Monday, September 8, 2014

Jessica & Judy's wedding cake week

Wedding cake has occurred! Most of a week, almost 10 pounds each of flour and sugar, 8.5 pounds of butter, 56 eggs, and one ball of yarn later. I'm happy with how it turned out, and very happy I tackled the full-on tiered thing. And everyone else seemed to like it too, including the lovely couple. Here's to many sweet years to come!


Big thanks to:
* Peter for letting me stay at his house and take over his kitchen
* Amy for letting me use her car
* Brian for helping with errands and keeping me company
* Sarah for crochet hook and buttons
this post for day-of assembly instructions
* Jessica and Judy for the honor of including me in their special day!

23 oz dark chocolate (1 pack + 13 squares TJ's pound plus)
1 14-oz can coconut cream
plateful of cocoa powder
12x4 tea bags (3 boxes) Stash double bergamot earl grey tea
1x3 quarts buttermilk + ~1 c milk or cream
1 c + 4x3 c + 1x8 c + sugar
4x3 + 2.75x8 sticks butter
4x3 t vanilla
8x3 eggs + 4x8 egg whites
8x3 c flour
1/3x3 c corn starch
4x3 t baking powder
3x3 t baking soda
2x3 t salt
4x8 oz creme fraiche
10x8 drops bergamot oil
5x6 dashes Angostura
1 box raspberries
Americolor royal blue soft gel paste food color

1 each 6", 9", and 12" square x 2" tall cake pans
2 9x13" cake pans
1 each 6", 9", and 12" square cake boards
1 13x17" thick cake board
1 16" square thick cake board
plastic hollow dowels
7", 10", 16", and 13x17" cake boxes

Tuesday
6pm: Make truffle ganache, and crush a dozen raspberries into half the ganache. Refrigerate both until firm.
10pm: Form ganache into truffles and toss in cocoa powder.

Wednesday
9am: Place 24 tea bags and 2 qt buttermilk in a large saucepan, heat until steaming but ideally not curdling, turn off the heat, and cover. Also place the remaining 12 tea bags and 2 c warm water in a small saucepan, and cover.
10am: Squeeze out and discard all the tea bags. Be disappointed at how much the buttermilk curdled, but realize that you should have seen it coming, and that it will be fine anyway. Top up the buttermilk with milk or cream to make 8 c total dairy.
10:30am: Preheat oven to 325F, make simple syrup with 1 c sugar and the nondairy-ified earl grey, and prepare the cake pans.
11am: Make a double batch of cake batter using the dairy-ified earl grey. Put about 3 c, 7 c, and 11.5 c batter in the 6", 9", and 12" pans, respectively. Bake for 40 min, 50 min, and 60 min, respectively, rotating the pans partway through.
12:30pm: Lunch break!
3pm: Make a second batch of cake. Level the tops of the first batch of cake, triple wrap each layer in plastic wrap, and freeze.
4pm: Make the first batch of buttercream (4 egg whites, 1 c sugar, 2.75 sticks butter, half pack creme fraiche, bergamot and Angostura).
5pm: Level the tops of the second batch of cake, triple wrap each layer in plastic wrap, and freeze.

Thursday
9am: Freak out that there won't be enough cake. Also freak out that there won't be enough fridge/freezer space to hold this much cake, let alone as much cake as I'd like to provide. Decide to make more cake anyway.
10:30am: Start steeping another 12 tea bags in another quart of buttermilk. Make 2 batches of buttercream, adding 2 dozen whole raspberries to each batch by dropping them in one at a time while the mixer is running.
11:30am: Take the 6" pair of cake layers out of the freezer. Unwrap one layer and place it flat side down on the 6" cake board. Brush the trimmed top side with the earl grey syrup and spread with a generous layer of the raspberry buttercream. Unwrap the other cake layer, brush the trimmed side with syrup, and place trimmed side down on top of the buttercream. Check to make sure that the cake is oriented in the flattest way possible, then brush the flat top side with more syrup. Wrap up the whole package (board, two cakes, and frosting) in plastic wrap (I reused the plastic wrap) and stick back in the freezer. Repeat with the 9" and 12" layers.
1pm: Lunch break!
2:30pm: Make a third batch of cake in two 9x13" pans and bake for 50-60 min.
3:30pm: Make a double batch of buttercream. Put most of it into the tupperware with yesterday's batch of plain buttercream, and mix a bit into the remaining raspberry buttercream to bring the amount up to what's needed to fill the 9x13 cake.
6pm: Evening break!
11pm: Start crocheting a border for the 6" cake using a variation on this pattern.

Friday
10am: Pick up boards and box for the 9x13" cake.
1pm: Hang out at Golden Gardens and finish crocheting the borders for all three layers.
4pm: Make another batch of plain buttercream.

