Archive for the ‘cakes’ Category

For the frosting, we made an Italian meringue. We had thought about making an Italian buttercream but, after a practice run, decided we liked the frosting better before we added the butter. An Italian meringue is really simple to make, though, on such a large-scale and with a hand mixer, it did take a while. I started by making a simple syrup that we heated until the soft ball stage. While the syrup was heating, I separated and beat the egg whites. When the whites were nice and frothy, I added some cream of tartar (to help stabilize the eggs.)

I continued beating the egg whites until they were pillowy.

At this point, I slowly added the hot simple syrup to the fluffy whites and continued beating them until they had cooled completely and they were nice and glossy.

Time to assemble the layers!

We placed the bottom half of the layers on their boards with bits of paper lining the edges for easy clean-up. We started with a layer of raspberry jam and a sprinkling of cocoa nibs (we didn’t put any nibs on the vanilla layer.)

Then a layer of the sour cream pastry cream…

Each layer was topped with rows of fresh raspberries.

The layers were then covered with their respective tops…

…and frosted with the chilled meringue.

After frosting all three layers, we measured dowels and placed several of them in the bottom and middle layers for support. Then we carefully stacked the cakes onto their posts and measured and sharpened one final dowel to act as the support for all three layers.

We put the cake in the fridge and made a little bit of colored frosting for decoration. There was a small gap between the layers so we hid it with meringue and raspberries. (We would have put the meringue and raspberries on for decoration anyways.)

We topped it off with a couple of daylilies.

Birds eye…

Rebekah and David, cutting the cake…

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Last September, Sarah and I picked a lot of red raspberries and made them into jam.

We saved a couple of jars to use for the wedding cake.

We made a simple vanilla pastry cream..

..the we lightened with some sour cream.

And since it was the beginning of raspberry season, we couldn’t leave out fresh raspberries.

With all of the fillings ready, we were ready for the frosting and the assembly.

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My good friend Sarah’s, little sister just got married. Sarah and I  were in charge of making the cake. We do a lot of baking but neither of us had ever made a tiered cake before, let alone one for 100 people. We planned on doing a lot of practice, and we did but it was more like a cake here, some frosting there, and a little filling on the side. No fully assembled mock-up cakes before the big day. We did  get all of our materials and ingredients in advance so we were ready when it was time to bake the layers. The wedding was Thursday evening so we baked the layers Wednesday night and made the fillings and assembled it on Thursday.

We started with the bottom layer, a 16 in square chocolate cake. The recipe that we were working off of was for 2, 9″ rounds so we doubled the recipe. It is always a good idea to start by preheating the oven and preparing the pans (grease and dust with flour for white cakes or cocoa powder for chocolate cake.)

Sarah mixed the wet ingredients together

while I mixed the dry ones.

Our lovely assistant and photographer, Monica, melted the chocolate. (We cooled the hot melted chocolate in a cold water bath so that it wouldn’t cook the eggs.)

We added the chocolate and a little lemon zest to the batter after we had combined the wet and dry ingredients.

We poured the batter into the pan and smoothed it out with an offset spatula, it was ready to go into the oven!

We opened the oven an slid the cake in only to discover that the oven wasn’t deep enough! Needless to say, Sarah and I freaked out! Luckily her sister had her head on straight and suggested we take it down the street to her grandparent’s and see if it fit in their over. We covered the cake in big sheets of butcher paper, to protect it from the rain, and took it down the street. With our fingers crossed, we slid it in the oven and it was just deep enough! While it was cooking we made the top-tier, which was also chocolate, though only an 8″ square, and then moved on to the middle tier which was a vanilla cake.

We finished baking the 3 layers and went to bed. When we woke up in the morning we decided to whip up one more layer to give the bottom tier some extra height. Then it was off to the event hall to make the fillings and get ready for the wedding.

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When I was in Modena a couple of years ago, Erika taught me how to make an amazing cake. It is called Torta agli Amaretti e Cioccolato, or Chocolate and Amaretti Cake. I haven’t been able to make it since because I can’t two very important ingredients, sassolino and amaretti (little crunchy cookies made with apricot pits.) Lucky for me, Erika brought me everything I needed so I made one!

The dry ingredients are measured by weight so I put a mixing bowl on my scale and added them one by one. Starting with crushed amaretti, followed by breadcrumbs, sugar, and shaved dark chocolate…

After mixing it together, I added some eggs, milk with baking powder in it and mixed it again.

The next and final addition is cocoa powder which is added until “it is as dark as you like” – I like my cake dark.

While it was baking, the aroma of melting chocolate, amaretti, and sassolino filled my apartment. I stepped outside for a moment and could smell it wafting out my kitchen window.

Here is a picture of the cake before it was devoured…

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Yesterday was my friend Katie‘s birthday (lucky for me, she lives in the same town) so I made her a cake. While I was visiting my family in Iowa, I picked up a jar of “Coco Passion Jam”. This jam is somewhere between a butter and a curd. I thought it would be perfect for a cake topping and then I remembered that my sister had made a cake using it, a few months ago.

I started out by making a coconut cake with Haitian vanilla and coconut milk…

I hadn’t followed the recipe before so I was a little worried when it was time to fold in the egg whites and the batter was really heavy and slippery from the coconut milk. It was too late so I folded them in and hoped for the best…

A couple of friends came over to partake in the assembly. I don’t have a cake plate so I cut a large circle out of an old cereal box and covered it with tin foil. We sliced each cake in half so we had a total of four layers. We whipped together some Greek style yogurt and a little bit of the coconut passion fruit jam to spread between the layers.

We then frosted it with a, not too sweet, cream cheese frosting and dusted the sides with shredded coconut.

I finished it with a little chain of beaded frosting and a jam glaze.

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Erika taught Heli and I how to make crostata in Italy. She showed us how to make it in pretty much the same way her mother (and probably grandmother, etc, etc.) made it. Erika made one exception, she melted the butter. Somehow she was able to pull it off, but when I have tried to repeat this feat, I have ended up with a very very hard tart…

So Heli and I cut in the butter. And then add an egg, and a little milk, and let the dough chill. If you have an extra jar of jam, this is the perfect desert. Sweet, but not too sweet, and fresh with the zest of a lemon in the crust.

We made ours with Heli’s apricot jam. With the left over dough we made a mini crostata with pear butter.

We latticed the tops, and drove the tarts into town to bake at the store (again..).

We had a little tart for my mom’s birthday, and snacked here and there for the rest of the afternoon…

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The other evening, my friend came over to make a cake. We made a genoise cake with a lavender and lemon simple syrup brushed on each layer and a vanilla cream filling. We garnished it with whipped cream and lavender flowers. “What could possibly make this any better?” you might ask. Well the answer is lilacs, a big bouquet of fragrant lilacs (freshly gleaned from the neighborhood.)

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About a month ago I was gifted a rather large bag of hand-picked, frozen black raspberries. On Tuesday, I decided to put the berries to use. I was going to my bi-monthly book club meeting so  I made, one of my favorite Italian desserts, a crostata. (I like to think of a crostata as a giant jam tart.) I learned how to make this crostata while I was living in Italy a few years ago. The crust is a pretty soft dough, made of: flour, sugar, salt, butter, citrus zest, an egg and a splash of milk. I used lime zest for this one…

I cooked the black raspberries down with some sugar and a squeeze of lime juice. Since I normally use jam, I cooked the berries down until they were quite thick.

I poured the berries into the dough shell, folded down the edges, and baked it for about 45 minutes. When I pulled it out the crust was golden, and the juices bubbly.

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