Sunday, 1 May 2016

Rich Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Pomegranate Mascarpone Cream

Um, hi. I have been a bit MIA lately because the last week has been a complete whirlwind. I wrapped up the last week of my graduate program, defended my master's thesis, and gave my final presentation on Friday. I'm done! Wrapping up my master's degree has been quite bittersweet. I felt relief after my last presentation but I also had a complete breakdown after my defense. I have been working in the same research lab for almost five years and have been in school since...forever. I actually really enjoy school but I felt like it was time for me to step back and see if doing school for another four years to get a PhD is really what I want. To be honest, I am quite scared about what I'm going to do next. I don't have anything too concretely planned but I'm excited to see what opportunities are out there. 

I have been putting off publishing this post because it was the first set of blog photos I took with my dad's tripod and the remote self-timer on my phone, sans Victor. Wow - it is so dang hard taking photos of yourself layering a cake. It took me forever to get use to positioning myself a certain way so it does not look like I'm a giant making a baby cake. I also had to get use to not leaning my body over the cake too much or else the cake gets engulfed in weird shadows. Also, why did I choose to wear this dress to decorate a cake? These photos make it look like I had to decorate a cake before I needed to run off to attend my high school prom. *Eye roll at self*

I made a very similar cake for my friend a few months back. She asked me to make a cake for her daughter's birthday and only asked for it to be woodland themed. I made this cake for her daughter and it was topped with roses, pink pearls, and deer cake toppers. I knew she did not want any type of food colouring in her cake so the mascarpone cream was coloured by pomegranate juice and all-natural raspberry jam. Her family really enjoyed the cake so I wanted to share the recipe with her family and you!

I actually intended to post this recipe up before the lemon zucchini cake recipe but was being too self conscious about the photos to actually hit the publish button. Maybe one day I'll get over this photo anxiety, but until then, here's the recipe for a rich chocolate cake with raspberry pomegranate mascarpone cream with a side of classic Amy anxiety.

Rich Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Pomegranate Mascarpone Cream
Yields: Four-layer 6 inch cake

Rich Chocolate Cake
2 cups flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoon cocoa 
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 cups cold coffee
1/2 cup oil
2 teaspoon vinegar 

Whipped Raspberry Pomegranate Mascarpone Cream
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
275g mascarpone cheese
3 - 4 tablespoons your favourite raspberry jam
Juice of half a pomegranate fruit (strained)

Rich Chocolate Cake
Preheat oven to 350F and grease four cake pans.

In a large bowl, whisk to combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Add the remainder of the ingredients to this dry mixture and mix until fully incorporated. Since this is a oil-based chocolate cake, your batter will be thinner. Don't worry! It's normal!

Divide the mixture evenly among the four prepared cake pans and bake for 35-37 minutes. I found that a chocolate cake is much harder to test for doneness with a toothpick or skewer since the chocolate cake can stain your skewer brown. You can test for doneness by gently pressing your finger on the cake - it should spring back up. Let the cake layers cool completely before layering.

Raspberry Pomegranate Mascarpone Cream
Pour whipping cream into bowl of standing mixer. With the whisk attachment whisk the whipping cream until it becomes fluffy and forms soft peaks. Transfer whipped cream into a different bowl.

With a paddle attachment on your mixer, beat mascarpone until light and fluffy. Gradually add in three tablespoons of raspberry jam and pomegranate juice and beat for 3 - 5 minutes. In the same bowl, gently fold in the whipped cream. You can add more jam if you feel the cream needs more sweetness. Pomegranate juice is a great way to add more colour to your cream as well.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Lemon-y Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (from "Layered" by Tessa Huff!)

Spring has definitely sprung in the last few weeks in Vancouver. Peonies are starting to be in season and I can't wait to spend my life savings on them so I can put them on all the cakes! To those of you who ask if I buy fresh flowers every time for these blog posts, the answer is yes. Why yes I do. So if you have any leftover flowers from a dinner party you attended or hosted (thanks, Nora!) or just have some extra flowers laying around, donate them to meeeeeee. I'll give you a slice of cake (or two!) in return!

