Angry Birds Cake – Moulded with Marzipan

396208_10151121517250534_979466044_n

I am deeply passionate about food. I believe food is an experience that is both, individual and communal. It’s communal because the best conversations take place over food and wine. It’s individual, because it engages four of your five major senses: taste, smell, touch and sight.

The way a dish looks, should create an anticipation of what is to follow. In the mind of the eater, it should create an expectation of texture, flavor, and satisfaction. And that is what makes the baker, the ultimate artist.

Up until today, most of my posts have been focused on taste, smell and touch. But this is a cake, I baked sometime last year for my cousin’s birthday. It was a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. But my cousin loves marzipan. So, I made a themed birthday cake with marzipan. And what better theme than Angry Birds!

I don’t have an instructional video on this, but I do have a few tips on working with marzipan:

1. Keep your hands greased and ensure the marzipan doesn’t touch water – that will make it sticky
2. When rolling marzipan onto a cake, it’s a good idea to dust your rolling pin with powdered sugar and to roll it out on parchment or wax paper
3. Keep a knife dipped in hot water, and wipe it dry before trimming any rolled marzipan
4. I used liquid colors when working with marzipan for this cake, and it gave a deeper, richer color

Remember that you can use other candy to help with the decoration too. Depending on what you’re using, you can stick it to the marzipan by simply first moistening it with water.

I prefer modelling with marzipan than with fondant, mainly because my personal philosophy is that everything on a cake should be delicious. And fondant, is not delicious. Marzipan does get a little expensive to work with though, and not everybody likes it. I believe modelling chocolate is a good alternative too and it’s not too expensive – so, I’m looking forward to working with it in the future!

Eggless Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream

It’s a curious fact that I, who love chocolates, can’t stand to have plain milk chocolate. Give me milk chocolate on a waffer, biscuit, with fruits in it and I’ll have it. But my favorite accompaniment to milk chocolate, is caramel. I love how caramel is sweet and creamy and nutty at the same time. Naturally, then I had to make a chocolate cupcake with caramel buttercream.

I didn’t grow up eating buttercream. It really is icing I’ve discovered only after moving to the US. That might explain why I’m not it’s biggest fan. Next time I’ll try this icing with whipped cream and see if my palate likes that better. But as far as buttercream goes, this recipe from 52 Kitchen Adventures is pretty awesome. 

I switched the chocolate cupcake recipe around a bit and loved the new flavor brown sugar gave it. I also had some chocolate shavings left over that I added to the recipe that added some richness to the cake.

Img_20120121_175241

Ingredients

Eggless Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes 9

3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
2 tbsp sweetened cocoa
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp chocolate shavings (optional)
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 cup oil
1/8 cup + 2tbsp water

Caramel Filling

1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp salted butter, cubed
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp heavy whipping cream
pinch of salt

Caramel Buttercream

1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp water
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 stick (8 tbsp) salted butter
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter
1.5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
pinch of salt

Directions
Make the chocolate cupcakes

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cupcake pan with 9 cupcake liners.
  2. Add the apple cider vinegar to the milk and let it curdle for a few minutes.
  3. Add the oil, water, light brown sugar to the liquid mix and beat.
  4. Sift the baking soda, flour, cocoas together. Mix in the chocolate shavings.
  5. Lightly whisk the dry ingredients and the liquid mix together.
  6. Pour into the liners 2/3rds of the way and bake for 25 minutes or until a knife through the cake comes out clean
  7. Take the cupcakes out of the oven and cool.

Make the Caramel Filling

  1. Evenly spread the sugar at the base of a heavy bottomed stainless steel pan. Keep it at medium heat.
  2. Stir until the sugar caramelizes and turns a deep amber color.
  3. Take the pan off the stove and add in the butter and whipping cream. It whill bubble and splutter. Be careful!
  4. Whisk until the caramel mix is nice and smooth. If you’re seeing sticky clumps for the most part, just return the pan to the stove and keep stirring until the caramel mix is smooth. Be careful not to burn it!

