Friday, October 30, 2009

Rose Red Velvet Cake

The Rose Red Velvet Cake is one that Marie baked before the bake-along started, and I decided to try it as a mid-week cake a couple of weeks ago. A trip out of town interrupted the blogging (and the baking, thus the late show with the almond chiffon), so I'm just writing it up.


This is another one I did as a half-size. I had the able assistance of younger niece, as the cake involved chocolate. (That's only one of the triggers that can get her over to help bake.) We went with the 'add more cocoa' option and also didn't have as much red food coloring as we needed, so the result is a cake that is not nearly the dramatic red of the one in Heavenly Cakes. The color just out of the oven, in fact, can really be described as puce. (Sorry, reading Heyer has raised my awareness of's an inside joke on the Heyer list.)

Cake baked, it was on to the cream cheese/white chocolate frosting. The white chocolate met some resistance from the niece, who shares most of her family's aversion to a substance known by the blessed title of 'chocolate', but which is not. However, I overruled her, and we made the frosting as the recipe had it. Niece then wanted to attempt some piping, and landed on my old Wilton instruction book's figure piping area. She tried a mini-duck in the center of the cake, then used a flower tip for rosettes around the edge.

Verdict: this has not converted me from my opinion that red velvet cakes are all about the color. Despite the extra cocoa, it was still only mildly chocolate and the cake just didn't have a strong character. The frosting might have made the difference, but I think we sabatoged it by frosting the cake all over very thinly to have enough left over to pipe. Rose's version just spreads frosting on the top, and that probably lets the white chocolate/cream cheese flavor have more impact.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Almond Shamah Chiffon

I'm late, and as I baked this one in the evening after work yesterday, the energy and brainpower to take lots of photos and notes were lacking. I have next to no experience with chiffon cakes, so the detailed instructions in Heavenly Cakes were welcome. I make a half recipe, using my two 6" x 2" cake pans--those are going to get a real workout during the bake-along as I try not to overload all my family and friends with cake.

All went well at first: toasting the almonds, grinding them with a little flour in the Cuisinart, beating the egg yolks and adding the nut & flour mixture to it, beating egg whites, and folding it all together. The cakes rose beautifully, and I took them out when a toothpick came out clean. I didn't notice the cakes starting to pull away from the pans, though, so perhaps what happened next was the result of a slight under-baking.

I ran my metal spatula around the pan pressing against the pan...I thought. But even as I did that, I could see that the cake was sticking to the spatula and that the delicate cake was almost ripping up. What emerged from the pan was pretty sad, with large gouges all around the edge. It happened on the second layer too, when I know I was careful about not pressing against the cake, so I conclude there was something else going on. Underbaking? Too much baking spray with flour in the pans? I don't know.


But you know, these things happen, and I moved the alcohol and whipped cream. <g>

Brushing the denuded layers with the Amaretto syrup went fairly smoothly, except for the layer that broke in half as I tried to turn it over. (The two pieces were easily shoved back together.) Then it was on to the whipped cream, flavored and sweetened with raspberry jam. Warned by other bloggers, I cut back a lot on the amount of jam, but still got comments from my taste-testers that it was too sweet. Rather than attempt frosting swirls, I put some dots of leftover raspberry jam around the top. That would have looked even nicer if I'd worked on getting the spacing more even...

My verdict: I like the cake, though it's not a style that's my favorite. It is just on the edge of being soggy--it's not, but the heavy application of syrup really does soak the cake, at least after it sat overnight and spread throughout the layers. The flavor is very delicate and nice, with the Amaretto predominating. Perhaps if I'd stuck with the full amount of jam the raspberry flavor might have been more prominant.

Comments from others:

the nephew: It's weird. But it's still really good.

older niece: Good.

my brother: Good, but the whipped cream is a little too much--a thinner coating would be better.

younger niece: she liked it, but agreed on the too much whipped cream comment.

sister-in-law, who's very sugar sensitive and severely limits her sweets: tried a bite, then served herself a small piece.

