Posts Tagged ‘cake’

If last episode of Good Eats was all about cake, I suppose it is only fitting that this episode dealt with icing. Alton made the point that store-bought cake mixes are generally quite good, and, in fact, they are sometimes better than the cakes we can make at home. For this reason, a cake mix was used in this episode, and Alton used it to make two round layers. Once his cakes were baked, it was onto the icing.

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One of my two cake mix layers.

Buttercream

First up, Alton made his version of buttercream. To make this recipe, you will need to have 10 ounces of softened butter, so you will need to set your butter out in advance. In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 C sugar and 1/2 C dark corn syrup, bringing this mixture to a boil over high heat. When your sugar syrup has large bubbles, turn off the heat and set the syrup aside for a few minutes.

While the syrup cools, beat 4 eggs with a whisk attachment until they are thick and have lightened in color.

It is ideal to use a metal turkey baster to add the hot syrup to the eggs, as you can drizzle the syrup into the edge of the mixing bowl, avoiding the whisk (the syrup will solidify upon hitting the whisk). You will, however, want to oil your baster first by drawing vegetable oil into the baster, and then pushing it out again. Using your lubed baster, and with the mixer running on low speed, drizzle the hot syrup into the eggs, trying to get it in the space between the bowl and the whisk.

Continue this process until all of the syrup has been added. When all of the syrup is in, increase the speed to high and beat until the side of the bowl is warm, but not hot, to the touch; this should take about two minutes.

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Buttercream after adding all of the syrup.

Next, piece by piece, slowly add your softened butter, only adding a new piece of butter when the previous piece has been completely mixed in. Your resulting buttercream should be smooth, creamy, and thick enough to frost a cake. The key word here is “should.” Mine was not. My buttercream had turned into sort of a broken soup at this point.

I attempted to save my buttercream by first heating it on the stove to get the tiny lumps of butter incorporated.

I then tried beating it again, and it was smoother, but it still was not thickening properly.

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Beating the buttercream again.

I decided to try chilling it and beating it again, which resulted in a slightly thicker consistency, but it still was inadequate. My last hope was to try chilling it even longer, but this still did not solve the problem.

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Beating the buttercream after chilling.

After working on this buttercream for a couple hours, I finally pulled the plug. My buttercream tasted fantastic – rich, buttery, and sweet, but it just was too runny. I did use it for a pseudo crumb coat on my cake, but it just did not work well. Oh, and did I mention that while I was having my buttercream fiasco, my dog decided to sample my cake? Yep, he took a bite right out of the side.

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Using the buttercream for a crumb coat.

I have successfully made buttercream in the past, using a sugar syrup. The recipes I have had success with in the past have all used a candy thermometer and specific temperatures for the syrup. I wonder if my syrup was not hot enough, or if I did not add it quickly enough. I also wonder if my butter was too soft. After reading the online reviews of this recipe, I see that I was not the only person to struggle with this particular recipe. Honestly, I wouldn’t bother with this recipe again, as I know that there are other buttercream recipes out there that work, while this one did not for me. When all was said and done, I wound up frosting my cake with store-bought buttercream, which is just not the same.

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Giving in and frosting my cake with store-bought buttercream.

Oh, but if you choose to make this buttercream and it works for you, you do also have the option of adding flavor. For chocolate buttercream, melt 4 ounces of chopped dark chocolate, letting it cool for a few minutes. Add the melted chocolate to the finished buttercream. For coffee buttercream, dissolve 1 t of instant espresso in 2 t coffee liqueur. Or, you can add any extract or food coloring of your choosing. Store buttercream in an airtight container with an additional layer of plastic wrap. If you make the buttercream in advance, bring it to room temperature and re-whip it before frosting your cake.

Ganache

For his cake, Alton opted to make a ganache to use as a filling between cake layers. To make the ganache, heat 6 ounces of heavy cream with 3 T corn syrup in a small saucepan.

