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Monday, December 14, 2009

HCB: Classic Carrrot Cake

After being absent for a few weeks, I'm back to make Rose's rendition of Classic Carrot Cake.

This cake is very easy to make. The only part that seems "hard" is grating the carrot. Feeling lazy, I decided to chop the carrots into 1 inch pieces and process it in the food processor. I was glad that I did this, as this save a lot of time and stress (I have this fear of accidentally cutting my fingers with the grater).

I was a bit shocked with the amount of white chocolate that this recipe calls for. I considered reducing it - was afraid that it would make the overall taste too sweet, but decided to go ahead with it anyway.

Let me first say that I'm not a big fan of carrot cake, so I'm very curious to see how this will turn out. I love this cake! This is the best carrot cake that I've ever had. It is so tender and moist (this seems to be the trend with Rose's recipes, :)). The frosting nicely compliment the taste of the cake, it is not too sweet as I suspected it would be. I love that it uses raisins, it definitely adds to the flavor of the cake and makes the texture more fun.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Vacation. Be back later, :).

I will be absent for a couple of weeks. Will be back for the Fruitcake Wreath.

Monday, November 16, 2009

HCB: Woody's Lemon Luxury Layer Cake

Before I start with my Lemon Luxury Cake tale, let me begin by telling you about the lemon roses. I made them a couple of weekends ago. I bought over half a dozen of lemons. I've never made this before and I was afraid I'd fail. The recipe (on page 432 of Heavenly Cakes) tells you to peel the skin of the lemon with a paring knife. I don't understand what Rose meant by "start by cutting a round section across the base of the fruit but not all the way through," but I figured since I have so many lemons I should just start peeling. Then I boil sugar syrup, add the peel to the simmering syrup, cover the pan, remove from the heat, and let sit overnight. The next morning, remove the peel from the syrup to paper towels. I wasn't sure whether I should let it sit in the paper towel first until dried before moving on to the next step. So I went ahead anyway, curling each strip loosely around itself to form a rose. Then I let them dry for 1 hour. Then coat all sides of the peel with corn syrup. After 1 hour, apply a second coat, and then another coat after another hour. Oops, as I'm reading the recipe now I realize I made a mistake. It said here that after all those 3 coats of corn syrup, to allow the peel to dry completely which can take several days before storing in covered container. I missed this step. After a couple of hours of the third coat, I store it in a container and put it in the freezer. No wonder my lemon roses looks a bit different than the picture in the book. It is still pretty though, :). This is the picture of the lemon roses before the corn syrup applications.

Moving on to the cake. For once, I would not say that this is an easy cake to make. The recipe itself is four pages long. This is a big cake, so I decided to make it in 6-inch pans. 6-inch pan by volume is not exactly half of 9-inch pan, but when I did the math it comes up to 0.44 so for easiness' sake I divided everything by half.

First I made the lemon curd. I whisk the yolks, sugar, and butter until blended, then add the lemon juice and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. It takes a good 10-15 minutes before the mixture start turning opaque and yellow. I felt like I was stirring and stirring for the longest time. Then it takes another 10 minutes or so before it starts thickening. I must confess that I was really tempted to increase the heat but I didn't want it to curdle.

Next I made the white chocolate custard base. This calls for melting white chocolate and butter on a double boiler while stirring often. Then whisk the eggs lightly and then whisk it into the white chocolate mixture. Then continue mixing while heating it up until 140 degrees.

I then switched gears to composing the cake. Again, I substituted the cake flour with unbleached AP flour. I melted the white chocolate, then mix the butter, 2/3 of the milk with all the dry ingredients. Then incorporate the egg and 1/3 milk mixture. Then incorporate the white chocolate. Then bake the cake for 35 minutes. Everything went on swimmingly until I took the cake out of the pan and they look like this!

