Category Archives: cakes for grown-ups

Raspberry rose chocolate cake

I love, love, love to make special occasion cakes for adults, where emphasis is on the taste and the pretty. This cake delivers all of that along with the feeling that your secret admirer has just messengered over the freshest flowers of the season. The expensive ones:  long stem in blush pink.

The cake of this cake is a rich triple chocolate layer cake, studded with chocolate bits and sliding devilishly close to brownie. It’s a Dorie Greenspan wonder and I’ve made it before with much success. This time, I poured the whole batter into a 10 inch round, the perfect size for showing off those roses, which were first introduced to me by i am baker. Here’s her tutorial.  Simple but elegant.

Once baked, I cut the cake into two layers and filled it with buttercream and my chocolate ganache. I made a double batch of ganache so that there was some left to include in the piping bag for the roses. The frosting is a double batch of Swiss meringue buttercream, spiked with seedless raspberry jam.

Once chilled, I used my now favorite “big” tip, the Wilton 1M to decorate the cake. To get that hint of chocolate in the roses, I used a technique I use with cookie decorating. I wrapped the buttercream in two layers of plastic wrap, twisted the ends and tied one end in a knot.  I did the same with a smaller amount of ganache.  Then I placed the “cartridges” in the piping bag, open end toward the tip.  Then I pulled the plastic through the tip and snipped the excess.

“cartridges” before placing in piping bag

Before applying the frosting on the cake, I piped a bit out, just to get the flow and buttercream-to-chocolate ratios right.  From there, I started in the center of each rose and piped a circle around itself. I did the sides first, then the top. Then I filled in the gaps with little “line” swirls (just like i am baker).

It’s hard to believe, but it’s all much easier then my rambling description indicates. One day I’ll have the patience to do real tutorials. For now, we’ll just have to settle for sparse process pictures and sheer enthusiasm.

Here are the recipes for that person in your life deserving of edible flowers:

DG’s Chocolate Devil’s Food Cake
(slightly adapted)

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 c. unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 c.  (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 t. pure vanilla extract
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 c. buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 c. boiling water
4 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate, finely chopped, or 2/3 mini chocolate chips

1.)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour two eight inch round cake pans. I use baking spray.

2.)  Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl.

3.)  With a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add both sugars and continue to beat for another 3 minutes.

4.)  Add the eggs to the butter-sugar mixture one by one, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer to low and mix in the melted chocolate until fully incorporated.

5.)  Add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the milk in two additions. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter.

6.)  Still working on low speed, mix in the boiling water then switch to a rubber spatula, scrape down the bowl and stir in the chopped chocolate.

7.)  Divide the batter evenly between the two pans (I use a kitchen scale for this) and smooth the tops with a spatula.

8.)  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. When fully baked, the cakes will be springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.

9.)  Transfer the cake pans to a rack and cool for 10 minutes. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. The cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.

Kristina’s Shiny Chocolate Ganache
(double the recipe for this cake….)

3/4 c. heavy cream
2 T. unsalted butter
6 oz. semi sweet chocolate, chopped
1 t. corn syrup (for shine)

1.  Microwave the cream and butter in a measuring cup on high until bubbling, about 1 1/2 minutes. Or, bring to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.

2.  Place the chopped chocolate and corn syrup in a food processor. With the machine running, gradually add the hot cream through the feed tube and process until smooth and thickened, about 3 minutes.

3.  Transfer the ganache to a medium bowl and let stand at room temperature until it is the consistency you desire (about 1 hour for spreading; 1 1/2 to 2 hours for piping). Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups.

Raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting  
(slightly adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook)
(double the recipe for this cake….)

4 large egg whites
1 1/4 c. sugar (divide 1 cup and 1/4 cup)
3 sticks (1 1/2 c.) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
1 t. vanilla extract
3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam

1.  In the heat proof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water on medium heat, combine the egg whites and sugar. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch (about 160 degrees F on an instant read thermometer).

