Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Adventures in Cake Decorating

Ann's fifth birthday was last week and we had a tea party to celebrate. I'm not a cake decorator at all, I usually keep it pretty simple, but this is a birthday cake so things are different. She was going to be wearing a pretty yellow hat for the party, so I decided to make a cake to match (same ribbon and all). I was pleased with how it turned out considered it was a first attempt with no trial run or anything. It wasn't perfect, but Ann loved it and that's what really matters.
The recipe I used didn't turn out to be anything special, in fact, I was dissapointed. I got it from the Martha Stewart Wedding Cakes book, but it turned out rather dry ( I probably overbaked). But the buttercream recipe was good and worked well.
It's hard to see from this picture, but the texture on the hat turned out nicely. I used a trick I learned at a class a couple of years ago. You wait until the frosting is dry enough that it won't stick to your finger when you touch it, then you use a paper towel and place it gently on the cake. Then gently rub your finger over the surface, and this transfers the texture from the paper towel. It gave it a nice finished look and the texture really looked like a hat would.

Here's the cake recipe I wish I would have used. I've used it in the past when a friend recommended it and it comes out nice and rich, and very moist. It's also super easy. It's great for a layered cake, I usually make it in two 8 in rounds.

Chocolate Cake
2 C Sugar
1 3/4 C flour
3/4 C Cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 C milk
1/2 C veg oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 C boiling water

Stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, powder, soda, and salt. Make well in center, then add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat on medium for two minutes. Stir in boiling water.
Pour evenly into pans (I usually use cup measures for this part).
For two 8 in rounds, bake on 350 for 30- 35 minutes. Cool for ten minutes in pan then remove to wire racks.

As another tip, I'm usually adament about using parchment to avoid sticking, but I've fallen in love with Pam for Baking that has flour in it. It works perfectly. I used it on the hat cake (which was a pizza pan and a pyrex bowl), and both came out without sticking at all. Love it!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Chocolate Mousse...need I say more?

When I think of the perfect, rich dessert, my mind goes to mousse. It's elegent, it's rich, and so creamy. I came across a recipe a few years ago that is still my favorite. I've tried other recipes, but this has become the standard that I set all others against. Some recipes use gelatin, but I don't like the texture. Some are more like a chocolate whipped cream, which doesn't have as much depth in my opinion. I prefer recipes that use eggs. I know some people obviosly don't like to consume raw eggs ( I live on the wild side) so if you're one of those, you can substitute in refridgerated egg product for a similar result. Also, I think using superfine sugar really improes the result. It dissolves quicker and doesn't taste grainy. Another tip I got (courtesy of Alton Brown) is to have both the whipped cream and the melted chocolate as close to room temperature as possible. That way the chocolate won't seize up when you mix the two together. I've found this to be really important and since I discovered this trick it has saved me a headache or two. This is always a big hit at parties or showers and it's easier than you think.

Chocolate Mousse

8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped

3 eggs

1/4 C superfine sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 C whipped cream

Melt the chocolate you're favorite way then set aside to cool.

Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar for 5 minutes, or until thick and pale and increased in volume.

Beat the melted chocolate and vanilla into the eggs.

Gently fold in the whipped cream until just combined. There may still be a few streaks.

Spoon into dessert cups and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Serve as is or top with a strawberry, chocolate curls, a cookie, or whipped cream.

Now doesn't that sound easy?