Sunday, June 19, 2011

Heavenly Cake Baker: Mud Turtle Cupcakes

heavenlycakeplace This week's Heavenly Cake Baker cake was Mud Turtle Cupcakes on page 377 of Rose's Heavenly Cakes. This was a multi-stepped dessert which took me several hours from start to finish. However, a lot of the time was spent, as usual, waiting for the ganache to set up. After the ganache was ready there was more waiting, this time for the caramel blobs on the turtles to get firm enough to hold the pecans in place and support another dollop of caramel...the fact that it was 85 degrees out and very humid did nothing to help the situation!

I served them to my girlfriends that night at a wine and cheese party - er, I mean a book club meeting - and both the presentation and taste got rave reviews.

A couple of things I realized when making these cupcakes:
One, I need a better thermometer! Because I was only making a small amount of caramel, my old fashioned candy thermometer didn't reach the sugar syrup and I had to keep tilting the pan to take the temperature. Tilting the pan causes crystals to form on the sides of the pan. You then have to brush the sides down with water and, I think, this tilting business messed with my caramel in general, since you are supposed to let it boil undisturbed. So, while I really hate the idea of spending almost $100 on a may be necessary if I am to gain any confidence in the world of caramel...

Two, speaking of caramel...I am kind of intimidated by working with sugar! In one of my CSCA baking classes we were making an Italian meringue and the instructor asked if anyone wanted to dip their fingers into the pot of boiling sugar-water (and then in the nearby bowl of water) to see if it was at soft ball or hard ball stage. Me: "um...are you NUTS?!" I guess I should have been more brave that day and maybe my caramel for the turtles would have turned out better ;) Anyway, at about 280 degrees, my caramel started to smell like it was burning so I was too afraid to let it go all the way to 360 degrees as instructed. I think I made it to about 330-340 or so and then it started smoking - which freaked me out - so I declared it done and stirred in the heavy cream, butter and vanilla. The resulting caramel tasted a bit too strong to me and never got very firm in the end so I'm not sure whether this was how it was meant to be or I should have cooked it longer. It would have made a great topping for ice cream, but for the turtles - where I was trying to get the pecans to stay stuck on the top of the cupcakes - it was a little bit too soft.

But, three, cupcakes are really fun to make! While these turtle cupcakes were very time consuming, I did enjoy myself. I love small things and once my little turtle buddies were all done, they looked pretty adorable all lined up on a tray.

A few months ago, my 4 year old niece drew me a picture of everyone in the family each walking a turtle on a leash...these cupcakes reminded me of her and that drawing. Little turtles on parade.

turtles on parade

a close up

From the beginning...

toasting the pecans

making the ganache

it was super runny at first, giving me absolutely no confidence that it would ever firm up...but

...finally, after about 5 hours, my ganache has set up

mise en place for the cupcakes

wet ingredients mixed until

it resembles thick brownie batter

gorgeous cupcake batter!

I like to use a scoop so they are all the same size. Much faster and neater this way too.

they were slightly domed just out of the oven

but then they fell a bit and left a convenient little dip in the middle...just right for a bit of ganache

mise en place for the caramel

is it ready yet? nope. is it ready yet? nope. is it ready yet? nope. is it ready yet? nope.

it's GOT to be ready now...I'm too nervous to let it go any longer!

cream has been added, now it's butter's turn

oh, yum!

a dollop of ganache goes down on each

they'd be quite good like this, topped with just ganache

next, some caramel

then pecans

at this point they actually looked like flowers to me

but with another dollop of each caramel and then ganache they begin to look like little turtles...


ready for the party!

but first, I'll have to try one...

each bite has a bit of soft ganache, sweet caramel, moist cupcake and
the crunchy toasted pecans...delicious!

instead of making 16 cupcakes, I made 12 and a 6" cake

Bye for now...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Heavenly Cake Baker: Chocolate Streusel Coffee Cake (free choice)

heavenlycakeplace This week's Heavenly Cake Baker cake was a free choice. I chose the Chocolate Streusel Coffee Cake on page 55 of Rose's Heavenly Cakes. The cake itself was delicious. Very moist, not too sweet, with a light vanilla flavor. The addition of the sour cream gave the cake some depth of flavor as well - yum! The ring of chocolate was a great addition and gave it some interest when sliced.

There are, however, a few things I'd change next time. I am not a fan of chocolate and cinnamon together, and - knowing this about myself - I should have omitted the cinnamon or used another flavor. I chose to follow the recipe to the letter though and, yep, I still don't like chocolate and cinnamon together. I think an extract or liqueur, some lemon or orange zest, or some ground almonds or pecans would go very well instead of the cinnamon. I'll give that a try next time (a ring of ganache would also be really good instead...I wonder how that would bake up). The other thing about the chocolate ring that didn't turn out as expected/desired was that the texture was very grainy - but this may have been because I didn't have Muscovado brown sugar, so I used regular brown sugar. I think using Muscovado, which has a finer texture, would probably have solved this issue.

So, overall, with a few small changes, this recipe is a keeper.

mise en place for the simple!

the chocolate filling

adding the eggs

pretty batter - so light and fluffy

a bit of batter goes into the pan

then the ring of chocolate and the rest of the batter

into the oven now...

smells so delicious!

hey! There's chocolate inside. Yum.

such a nice, tender crumb

Bye for now...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Avid Baker's Challenge: Favorite Buttermilk Cake

This month's Avid Baker's Challenge cake was the delicious, tender, and SUPER easy Favorite Buttermilk Cake on page 344 of Flo Braker's Baking for All Occasions. I can see why she calls it a favorite! I continue to be impressed by this cookbook (especially since most recipes are so straightforward and easy to make).

It looked pretty plain when baked, but it has a wonderful crumb and it is a sturdy cake that would be easy to layer and would do well with a filling, frosting or a topping of any variety. And, best of all, the flavor of the cake was so wonderful. It is a plain vanilla-ish cake, but the buttermilk adds a nice depth of flavor and gives it a little more dimension than just a plain cake. This is definitely one of my favorites so far.

The day I made it I served it with the HCB raspberry sauce that I love so much and that was a great pairing...however it is equally delicious just on its own. I imagine it would be great with a chocolate ganache or buttercream frosting, as a strawberry shortcake, etc. etc. And it would take the addition of any flavoring (to the cake itself) really well. I grated in about 1/8-1/4 of a teaspoon of fresh nutmeg which added a really nice undertone to the cake. Hanaâ added orange zest and served it with strawberries - love that idea too!

mise en place

I didn't have an 8" square pan so used two 6" pans instead

I may have overbaked them slightly, but they were still very moist and perfectly done on the inside

yum! popped right out of the pan even though I forgot to add parchment...


served with a drizzle of raspberry sauce...


Bye for now...