Monday, June 28, 2010

RHC: Génoise Rose

IMG_1414It will be a short write-up this week, for a pretty straightforward cake. Oh, how far I've come when I feel like saying "it's a simple génoise", and mean it. No agonizing (well, not much) over the browned butter. Not so worried about when the egg and sugar mixture is lukewarm, and then whether it has been beaten to sufficient heights. Folding in the flour/cornstarch went (ahem) smoothly, as did the addition of the browned butter, vanilla, and egg mixture. Then it was into the rose bundt pan, and into the oven.

IMG_1411The biggest trouble I had this week was dealing with the cake just out of the oven. Mine domed pretty significantly in the middle, which created a rather precarious situation when putting the greased cooling rack in place then inverting the whole assembly to turn out the cake. The outside of my rose bundt pan is non-stick, too, so.... Well, let's just say the cake came out rather quickly. And forcefully. No more dome--it was squashed into the grid of my cooling rack, I think. (OK, maybe it was just the expected collapse of the delicate cake...maybe.) I lost a few edge bits, and also had some sticking of the golden crust in the pan despite my spraying with baker's spray. Must make a note to use the spray more heavily next time I use this pan. I brushed the cooled cake with a syrup made with Grand Marnier, then left it to sit overnight before taking the whole cake to my office today. (The folks next door are on vacation, and my weekend was rather full so the cake-baking didn't start until Sunday afternoon.)

IMG_1415Though I'm much more confident in my génoise skills, I haven't learned to like the cake itself any better. The texture was wonderfully light, it had a nice flavor even though the syrup did not penetrate as well as I thought it would, but I remain more attracted to the basic butter cake with its rich mouth-feel. Co-worker B. loved it, however, and snagged a second piece. C. was more in my camp--the flavor was nice, but she didn't love the cake. V. wished for strawberries and whipped cream to accompany it, and we all thought that sounded good. (Though I will choses a biscuit based for strawberry shortcake, not the sponge cake type. I'm consistent, anyway!) My supervisor C. just said "not really my sort of cake". The rest was left anonymously in the break room, and had mostly disappeared by the end of the day despite the number of people who are on vacation this time of year.

Monday, June 21, 2010

RHC: Coconut Cheesecake

Coconut CheesecakeI made another half-size cake this week, using a 6" springform pan which is just right for a half recipe. I thought I might be the only person eating coconut cheesecake--my brother and sister-in-law are not big on coconut, younger niece dislikes cheesy things, and I thought older niece shared the coconut aversion. Wrong--older niece has had more of this cake than any other in the cake-of-the-week lineup, I think. Nephew remains erratic about his tastes, and though he thought he liked coconut, he gave up after a couple of bites.

Coconut CheesecakeThe cheesecake is pretty simple to mix up. The crust is a combination of vanilla wafers, coconut, sugar, and butter, pressed into the pan and up the sides. The cheesecake, like the Baby Lemon Cheesecakes, is a blend of cream cheese and sour cream and has a very light texture, nicely flavored with cream of coconut and a little coconut extract. Egg yolks provide the thickening. The cheesecake bakes in a water bath, then cools for a while in the oven and a while longer at room temperature before being refrigerated to completely firm up. Just before serving, you add a topping of toasted coconut. The only trouble I had was figuring out how long to bake the smaller version, and I underestimated and the resulting cheesecake is too soft. Didn't hurt the flavor though, and it's lovely. If I had re-read the Highlights for Successful Cheesecakes section a few pages back I'd have had the temperature guidelines and probably avoided this problem.

Coconut CheesecakeI really like the cheesecake, but had some issues with the crust. Mine was soggy from the start, and was very hard to get to release from the (non-stick) springform base for serving. I'm just now wondering if I had extra moisture because I underbaked the cheesecake which contributed to the problem, but however it happened, the crust was pretty much a soggy mess, more vanilla-wafer paste than a crust. Maybe I'll try it again and bake the cheesecake until done, and if that doesn't work, I'll try adapting another cookie crust recipe to add coconut to it. You'll note that I do plan to make this cheesecake again! (Must plan it for a visit from my older brother, who loves both cheesecake and coconut.)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

RHC: Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cake and Chocolate Butter Cupcakes

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry CakeI didn't bake last weekend thanks to a computer melt-down at the end of the week, just before I left on a work trip to Denver. But I'm back, and decided I could bake both the Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cake for this week and last week's easy-list Chocolate Butter Cupcakes. Seeing as how it was a double-cake weekend, I did half-recipes of both.

