A Whopper of a Cake Topper

Pete & Marley's Wedding
On Saturday, my cousin P-did married the lovely M and they asked me to make the topper for their cupcake tower.

After my adventures with fondant and ivy back in June, this was a real piece of cake.  I could even re-use the colours and fondant I had leftover!
Cake Topper

I even had the recipe down pat, using a single batch of the vanilla cake with white chocolate cream cheese frosting I used so many times before, and baking the excess into cupcakes for us to eat in anticipation of the big event.   The heat made the fondant crack a bit, but all in all it worked out.
Cake Topper

Because I’ve already posted about this recipe (twice), I’m going to spare you with the details, and just titillate you with lots of nummy photos instead.
Cake Topper

Enjoy!
Cake Topper

Cake Topper

Cake Topper

Chocolate Caramel Cookies

For my last round of interviews with research participants, I decided to err on the side of sweetness.  And boy are these babies SWEET! 

They are adapted from Easy-Cookies.com and of course, I multiplied the recipe.  In fact, I made a quadruple batch.  Many cookies were had.

First, preheat your oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, cream together 1 cup butter, softened, 1 cup granulated (white) sugar, and 1 cup brown sugar.

Add in 2 eggs

You know, the eggy kind of egg.

Plop in 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa and mix that stuff in good.

Then pour in 2 1/2 cups flour and mix thoroughly.  This stuff gave my industrial-strength beaters a run for their money.

Lastly, pour in 1 cup white chocolate chips.Take yer dough, then, about a tablespoon’s worth, and wrap it around a Rolo candy (I thought about trying this with Caramilk, too, and may still try it). 

I went through several bulk packages of Rolos so I’m not sure how many you will need.  Each roll has 10, if that helps.

Make sure to seal the dough all the way around or things could get messy in the oven.

Plop the dough balls on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for about 7 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through, until set.  Allow to cool for about 5 minutes on the sheet before removing the cookies to a cooling rack.

EEEEEEAT!

Happy Hallowe’en Cupcakes

Hurray!  It’s Hallowe’en!

These spooky cupcakes come from my favourite cupcake book, Cupcake Heaven by Susannah Blake, and they’re easy as pie.  Or cupcakes.  And pumpkin is an awesome thing to bake with.

‘Twas an ominous storm a-brewing this afternoon when I made them up.  It almost ruined my light! 

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Beat together 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup sunflower oil, and 2 eggs.

Fold in 1 cup grated pumpkin or butternut squash (you can used canned pumpkin, and I usually add a little extra for moistness) and the grated peel of 1 unwaxed lemon.

Combine in a separate bowl 1 cup self-rising flour (or one cup minus one teaspoon all-purpose flour mixed with 1 teaspoon baking powder, though for this recipe regular flour works just fine), 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Sift flour mixture into pumpkin mixture and fold in.

Spoon mixture into 12 paper liners and bake for 18 minutes.  I only had medium liners (so I ended up with 24) but usually I make large ones.  Also, make sure to flatten out your batter so it’s level before baking, as the batter, having no butter to melt, won’t do it on its own.  Obviously, I forgot that step.

Cool completely on wire racks.

In a double boiler or heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, melt 5 oz chopped white chocolate

In a separate bowl, melt 1 oz chopped bittersweet or dark chocolate.  Allow the chocolates to cool for about 5 minutes.

Spoon the white chocolate evenly to cover the top of the cooled cupcakes.

Make a parchment paper cone (fold it into triangles and snip off a corner, though don’t snip the corner until you’re ready to pipe the chocolate).

Pour the dark chocolate into the cone.  It’s easiest if you have an extra pair of hands, but we do what we can with what we have.  Fold over the opening of the cone several times to avoid gooey messes.

Pipe the bittersweet chocolate onto the cupcakes with a central dot surrounded by two concentric circles (you can use a spiral if you have difficulty making discrete circles).

Use a toothpick or skewer to drag lines from the centre chocolate dot out to the edge of the cupcake, about six or seven of them, to make a spiderweb pattern.  Normally they turn out better than this, but I’m not one to dwell on small mistakes.

You can also ice them however you wish, really.  It’s up to you after all.

The cupcakes are best eaten when the chocolate is still gooey, but they can also be chilled in the refrigerator until set.

And hark!  The sun makes a final, feeble attempt to burst through the clouds.

Alas, forces of darkness take over.

Have a very happy and safe Hallowe’en!

Gooey Bars

This recipe comes from my favourite book, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking.  In this particular book, the authors call their bar the Baked Bar, after their establishment in New York, but my cousin’s wife told me that her grandmother used to make her what she called Hello Dolly Bars.  I call them Gooey Bars, because that’s what they truly are.  Many of the wedding guests described them as “life-altering experiences”, but I’ll leave you to determine that for yourself.

The ingredients are simple, but the crust is a little fussy, so the recipe from start to finish takes quite a while.

Preheat your oven to 300°F.

Line a 9 x 13″ pan with aluminum foil and butter it.  The foil makes it much easier to remove everything from the pan after you’ve baked it.

