Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Suicide Buttercream

This week we made the White Chocolate Whisper Cake (pg 50). She turns this one into the Blueberry Swan Lake cake (pg 165).

This is the perfect time to take a minute and thank Janet. She not only made the Blueberry Lake, she also made the aforementioned swans. And as you can tell in the pics, she did a mighty fine job of it. It required a Classic Lemon Buttercream, which decorated the cake. Again, kudos to J. Look at the sides of that cake. It was mighty fine. You run the spatula in vertical lines -- simple, but completely effective.

Really, this cake came together like that -- only because of J's two days of intensive swan making. (It was much simpler than that.-J)

And when we put the cake in the oven, I asked Janet, "Well, how many more do we have in this blankety-blank chapter?"

Thumbing through the pages she says, "Two." She got that gleem in her eye, the one that I love so much and she asked, "Wanna do another one?"

My response was, "Oh, what the hell." And we both set out to gather up the mise en place for the second to last cake in our butter cake section. The Perfect All-American Chocolate Butter Cake (pg 54) requires some sort of buttercream -- don't they all.

In High school, we'd drink "suicides" I'm sure that's not really politically correct, but you'd add all the different sodas to the glass and drink it. Recently, I've found myself doing just that sort of thing at the movies. I really like Diet Cherry Coke and it's never available at the fountain machine. So, I create my own with 1/2 Diet Coke and 1/2 Cherry Coke. It works for the taste and I don't get too much sugar, but boy do I get the same amount of caffeine.

Ok, where was I? Right. Suicide Buttercream. RLB suggests any buttercream for the Perfect All-American. Remember last time when I said leftovers can be your friend? They sure can be. There were three buttercreams left in the freezer: 1. Orange Curd Buttercream written about on 07.25.07; 2. Vanilla Buttercream- the silky meringue one that was half creme anglais, from some cake we baked and 3. One we couldn't identify after much trying, but it must have been the first one we made. Anyway, they whipped up so perfectly that we both took a small moment to stare at them: perfect consistency. Best of all, they tasted great together.

The swan cake was nice to look at, and delightful to hold....I liked the mix of lemon, blueberries and cake, but for me the cake didn't have the ummph that I'd have wanted. It was nice, but not Wow!

The chocolate cake had a good crumb, but a ton of holes in it. It looked like a chunk of brown, rich, dark chocolate brown, swiss cheese. Overmixing I guess... it's suspicious that the chocolate cakes tend to have this difficulty. The best part of it was the buttercream. We'll never be able to make that again (Was that 1/16 of a vanilla buttercream + 1/4 orange curd buttercream + a random amount of an undisclosed buttercream whisked together until it looks right then slathered on?) The combination of vanilla and orange with Grand Marnier is one that we will work to recreate though. It was fantastic with the chocolate.

As you can tell, J and I are just about over the butter cakes. And, just about done with them, thank our lucky stars. The next cake is also the last one in the chapter -- The Checkerboard Cake.

Honestly, we can't wait for this one.

Bake through everyone....


Monday, August 27, 2007

Belts & Suspenders

Ok...last Tuesday (August 21, 2007 - almost 7 days ago) we made the Bittersweet Royale Torte (pg 198).

It includes a 1/2 recipe of chocolate buttercream. We used our Milk Chocolate Butter cream from 5.17.7 and 6.5.7. Thank God for freezers and zip top bags! As you may recall, it was a big hit when we used it last time. This time it whipped up quite nicely.

It also includes:
A Perfect All-American Chocolate Torte (pg 56).
Chocolate Cream Glaze (pg 271)
20 or so chocolate Rose leaves (pg 385).

The Torte mixes up just like all of the other butter cakes.

Honestly, this was not our favorite cake. It was a bit too dense and really, really crumbly. It almost seemed more like a kitchen sponge to me. Dickey, one of our tasters, said that it was really good with milk in a bowl. I thought it would be good with a big scoop of ice cream.

