some changes I would make to this cake next time, the process was actually much simpler than I would have guessed. And the getting the sides cut neatly wasn’t rocket science and didn’t require a laser. A freezer and a long knife dipped in hot water and cleaned, however, was extremely helpful.

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Thanks to Lis, Ivonne, Fran, and Shea for hosting and choosing such an awesome challenge! If you’d like the basic recipe, I’m hoping and fairly certain you will find it on their sites. For an inspiring roundup of other Daring Bakers’ concoctions, click here.
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Whimsical Spring Cake: Luscious Lemon Layer Cake with Passion Fruit Buttercream

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

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My first Daring Bakers challenge is coincidentally, similar to the first layer cake I ever posted on my blog. Since I was already familiar with the techniques for making the cake and buttercream, I puzzled over how I would re-create this challenge. I ultimately decided to make a cake that celebrated Spring and Easter: a luscious lemon layer cake with passion fruit buttercream and apricot jam. The top is decorated with a spun sugar nest and chocolate mini-eggs dusted with iridescent luster dusts.

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I’ve been enamored with passion fruit for a while. This tart, intensively flavored tropical fruit found in South America, Southeast Asia and Australia is not the most accessible or economical fruit. I found purees available on Amazon and L’epicerie, and also found the actual fruit available at my local Garden of Eden store for $2 for one piece. Consequently, I was delighted when my husband came home one day with passion fruit pulp he found in the freezer section of our local supermarket, at about $2 for the Goya brand. I haven’t actually tried many passion fruit purees or pulps for comparison, but I think the Goya brand flavored the buttercream just fine. As an added bonus, the passion fruit pulp tinted the buttercream a lovely and natural yellow color, the very color I had envisioned for my cake, which also hints to the lemon flavored cake within.

At the risk of belaboring my passion for passion fruit, waxing philosophical over cake, and perhaps drawing too many connections, the thought occurred to me after the fact that this fruit was appropriate for Easter for another reason. While researching how “passion fruit” got its name, I discovered that it was attributed to early European explorers who thought the flower of the passion fruit resembled the crown of thorns in the passion of Christ.

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Pictured above is the spun sugar nest I made. I actually received a second degree burn in the process – but fortunately, I am quite experienced at treating burns thanks to my glassblowing experience. I made this nest as I was treating my burn, so I suppose it came out sufficiently well under the circumstances. I piped buttercream vines and flowers, which I then painted over with edible luster dust dissolved in alcohol.

I thought I would earn some brownie points with my parents by bringing the cake to their church for Easter. I was concerned that the passion fruit/apricot/lemon combination would be too tart, but the cake was a huge hit and people responded very positively to the flavors. The Korean congregation felt the need to sing, as if celebrating a birthday, and somehow this cake got lost in translation as they sang in broken English:

Happy Easter to you
Happy Easter to you
Happy Easter, Jesus Christ
Happy Easter to you!

Without further ado, here is the recipe (the original is from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours, but I am posting a version with the adjustments I made):

For the Cake
2¼ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream (this is 1.5x Doree’s buttercream recipe, to accommodate the extra needed for decorating)
1½ cup sugar
6 large egg whites
4½ sticks (18 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup passion fruit pulp (start with less and add to taste)

For Filling
apricot jam

Optional Decorations
spun sugar nest
chocolate mini eggs, such as Cadbury’s or make your own truffle eggs
luster dust

Getting Ready
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl. Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.

Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2 minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean.

Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from the heat.
Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again. On medium speed, gradually beat in the passion fruit pulp, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more. You should have a shiny smooth, velvety buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half. Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Spread with preserves. Cover the jam evenly with buttercream. Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer. Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and frost the sides and top with buttercream. [Tip: I like to do a “crumb coat” before the final frosting, which seals the crumbs and prevents it from mixing into the frosting. Frost the entire cake with a very thin layer of buttercream and refrigerate for about 15 minutes. Then proceed to frost the cake with the rest of the buttercream.] Decorate as you wish.

