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We’re moving over to Blogger!

March 6, 2011

Hi all!

 

Be sure to follow us over to our new blog at touchofclasscakes.blogspot.com.  Become a follower of the new blog as well as our fan on FB and Twitter.  We appreciate your dedication and hope to hear from you on the new blog!

 

Happy baking!

Christina & Meghan

Construction in the kitchen: making a cake support structure

March 1, 2011

Hi all!

So in the next couple of weeks, we are making our fist 3-D cake (right now, it is a top-secret project) and we have been hard at work planning the project, especially since it needs to be well supported.

If you’ve ever watched any of the major cake decorating shows on television, such as “Ace of Cakes” or “Cake Boss” you would have seen Chef Duff and Chef Buddy creating 3-D cakes that used support structures made of PVC pipes, plywood, etc.  Our up-coming project requires such a structure, so we headed out to get the supplies necessary to pull it off.  Did we go to Michael’s or AC Moore or even our local decorating shop, Sweet N Fancy?  Nope.

We went to Home Depot.

That’s right.  We shopped for our supplies at our friendly local home improvement retailer.  For this particular project, we couldn’t use a regular cake board because it just wouldn’t hold up under the weight of the cake (we are guessing it will exceed 30 pounds when it is all done).  Instead, we needed some MDF (AKA medium-density fibreboard), a length of water-safe PVC pipe, a plumbing flange, and some wood screws.  Oh yeah, and a jig saw – our first power tool in the kitchen, if you don’t count our gorgeous and over-worked Kitchen Aid stand mixers.  Watch out, Duff, because here we come! 🙂

So how did we make these supplies into a cake structure?  Fairly easily (once Christina figured out how to work the jig saw, that is)!  Here are the steps we followed:

  1. Scribe (or trace) the shape needed on the MDF (use a graphite pencil, which is food-safe).
  2. Use the jig saw to cut it out (MDF makes a huge mess of very fine powder when you saw it, so be sure to work outside and wear safety goggles and a mask to cover your mouth).
  3. Center the flange and mark where the screws will go with a graphite pencil.
  4. Drill holes (using a drill gun) where you marked in Step 3.
  5. Screw the flange in with the wood screws using a Phillips head screwdriver.
  6. Insert the PVC pipe into the flange, making sure you have a tight fit.  If you don’t, use some white plumbers tape and wrap the end of the pipe until you can insert it into the flange and it doesn’t wiggle.

Voila, you’re done! 

Here is our finished structure, with the base covered in fondant and awaiting the cake.

Our very first support structure for a tall, 3D cake (to be revealed soon)!

 

Stay tuned for a pic of the revealed secret project in the next couple of weeks!

In the meantime, happy structure building and baking!

Christina and Meghan

February “Daring Bakers Challenge”: Panna Cotta and Florentine cookies

February 27, 2011

Hi all!

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

I will admit that I had never made either panna cotta (nor had I eaten it, although I’d had its cousins, creme brulee and crema catalana) or Florentine cookies.  Still, the recipes seemed easy enough, so I endeavored to make both at once and during the same weekend I baked eight 8″ chocolate cake rounds for an up-coming project as well as three dozen cupcakes for my middle child’s birthday, made liege waffles (see previous post) for Sunday breakfast AND Kobe burgers with homemade mac ‘n’ cheese for dinner.  Phew!

Needless to say, my kitchen was a busy place to be, but well worth it in the end for my family because they got some seriously good eats out of it!

Here are some pics of my Florentine cookies with my vanilla panna cotta, as well as the recipes I used for both.  As much as I love Giada DiLaurentiis (hers was the suggested recipe), I went with a panna cotta recipe that used real vanilla beans rather than honey, but I did use the Nestle recipe for the Florentines.

I hope you enjoy the pics and the recipes too!

Happy baking!

Christina

 

My Florentine cookies all on their own.

My panna cotta all on its own - the mason jar is a cute serving dish for it!

The final presentation - a beautiful pairing of pannacotta with mixed berries and Florentine cookies!