Saturday
8am: Pull the 9x13" layers and the 9" and 12" squares out of the freezer. Trim, brush, and fill the 9x13" cake just like the squares. Unwrap the squares so they don't get too soggy while defrosting. Put the 9x13" cake on its board, frost with buttercream, box it up, and put in a cool room since there's no fridge space for such things. Pull the 6" square out of the freezer. Frost the 9" square, dowel it, box it, and cool it. Frost, dowel, box, and cool the 12" square (making the final double batch of buttercream when the frosting runs out partway through). Frost, box, and cool the 6" square. There was about 4 cups of frosting left: I put half in one tupperware, beat food coloring into the other half until it was a nice blue, then put that in a separate tupperware.
12:30pm: Quick break to eat the lovely brunch that Laura, Derek, and Peter managed to cook while I used almost every surface in the kitchen.
1pm: Collect everything for on-site assembly: white and blue frostings, piping supplies, icing spatula, big spatula, powdered coconut, and crocheted borders. Also collect the 2 kinds of truffles and 4 boxes of cake. Also collect the outfit to change into. Put everything in the car and carefully carefully drive over to Brian's.
2pm: Stick the truffles and all the cake that will fit into Brian's fridge. Drive Brian over to the Mac&Jack's brewery for keg pick-up. Hang out until we're allowed to go to the venue.
5:45pm: Carefully carefully drive over to the venue. Unbox the 12" layer and place it on the venue's cake stand. Touch up the frosting with the spare plain buttercream, wrap the crochet border around the bottom, and dust the top with coconut powder. Carefully place the 9" layer on the dowels, centering and leveling as necessary. Repeat with touching up the 9" layer, stacking the 6" layer, and touching up the 6" layer. Pipe some blue buttercream to decorate.
6:45pm: Ta da! All done. Enjoy a gorgeous wedding and a splendid evening! The tiered cake was the right amount for the ~100-person wedding, with just a few slices left over.

Sunday
Bring the 9x13" cake to the day-after picnic.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Vegan truffles

Aw yeah, you heard me right, it's vegan truffles! It's everything you like about truffles, with just three dairy-free ingredients. Pretty excited about this as a vegan/gluten-free wedding alternative! I think it will work to dust them with powdered sugar, sprinkles, nuts, etc instead of or in addition to cocoa powder, but I haven't tried that yet. This made 32 1" truffles.



3/4 c coconut milk (eg TJ's coconut cream)
10 oz vegan dark chocolate (eg TJ's pound plus)
extracts of choice, to taste
cocoa powder for dusting

Chop chocolate and place in a bowl. Bring coconut milk almost to a boil, then pour over the chocolate and add extracts. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Cover the surface with plastic wrap, and put in the fridge just until set (1-2 hr).

Line your truffle receptacle with parchment or wax paper, and put a bunch of cocoa powder on a plate and on your palms. Scoop out 1" balls of chocolate, roll between cocoa-dusted palms, toss around the cocoa-dusted plate to coat completely, and place in your lined container. Let set in the fridge.

Final(?) earl grey cake

The earl-grey-ified version of my standard vanilla cake, with raspberry-bergamot-ified cream cheese frosting. The only way Cat could think to improve it is by increasing the earl grey content, but I'm tempted to keep it as is. After setting in the fridge, the cream cheese frosting is sufficiently structurally sound, even with the berries in the middle.


cake:
1 c milk + 6 earl grey tea bags
2 c cake flour
1 t baking powder
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 stick butter, softened
1 c sugar
1 t vanilla
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 325F and butter+parchment 2 8" round cake pans. Bring milk to a simmer, add tea bags, turn off heat, cover, and let steep for at least 15 minutes. Stir dry ingredients (flour through salt) together in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together, then beat in vanilla and eggs
until fluffy. Beat in the milk and dry ingredients in alternating additions. Pour batter into pans and bake for 25 min until a toothpick comes out clean.


frosting:
1 stick butter
8 oz cream cheese
4.5 c powdered sugar
3 drops pure bergamot oil, or to taste
handful of raspberries

Beat everything except the raspberries until fluffy. Tear raspberries in pieces and stir into part of the frosting.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Earl grey cupcakes with bergamot cream cheese frosting

It's wedding cake trial round 3! Conclusions: 4 tea bags is a good amount for this much cake, this particular cake recipe is too dry, and bergamot cream cheese frosting is awesome. The frosting was also really good on graham crackers with strawberries and whipped cream, so there may be a berry component to the final cake too.



cake:
2/3 c milk
4 earl grey tea bags
1 stick butter
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1.5 c flour
2 t baking powder
1 t salt

Bring the milk and tea to a boil in a small pot, cover, and let steep for half an hour until cool. Preheat the oven to 350F.

Cream the butter with the sugar, and beat in the eggs until fluffy. Combine the dry ingredients (flour through salt) in a small bowl. Mix the dry ingredients and the tea to the batter in alternating additions. Scoop into 24 mini and 6 regular greased or lined cupcake tins. Bake the minis for 13 minutes and the regulars for 18 minutes.

frosting:
1 stick butter
8 oz cream cheese
powdered sugar to taste (~3 c?)
3 drops pure bergamot oil, or to taste

Beat together until fluffy, and pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Pride cake: chocolate earl grey cake with creme fraiche buttercream

Earl grey cake take 2. As befits a practice cake for a lesbian wedding, I covered it with rainbow sprinkles and brought it to Sierra's pride party. The cute little dino was her addition, of course, Nori and Jack's rainbow sangria was also great!

