Archive for the 'Cakes' Category

Buche de Noel Cafe

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007


The Buche de Noel, or Yule Log cake, is a traditional French cake served at Christmas time. This was my second year and second attempt at this grand holiday cake. Last year, I used a recipe from Nick Malgieri’s accessible book, Perfect Cakes. You can also find the recipe here. While I was pleased with the results, I admittedly let the genoise bake a bit too long and lost some moisture.

This time I used a recipe from The Art of the Cake, from Bruce Healy/Paul Bucat. Their Buche de Noel Cafe recipe uses a joconde rather than genoise recipe. The joconde utilizes almond flour (ground almonds) and egg whites (in addition to whole eggs) to create a thin, flexible sponge cake that facilitates rolling. After the joconde baked and cooled, I brushed it with syrup to further moisten the cake. The recipe called for a mixture of brewed espresso and heavy syrup. I improvised and used espresso powder dissolved in frangelico and agave instead of heavy syrup – this syrup turned out rather well and I didn’t have to boil anything.

I spread a thin layer of mocha buttercream over the entire sheet, then rolled the cake into the long log shown above. Note that I doubled the recipe and made two cakes, one for the main cake and the other for dissecting at angles into three “branches”. I really liked that the thinness of the sheet cake created allowed more rolls and a better “tree ring” effect. You can see a better depiction of the cross-section in the branch closest the bottom of the photo.

I decided to use basket weave tip instead of the star tip the book used, which would have created more texture and deeper grooves, but I wanted a thin layer of frosting. The basket weave tip created noticeable seams between rows, which I mitigated by running the tip over the seams at intervals with the same tip. This created a very organic bark-like texture with finer grooves which seemed to better suit this narrow cake. Here is a close-up:


The mushrooms and holly leaves and berries were sculpted from marzipan, but they are also traditionally made of meringues. I’m not sure if I will attempt to make them so realistic-looking next time, as I felt like a broken record at my party explaining that no, they were not real mushrooms. The entire cake was dusted lightly with cocoa powder and confectioner’s sugar to resemble snow…

Happy Holidays!!

striped yellow cake with chocolate sour cream frosting

Monday, October 1st, 2007


this recipe for golden cake with chocolate sour cream frosting at really caught my eye. i loved the chocolate brown and pink color combination (ahem…see banner above), and the side decorated with stripes and dots was a really fun look.

the recipe utilizes sour cream in both cake and frosting, but i decided to use buttermilk in the cake instead. both cake and frosting were still very tangy. i also spread some raspberry jam in the middle layer, and used rose-colored buttercream for the pink decorations and flowers on top. for various reasons, i used two 10″ cake pans instead of the 9″ pans called for in the epicurious recipe. the 9″ would have created a taller cake with a smaller diameter.

the chocolate frosting consisted of finely chopped and melted milk and bittersweet chocolate, sour cream and vanilla. it was very simple to make (the most labor intensive part was chopping all the chocolate) and spread and piped like a dream.

chocolate peanut butter mousse mini-cakes

Sunday, September 16th, 2007


This is a chocolate cake with peanut butter mousse, topped with milk chocolate “ganache”, chocolate shavings, and a chocolate covered espresso bean, and dusted ever so lightly with edible gold dust.

I made mini cakes using my favorite chocolate cake batter. These were taken out of their cups and sliced into thirds. I then filled the layers with peanut butter mousse. The “ganache” was somewhat improvisational, as I only had milk chocolate on hand (though I would have preferred using semi or bittersweet). The high ratio of heavy cream to chocolate resulted in the drippy consistency which I embraced by letting it run over the sides. I topped the cakes with a chocolate covered espresso bean, chocolate shavings and gold dust.

my first wedding cake

Sunday, August 19th, 2007


I took on the challenge of creating my first wedding cake this past week for recently married friends. The design was loosely based on bride’s blue and purple lengha, a traditional Indian dress. Each of the three tiers had four layers of chocolate cake with raspberry jam, and were filled and frosted with grand marnier buttercream throughout.

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I wanted to apply some gold decoration to the sides and edges and researched several options, but was finally advised by a person at NY Cake to apply edible gold paint. It comes as a dust that you mix with alcohol or lemon extract. I thought I’d give it a shot and was thrilled with the results!

The whole process was a bit nerve wracking (especially the transporting in and out of my rather narrow refrigerator and to the actual event!), but enjoyable. It was rewarding to see the delight in the newlywed’s faces, to watch people going up for second and third helpings, and to receive compliments such as “Janet’s cakes just make you happy…”

red velvet cake

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007


Some people at my office celebrated a party recently with Buttercup Bake Shop cupcakes. I observed a woman savoring one of their red velvet cupcakes. I was curious about the concept of red velvet cake, so I set off to create a birthday cake to explore (and possibly demystify) the intrigue.

I searched my baking books and was dismayed to find few, if any, recipes for this cake. Even the Cake Bible produced no results. Was this a conspiracy? So I did an internet search and came up with three recipes from, Joy of Baking, and Cakeman Raven’s cake via Food Network. Cakeman Raven’s 1 1/2 cups of oil seemed a bit much, so I leaned towards the other two recipes which called for butter. However, I did not want to eliminate the oil entirely as it would add moisture, so I added a token 2 tablespoons. I tried to use as little red food coloring as possible, but basically ended up using about the entire 2 tablespoons generally called for this cake. The resulting cake was extremely red so I felt I should have added less in retrospect.

very red cake!