Put a piece of parchment on a baking sheet and spread 2 cups shredded coconut across it.  Bake for 5 or so minutes until the coconut begins to turn golden brown.  Toss the coconut and bake for another 3 minutes or so.

Toss the coconut in a bowl with 2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs.

Melt 1 cup butter and pour it in.

Mix it all up with your hands or a fork, and then use your hands to press the crust mixture into the pan.  Smooth the surface and level it.

Refrigerate the crust for 15 minutes, then bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let the crust cool completely.

Now for the rest.

Raise the oven temperature to 325°F.

Spread 1 1/3 cups pecans over a sheet pan and toast them for a little while until brown.

Spread those over the bottom of the cooled crust and add 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips as well.

Coarsely chop up about 9 oz white baking chocolate (that’s 9 squares).

Spread those on top, as well as 3/4 cup butterscotch chips.

The fun part here is when you pour two cans of sweetened condensed milk over top the whole thing.  Just drizzle that on there.

Shake the pan gently to evenly distribute the milk.  Of course, if you have really thick milk you might want to use a spatula to spread it out.

Bake the whole thing for 30-40 minutes, making sure to rotate the pan every ten minutes.  When it’s all brown and bubbly it’s all done.  Transfer it to a wire rack and let it cool completely before cutting into squares and serving.

Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and keep them in the fridge for up to four days.

Vanilla Cake

For his birthday (which was on the 21st), the Pie requested a vanilla cake.  Conveniently for me this is also the type of cake requested by Chel and Invis for their wedding cake, which I will be making next May.  No time like the present to begin perfecting a recipe.

Vanilla cake is also traditionally known as “white cake”, which forms the base for millions of different kinds of cakes.  This one, however, I wanted to make sure that vanilla was what you got out of the whole thing, not just some bland cake designed to set off a fancy frosting.

You may not know this, but vanilla extract is made by soaking cut vanilla beans (which come from orchids) in a strong dark spirit, such as rum or bourbon.  I figured, what the hey, might as well try it myself.  I got two vanilla beans from Belbin’s and poured about a tablespoon of Screech into the little tube.  You’re supposed to leave it for a few months, but I only had a week.  So that’s what I did.

I was also careful to scrape out all the vanilla bean seeds to enhance the flavour.

The batter for this cake was inspired by the Whiteout Cake in Lewis and Poliafito’s Baked.  When I go to Manhattan to visit my brother, I want to see their bakery.  Anyway, I changed the icing, added jam, and of course used extra vanilla, both my own special Screech blend and regular pure extract.

THE CAKE

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Butter three 8″ round cake pans, line them with parchment circles (which I make using my personal kitchen compass), and then butter the parchment as well.

Dust the pans with flour and knock out the excess.  I definitely did something wrong in this step, because my cakes STUCK.  But I’ll get to that later.

Separate three eggs and bring the whites to room temperature.  I set mine in the sun for a few minutes.  Use the yolks the next day in a tasty omelette.  We did.

Sift together in a bowl 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon baking soda.  Set this aside for a spell.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup vegetable shortening on medium speed until they’re creamy.

This will take about 3 to 4 minutes.

Add in 1 3/4 cups sugar and 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract.

Beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Scrape down the bowl and add one whole egg, then beat until just combined.

Turn the mixer to low and add your flour mixture as well as 1 1/2 cups ice water.  Add the flour in three separate additions, alternating with the water, and starting and ending with the flour.  Scrape down the bowl and mix on low speed for another minute or so.

In a separate bowl, whisk together your 3 egg whites with 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar until you reach the soft peak stage.

Gently fold the egg whites into the rest of your batter.

Distribute the batter amongst the three pans and smooth the tops.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, rotating halfway through, until you can insert a toothpick in the middle of the cake and it comes out clean.

Invert onto racks and let cool completely before frosting (you can remove the parchment when they’re cool).  You will notice how I lost a few of my cake edges.  But I guess that’s what icing is for — to fill the gaps.

THE FROSTING

In a bowl, plop in 2 250g packages of cream cheese, preferably at room temperature.  Add in 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, as well as 3/4 cup heavy cream (whipping cream) and 3/4 cup icing sugar

Beat with a hand mixer until mostly smooth.

In a double boiler or a heat-proof bowl set above a pot of barely simmering water, melt 12 oz white chocolate.

Add the melted chocolate to the cream cheese mixture and beat the crap out of it until it’s smooth.

THE CRUMB COAT

Set the first layer of your cake on your serving plate and slather the top with a generous layer of icing (don’t worry, you’re not going to run out).  Add several dollops of jam.

We love our Auntie Crae’s.

Plop on the second layer and repeat the above steps.  Plop on the third layer, and now you can begin your crumb coat. 

We do a crumb coat so that you can get all the messiness out of the way beforehand.  Cover the entire cake with a thin layer of icing.  Don’t worry if crumbs or jam gets into the icing.  This is your priming coat in any case.

