Category: Cake

Adventures in Baking No. 26: Birthday Cake!

Adventures in Baking No. 26: Birthday Cake!

Making birthday cake is always an exciting and fun event! (Mainly because birthday cake is an amazing dessert, regardless of the type, so baking it practically guarantees a fantastic treat.) So for my dad’s birthday, I made him (per his request) a chocolate cake filled with cherry jam and topped with fudge icing!

(My tendency to “off-road”,as we refer to it, inspired the specific directions.)

First, I made the chocolate cake recipe from How to Bake Everything. I halved the recipe to fit into two 6-inch cake pans (we love two layer cakes in my house!). First, I melted chocolate to mix into the batter, and then I creamed the butter and sugar in my electric mixer. (I used soft butter this time (I know, I was shocked too), which worked marvelously.) Next I added the vanilla, melted chocolate, egg yolk, and all of the dry ingredients excluding the flour before alternating adding the flour and milk to the batter. (While the directions instructed me to mix the dry ingredients together to start with and then add them to the batter as a whole, I regarded this as optional.)

After cleaning my mixing bowl and attachment, I whipped the egg white until soft peaks formed and folded it into the cake batter. Then I baked the cakes for approximately 13 minutes. While they were baking, I started cooking the cherry jam!

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I cooked the jam for a pretty long time because I wanted it to be nice and thick (which it was, thank goodness!)

Once the cakes were baked, I turned them out of their pans onto a cooling rack. However, I spectacularly broke one of them (it was my one klutzy moment in this bake) and had to piece it together.

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I tried to turn one of the cakes out of the pan one-handed, which was a HORRIBLE idea! Don’t try that at home!

I didn’t let that mishap faze me, however. I was making cake! So after I finished the jam, I prepared my fudge frosting – I heated the sweetened condensed milk, chopped my 8 ounces of chocolate, and measured out my vanilla. Then I dropped the chocolate and vanilla into the hot milk and stirred until smooth. After adding 3 cups of powdered sugar, I had my fudge frosting!

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My sweetened condensed milk heating on my stove

Except that it was really thick. And by really thick, I mean NOT SPREADABLE.

Which was kind of bad. I tried heating it, but that didn’t really work, so I decided to experiment and whipped out my rolling pin. Placing the frosting on some parchment paper, I rolled it out like fondant and (after assembling the broken cake layer like a jigsaw puzzle atop the jam filling) delicately laid it on top of the cake. I smoothed the sides like I’d seen bakers do on TV, and voila! I had a frosted cake. (It was much faster than frosting any other cake I’d made.)

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My frosted cake! The fudge was really shiny, which was kind of cool

However, the cake looked lumpy under the fondant (because I had broken the top layer; what a mistake to make!), so I made some royal icing to frost the sides with and cover the bumps. I then piped “Happy Birthday” on the top of the cake in mildly neat handwriting and tried my hand at a few flowers.

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The final product! My only regret is that I didn’t color the frosting on the sides

All that was left to do was wait for about 15 minutes for the frosting to dry. Then (after a super-fun photo shoot) we sliced into the cake!

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The sliced cake – look at all of that jam!

I thought I’d over-baked the cakes, and thank goodness, I was wrong! The cake was moist, soft, and delicious! The fudge frosting was sweet and rich, and the royal icing was tasty, too. What made the cake, though, was the jam. The cherry jam added a sourness as well as moisture and a wonderful texture! I really loved the cake, and so did my dad! This bake was a success and I will definitely try jam in the middle of a cake again!

 

 

Baking Chronicle No. 17: Molten Chocolate Cake

Baking Chronicle No. 17: Molten Chocolate Cake

On Sunday I had my friend (whose alias shall henceforth be Sophronia Snicket, per her request) over to watch movies and, of course, bake! For dessert, we decided to make molten chocolate cake from How to Bake Everything, since neither of us had ever had molten chocolate cake before. Unfortunately, our adventure didn’t go swimmingly.

The cake recipe required surprisingly little flour – it consisted mainly of eggs, butter, and sugar. First, we melted our unsweetened chocolate with the butter in a saucepan and whipped the eggs and sugar by hand in a bowl. Since the recipe called for dark chocolate, I added some extra sugar to compensate for the bitterness of the unsweetened chocolate. Then we just poured the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and added our flour and salt.

