Tuesdays with Dorie: Chocolate Caramel Chestnut Cake

November 17, 2009 at 1:00 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 45 Comments

chocolate caramel chestnut cake

Last week was kind of crappy.  First, we suffered the latest disappointment in the mulit-year saga known as “R and Stephanie vs. the NYC real estate market.”  I often wonder if owning a little place here just isn’t in the cards for us.  Then, two of my favorite coworkers gave notice and will be leaving the bakery before the end of the month.  This will certainly put a damper on my workplace socializing (the only reason I really even go to work, ‘cuz I barley get paid–ha!)…not to mention that thinking about going into the busy holiday season understaffed is giving me major agita.  Losing myself in my kitchen for a bit to make this Chocolate Caramel Chestnut Cake for TWD was a nice distraction, and probably kept my head from exploding.

The first thing I noticed when I looked at the recipe is that this cake has several steps and requires a few unusual ingredients.  I’m pretty lucky that I can easily find chestnuts and sweetened chestnut spread without a embarking on a major hunting excursion or having to pay for online shipping.  In fact, at Sahadi’s I found cans of the fancypants Clement Faugier spread for about $5–not too shabby, and I should get more before they realize it’s a steal and jack up the price.  I’m not super wild about chestnuts, but that spread is so yummy…I have quite a bit leftover, so I’m looking forward to using it in something else soon.  Any suggestions?

I split up the work (and the dishes– did I tell you that I have the world’s tiniest sink?) over two days.  On night one, I made both the caramel ganache and the glaze.  On day two, I baked the cake and assembled the whole shebang.  I made half a recipe of cake and glaze, and deciding to go easy on things (yeah, right), just a third of the ganache.  To bake the cake, I spread the batter in a quarter-sheet pan (about 9″ x 13″), rather than baking it in a taller square pan.  Not only does it cook in less than 20 minutes (instead of almost an hour), but there’s no sawing the cake into layers (I always seem to do a hack-job on that)…just cut the sheet into three strips of equal width and stack with the filling.  Easy-peasy.

I looove sparkly things, and actually have a huge collection of luster dusts.  After I dusted the whole chestnuts in gold, I couldn’t help but blow the stuff all over the top of the cake, too.  Super shimmery.  And super tasty.  My favorite parts were the end pieces, because they had extra glaze!  This is a luxurious (not to mention expensive) cake…seems kind of a shame to not to have made it for a special occasion, but it sure made a crappy week better.

chocolate caramel chestnut cake

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan(it’s also here on Epicurious).  Read Second Dinner, where Katya posted it earlier this month, and don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

The Cake Slice: Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake

September 20, 2009 at 1:32 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, the cake slice | 37 Comments

triple chocolate fudge cake

Oh…Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake…the last cake The Cake Slice Bakers are making as a group from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes.  Sad, but just because the group will be moving on to a new book next month, Sky High won’t be gathering dust on the shelf.  After thirteen cakes, it has proven to be one of my favorite books, and I want to make just about every other thing in it!

This cake is like a high-class Ding Dong (although when and where I grew up, they were called “King Dons“).  If you were raised, as I was, in a house where such “crème-filled” delicacies were banned, then it will make you very happy.  A moist and dark devil’s food-like cake (made with mayo…but don’t be put off, because you’d never know!) is filled with a white chocolate mousse and frosted with chocolate sour cream frosting.  A piece of advice…my white chocolate filling seemed a bit too soft to use straight away, so I stashed it, still in its bowl, in the fridge for about half an hour to firm up before using it.

 triple chocolate fudge cake

The cake is so rich and good– I think we’re seeing this book off with a bang!  Here’s a printable link to the recipe.  Better yet, get your hands on a copy of Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alicia Huntsman and Peter Wynne…you won’t be sorry.  Cruise through the list of The Cake Slice Bakers to check out all of our sky-high cakes this month, and stay tuned for next month’s new book!

The Cake Slice: Pistachio Petit Four Cake

August 20, 2009 at 1:47 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, the cake slice | 26 Comments

pistachio petit four cake

With marzipan roses on top (however garishly colored–oops!), this Pistachio Petit Four Cake from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes may be the ultimate ladies’ treat– something that you’ll want to eat with your pinkie curled in the air. 

