Sunday, May 1, 2016

Coffee Crunch Cake

I KNOW...I KNOW.  I have been missing in action for a while now.  I am aware that many of you have already been wondering what has become of me.  Well, I'm still here! Just way too busy to stop or even pause to post something new! I have a little time to kill at the moment (while waiting to pick up my daughter from work so late at night) so I thought of doing some updating. Not that much time to write something entirely new BUT the good news is, I actually have a completed post that has been sitting in my drafts folder for months now! I don't really remember why I never got around to publishing it. So better now when I have the chance, correct?

It's another cake hack!

Image credit: Red Ribbon Bakeshop website
That's Red Ribbon Bakeshop's coffee crunch cake (of course, you knew that already).  Here's the copycat I made for my husband's birthday last November.


Now here's how to make it. (Sorry for being so direct.  Told you, I didn't have that much time on my hands.)  Anyway, enjoy!

COFFEE CRUNCH CAKE (makes one 8" cake)

This cake has four components: the vanilla chiffon, the whipped cream frosting, the caramel sauce, and the coffee crunch. Don't be intimidated! Save for the frosting, the three other elements can be made ahead so that's less stress! 

Make days head:

1. 8" vanilla chiffon cake - recipe here.  Freeze then thaw about an hour before you plan to frost it.

2. The COFFEE CRUNCH:

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup strong coffee
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon baking soda, sifted

Line a baking tray with baking paper or silpat.

In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil. Clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan. Cook over medium heat to just below the hard-crack stage (310 deg F or 155 deg C).

Remove from heat. Sprinkle the baking soda evenly over sugar syrup. Whisk just until combined. 

Pour immediately onto the prepared baking sheet. Do not spread. Let stand until cool and hard, about 30 minutes.


Break into approximately 1/2" pieces.  Keep in an airtight container until ready to use.


3. The CARAMEL SAUCE:

Ingredients:

3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons thickened cream (or heavy whipping cream)
pinch of salt

In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan and over medium heat, melt the sugar until it is golden amber in colour.  You can move the pan from side to side to ensure even melting but do not stir the sugar.

Slowly pour the cream down the side of the pan.  The mixture will bubble up and splatter.  Mix with a spoon until smooth. Add in the salt.

Transfer the caramel sauce to a container.  Let cool completely, cover, then refrigerate.  Bring to room temperature before using.



To assemble this cake:

1. Make a batch of stable whipped cream frosting (recipe here).

2. Cut your cake horizontally in half then place top layer, cut side up on your cake board.  

Fill a large piping bag fitted with a large star tip with some whipped cream frosting then pipe a dam around the cake edge. Spread some whipped cream on the space inside the dam.


3.  Fill the cake center generously with coffee crunch pieces.


4.  Cover the center with more whipped cream.


5.  Top with the remaining cake half, cut side down.  Frost the entire cake then run a cake comb around the cake side.


6.  With the same bag and star tip you used for making the dam in step 2, pipe large stars around the cake top, about 1/2" in from the edge.


7.  Put some runny, room temperature caramel sauce in a small piping bag. (If your caramel sauce has thickened too much from refrigeration, take a small amount and microwave it for just a few seconds to make it more liquid BUT not hot.)  Cut a small bit off the tip of your piping bag then drizzle all around the cake edge.


8.  Fill another small piping bag with thick caramel sauce.  Snip a little bit off the end again then pipe spirals on top of each star on the cake top.


8.  Just before serving, fill the cake center with lots of coffee crunch. (Once the coffee crunch is exposed to air and moisture, it will shrink and melt and become a sticky mess so DO NOT place it on the cake until you are ready to serve.)


Friday, February 19, 2016

Piping stars

I don't buy fondant or gumpaste anymore.  For my purpose (which is just to mould simple figures or cut out letters), it's simply a complete waste of money.  I buy a whole packet, use up only a little bit, then keep the excess, which in most likelihood will be past its expiry date before it's to be needed again. So, I'm not buying that thing ever again.

Lately, I've taken a liking to piping stars with buttercream instead! The process is a bit back-breaking BUT the results are as effective and beautiful as using say, an edible image or fondant cutouts.

Spongebob Squarepants
Minecraft creeper
George Pig
Deadpool

I have actually done this technique several times before (ex.  this Hello Kitty cake and this Octonaut cake) but it is only lately that I have really come to enjoy it plus I think my piping has gotten a little better too!

To do this type of cake, all you really need is an image to copy from. Also, a small star tip (#16) is best as it will give a more even and not too thick layer of icing on top. For more detailed designs, it might be good to trace it into the crumb-coated cake.  But for simpler ones, like the Deadpool cake above, doing it freehand is no problem at all.  I used to think this was difficult but really, once you have outlined the image, all you will need to do is fill them in with stars, much like colouring by numbers.  How hard can that be?

Try it sometime.  You will love it!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Watercolour buttercream cakes

Over the weekend, I had to make the cakes for my niece's big 18th birthday party. Just as with her older sister's cake, I was given free rein with everything, from the cake flavours down to decorating. Sometimes I find it hard when I am not given any idea of what I exactly need to do.  When this happens, I always look for inspiration from the invite design.

