Friday, January 30, 2009

UNC Swimming and Diving Cake

IMG_0168, originally uploaded by bakers-cakes.

This week I got a call from the UNC Swimming and Diving team! They wanted a cake for Friday! How could I say no? First of all it's Swimming and Diving, a sport close to our hearts! Although, try as I may, I'm not the swimmer in the family. I'll leave that up to the boy! Secondly, it's UNC! I would have probably had to say no if Duke called, but they didn't, so that's another strike against them.

The team wanted the UNC logo, which I knew I could create. It wasn't difficult to carve. But, when it came to frosting this bad boy, that is another story! Generally, cakes have four corners and those are hard enough to make square-ish. The UNC cake has no less than 12 corners and 8 interior angles. My eyes are still crossed from attempting to frost them all. Another added challenge to the frosting adventure, is that usually when you frost a cake it is a solid plane. This cake has the obvious negative space inside the letters. I had to keep touching up around the spaces and retouching and re-retouch the retouches.

Did I mention the dimensions of this cake? It measures 19 inches by 14 inches. It is two delicious layers of Baker's Cakes signature chocolate cake. Yum! I'd eat it, after I swam though! Or like grandma always says, leave at least 30 minutes after eating before you get into the water. I always hated that rule. I don't make my kids wait, and so far we haven't had any issues around swimming after eating (yet).

I hope the cake provides the extra push to help UNC beat Duke tonight! We'll be there cheering!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My Gosh Ganache!

I thought that this interesting "bundt" cupcake pan would be a great way to put the new camera to use! (Thanks so much to everyone for listening to me blab on and on about this camera for the last month! And thanks so much for all of your advice and suggestions! I finally decided on the Canon Rebel XS kit with the 18-55 mm lens and also got a 50mm lens for these close shots. Needless to say, I am thrilled with the results and love the camera and lenses!)

Here's the pan that inspired me:

(I'm going to put a really cool photo here when it doesn't take an hour to upload it!)

I'm not sure what the pan is really intended for, but I decided to make petits fours. Petits fours are little mini cakes that are super cute and super dainty. I should have read up on how to make petits fours before I started, because as it turns out I left out a few steps! So let's call these, "Baker's Cakes Easy Petits Fours." I began with a batch of my strawberry buttermilk cake. I think strawberries and chocolate make the best combination, well, right after peanut butter and chocolate! I was concerned about all the nooks and crannies in the cake molds and getting the cake out, so I sprayed it with a generous spray of Baker's Joy. Great name! (On a photo note, I am still trying to find enough light in my kitchen so I don't have to rely on the flash quite as much, especially with such a reflective subject. It was a rainy day, so I had no choice but to use the flash.)

 Chocolate Ganache (from the Joy of Cooking)

Bring to a boil in a small sauce pan:
3/4 cup heavy cream

Remove from the heat and add:
8 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate

Stir until most of the chocolate is melted. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes (Ooops! I totally missed this step, that explains a LOT!) Stir or whisk very gently. For a pourable glaze, let stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until the mixture cools to 85' to 95'.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups. Store in the fridge for up to one week.

Apparently here is where I should have covered the chocolate and cream mixture and let it be. I kept stirring until it got down to the pourable temperature and couldn't figure out why it was so thick and seemed to separate a bit!

After I baked the cakes, I trimmed off the bottoms of the mini bundts and ate some for breakfast, yum! (Another photo note, here is the best example of why I am loving the 50mm lens. I focused it on the second row of cakes and it blurred the first row and the background. My loyal reader will have to bear with me until I get this new depth of field excitement out of my system, I just can't get enough of these shots!) 

When the ganache reached 94' or so I spooned it over the top of the petits fours. It was a bit thicker than I would have liked, but I now think I know why!

Here's that awesome depth of field shot again! I just can't get enough of it!

It turns out, the traditional petits fours steps I left out, also happen to give the cakes that slick fancy look I was trying to achieve. Apparently, one can brush the cakes with a coat of warmed strained fruit preserves and then top that with a layer of rolled marzipan (I can just imagine how the strawberry cake would be with strawberry preserves and almond marzipan! Yum!) and then top with a coat of chocolate ganache. But, that wouldn't be "Baker's Cakes Quick Petits Fours!" I think the heart shape came out the best.

On the more traditional bundt shapes, I spooned a bit of ganache on top and let it drip down the sides, like a much much bigger bundt might look.

