I love, love, love me some Bloggess, y’all, so when I found out that she’d added a stop in North Carolina to her book tour, I *had* to go, even if it was over two hours away.

And then I thought – you know, wouldn’t it be fun to bring cake?  And to try my hand at making something fun for the topper?

I’ve never made an edible taxidermied mouse before…

There were at least a hundred people there.  There was spontaneous applause as I brought the cake up and put it on the table up front.  Here’s the inspiration for the cake:

And a closeup of Mr. Hamlet von Schnizzle (sp):

The details:

Cake is Chocolate Buttermilk Cake from Maida Heatter’s Chocolate cookbook.  Filled and frosted with chocolate ganache and some strawberry puree I made the other day. [ Note: never, ever make this cake again.  The taste was wonderful, but the texture was pure crumb!  Cutting it caused it to explode into a pile of crumbs.  Tasty crumbs, but still.  Horrible to try and serve without getting cake everywhere.  Sorry, Books a Million. ] 

Hamlet is made of marzipan rolled in coconut, his hands, feet, teeth and ears are gumpaste.  The eyes are redhots, and the cape (thank you for the great idea, George!) is a fruit rollup enhanced with some sparkle dust.  The metal pole up his butt holding him upright (marzipan mice are rather topheavy) is a flower nail.  🙂  I tried to make the ruff out of marzipan, but it was big and clunky so I left it off.

This was tremendous fun, and I’m so glad I got to meet Jenny and bring a smile to her face!  I had slipped away during part of her Q&A to go pick up a copy of the book so I could have it signed, which is of course when she said something about the cake, so I missed my big moment, but it was fine.  Great crowd!

And I got to listen to the audiobook on the way there and back with my friend Kelley, which was hilarious and there’s enough added content and fun in it that I highly recommend it, even if you already have the book.  Seriously.

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With starting the new job and all (Campus Librarian at a local Community College; I’m loving it!) I no longer had time to keep the business going, so I’ve mostly just been doing the odd cake here and there for birthdays, or whatnot.  But when two of my best friends decided to get married, I *had* to do their cakes!

First, the groom’s cake:

Four-layer Red Velvet cake with vanilla buttercream (groom doesn’t like cream cheese frosting on RVC); dimensions ended up 6.5″ x 9″ x 6.5″

See, the groom’s a big game player (they even met at a meetup dedicated to geeks), and these are some of his favorite games.  My husband did the graphic design work to make the images, and then I had them printed on rice paper at the local harris-teeter.  Jeff also made the Catan printouts for the base for me.  He’s so fabulous!

The Wedding Cake

3 tiers

Top tier: Italian Cream Cake (6″)

Second tier: Chocolate Butter Cake with Chocolate ganache (and a touch of Frangelico) (8″)

Third tier: Lemon-Raspberry cake (based on Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake) (10″)

All covered in vanilla buttercream (also from Dorie’s party cake recipe).

Homemade gumpaste hydrangeas. (Best.  Tutorial.  Ever.)

Homemade cake toppers (by the bride’s eldest daughter), non-edible.  But amazing!  And yes, they’re from the movie UP!  Incl. the dog.  And if you look at the purple hydrangeas closely, you’ll find a squirrel 🙂  here’s a closer look:

 

 

No interior shots, as the caterer who cut the cake sort of butchered it.  But still, tasty cake!  Everyone loved it.

Many congratulations and well wishes to the fabulous bride and groom!

Action wedding shot of the cake-maker (with glowing tiara, no less!):

(This is the beginning of a series of pictures of me starting to sing along with a song, which I am thankfully sparing you, both visually and auditorially).

 

Apple-Basil Cake

So, the herb garden continues to chug along, making huge quantities of basil and rosemary and mint and other wonderful baking herbs.

This week I wanted to try something a little more unusual.  I pulled out last week’s book (Desserts from an Herb Garden, by Sharon Kebschull Barrett) and found this recipe on the page right after Lemon-Rosemary Cream Cake.  Fate!

The recipe uses oil for the fat – the first time I made it, I used all Canola oil, but the second time I was running low so I substituted half of it with unsweetened applesauce – something I often do to cut down on fats, plus it’s not like more apple flavor is going to hurt this cake!

Oh, and I sprinkled toasted pecan pieces in the bottom of the pan after I had spray-coated it – the crunch was a nice counterpart to the richness of the cake and the glaze.  And I added a teaspoon of Ceylon Cinnamon to the batter itself, because I think Cinnamon and Apples and Basil all go together.

A closer look at the glaze. Yum!

