Sunday, 28 October 2018

Making the Cake

Less of a recipe post, this is more of a "how I went about making my wedding cake". It's been a year in the planning, and it all went rather well.

So, why did I do my own cake? There were 2 main drivers..firstly, I was pretty sure that I could do a better job than any commerical cake maker (the current trend seems to be for an awful lot of fondant icing, and very little in the way of flavour). I could certainly do it cheaper! Secondly, I wanted the cake to be a reflection of me, and my baking. I did some initial checks on local cake bakers, and the estimated cost was enough to convince me that I could do this.

My first job was deciding on what style of cake...this involved a lot of googling. I knew I wanted multiple flavours, and my initial plan was a tiered cake in a half-and-half style. This seemed an "on trend" idea...however after doing a couple of trial runs I decided that I didn't really like the look of it, and it was very fiddly. This process added a very important requirement. I needed a high level of confidence on both the making and transport of the cake. With this in mind, I went for a new plan...a cupcake tower, with lots of differnet flavours. I'd then do a single top-cake for the cutting photo. The real benefit of cupcakes is that your risk is spread, and if a batch goes wrong or transports badly, you still have the others. It was also easier to split the manufacture up. I didn't want to go overboard with "fake" colours and flavours either, I wanted the cakes to be cakes first, and pretty second (cupcakes are actually very good for this, as a bit of piping covers an awful lot of presentation issues).

Once I had decided on cupcakes, the next step was deciding on the flavours. I have a theory with cake that if given a choice, someone will always go for a favourite...whacky and new flavours are all well and good, but as people see them as rare treat, they want a "comfort pick", and know that what they will like what they have selected. With this in mind, I decided to base each flavour on a classic cake, or classic flavour. I also wanted to try and make sure that from a simple visual standpoint that each cake was both identifiable, and gave the punter a good idea of what was inside. The actual decision over what flavours I was going to do took months, and I trialled each one a few times to make sure that I was both happy with the flavour, and also very confident with the recipe. I ulitmately ended up with 7 flavours;

  • Lemon Meringue - I always wanted this one in, as it is the first cupckae I did where I went off-piste. The only change I did to my classic recipe was to candy some lemon slices to decorate the top (so that the visible components showed the flavour)
  • Carrot Cake - this is one of the most popular flavours (people think it's healthy!), and the use of a fondant carrot (the only fondant icing I used in the entire cake) gave a good visual cue as to the flavour
  • Sticky Toffee Pudding - I came up with the idea for this one at Christmas, after making the actual dessert. It was probably the hardest cake to visually set up (most people think it's caramel from a first viewing), but at the same time the test subjects quickly indicated it was a strong contender for favourite flavour.
  • Chocolate Brownie -  I needed a chocolate cake, and it's actually quite hard to come up with a "classic" chocolate cake that is visually identifiable. It was also fairly hard to add onto this...brownie is by default rich, and adding icing made it a challenging eat. I did think about adding a white chocolate dome, but wasn't confident on the process.
  • Strawberry Shortbread - this was a "safe" option, and probably the closest to a standard cupcake in terms of flavour (vanilla and strawberry). The big challenge here was keeping the shortbread biscuit crisp once it was stuck in the icing...I did this by dipping the biscuit in white chocolate to seal it.
  • Coffee and Walnut - I see this as a cyclist classic, and it's rare you goto a cafe where there is not a massive coffee and walnut cake being chunked up. That said, it's a bit of a marmite flavour, and probably one of the less-selected flavours
  • Bakewell Tart - a very late addition. I had initially had this on a list of flavours to try, but was worried that it would end up looking very similar to the Strawberry shortbread. I did a trial run of the entire wedding cake a couple of weeks before, and decided I had some spare capacity...we were at the same time sorting out the dietary requirements of the guests, and we spotted a number of dairy/gluten/vegan people who would not be able to eat any cakes. I wasn't able to amend any of the existing recipes to remove the offending items, so instead had a shot at fitting all the dietary requirements into a single recipe. I was about 85% hapy with the final result...it looked fine, but the cake recipe was not at the same standard as the others. A couple more attempts and I reckon I would have nailed it. (I should note that the reciepe link ed it not the one I used, the actual receipe is in the cookbook Word Document I link at the end).