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Serving
The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold.

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First Daring Baker’s challenge completed! Thanks to Morven for hosting this month’s event, and to Lis and Ivonne for founding the group. To see what fellow daring bakers have created for this month’s theme, click on the logo below.

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Asian Black Pearl Layer Cake with Ginger, Wasabi and Black Sesame Seeds

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

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I’m a big fan of Vosges Haut Chocolat’s exotically flavored chocolates, so I was dying to try this recipe for a cake modeled after their Black Pearl chocolate flavored with ginger, wasabi and black sesame seeds. The opportunity finally arose when I had to make a cake for my brother-in-law’s birthday. At first I was a bit wary of the chocolate bar’s translation into cake form, but this recipe ended up being a knockout. I think it was one of the most delicious cakes I’ve ever tried or made. If you’re a fan of ginger and Asian flavors, I would highly recommend it.

The flavor combination is sophisticated but cohesive. The chocolate cake layers with ginger bits are soaked with a vanilla bean/ginger syrup, which infuses moistness throughout; the ganache is flavored with ginger, wasabi and laced with black sesame seeds for a subtle crunch. The lightness of the ginger whipped cream frosting sprinkled with more black sesame seeds is a perfect compliment to the luscious cake.

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The modifications I made to the recipe were using one 10″ springform pan instead of three 8″ pans. The cake rose right up to the edge, so I would not use a 9″ springform, or it will probably spill over. Using one springform increased the baking time to a total of about an hour. I also doubled the ginger powder and added extra wasabi, but the latter was still very subtle. I also stabilized the whipped cream with 3/4 tsp of powdered gelatin dissolved in 3 tsp water. This is not necessary – I just like the added insurance. For decoration, I added slivers of crystallized ginger.

Tip: If you are pressed for time for waiting for the ganache to set, place it in a pot over a ice-water bath, stirring the ganache. It should firm up in minutes.

Black Pearl Layer Cake

Please see recipe at epicurious.com

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flourless cake, two ways

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

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For February’s Daring Bakers challenge, I went with a flourless chocolate cake with cardamom/kaffir lime infused ice cream and banana passion fruit sauce, sprinked with cacao nibs. I’ll admit not crazy about my presentation, but I really loved the flavor combination of cardamom, kaffir lime and passion fruit/banana…yum…The kaffir lime leaves were given to me from my sister in law’s Thai aunt. I’ve got a stash in the freezer that I’ve been wanting to incorporate into desserts.

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE’s blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.
We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

Chocolate Valentino
Preparation Time:  20 minutes

16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.
2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).
5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. {link of folding demonstration}
8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C
9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.
10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

I also had a gluten-free friend who was hosting a party, and since I had already cut out hearts for the challenge cake, I decided to try another flourless cake recipe. I thought the challenge cake came out a bit dense, but it was quite possibly due to my over-baking. At any rate, I tried the recipe for Williams Sonoma’s Flourless Chocolate torte. This one calls for rum, sugar and more eggs and while simply presented, I thought this one was more successful. And the booze couldn’t hurt.

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Foray into Foret Noir: Adventures with Agar Agar and Soyatoo

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

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I’ve been wanting to create a vegan black forest cake for a while, so a recent family gathering presented itself as the perfect opportunity to experiment with one. Also, I came across this oddly named product “Soyatoo” at the local health food store, which aroused both my curiosity and suspicion. It’s a vegan whippable soy topping which comes in either the boxed version pictured below or a spray cream.

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There were several components to this cake that were new to me, and that I ended up struggling with. Aside from the fact that I’m still new to the vegan desserts thing, I’ve only used agar agar once before and I was scratching my head over what to do with soyatoo. But I had a vision of a cake with an ethereal miroir glaze, and it was to have the components of a black forest cake, with French-style aesthetics, and it was to going to be vegan.