 

 

Easy Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

(Recipe from Chef E. Michael Reidt and Food & Wine.com)

Ingredients:

1 quart (4 cups) heavy cream

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped

1 tablespoon unflavored powdered gelatin*

3 tablespoons of water

Mixed berries, for serving (I prefer fresh strawberries and blueberries)

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds. Bring the mixture just to a simmer over moderate heat. Remove from the heat, cover and let steep for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand until evenly moistened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Uncover the cream mixture and bring just to a simmer over moderately high heat. Remove from heat, add the gelatin and stir until dissolved. Remove the vanilla bean and save for another use. Pour the panna cotta mixture into eight 4-ounce ramekins and let cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the panna cotta is set but still jiggly, at least 3 hours. Serve in the ramekins, with berries.

*I used Knox brand, sold in a white box in the baking section of most supermarkets.

*               *                *                *               *               *               *               *               *               *               *               *

Nestle Florentine cookies

(Recipe from the cookbook “Nestle Classic Recipes”, and their website)

Ingredients:
2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm) (5.3 oz) unsalted butter
2 cups (480 ml) (160 gm) (5 2/3 oz) quick oats
1 cup (240 ml) (230 gm) (8 oz) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) (95 gm) (3⅓ oz) plain (all purpose) flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) dark corn syrup
1/4 cup (60 ml) whole milk
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1½ cups (360 ml) (250 gm) (9 oz) dark or milk chocolate

Directions:
Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F (190°C) (gas mark 5). Prepare your baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.

1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan, then remove from the heat.

2. To the melted butter add oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Drop a tablespoon full, three inches (75 mm) apart, onto your prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of your tablespoon, or use a spatula.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheets.

4. While the cookies are cooling melt your chocolate until smooth either in the microwave (1 1/2 minutes), or stovetop (in a double boiler, or a bowl that fits atop a saucepan filled with a bit of water, being sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl).

5. Peel the cookies from the silpat or parchment and place face down on a wire rack set over a sheet of wax/parchment paper (to keep counters clean).

6. Spread a tablespoon of chocolate on the bottom/flat side of your cookie, sandwiching another (flat end) cookie atop the chocolate.

This recipe will make about 2 1/2 – 3 dozen sandwiched Florentine cookies. You can also choose not to sandwich yours, in which case, drizzle the tops with chocolate (over your wax paper).

Sunday morning breakfast: liege waffles

February 27, 2011

Hi all!

It is tradition in the Corlett household to have a nice sit-down breakfast on the weekends, particularly on Sunday mornings.  After the hubub of the week, when there is just enough time to scarf down a bowl of boxed cereal, this is a welcome and much-needed change.  Scrambled eggs, bacon, overnight French toast (I love Paula Deen’s “Baked French Toast Casserole with Maple Syrup“), and homemade waffles and pancakes are popular items on our regular menu.  We’ve even made frittatas and quiches, but since we have three young children with simple palates, these items don’t make a regular appearance, much to our chagrin.

However, one evening recently when Tim and I were cuddling on the couch watching television, we saw an episode of “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” on the Food Network that had us excited to try something new.  Well, not new per se, but a new variation on something old.  The episode was called “Wafels and Dinges Truck” (watch it here on Hulu) and featured a man named Thomas DeGeest, who owns and operates a Belgian waffle truck in NYC – check out his site here.

https://i0.wp.com/www.adrants.com/images/waffles_dinges.jpg

Thomas DeGeest's Wafels and Dinges truck

Bobby’s challenge was to recreate a liege waffle that rivaled that of Thomas, a native Belgian.  It was pretty clear from the start that Thomas would win this one since Bobby had never made a liege waffle in his life and people have been flocking to Thomas’s truck for years.  Still, it was an interesting one for Tim and I had never heard of liege waffles either (check out a brief history on these delicious creations here).

We decided we just had to make these for Sunday breakfast but hit a couple of major roadblocks.

Roadblock #1: In the episode both Thomas and Bobby used pearl sugar to make the waffles.  They both made it clear that without this particular sugar, these waffles simply could not be made properly.  But where to get pearl sugar, something else we had never heard of?

Pearl sugar, up-close and personal!