This cake is moist and dense.  Very flavorful – mostly apple with the occasional bright sparkle of basil.  It freezes well, and I imagine it’ll ship well (I’ll find out!  The second cake is getting shipped to Rhode Island after I freeze it).  My sweetie and I were having people over for dinner, so to dress it up for dessert I made a quick cream caramel sauce (infused with cinnamon stick) and added some Dulce de Leche Gelato.  Ohhhhh, my goodness.  That stepped it up from “really darned tasty” to “OMG; to die for”.

All dressed up for dinner…

What would you pair with it?

Apple-Basil Cake

from Desserts from an Herb Garden, by Sharon Kebschull Barrett

CAKE

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

2 Tablespoons (packed) minced cinnamon basil or sweet basil leaves

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil, preferably canola oil (can use half oil and half unsweetened applesauce)

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

3 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 1/2 cups unpeeled, coarsely chopped cooking apples, such as Granny Smiths

1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces [optional]

GLAZE

3 TB unsalted butter

3 TB packed light brown sugar

3 TB granulated sugar

3 TB heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 325F.  Pan-coat a 10-inch removable-bottom tube pan. [Note: you’ll want this – the cake sticks like mad] Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of toasted pecans in the bottom of the pan, if you’re using.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Whisk in basil leaves until thoroughly dispersed in the flour; set aside.  In a large bowl, beat together oil and sugar on low speed.  On medium speed, add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add vanilla and beat on high for 30 seconds.  On low speed, add flour mixture and beat just ’til blended.

Fold in apples; spread batter in prepared pan.  Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Just before the cake is done, make glaze: Over med heat, melt butter in a small saucepan and whisk in both sugars, cream, and vanilla.  Boil glaze for 1 minute.

When the cake comes out of the oven, immediately pour the hot glaze over.  Let cake cool completely on a rack before removing from pan.  To remove from pan, run a knife around the edge to release it, then run a think knife between cake and pan bottom; invert to release and invert again to place on platter, so glaze side is up.

12 to 16 servings.

Lemon Rosemary Cake

A few years back, I acquired an interesting-looking little cookbook called Desserts from an Herb Garden.  It tempted me with a wide range of really unusual-sounding combinations and categories (it covers cookies and candies, cakes, pies, crisps, custards, puddings, frozen desserts, and plated desserts).

The librarian in me loves that it has two indexes – your usual index at the back that lists everything by name and ingredients, and a “Recipes Listed by Herb” index up front – fantastic when I’ve got an abundance of one particular herb and want to find something to use it up.

I hadn’t actually baked anything from it until this year – chalk it up to substandard herb gardens since we’ve moved to the new house (3 years ago, sigh), or just forgetfulness… but I’ve gotten it out twice in the last week, and the results have been fantastic!

The first thing I tried was the Lemon-Rosemary Cream Cake, which came out like a dream.  The cake uses cream for the fat and no butter at all, which gives it a really light airy texture – almost like an angel-food cake, but without the stickiness.

(One taster commented that it was the first homemade cake he’d ever had that reminded him of the texture of store-bought cakes (rather than being dense and very moist).  He loved it, so I can forgive him the comment and take it in the spirit it was intended.  🙂

Next week, the Apple-Basil Cake.  Mmmm.

Lemon-Rosemary Cream Cake
from Desserts from an Herb Garden, by Sharon Kebschull Barrett.

Cake Ingredients:
2 cups bleached all-purpose flour (I used Lily’s White)
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt (I used Trader Joe’s sea salt)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon minced rosemary leaves
1 Tablespoon minced lemon verbena or lemon zest (I used lemon balm, because I have lots of it and no verbena – next year!)
1/2 cup nonfat or low-fat buttermilk (I used Maple View Dairy’s buttermilk, they’re a local dairy that makes exceptional products)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream (Maple View, again)

Glaze Ingredients:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon half-and half or milk
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour (or pancoat) a 10-cup Bundt pan.

Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and rosemary and lemon verbena leaves; set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk and vanilla; set aside.  In a large bowl, beat eggs on medium speed with sugar until thick; batter should fall in a ribbon when beaters are lifted.  With mixer on low speed or by hand, alternately mix in flour nad buttermilk mixtures, beginning and ending with flour.  Mix just until combined.

In another bowl with clean beaters, beat cream until stiff peaks form; gently but thoroughly fold into batter.  Pour batter into prepared bundt pan and smooth the top.  Bake for 45 minutes, until the top just springs back when pressed.  Cool 10 minutes in the pan on a rack, then turn cake out onto rack to cool completely.

Transfer cake to a serving platter and glaze: Whisk together confectioners’ sugar, half and half, and lemon juice and drizzle over cake.

Note: I totally skipped glazing, and while the cake would have been stupendous with the glaze, it was just fine without – lightly sweet and delicately perfumed with the taste of the herbs inside.  Yummy!

