Sunday, February 25, 2007

More Cakes

As far as I am concerned, December is the month for chestnuts. Time to use up whatever is left from last year's chestnut puree, time to make a new batch for next year's chestnut desserts... I first baked this dense chestnut cake over a year ago. Since then, I've been wanting to make it again with a chocolate glaze as in the original recipe (from Bruce Healey's The Art of the Cake). Finally, I got to it and result was as good as I anticipated.

My second attempt at Panettone. These were better than last year's, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. The recipe can be found here.

Here is another first for me: Rana's birthday cake with rolled fondant. Fondant cakes are very popular with Turkish dessert bloggers these days, but I was never tempted to make a fondant cake until I discovered Debbie Brown's wonderful book Enchanted Cakes. Rana and I had a difficult time to choose a cake for her birthday party, because the book is full of extraordinarily beautiful cake ideas.

Underneath the fondant was a white butter cake brushed with raspberry syrup and filled with raspberry buttercream (all from RLB's Cake Bible). I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but the result was still impressive. Sugar paste is as much fun as play dough, and although the cake took a couple of hours to complete, I had fun making it. And the way the children reacted to it when they first saw it was priceless.

Fondant is a great visual tool in cake making, but I personally do not like the idea of feeding children sugar paste and food coloring, so we collected the pieces of fondant from the plates after the cake was cut, and made sure that they were not eaten.

2006's last cakes... Unlike traditional Yule Logs, these two were layer cakes baked in my new $1- cake mold. I cut each cake in two layers and filled them with chestnut buttercream and candied chestnut pieces. Since I used chestnut, plain and chocolate buttercreams, having a layered cake instead of a roll helped to maximize the cake to buttercream ratio, and made the cakes lighter. As always, the mushroom meringues were a lot of fun to make.

And this was my older daughter's birthday cake for a suprise party their friends threw for her. The funny thing is that we made the cake together, and she thought that it was for her father's birthday (according to the Chinese calendar.) She loves green tea, so we made a matcha roll soaked with matcha syrup and filled with matcha-mascarpone cream. For decoration, we melted some white chocolate, colored a little bit of it with matcha and piped random designs on a silicon mat. We let it harden a bit, then covered the whole mat with the remaining white chocolate in a thin layer. The rest was a lot of fun; we cut out tiny shapes and decorated the roll to our hearts' content. I feared that it would be difficult to cut, but a heated knife worked beautifully.

This was again for Zeynep's birthday; this time for the home celebration. We were all very sick that day, so I used supermarket-purchased sponge cake, and lots of fruit to make it light and easier to digest. I had some French rolled cookies at home, and they were an easy way to decorate the cake.

These miniature cakes with chocolate bands and ruffles (not quite, really) were inspired by a recipe from Alice Medrich's Bittersweet. I made the cakes in my ring molds. The bands were easy to make and turned out to very smooth and shiny. The ruffles were another story. Looking for visual help on the Internet, I found Astrid's video clip which was very useful. I also watched Alice Medrich's clip, but she was a little too fast for me. My first try mostly yielded shards of chocolate and a few ruffles. The right thing would be to remelt the chocolate and try again; but I was pressed with time, so I used whatever I had. I am looking forward to making ruffles again. It is really satisfying provided you can make them :)

This carrot, prune and walnut cake from Abby Mandel's Cuisinart Classroom (a book I recently rediscovered in my attic) was moist and delicious. I'll definitely make it again.

I wanted to make Pain d'Epices ever since I saw the recipe in Francois Payard's Simply Sensational Desserts. I must confess that it wasn't what I expected at first bite, but it definitely improved as days went by, and I was in love with it by the end of the week. My family members did not appreciate it as much, which means that the next time I bake it, there'll be more for me to enjoy.

That concludes the Cakes category, Cookies next...