Once I had the flavours and recipes sorted, I then had to come up with a plan. As with so many things in life, I resorted to Excel, and worked up a big sheet that had all the ingredients, costings (based on both my local supermarket, and a "cheapest source" if I needed to reduce costs), and a timetable for when various things needed to be made. I then did a copy of this for the trial run I did a couple of weeks beforehand (this was 12 of each cake flavour, rather than 24), and based on feedback from that I altered the final plan to save some time. I al;so had every recipe printed out in a single book, so that I could annotate it and not have to rely on internet etc.

The plan was pretty important, and ultimately gave me plenty of spare time on the last week. I gave myself 3 days to do everythiung, with several items being made in the week before (this was for items that would store well). The 4 key groups of "things to be done" were;

1) Sauces and Decorations - these were items that could be done in advance, and stored in the fridge. Lemon curd, jams, caramel sauce, fudge (I also did the favours, being bags of fudge, and used some of this as decorations), candied fruit etc
2) The big cake (see below)
3) The cupcake baking - this was basically getting all the sponge elements done, and the day consisted of making sure the stand mixer and oven were always in use.
4) Icing and finishing everything - I wanted this to be separate to the baking, as I wanted a cooler kitchen. This also involved a lot of stand mixer work.

These also happen to be roughly in order of time taken, so it was important that for the cupcake baking and icing that I had everything ready to go. Within the recipe book I had noted on everything I could/should prepare the night before (simple things like getting eggs and butter out of the fridge the night before, and weighing stuff out, or chopping and soaking the dates for the sticky toffee pudding, and grating the carrot for the carrot cake). Alongside this you do a _lot_ of washing up throughout the days.

Once I had the plan, I re-visited the top cake. I knew I wanted to do a multi-layerd sponge, and while the cupcakes looked remarkably un-wedding, I thought the top cake should have a little more formality, but not too much. I also knew I had to be able to produce it in less than a day. I settled on a "drippy cake", and then added a small additional podium tier for the cake topper (chocolate-dipped strawberries). I originally was going to decorate it with strawberries, but after doing a trial of that didn't really like it, so instead did some red macarons...this gave it a really lovely formal look, which went well with the decadence of the chocolate drip. It also made it look much taller than it was, which is "on trend". From a logistics stadnpoint, the macarons could be made ahead of time, kept in an airtight box, and then filled on the day very quickly. As such, this fitted into the plan very well.

Props

I don't normally do much work with props for cakes (after all, most people are just interested in eating the stuff)...for this though, I decided to do a bit of extra.
Cake Stand - this was picked up off Amazon, and could hold about 50 cupcakes and the top cake. The venue then kept this topped up on the day, providing a cake buffet for everyone!
Cupcake Cases - I normally use cheap paper ones, but for this I got some silver foil ones to give some glam and consistency. As an added bonus, foil cases will keep cake fresher a little longer.
Cake Board - I actually went very simple with this, with a thin silver round for the top cake.
Letters - this was a bit of a late buy, but really glad I did. Some 25-30cm tall light-up letters spelling "CAKE" to show around the stand. They made it into plenty of photos!
Menu - We needed some way of showing the flavours, so we took some photos of the trial run, added on the cake name in script, and then had the photos printed as an old-style poraoid photo. These were then displayed around the cake.
Cake boxes - Moving the cakes was pretty stressful. I have a few cupcake carriers, capable of holding 96 cupcakes. I also got some 12-hole cupcake boxes for the rest. The top cake went into a cake carrier, and was on my lap the entire way, while the stacks of cupcake cases were strapped into the best mans back seat, and he was under strict orders to driver _really_ carefully (he did, he was a legned on the day).
Individual cupcake carriers - Quite often at a wedding people end up with a finger of cake wrapped in tissue. I knew there was more cake than people, and that some of it would be going home...so I picked up some individual cupcake carriers, so make it easier for people to take them home.

What would I have changed?

