Friday, April 6, 2018

stuff i haven't posted: drip cakes

Last year, my daughter had a very special birthday celebration: her bat mitzvah was on her 13th birthday. I didn't want to conflate her birthday with the big event, so we didn't have a cake at the bat mitzvah party. But I couldn't miss an opportunity for a birthday cake! So at our Friday night dinner with family and out-of-towners, I made her a marble cake with white chocolate ganache drip (drip cakes have been all the rage!), crazy amounts of sprinkles, and purple "unicorn bark". It was actually very cute, and it fed all 50 of our guests. I am not a fan of white chocolate, but it's the only way to do a tinted drip coating (you can't easily tint chocolate!). Although I followed the ganache directions hoping for the right thickness, it was way too runny and more transparent than I envisioned. See how it pooled at the bottom? That was after I had added more white chocolate! Oh well. Still cute.

For my niece's 9th birthday, my daughter planned a surprise party for her cousin, and it was fun to make a beautiful cake as part of the surprise. Plus, it gave me a second chance to make a drip cake. I felt more comfortable adjusting the thickness of chocolate ganache, so it was easier get the drips just right. It's hard to tell from the color of the picture, but the cake is frosted in a mixture of purple and white.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

stuff I haven't posted: nexo knights birthday cake

My nephew turned six in June, and the obsession of the moment was Nexo Knights. So I made him a Nexo Knights shield cake! This is a big fondant topper which I just placed right on top of a quarter-sheet (9x13") cake. I love how it came out, but I'll be honest that my sister-in-law and I purposely chose one that wasn't too terribly complicated!

Here's the shield by itself...

And on top of the cake.

stuff i haven't posted: babkallah

It's probably unfair to post pictures of bread (or cake for that matter) during Passover, so I'll console you by telling you I didn't actually like this recipe that much. To be fair, I really, truly, only like plain challah. I can let a pretzel challah slide. But I don't want other flavors getting in the way of the challah goodness. That said, I really, really liked how it looked. I used the same method used here: I rolled out each strand, sprinkled it with the chocolate filling, rolled it tightly, and then sliced vertically, though not all the way through, down each strand; then I braided the strands together. I'll save that method for another filled bread in the future and stick to simple, unadorned challah. It looks beautiful both as a braid and as a wreath.

baking with teff

Teff. A new frontier in baking! I've heard of it, I've eaten it in the form of injera, along with delicious Ethiopian food, and I just learned it's kosher for Passover! An ancient grain the size of a poppy seed, native to Ethiopia and Eritrea, teff is high in minerals, protein, and dietary fiber, and it's naturally gluten-free. I'm planning to make a flourless chocolate cake for a last-night-of-Passover seder, and last night, my sister mentioned that her friend made a delicious flourless chocolate cake with teff. Google it, and this recipe comes up first; I suspect that's the one she made, and I'm going to try it, too.

But first... I found myself with an awful lot of extra Bob's Red Mill teff flour, and without any KFP dessert for the kids tonight, so I decided to make an Alice Medrich recipe for bittersweet teff brownies. I've mentioned Alice Medrich tangentially before: she is a renowned pastry chef and chocolate expert, and she formerly owned Cocolat, the bakery at which my college roommate worked and from which she brought home treats such as golf ball-sized truffles and whole Sacher tortes that we used to divide in quarters and eat with a spoon, straight from the box. Ah, delicious college memories.

I've now committed to two untried recipes for Friday's seder - the flourless chocolate cake and a KFP carrot cake - and I thought I might feel better having at least baked once with teff before subjecting 15 people to my experiment. If either of these recipes is good, it can go into the Passover dessert rotation. I continue to believe that the best Passover desserts are those that are naturally gluten-free/KFP so they don't have weird ingredient substitutions that make them ultimately taste like matzah.

The brownie recipe was interesting. You melt the butter and chocolate together over low heat, stir in the teff, sugar, vanilla, and salt, and then beat in the eggs for two full minutes. The mixture starts out dark brown and grainy, but it ends up thick, light brown, and fluffy after being beaten. It still feels a tiny bit grainy, and I assume that's the teff talking, but it tasted good.

Update: they are very delicious! The top was crackly, almost like a meringue, and the underneath was soft and fudgy. I waited to cut them until they cooled, and perhaps they would have shattered a bit less if I had cut them while still warm, but that was not a tragedy.




Alice Medrich's Bittersweet Teff Brownies
Makes 20 (8" pan)

10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70%), coarsely chopped or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
3/4 cup (3 5/8 ounces) teff flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 large eggs, cold

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line an 8" pan with tinfoil and grease it. Melt the butter and chocolate together over very low heat (or a double boiler) until melted, stirring frequently. Cool slightly. Pour chocolate mixture into stand mixer bowl. Stir in sugar, teff flour, salt, and vanilla. Add eggs and beat on high speed until the batter lightens and thickens, about two minutes. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Mine cracked on top, just for reference. Cool, cut, and enjoy!

Print recipe.