2.  Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg white/sugar mixture on high-speed until it holds stiff (but not dry) peaks, about 5 minutes.

3.  Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

4.  If the frosting appears to separate after the butter and vanilla are added (it usually does), beat on medium speed for another 3 minutes until combined.

5.  Add 3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam.  Mix on medium speed until combined.

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The one – the only – Spring Fling Cake!

Once upon a time a girl (me) who was destined to love shopping came down from the mountains to spend precious few weekends with her aunt – called with all the affection in the world – Nanny. Nanny worked downtown and spent her lunch hours shopping at a magical place called Larimer Square in Denver, Colorado. Larimer Square is a little slice of Denver that offers shops with hip Western flair, Old World lights strung across the buildings, at least one all-the-buzz-restaraunt, and a little cafe and gourmet curiosity shop, called The Market at Larimer. I have loved The Market since I was a kid, stopping for tea and a treat with Nanny. And I love it today, for the memories with Nanny, and THIS CAKE:

Picture of the Real McCoy, taken at The Market, July 2011

This object of beauty and delight is The Market’s Spring Fling cake.

My version, pre-glaze, March 2012

It’s a relatively heavy cake, spiked with finely grated zucchini and balanced with a light whipped cream and cream cheese frosting.

The pastry is festooned with fresh fruit inside and on top, then brushed ever so gently with melted apricot jam for shine.

The cake is so, soooooo good that is has earned cult followers like me and appears at events of all kinds, even weddings.

The Spring Fling and I were first introduced at a law school buddy’s wedding. I actually laughed at the bride with all the cynicism one can muster for desserts when I learned zucchini cake would rule her wedding day.

Needless to say, after one bite, I was in love. Too bad I was already married.

A few years ago, a Denver newspaper printed the recipe for the Spring Fling cake for all to imitate. This is my best effort, served to rave reviews for a friend on her birthday who hearts carrot cake.  From what she tells me, this was a fun, fantastic alternative to other veggies-hidden-inside cakes.

But please be warned, the Spring Fling does not deliver the health benefits of the Deceptively Delicious food-for-kids genre. This ain’t diet food, and depending on your mood, even kid friendly.

Why, you ask? Because the four layer tower you see before you required a TRIPLE BATCH of the frosting indicated. That’s my only remarkable adaptation of the original recipe and it’s highly recommended. Enjoy!

SPRING FLING CAKE

For the cake:

2 1/2 cups finely shredded zucchini
5 eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt

1.)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans. I use baking spray with great results.

2.)  Grate the zucchini with the “fine side” of your grater. In a large mixing bowl (you can use a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, but it’s not necessary), add the shredded zucchini, eggs, sugar, oil, sour cream and vanilla and mix on medium to combine.

3.)  In a separate bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt) and gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet with the mixer set on low. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the ingredients are well combined. Scrape down the bowl as needed.

4.)  Pour the batter evenly into the baking pans and bake for 35 to 50 minutes, testing with a toothpick in the center. Cake is done when the toothpick comes out clean.

5.)  Cool the finished cake on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cake from the pans and allow the cake to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting (already tripled from the original recipe):

2 1/4 cups cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
6 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla

1.)  Using a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium high until creamy and smooth (3 minutes or so). Add the vanilla and mix until combined.

2.)  With the mixer set to low, gradually add the powdered sugar, mixing until well combined.

3.)  In a separate bowl, mix the cream until it is stiff. Then, using a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Do not over mix.

Cake assembly and fruit festooning:

Seasonal clean, dry and sliced fresh fruit for layers and the top of the cake. The Market’s Spring Fling typically has kiwi, mango, grapes, strawberries and blueberries. I use whatever is on sale.

Don’t forget the smallest jar of apricot jam you can find.

1.)  Cut the cooled cake layers in half lengthwise, making four layers.

2.)  Spread even amounts of frosting between the layers and “dot” the layers with fruit.