One small corner of the herb garden on the deck this year

It’s a new year, and time for a new book!  I’ve loved nearly everything we made from Sky High : Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, and I’m looking forward to baking from Southern Cakes : Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebratons.  Because you don’t always have an immediate outlet for a sky-high cake, you know?

Coffee Cake, though – I can peddle that anywhere.  It’s practically healthy.

This recipe, I altered.  Couldn’t find raisins anywhere, but did find dried cranberries from Trader Joe’s.  Also, have inexplicably run out of pecans; substituted walnuts.  All else the same.

I think, were I doing it again, I’d go ahead and make the crumble instead of layering the ingredients separately.  The butter dribbled around weirdly and ended up making odd shapes.  The taste is fine, but it looks funny.

The topping ends up nicely crunchy and caramelized, the cake moist and fluffy.  The rest disappeared rather quickly at work this morning, so I can’t report on how it holds up over a few days, but I hear it does well.

See? weird bobbles of cake.

See? weird bobbles of cake.

Cinnamon Pecan Cranberry Walnut Coffee Cake

Printable Version

For the Cake:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour [I used White Lily]
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs

For the Cinnamon Raisin Cranberry Walnut Filling:

  • 1½ cups light brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1½ cups raisins dried cranberries
  • 1½ cups coarsely chopped pecans walnuts
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter, melted

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 by 9 inch pan.

To make the filling, combine the light brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a bowl and stir with a fork to mix everything well. Combine the raisins and pecans in another bowl and toss to mix them. Place the cinnamon mixture, nut mixture and melted butter by the baking pan to use later.

Yummy cinnamon, sugar, and flour

Yummy cinnamon, sugar, and flour

To make the cake batter, combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Stir the vanilla into the milk. In a large bowl combine the butter and sugar and beat with a mixer on high speed until pale yellow and evenly mixed, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl to ensure a good mix. Add the eggs and beat for another 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl now and then, until the mixture is smooth and light.

Use a large spoon or spatula to add about a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir only until the flour disappears. Add a third of the milk and mix in. Repeat twice more until all the flour and milk mixtures have been incorporated. Stir just enough to keep the batter smooth. [Actually, I mixed per Rose and beat it for a minute or so til it was light and fluffy.  The cake came out perfectly light and moist regardless]

Spread half the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Sprinkle half the cinnamon mixture over the batter followed by half the melted butter. Scatter half the raisins and nuts over the top. Spread the remaining batter carefully over the filling, using a spatula to smooth the batter all the way to the edges of the pan. Top with the leftover cinnamon, butter and nut mixture, covering the cake evenly.

Ready to bake!

Ready to bake!

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes [I’d check sooner – mine was quite very well done at 45 minutes], until the cake is golden brown, fragrant and beginning to pull away from the edges of the pan. Place the pan on a wire rack and allow to cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes before serving in squares right from the pan. The cake is delicious hot, warm or at room temperature.

Nummy!

Nummy!

It’s been a few months since I’ve managed to make the CSB cake, but I’m back on track!

This month’s cake presented some challenges.  The cake recipe itself came out very moist, almost wet – which made it a bit of a handful to work with while decorating.  The white chocolate mousse failed entirely the first time around (mostly because I misread and added all of the cream to the chocolate – hence the white chocolate ‘sauce’ you’ll see in a later pic), but I made  a milk chocolate mousse the second time around (being out of white chocolate) and it was still really soft – the extra chocolate liqueur should have helped it hold up more, but others reported soft mousse as well, so if I were making this again I’d use some other mousse recipe.  The frosting came out fine, although it took longer to set up for the final coat than I’d like, and it was un-pipeable.  I wanted to do something more interesting for decoration, but it really wasn’t going to happen with this frosting.

The taste was great, though – the cake was soft and flavorful, the frosting was dense and fudgy, and the mousse had soaked into the layers enough to make nice gooey mess.  Incredibly rich – I’ve had two parties now with this cake and still have some left over.  Help!

Slice of cake with some white chocolate 'sauce'

Slice of cake with some white chocolate ‘sauce’

Recipe: Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake
(from the Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes cookbook)
Makes a 9″ triple layer case – serves 16 to 20

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour [I used White Lily]
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder [I used Ghirardelli]
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup milk
1 1/4 cups hot, strongly brewed coffee
2 eggs
1 cup mayonnaise (use real mayonnaise and not a low fat or fat-free version or anything labeled “salad dressing”)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar

White Chocolate Mousse (recipe below)
Sour Cream Chocolate Icing (recipe below)

Finished layer

Method:

1. Heat oven to 350F. Butter bottom and sides of 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Line bottom of pans with parchment or wax paper and butter the paper.

