Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fourth and Final Class

Last Cake

Here's the final cake I made for my first decorating class. It was supposed to have a rose spray on top, but my roses were pathetic. The first one I tried on my own looked like a cabbage. A pretty teal colored cabbage, but a cabbage nonetheless. Once I got to class, the instructor agreed with me that my icing was too stiff causing all the breakage, so I added water. I had to add water one more time, but got too much so my roses sort of slumped into an almost solid ball of icing.

I thought about putting them on for the picture since it's a learning class after all, but I want to take the cake to work. Using my drop flowers seemed like a better choice.

PS - sorry for the lack of comments here and everywhere. With this cold, it's all I can do to keep my head above water these days.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

TWD: Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits

Looks Tasty

The recipe this week was Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits (chosen by Ashley of eat me, delicious). Let's get the confessions out of the way first. I've never made biscuits from scratch before. And I didn't use the pecans (because I'm usually really meh on nuts in baked goods). And I couldn't find a sharp biscuit cutter (I tried two places and gave up) so I used one of my drinking glasses. Hmmm... I think that's it. Oh, nope. One more (it's kind of ugly, so you may want to look away).... I didn't have any whole milk in the house and kept forgetting to go pick some up. So the first time I made these (come on, it's me. of course I did this twice. I should have made them another dozen times, but I ran out of days), I used heavy cream combined with water. Only I read the recipe wrong and added a cup instead of a quarter cup. Soup. Sorta. I added some extra flour when I patted them out, but they came out more like scones than biscuits. Hardly any rise at all, but tasty as all get out.

Messy Baker

The second time around, I used evaporated milk. I noticed the right measurement for the milk this time, but I tried the high altitude adjustments suggestion of added an extra tablespoon of milk per cup of flour. The dough was still very sticky/wet, so I might have overdone it. (First time as written. You'd think I'd learn that, huh?) I'm pretty sure that I overworked the dough with the combination of working the butter then trying to get all the flour incorporated. I got a little more rise as you can see in the pictures, but not as good as some of the other TWDers.

Lessons Learned: Oh, I need way, way more experience with biscuits. Next time, I'll try grating the cold/frozen butter instead of working it. I'll also add the pecans next time, just to shake things up a bit. (Oh, and it helps to read the recipe right the first time! LOL) Need a little more experience with what the dough should feel like. I think it was still too wet the second time around, but I'm not sure.

Conclusion: Lovely taste, even with my two butchering attempts!

For the recipe, see Ashley's post. And don't forget to check out the rest of the TWD group!

Second Time Redux

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Third Class

Cake from the Third Class

The teen girls kept complimenting me on my cake, but mine was the closest to the book. Everyone else did all these creative things like color changes, different side decorations, etc.

I should have gone for the zombie clowns like Bill wanted.... LOL

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

TWD: Almost-Fudge Gateau


This week, the Tuesdays with Dorie recipe chosen (by Nikki of Crazy Delicious) was Almost-Fudge Gâteau. Basically, it's a dense bittersweet chocolate cake with an optional glaze on top.

I've had a bit of problems with the recipes out of Dorie's book for things that use leavening, and some internet digging convinced me that it was the altitude wreaking havoc. I'm at 6000+ feet here in Colorado and apparently, you have to modify recipes when you're at that altitude. Who knew? (I'm being sarcastic. The altitude doesn't really affect box mixes that much - use a larger egg and the higher temp for the pan and you're usually all right. I was crediting my lack of baking skill for my problems more than the altitude....)


The sites I could find on the subject all agreed that the first thing to try when baking was to increase the temperature and decrease the bake time. In addition, for cakes with egg white leavening, only beat to soft peaks to keep them from drying out.

Even though I still had some minor problems, the high altitude modifications seem to have really helped the texture. The gâteau came out dense and moist without the large/tough crumb problem I had with the Black and White Chocolate Cake.

Almost Fudge Gateau Mosaic

Lessons learned: I should have listened to my instincts and taken the cake out a few minutes before I did, because the edges were a little on the dry side. I didn't notice it on Saturday when I baked and first served the cake, but when I brought the remains to work on Monday, it had dried up noticeably. In addition, I used a mix of 70% cocoa and 60% cocoa, and woooo man was it bittersweet! Both of those are user-error, and easy to fix for the next time around.

Conclusion: This thing is beautiful! With the bittersweet chocolate, it almost seems like you have to be a chocoholic. Except that one of the taste-testers (I may have to get them t-shirts) is not a big chocolate fan, and he almost licked the plate clean. Next time, I'd either cut the bittersweet with semisweet, or serve it with something to cut the chocolate (possibly a raspberry glaze?). It's everything I like in a recipe: easy, tasty, and with a small bit of work, looks like an elegant dessert that took way longer than it really did.