Whisk some Caramel Buttercream

  1. When caramel is made by first dissolving sugar in water, the most important thing to be mindful of is to not stir the mix.
  2. In a stainless steel pan, first evenly spread the sugar and pour the water over it. Mix and ensure that the sugar is evenly laid in the pan.
  3. Heat the mix on medium. DO NOT STIR. Let the mix to turn to a deep amber color.
  4. Take it off the stove and mix in the whipping cream, vanilla and salt. Let the mix cool.
  5. Beat the softened butter. Gradually add in the sifted powdered sugar and beat on high speed until the buttercream is light and fluffy. 
  6. Fold in the caramel and mix in the buttercream. If it’s too liquidy, just pop it in the fridge for 10 minutes or so.

Assemble the cupcakes

  1. Cut a circle in the middle of the cupcakes and fill in with a spoonful of the caramel filling. Close the cupcake back up with the piece you’d scooped out.
  2. You’ll have some caramel left over when you’re done. In a piping bag, add a couple of spoons to one side of the bag. Add the buttercream on the other side and then, pipe the buttercream on the cupcake. 
  3. Sprinkle some salt on the cream for some flair.

 

 

Happy Birthday to Me: Eggless Chocolate Raspberry Cake

The best birthday present I could give myself is a day of baking. My cousin and I were celebrating our birthdays together and I wanted to make passionfruit chocolate cake, except I actually couldn’t find any passionfruit pulp. There I was, standing in Safeway, wondering what I was going to do, when I spotted them – delicious and delectable raspberries! Earlier in the day, I’d picked up some melt-in-your-mouth truffles from Whole Foods. I knew then, I had to try a chocolate raspberry cake!

But since this was my birthday cake, I had to try something fancy – like chocolate shavings and a three layer cake – my first  and something that was definitely not easy to do! 

This is what I cut today:

Img_0002

And this is what it looked like when I cut it:

Img_0010

All in all, it was delicious and it looked pretty. It was a messy first attempt though and took a lot of time cleaning up – but, the end result was worth it. A sweet way to start 28! 

Following the many requests I’ve received, here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

Chocolate Cake

1.5 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1.5 cups sugar
1.5 cups milk
1+1/8 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup water

Raspberry Filling 

10.5 oz raspberries
2 oz water
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornflour + 1/4 cup water
1 tsp agar agar
1 tsp lemon juice
pinch of salt
1 cup heavy whipping cream
4 – 5 tbsp raspberry preserve 

Chocolate ganache

9 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy whipping cream 
2 tbsp sugar

Garnish

1 cup chocolate shavings for garnish
1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
Raspberries
Chocolate truffles

Directions

Make the Cake 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Grease and dust a 9″ baking pan
  3. Mix the vinegar with the milk and leave aside for a few minutes. Then add the vanilla, oil, water and sugar. Beat the liquid mix.
  4. Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking soda. Mix in the liquid ingredients. Be careful not to overbeat.
  5. Pour into greased pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 300 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes or until a knife through the cake comes out clean. Cool in the oven for 5 minutes and then set aside.

Make the Raspberry Filling
This can be made the day before 

  1. On medium heat, cook the raspberries, sugar and water. Stir occasionally to ensure it doesn’t burn.
  2. Once the raspberries melt into the mix,  add the agar agar. As soon as the mix boils, cook it at low heat.
  3. Mix the cornflour in water to make a smooth mix. Gradually add it to the raspberry sauce. The mixture should begin to thicken. Keep stirring at low temperature for about 5 -7 minutes. Add the lemon juice and salt. Take off the gas and cool. Your sauce should have the consistency of beaten fruit preserve.
  4. Whip the cream till soft peaks form. Then add the strawberry syrup and beat again. 
  5. Cool for at least an hour in the fridge. Best cooled overnight.

Whip up some chocolate ganache
This too can be made ahead of time 

  1. Mix the sugar in the whipping cream and bring to a simmer on the gas.
  2. Pour over the chocolate and set aside for a few minutes
  3. Mix the chocolate into the whipping cream and cool. Then refrigerate.

Put it all together

  1. Before assembling the cake, leave the ganache out till it reaches the right spreadable consistency.
  2. Cut your cake into three layers. 
  3. Beat the strawberry preserve and spread on the layers you’ll be filling with a pastry brush.
  4. Pipe the layers with some chocolate ganache along the edges. Fill in with raspberry filling.
  5. Set the layers atop of one another
  6. Spread the chocolate ganache on top and along the sides.
  7. Press the chocolate shavings along the sides and use a seive to spread cocoa over the top.
  8. Decorate with raspberries and chocolate truffles
  9. Refrigerate the cake for at least 8 hours before serving.