2. For batter, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside the dry ingredients.

3. Put chopped chocolate in heat-proof bowl. Bring milk to a simmer. Pour the hot coffee and milk over the chocolate. Let stand 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Let the mocha liquid cool slightly.

4. In a mixer bowl, beat together the eggs, mayonnaise, and vanilla until well blended. Gradually beat in sugar. Add dry ingredients and coffee liquid alternately in 2 or 3 additions, beating until smooth. Divide batter among pans.

5. Bake 25-28 minutes, or until pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cakes cool in pans on wire racks 10-15 minutes. Unmold cakes. Peel off paper lining and cool completely, at least 1 hour. (The layers can be baked a day ahead, wrap well, and refrigerated)

To Assemble the Cake:

1. Place one cake layer flat-side up on cake stand. Cover top with half the white chocolate mousse, leaving 1/4 -inch margin around edge. Repeat with second layer.

2. Set third layer on top and pour half the sour cream chocolate over the filled cake. Spread all over the sides and top. Don’t worry if cake shows through. The first frosting is to seal in the crumbs which is whey professinal call it a “crumb coat”. Refrigerate cake uncovered for at least 30 minutes to allow the icing to set. Cover the rest of the icing and set aside at room temperature.

3. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining icing, which should have the consistency of mayonnaise. If the icing becomes too soft, chill briefly. If icing becomes too stiff, microwave on high 2 or 3 seconds to soften, and then stir to mix well. Use an offset palatte knife or the back of a spoon to swirl the frosting decoratively around the cake.

White Chocolate Mousse:

4 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 egg white
1 tablespoon sugar

For mousse, melt white chocolate with 1/4 cup cream in a double boiler or in a small metal bowl set over a pan of very hot water. Whisk until smooth. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

When it has cooled, beat the remaining 3/4 cup heavy cream until soft peaks form. In another clean bowl, whip egg white with sugar until fairly stiff peaks form.

Fold the beaten egg white into white chocolate cream. Then fold in the whipped cream just until blended (do not overwhip or your icing will split).

[I tried this with milk chocolate and it was still too mushy; after refrigerating for an hour, I was able to get some of it into the middle of the cake using the big gaps made by the sunken cake bits to hold it in.  Still, it was tasty.]

Egg white awaiting folding into ganache

Egg white awaiting folding into ganache

Sour Cream Chocolate Icing:

12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 stick unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 cup half-and-half, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature

Melt chocolate with butter and corn syrup in a double boiler over barely simmering water or in a heavy pan over very low heat. Remove from heat and whisk until smooth.

Whisk in half-and-half and sour cream. Use while soft.

Beach Style Wedding Cake

Beach Style Wedding Cake

This one was a first for me – my first beach-themed cake, and my first (official) wedding cake!  (I’ve done other wedding cakes, but this was the first one that SugarPunk has officially done.)

Bottom Layer: Chocolate-Hazelnut Butter Cake with Chocolate-Frangelico Ganache
Middle Layer: Lemon Cake with Lemon-Curd Buttercream filling
Top Layer: Madagascar Vanilla Cake with Roasted Peach and Strawberry Filling.

All covered in a Vanilla Buttercream (French style).

Served: Intended to serve 100, it way overshot.  However, leftover yummy cake was enjoyed by many, I’m given to understand.

The topper was a replica of the Ocracoke lighthouse in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where the wedding was held, and the seashells were gathered on site (and cleaned/sanitized by me before putting on the cake!)

Okracoke Lighthouse Topper

Ocracoke Lighthouse Topper

The fence and plaque were made from gumpaste and hand-painted, and the sand was graham cracker crumbs.

The mother of the bride contacted me secretly about making a groom’s cake for her prospective son-in-law – he went to the University of Maryland, so we decided that something turtle-themed would be appropriate.

Cupcakes!

Cupcakes!

I found the nifty cupcake toppers at Art Design Store, and they shipped them immediately – so no worries about them getting here in time!

Interior view of cupcakes

Interior view of cupcakes

The cupcakes were Devil’s Food Chocolate, filled with caramel-pecan gooeyness, frosted with caramel frosting, and the edges rolled in toasted pecans.  The toppers eventually sort of meld with the frosting (no fondant here!), and other than a slight gumminess were hardly noticeable.

The happy couple

The happy couple

Don’t they look happy with their cake?  Of course, the hard part was over (the wedding) – well, mostly over.  There were some problems with the room the reception was supposed to be in, and some other last-minute stuff – but all was handled gracefully and in the end, everyone was happy.

Well, everyone except the folks who ended up with swine flu — one of the aunts was diagnosed with it two days after the reception, and a few people ended up with it, including the happy couple.  Oops.   But hey, that’s what makes for great stories to tell your grandkids, right?