Saturday afternoon I started on the Strawberry Cake. It's a white cake made with melted white chocolate in the batter, filled with strawberry mousseline and topped with a chocolate frosting. For the half-recipe, I used my 6" cake pans, and still made the 2 cupcakes from "extra" batter. As a 6" cake, it looks very tall.

The battle of this cake was the mousseline and the chocolate frosting. Both were problematic because of the heat and humidity in my kitchen--the outside temperature was in the mid-90's (F) with the usual Georgia humidity, and inside was around 80, or more with the oven going. Trying to maintain a temperature range of 65-70 on both the softened butter and the meringue/mousseline proved….challenging. Bowls swapped in and out of the fridge, two thermometers in use, and because of the half-recipes, I was doing this with a hand-held mixer and other unaccustomed tools. Rose does offer the alternative of the Golden Neoclassic Buttercream for "hot or humid weather", but I'd made that one both for the pumpkin cake and the pistachio cake, so I really wanted to try the mousseline. Eventually, with large numbers of dirty bowls, beaters, thermometers, strainers (for the strawberry jam) and other utensils, I did produce strawberry mousseline.

I assembled my 4 layers with the mousseline and extra jam spread between them, and collected the dark chocolate frosting my niece had prepared--melted 99% and 67% chocolate, butter, light corn syrup, and vanilla. Niece really didn't like the mixture, finding it much too sweet and with a plastic-y texture lent by the corn syrup. (She'd also thought the cake and the mousseline too sweet, and in the end declined to try the composed cake.) My brother, on the other hand, pointed out that the frosting is reminiscent of the chocolate caramels from my Great-Aunt Fan's recipe, one I make every Christmas.

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry CakeI wasn't bothered by the taste, but oh, it was not easy to work with! I poured the first amount over the top of the cake and spread it out, but as it turned out used too little and my top frosting was too thin. (Not that I could tell this until I cut the cake.) I made an attempt at a crumb coat, but the frosting--too thick to pour well over the top--was too thin to stick to the sides, and slowly slumped toward the plate under the influence of gravity. I'd also not been careful enough placing my layers and had bulgy sides that didn't help my efforts to spread the frosting. After getting some sort of coating over the cake, I left it for 40 minutes so the frosting could set enough to swirl….but it didn't. See above, "heat and humidity", I guess. It being rather late by then, I slapped the rest of the frosting on the sides and quickly stuck the cake in the fridge to set up. I removed it in the morning and let it come to room temperature, at which point the frosting was back to a semi-set, sticky consistency that pulled off the cake at every opportunity. If I'd thought was a great-tasting frosting, I'd try it again in February. As it is, I think I'll pass.

That's kind of the story on the whole cake. It's pretty (would be prettier if I'd manage to line up my layers and do better with the frosting), but it is very sweet, and no so much to the tastes of much of my family. Sister-in-law thought it very sweet but with a nice flavor, younger niece declined to try it as I mentioned, and I haven't gotten reports from the other 2 kids. My brother cast the most positive vote--he thought it was a nicely balanced set of flavors, perhaps a little unbalanced when getting bites with the chocolate frosting. I liked it, but not enough to tackle the complicated process again, even in winter.

Chocolate Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate-Egg White ButtercreamThe chocolate butter cupcakes were indeed easy, certainly in contrast to the strawberry cake. The half recipe made 8 nice-sized cupcakes. I went with the chocolate-egg white buttercream both because I like chocolate-on-chocolate, and to use up more of the egg white I had stored in my freezer. (While I was in Denver my mini-freezer quit working for a while, and though most things stayed frozen, I think I'll try to use up what was in there as quickly as possible.) The buttercream gave me some trouble--the meringue was slow to come to stiff peaks, and I think I over beat it--and it didn't have the loft I expected. However, it made a fine frosting with the addition of the butter and melted chocolate even though it stayed rather soft. Again, see above, heat & humidity. I decided to pipe it onto the cupcakes because it was too soft to swirl (and I didn't want to wait while I refrigerated it), and sensitized to the dangers of a round tip and chocolate frosting by Cakewrecks, I went with a basic star tip to cover the cupcake tops.

I liked the cupcake and frosting. Not a knock-me-over great cake, but nice. Haven't gotten reports from anyone else except my brother, who called them "not particularly distinctive".