Thursday, September 13, 2012

winter white cake


My autumn jacket has made its first appearance. 

Summer is taking its last few breaths and soon it will be a distant memory. The time for apple picking, spiced lattes, caramel cake and pumpkin cookies is rapidly approaching....exciting times indeed. With new boots waiting to be worn and scarves at the ready, I'm all for the change.

I don't know about you, but it feels like my summer just flew by. My last two weeks in Istanbul were just fantastic though. Nothing but sun, beach, sights and lots of reading. In fact, I don't think I brought enough books (time to invest in an e-reader?). I'm so happy to be back though and I'm looking forward to stepping on crunchy leaves....yet, not so much ready for the snow. Sigh, if only autumn could last longer. It always seems to be over too quickly.


This wedding cake reminds me of a winter wonderland, all white with hints of silver and shine. I loved making the different types of flowers. I kept the palette all white because the bride wanted a classic, yet elegant cake. I think this hit the mark quite well. I find that my skills are improving more and more each time I design a cake. 

I hope you are enjoying my designs. Comments and suggestions are always welcome for design ideas. 

I'll be back with some new recipes soon! For now, I'm just going to enjoy these last few days of heat with some nummy frozen yogurt. With mini m&m's. Because I can.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

roses and petals: a wedding cake


Can you believe that summer is almost coming to an end? As much as I'll be looking forward to autumn, I'm not ready yet! I haven't worn my skirts and dresses nearly enough and I've only been to the beach once. It's hard to believe how quickly this summer has gone by. It's been very busy but definitely a fun summer. I've had the opportunity to make quite a few different designs for cakes and cupcakes, some of which required a bit of sculpting for the first time. 

I must say that I can never get tired of pink. It's unapologetically girly, but I think it is underestimated in its strength. Pink is vibrant, powerful and always stunning. It has always been one of my favorite colours, whether pale or dark, and I love the look it gave to my hand-made roses.

   


I'm really quite happy with this cake in the end. I think the petals add a whimsical and almost magical touch to this romantic look, while still remaining simple. Inside was a vanilla cake with layers of lemon curd and vanilla buttercream with wild blueberries. Most certainly fit for an elegant summer wedding. 

I hope that you are all enjoying your summer, or at least what's left of it. I still plan on:

swimming at least a couple of more times
eating more ice cream than my stomach can handle
finishing the book I've been reading for ages and at least one more
relaxing
sightseeing
picking vegetables from my garden
and most certainly, baking.

What's your end of summer list?

Thoughts and comments are always welcome. See you all soon!



Wednesday, August 1, 2012

custom cakes: summer lovin'


It's been a while since I last posted so I thought I'd share some of the cakes and cupcakes that I've made this summer for special orders. I just love the mini wedding cake with the large flower and pastel sweet pea's. The detailed piping technique is something that I learned from one of my teachers in pastry school. It takes a lot of practice but I'm quite pleased with the way it turned out on this cake.

The vanilla cupcakes with decadent chocolate frosting were designed for an avid horse lover, while little Olivia got Olivia the Pig and some fun mini cupcakes!

 

 

I had quite a bit of fun making this Lamborghini cake and my Lego cake seems to be getting more and more popular. This was the first time that I have ever sculpted a cake to this extent, but I think it that it actually turned out quite nice. The birthday boys both loved it so I couldn't be any happier!

I hope you all enjoy these pictures and have a lovely week. I'll be back with more designs soon!



Tuesday, July 10, 2012

chai tea ice cream and rhubarb almond tart


It's so hot these days that all I can think about is sweet, delicious and creamy ice cream. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before how much I love ice cream. Well let me repeat it once more in case you forgot. I. Love. Ice cream. Point finale.

Oh and gelato! And frozen yogurt! And sorbet! In fact, if it's in a sugar cone, I'll eat it. I still dream about that unbelievable chocolate ice cream. I did, however, recently taste a spectacular chocolate gelato from a local gelato shop. Holy eff. (I'm drooling)


But this time I went for something a little different. Something a little more peculiar. I love the smell of my chai tea so I thought to myself, I wonder how it would taste in ice cream from. So I adapted David Lebovitz's Black Currant Tea ice cream into an Indian inspired cold treat.

