Saturday, 24 February 2018

Strawberry Celebration Cake with Blood Orange Buttercream

It snowed heavily yesterday. It fell heavily and it fell rapidly, but at the same time it felt soft and calm. It interrupted my plans for the day but it gave way to something much needed. I made coffee at home, I worked, I read, I baked a cake, and the scent of an orange butter cake lingered all throughout the evening. From time to time I would look out the window to watch the snow fall, adding to the already plush blanket it has created earlier in the day. Originally I had a rough idea about how I was going to describe this four-layer tall cake — I was going to tell you why I named it a celebration cake and what it is celebrating. I was going to say that any cake that is this tall, blush-toned, adorn with this many delicate blooms is worthy of the title and requires a special occasion to be made. But today I am going the more predictable (which does not make it any less true) route and say there is always something worth celebrating. Make it when you are snowed in. Make it on rest days that you did not know you needed. Make it on days to remind you that even the most mundane everyday things you did not notice before are worth celebrating. Make it on days when you want to celebrate simple ingredients that when put together can make something unbelievably beautiful.

I have always wanted to make a strawberry cake but the fear of adding the least amount of extra liquid without compromising on strawberry flavour has always deterred me from doing so. The strawberry cake layer are light but they are plush. The strawberry flavour comes from both a concentrated strawberry purée and freeze-dried strawberry powder, with the latter being one of my favourite ingredients to use to achieve strawberry flavours without changing too much of the ratio of a trusted recipe. The cake layers sandwich a blood orange buttercream which is also in an appropriate shade of pink. Blood oranges are less acidic than their navel counterparts and often carry a berry overtone. If you would like a more "true" orange flavour in your buttercream, opting for half blood orange and half navel orange would be a lovely substitute. Decorate the cake with whatever you like — keep it simple or decorate it with your favourite blooms. The flowers on my cake were part of a special bouquet I received so I wanted to make a cake as special as the blooms to match.

Strawberry Celebration Cake with Blood Orange Frosting
Yields four layer 6-inch cake

Strawberry Purée
1 pound strawberries, stemmed halved
2 tablespoon granulated sugar

In a food processor, purée strawberries. You should have a little over 1 cup. 

Add sugar to the purée.

Cook the purée over low-medium heat for 30 minutes until you're left with 3/4 cup or a little over 3/4 cup. Allow to cool completely before using in cake batter.

Strawberry Cake
3 3/4 cup cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/3 cup granulated sugar
7 egg whites
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
1 1/2 tablespoon vanilla
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup reduced strawberry purée
1/3 cup freeze dried strawberry powder

Preheat oven to 350F and prepare four cake pans.

In a large bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. 

Beat in the egg whites on high speed until combined. Then beat in the sour cream and vanilla extract.

Turn the mixer to low speed and, alternating between the dry ingredients and the milk, add the them butter/sugar mixture until the batter is relatively smooth. Do not over-mix. Whisk in 3/4 cup of reduced strawberry puree and discard any extra.

Evenly divide the batter into the four cake pans and transfer to the oven to bake for 28 - 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Blood Orange Buttercream
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperture
3 1/4 cup powdered sugar
4 tablespoon reduced blood orange juice (from about two oranges)

Juice two blood oranges. Pour the blood orange juice into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced by half and syrupy, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-high until fluffy.

Add reduced blood orange juice, and beat to incorporate.

Add the confectioners’ sugar into the creamed butter one cup at a time. Beat until fluffy.

Happy baking!

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Malted Chocolate Cake with Lavender Oolong Buttercream

'I want to find happiness.' When you sit back you realize that it is not an easy task because happiness isn't only of binary existence; it isn't likely that there will be one defining moment when you cross the boundary between unhappy and happy. Perhaps all we need to do is to stop trying to find happiness, tending to it instead of achieving it. It's not hiding from us or avoiding us. It is all around us, constellations of tiny moments waiting to be seized — the way the sky blushes when the sun kisses it at dawn, the way her eyes sparkle when she sees you walking into the room, or just the sound of coffee getting poured into your porcelain mug after a sleepless night.

