Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Test Cake

I made a test cake to see if the xanthan gum would help hold it together better. I also used the bake even strips. The gum worked, the cake wasn't crumbly. I'm thinking the bake-even strips are making the cakes not bake completely through even though they look done. The cakes are sticking to the bottom of the pan even when I grease & flour them and with a parchment circle.

I will try again without the strips. It will have to be with white cake because I'm out of the stuff for red velvet until I go shopping again.

Here's my week for baking:
Friday: Ice Cream Cake
Saturday: Vegetarian Red Velvet Cake
Sunday: German Chocolate Cake

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Jugle Cake & Vegetarian Red Velvet Cake & Disaster

What a week! I had parcelled out the various tasks for my niece Hannah's jungle-themed birthday cake and on Thursday got a last-minute order for a vegetarian red velvet cake. Sunday I made fondant leaves for jungle trees and fondant ears for the elephant cookies. Monday I attempted to peel the leaves off the bowls I had set them on to dry curved and the elephant ears off the cutting board. They absolutely refused to come off. I ended up scraping them off with a steak knife and then scrubbing the bowls and cutting board. I got off what I could and then put them in the dishwasher.

Ok, so no fondant leaves or elephant cookies. Alright, that's ok. I can make leaves with the green royal icing I had made. There were no elephants on the party themed plates so we could live without those. Monday I baked the sugar cookies with zebra, lion, and giraffe cookie cutters from Wilton's Animal Pals Cutter Set. I always forget how many thin rolled-out cookies my sugar cookie recipe makes. So with about 80 cookies I fathomed I would decorate them all and we could have cake and cookies.

Tawny's Sugar Cookies
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp lemon or almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 tbsp sour cream
4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Cream butter, shortening and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, then lemon extract, vanilla extract and sour cream. Beat until creamy. Sift flour, baking soda and salt and combine with wet ingredients. Chill overnight and then roll out on a floured surface for cutters or into balles and then flatten with the bottom of a sugar coated glass. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-12 minutes just until the edges start to turn golden (bake time varies depending on the thickness), do not over bake.

Wednesday I worked late and then started frosting the cookies. This frosting can be used to outline the cookie and then thinned to fill-in the outline. This was my first time attempting the fill-in method, I had only used it to pour over cookies before. It was taking me a long time so I thinned the icing a bit more. Then I filled-in a whole bunch that looked perfect. They looked perfect until the icing kept settling after a few minutes and spilled right over the outline.

It was bedtime at this point so I scrapped the "decorate all the cookies" idea and picked three of the nicest lion & giraffe cookies. I frosted those and then picked the best of each animal, set them to dry and tossed the rest of the cookies. I know, sounds like a waste, but I didn't like cookies at this point and my husband didn't like the lemon or that they weren't frosted with buttercream, which is tasty but you can't make it perfectly smooth easily.

Poured Cookie Frosting
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup light corn syrup

Combine all ingredients and add coloring as desired. Use full-strength icing to outline and add milk to thin for filling-in.

Thursday I baked the white cake. Once again I couldn't get it perfectly white, it browned a little. The first layer came out nice, so I was hoping to avoid my previous crumbling experience. Have I mentioned that we are moving soon? There are boxes everywhere. While I was baking my husband had moved a large houseplant in front of my one access area to the table so he could see the TV better. I had already flipped the cake onto a board so I could then flip it onto the cooling rack right side up. By the time we got the plant moved and I got the cake onto the rack it had broken into three pieces. I was prepared this time with double everything so I had plenty to make more.

I also worked on the trees, the royal icing leaves had dried and I only broke a few trying to get them off the waxed paper. I dried them flat to be on the safe side. I used more royal icing to attach the leaves to pretzel rods. This was very difficult and most of the trees broke at least once and some of the glue icing dripped down a bit. I held the pretzels upright with scrunched paper towels in a round pan and let them dry in the fridge.

Friday I got a last minute order for a vegetaria red velvet cake. I was very excited to use egg replacer, I had always used water, flour, and oil to replace the eggs. I am still perfecting my vegetarian cake recipe to make up for the missing eggs and it's still a bit crumbly. I also bought Bake Even Strips so I wouldn't have to handle the cake so much to level it. They worked great, the cake did rise evenly so I didn't have to level it. With both of my new toys the cake ended up even crumblier than before.

I had thought about using xanthan gum, a common ingredient used in gluten-free baking to help bind it together. It is pretty expensive so I wanted to try the egg replacer first. So now I am going to make a test cake with some xanthan gum and use the bake even strips again and see how that goes. I have another vegetarian cake to deliver on Saturday so I hope this does the trick.

Saturday morning I frosted the jungle cake and finished decorating it. After the party I rushed home and decorated the red velvet cake with whipped cream.

In the end, both cakes turned out beautifully and I am happy to take my findings and continue on my baking adventures.

If you can't tell, she started eating the grass before we could get a picture and light the candle.

The candy letters are a thin layer of baby blue for the letter-front and chocolate for the backdrop.

Make it a sweet day!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Raspberry White Cake

The cake turned out beautifully. Too bad I had my dates mixed up. The party is October 9th not September 9th. Oh well, everyone else seemed to enjoy my mistake tremendously.

I still couldn't pull off a white cake that didn't brown on the edges. I even undercooked it a bit but that just left it a bit uncooked in the very middle with brown edges still. I've tried the "keep the temperature at exactly 350 degrees" theory, I think I should try the "cook extremely slowly" method like you do for cheesecake. It can't hurt. But the cupcakes from the same batter came out perfectly white, probably attributed to the shorter bake time, but were completely cooked.

I'm sure I've said I'm not a big frosting person. Usually I see it as the medium to decorate the cake and nothing more. Using the exact same recipe I've always used, Wilton's Buttercream Icing, this icing was especially fantastic. I couldn't stop eating it! It was smooth and creamy but not too sweet and the perfect consistency too. I might be turned into a frosting lover yet.

White cake with raspberry filling and buttercream icing. I made the filling by using 1/2 cup buttercream plus 3 tbsp raspberry jam. Use jam instead of preserves if you don't like the seeds. The fresh raspberries on top were a real treat with the buttercream.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Cupcakes, Cakes, Truffles

It just occurred to me that I have a busy baking week. Today I need to make red velvet cupcakes, buttercream for the cupcakes, raspberry filling and 2 white cake layers. Tomorrow (Tuesday) I'll give the cupcakes to a coworker for her birthday. Tomorrow evening I will assemble and decorate the white cake with raspberry filling for a coworker who is leaving. On Wednesday I need to make the filling for the toffee truffles and on Thursday I will finish them to give to a friend on Friday for her birthday.

When am I going to pack and get my 10 hours of beauty sleep every night?

Here are the red velvet cupcakes with buttercream. Pretty and yummy!