Have you guys noticed all the amazing new cookbooks that came out recently? I am exercising all the self-control I have in body to not put everything in my Amazon shopping cart. One of the cookbooks I have been most excited for is Tessa's ( cookbook, Layered: Baking, Building, and Styling Spectacular Cakes. Nothing gets me more excited than layering cakes and it feels like her book was made just for me. It has so many tips and tricks on creating the perfect layered cake. To me, the best part of Layered is that Tessa has at least a photo for every recipe.

Tessa and I met up for the first time a month or so back to talk all things cake, blogging, and living (aka eating) in Vancouver.  We talked about how she sometimes she has to shoot her cake photos while carrying her son on her back?! She is incredible. The cakes she makes are incredible. The crumb always looks so beautiful. Tessa reached out a few weeks ago and asked if I would be part of her online release copy (*cue fangirl squeals*). She sent me an advanced copy of her book and all I did during the days after receiving her book was flip through each recipe again and again being in awe of all the perfect layers, delicate crumb texture, and fluffy frostings of each recipe. 

I decided to make the lemony zucchini cake from her book. The drippy lemon glaze got me all like *insert dancing lady emoji*. My first drippy cake attempt did not go so well so I had my fingers crossed the entire time right when I poured on the glaze. I'm not sure how to decorate a cake without using flowers so I went with an assortment of white flowers to match the frosting and the lemon glaze. 

The flavours of the cake are soooo perfect for spring and summer. I followed Tessa's recipe for the cake but ended up with a three-layered 6 inch cake instead of a four-layered cake as shown in the book because I ate the fourth layer when it came out of the oven. Don't judge me. Tessa's lemon zucchini cake is paired with a goat cheese frosting but because I have stubborn tastebuds and am not particularly fond of goat cheese, I used cream cheese instead. I subbed the goat cheese for cream cheese in a 1:1 ratio and the frosting turned out perfectly. The frosting was pretty much Beyonce #flawless. 

Lemon-y Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Lemon Glaze
Recipe: "Layered" by Tessa Huff
Yields: Four-layered 6 inch cake

Lemon Zucchini Cake
2 1/2 cup (315g) all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt 
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (150ml) grapeseed oil
1 1/2 cup (300g) granulated sugar
2 tsp lemon zest
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cup (225g) grated zucchini, drained
3 tbsp buttermilk
1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Cream Cheese Frosting
Note: Tessa's original recipe calls for goat cheese but because I have a palette of a 5 year old, I opted for cream cheese instead. I replaced the goat cheese for cream cheese at a 1:1 ratio
4 oz (115g) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cup (375g) icing sugar
2 - 3 tsp whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Lemon Glaze
1 cup (125g) icing sugar
2 - 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest

Lemon Zucchini Cake
Preheat the oven at 350F and grease four cake pans. 

Whisk together all the dry ingredients and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, beat together the oil, sugar, and lemon zest together on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time.

Slowly mix in the dry ingredients until the dry ingredients are no longer visible. Careful not to overmix.

Gently fold in the zucchini, buttermilk, and lemon juice. 

Divide the batter in the greased cake pans and bake for 24 - 26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for 10 - 15 minutes before removing them from the pan.

Cream Cheese Frosting
In a mixer, cream together the cream cheese and unsalted butter until mixture is light and fluffy. Slowly add in the icing sugar, one cup at a time. Add in the vanilla extract. Add in the milk, one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.

Lemon Glaze
Add 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and 2 teaspoons of lemon zest to one cup of icing sugar and mix well. If glaze is too thick, add the last tablespoon of lemon juice.

Congratulations on the lovely book, Tessa! You can check out what other bloggers have made from her book with the hashtag #LayeredCookbook on social media. Layered comes out on April 19th and you can pick up a copy wherever books are sold!

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Carnival-Themed Funfetti Cake with Vanilla Buttercream

Let's start off this post by talking about the cake catastrophe of 2016. I feel like the word 'catastrophe' does not fully describe the state this cake was in before it actually looked like this. Kelsey and I were so close to cancelling our little photo date with Victor at 3:00am the night before we were going to shoot this cake. Thinking about it makes me shudder. Let's back track just a little.

A little disclaimer: You can totally skip the next two paragraphs if you are not interested in the backstory of this cake. It just a whole bunch of rambling. I promise I will not be offended.

