Monday, 14 December 2015

Vanilla Gingerbread Cake with Chai Mascarpone Buttercream

Happy December! There are only 11 days until Christmas and I can barely contain myself. Do I even want to contain my self though, if holiday excitement gets transformed into winter-themed cake? I don't think so. December has already been crazy busy but a good kind of busy - the type of busy that stems from recipe testing, cake baking while listening to Christmas songs, and searching for winter florals and woodland-themed knick knacks for blog photos. Not too bad, right? Despite being super busy with his schedule, Victor was still able to take these photos, edit over 160 of them (!!), and send them to me all within a week. Ugh, Victor is so great.

We did these photos together last weekend while listening to the local radio station that plays exclusively Christmas music during the month of December. We sang along to all the familiar tunes when I wasn't too occupied by stuffing my face with chai mascarpone buttercream. I did have some cake in between the spoonfuls of buttercream but to me, nothing beats mascarpone. 

Before we got started, I had some trouble deciding what kind of cake layers I wanted to make for this winter cake. I knew I wanted something that had a lot of warm spices, something that tastes "winter-y." I was toying around with the idea of a dark molasses cake because I saw a very enticing recipe featured on Food52. Then I thought to myself, I don't really like molasses in large or very potent doses - maybe I don't want to eat an entire cake tasting like that (ha!). I knew I also wanted to have some honey graham flavours in there too. Since I am the most indecisive person, I went with a cake layer that has flavours reminiscent of the classic honey graham cracker with a touch of molasses and gingerbread spices. You still get a prominent molasses flavour but when this cake layer is sandwiched between two layers of a classic vanilla cake, it is rendered more familiar and approachable. The vanilla cake mellows it down and when you get a bit of vanilla cake and a bit of graham-molasses cake in one bite, its quite heavenly. 

Buying all the florals and decorations for the table and the cake was one of the highlights for me. I never really know how the "spread" is going to look, I just grab whatever I think fits the theme of the cake. I have had my eye on this acacia wood serving platter for a while but resisted the urge to buy it over numerous occasions. When Victor said he would be more than excited to do a winter/woodland-themed shoot, I knew I had to get it. The wood serving platter is from Chapters, the pinecones are from a craft store, and all the florals and Christmas tree trimmings (that's what all the greenery is!) are from a local grocer. 

I hope you get a lot of holiday baking done this holiday season. Warmest wishes and eat lots of cake!

Vanilla Gingerbread Cake with Chai Mascarpone Buttercream 

Classic Vanilla Cake
205g unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
200 ml milk
2 teaspoon vanilla

Gingerbread Cake
68g unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup graham crumbs
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
70 ml milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Chai Mascarpone Buttercream
250g mascarpone
227g unsalted butter
3 cups icing sugar
Two chai tea bags
Pinch of salt

Sugared Raspberries + Rosemary
Raspberries (or any berries, really)
Egg white
Granulated sugar

Vanilla Cake
Preheat oven to 350F and grease two cake pans.

In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment cream the butter and sugar together. Gradually add in the eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk to combine flour, baking powder, and salt.

Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture and mix on slow to combine. Pour in the milk  and add in the remaining of the dry ingredients.

Divide the mixture evenly among the two prepared cake pans and bake for 33-35 minutes. The baking time really depends on the size of your cake pan. Check for doneness a few minutes before the 33 minute mark by using a toothpick - if the toothpick comes out clean, you're good to go! You can also test for doneness by gently pressing your finger on the cake - it should spring back up.

Gingerbread Graham Cake
Preheat oven to 350F and grease one cake pan.

In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment cream the butter and sugar together. Add molasses. Then add in the egg and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk to combine flour, graham crumbs, spices, baking powder, and salt.

Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture and mix on slow to combine. Pour in the milk  and add in the remaining of the dry ingredients.

Baking time is the same as for the vanilla cake.

Chai Mascarpone Buttercream
In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment combine the mascarpone and butter. Throw in the chai tea leaves and a pinch of salt. Mix on high until mixture is pale in colour and fluffy. Add the icing sugar, one cup at a time and mix until well-combined.

Sugared Berries and Rosemary
In a small bowl, whisk egg white until no longer stringy and gloopy (I know, professional vocabulary usage right there). Using a pastry brush, paint a light coat of egg white on the berries and rosemary sprigs. Make sure there are no large clumps of egg white on your berries or else they won't dry properly. Gently roll them in the sugar and place on parchment paper. Let them dry overnight and they will be ready the next morning.

