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The Best Thing I Ever Made is a popular show on Food Network where acclaimed chefs, cookbook authors and Food Network personalities reveal not only what they love to eat, but what they love to make. From personal family recipes to favorite dishes off their own menus, these food experts share their secrets and show us how to cook what they consider to be “The Best Thing I Ever Made”. Chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli is a celebrity chef at New York City’s Butter restaurant and has appeared on TV shows including Chopped, Iron Chef America, All Star Family Cook-off, and The Best Thing I Ever Ate. She embarked on a culinary journey in France and ended up working in some of the country’s top restaurants. Her premiere cookbook, Old-School Comfort Food: The Way I Learned to Cook, was published in spring 2013. Her Childhood Chocolate Cake is delightfully moist cake which derives its spongy texture from whipped eggs and mayonnaise. I must admit that I was a bit skeptical about adding mayonnaise to cake batter but please do not think to much, just do it. If you do not want to fiddle with the meringue frosting, simply pile on spoonfuls of freshly whipped cream over your finished cake before sprinkling with tons of chocolate shavings.
CHOCOLATE CAKE BY CHEF ALEX
For the Chocolate Cake
3 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa
2 teaspoons instant coffee
1/2 teaspoon kitchen salt
1 1/4 cups mayonnaise
1 1/3 cups hot water
For the White Frosting
2 egg whites, room temperature
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Chocolate Garnish
4 ounces dark chocolate, grated
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put parchment paper in the bottom of the two 9-inch cake pans.
- Use nonstick spray or a little butter to thoroughly grease the sides and bottoms. Set the pans aside.
- In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the eggs and sugar on high speed.
- Beat until light, fluffy and lemony-colored for about 5 to 8 minutes until it reaches the ribbon stage.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, coffee and salt.
- Mix in the mayonnaise, gently whisk in hot water. Fold in egg/sugar mixer from mixer until smooth.
- Mix until all of the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Pour half of the cake batter into each pan.
- Place the pans in the center of the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.
- For the frosting, make a stovetop water bath by placing a large skillet half-filled with water on stove.
- Heat till it simmers. Put the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, 5 tbs water and corn syrup in a bowl.
- Place the bowl in the water bath and whisk the whites until they fluff up and reach to 140 degrees F.
- When the whites reach 140 degrees F, remove the bowl from water bath and add the vanilla extract.
- Whisk for 1 to 2 additional minutes to cool it off a little. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to frost.
- To assemble the cake, gently turn the cake rounds out onto a flat surface. Finely grate the chocolate.
- Sprinkle grated chocolate onto the first layer. Use about one-third of the total frosting on first layer.
- Let some of it spill over the top to coat the sides and place the other layer squarely on top of the first.
- Use the remaining frosting to coat the top and sides of cake and sprinkle with more grated chocolate.
- The grated chocolate creates a nice texture to compliment the soft cake. Makes one 9-inch layer cake.
Happy 4th July, folks!
For the June daring bakers challenge Rebecca from BakeNQuilt challenged us to make Charlotte Royale and Charlotte Russe from scratch. The term Charlotte actually refers to two different types of dish one cold and one hot. For this challenge we are making the chilled variety, which is sometimes referred to as an icebox cake. Chilled Charlottes are composed of a lined bowl or mold, which is then filled with a Bavarian cream or mousse which is firm enough to slice when chilled. The sweet Charlotte molds are typically lined with bread, cake or ladyfingers and the savory ones are lined with vegetables or bread. The two classic types of chilled Charlottes are the Charlotte Royale and the Charlotte Russe. The French Chef Marie-Antoine Carême supposedly invented the Charlotte Russe in the 1800s, naming it partly for the daughter of his former employer (George IV), as well as his current Russian employer Czar Alexander Sleepy.
The Charlotte Royale is a variation of the Charlotte Russe. The Charlotte Russe is made in a loose bottomed cake pan lined with ladyfingers and is filled with one or more layers of Bavarian Cream or mousse. The Charlotte Royale is typically made in a round bowl lined with slices of Swiss roll cake for a spiral effect. Charlottes are ideal make-ahead desserts as they have several components and require several hours of chilling before serving. They keep very well for 3 or more days and can also be frozen after assembly. There are a lot of steps in the making but if you break down the process into a couple of days it makes it a lot less intimidating. Charlottes can be shaped in any sort of mold/pan that you can unmold it from easily. The Charlotte Russe is particularly nice made in individual small molds.