Kelsey and I had SO much fun on our last collaboration together that we wanted to meet up as soon as humanly possible to bake together again. So we decided that she would come back to Vancouver around mid-March for another cake date. We loosely planned what we were going to make. We knew we wanted to do a carnival themed shoot with a funfetti cake, some homemade animal crackers, cotton candy, and caramel corn. Kelsey and I met up in the afternoon on a Saturday and decided we would start baking earlier this time because we ended up staying up until 2:00am the last time we baked. Things were off to a good start - we got a the cake layers in the oven at a reasonable time and we started making the brown sugar cookie dough for little cookie pops relatively earlier as well. Kelsey even brought over homemade corn chowder (with potatoes, bacon, and the works!) along with some biscuits from scratch for dinner. The first two cake layers turned out fine so we put the third and fourth layers in the oven. Then things started going downhill. The oven decided to go full crazy and drop to a super low temperature halfway through the baking process so the last two layers came out completely raw. I ran out of eggs so I had to run to the store at 10:30pm. We started decorating our cloud cookies with cotton candy and the cotton candy started to melt due to the moisture in the icing.

Then things got even more...hilarious. Kelsey and I decided to try something new by forgoing the flowers for the cake but instead do a Katherine Sabbath style ice cream cone on our cake (I love her stuff!) along with white chocolate drips down the side. The ice cream cone turned out well but it was totally not our style - especially not the 50 different kinds of sprinkles we threw on the cake. Also, it was kind of a rookie move on our part to do white chocolate drips for our cake because it turned out looking like melted candle wax. At this point, it was already 1:50am and we contemplated either a) throwing out the cake and baking a new cake or b) trying to salvage it. Kelsey and I decided to go with the latter - we scraped off the white chocolate and rationed the remaining icing we had and re-iced the entire cake. We finished the cake at around 3:00am. The lesson learned from this cake disaster is: stick to what you're good at and don't make it look like a unicorn vomited on your cake. If you ask Kelsey really nicely, maybe she will show you the photo she took of our original ice cream cone cake. Please, don't show me that photo though.


I am so glad we decided to continue making the cake and make the shoot happen! I love the way our little cake spread turned out. It is indeed a bit different than my/our usual rustic and floral cakes but this carnival-themed cake is so cute and whimsical! We didn't want the waffle cones we had for the original cake for to waste, so instead we dipped them in chocolate and sprinkles to liven up the spread. The waffles cones made great holders for Kelsey's homemade caramel corn, recipe c/o her grandmother. I hope you enjoyed our little cake disaster story and hope that this funfetti cake puts a smile on your face : )

(PS. I am keeping my fingers crossed that our next collaboration will take place on Kelsey's family's farm! We will make all the rustic pies and galettes and take photos in the orchards while wearing pretty dresses hehe.)

Funfetti Cake with Vanilla Buttercream
Yields: Four-layer 6 inch cake + 6 cupcakes (recipe can easily be halved!)

Funfetti Cake
410g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 3/4 sugar
6 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
4 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
400ml milk
1/2 cup (or more!) sprinkles

Vanilla Buttercream
3 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tbsp milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Few drops blue food colouring

Animal Crackers, Caramel Corn, Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies
Find the recipe for the animal crackers on Kelsey's blog! For the brown sugar shortbread cookies, we simply omitted the rosemary in her rosemary shortbread cookie recipe. 

Funfetti Cake
Preheat oven to 350F and grease four 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 the 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. Gradually pour in the milk and add in the remainder of the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.

Gently fold in the sprinkles.

Divide the mixture evenly among the four prepared cake pans and bake for 35-37 minutes. Check for doneness a few minutes before the 35 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. 

Tip: Nonpareil sprinkles are more likely to "bleed" in a cake batter. The colour of nonpareil sprinkles just don't stay on the sprinkle that well. Jimmies (the longer, tubular sprinkles) don't bleed as easily. You can also use confetti quins!

Vanilla Buttercream
In a large bowl, cream the butter until it is pale and fluffy. Add the icing sugar, one cup at a time. Add in the three tablespoons of milk, one at a time. Add vanilla. If buttercream is too thick, add half tablespoon of milk at a time until desired consistency is reached. Add in a few drops of blue food colouring and mix well.

Photography & Editing || Victor Yuen
Ring & Pretty Things || Foe and Dear
Cloud Cookie Cutters || Cookie Cutter Kingdom