Saturday, 29 October 2011

How to cover a cake with horizontal fondant stripes.

I had to decorate a cake with horizontal stripes. How hard can it be? That's the motto in our house. How hard can it be? It applies to everything, including plumbing, extensive renovations and child birth. It turns out some things are actually very hard (particularly child birth) but we still live with the arrogant notion that we can do anything. So at 9.30pm, the night before the cake was due, I googled "how to put horizontal fondant stripes on a cake" assuming that there would be multiple Youtube instructions and blogs about it. Results: nothing. Oh dear. What's a girl to do?

The problem with horizontal stripes is that they can end up very wobbly, very easily. How do you ensure they are straight? You need a system. Or a tool. So I invented my own method, and here I will discuss it. If anyone has a better way of doing it, then please tell me.

Soooooooo...... here is a cake with plane fondant, far from perfect, but that's what decorations are for. Make sure your fondant has rested for a few hours before you go fiddling with it to avoid making dents.

I cut out a piece of cardboard, a little bit longer than the length of the circumference of the cake, and almost as high and then wrapped it around the cake and used stickytape to hold it in place. I was totally unprepared, but luckily I had a spare cake box which I cut up to use the cardboard.

Now, you need one of these fabulous tools, or something similar, to cut the strips of fondant so they're dead straight:

It is my new favorite tool.

When you have your strip, paint egg white around the cake just above the cardboard. Then use the cardboard as your marker to put the strip of fondant against.

When you've done one stripe then remove the cardboard and cut it so that it is shorter for the next stripe. Make sure you measure carefully and cut it straight. Then reattach the cardboard to the cake in the same way as before and repeat the process. It depends on the cake design as to how far apart the stripes go, how thick they are and how many stripes to have.

Ta daaaaaaaaa! Horizontal stripes! I might do a Blog about making the fondant stork too one day.


Monday, 24 October 2011

My birthday cake - dark chocolate and peanut butter cake {recipe}

I mentioned on Facebook a while ago that I was going to concoct a dark chocolate and peanut butter cake to celebrate my birthday with my family.  I am always making cakes for other people so it was really lovely to make one for myself, a cake that presses all of my buttons.  This is it.  I have no words.

Hang on.  Yes I do.  I always have words.  This cake is AMAZING.  I am going to bake it for my birthday ever year until the end of time (or at least until I find another obsession).

When I mentioned the chocolate peanut butter combination a few people were unimpressed.  I do not understand.  How can you not like peanut butter with chocolate? A match made in heaven!  I have been a great fan of Reese's Pieces for a long time.  I used to buy them at a shop in Malvern called Horse Torque that sold discontinued confectionary, and then I bought them at Daimaru in the American confectionary section.  These stores have since closed but luckily I have Sugar Station for all of my peanut buttery needs!  And now I have this cake...

This cake is a four layer cake, two of the layers being peanut butter cake and two of them dark chocolate cake.  Each layer is filled with a peanut butter concoction, and the entire cake is topped with dark chocolate ganache and sprinkled with crushed peanuts. 


Go on.  Make it.  I dare you.

Firstly, make the Dark Chocolate cake.  I love this cake.  It is a wonderful rich colour and tastes fabulous.  I am a major dark chocolate fan and it is nice to have that flavour transported into a cake.  

Then make the Peanut Butter Cake.  I had never had such a cake before making this one and I was very impressed.  This cake would be just as lovely on its own and I suspect my kids would love it.  We go through a jar of peanut butter a week in our household. 

Next comes the Peanut Butter filling.  Oh my.  I could most certainly eat an entire bowl of this stuff.  It tastes just like the inside of Reese's pieces.  It was exactly what I was looking for.  

Finally, make the ganache.  Again, a bowl of this stuff would make me a happy girl.  Dark chocolate.  Mmm.  

Now you have all of the elements of this epic cake.  

To assemble the cake check that each cake is flat.  If they are domed trim them with a serrated knife.  If you have time it is best to do this after the cake has been chilled so that it is firm.  Now place one of the peanut butter cakes on the plate you will be serving it on.  Spread a layer of peanut butter filling over the top of the cake.  Place one of the dark chocolate cakes on top of this and spread with more filling.  

Repeat with all cakes.  I also spread a layer of the filling on the top of the final cake.  Why not? Then spread a thick layer of ganache across the top of the cake.  This cake is very decadent and rich so I decided that it didn't need ganache on the sides but hey, if you feel like going nuts (no pun intended!) go ahead.  Sprinkle some crushed peanuts on top of the cake and voila.  Dark chocolate peanut butter cake.  

{Dark Chocolate Cake} 
Adapted from Sweetapolita  

110 grams plain flour, sifted
110 grams white sugar
45 grams premium dark cocoa 
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup strong black coffee
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees and grease two 20 cm tins. Line each base with baking paper, grease again and flour. Sift all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of your mixer.  Add the wet ingredients and, using the paddle attachment, mix on medium speed for two minutes.  The batter will be very thin.  Pour in to the prepared pans and bake for twenty minutes.  Cool for another twenty minutes in the pans before turning out and cooling on a rack.  