3.)  Frost the top and sides of the cake.  The sides of the cake can be seen through the frosting.  That’s okay.

4.)  Arrange the fruit in circles over the top of the cake, starting near the center.  Fill in gaps as needed with berries, halved grapes, etc.

5.)  To finish, melt the apricot jam in a microwave or in a small saucepan over medium heat.  You can pour the melted jam through a sieve for a smooth glaze, but it is not necessary. Using a pastry or silicone brush, lightly brush the melted jam over the fruit on the top of the cake.  Do not apply too much glaze to the fruit, or it will drip.

6.)  Place the cake in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving to “set.”

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Just gonna stand there and watch me burn? chocolate malt marshmallow cake

You know what’s great (besides Eminem’s assuredly catchy but unsettling lyrics)? Fiery, passionate people in your life that know what they like and aren’t afraid to voice that like. While it may make for some lively discussions, it also allows for a wide path of joy leading from one insane amateur baker to the girl on fire – the voicer of likes – or in this case, the birthday girl.

This time, I was baking for Stacey, a wonderful friend, who, along with raising four kids, directing and producing Spokane’s Listen to Your Mother, a powerful show about mothers and their words AND heading every hiring committee that preschool boards and elementary school PTAs can throw at her, has made it quite clear to me over the course of our six-year relationship that she likes CHOCOLATE. Period.

There is no other cake on her birthday menu, and if fruit is anywhere in the building, she is not. And don’t even mention coconut. That’s grounds for friendship divorce. At least on her birthday.

Stacey does however, like the comforting, yet sophisticated taste of toasted marshmallows, that is ruling the sweet world these days. Inspired by a chocolate cake at a local Italian restaurant, and the s’mores craze too, I came up with my own concoction and thankfully, only lit one layer on fire, allowing a respectable 3 (versus 4) layer cake for the party. Whew.  Fire is still my friend. Stacey is still my friend.

For this cake, I worked from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking, From My Home to Yours, which as promised, really takes on a brownie effect when served cold.

For the layers, I made a double batch of my usual chocolate ganache and then spread that with a fabulous marshmallow frosting.

Look at this fluffy stuff…its beautiful!

At this point, I popped each layer under the broiler for 15-20 seconds. Mmmm…toasted heaven.

As mentioned, I only stood and watched one burn.

From there, I saved the charred layer for my family and did a double crumb cake technique with the other three, first with the fluffy marshmallow frosting and then with a traditional chocolate icing of the powdered sugar (and malt powder!) variety.

Finally, after some time in the refrigerator, I frosted the whole thing with the chocolate-malt icing using a variation of this technique, expertly explained at Glorious Treats.

Finally, I crowned the top with a ring of marshmallow frosting that I DID NOT toast under the broiler. The gentle flame of a lighter wand did the trick. Then it was just a sprinkling of sprinkles away from cake with friends.

Below are the cake, marshmallow frosting and chocolate frosting recipes:

DG’s Devil’s Food Cake (slightly adapted)

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 c. unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 c.  (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 t. pure vanilla extract
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 c. buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 c. boiling water
4 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate, finely chopped, or 2/3 mini chocolate chips

1.)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour two eight inch round cake pans. I use baking spray.

2.)  Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl.

3.)  With a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add both sugars and continue to beat for another 3 minutes.

4.)  Add the eggs to the butter-sugar mixture one by one, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer to low and mix in the melted chocolate until fully incorporated.

5.)  Add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the milk in two additions. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter.

6.)  Still working on low speed, mix in the boiling water then switch to a rubber spatula, scrape down the bowl and stir in the chopped chocolate.

7.)  Divide the batter evenly between the two pans (I use a kitchen scale for this) and smooth the tops with a spatula.

8.)  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. When fully baked, the cakes will be springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.

9.)  Transfer the cake pans to a rack and cool for 10 minutes. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. The cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.