Very little actually. The cakes went down really well, and having done the trial run, and having a good plan meant that the actual manufacture went really smoothly. The top cake suffered in a bit of sunlight when it was on display...meringue buttercream is quite delicate, and not suited to warm conditions. I should have either had this kept in the venue fridge (which would have been a shame, as plenty of people took photos), or experimented with a more robust icing such as royal icing. A cupcake tower is a very safe way of doing a wedding cake, and if anyone is planning on doing their own, I'd strongly recommend considering it.

The vegan/gluten-free cake should have had a bit more work done on the receipe. I'm glad I did it (and I had some great feedback from the vegans and dairy-free peeps), but I know I could have done better.

Generally, I was lucky enough to be able to test all the recipes on work colleagues and friends, so was able to make sure that everything was a pretty robust, reliable recipe.

What did it cost/what did I save?

Well, in terms of ingredients the cake and favours came in at under £120. This isn't the true cost however, as it doesn't take into account trial runs and experimenting. That said, I bake as a hobby, and a lot of the trial runs would have been done anyway (maybe just with different recipes). The baking took 3 days, though with a gun agaisnt my head I could have done it in one (doubt I'd have wanted to get married the next day though). All the recipes have about 10% excess built into them, so that you're always going to have ~3 more cakes than you need. The carrot cake is actually well over-size, and made 36! I ended up taking 160 cupckaes (of 7 flavours) anda the topcake. From looking around, as a rough quote I could have expected this to cost £800-£1000 including delivery.

The props were not super-expensive, with the exception of the light-up letters (though the chances were we may have done something like that anyway). With the exception of the cupcake cases and cupcake caddies (about £20 in total) I still have everything else, and I'll undoubtedly use them at some point.

I did buy some extra tins (the top cake in particular had some new tins bought, as I swapped from a dobos torte-style bake to a tin-based one, as it was a more reliable process). Again, I still have those tins for future baking.

The Plan and Recipe Book

These are on Drive. In theory you won't need to be logged into Google, but it might help!
The Plan is here, and includes a breakdown of each component of each cake, when the componernt needs to be done, and how much the ingredients are. You'll want to download this and open it in Excel, as I have used Pivot charts (which Google Docs doen't understand).

The Recipe Book is here, and includes notes per item about anything to be prepared ahead of time, and some notes on time-saving.

Continue Reading...

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Vegan/Gluten-free/Dairy-Free "Bakewell Tart" Cupcakes

A very late entry into the wedding menu. I've looked at doing vegan stuff before, however the big blocker has always been something to replace egg. Butter is simple, you can get high-fat percentage baking margarine, or if you're feeling whacky various other plant-based fats and oils. I already have some gluten-free flour (OK, not a vegan requirement, but if you're going to suck the fun out of something, why not go full bore?), and if you need milk or cream there are again plant-basd alternatives (almond milk, soy milk...all disgusting, but will do).

So egg? Last weekend I read about something called aquafaba, which apparently is some sort of new (new'ish, "discovered in 2014 apparently, but gaining in poularity) which has the properties of egg whites. It turns out this mystical ingredient is the gloopy water you normally drain away when you open a tin of chick peas. There are plenty of people out there making meringues, macarons, cakes and all sorts with it...so last night I jumped in, with a plan for a vegan cupcake that used aquafaba as a straight egg swap...

...and it was a disaster. The cake mixture never set, it was just a soggy mess, and quickly consigned to the bin. I had a bit of a think, and had another shot, only this time whipping up the aquafaba into a meringue, before folding in the dry ingredients (my theory was that this would lead to a dryer mix, as the moisture was already locked away in the meringue structure). This did indeed work much better, though I didn't get the cooking times right (after the initial run was so grim, I went too high for the second batch, treating it more like a fatless sponge), so the outside was too crispy. I'll give it another shot with the following tweaks;

1) More mixture per cupcake. This had ~40g/case, and they were a little small. 55-60g would be better for a good sized cake. This will require more mixture (I had maybe 50-80g left with this batch)
2) Lower temperature and longer baking time. This one was 200'C/12 minutes, and I think I'd like to try my normal 150'C/20 minutes
3) Swap some flour for ground almond. I had done this in the disaster batch, but went full flour for round 2 to give me a better shot at success.