{Peanut Butter Cake}   
Adapted from My Kitchen Snippets

115 grams unsalted butter at room temperature
150 grams white sugar
125 grams smooth peanut butter
3 eggs at room temperature
90 ml milk at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
135 grams plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 175 degrees.  Grease, line base, grease and flour two 20 cm tins.  Combine sifted flour and baking powder.  Set aside.  Cream butter, sugar and peanut butter until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as you go.  Add the vanilla to combine.  Add a third of the flour and mix at low speed to combine.  Add half of milk and mix to combine.  Add another third of the flour and mix to combine, then add the remaining milk. Finally, add the remaining flour and mix until well combined. Pour in to prepared tins, level out with a spatula or the back of a spoon, and bake for twenty minutes. Cool for another ten minutes in the pans before turning out and cooling on a rack. 

{Peanut Butter Filling}
Source - The Barefoot Contessa

250 grams smooth peanut butter
125 grams icing sugar, sifted
75 grams unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
80ml heavy cream

Place peanut butter, sugar, butter, vanilla and salt in a mixing bowl.  Mix at medium-low speed until the mixture is creamy, scraping down the bowl as you go.  Add the cream and beat on medium speed until the mixture is light and creamy.  

{Dark Chocolate Ganache}
Source - David Lebovitz

285 grams dark chocolate, chopped
120 ml water
170 grams unsalted butter, cold

Place the chocolate and water in a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water.  Stir gently until the chocolate is melted. Take off the heat and whisk in the cold butter until the mixture is incorporated.  Set aside until it is a spreadable consistency (minimum one hour).  

Susie xx

Saturday, 15 October 2011

A lovely rainbow cake and white chocolate cream cheese frosting {Recipe}

Photo taken by Martina Wragg of MTW Photography
Ever since I saw Whisk Kid's super epic rainbow cake  I had been desperate to make it. Who doesn't like a rainbow? Things had gotten in the way (like Pinterest for example.  Oh, and parenting!) and I hadn't had a chance. Until now. My friend Martina asked for a rainbow cake for her birthday. Yippee!  Finally I had an excuse to whip up this oh so fabulous cake!

The cake has six wonderfully colourful layers of cake filled and covered with white frosting to disguise the vibrancy of the interior.  Whisk Kid used Swiss meringue buttercream for her version.  I keep talking about Swiss meringue buttercream.  I love it and must write a post about it.  For now though, back to the rainbow cake.  

Martina adores cream cheese frosting and wanted her rainbow cake to have her most favourite frosting.  This was a problem. Cream cheese frosting is very sloppy and heat sensitive and isn't really meant for filling layer cakes. I was particularly concerned when I read a blog post about someone using cream cheese frosting for the super epic rainbow cake only to end up with layers sliding off on to the floor! Have a read  here. But I had to have cream cheese frosting for this cake!!! It was a must!  

Head down and bum up, I did my research and discovered that there is such a thing as white chocolate cream cheese frosting and that it is a good alternative to cream cheese frosting when you need it to be firmer.  Rose Levy Beranbaum has it in her famous tome The Cake Bible.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this book it is quite amazing and is worth a look if you are a serious baker.  Rose sees baking as a science and her exploration of each recipe is incredibly comprehensive.

I digress, again.  Ssssooo, I found several different white chocolate cream cheese frosting recipes and tweaked and tweaked until I came up with something I was happy with.  Let me tell you this frosting is g.o.o.d.  It is a thicker version of the cream cheese frosting that most of us love and doesn't taste overly different.  The chocolate is not a powerful presence but adds a texture that is essential in frosting used for layer cakes.

To make this wonderful layer cake grab the usual baking suspects.  

And whip up a classic vanilla cake.  I used the recipe provided by Whisk Kid as it was already adjusted to make six layers.  Feel free to use any recipe that you like, as long as the batter is pale enough to colour. A lovely friend of mine used a box mix with fab results.  

Now remember when you were in high school and your maths teacher told you that maths would be important for the rest of your life? Well here is an example of this being true...You need to divide your batter evenly into six bowls in order to colour them.  Now I know that my KitchenAid bowl weighs 792 grams, so I weighed my bowl, containing the batter, with my fabulous digital scales.  I then subtracted 792 grams and then another 100 grams to account for the batter than would stay on the sides of the bowl.  I divided what was left by 6 and voila, that was the magic number that each portion of batter needed to weigh.  Phew.  My head hurt doing this.  I really am a humanities person, you know?

Then comes the fun part.  Colour that batter in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.  Gel colour is the best for this job as it will give you a great level of vibrancy.  

Gel colours come in several brands such as Wilton and Americolour.  They come in small jars and you only need the smallest amount to get a great colour so although they cost more than liquid colour they last ffffoooorrrreeevvvveeer!  Just use a toothpick to add the smallest amount and keep adding until you get the colour you are after.  