Pop it into the fridge for at least fifteen minutes for the icing to set.

Bring it out and slather it with more icing.  You see how that sealant coat keeps the cake’s interior from interfering with the exterior.

Decorate to your whimsy and serve. I used dragées and white sprinkles for this effect.

Keep leftovers covered in the refrigerator.  It has a slight lean because I didn’t bother to level the layers before attaching them, but the Pie liked it well enough.

Devil (‘s Food Cake) Made Me Do It

I have designated certain days in my life as chocolate cake days.  You know, those days where things tend to go wrong, and you end up with FLOOR PIZZAThat kind of day.  Normally I turn to the convenient comfort of cake-in-a-box (similar to garlic-in-a-jar but probably not quite as good for you), but recently I’ve been more interested in the process of making one from scratch, and doing it was way easier than I expected.  You, my lovely readers, get the benefit of my experience here.

Seeing as I had recently made an angel’s food cake, it was only fitting that I make a devil’s food cake as well.  You may not know this but traditionally the angel’s food and devil’s food were made concurrently, as the angel’s food used all the whites of the eggs and the devil’s food used all of the yolks.  Modern devil’s food cakes are much lighter affairs these days and generally use whole eggs (and less of them), but I think they would be a nice accompaniment to each other even without the egg symbiosis.  I still have the yolks from the other cake, but I’m going to make them into a masterful pudding sometime soon.

I got this recipe from David Lebovitz, and this is his American-in-Paris masterpiece.  I picked it because of his pictures of the icing on the cake.  I’m such a sucker for chocolate frosting, especially a ganache.  I also thought this recipe had an interesting improvement of putting coffee into the mix.  Coffee and chocolate are always a good combination.  His recipe calls for unsalted butter and salt, but I just use salted butter and I rarely add salt to anything.

Okie dokey (never really sure how to spell that).

Put your oven rack in the centre of the oven and preheat it to 350°F.

Butter up two 9″ x 2″ cake pans and place pretty circles of parchment paper (not to be mistaken with waxed paper, that would be a bad idea) in the bottom of each.  I used a compass because I have a good attention to detail (the Pie called me a nerd for doing so but HE’s the one who wrote a remote sensing exam today).  Put those pans somewhere and work on the other stuff.

Sift together 9 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 1/2 cups cake flour (I used all-purpose because that’s what I had), 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder in a bowl and set that sucker aside for a spell.

In yer mixer, beat together 1/2 cup butter (or a stick, or 4 ounces) and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar until creamy and fluffy and stuff.

Add 2 eggs, one at a time.  Don’t forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl on occasion.

Mix 1/2 cup strong coffee and 1/2 cup milk together in a measuring cup (or some other form of vessel).

Add half your dry mixture to the creamy butter goodness in the mixer and stir.  Don’t forget to keep scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Add in the milky coffee and stir that up.

Finally, add the second half of the dry mixture to your bowl and mix that up as well.

Divide your batter between the two buttered and papered pans, smooth it flat, and bake for 25 minutes.

You can tell it’s done when you stick a toothpick in the centre and it comes out clean.  I found that mine took an extra five minutes.  Make sure the cake is completely cool before you think about icing it.  When removing from the pan, run a spatula around the edge to loosen the sucker. Due to time constraints, I actually made up the cake part the day before, then wrapped it tightly in plastic over night, and made the frosting the next day.

While it’s cooling (or sitting politely in plastic wrap) you can make your lovely ganache frosting.

In a double boiler or a bowl set over (but not touching) a pot of barely simmering water, melt 10 oz good quality chocolate (your preference for the type) in 1/2 cup cream.  Just so you know, an ounce of chocolate is one of those squares in the boxes of baking chocolate.

Be very careful removing the top of your double boiler, as escaping steam can burn.

Remove from heat and cut in 3/4 cup butter.  Whisk until butter is thoroughly melted and mixed in and the mixture is smooth and velvety.  Let your ganache cool until it’s spreadable, which could take up to an hour (your cake will take probably this long to cool anyway).  Be sure to give the cooled ganache a good whisk to fluff it up a little.

Pop your cooled cakes out of the pans and remove the paper. 

Put one half of the cake on the plate of your choice.

I made another modification here.  I took the leftover frozen glaze from the previous angel’s food cake and decided to put it on this one as well.  It seemed fitting.  All I did was defrost the glaze and whisk it up a little.  It was slightly lumpy after its time in the freezer but it tasted the same.

Smooth a generous amount of your cooled ganache over the top of the first cake. 

Plop the second cake on top of that frosted layer and go nuts covering the whole thing with luscious ganache (or, in my case, glaze it first, then go nuts). 

The cake was very moist and I didn’t do a crumb coat, so you’ll notice a few crumbs here and there in the frosting. 

I also decided to jazz it up a little by drizzling melted 2 oz white chocolate over it.

As with most cakes, you should eat it the day it’s made but it’s pretty good the next day as well.  And the day after that, and the day after that.  Just keep it wrapped up.  Om nom indeed.