I promised quite a few of you that I would have the recipe for this cake up on the blog soon. Quite a few weeks months have passed and my original definition and intention of soon has been rendered a little different. I am hoping that you will forgive me because this lavender oolong buttercream might be my favourite buttercreams of all time. The buttercream was so delicious that I ate quite a few spoonfuls on its own. And those who know me well know that I am always much more keen about cake than frosting. Whether you make it as a Swiss meringue buttercream or an American buttercream, it is just as good. I have made it both ways many times. I am providing you the steps to make it into a Swiss meringue buttercream, but you can follow the same ratio and steps for infusing the lavender oolong flavours if you are going the American buttercream route. The lavender oolong flavours are not going anywhere, whether or not you decide to add egg whites to lighten up the buttercream.

Malted Chocolate Cake with Lavender Oolong Buttercream
Yields three layer 6-inch cake

Malted Chocolate Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup malted milk powder 
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 cups cold coffee
1/2 cup oil
2 teaspoon vinegar 

Lavender Oolong Swiss Meringue Buttercream
1 cup unsalted butter
2 1/2 tablespoon oolong tea leaves
1 tablespoon culinary lavender 
4 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar

In a small saucepan over medium-heat, combine the butter with the oolong tea leaves and lavender. Once the butter mixture has reached a light boil, simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove butter mixture from heat and let tea leaves and lavender steep for roughly 20 minutes.

Carefully pour the butter mixture through a fine-meshed strainer to remove all tea and lavender pieces. Allow the butter to solidify back to room temperature before using it to make the buttercream.

Place egg whites and sugar into a stainless steel or glass bowl, and place the bowl over a sauce pan of simmering water. The bottom of the bowl should not be touching the water. Continuously whisk the egg whites and sugar together until sugar has melted.

Remove bowl from heat and beat mixture on high until the egg white and sugar mixture is white and fluffy. 

Once the mixture has cooled a bit, start adding the butter gradually. This is the part where you have to trust that the buttercream will turn out. It might look kind of lumpy but just keep on mixing until buttercream is smooth and fluffy.

Happy baking!

Thursday, 8 February 2018

A Valentine's Day Cake (with Kelsey and Confetti Floral!)

One day you will wake up, look across the empty room, and not feel like a piece of your heart is missing. One day you your feelings of incompleteness will dampen. The incompleteness will still gently echo dully inside but will not thud constantly like a steady metronome. One day the first few moments upon waking will not be the toughest and the scent of morning coffee will not remind you of them. One day the details will start to intertwine and you will find it hard to single out every moment that was once so hard to forget. Everyday you will look look in the mirror and find more pieces of you returning to the places they once were; one day you will find yourself whole again. Until then there is healing. And there is this cake, which also heals when you need it to. This subtly sweet but deeply buttery and flavoured vanilla butter cake with strawberry buttercream is so good no matter the occasion.

Kelsey (you might not her as The Farmer's Daughter) came over a few weeks back to go to Le Marché St. George and make a cake together. It is been quite a while since we made something together. The last time we collaborated was almost a year ago when she came over for a visit to celebrate my birthday — she made a cake for me and we decorated it together. Kelsey came over on a Saturday morning and we met up at Le Marche. We shared a seasonal fruit crêpe, an almond croissant, and coffee. It was so lovely, as always. We drove back to my house after our coffee date to create the cake together. When we arrived at my house Kelsey took out the most beautiful arrangement of flowers by Confetti Floral in Abbotsford. Confetti Floral kindly created and arrangement and a few loose stems for us to decorate our cake. The flowers were romantic and in different shades of blush and pink — perfect for our Valentine's Day themed cake.

Kelsey made a buttercream which we flavoured and coloured with freeze-dried strawberry powder and I made a vanilla butter cake I have been dying to try. We leveled the cake layers, smoothed out the buttercream, and started to do what we like best — decorate. The flowers were more than perfect and Kelsey even made little pink macarons to match the cake. We added more greenery to this cake and I would not have it any other way. After photographing, we cut out a few slices and share this cake that we have been planning to make together for months. The cake was almost as sweet as the day we spent together.

PS. It is our two year friendiversary today! We have made many sweet things together since.