For the Biscuit Roulade
1/3 cup (80 ml) (33gm) sifted cake flour
3 tablespoon (45 ml) (23gm) unsifted cornstarch
4 large eggs (227g), room temperature
1 large egg yolk (18g), room temperature
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (113g) sugar, divided
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
For the Raspberry Bavarian Cream
1/3 cup (80 ml) (65gm) sugar
1 tablespoon (9.3gm) unflavored gelatin powder
3 large egg yolks (95gm)
1-2/3 cups (400 ml) milk
1 vanilla bean, split or vanilla extract/paste
1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
1½ tablespoon (22 ml) kirsch or other liqueur
½ cup of seedless raspberry jam
For the Charlotte Royale Assembly
3/4 cup (250 gm) seedless raspberry jam, divided
Apricot jam, thinned and strained for glazing, optional
Whipped cream, fresh fruit or sauce, for decoration
- Position the oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to hot 450°F/230°C/gas mark 8.
- Grease the jellyroll or the sheet pan and line it with parchment paper and then grease again and flour it.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cake flour and cornstarch. Separate 2 of the eggs in two large bowls.
- To the bowl containing egg yolks, add the additional yolk, the 2 remaining eggs, and ½ cup of the sugar.
- Beat yolk mixture with paddle attachment on high speed for 5 minutes until thick and tripled in volume.
- Add vanilla. Sift ½ the flour mixture over egg mixture. Fold it in gently but rapidly with a balloon whisk.
- Fold carefully until the flour has disappeared. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture till homogenous.
- Beat egg whites with the whisk attachment until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, beat till soft peaks form.
- Beat in remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly.
- Fold the whites into the batter and pour into the prepared pan using an offset metal spatula to level cake.
- Bake for 7 minutes or until golden brown, a cake tester comes out clean, and the cake is springy to touch.
- As soon as cake is done, slide it out of pan onto a flat surface, using the parchment paper to help move it.
- Flip cake on a clean dishtowel and carefully remove paper. You will need to set aside a piece for the base.
- Cut off a piece from one of the ends just wide enough to cut the top. Leave piece aside to cool completely.
- After this piece has cooled, cut it with shears or a sharp knife into the circle for the base of the Charlotte.
- While the cake is still hot, roll the remaining cake up tightly in the dishtowel. Roll from the longest side.
- Cool the rolled cake/dishtowel onto a wire rack. Meanwhile prepare the raspberry Bavarian cream filling.
- Refrigerate a mixing bowl for whipping cream. Have ready a fine strainer nearby, suspended over a bowl.
- In a small, heavy saucepan, stir together sugar, salt, gelatin and egg yolks until well blended with a spoon.
- In another small saucepan heat milk and vanilla bean to just below a simmer (170°F/77°C – 180°F/82°C).
- Stir a few tablespoons of hot milk into the yolk mixture to temper. Gradually add the remaining hot milk.
- Add vanilla bean, stirring constantly. Heat egg and milk mixture, stirring constantly, just below a simmer.
- It leaves a well-defined track when a finger is run across back of a spoon. Immediately remove from heat.
- Pour mixture through the strainer, scraping up the thickened cream that settles on the bottom of the pan.
- Remove the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the sauce. Stir till the vanilla bean seeds separate out.
- Chill pastry cream in the refrigerator for about 1½ hours until whisk marks begin to appear when stirred.
- In the chilled bowl, whip cream until it forms soft mounds. Whisk kirsch/other liqueur into pastry cream.
- Fold in the whipped cream just until it is just incorporated then fold in ½ cup of seedless raspberry jam.
- The mixture will be soupy, like melted ice cream. Pour into a cake-lined mold. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
- When ready to fill, unroll the cake and leave it on the towel. Spread ½ cup raspberry jam in a thin layer.
- Roll up cake as tightly as you can with the towel. The completed roll should be about 2″(5cm) in diameter.
- Wrap the roll tightly in plastic wrap and then foil and freeze till firm enough to slice for a couple of hours.
- If desired, the roll and the base could be frozen for a few weeks before you make the rest of the Charlotte.
- When the roll is firm, cut it into 1/4″ (5 mm) slices with a serrated knife to get as many spirals as possible.
- To assemble, lightly oil a 6-cup (1½ liter) round bowl and line it as smoothly as possible with plastic wrap.
- Measure and note diameter of the bowl. You will need a round cake base of this size for the Charlotte base.
- To line the bowl, place 1 slice in the center and other slices around it as tightly as possible to avoid gaps.
- You may need to cut the slices in half or smaller to fit the last rows if your slices go all the way up the mold.
