Sunday, February 21, 2010

RHC: White Gold Passion Génoise

White Gold Passion GénoiseYounger niece picked this cake for her birthday cake back in January, which due to the usual stretched out treatment of her holiday-time birthday, got made on a weekend not in conjunction with a party, family birthday dinner, or other celebration. Not a problem....I think the cake was enough. I didn't manage to finish off a blog post on it until now, for the free-choice week of the Heavenly Cakes bake-along.

This cake falls into the 'elaborate' category--not up to wedding cake status, but the recipe has lots of parts and takes time. It is, however, worth it, something I'm not quite willing to say about the similar efforts required for True Orange Génoise. I made the White Gold Passion first, and perhaps the True Orange suffered in comparison.

The first challenge was the génoise, still pretty new to me. I made browned butter, which had a wonderful smell and flavor straight up, but ultimately was undetectable to my taste buds in the final product. Since it takes the same amount of effort I browned enough for 2 cakes, looking ahead a couple of weeks (at that point) to the True Orange Génoise--and again, I don't think I could have told one made with browned butter from one with regular, once the syrup, curd, and frosting was in place.

White Gold Passion GénoiseOn the génoise itself, as I think I reported when writing up the True Orange, I had problems getting the height on the cake that Rose mentioned. On my first attempt, I beat the egg mixture 5 minutes (minimum time), and stopped when it seemed I was not getting any additional height on the eggs. As I knew the True Orange Genoise wanted this same cake, I made a second attempt the next night. That one came out little better, despite interrupting the egg-beating early on to let the (forgotten) oven heat up. Neither cake reached 2" though--perhaps a little over 1" on the first one, and 1-1/2" on number 2. The taller génoise went in to the White Gold Passion, and the shorter got frozen and became the True Orange cake.

White Gold Passion GénoiseWhite Gold Passion GénoiseNext up was the making of a passion-fruit curd, which presented no problems once I'd found frozen passion-fruit purée. I decided to look first at the Buford Highway Farmer's Market, a very large international market that is, unfortunately, somewhat disorganized. Well not that, really--but the aisles are organized by ethnicity, and the same product, or different brands, might be in multiple places. Passion-fruit puree, it turned out, was in with Mexican foods and in what might have been other Central American or maybe Caribbean (only a few areas have a country label). After all that, I spotted the same stuff at my regular (also multicultural--I live in a county with a very diverse population) Your DeKalb Farmer's Market. Defrosted, the puree is very thin--it's not a concentrate like Marie used.

Passion fruit is quite tasty, and makes a wonderful curd. Yes, the sour orange curd was very good, too, but I think I'll go back to passion fruit.
White Gold Passion GénoiseSame goes for the syrup, where I struggled a little with a real vanilla bean versus my usual extract, but considered the extra flavor worth it.

The last component was the frosting, a white chocolate-cream cheese buttercream. The white chocolate custard base took forever to cook--I suspect I'm too cautious with the heat and should have gone for a full simmer under my double boiler. Once the custard was done and cool, the rest was a snap--beating butter and cream cheese, then adding the custard and beating some more. No added sugar, as the white chocolate has plenty.

Finally, all components done, the cake came together. HCBs that did the True Orange have used the same technique. Split the cake, brush syrup on both sides of each piece. I was using a cookie sheet and a Wilton cake lifter to move the fragile syrup-soaked layers around, and managed to not break or drop them. One layer went down on the cake plate, I spread on the lovely passion-fruit curd, put the second layer on top, and frosted with buttercream. I reserved almost a cup of frosting because the cake was smaller than expected, and that was a good decision--the frosting layer was ample. The cake went in the fridge for the frosting to set up, and later I swirled the remaining curd semi-artistically on top of the buttercream.