Well, it pretty much tasted like a churned and frozen chai latte. Yeah, I hear you panting. If you're a fan of chai lattes you'll understand how magical this ice cream is. So rich and fragrant and just melts in your mouth.

 

Rhubarb is also in full swing right now and I still have some growing. Plus I absolutely love marzipan so I always get excited when I make an almond cream tart. It's so easy to make and always comes out so delicious. And the rhubarb? A lovely tart flavour to compliment the ice cream. The perfect summer treat.

Ice cream is actually quite easy to make once you've got the hang of it. It's almost always the same base recipe but with different adaptations. Once you've mastered tempering your eggs and making a creme anglaise, you won't think anything of it. It's not difficult, just a little time consuming. But in my opinion, so worth it.

Happy summer!


For the rhubarb almond tart:

Follow this recipe but instead of pears, use fresh or frozen rhubarb. I used garden rhubarb that I had previously cut into 1 inch pieces and frozen. I wasn't sure if I should thaw them out first or use directly. I ended up using them frozen because I wanted them to retain their shape and it worked well. No extra water. However, they are not mixed with sugar so they are quite tart (but that's rhubarb for you!) If you are using fresh rhubarb, you can cut them into 1 inch chunks and mix with some sugar or even honey before arranging in the almond cream.
Bake as directed and serve with a generous helping of homemade ice cream!

Chai tea ice cream

Yields approximately 1 liter
Adapted from: The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz Black Currant Tea Ice Cream
 
Ingredients
1 cup (250 ml) whole milk (3.25%)
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream (35% whipping)
1/4 cup (15 g) loose chai tea
5 large egg yolks

Procedure
Warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup (250 ml) of the cream, and tea in a medium sauce pan. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.
Rewarm the tea-infused milk. Pour the remaining 1 cup (250 ml) of cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula (If you run your finger across the back of the spatula and it leaves a definite trail that doesn't flow back together, then it's done!) Make sure to never let the custard get above 85 C (185 F) otherwise you'll have scrambled eggs. Pour the custard through the strainer into the cream, pressing gently on the tea leaves to extract the maximum flavour, then discard tea. Stir until completely cool over an ice bath.
Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator at least one hour or more, then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Freeze for a couple of hours to let harden.


Enjoy!


Monday, June 18, 2012

shortbread cookies and a sweet table

Is there anything cuter than a two-year old trying to blow out her own birthday candles? Try, a two-year old who is reaching above a dessert table to sample some frosting. On her tippy toes! There is nothing cuter in this world. Actually, no, there is. A two-year old on her birthday, reaching for some frosting....IN A GIANT PINK TUTU.

My niece just celebrated her second birthday and we wanted to throw her a great party since she was too sick on her first birthday. I made a sweet little vanilla cake with cream cheese frosting, cupcakes, shortbread "cherry" cookies and chocolate cake pops, with the theme being cherries. And pink, of course. You can never have too much pink. Ever.
 

I'm so happy to be able to experience these moments with her. She may be too young to remember any of it, but I know I won't. It's amazing how much of an individual she is at such a young age. She already knows what she likes and doesn't like. And can definitely be a little demanding at times. But...who can say no to such an adorable face?


The day was filled with sunshine, laughter, splashing around and most importantly, cake. I think she may have gotten a little over excited with all that sugar and attention. But it was all worth it in the end because it was a wonderful day. Honestly, is there anything better than a relaxing day in the sun? Didn't think so.

   

It's been a pretty busy last couple of months but I'm hoping to be able to enjoy everything the summer has to offer. Including festivals, beach time, eating out, having barbecues, eating as much dark chocolate gelato as possible, reading under a tall tree, baking to my heart's content and maybe even a little time to sleep in. 