- If they do go all the way up, trim the last ones even with the edge of the bowl and adjust to eliminate gaps.
- If there are any large gaps between the spirals, plug the gaps with some trimmings from unused spirals.
- You want to plug these spots to prevent the Bavarian Cream from leaking through. Cover the bowl tightly.
- Place it in the refrigerator until the filling is ready. Spoon Bavarian Cream into the bowl lined with spirals.
- Fill up bowl till it comes up to the top of the bowl or just to the place the top spirals last touch each other.
- Trim the top spirals even above the cream if necessary. Place the biscuit cake round on top of the cream.
- It should be touching the edge of the spirals. Press down gently on the edges of circle so it makes contact.
- Cover tightly and refrigerate until set, at least 8 hours. To unmold, invert onto a plate and lift bowl away.
- Tug gently on the plastic wrap to release. To prevent drying out, leave plastic wrap in place until serving.
- Decorate with whipped cream/fresh fruit. The cake may also be served with raspberry sauce. 8 servings.
Daring Bakers June 2015
Though I did not get to participate in the “Young Talents” culinary contest hosted by Cuisine Essentielle Magazine, I did bake and assemble my own Gateau Damier Chocolat-Vanille without any special pans or complicated baking techniques in my kitchen. The competition takes place on Saturday 27 June at the Long Beach Mauritius and challenges amateur cooks to prepare Gratin de Thon au Riz and bakers to come up with an original presentation for Gateau Damier/ Checkerboard Cake. Winners will be rewarded by a half day course in the kitchens of the Long Beach by professional chefs along with several gifts by the event sponsors.
This was my first attempt at making a checkerboard cake so I was naturally apprehensive about the outcome and embarked upon this project with a basic butter cake recipe adapted from Brit+Co [who has a beautifully illustrated step-by-step tutorial of a Raspberry & Lemon Checkerboard] and a yummy chocolate cream cheese frosting recipe scaled down from PureWow. The secret to this multi-layered cake assembled out of geometrically aligned circles is to have neat cuts and flat layers that fit perfectly like a big puzzle. There is no need to go fancy with the frosting and the decoration as the real surprise comes from the inside as you cut into the cake.
For the Cake Layers
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 whole eggs + 1 egg yolk
3 ¼ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kitchen salt
1 ¼ cup full cream milk
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons hot water
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
For the Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
100 g cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
250 g confectioners’ sugar, sifted
170 g semisweet chocolate, melted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour four 6-inch round cake pans, then set them aside.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat the butter until smooth with an electric mixer.
- Add in sugar and mix until fluffy for about 3-4 minutes on medium speed. Turn mixer down to low.
- Add the vanilla, eggs and yolk, one at a time. Stop mixer and scrape down bottom and sides of bowl.
- Add in half of the flour mixture and mix on low until just combined. Slowly pour in full cream milk.
- Add in the second half of the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Do not over mix the batter.
- Separate the batter into 2 mixing bowls. Gradually add the cocoa powder and hot water to one bowl.
- Fold the batter till combined and even colored. Leave the other bowl plain and fold in vanilla seeds.
- Evenly distribute batter into the cake pans so that you have two pans of vanilla and chocolate batter.
- Bake for about 22-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 10- 15 minutes before removing the cakes from pans.
- While the cakes cool to room temperature on the racks, prepare the chocolate cream cheese frosting.
- Beat cream cheese and butter until combined. Add sugar 1 cup at a time and cream till light and fluffy.
- Add melted chocolate and vanilla extract, and mix until combined. Cover the surface with plastic wrap.
- Once the cakes have completely cooled, use a serrated knife to carefully level each cake to 1 inch tall.
- Use the 4-inch round cookie cutter to cut the centers of each cake, carefully remove the outer circles.
- Carefully cut out the centers of each of the 4-inch cake pieces, using the 2-inch round cookie cutter.
- Carefully smear the insides of each piece of cake ring with very thin layer of the vanilla buttercream.
- Place the alternate rings back inside each other. There will be 2 layers with vanilla outside and inside.
- Similarly there should be 2 layers with chocolate outside and inside. Place one layer on a cake board.
- Spread a thin, smooth layer of buttercream on top. Alternating colors, place the second layer on top.
- Continue with all 4 layers of cake and crumb coat the entire cake with a thin layer of the buttercream.
- Let frosted cake chill in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes. Frost the outside with more buttercream.
- Finish off the cake with a ruffled buttercream border and sprinkles, if desired. Makes 12-15 servings.
Vanilla & Chocolate Checkers