Never fear, the Internet is here!  I Googled sugar pearls and found a great site called “Sweden’s Best” where I purchased 3-lbs of pearl sugar for $12 plus shipping.  So for less than $20, I had my secret ingredient and was anxiously awaiting its arrival so I could make these beauties.  Thanks to Sweden’s Best’s fabulous customer service, I had my pearl sugar in hand by Friday (I had placed my order the Sunday before, so less than a week!) and was ready to cook.

Roadblock #2: I didn’t have a recipe.  Bobby lost the Throwdown, so as much as I love him, I wasn’t willing to use his recipe for this, especially after all of the trouble I had gone through to get the special ingredient (well, not so much trouble, but you get the idea…).  So back to Google I went and finally hit on a recipe that I was willing to try.

I found a post by a woman whose husband was a chef, and after they had traveled together to Belgium and tasted liege waffles, they set out to recreate them.  After much trial and error, they came up with the “perfect” recipe, so I decided to give it a try.  Here is their recipe and below are pictures of my adventure making these waffles, as well as the final, beautiful result.

I hope you give liege waffles a try because once you do, no other waffle will ever pass your lips again!

(P.S.  To all of my Cranford friends:  if you have ever had a waffle at Rockn’ Joe, those are as close to the liege waffle was you will get around here without a trip to Manhattan.  They used to be great when they served them fresh, but now you can only get them pre-made and wrapped to go – not nearly as good!)

Happy baking!

Christina

The batter as it sat, waiting to double in size.

The batter once it had risen and with pearl sugar added. It is now ready to go into the hot waffle iron!

The plated final product, topped with fresh berries, whipped cream, and a dusting of powdered sugar. Yum!!

An up-close look at the fluffy texture of the liege waffle. Now go and make your own! 🙂

“Ace of Cakes” series finale

February 25, 2011

Hi all!

It is with a heavy heart that we announce the end of the series “Ace of Cakes” starring Chef Duff Goldman and his crew of talented and quirky cake decorators.

His bakery – Charm City Cakes – is still up and running as strong as ever, as a matter of fact, with rumors flying of a West Coast location coming soon.  For ten seasons, Duff and company have wowed us time after time with incredible edible creations.  Now, ending on a high note with a spectacular “Back to the Future” 25th anniversary cake (below), the talented cakesters make their final bow and quietly exit stage left.

The finale aired on February 20th, and other than a few promos that revealed it, not one mention was made during the episode of the end of this wonderful series.

ace-of-cakes-back-to-the-future.jpg

(photo courtesy of Eater.com)

We at ATOCC want to take this opportunity to wish Chef Duff and all of the talented folks over at Charm City Cakes the best of luck with all of their future endeavors and we hope to see you again on TV soon!  We’re going to order all ten seasons on DVD from Amazon so we can refer to them whenever we need during our own cake adventures.

Happy baking!

Christina and Meghan

Recipe sharing: Italian Cream Cake

February 20, 2011

Hi all!

It’s been quite a while since we posted.  Things have been busy for us, although not necessarily cake-related.  This winter in New Jersey has been a harsh, snowy, and cold one.  We’ve had lots of storms that have dumped incredible amounts of snow and ice on the Garden State.  The weather and being stuck in the house has bred germs and ailments that we found hard to fight, including migraines, strep, bronchitis, and the flu!  We are finally hale and hearty and ready to bake again – despite the fact that another cold front has hit and snow is in the forecast AGAIN!!! 😦

Last week I made this cake for my BFF’s son, Miles, who is turning 6.  He wanted Super Mario and so that is what he got.  The bottom tier was a 2-D version of a scene from the game, complete with toads, bullets, man-eating flowers, pipes, and the like.  The top was a hand-painted Mario with stars and coins as decorations.

Hand-painted top of Super Mario cake for Miles.

Side view of cake, a scene from the game.

Today is Sunday and we are headed to dinner at my MIL’s house for dinner.  Since I am the designated family baker, I am in charge of dessert.  Patricia (my MIL) is full-bread Italian and so today we can expect a big Italian spread.  In the spirit of that, I looked for a good recipe in my library to go with the meal.  I toyed with Tiramisu, for which I would have used Giada De Laurentiis‘s recipe since she is my go-to person for delicious-but-easy Italian recipes.  I also contemplated Napoleons, which I adore but have never made and so shied away from that.