It’s not just for the girls though…R was completely happy to have it as his birthday cake this past week (want to see last year’s, or the year before’s?).  And he’d have been crazy not to want it.  Pistachio butter cake stacked with rolled marzipan, apricot jam and chocolate ganache make for a layered affair that is not just beautiful to look at, but tastes beautiful, too.

Sounds like a lot of fuss for a cake, but it’s completely worth it, and it’s not really that hard…at least not compared to stuggling through the petits fours glacés section of a French cooking school curriculum!  Buy the jam, and what the hell, buy the marzipan, too.  Even though there were instructions in the recipe for homemade marzipan, I confess that I just got the stuff in a log (one log worked great for the six-inch cake I made, but if you are doing a full-sized cake, I’d suggest two).

Here’s a printable link to the recipe.  Better yet, get your hands on a copy of Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alicia Huntsman and Peter Wynne.  Cruise through the list of The Cake Slice Bakers to check out all of our sky-high cakes this month.

The Cake Slice: Marbled Lemon-Blueberry Butter Cake

July 20, 2009 at 2:41 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, the cake slice | 27 Comments

marbled lemon-blueberry butter cake

I really look forward to Cake Slice time every month.  The best part, of course, is getting to eat homemade cake!!  But the second best part is getting in a little decorating practice.  I always keep it simple, mainly because I don’t have the finishing skills to make it fancy, but simple suits me best anyway.  One thing I’ve discovered is that a few easy to crank out gumpaste or fondant flowers can make even a mediocre frosting job look pretty good! 

I was a little on the fence when I saw we’d be making this particular cake, though.  It felt like we’d just done the Triple Lemon Chiffon…although looking at my archives, I now realize that was back in March.  My, how time flies– I guess we are due for another lemon cake!

This one’s a different animal from the chiffon altogether.  You can tell it’s a butter cake, with its nice tight crumb…it is definitely lemony, which I loved (although I do admit to never measuring zest, and may have been heavy-handed).  The frosting is a really rich buttercream…but the kicker is the homemade blueberry jam in the middle (and in the marble).  How perfectly summery!

marbled lemon-blueberry butter cake

Here’s a printable link to the recipe.  Better yet, get your hands on a copy of Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alicia Huntsman and Peter Wynne.  Cruise through the list of The Cake Slice Bakers to check out all of our sky-high cakes this month.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Perfect Party Cake

June 30, 2009 at 1:21 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 52 Comments

perfect party cake #2

Like many of you, I’ve made the Perfect Party Cake before, but it was so good that when I saw that Carol of mix, mix… stir, stir picked it for TWD, party or no party, I was happy to give it a second go!  Since I had stayed pretty true to the original last year, this time around I thought I’d switch up the flavors a bit.  Instead of using lemon zest and juice, I put almond extract in the cake itself and matcha powder in the buttercream frosting (I just added both flavors to taste).  I skipped the jam component and sprinkled toasted sliced almonds over each layer.  Good, good stuff!

The original cake is made from two thicker layers that are halved to make a four-layer cake…I simplified things a bit here, and just baked three thinner ones and used them as-is (or as-was, I guess).   After making it twice now, the cake doesn’t seem to be an incredibly high-riser…but it was soft, moist and had a great fluffy texture both times, so I’m assuming that’s the norm.  Dorie herself weighed in on the TWD site with some tips to achieve party cake perfection– check them out here.

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, or read mix, mix… stir, stir (Carol always has some cool tricks up her sleeve, so definitely check her post out).  Don’t forget to scan the TWD Blogroll!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Coconut-Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise

June 23, 2009 at 4:45 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 35 Comments

coconut-roasted pineapple dacquoise

Wow.  I almost thought this Coconut-Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise wasn’t going to get done, but I really wanted to give props to Andrea in the Kitchen and the Aussie contingent of TWD, so I busted the recipe out this morning. 