And so loyal reader here I must add one final disclaimer, ganache is not sweet. It is very rich and very chocolatey, and not for the faint at heart. My six year old is a true chocolate lover, and thought these were delicious. His father said they were, "Not sweet enough." Very interesting.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New Look

I am in love with Wendy from A Southern Accent for designing this awesome new header for my blog! It is so adorable!!! And the best part is, she gave me that little nip, tuck, and lift that I have been dreaming about!!! So watch out Wendy, a little delivery of these could be on your door step when you least expect it!!!

For complete cake bite instructions check out Bakerella's blog, she makes the most amazing treats!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Little Birdie Told Me

...that our friend and neighbor Z, turned two this week. I had to make her a little cake!

Here's my inspiration:

I used a #4 round tip and royal icing. It's tricky to get just the right consistency of frosting and even trickier to control it's application on the cake! I think this is going to require a lot more practice to perfect it! Here's the final result:

Maybe I should have used an even smaller tip? I'll definitely keep working on this line drawing/graphic technique.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Zuccholate? Chococchini?

Unfortunately here at Baker's Cakes, some people are not as fond of vegetables as others. I won't mention any names...

What Thing 1 and Thing 2 didn't know, as they gobbled up these muffins, is that they were teaming with zucchini! Chocolate Zucchini Muffins! And they are GOOD!

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

1/2 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
3 Eggs
2 Cups Sugar
1 Cup Oil
4 Small Zucchini (raw pureed)
1 teaspoon Vanilla 
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
3/4 Cup Chocolate Chips

Stir together eggs, sugar, and oil. Add pureed zucchini and vanilla. Mix until combined. Add flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Bake 350' for approximately 20-25 minutes. Makes 24 muffins.

If you are the kind of person who sees a recipe with cocoa powder in it and automatically doubles the amount of cocoa powder, don't! I already did that for you! My other disclaimer is, I realize that just because this recipe has zucchini in it, it doesn't make it "healthy." It's hard to make that claim and then add two cups of sugar and a cup of oil! If you are the type of person that likes to substitute apple sauce for oil, reduce sugar, and substitute whole wheat for white flour, by all means, knock yourself out. But these muffins are tasty just as is! And I'll make veggie lovers out of Thing 1 and Thing 2 yet!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Hello Kitty Cake or (The Art of the Crumb Coat)

There couldn't be a less glamourous, yet absolutely necessary step in decorating a cake. The crumb coat is the under appreciated, behind the scenes, hero of the cake. In the case of a chocolate cake with a white frosting it is an absolute must!

A "crumb coat" is a thin layer of frosting that seals in the afore mentioned crumbs. It need not be perfectly smooth or particularly even, it just catches the crumbs. The crumb coat is also a must for sculpted cakes. I usually pop a cake into the freezer after it has been baked and cooled to room temperature (Wrapped first in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil). A firm cake is much easier to carve. After it has firmed up a bit in the freezer, I unwrap it, and carve according to my plan. I usually have a drawing or picture to work from. Here is Hello Kitty's crumb coat:

You can see all the cake crumbs and even some of the cake, but it's ok! After the crumb coat has been applied, return the cake to the fridge to firm up the frosting, in this case it's my buttercream frosting.

If this cake was going to be covered in fondant, this is the point when the fondant would be applied. However, for Hello Kitty, I applied the second layer of frosting and found that I could still see the cake in a couple of spots, so I popped it back into the fridge, and applied more frosting where it was necessary. The trick to smoothing out frosting evenly, is using an off set spatula that you have run under HOT water. The hot water slightly melts the butter in the frosting and easily smooths out the frosting. Return the spatula to the hot water after every couple of passes on the cake and keep a towel handy for drying it off after you run it under the water.

I made Kitty's features and bow out of fondant and found some thick black licorice for her whiskers. The pink sprinkles set off her smooth white frosting perfectly (and cover the cake board as well)!

While it's nearly impossible to achieve the perfectly smooth look of fondant with frosting, it can come pretty close.

Here's Hello Kitty boxed up and ready to feed a gaggle of six year old girls. Doesn't she look a little sad to be trapped in the box?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Rolled Fondant

Rolled fondant is one of the most stunning ways to decorate a cake. It can simply and elegantly cover rounds and it can make the most amazing sculpted cakes. I've tried the store bought fondants and while they are easy to use, they are unpleasant tasting. With a bit of testing in the kitchen, I've developed a pretty good rolled fondant recipe. So let's go through the process of making rolled fondant step-by-step. (You will have to bear with these pictures, I'm researching SLR cameras and will replace these pictures with new ones as soon as I get a new camera. It's an exercise in patience, it's hard for me)

Rolled Fondant

1 (.25 ounce) Package Unflavored Gelatin
3 Tablespoons COLD Water
1/2 Cup Corn Syrup
1 Tablespoon Glycerin
3 Tablespoons Shortening
1/2 teaspoon Clear Vanilla Extract
1/2 teaspoon Butter Flavor
8 Cups Powdered Sugar

I almost always double this recipe to cover and decorate one cake recipe.

