Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wilton Cake 1 Class

Final project for Wilton Cake 1 class

Week 4: Twelve Pound Final

Yesterday was the last class of four of Wilton Cake 1.

The cake above was used to celebrate Tony's birthday since Tony didn't get to have any of the cake I originally made for him. (see week 3 below)

This is a 10" chocolate cake (Mom's recipe), torted and filled with 3 cups of Beranbaum's chocolate ganache and frosted with 7 cups of Wilton's buttercream. I didn't keep track of how many cups of icing the roses used, so I'm guesstimating 1 cup. That's 11 cups of frosting to complete the entire cake. (yikes!)

The final cake weighed 12 pounds! (technically, 11 lbs 12 oz)

Lesson learned: I used two cake rounds to support the cake but I should have used 3 or 4 because the base flexed a bit as the cake was moved from class to home, then from home to the workplace, causing the crusted buttercream to crack.

I can make roses! Finally!
Wilton's method teaches you how to make the rose in three steps over three weeks. In week two, we learned how to make the center cone (what the pedals attached to), In week 3, we learned how to make the center and three pedals around it, the last week we learned how to do the other two layers of pedals. The only thing that kept me from hating roses, was the fact they were my mom's favorite flower. It took me 60 to 80 tries before I had something that looked close to a rose.

Week 3: Send in the clowns.

This is the second cake I made. My frosting to ice the cake with was too stiff and the frosting to make the clowns wasn't stiff enough. Oh well, it's a learning experience.

And as my instructor, Karen Houdek, says "it's just cake" Does she know how many hours of my life I spent on this? :-D LOL

The clowns started out with great posture but they kicked back and relaxed on the drive home. When I open the box to show them to my husband, Rick, they were lounged back on their elbows looking up at us. I'm just glad they didn't lie down and take a nap! That would have looked too weird...
Lesson learned: Use a stiffer butter cream and let it set up before putting their heads on. Perhaps taking their heads off for the bumpy car ride home would help also. (I don't know if I can do this... clowns are scary enough with their heads on...) :-)

I made the cake by doctoring up a cake mix with sour cream, sugar, flour, vanilla and coffee. It came out really light and fluffy. It was very tasty but I was hoping for a dense cake.

My husband took this cake to work to celebrate his buddy's birthday... the problem was, his buddy (Tony) was on vacation. Rick (husband) took a lot of pictures of his co-workers eating the cake and celebrating Tony's birthday, then emailed the pictures to Tony. Guys are too funny!

Week 2: Our first Cake.

Our class used piping gel and wax paper to trace a rainbow pattern. We flipped the wax paper/gel on top of our cake and lightly pressed over the gel then removed the wax paper. We filled in the pattern using the star tip. I was surprised how much coloring gel you had to use to get a true color. The teens at our church ate this cake.

Week 1:Demo only

We met our teacher tonight. She wheeled a buggy full of items into the class to give us a demo. (little did I know that I'd be balancing a buggy full of my kitchen items with one hand and a cake to decorate in the other for the next 3 weeks. Ahhh. Ignorance is bliss.)

Karen, our teacher, explained how to make buttercream icing and frost a cake. Then she demonstrated both to us (making it look so easy) We were instructed to show up next week with a frosted 8" round cake that was 4 inches high, a cup of firm, medium and thin frosting for practice, plus enough frosting to decorate our cakes. How hard can that be? i-yi-i

Week 0:

Wilton had their classes on sale for half price ($17.50) last month, so I signed up for cake 1.
I had a 50% off coupon that I used on the required kit ($13) and thought all my spending was over. Ha! Not quite. I didn't keep track of how much I spent on powdered sugar, Crisco, and cake mixes every week. (denial is a good thing) ;-)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Cupcakes for a Baby Girl

Here are pictures of cupcakes I made for a baby shower for a baby girl. I wanted pink cupcakes, so I used a red velvet cake recipe and went light on the red coloring.

Angel on a cloud:

3 little bears:

The cupcakes below are supposed to be a baby in a baby carriage... The flowers are the wheels. The blue thing at the mouth is a pacifier. No matter how much my husband squinted, he couldn't see the vision I was trying to create. LOL

I decorated the cupcake stand instead of making individual cupcake wrappers as I did in a previous post.

Final presentation

If you decorate the cupcake stand keep in mind that the cupcakes will need to be displayed at eye level. Otherwise, the cupcakes on the lower levels will be blocked as shown below.

Monday, March 2, 2009

French Macarons

We agreed to have a low key, inexpensive Christmas last year. I wanted to make something nostalgic and special for my husband and his sister. I've often heard my husband talk about his grandmother's Anise cookies that were hard as a rock. (not exactly what I look for in a cookie...) When I questioned his sister about it, she too talked enthusiastic about those cookies. Aha! I can kill two birds with one rock cookie. :-) Now all I had to do is find a recipe.

After searching on the internet for an Anise cookie, I found the Caramel Cook's blog site with this Anise cookie (excuse me, Macaron)

Picture courtesy of Caramel Cook's website.
Anise & Fig Macarons

I had great success with his recipe and without realizing it, I had fallen under the spell of the French macaron.