Marshmallowy Frosting
4 large egg whites

1 c. sugar
3/4 t. cream of tartar
1 c. water
1 T. pure vanilla extract
1 jar marshmallow cream

1.)  Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer (clean and dry) or other mixing bowl. Have a candy thermometer at the ready.

2.)  Place the sugar, cream of tartar and water in a small saucepan and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, cover the pan and boil for 3 minutes.

3.)  Uncover the saucepan and allow the syrup to boil until it reaches 242 degrees F on the candy thermometer.

4.)  While the syrup is cooking, start beating the egg whites on medium speed with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer until they form firm, shiny peaks.

5.)  Once the syrup reaches 242 degrees F, off heat, and carefully pour the hot syrup into the egg whites. Add the vanilla extract and keep beating the whites at medium speed until they reach room temperature, about 5 minutes. Add the jar of marshmallow cream and mix on medium speed until incorporated.

6.)  It is best to use the marshmallowy frosting right away.

Chocolate Malt Buttercream Frosting

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/3 c. (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 c. malted milk powder
1 T. unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder
1/4 boiling water
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
3/4 t. pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1.)  Melt the chocolate and half the brown sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water.  Remove from the heat. Alternatively, melt the chocolate and sugar in a microwave on high at 30 second intervals until melted (not burned).  Stir between each interval.

2.)  Whisk the malt powder and cocoa together in a small bowl, pour over 3 tablespoons of the boiling water and whisk until smooth. Whisking the melted chocolate gently, gradually pour in the hot malt-cocoa mixture and stir to blend.  It should be dark, smooth and glossy; set aside.

3.)  With a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or a hand mixer in large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining brown sugar and beat until well blended, about 2 to 3 minutes more.

4.)  Beat in the salt and vanilla extract, then reduce the mixer speed to low. Scrape in the chocolate mixer and mix until smooth. Still working on low speed, gradually add in the powdered sugar.

5.)  When all the powdered sugar is added, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for a couple of minutes. Then reduce the mixer to low and add the remaining tablespoon of boiling water. When incorporated, increase the speed to medium and beat the frosting a bit more.

6.)  It’s best to use the chocolate-malt buttercream right away.

P.S.  I couldn’t resist…I linked this post on Tidy Mom’s Lovin’ It Friday.  Join the party at Tidy Mom’s!

 

 

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I am Drusilla’s granddaughter

“Who I Am,” sung by Sara Evans is a heartfelt country number about the security of knowing and accepting yourself. One line in this song always brings me to the brink of tears. I heard it last while driving to pick up my daughter from Kindergarten, two days after my Mom left from a five-day visit to meet baby Ren.

Mom came to help with the laundry, cooking and baby rocking, those things that need attention with heightened frequency when a new baby arrives. I was so grateful for Mom’s time but most valued her company and continuing unconditional affection for my family and me.

The first lines of the song’s chorus go like this:

I am Rosemary’s granddaughter
the spitting image of my father
and when the day is done my momma’s still my biggest fan

And there it is, so simple and true and with me, every day of my life. While Mom was visiting, we celebrated her birthday. Linnea made a menu of Mom’s favorites and I baked a lemon curd cake.

I frosted the cake with Swiss meringue buttercream and added simple decorations with ribbon and round piping tips. Mom was pleased. The recipes for the cake, curd and icing can be found here.

My Mom’s name is Drusilla, after my grandmother, another special lady. Today, on Mom’s actual birthday, I wish her sweet things and long life, because I need her in my corner forever and ever. Happy Birthday!

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Swept away in swirls, cake!

I recently became enchanted with Glory’s ombre swirl cake. Ombre describes a design technique that features a graduation from dark to light color. Like this:

Martha Stewart is a big fan. This has now concluded the design portion of the post/mini Pinterest site. Mostly because that’s all I really know about design.

Anyhoo, we recently had friends visit for the weekend. They’re great friends with many fine attributes, among them a weakness for over the top desserts. I wanted to bask in Glory’s glory, with a more frosting-than-you-really-should-eat-at-one-time, chocolate twist.