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The finished batter

I tasted the batter to see if it was sweet enough – it tasted a little bitter, but like a good dark chocolate. It also tasted a bit dry, but I figured that would just…bake off?

In hindsight, I should have added an extra tablespoon or two of butter.

Next, we poured the cakes into the ramekins and added a dash of mint extract to two out of four cakes (just because we like mint). Then we realized that we’d forgotten to grease the ramekins…and decided we’d eat our cakes in the ramekins! Instant mug cake improvisation!

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The cakes before baking

After baking the cakes for 6 minutes, they looked a little too wet, so I let them bake for another two minutes, after which they looked risen and…well, cake-y! Once the ramekins had cooled, we tried some cake.

The cake was dry and slightly bitter. I think I probably over-baked it by thirty seconds or so (I blame my oven timer, whose smallest increment is 60 seconds) and the cake definitely needed more butter and more sugar. Our dessert, however, was saved by Sophronia’s whipped cream experiment (see the next post!), which added sweetness and moisture to our unfortunately dry mug cakes.

I may try this recipe again with dark chocolate (and greased ramekins!) to see if the results differ – maybe I’ll also add a filling! Next time, I’ll also be wary of substituting unsweetened chocolate for dark chocolate!

 

Baking Chronicle No. 11: Cupcakes

Baking Chronicle No. 11: Cupcakes

For the Fourth of July, I decided to make festive cupcakes to share with friends!

First, a note. I am not a huge fan of cupcakes. When it comes to cake, I view the baked good as the blank canvas upon which I paint beautiful flavors using frosting. In short, frosting is everything.

Don’t get me wrong: I love a good cake, and I definitely like cupcakes. I just think that nearly all cake requires frosting of some sort, and it’s really irritating when there isn’t enough frosting for the given amount of cake. Sadly, a prime example of this problem is often the cupcake.

But never fear! I resolved to fix the problem by making a chocolate cake recipe from How to Bake Everything that shines on its own! (So if you happened to run out of frosting because you ate the entire top off the cupcake, the leftover cake was still fabulous!)

First, I made my chocolate cake recipe. Truth be told, I was originally going to make a yellow cake with a chocolate frosting. However, the yellow cake recipe required eight (eight!) egg yolks, and I really didn’t want to have to find a way to use eight (eight!) egg whites. So, I made chocolate cake because a) chocolate is always better and b) the recipe used 2 whole eggs. To frost the cupcakes, I decided to make a whipped white chocolate ganache.

Making the cake batter was easy. The only tricky part of the recipe was folding the whipped egg whites into the rest of the batter. This was slightly scary because folding is more of an art than a science; one must preserve the air in the egg whites or risk deflating the batter, and this is way harder than it sounds when you have to fully incorporate a delicate airy foam into a heavy chocolate mixture. However, I think I succeeded because the cupcakes rose and tasted amazing.

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My baked cupcakes

I also made white chocolate ganache to top the cupcakes. This went…okay. Okay is probably a stretch, though. I mean, I followed the directions to the letter – I heated the cream, dumped it on the chocolate, and stirred. A lot. There was much stirring. However, the ganache was really thin, so I added some more chocolate and reheated the whole mixture so that the chocolate would melt. Then I refrigerated the ganache in the hope that it would thicken.

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My runny ganache

Thankfully, it did thicken. Unfortunately, the ganache was still thin. However, I decided that I could just whip some air into the ganache to make it a frosting rather than a glaze (go problem-solving!). The regrettably unforeseen consequence of this was that the ganache became grainy (I still have no idea why) and melted a little when I frosted the cupcakes. (I will admit, though, that the frosting might have melted because I didn’t let the cupcakes cool for a long enough period of time.)

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The frosting started to melt before I was even done spreading it on the cupcakes

Alas, when all hope seems lost, a beacon of light can shine through the darkness, and in this case, I yanked the sprinkles out of my cupboard and set to work. When I finally sampled a finished cupcake, it was tasty. The cake was better than the frosting (which almost never happens), and while the ganache was a bit too sweet for my taste, I liked the finished product. I will definitely revise the recipe combination if I decide to make this again, though, so that I have actual frosting rather than runny whipped ganache!