Add 12 ounces of chopped dark chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

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Chopped dark chocolate.

Remove the pan from the heat and add 1/2 t vanilla extract.

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Ganache after chocolate was melted and smooth. Adding vanilla off the heat.

Let the ganache cool before using. Spread the ganache between cake layers, using a spatula to spread it almost to the cake edge.

Unlike the buttercream, this ganache recipe was super fast and easy, and it tasted great. I typically use a regular frosting between cake layers, rather than a filling, but I really liked the contrast of dark chocolate between layers. And, if you refrigerate your cake, the ganache becomes fudge-like and dense, adding a level of richness. Oh, and my suggestion if you happen to have leftover ganache is to refrigerate it until set. You can form balls with the firm ganache, rolling them in cocoa powder or powdered sugar to form truffles. Or, you can just eat it with a spoon like I did.

Writing Chocolate

A recipe for writing chocolate was last in this episode. For this one, combine 1 C chocolate chips and 2 t canola oil in a microwave-safe container, stirring to coat the chips with the oil.

Microwave the chocolate for one minute on high. Stir the chocolate until it is completely smooth. For decorating, transfer the chocolate to a piping bag or a plastic bottle.

This recipe also worked very well and was super easy. It is certainly an easy way to add some writing to a cake. It tastes much better than the artificial writing icing you can buy in the store too.

Cake Assembly

Though not a recipe per se, Alton did go over some of his cake assembly/decorating basics.

  1. He opts for a lazy susan for cake decorating, placing it on top of an upturned cake pan.
  2. To level his cakes, Alton uses two wooden yard pickets, placed on their sides in a V-shape. He places his cake inside the V and slices along the top of the pickets with a bow saw blade.
  3. He also uses the pickets for splitting cake layers, turning them onto their shorter sides. Again, using a bow saw blade, he slices across the top of the pickets, slicing the cake into two layers.
  4. When frosting a cake, place the layers in the following order from base to top:  bottom of cake 1, top of cake 1, top of cake 2, and bottom of cake 2.
  5. When you have the filling between your layers, first frost the cake with a thin crumb coat of icing (about 1/4 of your icing) and refrigerate. This crumb coat will make it easier to apply a smooth layer of icing.
  6. When frosting a cake, apply more icing than you think you need to the top of the cake. Spread the icing, working out to the edges and down the sides. It is always better to remove excess icing than to add more.

Gold Cake

Cake is one of my very favorite desserts, and I would probably choose it over pie most of the time. The star of this episode is a gold cake, which is a relative of the classic pound cake. This recipe uses cake flour because of its low protein content, which results in a cake that is more tender. Alton also explained that he often prefers to use butter-flavored shortening when baking, as he thinks it gives more of a buttery flavor to baked goods than does actual butter. You can swap shortening for butter in any baking recipe, but you will need to make a couple of modifications because shortening is 100% fat, while butter is 20% water. This means that you will need to use 20% less shortening than the amount of butter called for, and you will need to increase the liquid in your recipe by 20%. Now, on to the cake.

Before starting this recipe, weigh the empty bowl of your stand mixer, noting the weight for later. In the stand mixer bowl, beat 140 g of butter-flavored shortening on low for about a minute.

To the beaten shortening, add 300 g sugar and a pinch of Kosher salt, and beat this mixture on medium for at least four or five minutes.

Next, with the mixer running, slowly add 130 g of egg yolks (about 8 yolks).

Once the yolks are incorporated, prepare your remaining wet and dry ingredients. In one vessel, combine 180 g of milk with 1 t vanilla extract.

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180 g of milk with 1 t vanilla.

In a separate bowl, sift together 350 g of cake flour and 14 g of baking powder.

Alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures to the batter by adding half of the flour, half of the milk, the remaining half of the flour, and the last of the milk.

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The final cake batter.