Finally, I settled on Italian Cream Cake (AKA Italian Wedding Cake), and specifically a recipe I found in one of my favorite cake books, All Cakes Considered by Melissa Gray of NPR fame.  (If you don’t have this book in your library, GO GET IT!)  It is traditionally a cake made with walnuts and coconut with a texture much like carrot cake.  The secret ingredient, I think, is the buttermilk, although all of the flavors just come together so well for this delectable dessert.

The final product is very pretty and I am sure will be delicious too.  I only deviated slightly from the recipe, using 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract  and 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract instead of the 1 teaspoon of vanilla the recipe calls for.  Why?  It just sounded yummier to me.

Here is a pic and the recipe.  Buona fortuna in making it!

 

Italian cream cake for Sunday dinner!

 

 

And of course, happy baking!

Christina

“Alma’s Italian Cream Cake” from All Cakes Considered by Melissa Gray

(P.S.  She got this recipe from Iron Chef Cat Cora)

For the cake:

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, more for greasing cake pans
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups (1 pound) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts, divided

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit each of two 9-inch round cake pans. Grease the pans with butter, fit the parchment into the pans, then grease the parchment.

To make the cake: Sift the cake flour, baking soda and salt into a medium-size bowl and set aside. In a large bowl and using a hand mixer, cream 12 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a a time, beating well after each addition. Add one-third of the dry ingredients and mix well, then add half of the buttermilk , beating on medium speed and scraping the sides of the bowl down, using a rubber spatula. Repeat, alternating the remaining dry ingredients and the buttermilk. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, the coconut and 1 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites, slowly adding the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, until the whites form stiff peaks but are not dry. By hand, fold one-third of the egg white mixture into the cake batter until it is incorporated. Fold in the next third of the egg whites; when incorporated, gently fold in the last third. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans.

Bake until the top is golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, for 30-35 minutes. Set the cakes on racks and allow them to cool completely before removing them from the pans.

To make the frosting: In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese, 8 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon vanilla at medium speed until creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating at low speed until blended. When all the ingredients are incorporated, beat the frosting at high speed until smooth. Stir in 1/2 cup toasted walnuts.

Place 1 cake layer on a serving plate, bottom side up. Ice the sides and top. Place the other cake round on top, rounded side up, and ice the top and sides. Place the frosted cake in the refrigerator to firm up the frosting. Remove the cake from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving, and press the remaining 1/2 cup toasted walnuts into the frosting on top.

Makes 10-16 servings.

Weekend baking: Snickerdoodle cookies!

January 22, 2011

Hi all!

It’s a cold winter Saturday in January and the kids and I felt like a yummy snack, so I whipped up a batch of super-easy Snickerdoodle cookies.  For those of you wondering, they are also called Snipdoodles, or simply Cinnamon Sugar Cookies.  They use basic ingredients of flour, sugar, eggs, butter, vanilla, and cinnamon so chances are you have everything on hand to make a batch tonight!

 

My late-night snack!

 

 

Here is the recipe I use, courtesy of the “Joy of Baking” website.  Enjoy!

Happy baking!

Christina

 

Snickerdoodles (Read more: http://www.joyofbaking.com/Snickerdoodles.html#ixzz1Bo81u2xi)

2 3/4 cups (360 grams) all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated white sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Coating:

1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated white sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar until smooth (about 2 to 3 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat until you have a smooth dough. If the dough is soft, cover and refrigerate until firm enough to roll into balls (one to two hours).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (190 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Shape the dough into 1 inch (2.5 cm) round balls.

Coating: In a large shallow bowl mix together the sugar and cinnamon.

Roll the balls of dough in the cinnamon sugar and place on the prepared pan, spacing about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Then, using the bottom of a glass, gently flatten each cookie to about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) thick.

Bake the cookies for about 8 – 10 minutes, or until they are light golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Can store in an airtight container, at room temperature, for about 10 – 14 days.

Makes about 6 dozen cookies.