Either way, I think it's going to be a great summer. Montreal always has something fun to offer. I feel so lucky to live in this amazing city (even though I may utter some complaints once in a while). I'm just going to say it, it's the best city in the world. But I might be just a little biased :p

I'd love to know what your summer list is. Any exciting plans?


shortbread cookies

Believe it or not, I had never made shortbread cookies before. For some reason I was always afraid that they wouldn't turn out perfectly, but this recipe is very easy to follow and yields great results. After taking a bite of these buttery delights, I know I will definitely be making some more soon. Joy of Baking also has a very informative video on how to make these.

Recipe source: Joy of Baking
Yields approximately 20 cookies, depending on size of cookie cutter
 
Ingredients

2 cups (260g) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp (2 g) salt
1 cup (2 sticks - 227 g) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (60 g ) icing sugar
1 tsp (4 g) pure vanilla extract

Procedure

In a small bowl whisk the flour and salt.  Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute (You don't have to beat for very long, the butter is not supposed to be light and airy). Add the sugar and beat until smooth (about 2 minutes).  Beat in the vanilla extract. Gently stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated.  Flatten the dough into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill the dough for at least an hour or until firm.  

Preheat oven to 350 F  with the rack in the middle of the oven.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. On a lightly floured work surface roll out the dough into a 1/4 inch thick circle.  Cut into rounds or other shapes using a lightly floured cookie cutter.  Place on the prepared baking sheets and place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. (This will firm up the dough so the cookies will maintain their shape when baked.) Bake for 8 - 10 minutes, or until cookies are very lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Cookies will keep in an airtight container for about 1 week. Dough can also be frozen before baking.

Decorating tips: follow these steps on royal icing decorations.

For the vanilla cake, I used Sweetapolita's recipe but baked it in three 6" pans instead for a nice and tall cake. I filled it with cream cheese icing and masked it with a layer of italian meringue buttercream before decorating. 




Friday, May 25, 2012

specialty cakes for young and old


It rained yesterday. The rainbow-making kind of rain. Just for a few minutes, before the sun even had enough time to sneak away. A little refreshment on a hot day.

At least, I think it was hot. With my oven on in a not-so-well-ventilated apartment, it tends to get a little warm in here. Like, really warm. But at least I have my little balcony to escape out onto for a little fresh air.


And what a sight my little garden is turning into. Cherry tomatoes, chives, basil, parsley, lavender and lots of pretty pink flowers. Oh and in my parents' backyard? Rhubarb. Yes, pretty soon I will be putting rhubarb in everything...so watch out!

I love May. Not quite summer yet but just warm enough to start wearing shorts and skirts. It's been quite the busy month for me, with a local charity event and cake orders. I've barely had any time to show you some of them. 

These are a couple of demo cakes that I designed for the event. I absolutely love the simplicity of the white flower with the gold button and leaves. And who doesn't love unicorns and bows? Too cute!


I hope you all have a wonderful weekend filled with smiles and sunshine.



Thursday, May 10, 2012

chocolate ganache cupcakes and coconut marshmallow clouds


Growing up, had I listened to every piece of advice my mother had given me, I would have been one wise girl. Clearly, this didn't happen. 

Sure I listened, but sometimes I chose to ignore her comments. What can I say? I was a teenager who thought she knew everything. 

Boy was I wrong. Turns out I didn't know all that much. I certainly made some mistakes. I still do in fact. And for some reason I still don't always listen.


But just about every time...she was right. She knew all along but she let me figure it out on my own. These days I tend to pay a little more attention. And you know what? It pays off. When it comes to life, love and even those handy little cooking tricks, she knows just what to say to make me understand.

   

My mum will always be that one person that I can talk to about my thoughts and feelings freely, without ever holding back. I always feel better when I pour out my worries onto her.

And she knows it. So she lets me. Sometimes I also tend to let out my anger at her, even though she might not be the reason why I'm angry. I know I shouldn't but she knows that I have to vent one way or another. I'm working on that though, because I know it's not fair to her. Still, she lets it happen. And that's why I love her.

Not just for the shopping trips to Ikea (we both have a serious addiction - I think I know the entire catalogue by heart), but for all the little things she does. I think to her, I'll always be her little girl, no matter how old I am. And I'll admit that it's quite nice.