Strawberry Vanilla Butter Cake Recipe
Yields three layer 6-inch cake
Vanilla Butter Cake
From Style Sweet Ca (she's the best!)
3 cups, minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon baking powder 
3/4 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 cup sour cream 
1 cup whole milk 
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature 
2 cups sugar 
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 eggs 
3 egg yolks
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease and flour three 6-inch round cake pans and set aside. 
In a large bowl, whisk to combine dry ingredients together.
In a separate bowl, combine sour cream and milk.
In the bowl of a stand mixer beat butter until smooth. Add sugar and beat until pale and fluffy.
Add eggs and eggs yolks, one at a time, beating on low speed until incorporated. Add vanilla extract.
Alternating half the flour mixture and half milk mixture to the butter. Mix on low speed until milk is absorbed. Add remainder of ingredients and mix until just incoporated. 
Pour batter into prepared cake pans. Bake for 33 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean.
Cool cakes before levelling and decorating. 
Fluffy Strawberry Buttercream

Thank you Confetti Floral for the beautiful flowers we used to decorate this cake!

Happy baking!

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Ricotta Almond Cake with Pink Pearl Apples

I am not sure when I fell in love with the rain. It could be the rainy afternoon in Le Marais which rendered walking the cobblestone streets of the third arrondisement with a few books in hand un petit peu difficile. The rain forced, well not exactly 'forced,' but allowed me to discover coffee-perfumed shelter inside a cafe that made the perfect cafe allongé. I read as the rain fell. The rain's hum was like a metronome, calm but constant. That is possibly when I fell in love with the rain. I also fell in love with the rain when rain equated to an afternoon making this cake. It is a simple single layer cake with the most delicate crumb. Jewel-toned slices of pink pearl apples adorn the cake in a nonsystematic yet uniform way. It also is not just about the cake but rather celebrating that the cake is something greater than the sum of its simple parts of flour, butter, and sugar. It is the gratification of creation. A sweet and buttery creation.

You do not have to use pink pearl apples for this recipe. You can choose any apple, but make sure it is not the kind that will get too mealy or mushy when baked. There's quite a long story behind these pink-fleshed apples. Before now, the closest I have ever gotten to pink pearls was through looking at photos of them on social media that other bloggers have posted. Pink pearl apples are hard to find, especially in Vancouver. After doing some research, I found out that the closest place to get these apples was from a farm on an island that was a ferry ride away from Vancouver. This island, Salt Spring Island, holds a yearly apple festival for one day only where local growers/farmers showcase all the apple varieties that the island has to offer. There was one farm on the island (apparently just one?) that had a few trees of pink pearl apples. When I arrived at the farm I bought all the pink pearls that the farm had. I have never been so happy to hold a $30 bag of apples. I do not know why it has taken me this long to share this cake with you but here it is. A few of you had asked me where I got my pink pearl apples so I hope you find this helpful. You can also look forward to a pink pearl frangipane tart in the very near future — I promise.

Ricotta Almond Cake with Pink Pearl Apples
Yields one 9-inch cake

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon almond flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ricotta
30mL milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

4 medium sized apples, halved, sliced thinly
1/4 cup apple or apricot jelly, to glaze

Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 9-inch cake pan.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until mixture becomes light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time and mix until well-combined. Add vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk together. 

In large measuring cup, combine the ricotta and milk.

Add half the dry ingredients and half of the ingredients in them measuring cup to the butter-sugar mixture. Mix together lightly. Add the remainder of the ingredients and mix until just combined. 

Arrange apple slices on top of the batter.

Bake cake for 40 - 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. If the apples are browning too quickly, place a sheet of foil on top while the cake continues to bake.

Once cake is ready, take the cake out of the oven. Allow cake to cool for 30 minutes before glazing with a pastry brush. 

Serve warm.

Happy baking!

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Galette des Rois (+ A Brief History)

Happy 2018! How was your New Year's? Did you go out? Did you have lots of fun? Did you get your cheeky New Year's kiss? I want to know everything. I took a small break from baking the last two weeks to fully enjoy the holidays. Do not get me wrong — I still made and decorated sugar with friends but when you bake for fun it is slightly different than baking for the blog. Having to make everything look extra perfect and having to document the step-by-step makes the baking experience just a tad different. I enjoy both though! I know a lot of you are on some #whole30 plan or some sort of cleanse, but sneaking a little slice of this galette is worth it. I promise.