Was the French macaron the rock hard cookie my husband and his sister remembered?
No, but they didn't care.... they really liked the macarons... and so did I.

When the Salvation Army W
omen's Auxiliary contacted me this month and asked me to contribute something for a coffee they were hosting on March 2, I thought, what could be better than a French macaron. (did I mention the coffee would host 150 people? Yikes!)

I decided on a chocolate macaron and started searching for a recipe so I could practice making them. I started with David Lebovitz recipe.

Picture courtesy of David Lebovitz's website.

I appreciate the fact that he gives weights on most of the ingredients, however, I wished he would have included the weights for the egg whites too
. (if you love to bake and you don't have a kitchen scale, buy one. You can find an inexpensive one at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I recommend one that has 1 gram increments. Read this article on scales that Rose Levy Beranbaum wrote for more information) I tried David's recipe using 50 grams, 62 grams and 68 grams of egg whites. I was successful at getting a foot on them each time and I loved the flavor but the batter seemed too thick each time.

Next I tried a recipe from Coco & Me

Picture courtesy of Coco & Me website.
handmade macarons made by Coco&Me - sold at Broadway Market, East London

She gives a lot of helpful insight into making macarons. The recipe's outcome was successful and tasty with a light chocolate flavo

"Warning From Coco & Me:
This dessert is very difficult to master.
A perfect Macaron MUST have ‘THE FOOT’. It mustn’t come out cracked or wrinkled or have a gap between the shell and the foot. It must be round and be of the same size. (but they still taste great even if you don't master it) it
’s all about trials & tribulations!"

Now, if like me, you become obsessed with Macarons, you need to visit Syrup & Tangs blog site. He wro
te 5 excellent articles on Macarons. With this type of detailed explanation into the world of Macarons, I believe he could work for Cook's Illustrated.

Are you ready to begin your obsession?

Equipment you will need:
3-4 cookie sheets (you will start with cookie sheets stack on top of each other for the first 5 mins)
piping bag (you could use a freezer ziplock ba
coupler or tip for piping bag that has a 1/2" opening

whisk (I use a hand mixer with a whisk attachment)

Final recipe I used:

90 grams powdered sugar
50 grams blanched almond flour
20 grams dutch processed Cocoa powder
68 grams egg whites, room temperature (old eggs, not fresh)**
65 grams fine grained sugar (caste

The day before making macarons, crack and separate 3 large eggs. (to store the yolks for use later, dissolve 1/2 tsp of castor sugar into the yolks and mix well. You can freeze them if you won't be using them right away)

On baking day, place a rack in the middle and top position of the oven and Preheat to 375 F /190 C

Place the powdered sugar, almond flour, and cocoa in a food processor and process for 1 minute. Place to the side for use later.

Stack two or three heavy baking trays on top of each other. Line the top tray with parchment paper or a silpat. (I use parchment paper and draw 1" circles on the back so I can achieve the same size)

This is what happened when I forgot to use the extra baking trays. :-(

Whisk egg whites starting on low speed for first minute, then increasing the speed a little bit at a time every 15 seconds until you are at a medium high to high speed) When the whisk starts to leaves a trail through the egg whites (soft peak stage), gradually add the 65 grams of sugar. (You can add the sugar after the egg whites are foamy but it'll take you longer to get to the firm, glossy, compact meringue you will need)

When the meringue is at the stiff peak stage, sift half the dry mixture over the meringue and fold in with a spatula using a circular motion around the bowl and under the batter. Repeat with the remaining dry mixture. (It's better to undermix than overmix) The final mixture should be smooth and thick but flowing. (A ribbon of batter dropped from a spoon on top of the remaining batter should take about 30 seconds to disappear)

To keep the baking paper from slipping, dab a little batter under each corner of the parchment paper to anchor it to the baking trays.

Spoon the batter into a piping bag (I use a Pringle can or tall glass to hold the piping bag)

Pipe evenly onto the parchment paper. Mild peaks should settle back into the batter eventually. If they don't disappear, tap the tray repeatedly on the counter top until the peaks have largely disappeared.

Place the tray in the oven on the middle shelf. Set timer for five minutes. (a foot should form at 5 or 6 minutes) When the timer goes off, remove the extra baking tray(s), place a piece of aluminum foil on the top shelf to protect the Macarons from browning, change the oven temperature to 340 degrees F / 170 C, and crack the oven open with a wooden spoon. Re-set the timer for 5 minutes.

Remove Macarons from the oven and leave on the tray for a minute or two. Gently try to lift one of the outermost shells. If the shells stick badly, but are firm, try spraying or brushing a little water under the baking paper. Don't use too much water or the shells may start to dissolve around the edges. Cool on a wire rack face up.

When completely cool, apply a small dab of ganache or buttercream to the underside of one shell and gently press another shell on top of it.

Refrigerate for 24-48 hours. They taste better on day 2. After three days, they become softer.
(You can freeze the shells without ganache & buttercream for a couple of weeks)

Eat macarons at room temperature.

*you can make your own caster sugar by processing granulated sugar in a food processor for 1 minute
**because of the protective nature of egg whites, you can leave them out on the counter top for 1 day

Other websites to check out on Macarons:
Here's a Video of a charming French chef demonstrating how to make them.
Serious Eats