Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Triple Chocolate Torte

Another, rather better attempt at the top cake for my wedding. Last time there were a number of features I was unhappy with, so this time I had a rather different plan of attack.
  • I used tins for the cake. This made the entire process a lot easier and faster. As well as being faster to prepare, and needing less trimming, they were also deeper, so I only had to use 4 layers for a similar height.
  • A different cake mixture, with half the flour replaced with ground almond. This led to a softer, moister cake, which I much preferred
  • White chococate icing, dark chocolate ganache. Working with dark chocolate ganache is much easier, and the colour constrast is much greater, so it's way more dramatic. It also makes the inside stripy (rather than brown-on-brown).
  • Decorated with macarons, not strawberries. it's a look I much prefer.
It's not perfect...the chocolate ganache went on too cold, so was a bit lumpy (I'm not 100% sure if this was the ganache being too cold, or the cake being too cold. Normally I chill it for an hour, however this time it was much longer). That said, I'm prety sure putting the ganache in the microwave for 10 more seconds would have resolved it. The podium cake is a little too small (13 macarons around the top is ominous, so I'll increase the podium size next time so I can fit more).

The macarons can be done well ahead of time. These were a mior variation on the red velvet macarons I've done recently (I was practicing, and getting the temperature right)...the only difference was the filling was a circle of cream cheese frosting, with a blob of red jam in the middle (so I can call them Strawberry Cheesecake Macarons, which sounds suitably decadant). I won't re-do the recipe for these, as it's an exact copy of the previous one.

Triple Chocolate Torte - Recipe

  • Pre-heat oven to 180'C
  • Grease and line 4 20cm round cake tins with baking parchment 
  • Grease and line 1 20cm square tin with baking parchment

Sponge Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs
  • 240g caster sugar
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 100g ground almond
  • 1tsp baking powder
1) Place the eggs and caster sugar in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment

2) Whisk until thick and creamy, and at the "ribbon" stage (this will take 7-10 minutes)

3) While this is happening, sieve the flour, almond, cocoa and baking powder together

4) Once the eggs are fully whisked, fold the dry ingredients into the eggs carefully. I did this quarter of the mixture at a time, ensuring all dry pockets were resolved before adding more mixture

5) Pour 150-160g of the batter into each of the round cake tins, and then tip them carefully to level the mixture across the tin. Pour the remainder of the mixture into the square cake tin.

6) Bake the tins in the oven for 6-7 minutes each...they are done as soon as the mixture begins to pull away from the sides

7) Turn out onto wire racks covered with baking parchment (to stop them sticking, and picking up wire marks) and leave to cool completely.

White Chocolate Meringue Buttercream Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites (105g of egg white)
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 300g butter (room temperature)
  • 200g white chocolate
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
1)Place the butter in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment

2) Beat the butter hard until it is pale, smooth and soft. You'll need to scape the sides down a few times.

3) Set up a bain-marie

4) Break the white chocolate up into a heatproof bowl

5) Melt the chocolate over the bain-marie, then place to one side to cool (but remian liquid)

6) Place the egg whites and sugar into a large heatproof bowl.

7) Whisk the egg whites over the bain-marie using a hand whisk until the form shiney, stiff peaks. Place to one side to cool.

8) Once the chococlate is cool (but still liquid) beat into the softened butter. Also add the vanilla extract

9) Once the meringue is cool, fold into the buter and chocolate mixture. The end result should be a light buttecream that holds its shape

Assembly

note - you'll need a 23cm cake board, and a decorating turntable. Also useful are a small palette knife, and a dough scraper, as well as a spoon.

1) Place a very small amount of icing in the middle of the cake board, and place a cicular layer of the cake in the middle.

2) Add 2-3 tablespoons of the buttercream on top of this, and using a small palette knife evenly coat the top of the cake.

3) Carefully place a second layer of the cake on top, and press down. Repeat for teh remaining cake layers. You need to ensure that they are straight-sided, and don't put too much icing in or they will slip around.

