Tuesday, February 26, 2019

stuff i haven't posted: 40th birthday celebration

This client, for whom I've made many cakes over the years, is a pretty incredible woman. She is smart, accomplished, and beautiful. She is raising three great kids. She is a doctor, a cancer survivor, and is writing her first book. As she rang in 40, she wanted to celebrate with a cake that highlighted all the symbols, colors, and aspirations that are important to her. Her cake was busy, but it reflected her diverse interests and key facets of her life. I hope she knows she is handling a very full plate with a tremendous amount of poise.

stuff i haven't posted: may the peace be with you

First communion celebrations aren't exactly my area of expertise, but I love helping families celebrate their important events, especially if they can give me guidance on getting the symbols right. This one was particularly fun because the theme was a little... non-traditional. See if you can guess:

Yep, the mom of this little guy gave him a Star Wars first communion. Pretty awesome, huh? I was asked to make the cake resemble warp speed, and it was really fun to try to accomplish that with frosting.

stuff i haven't posted: the girl turns 14 at the trampoline place

My girl is almost 15... she is growing up way too fast! Last year's party was celebrated at the trampoline place. First there was bouncing, jousting, the foam pit, and dodge ball; then we had pizza and cake. She requested marble cake with funfetti and ombre frosting. I can't remember if the big, loopy flowers were my idea or hers, but I loved them and the bright colors of the frosting. I actually piped the flowers onto parchment and refrigerated them, then transferred them onto the cake with an offset spatula. That is a really fun way to pipe flowers!

stuff i haven't posted: 80-51-12

Our friends have a very special day in their family: their grandfather, father, and son all share a birthday! Last year was a big one for grandpa, who turned 80, and the family got together to celebrate. I was tasked with making something festive in gold and black, and here's how it came out:

Thursday, October 11, 2018

stuff i haven't posted: 50th anniversary party

This was the year of 50th anniversaries! My own parents celebrated 50 years in July, and my friend Melissa's parents celebrated in March. Melissa and her family hosted a big party at their house, and I made them a dessert buffet with three tiny treats in mini angled cups with teensy tasting spoons: strawberry shortcake, rich dark chocolate pots de creme, and key lime tartlets. They were all very cute and delicious, and I thought the flavors complemented each other nicely and gave a good variety. It was really fun helping with a piece of the party, and Melissa decorated beautifully with old family pictures clipped up (like on a clothesline) and strung around the house.

I had to play around with the amounts and do quite a bit of "cake math" to try to figure out how much to make in order to get about 35 of each dessert. As I noted below, the strawberry shortcake made a lot of extra cake, probably because my dessert cups were so tiny in diameter and height.

Strawberry Shortcake Parfaits (This made a LOT of cake! I think we used the extra for a trifle. Yum.)
Chocolate Pots de Creme (I have made this recipe before, as written, with the caramel layered on top of the chocolate, but for this event, I just made the chocolate and scaled the recipe up)
Key Lime Tartlets (I got key limes for the sake of authenticity, which they sell at the Northgate Market near my house, but be prepared to juice limes for a while! I got to use my new manual citrus press juicer, but we're talking 60 or 70 limes. Also, I tried candying thinly sliced key limes as a topper, but they were just way too sour, and the rind was way too tough. I ended up with an old standby: candied (regular) lime peel, and it worked great.)

Happy 50th anniversary, lovebirds!

stuff i haven't posted: chocolate flower cake

Just my usual chocolate cake with chocolate buttermilk frosting, but a pretty, two-tier version frosted to look like a flower on top. The benefit of bringing a huge cake to someone's house when a lot of other people also bring dessert: the hosts get to remove and freeze for later the entire top tier!

stuff i haven't posted: go! cubs! go!

Cubs cake for a big baseball fan on his 8th birthday!

I baked the cake in two bowls, and then assembled them into a globe shape. Red frosting piped through a tiny, size 1 piping tip was an easy and quick way to make laces. I first used a toothpick to sketch out the seam, and then piped along the line. The logo is fondant and a lot of concentric circle cutters. I cut the U, B, and S freehand. (Thank goodness for the internet!) Happy birthday, Domi! (And yes, I'll be posting your 9th birthday cake momentarily!)

stuff i haven't posted: princess cupcake cake

I am often skeptical about cupcake cakes (where a bunch of cupcakes are frosted together into one shape), but when a friend asked me to make this one - and sent a picture of exactly what she wanted - I thought it was adorable. The little fondant bow and tiny flowers and necklace were just so sweet. And the princess in question was turning 5, which is just the perfect age for a princess cupcake cake!

stuff I haven't posted: boy-o turns 11

Oy. The boy turns 12 tomorrow. Probably about time I post the pictures from his 11th birthday cake, right?

Last year, at his sister's insistence, we threw him a surprise Hunger Games party at the park near our house. It was so much fun. We painted a gigantic Happy Birthday Brenny! sign, arranged for everyone to get there early, and then all stood on the corner holding the sign while his dad drove up with B in the car. He was thoroughly confused! It may have helped that it was still nearly a week before his birthday. During the party, we played Hunger Games-style games... there was a reaping, suction cup archery, an infection-style game with stickers, and an arena with a pile of nerf guns surrounded by stocked backpacks containing snacks, nerf ammo, and various additional surprises.

I made a chocolate Hunger Games-themed cake. The most fun part was making the flames for the top of the cake. I melted down cinnamon candies and butterscotch candies, then poured them out onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. I let them harden, and then broke them into shards to represent fire. The ones that are a mix of yellow and red are especially fun. I used chocolate sticks as the fuel for the fire (though you can't really see them - I also lined the edges of the cake with them for visual interest) and made fondant arrows for Katniss.

I don't usually post people pictures here, but what the heck... Snacks for the backpacks. (Note the fish for District 4!)

Birthday boy and his sister, flanking one of our best friends.

Gotta get this posted so we can move on to celebrating 12! Happy birthday, boy-o.

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.