I used a cake recipe from Fran Costigan’s non-dairy desserts class at ICE (seems I’ve gotten quite a bit of mileage out of this class). It turned out delicious and moist. I also used her recipe for a cherry cream made from silken firm tofu, reconstituted dried cherries and chopped chocolate as a basis for my cherry “mousse”. However, here’s where the soyatoo comes in – in order to stabilize it a bit more and create a more mousse-like texture, I added agar agar to a portion of the soyatoo, then added this to firmly whipped soyatoo. I then folded this whipped soyatoo into the cherry cream to create a mousse, which I refrigerated for a few hours. I lined the bottom of a cake ring with the cake (the same technique I used in my last post), spread a layer of cherry mousse over the cake, lined the sides with halved and pitted cherries at regular interval, and filled the ring with the remaining mousse. I let this set in the refrigerator while I went to experiment with my agar agar miroir.

A miroir or mirror is typically made with gelatin, but since I was making a vegan cake, I used agar agar dissolved in boiled cherry juice. I ended up having to create several few layers for adequate coverage, but I finally achieved the glass-like quality I was hoping for, which was thrilling!

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I was really happy that the cake turned out okay, that my experiments were successful overall. Next time, I would modify the cake to mousse proportion, adding another layer of cake, perhaps. Also, I thought the soyatoo had a slight aftertaste, though my husband thought it was quite good. I googled the product to see what others thought and it seems some people swear by this stuff while others have a less pleasant reaction. It’s a personal, subjective taste, but I think it’s a reasonable substitute for whipping cream, which I’d use again if essential.

Exquisite, Virtuous Vegan Parisian Chocolate Mousse Cake

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

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I entered this cake into my first baking contest at thekitchn.com’s bittersweet baking contest and was thrilled when it chosen by the editors as a finalist! Dorie Greenspan, James Beard award winning author of books on legends such as Julia Child, Daniel Boulud, Pierre Herme etc., was among the judges. As it that weren’t awe-inspiring in and of itself, I was ecstatic when I read her comments:

“I’ve never set out to make anything specifically vegan, but this recipe is so well done that I wanted to try it: it makes a convincing case as a delicious, multi-textured cake; the fact that it’s vegan might be a bonus, but it’s not the cake’s sole virtue. My guess is that the cake’s tri-part chocolate components and its polished looks will capture the imaginations of other ambitious bakers.”

Speaking of authors, pioneering pasty chef Fran Costigan, whose vegan baking class I took last year at ICE and whose cake recipe I used as a basis for this cake, also had this to say: “…thank you for taking what you learned and creating a masterpiece that reflects your creativity and skill”.

It’s admittedly a great leap in style from my previous cakes but I’ve been trying to take steps towards a healthier lifestyle, including exploring alternative cake recipes. I am not a vegan by any means, but I find vegan baking techniques appealing for their absence of cholesterol-laden ingredients such as butter, eggs and milk. I also wanted to make it aesthetically appealing, as I know many people might be wary of vegan baking. I shared the cake with coworkers/neighbors and they could not believe it was a vegan cake, even after tasting it!

The recipe is an experimental, culinary collage culled from various photos and recipes. The assembly process is vaguely that of a French style gateaux, the inspiration for its physical appearance and components comes from epicurious.com, the cake recipe is adapted from a class I took with Fran Costigan. The cake incorporates bittersweet chocolate on three levels and layers: cake, mousse filling, and ganache. It has a hint of coffee flavor, with espresso powder as an ingredient, and is laced with hazelnuts and orange zest. This is a rather involved cake, but can by all means be simplified. Either the mousse or the cake frosted with ganache can be eaten on its own.

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Chocolate Mousse
2 12 ounce boxes silken firm tofu (such as Mori Nu)
10 oz finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons agave (or maple syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Cake
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup maple syrup, grade A, dark amber
1 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon espresso powder dissolved in 2 teaspoons of water
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
4 ounces finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, skins removed, chopped

Ganache Glaze
8 oz finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 cup soy creamer
2 teaspoons Grand Marnier

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Decoration
Chocolate shavings
Candied orange zest
Whole hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed
Chocolate transfer sheet

Prepare mousse:
Melt chocolate 10 ounces of chocolate over double boiler. Drain water from tofu. Place tofu, agave/maple syrup and melted chocolate in food processor and mix until well combined and smooth. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to firm. (This turned out to be very rich and dense. I think I would add some soy milk next time).