So in honour of Mother's Day, I dedicate anything and everything that is moist and chocolatey to my mum. Because that's what she loves and these chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache are exactly that. But everything dark needs a bit of light, so here are a couple of super delicious coconut cupcakes with marshmallow frosting. So fragrant and fluffy. If I could taste clouds, this is what they'd taste like. 

I hope you all have a lovely weekend, perhaps with your mother or someone who means a lot to you. I'd love to take a peak at the treats you'll be making!


For the coconut cupcakes, please follow this recipe. Half the recipe will yield approximately 20 cupcakes. Line two standard muffin pans with baking cups and fill the cups about 2/3 full. Bake at 350 F for 18-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean and the cakes spring back to the touch. Leave to cool on a wire rack, about 25 minutes.

Once cool, frost with half the recipe of the marshmallow icing. I used my round Ateco 808 piping tip in a piping bag and topped each one with a pretty gumpaste hydrangea. Take a bite, then devour.

Double Chocolate Cake

Making these chocolate cupcakes was like winning a marathon (minus the physical activity). I have finally found my go-to chocolate cake recipe. And I have to say that paired with this chocolate ganache, they are the BEST chocolate cupcakes I have ever tasted. Of course, like any recipe, quality ingredients are key. I use high-quality cocoa powder and 75% chocolate. Once you make the investment, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Yields two 6" cakes or 24 cupcakes or about 30 low cupcakes
Adapted from Miette

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 oz (60 g) of 70% chocolate (bittersweet), coarsely chopped
1 cup boiling water
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 1/4 cups sugar


Procedure

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease two 6-by-3 inch round cake pans or line two standard muffin pans with baking cups. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and let mixture cool for 15 minutes. (Note: make sure this is the first step you take, so that by the time you've prepared all the other ingredients, your mixture will have cooled down)

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs on medium-high speed until foamy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and slowly pour in the oil until combined. Raise speed to medium until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Reduce speed to low and slowly pour in the cooled chocolate mixture, whisk, then slowly pour the buttermilk and vanilla. Whisk for 30 seconds. Add the sugar and whisk until the batter is smooth and liquid, about 1-2 minutes. Finally, stop the mixer and add the sifted dry ingredients (I usually only sift when cocoa powder is involved) and mix until just incorporated, either by hand or quickly with the mixer. Do not overmix once the dry ingredients are in. 

Now, you can pour the batter through a mesh sieve into another bowl to remove any lumps (but sometimes I'm too lazy for this step). Divide batter between the prepared pans. Bake about 40-50 minutes until the tops spring back to the touch and a cake tester comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pans about 20-30 minutes. Place in refrigerator to cool completely. When completely cooled down, carefully run an offset metal spatula or a blunt knife around the edges of the pans to loosen. Invert cakes on racks and remove pans. Decorate as you wish or freeze for up to 2 months. Wrap tightly in double plastic film if you are freezing it.

For the cupcakes:

If you want regular cupcakes, ie: same height as the coconut cupcakes, fill each cup about 2/3 full (this batter rises high). Tip: I like to use a pyrex measuring cup to pour the batter into the cups...definitely less messy. Bake at 350 F about 20-25 minutes.
For low cupcakes, fill cups no more than 1/3 of the way. Bake at 350 F about 18-25 minutes. This will yield about 30 or more cupcakes.

Chocolate ganache

1 cup heavy whipping cream (35%)
8 oz (240 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped.

Place chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat bring the cream to a boil, turn off heat. Pour cream over chocolate and let sit for 1 minute for the heat to absorb the chocolate. Slowly whisk until nice and smooth. At this point it will be quite liquidy. 

Transfer part of it to a glass pyrex measuring cup and fill cupcakes almost to the edge. Once they are all filled, place in refrigerator a few hours to cool down. (Tip: have the cupcake already placed on a baking sheet for easy transfer since they will be quite wobbly.) I repeat: taste, then devour.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

chocolate pear brownie cake: gluten-free yumminess


It's almost May...but it feels like it's late November. Wind blowing and rain falling down hard. Then softly with the sun poking its little nose in once in a while. We had a short preview of summer in March that I almost wish never happened (almost), just so I wouldn't be longing for it so badly. What a tease this weather has been. sigh

I never understood why but summer brings about this carefree and relaxed attitude that seems to transcend to everyone. Warm weather and sunshine equals instant happiness.