4) Add a very thin layer of the buttercream across the top and sides of the entire cake, and smooth down with the dough scraper and pallette knife. This is the crumb-block layer, and it acts as an undercoat of sorts,.

5) Chill the cake in the fridge to firm up the icing.

6) Using a 7-8cm circle cutter, cut out 2 rounds from the square cake layer.

7) Sandwich these using some buttercream

8) Using a small palette knife, add a crumb-block layer to this cake as well. place on a plate in the fridge to firm up. Cover the remaining buttercream while the cakes are chilling

9) Once the crumb-block is chilled, place the remaining buttercream in a piping bag with a round nozzle.

10) Place the cake on the turntable, and pipe most of the remaining buttercream onto the sides and top, spinning the cake to get a good coverage.

11) Use the palette knife and dough-scraper to level and flatten the sides. Take your time, and try and get it as sharp and clean as possible.

12) Return to the fridge to firm up.

13) Repeat this process for the smaller podium cake.

14) Once chilled, using a damp cloth clean the cakeboard

Chocolate Ganache Ingredients

  • 100g dark (50%) chocolate
  • 100g double cream
1) place the chocolate and cream in a small heatproof bowl

2) Place in the microwave for 20 seconds, then stir thoroughly

3) Repeat, using 10 second bursts, until all the chocolate has melted, and you have a smooth, glossy, creamy ganache.

4) Transfer to a small piping bag

5) Place the podium cake on top of the main cake, centrally

6) Pipe ganache around the base of the podium cake to seal the edge

7) Drip the ganache over the edges of the main cake, to form the classic "Drippy Cake" look. If the ganache is too cold this will go a bit claggy...if this happens put teh ganache back in teh microwave for 10 seconds (obviouly you also don't want it too hot, or it will melt the buttercream!)

8) Repeat for the podium cake, dripping chocolate down the sides

9) Flood the top of both cakes, and if required smooth carefully with a small palette knife.

10) Decorate with maracons and strawberries!


Monday, 30 April 2018

Red Velvet Macarons

I've decided I didn't really like the look of strawberries decorating the top cake...so I'm going to do macarons instead. What I've always failed with previously is getting colour into these...it seems that no matter what I do, they come out a pale pastel. Determined to change this, I ordered a load of Wilton Gel colour, did some reading, and set to making some properly red macarons.

...and it turns out you need a LOT of colour...about half a tub per batch. This is a recipe I tweaked from online, and also did a bit of playing with the temperature (as my oven runs quite hot). The fillig here is just a cream cheese frosting, however I'm going to try a drop of strawberry jam in the middle (so I can call them Strawberry Cheesecake macarons, which sound slightly epic!)

The temperature of your oven is absolutely vital...mine runs hot, so I have it ~10'C lower than most recipes recommend.

Red Velvet Macarons - Recipe

  • Pre-heat the oven to 130-135'C 
  • Prepare 2 oven trays with silicone mats

Ingredients

  • 150g ground almond
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 3 egg whites (105-110g)
  • ½ tsp cream of tartar
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • approx 12-14g of red food colouring gel
 1) Place the egg white in a stand mixer with the whisk attachement

2) Begin to whisk hard, and slowly add the caster sugar and cream of tartar. Whisk to soft peaks

3) Add the food colouring and vanilla extract, and continue to whisk until firm peaks are formed.

4) Sieve the ground almond and icing sugar together

5) Fold the icing sugar mixture into the whisked egg whites carefully. I normally do it in quarters, carefully combining it each time. The end result should be a very sticky paste.

6) Transfer the mixture to a piping bag with a round nozzle

7) Pipe ~40 1 inch circles over the 2 trays. To do these point the nozzle straight down, and then press out the paste until a circle of the correct diameter is formed. Pull the nozzle away slightly sideways to minimise the peak

8) Tap each tray 5 or 6 times to remove large bubbles

9) Leave them trays out for at least half an hour (room temperature dependent) to allow them to dry out slightly. They are ready to bake when your finger does not stick to them when gently touched.