Note: You’ll have filling and ganache left over – these can be frozen for future use. The hardest part of putting this cake together, was sticking the chocolate shavings and then lifting the cake onto the cake plate. When assembling the cake, best to do so on a flat plate with parchment paper. Use a heavy duty and big cake lifter to transfer the cake. Another option is to cool the cake for a bit before transfering it. A simple variation of this cake would be to make a 2 layer cake instead of a 3 layer one. 

New Year Breakfast Treat: Eggless Pancakes with Caramelized Oranges

Pancakes_with_caramelized_oranges_1

The thing I begrudge hangovers the most, is how they leave this horrible taste at the back of your mouth that pretty much ensures you don’t want to eat anything delicious. Then again, when you decide to hit Park Chow in Richmond and see their lovely brunch menu, you begrudge your hangover the mimosa you’re too dehydrated to drink and you begrudge the menu lovely lemon ricotta pancakes you can’t eat ’cause they’re made with eggs!

Needless to say, when I woke up this morning, I had a big craving for lemon ricotta pancakes.  A peek in my fridge revealed that I was out of both, ricotta cheese and pancake mix. A little digging on the web and a little experimentation yielded beautiful and fluffy pancakes made from scratch. And since I ran out of maple syrup, I figured I could do this with caramelized oranges and boozy caramel sauce instead!

Ingredients

For the pancakes
Makes 8 – 10 

1 cup flour
 3 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
3 level tbsp plain yogurt
1 cup warm water
3 tsp oil
1/4 tsp butter
1/2 tsp powdered sugar  

For the caramelized oranges
Makes enough for one plate of pancakes

1/2 cup white cane sugar
1/8 cup water
1 tbsp light corn syrup (it’s okay if you don’t have this)
1 tsp butter
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp cointreau/orange liquor or orange juice
dash of cinnamon (optional)
1 orange, peeled and sliced
A few thin strips of orange peel, twisted

Directions

Start by making the caramelized oranges

323440_10151123259960534_862010533_22558178_467364269_o

1. On a low flame (3 on your electric stove), in a thick bottomed stainless steel pan, thoroughly mix the sugar, water and corn syrup until dissolved
2. Then, without stirring, let the syrup caramelize till it is a deep amber color. DO NOT STIR. If your pan is heating unevenly and you see one side of your syrup turning darker than the other, gently swirl the syrup and turn your pan until the syrup is evenly colored. Keep the gas mark low.
3. As soon as the syrup turns a deep amber, remove it from the flame. Be careful not to burn it by overheating
4. Add the butter, cointreau (or orange juice), lemon juice, salt and cinnamon. It will sputter, so be careful
5. If your caramel starts hardening, place it back on the stove and stir until it liquifies
6. Put your sliced oranges and twisted orange peel in this mix and drench with the syrup. Leave it on the stove for about two minutes and then take the pan off the stove and set aside

Now, make the pancakes

Plainpancakes

1. Mix the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder thoroughly
2. Add the water, oil, yogurt and whisk the mixture thoroughly until you see air bubbles
3. Heat a flat pan and grease it with butter/oil
4. Lower your gas flame (stove mark 3) and pour the pancake mixture a quarter cup (or less) at a time
5. Bubbles will form on the top of the poured mixture. Once dry, flip over. When golden on both sides, you can take it off.

Wipe your pan with a paper towel before making the next pancake.

Assembling the pancakes

1. Place three pancakes on top of each other
2. Place 1/4 tsp of butter on the warm pancake on top
3. Pick the oranges out of the caramel sauce and place on your pancakes
4. Spoon some of the caramel sauce (heat it if it has solidified) onto the pancakes
5. Garnish with the orange peels and sprinkle powdered sugar through a seive

You could just as easily caramelize strawberries for your pancake or serve these caramelized fruits with cream as a dessert. 

Eaten_pancakes

This was DELICIOUS. A nice rich brunch to kickstart your cooking new year with. Although, you might want to switch out the mimosa for a pomegranate bellini 🙂