White Gold Passion GénoiseTasting: Everyone liked this cake. Younger niece (the birthday girl) had been sampling the passion fruit curd, so she already knew that was a treat. The only criticism she had of the whole cake was that the thicker zones of the white chocolate-cream cheese frosting was more 'creamy' than she likes. She's not big on dairy products, so avoids excesses of cheese and cream cheese and yogurt and such. (Homemade whipped cream seems to be an exception to this, however.) She also commented on the lovely balance of sweet from the frosting and tart from the curd, and her mother, usually on the 'too sweet' side in most tastings, agreed. Older niece, the self-declared texture specialist, likes the texture on this one. She was the first one out with a "good cake" comment, too--before I managed to get seated after cutting the cake and getting myself something more to drink. My brother, who had not liked the white chocolate taste the last time it appeared in a frosting, thought the passion-fruit flavor kept the white chocolate from being a problem this time. Nephew didn't make any comments that I recall, but finished his off. My personal opinion is in line with everyone else--lovely balance of flavors, the passion fruit really makes this a wonderful cake. My only change if I do it again would be to skip the brown butter--my tastebuds will never know the difference once the cake is soaked in passion-fruit syrup, then combined with the curd and the frosting.

Monday, February 15, 2010

RHC: Double Chocolate Valentine

Double Chocolate Valentine CakeMmmm...chocolate. Cocoa in the cake, semi-sweet chocolate ganache brushed on the outside. Nice. My decision to make this as cakelets didn't work in favor of the cake, however.

IMG_0835I don't have a heart-shaped cake pan, so I decided to go for cupcakes (hey, it's a Heavenly Bakers tradition by now--I'm probably not the only one this week). Then I decide that this might be a good week to try the mini Maryann pan I have, a relic of my mother's cake pan collection. My thought was that the depression on top of the cakelets would lend itself to filling with raspberries, in the style of the full-sized cake Rose showed in Rose's Heavenly Cakes. The Maryann pan was supplemented with a Texas muffin pan for the extra batter.

The cake was quick to mix up--it's made with cocoa powder, which was bloomed in boiling water and cooled. That and the butter were beaten into the dry ingredients, then egg yolks beaten with water and vanilla were added, and it's done. I split the batter between the 6 Maryanns and 4 Texas muffins, but I overfilled the Maryann pans and got mushroom caps on my cakelets. On a repeat I'd make 5 or 6 Texas muffins in addition to the Maryanns.

Double Chocolate Valentine CakeDouble Chocolate Valentine CakeHot out of the oven, the tops of the cakes were brushed with a thin ganache glaze. I was operating in a fog and followed the printed directions to use half the glaze at this point, not considering the different geometry of my cupcakes from a cake layer. Once I turned out the cakes and started in to brush the bottom of the cakes with the glaze, I realized how much additional surface area I had for this application. Oops. To add to the problem, the Maryann cakelets had a much rougher surface than the Texas muffin pan cakes, which might be from different behavior of the cooking spray on a regular pan vs. non-stick. (Maybe brushing the cake spray after applying it would have helped.) That rougher surface made the ganache application more difficult, as did the tenderness of the cake. Let's just say these cakes wouldn't have won any beauty prizes. The ganache ran out as I moved to the Texas muffin versions, and as I was out of cream, making an additional batch of ganache was out. The Texas muffin versions just got shorted.

Raspberries were not to hand and sister-in-law already had strawberries, so we went with that for the red berry. These particular strawberries were huge, and so the plan to balance them atop the Maryann cakelets was abandoned in favor of the berry on the side, and a nice dollop of whipped cream in the depression atop the cake.

Tasting comments: All favorable: it's chocolate, with strawberry and whipped cream. What's not to like? Sister-in-law found it nicely not too sweet, as did the nephew. Older niece stuck to a succinct "It's good." My brother noted, as did I, that the interior of the cake was really a little dry. I attribute that to the cakelet form--in a fairly thin, single layer cake as Rose had envisioned this one, the ganache glaze would have penetrated most of the cake. In my more compact cakelets, you get some bites of cake without any ganache to provide the moisture and richness. 'S OK, a little extra whipped cream helps out. However, on the remaining 4 cakelets from the Texas muffin pan that got shorted on the ganache, I may pull out some leftover white chocolate buttercream and give them a little frosting filling.

