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Thursday, 19 March 2015

White Chocolate Spiced Cake with Rosewater Cream Cheese and Pistachios

I don't really know where or how to begin this post. I feel like Victor did such an amazing job with the the photos that they really speak for themselves. I love working with Victor because we are both super chill, but still nit-picky enough when it comes to details and "styling." We also catch things the other person missed. I put styling in quotations because I don't think I am anywhere close to being in the realm of food styling - I just like getting fresh florals and arranging them in somewhat of a nice fashion. Victor, on the other hand, is a complete genius. 

If you ever get your hands on my phone and decide to scroll through my Instagram feed, you will see that most of the people I follow are bakers and food bloggers. I have been seeing a lot of "Persian love cakes" and "Persian cookies" in my feed lately and was completely enamoured of the rosewater, pistachios, and spices combination. 

This is the second cake I have ever really made in my life. Like a big, more-than-one-layer, maybe-I-can-give-it-to-you-for-your-birthday type of cake, this is my second one. I've made cupcakes, muffins, and brownies before, but nothing that required me to use a cake ring and acetate sheets. After I watched the 'Sweet' episode of Mind of a Chef, where Christina Tossi shows how she builds cakes to be super tall with a cake ring and acetate, I knew I had to give it a try. I wanted to channel my inner Christina and make a Momofuku-style Persian love cake. 

I am also an avid follower of Katherine Sabbath. She is known for her extravagant layered cakes and has created a Persian love cake in the past. Since I am such an amateur in cake making, I knew I wanted to follow a trusted recipe and put my own little spin on it. So for the cake layers, I have for you an adapted version of Katherine's spiced caramel spiced mud cake. The rosewater cream cheese layers are made with my own recipe because...I'm a big fan of my cream cheese frosting recipe.

There are quite a few of steps to make and assemble this cake, but each step is really simple. It just takes some time, but is completely worth it in the end.

White Chocolate Spiced Cake with Rosewater Cream Cheese Layers, Crushed Pistachios, and Meringue Pebbles

White Chocolate Spiced Cake
200g butter, cubed
200g white chocolate, chopped
200g (1 cup, firmly packed) dark brown sugar
180ml (3/4 cup) hot water
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
150g (1 cup) self-raising flour
150g (1 cup) almond meal
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Cake Soak
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

Rosewater Cream Cheese Filling
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
225 g (1 cup) white sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoon rosewater*
1 drop red food colouring (optional)

*Rosewater concentration may vary depending on the brand. I would highly recommend to taste as you go, to make sure you have the perfect balance of rosewater in your cream cheese filling!

Meringue Pebbles (Optional)
2 egg whites
125g (1 cup) powdered sugar
1/2 drop red food colouring 

Meringue pebbles (whole and crushed), handful of crushed pistachios, dried rose petals, white chocolate bark (with light green swirls to match the pistachios!)

The Cake Base:
Pre-heat your oven to 325°F. Line the cake pan with parchment paper. My pan was 13 x 9 x 2. You can use whatever sized pan you like, you will just have to adjust for the baking temperature and your layer will be thinner/thicker than the ones pictured in the post.

Place butter, chocolate, sugar, water, maple syrup and vanilla extract in a saucepan. Stir ingredients over medium-low heat until chocolate melts and your mixture is smooth. Set aside for 30 mins to cool.

Transfer cooled mixture into the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the eggs, one at a time and beating well after each addition. Sift flour and spices over your chocolate mixture and mix until well combined. Add the almond meal and mix until well combined again.

Pour cake mixture into a pan and bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (I recommend checking at 50 minutes). Let the cake stand for 20 mins before moving it onto a wire rack to cool. 

While the cake is cooling, you can start making your rosewater cream cheese filling.

Once cake has completely cooled, use a cake ring and cut out three even layers. If your sheet of cake isn't large enough to cut three layers (which was my case!), use the Momofuku technique, where you cut out two nice cake layers and use the scraps to construct a bottom layer. 

After cutting out the two nice cake layers, clean the cake ring and place it on a separate sheet of parchment paper atop a baking sheet or sturdy surface that you have no trouble moving around (you will need to move the constructed cake to the fridge or freezer later). Use a strip of acetate to line the inside of the cake ring. Put the cake scraps in the ring and use the cake soak to moisten the scraps so they easily form one flat even layer. Using a pastry brush for the cake soak makes this step a lot easier. It doesn't matter if your bottom layer is a bit messy and unkempt looking because no one will really see it.
*If you are unsure how to do this, The Baker Chick has a great tutorial on it!

After constructing the bottom layer, smother on a generous portion of the cream cheesing filling. Alternate between the cake layer, milk soak, cream cheese layers until you have a cake with three cake layers and three cream cheese layers.

Freeze the cake for at least 12 hours to set the cake and filling. 

Three hours before serving, pull the pan from the freezer and pop the cake out of the cake ring. Carefully peel off the acetate and transfer the cake to a platter or cake stand. Let it defrost in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours. Never peel off the acetate when the cake is no longer frozen, or else the cream cheese layers will get stuck to the acetate. 

Decorate the cake however you like. I used a combination of whole and crushed meringues, dried rose petals, pistachios and white chocolate pieces. 

Rosewater Cream Cheese Filling:
In a small bowl, beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, salt, food colouring and vanilla. Beat until smooth, then gently fold in whipped cream with a spatula.