I'm really happy with the creme fraiche buttercream on this one. It's a variation on Italian buttercream, although next time I'd use a less fussy Swiss buttercream base. The creme fraiche lightens the flavor and softens the stiffness of the buttercream, while leaving it with plenty of structural integrity and sculptability.

The cake is perfectly fine, but not better than my favorite chocolate cake. And again, the Earl Grey is barely noticeable. I think I'll up my game and try bergamot oil for the next attempt.



cake:
4 earl grey tea bags steeped in 1 c hot water
1.75 c flour
2 c sugar
3/4 c cocoa powder
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1/3 c greek yogurt
2/3 c milk
1/2 c canola
2 eggs
1 T vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350F and make the tea. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour through salt). In a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (yogurt through vanilla). Pour the wet ingredients and the coffee into the dry ingredients, and gently whisk until just combined. Pour into greased+parchmented pans; the recipe should do 2 8"x2" round pans, but I used 2 8"x1.5" round pans + 4 cupcakes (that's about 2.5 c batter per pan). Bake cupcakes for 18 min and layers for 30 min, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pans on a rack for half an hour, then turn out and cool completely.


frosting (almost 1 quart):
3/4 c + 3 T sugar
1/4 c water
4 egg whites
dash salt
1.5 sticks unsalted butter
8 T (1/2 c) creme fraiche
4 dashes Angostura

Place 3/4 sugar and the water in a small saucepan, and place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of the stand mixer. Turn the heat on medium-low under the saucepan, and turn the mixer on high.

Now here's the slightly nerve-wracking part. Watch the mixer first: when you first begin to see tracks in the white foam, sprinkle in the 3 T sugar. Take a look at the sugar syrup and give it a stir. Back to the meringue: when it's stiff, turn the mixer off. Back to the syrup: when it reaches 240F, turn it off. Turn the mixer on to low, and slowly drizzle the syrup down the side of the bowl. Keep the mixer running until the meringue cools down to 80F (this will take a while).

Turn the mixer up to medium-high, and add the butter a couple tablespoons at a time. Keep mixing and have patience it will come together; this seemed to take longer than Swiss buttercream did. When the frosting looks like frosting, keep mixing and add the creme fraiche a tablespoon at a time, then add the bitters. The additions made the frosting a bit less stiff for me, but didn't break it. Keep in the fridge until half an hour or so before assembly.

Frost and top with rainbow sprinkles!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Earl grey & mascarpone German buttercream

Exciting news: I'm going to be making Jessica and Judy's wedding cake in September! Apparently my previous wedding cake offering went over pretty well. They requested Earl Grey as a flavor component, which opens up all sorts of intriguing directions.

This frosting is at least as interesting for being a custard-based German buttercream as for being Earl-Grey-flavored. So far I've tried it dolloped on some rhubarb coffee cake and in the traditional frosting role on a lemony layer cake, and it's certainly tasty (although using only one tea bag gives it a very mild flavor). The texture is odd, though. At room temperature, it's almost like pudding, which is essentially what it is. But at fridge temperature, it looks weirdly grainy. Conclusion: could totally work as a filling with more tea, not so great for an outer coat.



This is exactly a half-recipe of the frosting here. Makes 1 quart.

1 c milk
1 bag Earl Grey tea
5 oz sugar
3/4 oz cornstarch
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1/2 t vanilla
2 sticks (8 oz) salted butter, completely softened
1 pack (8 oz) mascarpone
2 t Meyer lemon juice

Heat the milk and tea bag together over medium heat until simmering, then turn off the heat, cover, and let steep for 3.5 minutes. Squeeze out the tea bag and discard.

While the tea is steeping, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, egg components, and vanilla. Pour a few tablespoons of the hot milk into the egg mixture and whisk to combine. With the milk over low heat, drizzle the warm egg mixture into the milk, whisking constantly. Continue whisking for a few minutes until the custard thickens completely. Transfer to a mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour while the butter finishes softening.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter then the mascarpone into the custard 1-2 T at a time, making sure each addition is completely incorporated. Beat in the lemon juice. Use, refrigerate, etc.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The drink of laughter and forgetting

[Guest post by Lester, in the Great Going-Away Series of 2014]

If you're going to learn to make a cocktail, make sure it's a good one! We discovered this wonderful drink at Cure on a trip to New Orleans back in February and it's been my regular go-to ever since, i.e. I've not made anything else. I don't think I've had any other cocktail that's quite so well balanced, although it may be a little too bitter for some.

The quantities below makes around three decent sized cocktails, which is the usual quantity in which I make it.



1.5 oz lime juice
3 oz Cynar
1 oz green chartreuse
1 oz agave or simple syrup
28 drops Angostura

Shake with ice and strain into three little cocktail glasses. Garnish with a drop of Angostura. Perfection in a glass!