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3 July 2018

Buttercream Succulent Cake


If you ever go to my Pinterest account you will find that I have pin boards dedicated to layer cakes, boards all about sheet cakes, and some about muffins and no-bake desserts. One of my favourite pin boards that I am constantly adding to is the one dedicated to piped buttercream flowers. I have always admired people's patience that goes into piping delicate petals with all the details. Piping buttercream flowers is something I have always had the intention of trying but I never knew how to get started and which piping tips to buy. As a result I stuck with simpler piping techniques like the ones used on the chocolate lilac cupcakes and the peanut butter and jelly birthday cake.



I recently picked up a few of Wilton's new DIY cake decorating kits, with one of them being a kit for piping simple flowers. The kit included all the piping tips and tools as well as an easy-to-follow, full-colour instruction book that shows you how to pipe all kinds of blooms like drop flowers, leaf tip flowers, petal tip flowers. While flipping the through the book, I came across a section on piping succulents (!!). The succulent section had a step by step guide on how to pipe a cute cactus with little white spikes and a pink flower on top. The first few cacti I piped were the ones demonstrated in the book. I then went rogue and played around with some other piping tips in the kit. You will find a little helpful diagram I made with all the piping tips I used for this cake below.

I would recommend using stiffer buttercream to pipe your flowers and succulents so they create crisper lines. I used a simple American buttercream for my flowers and adjusted the stiffness of the buttercream by adding either more icing sugar (stiffer) or adding more milk (softer). You could pipe directly onto the surface of your cake but I chose to pipe my cacti onto parchment paper squares that were included into kit so I could easily transfer them to the fridge to firm up. Once the flowers have firmed up in the fridge, I used an offset spatula and transferred them over to the cake. Since the flowers are firm, you can easily position and reposition them on the cake.

What I used:
Includes 9-inch straight spatula, twelve 12-inch disposable decorating bags, 3 standard couplers, decorating brush, 13 decorating tips (Round 2, 8; Star 18, 199; Drop Flower 1B, 1G, 2C, 2F, 109, 225; Leaf 352; Petal 104, 127), flower nail and 50 flower squares.

Thank you Wilton for sending over so many goodies so I can finally get started with learning to pipe buttercream flowers! For more how-to kits to help you get started, click here!







Devil's Food Cake
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup (270g) brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven at 350°F. Grease three 6-inch cake pans.

In a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Set aside.

In a mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and mix until well incorporated.

Add in the dry ingredients and start mixing on slow. Gradually add the milk and sour cream.

Divide batter evenly into three cake pans.

Bake for 26 - 29 minutes until the cake springs back when you press the top gently. Let cakes cool before removing them from pan to completely cool.

Sour Cream Chocolate Frosting
1 cup dark chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup icing sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder

Melt chocolate and butter together on top of a double broiler. Set aside and let mixture cool.

Once chocolate mixture has cooled, transfer mixture to the bowl if a mixer and combine with sour cream, vanilla, and salt.

Gradually add the icing sugar and cocoa powder and mix on low until incorporated. Turn mixer on high and mix until frosting is fluffy.

Simple Vanilla Buttercream (for piping)
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons milk
Food colouring of choice

In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter until pale and fluffy. Add vanilla.

Gradually add the icing sugar and mix until incorporated. Add milk, one tablespoon at a time.

Mix on high until buttercream is at desired consistency.

Separate buttercream into bowls to colour with food colouring.


Happy baking!

26 May 2018

Rhubarb Bakewell Tart

strawberry rhubarb bakewell tart

I’m breaking my Saturday morning ritual to write this at 9am. The farmers markets opened three weeks ago and my Saturday morning routine for the last three weeks has been precisely: wake up, get an iced coffee (which I will proceed to spill on my new white shoes), go to the farmers market, scour for any remaining bunches of lilacs of the season, buy all the ruby red stalks of rhubarb, eat ham and cheese crêpes, and repeat. I go to the market without any idea of what I am going to buy but the market is never short of inspiration. The first week of the market took place during peak lilac season, and I bought more than enough bunches of purple lilacs to last several batches of lilac cupcakes and lilac layer cakes. The two weeks following was when everyone was selling the most beautiful stalks of rhubarb. I have never really worked with rhubarb in the past and never had much desire to do so, maybe a strawberry rhubarb pie once in a while. Seeing everyone's excitement about rhubarb at the market and so many bakers' rhubarb treats on their blog pushed me to get a few stalks to play with. Strawberry rhubarb compote was the first thing to result from the vibrant red stalks and I have been slathering that compote on everything. Putting it on toast, piping it inside cupcakes, and now baking it inside a tart filled with almond frangipane and topped with even more rhubarb.