If you’re wondering what exactly this is, it’s a cake made from layers of crisp almond-coconut meringue.  It’s filled with a softly-whipped white chocolate ganache and pineapple slices.  Sounds good, right?  It’s not hard to make, but there’s a fair amount of wait-time involved, so it did take awhile from start to finish.  I made a half recipe of the meringue layers and a just third of the ganache. 

I totally of get a kick out of how retro this thing looks.  I know that dacquoise meringue is used as a building block for many classic French desserts, but I think this particular cake looks like it belongs at a 70’s dinner party, which instantly makes me love it!  I do have to admit that since I just assembled it about an hour ago, my dacquoise is still sitting in the fridge– uncut and untasted.  I have taste-tested all the components separately, though, and I do think the final product will be a hit!  I’m looking forward to a chilled slice tonight…probably with a few raspberries thrown around the plate.

coconut-roasted pineapple dacquoise

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, or read Andrea in the Kitchen.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

The Cake Slice: Piña Colada Cake

June 20, 2009 at 3:16 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, the cake slice | 32 Comments

piña colada cake

Anyone who knows me well knows that I like relaxing vacations in tropical places (but really, who doesn’t?).  If I can’t be in paradise, then a frou-frou frozen drink with a paper umbrella and a plastic mermaid can usually put me in high spirits!  But a Piña Colada Cake??  I dunno about that, but if it’s from the book Sky High, I’m willing to give it a shot.

This cake has a couple of standout elements.  The first is the actual cake itself– a brown sugar cake that’s really soft and moist, and it stayed that way over the four nights it took us to eat it (and I only made 1/3 of the recipe!).  The second is the pineapple filling– crushed pineapple cooked down with vanilla bean and lime juice.  It is supremely delicious, and I’m thinking that if I reduced it just to the point of a loose sauce (rather than a jammy cake filling), it would make an awesome topping for vanilla ice cream! 

I have to say, however, that on the first night, I wasn’t so impressed by the total package.  A healthy sprinkling of rum moistens each cake layer.  Normally that would get me pretty excited, but it was just too harshly alcoholoic for me.  And the coconut buttercream tasted overwhelmingly of the coconut extract (which always seems a little fake to me) used to flavor it.  Happily, after a night of refrigerated rest, the flavors nicely mellowed out…just like me under a palm tree with a drink in my hand!

Here’s a printable link to the recipe.  Better yet, get your hands on a copy of Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alicia Huntsman and Peter Wynne.  Cruise through the list of The Cake Slice Bakers to check out all of our mile-high cakes this month.

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

May 28, 2009 at 10:36 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, layer cakes, sweet things | 70 Comments

vanilla buttermilk cake with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream

Did you see the birthday cake I made a few weeks ago for my friend’s little tiger?  Well, I promised recipes, so now I am here to deliver.  Tiger’s mum, my friend C, wanted a basic vanilla-on-vanilla– something that both the kids and the other mums at the party would like– so I began my quest for the right cake and frosting. 

I have baked several fantastic cakes from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alicia Huntsman and Peter Wynne, and I really trust the recipes in the book.  I’ve seen the authors’ Vanilla Buttermilk Cake make appearances on countless other blogs, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.  This yellow cake is nice and moist, and has a great crumb that doesn’t fall apart when you level the layers or when you slice it up.  It’s definitely a multi-purpose vanilla cake– just as good for something simple and homey as it is for something dressed-up and fancy.

C had asked for a buttercream frosting, and since I wanted something snow white, I knew it had to be either Swiss or Italian meringue-based.  In the battle between the two, I generally side with the Swiss, only because no futzing with sugar syrups is required.  The recipe below is pretty standard…I like its particular proportions because it’s not too sweet, and it’s really easy to work with.  A basic Swiss meringue buttercream is the perfect canvas for making flavored frostings, if you are so inclined.  Switch up the extracts, add melted chocolate, add coconut flakes…I could go on.