I put the lighter cake back to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes. It's done in the center but the top still has the light color. By the time I flip the cake out of the pan, it fell apart and taste odd. The other cake was fine, it was a bit dense - because I used the unbleached AP but it tasted okay. I could not figure out what went wrong with the other cake. I baked the cake on the 3rd rack from the bottom, on the same rack, I rotated the pan halfway through baking. I didn't open the oven door until 5 minutes at the end. I re-read the recipe 5 times and determined that I didn't not messed anything up. Using unbleached AP instead of cake flour would impact structure and texture but it should not impact taste - that is my understanding at least. Frustrated and confused, I gave up for the day and decided to redo the cake the next day.
Day 2 of Lemon Cake adventure. I was sad and frustrated but determined to make the cake. This time I use cake flour. Everything went on swimmingly again, and when it's time to incorporate the melted white chocolate into the batter, I let it mix longer just to make sure. The cake baked for 35 minutes again but one of them sunk a little bit in the center and the other one sunk a lot on one side. To make matters worse, there is a big height difference! I weigh the batter when I distributed them between the 2 pans and they were both 301 grams. Argh... At this point, I was really frustrated. Though sadly thinking that of course the cake that I requested would be the one that gives me the biggest challenge.

Back to the buttercream. I cream the butter, then added the white chocolate custard base and mix until it achieved stiff peak. I didn't want to wait 1 1/2 - 2 hours so I chilled it for a few minutes in an ice bath. The buttercream came together nicely without any issue.

Lastly, composing the cake. I tried to make up for the sunken center and inconsistent sides with the buttercream. I know it will look funny when the cake is cut but I really want the exterior of the cake to look good and even. After 3 hours of numerous chilling/freezing the cake and using both bench scraper and heated offset spatula to smooth out the sides, here is the cake with a lemon rose in the center.

It is as smooth as I could get it to be. In retrospect, it is probably overkill to spend 3 hours composing the cake but I am very happy with the result.

Onto tasting. This cake is really good. It is rich though, I wonder if it's because of all those egg yolks! I would definitely make this cake again, but probably for special occassions since it does take some time and effort (and patience :)).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

PP&B: Apple Pie

This is Open-Faced Designer Apple Pie from page 84 of the Pie & Pastry Bible. My first attempt of making this pie last month were not this good: the bottom crust was a bit under baked and the leaves around the crust looked like it was hit by a hurricane. I was so happy that this second attempt was more successful. One tip I have for anyone who is going to attempt this is to try to split the task into 2 days: make the crust and shape the leaves on day 1, then finish the pie on day 2. If you can't do this in one day, start as early in the day as possible. Also, be patient. The leaves take time to make. You have to roll out the dough then cut it with a paring knife. By then the dough is too soft so have to chill it before prying the leaves out. Then have to chill the scraps again before rolling it out and cutting it. Anyone who's ever made sugar cookies in different shapes would know what it takes. Next time I should try putting the chilled marble pastry board beneath it so it doesn't get soft too fast.

Regardless of the time it takes, I was glad I did it. I don’t think this is something I will do often, but it’s nice to do it at least once to have the experience, and of course, apture the moment in eternity in a nice picture, :).

Monday, November 9, 2009

HCB: Baby Chocolate Oblivion

Last month I ordered the 6 cup Lekue silicone muffin pan from Amazon. I only ordered one of them for now since I have been buying other things for the kitchen. This cake sounds pretty rich so I decided to make 1/2 a recipe.

For 1/2 the recipe, melt 1/2 a pound of chocolate, 8 oz of butter, and 1 1/2 Tbps of sugar over hot water (bowl should not touch the water) - stirring occasionally. I bought Valrhona dark chocolate (70%) and I didn't bother chopping it up so it takes a while to melt through the whole chunk. Once this is done, whisked 3 eggs over simmering water until they're warm to the touch. Then move it to the stand mixer and beat on high speed for 5 minutes until they've tripled in size and almost reach soft peak when the whisk is raised (I think it looks like it's a few minutes away from what's called "ribbony"). Then fold 1/2 the eggs into the chocolate, using either a balloon whisk or a large spatula. I should've used my large spatula. Somehow I used a regular whisk - which may or may not attributed to the mixture deflated so much.

When this is done, distributed them evenly into the 6-cup muffin pan, set it in the roasting pan that has a wire rack and a hot water bath. In to the oven it goes! When it's done, take them out of the pan. Easier said than done - we have all those hot water in the pan. I was not sure how to do this because I don't have silicone gloves or a bulb baster. Oh, and I don't plan on getting hot water splashed on any part of me. Even if I do have a bulb baster I don't think I want to spend 1/2 hour pulling the water out. Then a thought came over me. The good thing about silicone pans is that they cool down instantenously, right? I touched the edges of the pan to test and they are room temperature cool. So I placed a kitchen towel next to the roasting pan, hold the edges of the silicone pan and with a quick but fast movement move it to the towel. Ta-da.