But Lisa, I thought your favorite season was autumn? Why yes, yes it is. But the very beginning of summer makes me so giddy. I'm sure you know that feeling. Just like that first kiss. 

Ice cream everyday and walks around the city without ever feeling cold. It feels so liberating. For some reason I also feel more inclined to have friends over for dinner and drinks.


I recently hosted a little get-together with some great friends for do-it-yourself paninis, extra delicious sangria and chocolate cake. Gluten-free chocolate cake to be more precise. Sure, it isn't exactly summer yet but it's getting there. And the sangria, which was made by a friend using home-made wine and lots of rum, definitely helped. 

Summer to me also means quick and simple desserts. Although this cake may have a few steps, it is actually very quick and easy to make. Each step takes a few minutes and it is really easy to bring it all together. The great thing about this cake is that you don't have to worry about how it looks. Yes, it will sink in the middle and yes the sides will cave in and be all wonky. But that's ok, because it's what's inside that matters. Warm, moist brownie cake with chunks of extra soft poached pears. And no flour. Just yumminess.


This gluten-free cake, actually more like brownie, is moist, decadent and sinfully delicious. It may not be as pretty as other cakes but what it lacks for in looks, it makes up for in taste. The original recipe called for pureed chestnuts, but I had some pears on hand and decided to add those to the mix instead. I love the combination of chocolate and pears....so yummy! Warning: this cake is very rich but certainly worth the indulgence.

chocolate pear brownie cake

Yields one 9-inch cake
Recipe adapted from Weekend Baking by Sarah Randell

Ingredients

6 1/2 oz (200 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped into pieces
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, cubed
5 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 poached pears, cubed (recipe below)

For poached pears:
2 medium-sized pears (I used Bartlett)
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups water
(you can also add half a split vanilla bean, a cinnamon stick, anise stars, ginger, etc for taste)
Procedure

For the poached pears: Peel, core and cut pears in half. In a small sauce pan, bring the water, sugar and any addition to a boil, add the pears and reduce heat to a simmer. Let simmer about 15-25 minutes until you can easily poke through with a knife. Drain and leave to cool completely. Cut in cubes when cooled.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Oil a 9-inch springform pan and set aside. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of lightly simmering water (bain-marie). Stir until the chocolate and butter have melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy. Take the bowl off the heat and let cool slightly.

Put the egg yolks, 1/2 cup of the sugar and the salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and clean the mixer bowl and whisk for the egg whites if you are using the same one. (Note that it is imperative for egg whites to be whisked in a super clean bowl free of grease, otherwise your whites won't rise). Whisk the whites until they form medium peaks, then start adding the 1/4 cup of sugar a little at a time while whisking until stiff peaks.

Using a large, clean spatula, carefully fold the poached pears and the melted chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Finally, fold the beaten egg whites into the whole mixture. Be as gentle as possible so that you keep as much air in the mixture as possible. Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until well risen and sides come out clean when a toothpick is inserted. The centre will be moist but that's why it's so good! It will sink in the middle, but it's normal. Leave to cool completely. When ready to serve, carefully remove cake from pan and lightly dust with icing sugar or cocoa powder.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

easter bunny carrot cake


Yes, I realize that this is a little late now, but I just had to write a mini post and show you the cute little easter bunny cake that I made this passed weekend. I love the delicate pastel colours and the bunny hiding in the tulips.

I made a super moist carrot cake with a tangy lime cream cheese filling. I doubled the carrot cupcake recipe (click here) that I made last year and baked it in two 6" cake pans, increasing the baking time to about 40 minutes.

cream cheese icing

12 oz (375 g) cream cheese
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups icing sugar
1 - 2 tbsp fresh lime juice

Beat the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add icing sugar gradually and add lime juice to taste. You can also substitute the lime juice for 1 tsp of vanilla extract. This yields enough to ice a 6" cake with 3 layers.

I hope you all had a lovely weekend filled with sunshine and chocolate!
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