Once you have a smooth batter, again weigh your mixing bowl. Subtract the empty bowl weight you took earlier from the weight of the bowl+batter, and divide this number in half; you now have the weight of batter you should have in each cake pan for baking. Using this number, divide the batter evenly between two greased/floured 9-inch cake pans (my batter weighed 1070 g, so I allotted ~535 g per pan).

Bake the cakes in the top third of a 350-degree oven.

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Cakes in the top 1/3 of a 350-degree oven.

Check the cakes after 12 minutes of baking, rotating them if one cake is browning more than the other. The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, which took about 30 minutes for my cakes. Let the cakes cool in their pans (on racks) for 10-15 minutes.

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Cakes after baking until a toothpick came out clean – about 30 minutes.

Remove the cakes from their pans and let them cool completely.

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Cake removed from pan.

Now, you could eat these cakes plain, or with whipped cream and fruit, but I did what Alton did and frosted them with his cocoa whipped cream (recipe below).

Cocoa Whipped Cream

To go with his gold cake, Alton made this cocoa whipped cream. You will want to make the cream once your cakes are completely cool. While your cakes finish cooling, chill the mixing bowl and whisk attachment of your stand mixer by placing them in the refrigerator. When the cakes have sufficiently cooled, place 2 T of cold water in a small saucepan and sprinkle 1 t gelatin over the water’s surface; set aside for 5 minutes.

Place the saucepan over low heat, just until the gelatin has melted.

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Gelatin, heated until just melted.

Meanwhile, in your cold mixing bowl, beat on low 2 C whipping cream, 1 t vanilla, and 1/2 C cocoa mix (you could probably use any cocoa mix, but Alton used his Good Eats mix, of which I still had some).

Slowly drizzle the melted gelatin into the cocoa/cream mixture and increase the speed.

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Cocoa mixture after all of the gelatin was added.

Beat the cream until it forms medium peaks.

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The final cocoa cream, beaten until it had medium peaks.

Use the whipped cream to frost Alton’s gold cake, or any other two-layer cake.

We thought Alton’s gold cake and cocoa whipped cream paired nicely together. The cake is a bit of a dry, crumbly cake, but has nice buttery flavor.IMG_6269 The cocoa whipped cream is a nice alternative to traditional frosting, having a light, airy texture and being less sweet than many frostings, but it also necessitates refrigerating your cake.

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A slice of Alton’s gold cake with cocoa whipped cream.

All in all, I would be more likely to make the cocoa whipped cream again over the cake. The cake had good flavor, but was just a bit too dry.

Since I last posted, Ted has continued to have a rough time, resulting in a second major surgery on November 2nd and six more days in the hospital. With a grand total of 26 days (divided among three visits) in the hospital, he finally came home November 7th. We are crossing our fingers that we are hopefully on the real road to recovery this time.

Sweet and Sour Dessert Sauce

I prepped the recipes from the 49th episode of Good Eats over the course of a couple weeks. This episode was all about honey, or as Alton referred to it, “bee backwash.” After hearing that quote, I think I shall perhaps never look at honey quite the same again!

The first recipe in this episode is for Alton’s honey dessert sauce. Really it does not get much simpler than this one. To make Alton’s sauce, you will need only honey and sour cream.

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Honey and sour cream.

For the honey, Alton recommends a light honey, such as wildflower honey. I will confess that I used the honey I had on hand, which had no specific varietal on the label. To make the sauce, pour 1/4 C honey in a stainless steel bowl and heat it on a burner, just until warm.

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Honey, heating slightly on a burner.

Into the honey whisk 1 C sour cream.

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Sour cream added to warm honey.

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Sour cream and honey, whisked together.

Serve the sauce over fruit, cake, or anything else you can think of. I served the sauce over the orange cake that was also featured in this episode (see below).

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Alton’s dessert sauce, served over cake.

The sauce had a nice balance of sweetness and tartness and was pretty thin in consistency. I thought this sauce was just okay; it did not wow me in any way and I probably will not be making this one again.