So far it's been easy. The hardest part came when having to take the cake out. Only 3 of them came out smoothly - the rest has some bits sticking into the pan. Not really a huge deal because I took a spoon and scrape those babies out. But those 3 "damaged" babies didn't make it to the picture session. Sorry love, if it makes you feel better, I love you 3 all the same and you will get eaten just like your 3 other siblings :). Oh, have I mentioned that I love love love the name of this cake. It is so cute and so fitting use the word "oblivion" since they are so potently chocolate. It is very rich. It reminds me of chocolate Pot-de-creme or a very very chocolatey truffles. Actually, I think this would be perfect is smaller, truffle- like, size.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

HCB: Pumpkin Cake (sans Buttercream)

I was so looking forward to this cake. I have never made any baked goods with Pumpkin before so I am finding myself being very curious as to how this would taste. Hector over at Rose's forum said it is "utterly delicious" and Rose herself said that this is the best non-chocolate cake ever so as you can imagine, it sounds very promising. I decided not to get the pumpkin pan but I have bought the Fleur De Lis Bundt Pan from Nordic Ware and I was planning on "christening" it for this occassion. So I was doubly excited. I was planning on making 1/2 recipe of the buttercream and sort of pipe it decoratively on the cake. Not sure if it makes sense but it sort of does in my head and I was curious to see if my plan will turn out.

Well, apparently fate has a different plan because I got terribly sick over the weekend so no cooking or baking - in fact no anything short of sleeping and eating. Late yesterday I felt slightly better so I made the pumpkin cake. No buttercream though. It was all I could manage to do before collapsing. As those who have made this cake will tell you, the cake itself is very easy to do. Pretty uneventful really. It tells you to toast the walnuts and then mix it with the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt mixture. Apparently you don't have to process the walnuts into powder, just coarsely chop it (I break them into pieces with my hands). Then mix the eggs, brown sugar, canola oil, and walnut oil. I substituted walnut oil with the same amount of canola oil - not sure how often I will use walnut oil so I decided not to purchase it. Then it tells you to add vanilla and then the pumpkin puree. Then add the flour mixture and mix until it all blended, pour into the pan and bake for 35-40 minutes (if using bundt pan). I ended up baking mine for 45 minutes. I am eating the pumpkin cake as I am writing this. It is so good! So tender and moist (I noticed this seems to be a trend for Rose's cakes). Even though I made this with AP flour again it is very tender and moist. It makes me think of fall, this taste medley of pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg. YUM!

Monday, October 26, 2009

HCB: Almond Shamah Chiffon

This cake is pretty easy to make. Sure, there are a lot of steps, but it's not that hard. First you have to blanch the almonds, then toast them. Wait until they cool and then grind them (I love my food processor). Mix the ground almonds with the dry ingredients.

Then, whip the yolks for 5 minutes until thick and ribbony (it takes 9 yolks to get the prescribed weight), add to it oil, water, almond extract, and vanilla extract - beat again to mix everything together. Then sprinkle the dry ingredients mixture on top. Since I only have 1 mixer bowl and 1 whip, I have to wash and dry them really well before proceeding to whip the egg whites (I don't like to do this).

Next, whip the egg whites. Pretty standard steps, whip on low until foamy, add cream of tartar, whip until soft peaks, then gradually add sugar until stiff peaks form. I have to say that cream of tartar does help stabilize the egg whites - can't tell you how many times I "broke" whipped egg whites in the past (easy to do in high altitude) and have to start over. Doesn't seem to have this problem now with cream of tartar in the mix!

After the egg whites achieved stiff peak, mix 1/3 of it into the flour/almond/egg yolks mixture until incorporated (this is called "sacrifice" in chef terms). Then fold in the remaining egg whites in 2 addition. I use a big spatula and my arm got tired at the end since it's a heavy batter. Then divide the batter into 2 pans (I actually weigh them to make sure I distribute them evenly). Into the oven it goes.