Monday, February 8, 2010

RHC: True Orange Génoise

True Orange GénoiseI only had an assembly job for this week's cake for the Heavenly Cakes Bake-Along. The génoise had been made two weeks ago when I made the White Gold Passion Génoise (still haven't blogged that one), and my first attempt at the génoise didn't get as tall as the recipe said it should. OK, I'll go ahead and admit that the second try didn't either, but both cakes worked out fine in the end. Knowing that the True Orange Génoise was coming up, I froze the first attempt. The orange curd was made when I first found sour oranges--that must have been the same weekend as the passionfruit cake baking. The syrup was made this past week when I again found sour oranges at the farmers' market, my extras from the first purchase having done that 'instantly blue with mold' trick they seem prone to. That left only the ganache for actual cooking this weekend.

(Which was good, because I made another cake this weekend for a charity auction...need to blog that separately too.)

True Orange GénoiseBack to the True Orange Génoise. The cake, as I mentioned, didn't get close to Rose's expected 2 inches high--more like a little over one inch. The texture seemed fine, and perhaps the lower rise made the resulting cake easier to handle once brushed with syrup.

The orange curd presented no difficulties in the original making, then kept fine in the fridge with plastic wrap pressed to the surface and in a tightly covered container. I let it warm up a little before using, for ease of spreading. The syrup was a snap, just bringing the sour orange juice and some sugar to a boil, cooling it down, and stirring in Triple Sec.

True Orange GénoiseFor the cake assembly, the top crust of the cake is removed, and the bottom crust in my case came off with the parchment paper that had lined the pan. The cake is split into two layers, and the tops and bottoms of both layers are brushed with the syrup. One layer goes on the cake plate, the orange curd is spread on it, and the other layer goes on top. The assembly is covered with a thin layer of ganache, then more ganache is drizzled over the top and spread on the sides.

True Orange GénoiseTrue Orange GénoiseI did find the ganache instructions confusing. The preparation instructions say to cool it until it reaches a soft frosting consistency. I went on the 'thin' side of this, for easier spreading of a 'very thin coat' to the cake. But the next instruction is to drizzle fine lines of ganache over the top of the cake, implying that the ganache is still quite thin. Mine was nowhere close to 'drizzlable', so I warmed a tablespoon or so for the drizzling. Lastly, the recipe says to cool the remaining ganache, stirring occasionally, 'until thick enough to lift with a small metal spatula'. Hmmm...I really don't know what consistency that would be--I could have called my first spreading consistency that thick. My ganache was actually stiff by the time I'd finished my drizzling, and I ended up warming it slightly as well to be able to spread it without damaging the cake.

I did dry some orange slices for a garnish, which was very easy. The first half day of drying I used my warming drawer then moved them to the oven with the light on for another full day. The resulting slices were very pretty, though the thinner slices curled a lot.

Tasting results: Quite mixed. My sister-in-law and I both found that the flavors didn't blend, with the curd dominating the center bites to the exclusion of anything else. The curd is a wonderful thing, don't get me wrong, but it was too much for the cake in those bites. The edge bites, with a thicker ganache layer, were all that gave a chocolate/orange mix to the taste buds, and to me there was almost too much chocolate there. That was at a tasting perhaps 6 hours after the cake was put together, and I suspect the flavors needed a little more time to blend. Older niece took a bite or two and returned the plate with the rest, saying "it isn't good". I don't think I got a comment from younger niece, who was eating a little later than the rest of us. Nephew returned a cleaned plate, but said "I didn't really like the flavor". The positive vote was from my brother, who thought the central bites of the cake had just the right amount of chocolate, and who really liked the orange flavor.

Today at the office all reviews were positive--either a less-critical audience, or the cake flavors had blended. Or perhaps my ganache layer was too thin on top, and thus too heavy on the sides on at least some of the pieces we ate last night. There was some variation in my spreading, and I'm wondering if the piece my brother got had just a little more ganache on the top of it. If not, we'll just chalk it up to different strokes for different folks.