It turned out wonderfully. We were all in chocolate swirly heaven for a couple of days, indulging in one – and sometimes two – giant slices after every meal or every excuse for a meal that we could make sound legit.

For this recipe, I used Sweetapolita’s One-Bowl Dark Chocolate Cake recipe, which is quickly becoming a no fail favorite for me. I baked two 8 inch rounds and cut the rounds in half for a four layer cake.

For the filling, I started with a layer of swiss meringue buttercream, topped with 1/3 cup of chocolate ganache on each layer. Then I gave the cake the old crumb coat and finished with a double batch of swiss meringue buttercream frosting, applied to the cake in giant swirls.

To create the color (and flavor!) variation in the frosting, I started with a double batch of plain frosting and then added a few dollops of ganache and a tiny drop of brown food coloring to the whole batch for the lightest variation. From there, I kept adding more ganache and food coloring to create the two darker chocolate hues.

For the swirls, I used a large Wilton 1M decorating tip. Whenever you use the big decorating guns, the frosting goes fast. I started at the bottom with the darkest frosting, creating a row for each color. Unfortunately, I miscalculated the color ratios and ran out of the lighter frosting and had to improvise on the top of the cake with ganache and the more chocolatey frosting. Ultimately, the ombre effect was cut short, but all to good end.  More chocolate for all!

Sweetapolita’s One-Bowl Dark Chocolate Cake Recipe

Shiny Chocolate Ganache

3/4 c. heavy cream
2 T. unsalted butter
6 oz. semi sweet chocolate, chopped
1 t. corn syrup (for shine)

1.  Microwave the cream and butter in a measuring cup on high until bubbling, about 1 1/2 minutes. Or, bring to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.

2.  Place the chopped chocolate and corn syrup in a food processor. With the machine running, gradually add the hot cream through the feed tube and process until smooth and thickened, about 3 minutes.

3.  Transfer the ganache to a medium bowl and let stand at room temperature until it is the consistency you desire (about 1 hour for spreading; 1 1/2 to 2 hours for piping). Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
(slightly adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook)

4 large egg whites
1 1/4 c. sugar
3 sticks (1 1/2 c.) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
1 t. vanilla extract

1.  In the heat proof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water on medium heat, combine the egg whites and sugar. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch (about 160 degrees F on an instant read thermometer).

2.  Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg white/sugar mixture on high-speed until it holds stiff (but not dry) peaks, about 5 minutes.

3.  Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

4.  If the frosting appears to separate after the butter and vanilla are added (it usually does), beat on medium speed for another 3 minutes until combined.

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Fake cake and fondant fundamentals

Almost good enough to eat.

This past weekend I took a great five-hour “Beginning Fondant” class, instructed by the owner of Carolyn’s Cake Decorating, the one and only cake decorating store in my town.  With all the bows, quilting detail, and pale pink roses, the finished product would have been perfect for my grandmother, if only she had a taste for styrofoam!

We learned the fundamentals of fondant work, including rolling and placement on the cake, storage, fondant choices and a few decorating techniques.  I had my missteps, but all in all, I feel ready to attack fondant with fervor!

Here’s some Fond Fondant placement tips:

1.  Crumb coat the cake with buttercream icing.  Refrigerate or freeze the cake for a few minutes before applying fondant.  Don’t apply fondant to a completely frozen cake.

2.  If using pre-made fondant (which apparently lasts for a year (a year!) if stored in an airtight, twisted bag (not Ziploc)), roll the fondant out like a pie crust on a silicone mat dusted with powdered sugar.

3.  For an eight-inch round layer cake, use approximately two pounds of fondant.  To keep the fondant moist while working with it, periodically dip your fingers into a small bowl of vegetable shortening (like Crisco) while kneading and rolling out the fondant.  Use the powdered sugar like flour to keep the fondant from sticking to the mat.  Move the fondant frequently and turn the fondant over a few times.  Don’t roll the fondant too thick, or it will it will be too heavy for the sides of the cake.