Originally we thought it was because of the fact that you have to refrigerate the cake before you can pour the glaze on and then again after you pour on the glaze -- this was a bit of a discussion for us. We both read the directions and initially thought it was that way, the reason we did it that way. Then after reading it again, I thought it shouldn't have needed to be refrigerated and J thought it did. With that in mind, I left the cake out all evening so that when Michael got home it would be room temp. It still had a crumbly texture and a stiff, almost chewy consistency.

The butter cream was quite nice. Leftovers are your friend!

The glaze. As it's written, and this time we did follow the directions exactly, the glaze wasn't pourable. There just wasn't enough cream to make it drizzly. We added more cream and it eventually got to a place that worked, but really, it was stiff and gloppy and eventually J had to frost it. Luckily, we had cooled it in the fridge after we buttercreamed it, so the "glaze" would actually work a little bit as a frosting. Too bad it wasn't the smooth as glass top we had expected. Really, not our favorite. At some point, after we've been away from Butter Cakes for a very long time, I'd like to make "our version" of this cake which would have a nice moist chocolate layer (think flourless) a bittersweet buttercream and ganache poured over. On paper, it sounds just delicious.

The rose leaves.....well, it's a lovely idea if you can peel them off in a walk in freezer. We found that after you painted to chocolate with a light coat, the chocolate tore. If you did a heavy coat, the chocolate tore. If you did two layers, the chocolate tore. Honestly, we couldn't figure out how to get this to work efficiently. The ones that turned out were absolutely stunning. This might be one technique we enjoy trying again in the winter when room temperature is likely to be more favorable.

The photo turned out kind of blah, our attitude had soured more than usual by that point. But we put a couple of geranium petals in the center on the top and it looked decent.

We took our bite at the end, with our separate forks, on the same plate and both looked at each other. J said, "I don't understand, she's the belts and suspenders lady. There are so many fail safes in this book, yet this didn't come together at any point....what's up with that?"

Really, she's right. What is up with that?

And, even though it might not always work out, Bake through anyway.....


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Shrimp boil, barbeque and cherry pie... (sung to the Chevrolet jingle.)

Ah, summertime. May it never end.

I know, I know, what about the beautiful change of seasons- the crisp air, the first aroma of fireplaces burning, the colorful leaves in fall. And for skiers, I suppose the snow that follows is quite welcome. And surely spring does offer the first glimpse of new growth in the garden, and that tender just-born green of new tree leaves. But, the sun, heat and outdoor life that summer affords are the best. I hope to someday live year round in a warm clime. I'll be sure to let you know if I miss freezing pipes and shoveling snow.

The foods of summer are my favorite, too. Real bbq, grilled anything- strike that- grilled everything!, boiled seafood of all varieties. Surprising as it may seem, dessert is something I can usually do without. (I'll admit that is a bit odd for one who is doing this baking project.) In summer however, I have a hard time passing on my favorite late summer dessert: PIE. Cherry pie. I know that peach and berry are popular, but cherry is second to none, it just screams summer. In fact, cherry pie at any other time of year is out of place. It's like putting on a bathing suit in January- not comfortable, unless I suppose, you are one of those leather skinned tanning booth people. Good for you if that's your thing.

I like the pies of other seasons, too: rhubarb and lemon or tangerine meringue in spring; pumpkin, chess and raisin in fall; mince or cranberry apple in winter; and all the fruit pies of summer with cherry at the absolute tip-top of the list.

Early on this season I remembered a fantastic cherry pie recipe I made 8 years ago in Seattle for an end of college party a bunch of us threw for our department. My friend Carrie enjoyed a piece of this pie with the same enthusiasm that she brings to living her life- such gusto and pleasure in every bite. She still inspires me to enjoy everything that comes down the road. Well, I hadn't actually forgotten about the pie, but the drive to have it again could no longer be ignored. It comes from a really terrific cook book by Carole Walter called Great Pies & Tarts. To our favorites, I added the link to her website. She is as fussy as Rose in some respects, and the results are worth it. I'm not familiar with her other books, but the book on cookies has caught my eye.