Prepare candied orange zest, if making your own:
I did end up making my own, and it was well worth it in the end. The zest added a really lovely crunch and citrus element, not to mention a lovely color contrast to the dark chocolate. I adapted a recipe from here:

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
peel of one orange

Using a vegetable peeler, peel strips from orange, avoiding the white pith. Julienne the orange peel into matchstick size pieces. Place zest in saucepan, pour water over it and bring to a boil. Drain and repeat. Yes, repeat – it’s supposed to reduce the bitterness. Remove from water and dry onto paper towel. Place sugar and 1/4 cup of water in a saucepan and let simmer for about 10 minutes (leave it alone – no need to stir at all). Add the strips and watch closely until strips are translucent (I probably left mine on the heat longer than I should have, but it still tasted great). Remove strips with a fork and cool onto parchment or waxed paper. While I didn’t have any left over, this can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week. Also, keep it stored in the container and decorate when ready to serve. If you leave the candied strips on the cake overnight, the sugar will absorb moisture and lose some of its brittle-like quality.

Prepare cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9×3″ cake pan and line with parchment paper. Toast hazelnuts for 8-10 minutes (watch carefully) and rub with kitchen towel to remove skin. Chop and set aside.

Sift dry ingredients into a bowl and stir with a whisk. Stir in chocolate, orange zest and hazelnuts. Mix wet ingredients and whisk until well combined. Pour wet into dry ingredients and mix until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cake tester/toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Invert the pan onto the wire rack, peel off parchment paper, invert again and let cool completely.

Prepare ganache:
Bring soy creamer just until boiling. Pour over chopped chocolate and let sit for minute. Stir slowly until chocolate is melted.

Assemble cake:
I used a bottomless 8×2 inch cake ring as a mold. I’m sure there are alternative ways of assembling this (such as using a springform pan), but this method is what I came up at the time. I cut out the cake to fit inside the ring, using the ring as a guide.

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Then I filled it with mousse. Make sure you press mousse to the edges (which I didn’t do). I left a little room on top for the ganache. Pour ganache and move the cake around to allow it to flow to the sides in order to cover the surface of the top. Let the ganache set in the refrigerator. Once set, remove the cake from the ring (you should have a support under the cake, such as a cardboard circle).

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Top with chocolate shavings, candied orange zest, and hazelnuts. Now you could stop here and end up with exposed sides of cake, mousse and ganache, but since I didn’t press the mousse all the way to the edges, and had some gaps where the cake and mousse met, I spread ganache on the sides, as well. I thought it needed something else, so I used some chocolate transfer sheets I had on hand to decorate the sides. A chocolate transfer sheet is a plastic sheet imprinted with a pattern made with cocoa butter (which I think is by-product of the cocoa bean and therefore still vegan [Fran Costigan did indeed confirm that transfer sheets were vegan – thanks!]). I melted chocolate and spread it over the sheet in a thin layer with an offset spatula. Before the chocolate fully set, I cut triangular shapes in the chocolate. Once set, I peeled the chocolate from the sheet and was left with triangular shards of chocolate imprinted with the cocoa design. I then arranged my chocolate triangles onto the sides of the cake and finally called it done!

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I’ll be experimenting with this cake a bit (I’ve already received request to make this again for an upcoming event). It was indeed labor intensive but I had fun and learned quite a bit every step of the way. For more info on vegan baking, ppk has some essential info on substitutes for eggs, dairy, butter, etc. Fran Costigan’s More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts Naturally and Moscowitz/Romero’s Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World are also great resources on vegan baking, recipes and inspiration.