Photography & Editing || Victor Yuen
Ring & Pretty Things || Foe and Dear

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Sour Cream Chocolate Bundt Cakes + Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake Truffles

Hi. Hello. Remember me? I still exist.

It has been so long since I have typed up a blog post that I do not really remember how to do it anymore. I actually had to look up my old posts to remind myself how I format these posts. Victor and I worked on the content for this post quite a while back but we both got so busy (when I say “we” I mean Victor because let’s be honest, I’m never actually busy...only busy eating avocado toast). We shot this maybe…a few months ago? Might as well be an eternity though. But I promise, that the next post will not take another few months. I already started brainstorming ideas for the next post. It will involve lots of cake, popcorn, sprinkles, and magic. 

So let’s talk bundt cakes. I have always loved the look of bundt cakes but they always scream ‘commitment’ to me because they are so abnormally large of a cake. It’s not that a have any trouble finishing an entire cake myself, but I just like having smaller looking portions of cake so I feel less guilty eating more portions of it, ha! So when I saw this mini bundt cake pan at the store, I squealed. I squealed from the baking aisle all the way home. You mean I can make bundt cakes that aren't colossal in size and are easy to share? You mean I can make it a super rich chocolate cake and top it with more chocolate...and even more chocolate? You mean I can combine any cake scraps with peanut butter (aka nectar of the gods) and make little parcels of bliss? *Cue squealing again* Okay. Done deal. 
These cake truffles, or as I like to call them, parcels of bliss are so easy to make. So easy that posting “instructions” for them is kind of embarrassing. Making cake truffles or cake pops is a great way to use up leftover cake, older cake that’s kinda dry, or cake scraps. All you need is to crumble up the cake and add something that can bind the crumbs, like frosting or peanut butter. I used the cake scraps I had leftover from levelling the bottom of the cakes. I recommend that you cover these little chocolate cake balls with chocolate so you can get more chocolate into your daily diet.
Oh, you know what else is easy to make? My newest obsession, homemade cake toppers. I usually like to decorate cakes and pies I make with fresh florals and berries but these usual suspects did not really go well with the bundt cakes. Instead, to make cute little bundt cakes even cuter, I made little sparkly whales and ‘YAY’ cake toppers to decorate them. But of course, I still needed to have some fresh flowers on the table. Victor and I always go to the market for fresh flowers before we shoot so we could not break that tradition. We still got some neutral white flowers for the table. To make these cake toppers all you need is some sparkly card stock, some skewer sticks, and glue. While you are finishing the rest of this post, I will be over there making more sparkly cake toppers for the next blog post. Eep.

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake with White Chocolate Glaze

Sour cream chocolate cake:
Adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod
225g (1 cup) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
40g (1/3 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup water
300g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
300g (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/3 teaspoon espresso powder
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt)
1.5 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

White chocolate glaze:
113g (4 oz.) white chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 c heavy cream

Peanut butter chocolate cake truffles:
4 cups of cake crumbs from recipe above
1/2 cup of peanut butter, warmed
Chocolate, sprinkles, magic (optional)

Chocolate cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the cake pan and set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine the butter, cocoa powder, salt, and water and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring, just until melted and combined. Remove from the heat and set aside to let mixture cool down a bit.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, espresso powder, and baking soda. Add half of the melted butter mixture and whisk until completely blended. The mixture will be thick. Add the remaining butter mixture and whisk until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking until completely blended. Whisk in the sour cream and the vanilla extract until smooth. Pour batter into the bundt cake pan. Fill up each cavity ¾ full and don’t overfill.
Bake until a toothpick inserted near the center of a cake comes out clean, about 30 - 33 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cakes cool upright in the pan for 10 minutes, then gently tap the pan on a work surface to loosen the cakes.
White chocolate glaze
While the cake is cooling, make the chocolate glaze. Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan and over medium heat. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk until smooth.

Generously drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. Before the chocolate completely cools, sprinkle with chopped nuts, sprinkles, whatever you like! I chose some homemade honey toasted hazelnuts and chopped chocolate peanut butter cups.

Cake truffles:
Crumble the cake scraps with your fingers or a fork. A loose crumb will be good.
Warm the peanut butter in the microwave until it is no longer firm (roughly 30 seconds).

Spoon the peanut butter into the bowl of cake crumbs and mix thoroughly until there are no more loose crumbs at the bottom of the bowl.

Using a spoon or an ice cream scoop, scoop out equal portions of the peanut butter cake mixture. Roll into balls and if you like, you can dip the cake balls into some melted chocolate to form a truffle. Decorate with sprinkles or chopped nuts before the chocolate shell completely hardens.

Photography & Editing || Victor Yuen