10) Place in teh oven for 22-24 minutes (again, oven dependent). I tend to give the lower shelf an extra couple of minutes

11) remove from the oven, and leave on the trays for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely

Cream Cheese Filling

  • 150g full-fat cream cheese
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 50g room temperature butter
1) Place the icing sugar and butter in a  stand mixer with the paddle attachment

2) Mix hard until pale and fluffy. You'll need to scrape the sides down a few times

3) carefully fold the cream cheese into the butter mixture

4) Transfer into a small piping bag with a small round nozzle

5) Pipe a generous swirl into half the shells, and sandwich with the other half.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Top Cake - Attempt 1

So the cupcakes are pretty much sorted, so time to work on the top cake. This is both easier, and harder....it's just one thing, but it meeds to be a bit more dramatic. I had an idea in mind, and decided to use Easter to see how it looked. Rather than work through the recipe normally (there is nothing new here, just construction), thought I'd do an annotated picture.





Chocolate Cake

This was another variant of the Dobos Torte receipe that I've re-used many times now. This was a larger batch again, and chocolate flavoured
  • 6 eggs
  • 240g caster sugar
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 40g cocoa
I then did;
  • 6 x 18cm discs (100g of mixture each) - bake for 6 minues
  • 4 x 8cm discs (25g mixture each) - bake for 5 minutes
While I like this style of cake, I think it didn't work as well as I hoped. Firstly, the volume of the mixture was so great that the folding in of the flour and cocoa was tricky, and I had dry blobs. Secondly, 18cm discs are right on the limit of me fitting 2 on an oven tray, and it made getting the discs done a bit slow. The cake itself is lovely, and goes well with the buttercream, however I think I may be able to make life easier on myself.
Next Time : I'm going to try doing 2-3 larger cakes...so less layers. This will require use of tins (I'll need 2-3 deep 18cm cake tins). The top tier shouldd be slightly wider (~10cm), and a bit lower (3 layers)...mainly to sort out the scale on the cake, and partly as the cake is just too tall to fit in my largest cake carrier!

Chocolate Meringue Buttercream

This is one of my staple icings for larger cakes...it's nice and light, and sets well. It's actually quite simple to make as well;
  • 3 egg whites
  • 180g icing sugar
  • 320g butter (room temperature)
  • 200g dark (50%) chocolate
So I had some discussion on Facebook around this...this icing is lovely, though possibly a bit too light coloured to get serious constrast against the white chocolate ganache.
Next Time : This will be a white chocolate ganache, so swapping the base colour of the cake to white/ivory. Thi is more to do with how fiddly white chocolate gaanche is to work with, however I think that brown/white stripes inside will be more impactful anyhow. The main change here will be using a different chocolate, and some vanilla extract.

White Chocolate Ganache

So, I'll be frank about this, I don't like working with white chocolate ganache..it's got a gloopy texture that makes it very hard to get a smooth layer on. You also have to be very careful with the amount of cream, or it never properly sets...
  • 100g white chocolate
  • 45g double cream
Next Time : This is going to be dark chocolate ganache (75g/75g dark chocolate and cream). It's easier to work with, and will give a high contrast agains the (now) white icing.

Dark Chocolate Ganache

This is my standard 50/50 mixture, however next time I won't be using a second ganache
 Next Time : The contrast piping will be done using the (white) chocolate buttercream. I used this to edge the cake, hide the joins, and stick the decorations on, using a small star nozzle, and mainly doing rosettes (simple, but effective). Using the buttercream will give more colour consistency across the cake.

Top Strawberries

These are simply two matched strawberries, with a cocktail stick to attach them and stand them upright. The intention is to have one dipped in dark chocolate, and one in white to act as a cake topper (along with the plinth). The only change here is actually dipping them,

Cut Strawberries

These are a decoration to add some height and colour to the cake. They are....OK, however I think I'd prefer something a little different. Options are;
  • Small macarons (red)
  • Small french meringues (red)
  • Small cupcakes (red)
So something red. The ledge they sit on will be slightly smaller (as the plinth is slightly wider). I'll have a think on this...there is no big time pressure, and strawberries are a decent fallback.