Meringue Pebbles (make these the night before):
Preheat the oven to 200F and place a piece of parchment paper atop a baking sheet.

In a glass or metal bowl, whip egg whites until foamy using an electric mixer, adding the food colouring until desired colour is reached. Sprinkle in the powdered sugar a little at a time, while continuing to whip at medium speed. When the mixture becomes stiff and shiny, stop mixing, and transfer the mixture to a  pastry bag. Pipe the meringue out onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 1.5 hours, turn off oven, and let meringues sit in the oven overnight if possible. Meringues should be dry to the touch and can be easily removed from baking sheet.

Photography & Editing || Victor Yuen 

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Lavender Mocha & White Chocolate Pistachio Rosewater Butter Cookies

So how did this all start? I would be able to give you a more definite answer if you asked me where did this all start. Medina Cafe. My friend Victor and I were catching up over waffles and coffee at Medina Cafe when we started talking about my blog. You might remember my blog as a DIY/baking/hodge-podge blog. I have been wanting to redo my blog, get it a bit more organized, and make it a little more...me. I knew I wanted my first post on my "new" blog to be a recipe inspired by something meaningful. As Victor and I were nibbling away at our Belgian waffles, I dipped my waffle into more of the milk chocolate lavender sauce and thought to myself that milk chocolate lavender would be a great cookie flavour. Better yet, a milk chocolate lavender mocha flavour...just like one of their most popular drinks. I am also completely smitten by the white chocolate rosewater pistachio mocha Medina serves so why the heck not, I'll turn that into a cookie as well. So there you have it. My catching-up lunch date with Victor about my blog in cookie form.

I love simple shortbread and butter cookies and I have a go-to recipe for shortbread. Surprisingly, I did not use my go-to for these cookies. My go-to uses more butter and does not call for any eggs. This one does. A hard-boiled egg yolk actually. Cook's Illustrated and Smitten Kitchen both use a hard-boiled egg yolk in their French sable cookie recipe and I knew I wanted to give this technique a try. The hard-boiled egg yolk gives the cookies a more delicate crumb, and a texture is a bit more sandy than your usual shortbread. Shortbread and butter cookies are great to work with. They are like mini blank canvases, lending itself to any flavours you want to incorporate in them.

If you are an avid Bon Appetit hoarder reader like me, you might find these cookie wreaths to be a bit familiar-looking. The wreath idea comes from a San Francisco bakery that Bon Appetit featured in their last holiday issue and I have been wanting to create these delicate cookies since then. Theirs were adorned with entire flowers but I decided to top mine with the flavours emulating a lavender mocha and a rosewater white chocolate pistachio mocha. So I have here a mocha cookie with a coffee glaze with lavender and a simple butter cookie topped with a rosewater glaze, crushed pistachios, rose petals, and white chocolate bits.

Victor and I had a wonderful time shooting these cookies. We headed out early on a Monday morning to get fresh flowers and coffee, came back to my house, and started arranging all the flowers for the shoot. We shot the rosewater batch, proceeded to shoot the lavender batch, and wrapped up by creating the largest cookie photo spread. We had fresh florals, dried florals, and it was pretty much my cookie dream come true.

White chocolate rosewater pistachio butter cookies 

1 large egg, hard-boiled and cooled
10 tablespoons (140 grams or 1/2 cup and 1 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 cup (175 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour

Rosewater Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon rosewater*

Crushed pistachios
Dried rose petals
White chocolate shavings
Coarse sanding sugar

*Rosewater concentration may vary depending on the brand. I would highly recommend to taste as you go, to make sure you have the perfect balance of rosewater in your glaze. You don't want your cookies to taste like soap!

Lavender mocha butter cookies
1 large egg, hard-boiled and cooled
10 tablespoons (140 grams or 1/2 cup and 1 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 cup minus 2 tablespoon (160 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon dried lavender, grounded

Coffee Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoon milk
1 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder

Dried lavender
Coarse sanding sugar

Place butter, sugar and salt in the bowl of stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Crack egg and peel shell. Separate yolk from white and set aside the egg white (you don't need it anymore). Press yolk through fine-mesh strainer and into mixer bowl with other ingredients. Beat mixture on medium speed until light and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl and beater with spatula as needed. If you are making the rosewater variation, add the rosewater at this stage and mix until combined.

Add flour and mix at low speed until just combined. If you are making the mocha variation, whisk the cocoa powder and instant espresso powder with the flour before adding it to the butter mixture. If dough is slightly crumbly, use a rubber spatula or your hands to knead a few times and to combine the dough.

Place a piece of parchment paper on a flat surface, place dough on parchment, and place another piece of parchment on top. Using a rolling pin, roll our the dough into 1/4 inch thickness. Using a cookie cutter of your choice, cut out the shapes and place cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill unbaked cookies for roughly 30 minutes before baking.

While dough is chilling, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake cookies until they have golden brown edges, about 13 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven but let firm up on baking sheet for 5-10 minutes before transferring cookies to cooling racks.

Make glaze, dip cookies, and decorate away. Dip the cookies in the glaze as you go along. Don't dip them all at once before decorating them because the glaze might set before you get to some of the cookies. Let glaze on cookies harden for about an hour before stacking/storing the cookies.

Makes 18 - 20 cookies.

Photography & Editing || Victor Yuen