 

Adventures in Baking No. 2: Sweet Tea Cake

Adventures in Baking No. 2: Sweet Tea Cake

Yesterday I invited a friend of mine over to bake with my sister and I (because baking parties are the best kinds of parties!) and we decided to make Sweet Tea Cake, a layer cake recipe from Tessa Huff’s 2016 cookbook titled Layered. This cake was made (at least, according to the recipe) of lemon cake, sweet tea buttercream, vanilla bean buttercream, and candied lemons!

I’ll tell you up front: I love lemons. I also enjoy off-roading while baking (also known as not following the recipe) because it means that I can flatter myself and say I’m a rebel.

(I’m not a rebel.)

But these two considerations coupled together immediately led me to suggest that we make a lemon curd to put between the layers of the cake. This was the first of many alterations.

To begin, we made the lemon butter cake. It was easy; it was a classic cake recipe. The only change we made was to add extra lemon zest (again, I love lemon, so I couldn’t help myself). Next, we put the cakes in the oven to bake and moved on to making the lemon curd and the Swiss meringue buttercream.

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Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I made the lemon curd all by myself while my sister and my friend made the buttercream, and I’ll admit it: I’m really proud of myself, because the curd tasted amazing and I was completely sure I’d screw it up somehow and the curd would…well, curdle. But it didn’t (yay!) and so I put it in the freezer to firm up.

While I made the curd, my baking partners finished the Swiss meringue buttercream and we let the cakes cool.

However, there was a complication, as always. The middles of the cakes weren’t baked.

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The solution to this may sound simple: keep baking it! I know that’s what I was thinking.

Nothing’s ever that simple, though. It turns out that the entire rest of the cake was absolutely, completely, and magnificently baked. As in, it tasted amazing and was perfect in every way. The only part that wasn’t cooked was the tops of the middles of all three six-inch cakes. It was so strange, and we still don’t know why it happened. We just hollowed out the middles and put lemon curd in instead (I knew it would be useful for something!)

And so our Sweet Tea Cake became Sweet Tea Cake with Lemon Curd Surprise (with a Melting Middle Included Free!)

We moved on. Baking mishaps always happen, we told ourselves. It still tastes amazing, and that’s what matters.

Until I caused the mother of all baking accidents.

I swear, it’s not my fault. The recipe clearly stated, and I quote, “continue to cook until the syrup has reduced to about 1/4 cup (60 ml), 20 to 30 minutes”.

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What syrup? you may ask. Well, the tea syrup with which we were supposed to flavor the buttercream. You know, to make the tea component of the cake.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it (I swear, no pun intended): I overcooked the syrup (though it was only on the stove for 19 minutes) and not only caramelized it but turned it into a hard-crack lollipop.

Yes, friends. I made a pan of tea lollipops. It took forever to clean.

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Me cleaning the tea lollipop out of my measuring cup

And then the Sweet Tea Cake became a Lemon Ombre Cake with no flavoring in the buttercream whatsoever. We’d been baking for three hours at this point, and we were kind of ready to just assemble and eat the cake. Making tea lollipops is hard work, after all.

Assembling the cake was uneventful, but frosting it was…interesting. My friend is a fantastic artist, and so she was going to use our food coloring to do a yellow ombre effect on the cake. One problem: our yellow food coloring dyes frosting orange.

No, that was not a typo. Seriously, it dyed everything orange, regardless of how little or how much food coloring was added.

Despite our setbacks, the cake did look good. My only regret is I didn’t get a picture of our cake once cut, because the (liquid-y) lemon curd in the middles of the cakes cascaded beautifully onto our cake stand.

(Sarcasm? Perhaps. But it really was pretty, in its own way.)

The cake tasted amazing though. The actual sponge itself was delicious and perfectly lemony, and the lemon curd was sharp and cut through the buttercream nicely. However, I have discovered that Swiss meringue buttercream is a frosting I do not need to have again, as it tastes like fluffy butter. Maybe it tastes better if you flavor it, but I need another month or two to get over myself before I try that experiment.

Overall, the three of us had a really fun time and produced a decent product. It was definitely an interesting bake!