4.  Place the fondant over the center of the cake, allowing excess on all sides, if possible.  Place Crisco on the bottom and side of one hand and use it to smooth the fondant around the cake.  “Hop” around the cake to gently pull and smooth the fondant to prevent it from gathering in one place on the cake.

5.  When the fondant is in place, trim the excess with a pizza cutter and then cut 1/4 inch of the fondant from the bottom of the cake.  To seal in the cake’s moisture, cover the gap with fondant trim or with a buttercream border.

6.  You can freeze the fondant cake for a couple of weeks before applying decorations.

7.  Ultimately, the cake will have weak spots or dimples.  Find the worst spot and call it the “BACK.”  Use that spot to begin borders, etc.

8.  For decorations, the key is to roll out a small amount of fondant at a time.  This is because the fondant dries and cracks quickly, as demonstrated by this dusty bow:

9.  The basic tools for fondant work include a pizza cutter and  1) a silicone mat, 2) a silicone rolling-pin and 3) a small rolling-pin/modeling tool.

10.  Finally, to make things easier, a basic modeling tool and powdered sugar shaker are nice additions.

That’s all for now.  More to come!

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Vanilla Citrus Candy Cake

Apparently by age 12, kids move to the more sophisticated side of childhood.  For years, I have made the birthday cakes for my cousins’ kids.  And somewhere along the way, we went from working volcanoes and penguin and french fry cakes, to a simple white layer cake sporting the birthday boy’s (“B”)  favorite team logo.  In this case, it’s the Oregon Ducks, the football team of my cousin’s husband’s alma mater, the University of Oregon.

B wanted a vanilla cake with citrus filling.  He was even willing to go with mango.  I wasn’t ready to take on mango, especially because I believe mango season at Costco has already passed us for the year.  So I settled on lemon, a tried and true winner, and made my favorite lemon curd recipe.  From there, it was Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting, with 3/4 cup of lemon curd mixed in (instead of the berries noted in the link), and a lovely vanilla cake that I tried for the first time.

For the cake, I looked to Sweetapolita, a beautiful blogger with a beautiful blog that makes and beautifully displays what always appear to be – you guessed it – beautiful (and tasty) desserts.  I made her Fluffy Vanilla Cake.

I loved it because it required much less work than my typical white cake recipe, with a lovely tight crumb texture.  While mine fell a bit (user error, most definitely), the texture, taste and moisture factors were divine.  Also, the dips in my cake were nothing that a little citrus-spiked buttercream couldn’t fix.

mid-crumb coat

crumb coat complete

My favorite part of this cake – surprise, surprise – were the decorations.  While strolling through World Market while planning for the cake (and otherwise living my life), I stumbled upon lemon flavored Jordan almonds with a fantastic, slightly orange tinted candy shell.  This made me think of the University of Oregon’s colors (bright yellow and green).  Then I landed on Lemon Heads and lime green sour apple twists (I went to Walmart for those).

I decided to make a simple mosaic of the Ducks’ “O” from crushed Lemon Heads and green twists cut into bead-like pieces, arranged around a huge “O” template in the Times Roman font.  I placed the green “beads” first, then removed and discarded the paper “O” template.  Then I added the crushed lemon heads in a tile-like manner.

While it took a little longer than expected (as these things always do), B and I were happy with the results.  Almost enough for me to yearn for a team obsession of my own or to stop mourning those cute penguin cakes.  Almost.

Lemon Curd Recipe

8 large egg yolks
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

Combine yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar in a saucepan; whisk to combine.  Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (be sure to scrape the sides of the pan), until the mixture is this thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, 8 to 10 minutes, and registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

Remove saucepan from heat.  Add salt and butter, one piece at a time, stilling until smooth.  Strain through a fine sieve into a medium bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming.  Refrigerate until chilled and set, at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

(slightly adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook).

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