Cakes II – Week 1 – Caramel Crunch Cake

New Year, New Class.  Back to learning & baking.  This January, I am enrolled in Cakes II, formerly “Classic to Modern Cakes”.  Why the name change?  No idea, but since I knew the previous name, I knew what the goal of the class was.   We were expected to build on what we were taught in Cakes I by taking classic cakes and re-making them with some modern twists.  We’ll see as the weeks go by how much “re-making” we really do…

From reading the syllabus, I could tell I would be in for some labour intensive classes.  I was right.

Week 1 – How to make a Crunchy Caramel Cake.

What classic cake is this a variation of?  Pavlova.

Pavlova is a dessert made with a meringue crust, topped with whipped cream and fresh fruits.

For my crunchy caramel cake, we stayed consistent with the meringue base and whipped cream, but the meringue was flavoured with hazelnut and instead of fruit, we accented the whipped cream with caramel.

We began by making the meringue noisette layers.  Composed of ground hazelnuts, cornstarch, egg whites, sugar and vanilla.

Ensuring our mixing bowl and whisk were completely clean we then began to whip the egg whites and sugar until we had stiff peaks.  Then we added the vanilla and then mixed in the ground nuts and cornstarch carefully by hand making sure to prevent the loss of volume in the mixture. Image

Then using a piping bag and a plain tip, we piped rounds onto some parchment paper.

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These rounds went into the oven to bake up until crunchy.

As they baked, we worked on making our butterscotch caramel.  Water, sugar and glucose in a pot until it started to boil.  Once we saw the mixture begin to turn the colour of honey, the heat was turned down and then cream and butter were added carefully.  We stirred until mixed and then took off the heat to cool.  We needed the mixture to thicken and cool so that it would be easy to layer on the cake and not melt the whipped cream.

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Now it was time to whip the cream.  Pretty self explanatory.  Whip cream.  Don’t over whip or else you would make butter.  I’ll admit, we over whipped and made butter.  I felt like such a newbie.  But round two went well.

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With all the components of the cake completed, it was time to assemble the cake.

Meringue, caramel, whipped cream.  3 layers worth.

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If you like it sweet, this is the cake for you. Between all the layers, I counted about 7 cups of sugar in this dessert.  Add all the whipped cream and this is a caloric nightmare.  It does however taste delightful. The noisette layers were my favourite.  Tasted like Ferraro Rocher but with some awesome crispness.  I froze the cake in order to slice it cleanly, If you eat it right away, the whipped cream almost has an ice cream consistency, it is smooth and creamy.  The caramel was perfectly soft.

Definitely, a messy cake – to make, to decorate and to eat.  Had a little mishap trying to work the caramel, thus the blobs of caramel EVERYWHERE.  I also wish I had used more caramel in my middle layers.  But again, that’s why I take these classes, to learn the basics, do a test run and hopefully not repeat the mistakes next time.  If there is a next time.

Next week we make a Sacher Torte…Stay tuned!   =)

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Birthday Shortcake

In the air: Chromeo – Hot Mess http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zm4JVkH0T-E&feature=fvwrel and Shakedown – At Night http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLh37jFFigg and Cicada – The Things You Say http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jblNaRWBUeU 

I am thankful for the people in my life that I can truly call friends.  The ones that have always been there to happily share my highs and comfort me in my lows but are honest enough to tell me when I need to snap out of it and get over myself. 

The least I could do for one of my friends is to bake her a birthday cake.  Not just any cake but her favourite – A Strawberry Shortcake. 

I followed a recipe taught to me in bake class but I had to split the formula because I only wanted to make one cake.  The cake is simply made of eggs, sugar, bread flour, vanilla and salt to taste.  The eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt are whipped for about 12 – 15 minutes, just until the mixture rises, looks fluffy but is firm in consistency.  Once that is achieved, the flour is folded in by hand until well incorporated.  I have one extra step I include, but it’s my little secret.  Perhaps if you are observant you will figure it out.  Let me know if you think you know. 

The batter is poured into greased round cake pans and into the oven they go.  Now, I won’t lie, I had a little bit of a panic attack watching these bake.  At the end of the suggested 20 minute bake time at 200 degrees, the cake was nowhere near done.  I waited another 10 minutes and still the same.  I began to worry that I had ruined the formula and measured incorrectly.  I decided to turn up the heat to 300 degrees.  Success, baked cakes after 20 more minutes. 

I split the cakes in half so that I would have layers to work with.  First layer down, a sweep of simple syrup, a thin layer of whipped cream, a layer of fresh Ontario strawberries, more whipped cream, layer down and repeat.  Finally, I masked the cake with more whipped cream.  Rosettes on top, strawberry garnish.  Strawberry Shortcake done! Happy Birthday Ching =)

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Red Red Red

Lately I have been feeling feisty. I have been feeling defiant. Maybe a little agitated and frustrated. If I could use a colour to describe how I have been feeling, I would say I have been feeling Red.

Feeling red inspired this week’s baking adventure. What better than a Red Velvet Cake?

I began by mixing cake flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl. Using my mixer, I cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then added the 2 eggs, one egg at a time until beaten into the butter and sugar. Some vanilla was added for flavour. The recipe generally calls for buttermilk which is thick and has a rich tangy buttery flavour. Instead I opted for soy milk as I had it on hand at the time. In a measuring cup, I mixed the soy milk with some red food colouring and set aside. With the mixer on low-speed, I mixed in the flour mixture and soy milk mixture, alternating a little bit of each until all was mixed in.

 

Red cake batter seconds before going into the oven.

After 25 minutes the cake layers were done.  I let them cool on a wire rack and then wrapped them and into the fridge they went for the night. 

With the cake layers cooled from being in the fridge, it made it easier to spread the icing.  I opted for a simple real whipped cream icing.  I piped the whipped cream in the middle and on top of the cake. 

The cake didn’t come out as bright a red as I had hoped, perhaps I needed more food colouring.  But I’m more impressed with my decorating skills than the cake itself.  =)