Put the batter into your prepared eight-inch pans.  The most effective way I have found to ensure that the cake doesn't stick to the pan is to butter the pan, line the base with baking paper, butter again and flour.  A trick my Mum taught me to help with lining the base of a round pan is to get a piece of baking paper, fold it in half, then in half again, and then fold kinda like a paper plane, like so...

Hold the paper over the pan so that the tip is in the middle and cut it with scissors at the edge.  Unfold and - ta da! - you have yourself a circle that fits perfectly in the bottom of your pan.  

On to the baking. Bake your cakes for fifteen minutes each. You might need to do this a few times, depending on how many pans you have and how big your oven is. I did them two at a time as I find that if I cram three pans into my standard sized oven the heat doesn't distribute evenly. 

Once they are cooked, cool them in the pan and then on racks until completely cooled. Wrap them in plastic wrap and throw them in the fridge for at least a few hours before you frost them.  This will make it much easier to frost as when the cakes are cool they are much firmer and are less likely to crumb.  

Now about this ace cream cheese frosting (it makes it very obvious that I was in primary school in the 80's when I use the word ace all of the time!).  Please please please use a good quality chocolate, not the chips or buttons.  Don't ever use the chips or buttons unless they are for a recipe that specifically asks for chips!  The chocolate is not very good quality and has a coating on the outside that helps it to retain it shape. The coating does all sorts of funky things to frostings.  

Melt the chocolate in the microwave in a 30 second burst followed by 15 second bursts until smooth.  Leave it to cool for at least fifteen minutes.  It needs to be cool enough that it won't melt the cream cheese and butter when it comes time to combine these ingredients.  

Using the whisk attachment of your mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed (I use 4 on my KitchenAid) until they are thoroughly combined but not for too long or the cream cheese will liquify.

A word on cream cheese. I have discovered through lots of reading and experimentation that cream cheese, unlike butter, really needs to be cold for making frostings.  Once cream cheese starts to liquify it cannot be brought back no matter how much time you give it in the fridge.  If you use room temperature cream cheese from the beginning it is more likely to end up a soupy mess, whereas cold cream cheese will give you a bit more leeway and therefore more beating time. Also, always use Philadelphia brand in block form.  The spreadable version won't work.    

Back to the frosting - add the vanilla and chocolate and combine, and then add the icing sugar one cup at a time until each is thoroughly combined.  You should end up with a consistency that is great for piping swirls etc, and is firm enough to use as a filling.

Here is the recipe if you want to give it a try for yourselves.  

{White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting}

This recipe is enough to fill and frost the Super Epic Rainbow cake, with a bit left over for mishaps and tasting (how terrible!).  You can reduce the proportions as needed, but that would require maths, and remember that I am a humanities person!  

340g good quality white chocolate, chopped
125g unsalted butter, softened
650g Philadelphia cream cheese in block form, cold
2 tsp good quality vanilla extract
8 cups pure icing sugar, sifted (this is the equivalent to two bags so there is no need to measure)

Melt the chocolate in the microwave in one 30 second burst followed by 15 second bursts, stirring in between, until it is smooth with no lumps.  Set aside to cool for a minimum of 15 minutes.

Using the whisk attachment of your mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until well combined, being careful not to over beat.  Add the chocolate and vanilla and beat until combined.  Scrape the sides and bottom of your bowl.  Add the icing sugar one cup at a time and beat until each is combined, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl between each addition.  

{Construction of the rainbow cake}

Put a smear of the frosting on whatever surface you are going to place to cake.  I always use a cake board under a cake, that way it can be moved about without too much trouble.  They can be purchased from cake decorating stores and Spotlight and are usually around $2 for an eight-inch board.  Take your first cake out of the fridge and place it on the board.  Put a thin layer of frosting on the cake, working from the inside out.  If you have an offset spatula, now would be the time to use it.  

They are relatively cheap, come in a range of sizes and are my most often used cake tools.  Get a few if you are a frequent baker - you won't be sorry.

Keep adding the cakes until you have a tower of rainbow cake!  

The rainbow tower under construction
Once you have built you tower you need to crumb coat in.  Crumb coating is a process whereby you cover a cake with a light layer of frosting to seal it before putting all of your frosting on.  You do this to prevent the crumbs from coming off into your frosting, ruining the look of your super white cake.  If you do this, along with cooling the cake, then you can't fail!  

Once you have crumb coated the cake, slather away! I generally do the sides first and then finish with the top, bringing the frosting from the sides of the top inward to achieve an even look.  There are several techniques you can use to make the frosting super flat but for this one I quite liked the look of it in its imperfect form.  Here it is in its box ready to be sent to its new owner!

It's a bit nerve racking sending a cake off without really knowing what it is like on the inside but the lovely recipient of this cake was nice enough to send me a few pics and I was really happy with the results.


Susie xx