High Altitude Recipe Modifications: higher baking temp (375F) for less time (28-32minutes), beat egg whites only until soft peaks form.

For the full recipe, see Nikki's post. Please visit the other TWD bakers to see how they did with the Almost-Fudge Gâteau!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Second Class

First Decorated Cake

Here's the beeeyootiful results of my first attempt to decorate a cake. You basically take the sky blue iced cake into class and come out with a rainbow cake.

I got so carried away with trying all my different colors that I ended up with no white icing left. So my clouds had to be pink. Bill (husband) said it was just a Colorado sunset, but the ladies at the class said it looked like a Care Bear Cake. It still tasted great!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

TWD: Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake


Jaime of Good Eats n’ Sweet Treats picked this weeks Tuesdays with Dorie recipe: the Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake.

It's basically an orgasm on a plate. Can I say that? :D

I got raves on the crust by everyone who tried it, raves on the apples by the fruit lover, and someone who normally hates cheesecake inhaled the small piece I cut her plus the last quarter of mine when I couldn't finish it. (I cut some pretty large pieces to try and get a decent photo - 5 of us managed to polish off half of it by the end of the night. And the cheesecake hater took home a large hunk for the next day.)


The cheesecake came out a beautiful caramel color interspersed with flecks from the cinnamon. (Please see the other TWD versions for better pictures - my camera either made it too yellow or washed everything out.) I used graham cracker crumbs with the added cinnamon and Fuji apples.

I had a few problems (entirely my fault), but this cheesecake was so fabulous that it transcended even my issues. I only had a 9inch springform pan and my apples were humongous. The combination left me with about a 3/4 cup of filling left over. If I had to do it over, I'd cut the apples smaller and figure out how to wrap the pan with aluminum foil so it didn't get water logged.

This is definitely a keeper, and I'd love to try it again using my homemade apple butter to see how that turns out.

For the recipe, see Jaime's post over at Good eats n' Sweet Treats. And don't forget to check out the other TWD group entries (the blogroll is on the sidebar).


Monday, February 11, 2008


I was tagged by April over at Abby Sweets, one of my fellow Tuesdays with Dorie bakers. I haven't done a meme like this, but let's give it a shot!

Here are the rules:

  • Link to your tagger and post these rules.
  • Share 5 facts about yourself.
  • Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names.
  • Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their Blogs.

5 Things About Me:

1. I have been married for almost 12 years.

2. I read an article about Loch Duart, Scotland a few years ago and had this moment of certainty that I'd live there someday.

3. I haven't been to Scotland yet. :)

4. I've only changed 3 diapers ever. (No baby sitting)

5. My first job was teaching private violin lessons to younger kids.

I'm just a huge wet blanket when it comes to tagging other folks though. If it looks like fun, then consider yourself tagged!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Yeah, So I Made Glue...

Or maybe it was cement?

I started taking the Wilton Cake Decorating I course this week at the local Michaels. The first class is the instructor telling you everything you'll be doing while she demonstrates by making icing and then decorating a cake.

For the first weeks homework, I have to bake a cake, make thin icing, and ice the cake to bring to class on Wed night. In addition, I have to make another three batches of icing that I'll take along to practice and then decorate the cake with a rainbow and clouds.

I plan on doing a practice cake this weekend and if I have time, also trying my hand at some of the stars, zig zags, and flowers. Just to see how it goes.

Last night, I made a grocery store run to get everything I'd need. Only I forgot about 3/4 of the things on the class list. *sigh*

I made do though, and once I got home, figured I'd make up a batch of icing and maybe play with colors. Because that's the part that gets my little heart to squeeing (is so a word!). First problem was that the grocery store didn't have confectioners sugar in 1lb bags, only 2lb. I figured I'd use my handy dandy food scale and it would all be fine. Not so much. My broke-ass scale said the 2lb bag of sugar was only 1.6lbs. Doh!

I figured this was a practice run, so I'd eyeball it. Onwards!

The next lovely issue was that I decided to use my Kitchen Aid mixer because the instructor said she prefers that when she's at home (she made the icing with a hand mixer in class). I pull it out, dust it off, set it up, and start the creaming process. Ever tried to mix water into shortening? On low because the Teach said that medium to high would introduce too many bubbles? I did. Took forever and threw water (and the flavoring extract) all over me and the kitchen.