The cake smells so good coming out of the oven. I let it cool. Then using a serrated knife, trim off the top of the cakes. Apply the syrup (water and sugar boiled, cool to room temperature, and combined with amaretto disarono liquor). Since the cake become really fragile after being syruped, I syrup the bottom layer first, then proceeded to make the raspberry jam whipped cream before I continue with the syruping. I did this because I want to apply the whipped cream between the layers - so I don't have to move the cake after syruping.

For the whipped cream, I bought raspberry preserve and it has seeds on them. So I push the whole thing through a strainer to get rid of the seeds. I was hesitating about this, I though it was gonna be a pain to do, but it's actually not bad (can you tell that I'm in a baking mood, all these steps and I was still a cheerful bird!). I whip the cream in the pre-chilled mixer bowl & whisks - slowly increasing the speed until it's stiff peak, then incorporate the strained raspberry preserve. The result is this creamy heavenly raspberry whipped cream with a hint of pink color.

Continuing on with the recipe, I put a huge dollop of the cream between the layers, syruped the top layer of the cake, then apply the rest of the cream all over the cake. I started off using an offset spatula, this works pretty well for the top of the cake. For the sides, I use the bench scraper. It is sooooo much easier using bench scraper (whoever invented bench scraper should get some sort of award, if that person hasn't already!).

Now full disclosure: I was going to skip this week's cake selection. I'm not sure I like chiffon and this cake sounded too plain. Again, I was wrong. This cake is so moist and so yummy. I think I am changing my opinion on white cakes!

Lesson to be learnt: NEVER doubt Rose, if the recipe is lucky enough to make it to her book, it must be worth it, and this cake is anything but!!!

A Baking Weekend - Part 2

I've borrowed The Bread Bible from the library, so I want to make something from it. Everything in the book looks so good! I can't decide on what to make (this is a recurring problem) so I made 2 breads. The first one is the Olive Bread.

The second one is the Raisin Pecan Bread.

Both breads are wonderful and are not hard to make. The only thing is that they have a lot of resting time in between the process, so you have to plan your day. I wish I could share a slice with you all.

A Baking Weekend - Part 1

This weekend, I was very inspired to bake so in addition to the scheduled cake for the HCB group, I also made several other items. First, I did the Chocolate Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Egg-White Buttercream from Rose's Heavenly Cakes. I made half a recipe of the cupcakes and the full recipe of the buttercream. Why, you asked, would I make another cake? Well, because I just received the 6-cavity Lekue silicone muffin pan and I feel compelled to test it. Also, I want to play with buttercream and the idea of making practice buttercream using shortening sounds plain gross (if there are shortening lover out there reading this, please don't take this personally). Anyway, back to the cupcake. It's very easy to make. The only thing is that you sorta have to plan ahead a bit because you have to boil the water and then mix it really well with the cocoa powder, then let it cool down to room temperature. The recipe said you can refrigerate it. But even that takes about 10-15 minutes to cool down (and this is half the recipe btw so you see how you should sorta plan ahead.) The buttercream is a bit more challenging. It tells you to beat the butter first until smooth and creamy. Rose suggests that you use the hand mixer for this if you only have 1 stand mixer - as you would need the stand mixer for the egg whites. So I did that. Then you beat the egg whites until foamy, add cream of tartar, beat again, then gradually add the fine sugar, until stiff peak. After all that, continue beating while adding butter by the tablespoon. Halfway through this, the buttercream looks like a soupy mess. Rose said that if the whole thing curdled, which I'm guessing what the soupy mess is, you should increase the speed and continue beating until it came together. Well, I did that and what feels like forever later, the consistency didn't changed. So I put the whole thing in the fridge - thinking that the reason why it still curdled is because it's too warm. True enough, after five minutes of refrigeration, I rebeat on high speed and it smoothed out. After all the butter is added, add the melted chocolate that's already cooled to room temperature. And you're done. Next is piping fun! It is so fun to pipe buttercream - provided you're not a perfectionist and fussed over every little imperfection (which I am kinda like that but I've decided since this is for personal consumption it just have to be fun and does not have to be perfect). I used a round tip, rose tip, and star tip and here's the result.