Carole's cherry pie recipe calls for canned tart cherries, to which you add sugar, and the result is a sweet, tart, pleasantly thick filling around plump, soft, whole cherries. Ground almonds are in the pastry, and a cream cheese layer on the bottom adds a creamy richness without making it heavy. Instead of a fussy lattice top, I chose a simple upper layer of crust comprised of circles of the almond pastry. Some will argue that everything is better with ice cream on top, and while this pie doesn't need it, vanilla ice cream doesn't hurt.

Summer is where it's at, and as I cling to every last warm evening outdoors, I lament that in just a few weeks, I will again have to wear shoes. My feet will adjust, and so will my attitude. I'll embrace autumn and apple picking, and raking leaves, and the fun of Halloween. Pumpkin season is my second favorite time of year after all. Then, maybe I'll change my tune and say that Christmas cookies are the best thing ever and fall in love with winter. But, I doubt it.

Vive le Soleil, vive l'été !

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


For those of you who don't live on the East Coast, there were reports of wide spread heat and humidity and general mugginess in the weather reports. Your wise and intrepid bake throughers decided that baking in 95+ degree heat and 98% humidity would be just plain silly.

So, as is the case, Janet and I can't keep away from each other on Tuesdays. Something about the second day of the work week -- for the rest of the world -- makes us want to hang out together.

I heard a wine shop listed on the radio as having 10,000 square feet. I couldn't quite fathom what 10,000 square feet looked like so I suggested a road trip to find out.

Ok, really it was an excuse to hang out with J and buy wine. I do love wine.

We headed out in my Ford Escape -- I know, it's an SUV, but it really did seem like a wise choice when we were going to be hauling all sorts of crap from the Home Depot. Now, I'm not so sure....

I looked over the directions on my computer, while J left the directions on her counter -- haven't we all done that once or twice before? And we didn't plug in my Navitron 4000. And, we actually made it. In the same amount of time that MapQuest said we would, thank you very much.

This wine store -- Star Wines in Monroe NY (There is a link at the right) -- was like Valhalla for wine lovers. There was row after row of wines and spirits. Not to sound too much like an ad, but it rated the most "Oh, Look At That"s I've ever experienced since I walked into Bruised Apple (Peekskill's very own used bookstore). The wine, plentiful and reasonably priced. Stop by and see them if you can. They were very nice to us.

I had promised Michael that I'd only buy one bottle -- Well, that wasn't really true. I bought about 6. Some I'd had before and liked (who would buy another bottle of wine they didn't like, I'd like to know.) I had to get the Pink Truck. It's a rose wine from the people who make Red Truck Table Wine in California. Hey, it's pink and I do like a rose from time to time.

Really the whole trip was about restocking J's Chambord that we'd used in the absolutely kick ass cake -- the White Velvet Butter Cake (pg 46) on July 17. We'd finished her bottle of Chambord. Just so you know, it wasn't like we poured a ton into the Mousseline or into ourselves, there was only the required amount left in the bottle.

I have to apologize for talking about Chambord as a cherry liqueur. It is made from black raspberries, and I know that now. I was wondering why it went so well with the raspberry mousseline, and now I know. Haven't you ever said the wrong word or pronounced something completely wrong and after a couple minutes realized it wasn't what you meant to say or even the right way to say it? Well, this is just like that only it's in print for all the world to see.

So we didn't really do any baking this time. We just went wandering in a very large and well stocked wine/liquor store and had a wonderful time.

You know, it didn't really get that hot today. Janice Huff, the weather person on Channel 4 (NBC), said that it didn't hit the record highs they were expecting due to clouds and a front of some sort that was closer to us than they thought. See, even with WeatherTron 4000, they can't get it right every time.

But when they got it wrong, we got it right -- a fantastic wine store and a road trip with friends!

Next week as I'm away for training on the new haircuts/color techniques/fashion for Fall/Winter 2007/08 in Chicago, we'll have to find some way to hang out together. We'll keep you posted on what's up for us. Our baking schedule has been a tad spotty this summer, hopefully September will mean a return to a cake or two a week.

Bake through (or if it's hot, drink through)


Here are a few of our favorites- the sparkler from Australia is a shiraz: beautiful deep red bubbly. -J