The first time I ever had a slice of galette des roi (when I first had it, I did not know that it was such a special festive galette) was three years ago. I was wandering the Sheung Wan area of Hong Kong in early January and stumbled upon a French lifestyle store. Right when I entered the store, the owner offered me a slice of galette des rois. I was slightly confused but also very intrigued by this glossy and buttery offer. He then started explaining to me how this specific galette is made in celebration of Epiphany which takes place on January 6th of every year. 

There are two kinds of Galette des Rois, or Kings Cake, in France — one is layers of puff pastry filled with almond cream, and the second is a yeasted cake decorated with sticky colourful fruit (gâteau des rois), with the latter being more popular in the south of France. The extra fun thing about these galettes is that it is tradition to bake a fève (bean) into the galette and whoever gets the bean gets to be the roi (king) for the day and wear a paper crown that bakeries often give with the galettes. Alternatively, a porcelain toy of French historical or religious figures will take the place of the bean and be baked inside the galette. Adults often try to cut around the pieces to make sure the child at the table gets the trinket.

Even if you do not celebrate Epiphany, this galette is a great treat to make for a special occasion (or any occasion). If you were to ask me what a galette des rois tastes like, my response would be something along the lines of: buttery puff pastry stuffed with the filling of a double baked almond croissant. Eloquent, I know. Though traditionally made it almonds, you can use different types of nuts for the crème. A pistachio crème would be so good too.

Galette des Rois
Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini
Yields one 8-inch galette

400 grams all-butter puff pastry, thawed if frozen
1/4 cup jam of your choice (optional)

Crème d'amande
7 tablespoons (100 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup + 3 tablespoon almond flour
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons orange flower water

Beat the butter on low until creamy. 

In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, almonds, corn starch, and salt. Make sure there are no large clumps of almond flour. 

Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter and mix until smooth. 

Add orange flower water. Add the eggs (one at a time), mixing well between each addition.

Fill a piping bag with a large round piping tip with the almond filling.

Egg Wash
1 egg 
2 tablespoons milk

In a small bowl, whisk together egg and milk. Set aside.

Sugar Glaze
1 tablespoon confectioner's sugar
1 tablespoon boiling water

In a small bowl, combine sugar and boiling water. Mix until sugar has melted.

Divide the puff pastry in two equal pieces, and roll each one out to form a rough circle a little larger than 8 inches in diameter. Use a sharp knife and an upturned plate (or a cake ring) of the right dimension to cut two neat 8-inch circles.

Place one of the circles on a piece of parchment paper. Using a pastry brush, brush the outer rim of the dough lightly with the egg wash by a width of about an inch. Make sure not to wet the actual edge of the dough, or it will prevent it from rising properly. 

If you are adding a layer of jam to the galette, you want to do so before piping on the almond filling. Use a spatula to evenly distribute a layer of jam inside the egg wash ring.

Pipe the crème d'amande onto the bottom piece of pastry inside the egg wash ring. Alternatively, you can use a spatula to evenly distribute the filling. 

Place a fève (a dried bean or trinket of your choice) in the crème d'amande. Press it down gently to bury it.

Transfer the second piece of dough precisely on top of the first, smooth it out gently over the crème d'amande to remove any air pockets. Press it down all around the sides to seal.

Using the back of the tip of your knife, draw a decorative pattern on top of the galette. 

Also using the back of the knife, push the dough inward where each score meets the edge to create a scalloped edge.

Brush the top of the galette lightly with the egg wash, while making sure it doesn't drip over the edges.

Transfer to a baking sheet and chill in refrigerator for an hour. 

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Take the galette out of the refrigerator and bake for 28 - 30 minutes, until puffy and golden brown.

In the final minutes of baking, lightly brush a thin layer of sugar glaze with a pastry brush. Return galette to the oven for a minute until sugar glaze becomes shiny.

Place galette on serving rack to cool, pop on a paper crown, and serve at room temperature.

Happy baking!