Thursday, 12 May 2016

Chocolate Strawberry Icebox Cake (Aka. A Lazy Girl's Cake)

Sometimes I just want to make a cake and have it ready in a pinch for some party, potluck, or just to satisfy my true gluttonous nature. Sometimes I don't want to have to wait for the butter to soften, or for the cake layers to cool, or the cake to set. Sometimes I need cake right at that moment. This is when an icebox cake is the answer to all my cake prayers. If an icebox cake had a second name, it would be called the lazy girl's cake. It is so incredible easy to make and can be whipped up in fifteen minutes or less. It is a great summer cake since it has to be served chilled. It has a the consistency of a light mousse and can be topped with whatever fruits are in season.

So why did I make an icebox cake? Which of the aforementioned reasons led me to create this overly easy but still decent looking cake? Well, none of the reasons above. I made it because...I had a whole big carton of whipping cream to use up before its expiring date. I feel like that is the driving force of many of my baking endeavours. Oh I have a lot of yeast to use up? Let's make bread for days. Oh the cream cheese is expiring soon? Cheesecake for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I like to believe that I am a pretty responsible person and will not let stuff go to waste.

On a completely different note, I just want to talk about how happy I have so much more time to make cakes and work on my blog now. I am getting more comfortable using a self-time and tripod for my blog photos. I also found that my favourite time to take blog photos is sometime between 10am and noon. After 12pm the sun hits my bright yellow fence at some weird angle and reflects all the yellow light onto my cake and white wall. To be honest, I haven't been too happy with my photos from the last two posts. I keep going back to them and contemplating taking them off the blog or whatnot. You can expect Constellation Inspiration to be updated more regularly (I actually just finished writing up another post for after this one!!) but it will be a learning experience. You might have to suffer through some not-so-great photos until I can produce something really pin-worthy. Thank you for always being so supportive and I can't wait to share more cakes and goodies with you!

Chocolate Strawberry Icebox Cake
Yields: One eight-inch cake

2 packs large lady fingers (~20-24 cookies)
1/2 cup cold coffee

1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, chunks, or disks
1/4 teaspoon espresso powder
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

Remove the lady fingers from the packing and cut off the rounded bottom of each cookie with a knife. You want the lady fingers to be roughly the height of your spring form pan. 

Line an eight-inch spring form pan with lady fingers with the top side of the cookie pressed against the rim of the pan. Cover the bottom of the cake pan with more lady fingers. You might need to trim and cut some lady fingers so that they fit snuggly at the bottom of the pan. Brush the layer of lady fingers with coffee. You can omit this step but brushing some coffee on the lady fingers make these cookies softer. Set aside.

In a small pot on low-medium heat, mix together the water, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and chocolate chips. Stir frequently to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Once the chocolate has melted, set aside this chocolate mixture so it cools off.

With a hand mixer or standing mixer, whip the cream, sugar, and salt until soft peaks form.

Using the same mixer, fold the chocolate mixture into the whipped cream until no white streaks remain. The chocolate cream mixture should have the consistency of mousse!

Carefully pour the chocolate cream into the cake pan lined with lady fingers. Smooth out the top with a spatula.

Cover the pan with saran wrap and chill the cake overnight. The cream with soften the lady fingers and create a cake-like base for the chocolate cream. Serve chilled.

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!