I did explain that the problems getting the cakes out of the pan led to some areas of the cake having really think whipped cream--it might still have been too much for some tastes, though.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

No cake today, maybe cake later

I had hopes that I might get back from my combined work/personal trip a little early and with enough energy to bake. But alas, I got home in the late afternoon, and then discovered my mini-freezer died while I was gone. Clearing out the spoiled food and trying to rid the freezer (and the house) of the smell consumed all available energy and then some.

Will try to bake this cake later--it looks like a good one.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Apple Upside-Down Cake

Oh, this is a lovely cake. Really wonderful flavor, not too sweet, and a nice ratio of apple to cake--it's not such a thick layer of apples that it becomes a chore to eat. Or where you squash the cake trying to cut through the apple layer with your fork. :)

IMG_2607I used one Granny Smith and one Yellow Delicious apple, following Cooks Illustrated's recommendation of mixing apple varieties. I would have gone for Honeycrisp, but those are too good as eating apples. (OK, and I wasn't sure how they'd bake--this cake needs the apple to stay in fairly coherent slices.) My able assistant (my younger niece) used the apple peeler/slicer/corer, which was perhaps a little bit of overkill for 2 apples, but hey, kitchen gadgets are part of the fun.

IMG_2610We didn't get much apple juice after letting the slices sit, tossed with lemon juice and brown sugar, so I added a little boiled cider to punch up the apple flavor and add to the liquid volume. I didn't see a great color change as the butter, brown sugar, and apple juices cooked, so I went by time and added an extra minute to be sure.

IMG_2612Then it was on to layering the apples in the pan, which went quickly. Note: next time put the core-side up--ours looked pretty before the batter was poured on, but turned upside-down the pretty pattern was lost and all the cored-out sides were exposed.

IMG_2621The easy batter was dolloped on top, and the pan went into the oven on top of a pre-heated baking stone. I had a few batter-bubbles rise even though I'd rapped the pan on the counter before baking, but I just reached in with a skewer about half-way through the cooking time and collapsed them. It didn't seem to hurt anything--but then, the bubbles might have been fine left alone, too, as the cake gets up-ended for serving. The cake came out of the pan leaving only one apple piece and a little of the 'goo' behind, both of which were stuck back on top of the cake before the toasted nuts went on top. We used pecans--we like them much better than walnuts for most everything. Goes with being Georgia natives, maybe...I just drove by several pecan orchards this afternoon on my way to an event in south Georgia.

IMG_2635Here's the finished cake. In the interest of sharing cake with the (underage) nieces and nephew, I used just a touch of whiskey (Jack Daniels) in the whipped cream, and really it was just about right for me, too. The flavor of the whipped cream was still apparent with just a little enhancement from the whiskey.

Various conflicts interfered with collecting comments from taste-testers other than from the niece who assisted with the baking--she really liked it. As did I. I'll be making this one again, for sure.

More photos on Flickr

Monday, October 12, 2009

Barcelona Brownies

Barcelona BrowniesThe Barcelona Brownies came off pretty smoothly...except for the little problem of forgetting to spray the pans before putting in the batter. With the slick silicone and the flexibility, though, all but one came out in (mostly) one piece.

The recipe was pretty straightforward--the main difference in the base recipe from my default scratch brownies (Fannie Farmer, of the vintage my mother had when I started cooking and baking) is the addition of cocoa powder and a little cream cheese to the batter. What made these special was using the financier molds to get individual finger-sized brownies, and then using the Brownie Puddle (that's the video link) technique of punching holes in the hot brownies and adding ganache until the brownies cool and quit absorbing it. I'd made the Brownie Puddle Tart from the Pie and Pastry Bible a while ago to great acclaim though I seem to have failed to blog about it, or even photograph it. I see that Rose noted that the Barcelona Brownie recipe is the same as the Brownie Puddle recipe, cut down for the financier molds instead of a tart pan.

Barcelona BrowniesNotes: remember to spray the pans first and you can avoid all these ragged edges. :) Mine took a lot longer to bake than the recipe said, which I can only attribute to variations in silicone molds. Piping the batter into the financier molds definitely was the way to go, though my large Ateco fabric pastry bag may never lose its tinge of brown from the chocolate. Piping was also best for the ganache--we tried it with spoons for the brownie puddle (I had a niece and a friend of hers helping that day, as I recall) and it was, shall we say, not easy.