Combine gelatin and cold water, let stand until thick:

Here's the gelatin thickened and ready to go into the double boiler:

Heat the gelatin over medium-low heat until dissolved:

When the gelatin has returned to a clear liquid, add corn syrup, glycerin, and mix. Stir in the shortening:

Just before the shortening has completely melted, remove it from the heat and add the vanilla and butter flavor:

Place 4 Cups of powdered sugar (this is about half of a 32 ounce bag) in the Kitchen Aid with the dough hook and make a well in the center of the sugar:

Allow the gelatin/corn syrup mixture to cool to almost room temperature and the remaining shortening to melt:

Pour the gelatin/corn syrup mixture into the well of the powdered sugar:

Mix the gelatin/corn syrup mixture and powdered sugar until combined and scrape down the bowl as necessary:

At this point you have only added half of the powdered sugar. Set the remaining four cups (the other half of the bag) aside and use it later as you add your food color gel (if you choose to tint your fondant) and roll out the fondant. I found that if you add all the powdered sugar now in addition to the amount you will need for tinting and rolling, the fondant loses it elasticity and becomes much more difficult to work with. Black is a particularly difficult color to achieve due to the sheer amount of food coloring it takes to achieve a true black color, you can use extra shortening on your hands and silicone mat as you add black food coloring to the fondant.

The final step in making your own from scratch rolled fondant is letting the fondant rest. Allowing the fondant to rest allows the liquid ingredients and powdered sugar to marry. I have found time and time again that when I make fondant ahead of time and pop it into a ziplock bag and put it in the fridge it is infinitely easier to work with:

Rolled fondant will keep in the refrigerator in an air tight container for about a week:

Let your fondant rest for at least two hours on the counter or over night in the fridge. Bring the fondant back to room temperature before you add food color or roll in out. For fondant rolling tips from a previous post click here.

Making your own fondant can require a little patience and practice, but I find it to be well worth the effort!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A New Twist On An Old Favorite

I was in the mood for cookies yesterday and couldn't convince the boy to help me make any. So, I asked him what his favorite kind of cookie is. Despite his quirky personality, he chose the all-time classic, chocolate chip. And despite my best attempt to keep the cupboard stocked with chips at all times, I think the last bag found their way into pancakes, muffins, and cookies. So my stash of chips was way down, but I did dig into the back of the shelf and discover some white chocolate and peanut butter chips, and the "Mixed-Up Chip Cookie" was born! 

Mixed-Up Chip Cookies

1 Cup Butter (2 sticks)
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
2 Eggs
2 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
12 ounces mixed chips (milk chocolate, white chocolate, peanut butter)

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and beat. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt and then add to butter mixture. Sir in chips. Drop by heaping teaspoons onto silicone mat or lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in 375' oven 8-12 minutes. Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

These pictures remind me that I really enjoy taking pictures and that this digital camera doesn't allow for much "photography" beyond point and shoot. Oh to have a nice camera...

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Boy

It has been brought to my attention, that thus far, the new blog has been a bit heavy on the girl (You see, she is always around, I call her the director. She will direct you (me) to take a picture of her doing this or wearing that, it's very funny!). So, in the spirit of fairness, and to post a few more cake pictures that you may not have seen, here are some pictures of the boy with cake! Halloween Cake Pops:

The boy turns 6! (I know the candle says 5, ironically, I forgot to get a six candle or birthday candles at all! Imagine, all this cake and no candles!) I was so tired of cake in October, I think you may see an apple pie in the background. Yum, pie.

No cake here, I just like this shot. I was "shooting from the hip."

The Scooter Cake! I loved this cake. It was my first attempt (and perhaps last) at figurative detail:

The boy sure hams it up for the camera, I think he gets that from his Dad. Who, asked where he is in the blog or the Twitter. I guess that's a post for next time!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

Here's a total cutie pie celebrating her first birthday with one of my all time favorite cakes, the "Cat Cake!" I loved it then and love it now! And here she is about a year later indulging in a New Year's donut. Yup, we love our sugar around here! Isn't she adorable? What a difference a year makes! How will you grow this year? Happy New Year!