Vegan "Bakewell Tart" Cupcakes

  • Pre-heat Oven to 200'C (next time try 150'C)
  • Prepare a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases

Sponge Ingredients

  • 1 tin of chick peas
  • 175g caster sugar
  • ½tsp cream of tartar
  • 175g gluten free flour (next time swap 1/3rd of this for ground almond)
  • 2tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 75g baking margarine
  • 1tsp almonds essence
  • Raspberry jam (to fill) - I prefer seedless
Note-  need to increase all ingredients by ~30% for larger cakes

1) Drain the ckickpeas, and put the drained water (aquafaba, should get 150-155g of the stuff) in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment

2) Begin to whisk, and slowly add the sugar and cream of tartar. It wil take a while, but it will begin to form a meringue.

3) Whip until stiff, glossy peaks are formed

4) Sieve together the flour and baking powder (and if used, the ground almond)

5) Fold the flour mixture and the almond essence into the meringue in quarters, ensuring no dry pockets.

6) Melt the margarine in a small pot, and leave to cool slightly

7) Pour the melted margarine aroudn the edge of the bowl, and carefully fold in.

8) Spoon 40g of the mixture (next time 55-60g) into each cupcake case

9) Bake in the oven for 10 minutes (for 150'C try 20 minutes)

10) Remove to a wire rack to cool. Turn the oven down to 170'C

11) Once cool, use a cupcake corer to remove a chunk from each cake.

12) Add a dollop of raspberry jam into the hole, and replace the core

Toppings

  • 150g baking margarine (room temperature)
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 1tsp Almond Essence
  • Almond Milk
  • Flaked Almonds
  • Fresh Raspberrries
1) Place the flaked almonds on a baking tray, and place in the oven for 5-6 minutes to toast them

2) Place the margarine and sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, and beat until soft and fluffy.

3) Add the almond essense and continue to beat. If a little stiff, add a splash of almond milk to soften, but be sparing.

4) Put the buttercream in a piping bag with a semi-closed star nozzle, and pipe a swirl onto each cake

5) Sprinkle with the toasted almonds, and then press a raspberry into each cake to finish
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Thursday, 5 July 2018

American-Style Choc-Chip Cookies


These are basically a copy of the sort of biscuit you get at Millies Cookies (other shops are available). This works well with white and dark chocolate, or you could swap some of the flour for cocoa powder for double-chocolate!

This recipe makes about 18-20 cookies, of a standard size. You could make them larger or smaller as you see fit, though may need to tweak the cooking time a little.

I often (and you'll see this in the pictures) make a double batch, then split it and stir in different types of chocolate at the end...they bake and cool pretty quickly, and never had an problem getting people to eat them

Choc-Chip Cookies - Recipe (makes 18-20)

  • Pre-heat oven to 150'C
  • Have 2-3 clean baking shets ready

Ingredients

  • 250g plain flour
  • ½tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½tsp salt
  • 170g butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 200g soft brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 200g chocolate drops (dark or white...chefs choice!)

1) Sieve the flour, bicarb and salt together into a bowl

2) Place the butter in a heatproof bowl, and microwave in 10 second bursts until melted

3) Place the melted butter in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment

4) Add the sugars, and beat together  well

5) Add the egg, yolk and vanilla essence and continue to beat until smooth

6) Fold in the sieved flour until just combined (my stand mixer has a fold-function, which works well for this)

7) Stir in the chocolate chips



8) Using your hands, form balls of the mixture approximately2.5-3cm in diameter. Place these on the baking trays well spaced out (~9 to a tray works well)

9) Bake each tray for 13 minutes (you may need to tweak this a little, depending on your oven. Timing is important, as you want that crisp on the outside, chewy in the middle consistency)

10) Remove from the oven, and leave to cool on the tray for 5 minutes

11) Carefully slide/remove the cookies from the tray, and place on a wire rack to cool
Continue Reading...

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!


Continue Reading...

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.

Continue Reading...

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.