And the flavoring! I had bought all three of the Wilton flavors because it seemed like a good idea. And Teach said they were all delicious (sales point!). Figuring that I'm always on the lookout for a good butter-flavor buttercream icing, I decided to use the butter extract alone. That stuff smells like a concentrated version of the fake butter they put on popcorn. Twas not appetizing, lemme tell ya.

Again, onwards. I'm making this batch of icing if it kills me.

So I start adding the powdered sugar. And I add. And I add. And I weigh, and I eyeball. And I add.

In the end? I have a pale purple bowl, pale yellow bowl, and a plain white bowl of something not unlike cement. I threw it all into cheap plastic containers and in the fridge to deal with another day.

Lessons learned? Buy the 1lb bag or a better set of scales, use a hand mixer, and go sparingly with that "butter" flavoring.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

TWD: Black and White Chocolate Cake


The TWD group decided to throw me directly into the deep end with the recipe chosen this week. A four layer buttermilk cake with a dark chocolate cream filling and white chocolate whipped cream icing. The whipped cream icing came together all right for me, probably because I've been playing around with similar things since I saw one on the Alton Brown show. And I was neck deep in the dark chocolate cream before I had sense enough to get worried. Tempering eggs?!? Custard-like process?!? But both times I made the recipe, that turned out wonderfully. It's a good thing the recipe makes more than you need for the cake, because WhatsHisFace and I were competing on who got to lick the pan after I put the cream away to chill.

No, my dragon with this was definitely the cake. The cake came out with a very coarse texture the first time, and my layer cutting was pathetic. I don't have a cake plate, and even though I tried to pick the flattest plate, it ended up sagging in the middle because the plate was slightly indented. All in all, it was the tastiest ugly cake I've ever seen.:D

The pictures are from the second attempt, and things definitely went a little better. I couldn't get my chocolate to curl, so I went with a Valentine-ish decorating theme. I obviously need work in the whole decorating arena, but baby steps folks, baby steps.

Each week, I'm picking up tips and hints from all the rest of the TWD group. Take a look at their entries (follow the link to the main blog and then check the sidebar) to see how they fared. Some of those cakes are getting to the too-pretty-to-eat stage!


Black and White Chocolate Cake
For the cake:
2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 (10 Tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temp
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk

For the dark chocolate cream:
2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch, sifted
1/4 tsp salt
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
2 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 5 pieces, at room temp

For the White chocolate whipped cream:
6 oz. premium quality white chocolate
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9X2 inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To make the cake: Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Working with a stand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, and then the yolk, beating for 1 minutes after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don't be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 28-30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then unmold, remove the paper and invert to cool to room temperature right side up on the rack.

To make the dark chocolate cream: Bring the milk to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolk with the sugar, cornstarch and salt until thick and well blended. Whisking without stopping, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk-this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle-then, still whisking, add the remainder of the milk in a steady stream. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (make sure to get into the edges of the pan), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the melted chocolate, and let stand for 5 minutes. Then whisk in the pieces of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the chocolate cream is smooth and silky. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create and airtight seal and refrigerate the cream until chilled, or for up to 3 days. Or, if you want to cool the cream quickly, put the bowl with a cream into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water and stir the cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

To make the white chocolate whipped cream: Put the white chocolate in a heat proof bowl and put the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Stir frequently to melt the chocolate evenly. Meanwhile, bring 1/2 cup of the heavy cream to a boil.

When the white chocolate is melted, remove the bowl from the pan. Pour the hot cream into the melted chocolate and let it sit for a minute. Using a small spatula, stir the chocolate gently until it is smooth. Let it sit on the counter until it reaches room temperature-it can't be the least warm when you add it to the whipped cream.

Working with the stand mixer with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream only until it holds the softest peaks. Turn the machine to high, add the cooled white chocolate all at once and continue to beat until the whipped cream holds firm peaks. Turn the whipped cream into a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap gently against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 6 hours.

To assemble the cake: If the tops of the cake layers have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. Slice each layer horizontally in half. Place on layer cut side down on a cardboard cake round or on a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment.

Remove the dark and white chocolate creams from the refrigerator and whisk each of them vigorously to loosen and smooth them. With a long metal icing spatula, spread enough dark chocolate cream (about 1 cup) over the cake layer to cover it completely. Top the cream with another cake layer, cut side up, and cover this layer with white chocolate whipped cream, making the white layer about the same thickness as the dark layer. Cover with a third layer, cut side up, and cover with another cup or so of the dark chocolate cream. (You'll have some dark chocolate cream left over) Top with the final layer of cake, cut side down, and frost the sides and top with the remaining white chocolate whipped cream. Decorate with chocolate shaving or curls, if you wish.

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.