Monday, February 26, 2018

stuff I haven't posted: B 10th birthday monster cake

I regret not taking more pictures of this cake because it was so cute and so much fun to make! It's a not-too-scary-super-cute-fuzzy monster for my son's 10th birthday party. His birthday is in October, and he had a Halloween/monster-themed party. I made a pretty tall round, 8" cake with a dome cake on top to make the shape of the monster. The dome was baked in a bowl with approximately the same diameter as the cake pan. I was able to carve the cake slightly and fill in the rest with frosting. As I assembled it, I included a cardboard round about halfway down for added support. I crumb coated it, piped the frosting, and then layered the fondant mouth, eyes, and horns over the frosting. How cute are those horns? I just love the turquoise with the green and orange!

stuff I haven't posted: pokemon cake

For a while there, every kid I knew, including my own (particularly the younger one), was obsessed with Pokemon Go. I still don't totally understand it, but I get that they were all crazed about it. For his 7th birthday, this little guy wanted a Pokemon arena cake. (I think they topped it with some actual Pokemon characters.) My goal was just to keep the shape and size of the other elements as accurate as possible. I added the birthday boy's name in the Pokemon font and colors for an extra fun touch.

stuff I haven't posted: rachael's baby shower

There is not much cuter than a sweet baby shower cake. I've done several cakes with clotheslines filled with onesies, edged with fondant buttons. This cake, for a new baby girl, was a similar idea, but instead of baby clothes, I made cute baby-themed fondant elements - a bottle, tiny shoes, a pram, a rattle, a onesie, and some darling animals. I had a lot of free reign to design the cake - it just needed to feature a lot of pink - so I stayed with a classic pink, gray and white palette and had fun making the ombre frosting with deep pink, light pink and white.

stuff I haven't posted: maya's 12th birthday

You know you're belated when you're posting about the kid's 12th birthday cupcakes and she's nearly 14. Oops! These cupcakes were for one of Bug's closest friends' birthday party. They were very simple vanilla and chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting, but I had fun playing with embossing fondant, which I've only done once before.

stuff I haven't posted: hamantaschen

In honor of Purim this week, here is a picture of the hamantaschen I made three years ago. I would like to tell you what flavors they were, but I can't be sure. The ones in the front are apricot/chocolate chip and raspberry/chocolate chip. The others are probably cherry and I don't know what else.

I have a love-hate relationship with hamantaschen. They are one thing I really don't like to bake myself because I never can decide if I want a yeasted dough or a sugar cookie dough. I have tried several recipes of both and never liked any of them. That said, I do enjoy a good hamantaschen made by someone else, particularly if it's got a good filling-to-cookie ratio, so feel free to send one my way!

Chag purim sameach!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

stuff I haven't posted: puff pastry caramelized onion tarts

These were a delicious treat for a party! It takes a while to caramelize onions, but you can basically leave them alone and cook them low and slow for a long time with just the occasional stir. These little triangle-shaped pastry tartlets also had bits of apple, thyme, and either fontina or gruyere. So tasty and rich!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

harper's first birthday

Turning one is a big deal, and this cutie's parents helped her celebrate with a big party with family and play group friends.

The cake was funfetti with vanilla frosting and pink, white, and orange accents to complement the party colors.

It was fun making bunting and modern/abstract flowers from fondant.

There was a cupcake just for the birthday girl to do with as she pleased.

cookies for turning one

These number 1 cookies were cute and simple party favors for a sweet girl's first birthday party. Lemon-vanilla sugar cookies with pink royal icing, dressed up just a touch with a deep pink heart.

bridging from juniors to cadettes

A simple, festive chocolate cake for a Girl Scout troop bridging from Juniors to Cadettes. Chocolate cake, chocolate frosting, the Cadette symbol, and sprinkles. Delicious and an excellent accomplishment by a talented group of girls!

(And yes, it's not in focus. Not one of the pictures I took was, apparently, but I didn't want that to stop me from marking the occasion.)

indian elephant cake

The biggest problem with posting pictures of your daughter's 12th birthday cake 9 months late is realizing you never actually posted pictures of her 11th birthday cake.

For her 11th birthday, she requested an Indian-themed party. We dressed in Indian clothes - some borrowed, some purchased for a Bollywood-themed auction a few years ago - and draped the girls in skirts, scarves and bangle bracelets. We did henna tattoos on hands and feet. We served Indian food. And I made a cake with brightly colored frosting and a bedecked elephant. She claims it was her favorite cake that I've made her. And I have to say, I loved how the elephant came out. It was so much fun making little fondant adornments.

My favorite things on the elephant are her blanket and her wrinkled skin. Please don't fault me if this elephant doesn't look authentically Indian. I think the African elephants' ears are shaped like Africa, so hopefully this one is close enough.

I love the technique of smearing the frosting together to blend the colors. It's fun and it looks cool. Plus it comes out different each time.

Little fondant flowers.

sprinkle velvet cake

My girl likes to remind me that New Year's Day has another important meaning: it's her 3/4 birthday. Yep. She is possibly the only person in the world to mark that occasion, but she talks about it every year. Since we've just moved into January, I'm realizing that I'm approximately 9 months late to post her 12th birthday cake pictures. Oops. She had very specific wishes for this cake. Velvet cake (if I remember right, it was a layer of pink, which looked magenta, a layer of blue-green, and a layer of orange), fluffy vanilla frosting, sides covered in sprinkles, and a dozen frosting balloons, each in a different color. Of course, she got what she requested, plus an extra balloon to grow on.

Covering the sides with sprinkles had an interesting effect of making the frosting fall off in large clumps as I cut the cake. I'm not sure why, but it didn't seem to affect anyone's enjoyment.

I was asked to document the different frosting colors.

I know it's belated, but happy 12th birthday, Bug! I love you so!