Aren't they cute? At least I think so. I'm very happy with the result. The one with the star tip makes me think of odd-shaped mushrooms.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

HCB: Apple Upside-Down Cake

At first, I was going to use peaches for this recipe. But it's apple season now, so I decided to use apples. This recipe is easy to make. I used Honey Crisp apples, core it with a melon baller and cut it thin. It is so fun to arrange the apples - I had the book next to it so I could try to mimic the design. I am short by 10 grams for the egg yolks, but I'm out of eggs, so I went ahead with the recipe anyway. This cake is baked in a 9x2 inches pan - encircled with Rose's cake strips - set on a baking stone. The stone was preheated for an hour. The stone really helps with the temperature of the oven because usually I have to add 10 minutes or so to the baking time because the middle part is not set yet. This time, however, baking time is exactly as prescribed by Rose. The result is this beautiful Apple Upside-Down Cake.

Now don't think that everything is going super well in my kitchen. It turns out that I did not have a plate large enough to hold this cake. I tried one of the biggest plate that I have and since the sides of the plate was slightly slanted, the cake was a bit damaged on one side. Anyway, ended up using a sheet pan as the place holder of this cake. Voila - disaster averted. Note to self: please go find a cake stand or a large plate!

Now onto the tasting impressions. I like making apple pies/tarts, I have tried several recipes of pies and tarts (including Rose's Open Face Designer Apple Pie). However, I am not a big fan of the taste of apple dessert. I know, I know, how can I not like apple dessert, right? Well, that's how it is. Given the choice between Apple Pie or any other cake I would usually pick the cake. Anyway, just when I thought that all is lost in the apple dessert land - that I wound never find a kind that I like - comes Apple Upside-Down Cake. This cake is soooo good. It's tender and moist and taste awesome! In retrospect, maybe what I don't like is pie crust then? :) Anyway, I love making (and eating) this cake. I will definitely make it again - and maybe try the peach version.

Monday, October 5, 2009

HCB: Hungarian Janci Torta

Here is my contribution to the 1st scheduled "bake-a-long" - the Hungarian Janci Torta.
Honestly, I was a bit hesitant of making this cake, never really made gluten-free dessert before. I wasn't sure what the combination of walnuts, chocolate, sugar, eggs, and cream of tartar would make. But I thought it would be an interesting experience and experiment :).

Here are my notes:
  • I wanted to make a small portion of this so I split the recipe in half.
  • For the pan, I used a 6 by 2 inches Fat Daddio aluminium anodized pan. Since this recipe calls for 3 inches tall pan, I encircled the inside of my pan with parchment paper for added height - per Rose's instructions. I'm glad I did this because the cake really rose high.
  • I didn't use any cake strips (ordered Rose's Silicone Cake Strips from amazon but haven't received them yet.)
  • I used Valrhona Extra Bitter chocolate.
Issues/concerns: 5 minutes before the specified time for baking, the top middle portion cracked. I'm not sure what's causing this.
Tasting impressions: This cake is very tender and moist. All the components are well balanced, I can taste slight nutty flavor and chocolate-y. The taste is much better than I expect, though I shouldn't be surprise considering Rose has excellent recipes! Bravo Rose! I have a feeling I will be loving this bake-a-long, :))))).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

New Baking Group - Heavenly Cake Bakers

A new baking group is born today, on the same day as the official release of "Rose's Heavenly Cakes" - the latest wonderful cookbook from Rose Levy Beraubaum.

THE GOAL: To bake through "Rose's Heavenly Cakes."


  1. You must own, or have easy access to a copy of Rose's Heavenly Cakes.
  2. You must have a blog.
  3. At the beginning of each month Marie - at HeavenlyCakePlace - will post the recipes that will be featured for that month. Marie will bake one per week, but you only have to agree to bake two a month (you can bake more if you like).
  4. Blog posts should be made within 24 hours of the date posted next to the recipes list.
  5. If you run out of steam or feel you can't keep baking, let Marie know so she can remove you from the list - that way, readers will know that only active bakeres are on the list of bloggers.
  6. Recipes will not be posted on the blogs since everyone will have a copy of the book.
  7. Last but not least, Happy Baking!
THE MENU for October:

October 5: Hungarian Jancsi Torta

October 12: Barcelona Brownie Bars

October 19: Apple Upside-Down Cake

October 26: Almond Shamah Chiffon

My copy of the book arrived last weekend - and I am very much looking forward to baking my way through the book.