This Rhubarb Bakewell Tart is everything I wanted it to be. A sandy and buttery crust, a sweet and tart strawberry rhubarb compote layer, and a fluffy frangipane layer which has some textural similarities to cake. It is topped with more roasted rhubarb because 'tis the season. Serve warm as is or alongside a large dollop of vanilla bean-flecked whipped cream.

rhubarb stalks

strawberry rhubarb bakewell tart

strawberry rhubarb bakewell tart

strawberry rhubarb bakewell tart

strawberry rhubarb bakewell tart


Pâte Sablée
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Beat the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy.

Beat in the egg yolk and mix until fully combined.

With the mixer on low speed, beat in the salt and flour just until the dough comes together and there is no more visible flour. Careful not to over-mix. Remove dough from the bowl and press the dough into the tart pan, making sure it is evenly distributed. Using a fork, prick the bottom of the tart shell to prevent the bottom from puffing up when baking.

Wrap the pan loosely in plastic and chill 30 minutes.

Bake the tart shell at 400F until the crust is golden, approximately 10 minutes. You do not want the shell to be too brown. Remove carefully from oven and let rest on a wire rack.

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
100g rhubarb, trimmed and chopped
100g strawberries, chopped
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

In a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.

When the butter has melted, add the remaining ingredients to the pan. Allow to cook, undisturbed, for 2 minutes.

Gently stir and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is tender and juices become thick (10 to 15 minutes).

Remove from heat and let compote cool.

Almond Frangipane Filling
Adapted from Vikalinka
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Beat together sugar and butter until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until well-incorporated. Add vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together ground almonds, flour, baking powder, and salt. 

Add dry mixture to butter-sugar mixture and mix until combined.

Rhubarb Stalks
5 large stalks rhubarb, trimmed
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F

In a large bowl, toss together rhubarb, sugar, and vanilla. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Transfer mixture to a parchment lined baking tray and bake for 20 minutes, until rhubarb is tender to the fork.

Remove from oven and let rhubarb cool.

Assembly
Preheat oven to 350F.

Evenly spread compote on cooked tart shell.

Carefully spoon the almond frangipane mixture on top of rhubarb compote layer. Even out layer with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula.

Place stalks of rhubarb in a radial pattern on top of almond filling.

Bake tart for 40 - 45 minutes until tart is golden. Let tart cool in tart pan for 15 minutes before carefully removing.

strawberry rhubarb bakewell tart

Happy baking!

12 May 2018

Small Batch Lilac Chocolate Cupcakes


As I am writing this, the honeyed scent of lilac flowers leftover from these cupcakes perfume the room. The sun is hitting my translucent lace curtains, producing the most beautiful shadows on my wall adorn with photos, postcards, and a calendar still displaying the month of April. There's a great sense of stillness but as the gentle breeze moves my curtains, the shadows start dancing on my wall and it disrupts my gaze from here to over there. The light and the shadows change, but the sugared scent of lilacs stay as a constant. I was never aware of my affinity towards lilacs until last weekend, when I was strolling around the farmers market and I saw a sea of purple petals accompanied by the sweetest scent. The scent also carried some sort of nostalgia, reminiscent of the undertones of perfumes I grew up smelling. I picked up a bouquet and then another for good measure. Lilac sugar, lilac simple syrup, and all the ideas for buttercreams, cakes and decorating just flowed steadily.

Here is a simple and small batch recipe that is perfect for Mother's Day tomorrow. It makes six devil's food cupcakes that are not overly sweet, which means you want to use a good quality cocoa because it is what sings here. A light brush of lilac simple syrup keeps the cake extra moist and renders the sweet scent of the beautiful flowers into something edible. When you are the at the market, remember to double check if the lilac flowers you are getting are organic and do not have any chemicals sprayed on them. A whipped cream cheese frosting tops off the cupcakes and I chose for them to piped to resemble the lilac petals. This can easily be achieved with a drop flower piping tip. If you do not have a drop flower tip, the frosting piped in whichever way you are most comfortable with will work just as well.









Small Batch Lilac Chocolate Cupcakes
Yields 6 cupcakes

Lilac Simple Syrup
1 cup lilac flowers, washed and trimmed
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 water

In a small pot over medium heat, combine lilac flowers, sugar and water and let mixture come to a boil.

Cook the mixture until it becomes slightly syrupy, roughly 10 - 15 minutes.

Transfer the syrup into a small jar and let cool. Syrup will thicken slightly more once it has cooled.

Devil's Food Cake
4 1/2 tablespoons (60g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (80g) brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
100ml whole milk
3 tablespoons sour cream

Preheat oven to 350F.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together butter and and brown sugar until smooth. Add egg and beat until mixture is fully-incorporated and fluffy.

In a bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large measuring cup, combine milk and sour cream. Set aside.

Alternating between the dry and wet ingredients, add them to the butter-sugar mixture in two parts.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out cake batter into the cavities of the lined cupcake pan.

Bake for 20 - 22 minutes, or until cake insert comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting
6 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 - 3 cups icing sugar
2  tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 drop violet food colouring
1 drop dusty pink food colouring

In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth.