Taste testers all liked the brownies, though there were 4 votes to serve them with whipped cream. OK, take that with a grain of salt, because 2 of those voters would want to serve almost anything with whipped cream. A glass of milk is plenty to cut the chocolate intensity, if need be.

Younger niece and I had seconds the day after I baked them, and we both thought the texture and flavor had improved. Good luck waiting, though!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hungarian Jancsi Torta

I don't have my copy of Rose's Heavenly Cakes yet, but as my schedule for the end of October might not allow much time for baking, I visited a local bookstore and copied the recipe out by hand.

IMG_2535This is a flourless cake with chocolate, but don't think of the dense sort that can be like eating a cake-sized chocolate truffle. Tortes and tortas use ground nuts or breadcrumbs instead of flour, and beaten eggs to provide the structure. The texture can be as light as a cake baked with flour.

For the Hungarian Jancsi Torta, the basic procedure is to grind walnuts with sugar until fine, chop dark chocolate ditto, then blend these two items together as the the dry ingredients.

IMG_2540Next you beat egg yolks with sugar until thick, and fold that into the 'dry' mixture. Beat egg whites with a little sugar and cream of tartar, fold that in, and bake. (There are more in-process photos on my Flickr account, though I warn you I'm not in the running for best amateur food photograper by a long shot.)

IMG_2541I was really surprised looking at the photo in the book and reading the recipe, because it seemed like all the chopped chocolate should blend in to produce the typical chocolate cake. But it doesn't--mixing it in with the ground walnuts keeps it in separate flecks, and you get a definite chocolate taste without having "chocolate cake".

IMG_2543Comments from the Folks Next Door: the kids all tried it with raspberry preserves, and it got 3 thumbs up. (The recipe suggests either covering the cake with a whipped ganache, pouring some apricot preserves over it, or serving with a little whipped cream. Ganache seemed too much for my tastes, for this cake anyway, and chocolate/raspberry is a no-fail combination.) Sister-in-law tried it with apricot and felt it really needed the fruit to make the taste 'pop', but my brother disagreed--he scraped most of the apricot away, and thought a little whipped cream would be all it needed. No whipped cream was available, alas. I think I'm in the whipped cream camp, too.

Commments from people in the office who got tastes (it went fast) were very favorable--people liked the texture, the good chocolate flavor, and the moistness.

Recipe notes, with the caveat that I was working from my hand-written copy and might not have gotten all the instructions down correctly:

  • I used 70% Scharffen Berger chocolate--the recipe called for 60%, but had a note that didn't make sense to me about 70% being OK and to reduce the sugar to 2/3 cup from 3/4. I'd have though the less-sweet chocolate would call for an increase in sugar. As none of us like things very sweet in any case, I stuck with the 3/4 cup of the base recipe.
  • I weighed my yolks and whites to get the exact amount, and needed 7 whites and 9 yolks.
  • I think I underbaked a little--I should have grabbed for an instant-read thermometer, but I was rushing to get ready for the annual block party. The top did spring back and the sides were just starting to pull away from the pan, but when the cooled cake was cut there was a little area in the middle that was gummy. It's visible on the slice picture above. Didn't seem to hurt the taste much, and at least the cake wasn't dry!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Let's have a post!

I'm going to be using this blog primarily for the Heavenly Cake Bake-Through, but will also post on cake or bread or other baking, and maybe general cooking, too. I was putting that sort of thing on my sporadically updated LiveJournal blog, but I figure people coming to my blog from HeavenlyCakePlace won't be interested in my rants on life, book maunderings, and other slice-o-my-life stuff. So, I'll put the food stuff here, and cross-post or link on LJ to here.

IMG_2455And to get update on my standard challah recipe. After experimentation last year for Rosh Hashana, we all decided that dried cherries needed to be a standard addition, so I knead in about a third of a cup just before the first rise. I also try to get the dough a little wetter to help hydrate the cherries.

IMG_2469For Rosh Hashana this year, I made two--tried to do a round braid on one, but didn't execute it very well and it wasn't very pretty. The coil was fine, but didn't get eaten--it ended up in a baked French toast with berries and a crumb topping this weekend.

IMG_2468_1Just so every challah gets its time to shine, here's the coiled one.