Unfortunately, I can't show the actual invitation here but to describe it simply, the background had splashes of watercolours in violet, electric purple and olive green. I've seen watercolour cakes on Pinterest, so I thought, why not do that! Admittedly, although it seemed easy enough, I was afraid to try this technique because I've never done it before.  What if the colours don't blend properly? What if it turns out messy? What if my niece doesn't like it?

Well, after all that was said and done, I'm soooooo happy that I decided to it.



Instead of doing a 3-tiered cake, I made three separate ones, all in Neapolitan flavours of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate, and frosted in Swiss meringue buttercream.

Here is the 6" cake...


...the 9" cake


...and the 12" cake.


All in all, it was a great experience doing these cakes and I won't hesitate to do something like this again in the future.  The three cakes looked beautiful together and everyone loved them!

If you'd like to try this technique, there are loads of tutorials on the web.  These are the ones I found most helpful - here and here.

A good week to all of you!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Prune Walnut Cake

Today, the 27th of October 2015, would have been my mother's 91st birthday.  She passed away more than 6 years ago but my memories of that sad trip back home on February of 2009 has remained vivid to me like it happened just yesterday.  Before I headed back to Melbourne, a brother asked me to look through my mom's things to see if I had wanted anything.  I took with me the simplest of things...mostly things that reminded me much of my childhood - her 1960s pinking shears, a rusty, broken Our of  Lady of Lourdes rosary (which I quickly repaired when I got home), old photographs, hers and my dad's wedding rings (for safekeeping), and this tattered cookbook...

Nora Daza's Let's Cook with Nora
The fact that I can remember this book in our kitchen shelf from when I was a child must mean that it's likely a first edition (the book being first published in 1969).  Surely, I have browsed through these pages hundreds and hundreds of times in my lifetime!  

One of the cake recipes in the book is that of a prune cake. To be honest, I never was interested in trying out this cake BUT since it's my mom's birthday and I particularly remember that she loved snacking on prunes, I thought, why not?



If you are familiar with the prune walnut cake of Becky's Kitchen, then you'd most likely recognize this. 

Actual prune walnut cake of Becky's Kitchen (Image credit: Flickr)

To make the cake this way, I did not follow Nora Daza's recipe to a T. First of all, I had to obviously add walnuts to the cake batter. Also, I had to scale the recipe down as I only wanted a small cake.  

One thing I found unnecessary was stewing the prunes (as instructed in the recipe) because the prunes I bought were already pitted and very soft (as in mashable soft).  


I made a few other minor changes to some of the other ingredients then I was ready to bake.  If you are skeptical like I was before about a cake with prunes, then you have got to just trust me on this one - you will love it! The cake is tender and moist and because it has prunes, it must be good for you, right? :)

PRUNE WALNUT CAKE (suitable for a 7x7 pan)

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup caster sugar, divided
2 large eggs, separated
3/8 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup soft, pitted prunes, chopped/mashed
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

**optional: 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (if you like a touch of cinnamon taste to your cake!)

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 180 degC. Grease and flour a 7x7 cake pan and line the bottom with baking paper. 
In a small bowl, whisk  cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (and ground cinnamon, if using). 
In a mixing bowl, using a paddle attachment, cream butter and 1/2 cup of the caster sugar until light and fluffy. 
Add in the eggyolks one at a time. 
In three additions, beat in the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately. 
Blend in the prunes and beat just until combined. 



In a separate bowl, whisk the eggwhites until frothy. Gradually add in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Beat until eggwhites form stiff peaks.


Fold eggwhites into flour mixture in three additions. With the last addition, fold in the walnuts as well. 




Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean and/or the cake sides are just starting to pull away from the pan.  Do not overbake!



Take cake out of the oven and let rest in a wire rack for about 10 minutes then invert and release from pan. Let cool completely in the wire rack.

NOTE: Unlike chiffon, this cake does not rise much so don't expect a tall cake!

To assemble the cake:

1. Make Swiss meringue buttercream using the procedure here but with these ingredients:

2 eggwhites
1/2 cup white sugar
150 grams unsalted butter, softened
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract


Alternatively, you can opt to make the easier Old-fashioned butter icing with these ingredients:

150 grams unsalted butter, softened
pinch of salt
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2.  Fit a smalll piping bag with a petal tip 104. Or if you have a ruffle tip 88 (like the one I used), you can also choose that.  Fill it with about 1/2 cup of the buttercream.

This is tip 88.

3.  Beat in 1/3-1/2 cup of mashed prunes into the remaining buttercream.  Now you have a prune flavoured version!


4.  Cut your cake horizontally in half.  Place top half, cut side up, on a cake board.


5.  Spread a thin layer of prune buttercream.


6.  Top with the other cake half, cut side down.


7.  Cover the whole cake with the rest of the prune buttercream,  (I skipped crumb coating this time.)


8.  Using  a cake comb, make wavy patterns on the cake sides and top.




9.  Using the buttercream in your piping bag, pipe ruffles/garlands along the cake sides.


10.  Divide the cake top into three sections by piping straight ruffles from bottom to top.


11.  Take 6 whole pitted prunes, flatten them slightly and cut 2 slits on one side of each.


12. Arrange half walnuts and prunes alternately on top of the straight ruffles.



Yey, that's it!  A prune walnut cake that looks similar (and hopefully) tastes just like Becky's Kitchen's!



Give it a go!