With the mixer running on low, add icing sugar one cup at a time. Add milk and vanilla.

Beat on high until frosting is fluffy.

Separate frosting into two small bowls. Colour one bowl purple and one bowl pink. 

Assembly
Fit the piping bag with a Wilton 2D (drop flower) tip. Fill one side of the piping bag with the pink frosting and the other side with purple. I find it easiest to fill the piping bag with an offset spatula. Do not mix the colours inside the piping bag to ensure a two-tone frosting.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, use a pastry brush and brush on a thin layer of the lilac syrup.

Start at the centre of the cupcake, pipe dollops of the frosting using the 2D tip. continue piping around the centre dollop until you reach the edge of the cupcake.

Repeat with the remainder of the cupcakes.

If any point the frosting is too soft, chill the piping bag in the fridge for fifteen minutes and continue piping.


Happy baking!

28 April 2018

Whipped Strawberry Cheesecake Crêpe Cake


When I was in Paris two springs ago, I ate so many crêpes that it started to become embarrassing to still be keeping count. Is that a very cliché thing to do? My mom and I would go to the markets everyday, pick up whatever produce was in season (lots of white asparagus!) and turn it into a savoury crêpe/galette situation that evening. We would try out different coffeeshops and restaurants during the day, but the evening was reserved for enjoying the freshest produce we could find in the market. It was so lovely.

Back here in Vancouver, my crêpe count has not been as high and I am always looking for a way to change that. I would occasionally visit a Japanese crêpe shop for a crêpe filled with some sort of mochi-matcha-cream concoction but my go-to place for crêpes in Vancouver is Le Marché St. George. I would spend hours at Le Marché enjoying my crêpe, sipping on my cafe au lait, and soaking in the jazz they have playing in the background.

Though I have eaten quite a number of crêpes, making them has never been high on my to-do list. I constantly feared that my attempt at making them would translate into a sad reality of a pile of overly thick crêpes or overly thin pancakes. It was not until I started noticing the influx of cafés offering beautiful crêpe cakes that I thought I should finally try and make my own. Before you make a crêpe cake you should know that it takes a lot of time and patience. It is not overly difficult to execute but you have to be prepared to stand by the stove repeating the batter ladling wrist movements about twenty five times. And yes, I am finally sharing this crêpe cake recipe. I posted a photo of it back in January and many of you were super excited about getting the recipe. Unfortunately my hard drive crashed and I lost all the content I have been working on for the last few months. The only fortunate thing from that entire situation is that I managed to retrieve one set of photos — this one. So please, carve out some time on a weekend afternoon to make a crêpe cake. It is quite fun, but more importantly it is mighty delicious.








Strawberry Cheesecake Crêpe Cake
Yields one 20 - 22 layer crêpe cake

Crêpes
Recipe from Bon Appetit
4 large eggs, room temperature
4 cups whole milk
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Butter for the pan
*Note: Bon Appetit has a great Crepe Making 101 article!

Blend eggs, milk, granulated sugar, and vanilla in a blender until smooth and frothy. Add flour and salt and blend just to combine.

Transfer batter to a large measuring cup, cover, and chill at least 1 hour.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium, then brush lightly with some butter. 

Whisk batter to reincorporate. Ladle quarter-cupful into skillet. 

Working quickly, swirl pan to evenly coat and cook crepe, reducing heat if browning too quickly, until bubbles form on surface and edges are light golden, about 2 minutes. 

Slide a spatula underneath to loosen and carefully flip. Cook on other side until a few brown spots appear, 15–30 seconds; transfer to a flat plate. 

Repeat with remaining butter and batter, stacking crepes on plate as you go. Let crêpes cool.

Whipped Strawberry Cheesecake Filling
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
275g full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
3 - 4 tablespoons your favourite strawberry jam (without fruit)

Pour heavy whipping cream into bowl of standing mixer. With the whisk attachment whisk the whipping cream until it becomes fluffy and forms medium peaks. Transfer whipped cream into a clean bowl.

With a paddle attachment on your standing mixer, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy. Gradually add in three tablespoons of strawberry jam and beat until well-combined. In the same bowl, gently fold in the whipped cream with a rubber spatula.

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pour heavy whipping cream into bowl of standing mixer. With the whisk attachment whisk the whipping cream until it becomes fluffy and forms medium peaks.

Assembly
Place one of the cooled crêpes on a cake stand or plate. 

Put a large dollop (3 - 4 tablespoons) of whipped strawberry cream cheese filling on crepe. Use an offset spatula to even out the filling.

Place second crêpe on top of the filling layer you just smoothed out. Place large dollop (3 - 4 tablespoons) of whipped cream on crêpe and smooth out with spatula.

Repeat process with remaining cheesecake filling and whipped cream, alternating between the two fillings.

Place remaining crepe on top, wrap in plastic, and let cake chill in refrigerator for 1.5 - 2 hours

When ready to serve, remove plastic wrap and dust with icing sugar.


Happy baking!

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