Monday, May 21, 2012

A Pretty Blue Birthday

This cake was a variation on Mich Turner's 'Art Nouveau' cake from the book The Art of The Cake. I loved the simplicity of the design and thought that it would be a lovely cake for my sister's birthday. 
Instead of the simple 2 layer flower on the cake in the book, I decided to try to make a more full and ruffled bloom. I used modelling paste to make this flower instead of gumpaste as the modelling paste takes a little longer to dry and gave me more time to manipulate the petals. I discovered in this process that I do not like my plastic ball tool. It actually has a seam in it that catches the modelling paste on occasion and tears or comes close to tearing the petals. I think that investing in a metal ball tool would be worthwhile for future flower-making attempts. The centre of the flower is filled with little balls of modelling paste lightly brushed with lustre dust. 

The swirly design is piped on with royal icing. The book offers a template however I just freehanded the design. I did use my inscriber tool to lightly mark where I wanted the swirls. You don't want to be too heavy handed with this as your royal icing 'strings' may not fall exactly where you want them to, especially when making big swooping swirls on a larger cake. Speaking of larger cakes, this cake is shown as a cute little 4-inch cake in the book. If you want to do a larger cake (this one is an 8-inch cake), be prepared to have a lot of patience piping on the little accent dots. 

My nephew thought that the design on this cake looked like an octopus. I guess at age 7, you are more likely to associated swirls with an octopus rather than art nouveau. 

The cake itself is Sweetapolita's Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake with a few minor variations in the buttercream. My swiss meringue buttercream recipe makes about 8 cups of buttercream so I used 2 vanilla beans in addition to a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and increased the instant espresso to 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon. I love the look of buttercream speckled with vanilla bean seeds. 

The cake flavour was nice although I felt the texture was a bit dense. It may be that it is the intended texture of the cake or perhaps I over mixed the batter, although the cake layers rose quite well in the oven.  
The flavour of the buttercream was wonderful and it gave me a great idea for another May birthday cake. Stay tuned! 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

'Ferrero Rocher' Cake Pops

I have a love-hate relationship with cake pops. I love the idea of them, I love thinking of flavours and designs, and I love eating them. I don't love the process. Perhaps since I've only made them twice, I haven't optimized the timing of everything as I've almost done with making cakes. Perhaps it is because I was unable to account for the unplanned event of purchasing a house this week, which changed my schedule and resulted in dipping chilled morsels of cake into chocolate at 2 in the morning. I have to admit, after a bit of sleep, I did love the end result, so I haven't written cake pops off entirely.

These cake pops were for the dessert portion of a dinner party. I wanted them to be pretty and shimmery like the pearly cake pops but simpler in execution since I was making 40 of them.
The flavour of the cake pops was inspired by the candy Ferrero Rocher. I used my favourite chocolate cake recipe mixed with Nutella frosting from Sweetapolita. I covered these in white chocolate melts.

Last time around, I discovered that if I dipped the cake pops in warmed chocolate right from the freezer, it resulted in cracking of the chocolate as the cake pop expanded and it warmed to room temperature. This time I dipped them directly from the fridge. I still had an issue with a few of them cracking and adjusted my technique to take out several cake pops from the fridge at a time. If you leave them at room temperature for too long before you get to them, they get too soft and you end up getting crumbs in your white chocolate. You also risk the chance of the cake pop falling off of the stick.

For the garnish, I wanted to use hazelnuts to enhance the Ferrero Rocher/Nutella taste. I found that it was very difficult (impossible) to find blanched hazelnuts. I learned that you can easily blanch/peel hazelnuts by placing them in boiling water with baking soda added (like when you make pretzels!). You boil them for about 3 minutes and then place them in a bowl of ice cold water.  The skins slide off fairly easily in the cold water. I then placed them on a paper towel to dry. Once dried, I chopped them in a food processor and toasted them. To add shimmer, I tossed the toasted nut pieces in gold lustre dust. I also sprinkled the cake pops with edible gold stars.

When I finished at 2:30 am, I found that I wasn't really satisfied with how they turned out. After a bit a sleep and with the added packaging, I thought they turned out to be the perfect treat for the end of a dinner party. During this process, I told my husband to never allow me to make cake pops again. After reviewing the photos and eating a few, I can't say that I am so resolved to avoid them entirely. I just love them too much.