Honey Mustard Dressing

Growing up, my brother would order honey mustard dressing every time he ordered a salad at a restaurant, so I instantly thought of him when making Alton’s honey mustard dressing. This is another super simple recipe, requiring only three ingredients:  honey (medium-bodied like sourwood), Dijon mustard, and rice wine vinegar.

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Rice wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and honey.

For this dressing, I used the same honey that I used in my dessert sauce (above). To make Alton’s dressing, whisk together 5 T honey, 3 T smooth Dijon mustard, and 2 T rice wine vinegar.

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Honey in a bowl.

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Dijon mustard and rice wine vinegar added to honey.

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Alton’s honey mustard dressing.

Serve this as either a dressing or dipping sauce. I eat a lot of salads, so I served this over a large entree salad I made for myself.

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A salad with Alton’s honey mustard dressing.

I thought this dressing was really quite nice. I have found some honey mustard dressings in the past to be too sweet, but this had a nice balance of sweetness, acidity, and tang. As a bonus, this dressing does not separate in the refrigerator as oil-based dressings do. If you’re a honey mustard fan, this is one to try. I served it to my brother, the honey mustard expert, when he was visiting and he seemed to really enjoy it.

Honey Plums

The third honey recipe Alton made was for honey plums. Again, this is another simple recipe. For this one, you’ll need wildflower honey and under-ripe plums or figs. I could not find plums or figs at my grocery store, so I opted for firm D’Anjou pears.

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Honey and pears.

Begin by covering the bottom of a pan with honey and heat over low.

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Honey covering the bottom of the pan.

Add your fruit, cut side down, and cook for 5-6 minutes. Increase the heat to high for a minute before removing from the heat.

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Pears added to honey in pan.

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Pears after cooking in honey for several minutes.

Serve the honeyed fruit over ice cream.

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Honeyed pears served over vanilla ice cream.

I liked this and it reminded me of the poached pear phase my mom went through. This was another one that was just okay for me, but I think I’ll have to try this again when plums are back in season.

Aunt Verna’s Orange Cake

Of the recipes featured in this episode, I was most excited about this one. Alton claims that this cake recipe came from his Aunt Verna, but who knows if he really had an Aunt Verna?

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Orange cake ingredients: eggs, flour, orange zest, baking powder, butter, baking soda, and orange blossom honey.

For the cake, begin by whisking together 1 C orange blossom honey and 4 eggs.

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Eggs and honey.

To this mixture add 1 T orange zest.

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Orange zest added to honey/egg mixture.

Sift together 1 1/2 C flour, 1 t baking powder, and a pinch of baking soda, and slowly add the flour mixture to the liquid ingredients.

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Flour, baking soda, and baking powder sifted together.

Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until a wooden skewer comes out dry.

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Batter poured into the pan.

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Alton’s orange cake.

My cake took about 45 minutes to be done. I sliced my cake and served it with Alton’s sweet and sour dessert sauce (above).

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Alton’s orange cake, sliced.

I found this cake to be highly disappointing. It did have a lot of orange flavor, but the cake was quite dry and the outside of the cake was a bit darker than I would have liked. For me, this one was a bit of a flop, and I will not be making this one again. In fact, I would say that this episode of Good Eats (and the recipes featured) was one of my least favorites thus far.

 

It seems odd to write a blog post about a recipe I prepared a mere 10 days ago, while it feels like my entire life has changed since then. Ted went under the knife five days ago to have a massive operation to remove the cancer from his body. He still lies in a hospital bed as I type, and likely will be there for at least a few more days. The excellent news is that they got all of the cancer out and there was zero lymph node involvement. The bad news is that he feels quite miserable. Hopefully he’ll be feeling better soon. Until then, I’ll reminisce about Alton’s angel food cake that we ate 10 days ago.

Angel Food Cake

I vaguely remember my mom making angel food cake a few times when I was little, but it was never something we ate regularly. My image of angel food cake has been primarily of the dry, sponge-like, flavorless cakes you can buy in every grocery store bakery in the country. That’s not to say that I dislike those cakes, but just that they don’t wow me. How would Alton’s recipe for angel food cake stack up?