Alas, I concluded that the lure of the red velvet cake was largely psychological. The mere mention of red velvet cake prompts “oohs” and guilty smiles. The color red is indeed seductive, dramatic and has a stimulating effect, but adds little intrinsic flavor value. I figured this is the reason why it was so difficult to find in my recipe books. Overall, though, it was a good cake, turned out extremely moist and was well-received.

apricot anniversary

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

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this was a chocolate cake with mocha frosting and filling. i piped a shell border and placed chocolate covered espresso bean on alternate shells. i spread a layer of apricot jam in the middle so the roses on top, made from dried apricots, allude to the apricot preserves within. the roses were made by splitting a dried apricot in half (they should have be en pre-split during the pitting process), and rolling each half in parchment paper with a rolling pin to thin it out. once the “petals” are flattened, wrap and form several into a rose. the leaves are hand-formed from modeling chocolate.

curvy edged chocolate wall

Sunday, July 29th, 2007


i wanted to try covering a cake’s side with chocolate, so i experimented with modeling chocolate (aka chocolate plastic). it is a mixture of melted chocolate and corn syrup and the final result has the consistency of tootsie rolls. modeling chocolate can also be used to sculpt with, but i rolled it out into a thin layer using a rolling pin and cocoa powder to prevent sticking. i also used a knife to cut out a freeform edge, and applied the layer to the edge of the cake.


Monday, July 23rd, 2007


a culinary tribute to independence day…


exploring petits gateaux

Friday, June 22nd, 2007


I took a class at the ICE recently with Chef Chad Pagano called “Exploring Petits Gateaux” (the translation from French is “Exploring Little Cakes”). Chef Chad is currently preparing for the 2007 National Pastry Team Championship held in Nashville this July (which is scheduled to air on FoodNetwork later in the year), so the recipes for the class were originally conceived for possible use for the competition.

Pictured above are some of the cakes created in our class (unfortunately, they were taken with my camera phone, so the quality could be better). The upper left photo features a “Nougatine Parisienne”, which consists of layers of pistachio macaroon sponges, caramelized apricots, and nougatine cream. The sides are wrapped in a wall of chocolate transfer sheet. Creating the various components of each petit gateaux really is a really time-consuming process, so our teams were limited to one creation. I made the nougatine, which is akin to fancy peanut brittle. Timing is key, from toasting the almond slices, to achieving the correct blond caramel color (this took some figuring out!), to spreading the mixture thinly on a sheet to cool. Part of the nougatine was ground and incorporated into the nougatine cream, part was broken in irregular chunks and spared for decoration. The cake was garnished with a layer of melted apricot jam, whole pistachios, nougatine, bubble sugar, and thin slivers of toasted vanilla bean. An exquisite and decadent presentation!

Chef Chad demonstrated some basic sugar techniques, which was a real delight. I have glassblowing experience, and since melted sugar behaves similarly to molten glass, I felt an affinity for the process. The lower left photo is what happens when isomalt sugar is melted in an oven on a silpat covered by another sheet of silpat. Chef Chad added a mere few drops of food coloring to the sugar, which created these amorphous patches of color. We later used the resulting “sugar bubbles” as garnish.

The upper right photo features the “Passionata” — layers of coconut dacquoise disks, passion fruit bavarian, and pineapple filling, glazed with a passion fruit miroir. This was actually my favorite, as I’m kind of on a passion fruit kick right now (the green tea/passion fruit dessert I had from the Sadaharu Aoki Patisserie in Paris got me hooked).

Pictured on the lower right is the “Pralinette” — layers of marjolaine sponge cake disks, Italian meringue, light praline cream, wrapped in chocolate plastic (aka modeling chocolate). The chocolate plastic is rolled with a rolling pin using cocoa powder to prevent sticking, and then cut to size. Once wrapped around the cake, the top edges are folded in to the center. The nest-like garnish was created from isomalt sugar melted with a bit of water. The melted sugar drips from the end of the spoon and once the correct temp is achieved, it can be “spun” by threading the sugar quickly around your hand.

I think this class will definitely keep my inspired for a while. I can’t wait to recreate or modify some of the creations, but first, I’ve got a big baking project this summer that’s been keeping me preoccupied — my first wedding cake for friends!! More on that to follow…

decadent chocolate dipped strawberry cake

Sunday, February 25th, 2007


this was a birthday cake for a recipient who likes strawberries, so chocolate-dipped strawberries on top of the cake seemed a likely decoration. this is a chocolate cake with a layer of sliced fresh strawberries and whipped cream inside. i stabilized the whipped cream with gelatin to avoid a potentially runny mess (might have gotten away with not doing this at this time of year, but i thought i wouldn’t take the chance).

i dipped the strawberries in ganache – chocolate melted with whipped cream, and then melted additional white chocolate and drizzled that over the dark for added contrast.