True Orange Génoise
True Orange GénoiseTrue Orange Génoise
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True Orange GénoiseTrue Orange GénoiseTrue Orange Génoise

Monday, February 1, 2010

RHC: Individual Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes

Individual Pineapple Upside-Down CakesThe cake of the week for the Heavenly Cake Bakers is from the "Cakelets" chapter, which encompasses traditional cupcakes, financiers and other things baked in ingot-shaped pans, tartlets--well, all things baked in individual serving sized pieces. (For various values of 'serving'.) It's also the first time I've ever made a pineapple upside-down cake, that not being a combination that calls to me. Nothing objectionable, you understand, but there are other fruits I'll always choose over pineapple, and the usual gooey layer of brown sugar and butter doesn't appeal all that much either. I'll generally choose a plain cinnamon roll over a sticky bun, too...

Individual Pineapple Upside-Down CakesFirst up was the decision of what to bake these in. I wasn't going to procure the custom Nordic Ware mini-pineapple pan, so the hunt was on for something (preferably something already in my house) that had a diameter of about 3 inches and a capacity of at least 7 ounces. I had tartlet pans of about that diameter, but too shallow to safely contain the cake. I finally decided on a "Texas muffin pan", a super-sized muffin with about a 1 cup capacity. The main drawback is that it has a decided slope to the sides, and the base of the muffin is only 2 1/4". But, hey, that's where the pineapple slice goes, and I wasn't out to maximize the pineapple content. I went with it.

Individual Pineapple Upside-Down CakesNext challenge was the pineapple itself. I bought a cored and peeled pineapple at a local farmers' market, choosing based on ripeness, and sliced it thinly. The best way to trim the slices down to fit in my muffin pan was to grab a ruffled cookie cutter set in graduated sizes, find the closest match to my pan, and punch out the smaller-diameter pieces. That went smoothly until I noticed that the automatic coring had missed the actual pineapple core, so each of my slices had a fibrous section of core. Grrr....I cut another set of 6 slices, and used 2 halves, without the fibrous area, to put in each muffin cup.

Individual Pineapple Upside-Down CakesIndividual Pineapple Upside-Down CakesOnce the pineapple slicing was done, I laid out my pineapple and cherries (to fill the core hole in the pineapple) on paper towels to remove any extra moisture, and made the caramel topping that goes in the pan first. Turbinado sugar, butter, and a little lime juice, caramelized--that went smoothly. The caramel went in the pans, then the pineapple and cherries, then I was on to the cake itself. The cake is a butter cake with yogurt, using turbinado sugar for some extra flavor. The batter mixed up easily, and I distributed it among the cupcakes with a scale to help even the amounts--Rose provided the weight needed. The cakes baked up nicely though with pretty high domes, probably because of the deep muffin cups. The result when I turned the cakes out was rather like pineapple-topped baseballs--they rolled a little on the counter, and some pineapple pieces slid down and had to be replaced.

Individual Pineapple Upside-Down CakesThe last component of the recipe is the only one that gave me any trouble: the pineapple caramel drizzle. I got the sugar syrup (turbinado sugar and some pineapple juice) to 300 degrees, added the additional pineapple juice, then checked the temperature. The recipe said to put it back on the heat and boil until it was reduced to 1/2 to 2/3 cup and reached 140 degrees. Mine was over 140 degrees when it went back on the stove, but I decided to go ahead and reduce it some. It worked out, as I had a thick but pourable sauce in the end. Very dark caramel, though!

Taste test: this one was well received next door. Younger niece and my brother liked the balance of flavors. Nephew said it was very sweet (he's absorbing the idea that the rest of his family generally finds things "too sweet"...but it doesn't seem to interfere with his appetite). I also liked the flavor and the balance between the topping and the cake, and thought that my decision to slice the pineapple thinly suited the taste I wanted. The two people at work who got the remaining cakelets just said "really good". Oh, and when younger niece came over this evening in search of "cake" (type unspecified), she asked if there was any left over. Alas, it had all gone.

I'll post another cake from RHC tomorrow or the next day--I made the chocolate ice-cream cake for a co-worker's birthday. We're having the celebration at the office tomorrow.