To make Alton’s angel food cake, start by processing 1 3/4 C of sugar in a food processor for two minutes; this will give sugar with finer crystals, yielding between 1 1/4 and 1 1/2 C of sugar.

Ingredients for Alton's angel food cake:  cake flour, egg whites, salt, sugar, cream of tartar, and orange extract.

Ingredients for Alton’s angel food cake: cake flour, egg whites, salt, sugar, cream of tartar, and orange extract.

Sugar into food processor.

Sugar into food processor.

Sugar after processing for two minutes.

Sugar after processing for two minutes.

Sift approximately half of this sugar (set the other half aside) with 1/4 t of salt and 1 C of cake flour. A lot of sugar is needed in angel food cake because there is no fat; the sugar acts as a tenderizer. Cake flour is used here because it has no protein, which means no gluten is produced.

Half of the sugar sifted with cake flour and salt.

Half of the sugar sifted with cake flour and salt.

Next, you will need a dozen egg whites at room temperature (room temperature egg whites are more flexible, so they foam better). Alton encourages you to separate your eggs using three containers:  a container over which you separate each white (to make sure no yolk slips in), a container to contain the yolks, and a container for the yolk-free whites. Why is it so critical to avoid having yolk mixed in with your whites? The yolks contain fat, which lubes the bonding points on the proteins in the whites, causing the bubbles to pop. Since angel food cake is a foam, the ultimate goal is bubbles.

Separating yolks and whites.

Separating yolks and whites.

Once your egg whites are at room temperature, add 1/3 C of warm water, 1 t orange extract, and 1 1/2 t cream of tartar. Cream of tartar is a mild acid, made of tartaric acid crystals, that stabilizes foams by adding hydrogen atoms.

Egg whites with warm water, orange extract, and cream of tartar added.

Egg whites with warm water, orange extract, and cream of tartar added.

Use a whisk to froth this egg white mixture. Once frothy, whip the whites with a hand mixer on medium speed.

Whites beaten with a whisk until frothy.

Whites beaten with a whisk until frothy.

While mixing, slowly add the remaining sugar. When your egg whites have soft peaks, decrease the speed on the mixer to avoid overbeating. Stop mixing when you have reached medium peaks.

Whites after reaching medium peaks.

Whites after reaching medium peaks.

Again, sift the flour mixture, but sift it over the top of the batter, just dusting the top.

Dusting the top of the batter with sifted flour mixture.

Dusting the top of the batter with sifted flour mixture.

Use a spatula to gently fold the flour into the whites, just until not visible.

Folding in the flour mixture.

Folding in the flour mixture.

Repeat until all of the flour is incorporated. Gently spoon the batter into an ungreased tube pan and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out almost dry. My cake was ready after 35 minutes.

The final batter, spooned into a tube pan.

The final batter, spooned into a tube pan.

Cake after baking 35 minutes.

Cake after baking 35 minutes.

Remove your cake from the oven and invert it on the back of a sheet pan. My cake pan has feet for this purpose. The cake needs to be inverted or it will collapse. Let the cake cool completely.

Cake inverted to cool completely.

Cake inverted to cool completely.

To remove the cake from the pan, you will need to run a knife around the edges, as the cake will be stuck from “climbing” the walls of the pan. While you certainly could serve your cake with accompaniments, we chose to eat ours plain.

Alton's angel food cake.

Alton’s angel food cake.

A slice of angel food cake.

A slice of angel food cake.

I have to say that Alton’s angel food cake is so much better than anything you can buy. It is moist, airy, and sweet, and has just the right hint of orange flavor. You could use any extract you would like to flavor your cake. While I still won’t be making angel food cake regularly, Alton’s version is quite delicious, and should I need an angel food cake in the future, this is the recipe I will use.