Tiger’s birthday cake was a big triple layer 10-incher, so I scaled up the recipes below.  I overshot a bit, and wound up with enough extra batter and buttercream to make a two layer 6-inch cake for myself (oops, how’d that happen?!?).  I didn’t have quite enough leftover buttercream to fill the layers of my little cake, so I used lemon curd and some smooshed up raspberries in the middle.

vanilla buttermilk cake with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake– makes an 8-inch layer cake
adapted from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alicia Huntsman and Peter Wynne

4 whole large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 t vanilla extract
1 1/4 c buttermilk
3 c cake flour
2 c sugar
4 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
8 oz unsalted butter, room temperature

-Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter or spray the bottom and sides of three 8-inch cake pans.  Line with parchment rounds and grease.

-Place the eggs and the yolks in a medium bowl.  Add the vanilla and 1/4 cup of buttermilk.  Whisk well and set aside.

-Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a mixer; whisk to blend.  Add the remaining 1 cup of buttermilk and the butter to the dry ingredients and with the mixer on low speed, blend together.  Raise the mixer to medium speed and beat until light fluffy (about 2 minutes).

-Add the egg mixture in three additions, scrapping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Don’t overmix. 

-Divide the batter among the three pans.  Bake the cake layers for 28-32 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the cake layers cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Turn out the cakes onto a wire rack and remove the paper from the bottoms.  Cool completely before filling and frosting.

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream– makes about 6 cups
adapted from Martha Stewart

Note: Unless you like to go really heavy on the stuff, this is most likely more than you will need to fill and frost an 8-inch cake.  I always like to be on the safe side with buttercream, however, because finding you are stuck without quite enough is incredibly annoying.  Extra buttercream can be stored for a couple weeks and used to frost a half-batch of cupcakes.

1 c egg whites (from about 6 large eggs)
1 1/2 c sugar
pinch of salt
1 lb 4 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 t vanilla extract (or seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean)
squeeze of lemon juice

-Combine the egg whites, sugar and pinch of salt in a large metal bowl (I usually do this right in my stand mixer bowl).  Put the bowl over a pot of simmering water (double boiler-style), and whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved.  The mixture will feel hot to the touch.

-Transfer the hot mixture to your stand mixer and whip on high speed until it turns white and about doubles in size.  This will take about six minutes.  Beat in the vanilla and the lemon juice.

-Add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time, on medium speed, mixing after each addition.  Raise the speed and beat until smooth; this may take up to ten minutes.  The mixture may appear curdled along the way; this is normal.  Just keep beating and the mixture will become smooth again.

-Buttercream will keep, covered air-tight and refrigerated, for up to two weeks.  Bring to room temperature, then beat on low speed before using.

The Cake Slice: Mile-High Devil’s Food Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream

May 20, 2009 at 4:19 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, the cake slice | 34 Comments

mile-high devil's food cake

I liked this.  *sigh*  I liked this very much…but I’ve gone on before about my feelings for devil’s food cake.

Back when I cooked up Southern Coconut Cake, I found that I could bake half of an 8-inch cake recipe in a quarter sheet pan.  Here, I did just a third of the recipe in the same sized pan.  The slightly thinner layers made it more “kilometer-high” than “mile-high,” but trust me, I was quite satisfied with the altitude of this moist cake.  And the brown sugar buttercream?  Well, it is quite a luxury (and one best appreciated at room temperature).  It definitely takes this cake from childhood favorite to grown-up delight.

mile-high devil's food cake

Here’s a printable link to the recipe, courtesy of  Gigi Cakes.  Better yet, get your hands on a copy of Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alicia Huntsman and Peter Wynne.  This is now the eighth (actually ninth, but more on that later) cake I’ve made from the book, and I can’t recommend it highly enough!  Cruise through the list of The Cake Slice Bakers to check out all of our mile-high cakes this month.

Great Big Birthday Cake!

May 7, 2009 at 4:33 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, layer cakes, sweet things | 20 Comments

tiger's first birthday cake!

I spent most of this rainy afternoon decorating a birthday cake for a friend’s little guy.  A fun project, but glad it’s behind me.  Doing something like this just seems so much harder at home than at the bakery…not enough space, not enough bowls and, most importantly, no one to wash the dishes for me!  

It’s a simple vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream, but I’ll post recipes when I assemble a small cake I plan to make with the leftovers.  The tiger face was made with white chocolate, and was by far the part that made me most anxious!

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