Dark Chocolate Espresso “Donut” with Ganache Glaze, Gilded Chocolate-Covered Espresso Beans, and Raspberry Whipped Cream

Monday, January 28th, 2008

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This is a deep, dark chocolate cake glazed with bittersweet chocolate ganache, piped with raspberry whipped cream frosting, and sprinkled with chopped chocolate-covered espresso beans rolled in edible gold dust. It’s a decadent, uber-chocolate cake that is both bittersweet and luxurious.

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Chocolate Cake:
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup organic sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup of strong brewed black coffee
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup soy creamer (what I had on hand), but milk or buttermilk would be fine
6 oz butter
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

For the Chocolate Ganache:
10 oz bittersweet chocolate
12 oz heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter

For the Whipped Cream Topping (optional):
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 ounces pureed raspberries
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 gram gelatin powder
red gel food coloring (optional)

For decorative topping:
Chocolate covered espresso beans, chopped, rolled in
Edible gold powder (available at nycake.com or other online baking supply store)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and line a 9″x13″ pan with parchment paper. Melt butter and chopped chocolate into hot brewed coffee. Add soy creamer or milk, vanilla extract and espresso powder and mix. Set aside. Sift together rest of dry ingredients and place in mixing bowl. Add slightly beaten eggs and wet ingredients, and mix all until combined.

Pour into baking pan and bake for 20-25 minutes until toothpick/cake tester just comes out clean. Do not overbake! Let cool on wire rack. After 10 minutes, remove from pan and let cool completely on wire rack. Once cool, cut out six large circles with six small circles within to resemble “donut holes”. I used a 3 1/2″ circle cutter for the outer circle and a 3/4″ cutter for the inner one.

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Prepare the ganache. Chop the bittersweet chocolate finely and place in bowl. Heat heavy cream until boiling and immediately pour over chopped chocolate. Let sit for a minute, then stir until ganache is combined. Add butter and stir. Pour ganache over “donuts” with a spoon or ladle and coax it over the sides. I coated them twice for a smoother finish. Let cool and firm up in the refrigerator.

In the meantime, prepare raspberry whipped cream. It’s easy to make your own raspberry puree for the whipped cream. Bring frozen raspberries and sugar to a boil. The raspberries will liquefy. Force through a strainer with the back of a spoon. Dissolve gelatin into the puree and let sit for a few minutes. The gelatin will make the whipped cream much more stable to work with. I then heated it in the microwave for a few seconds and let cool. Whip heavy cream just until soft peaks form. Add the cooled raspberry puree into heavy cream and whip until firm. I added a drop of gel food coloring to boost the color.

Once the ganache firmed, I piped the raspberry whipped cream in a decorative pattern onto ganache-glazed donut cake. Since Valentine’s Day is coming up, I piped a pattern resembling hearts.

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For a luxurious look, I chopped chocolate covered espresso beans, rolled them into edible gold dust, and sprinkled them over the whipped cream. A tiny bit of this dust goes a long way.

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For a less frilly “girly” cake, I omitted the pink frosting and came up with the following. I was really pleased with the effect of the gold-dusted espresso beans; it was kind of like *bling* for my donut.

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This recipe made six donut cakes, with plenty of cake scraps to snack on. I actually heated the cake scraps in the microwave the next day, and it was absolutely tender and delicious warmed. It tasted somewhat like a lava cake (without the oozing part).


Spiced Pumpkin Christmas Cake

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

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This recipe was based on Williams Sonoma’s pumpkin cake recipe. This is a spicy cake with crystallized ginger and walnuts. I would highly recommend this recipe if you are a fan of pumpkin and ginger. It is absolutely delicious. The recipe was intended for their pumpkin cake molds, which I actually own, but I decided to bake it in a different mold for Christmas. I thought I could create a wreath using a leaf piping tip, but I wasn’t pleased with the lack of dimensionality. Instead, I decided to use the same leaf tip to create a ruffled effect which I piped all around the top. The cream cheese frosting is excellent, as well!