Monday, March 26, 2007

First Try - Gilt Dots

Chocolate Rocks

Whew, busy past week what with making my first practice cake prototype. It is almost a direct copy from Cakewalk, except my dots are more randomly placed and less of them. I loved gilding the dots with pearl dust.

Also made a birthday cake, or rather, three.

Cake number one was the Chocolate Coffee Volcano Cake from How to be a Domestic Goddess, by the ever lovely Nigella Lawson.

Cake number two was actually two dozen cupcakes made with the same cake recipe from Lawson's book, but iced with irregular breast-like mounds of chocolate buttercream topped with a smidgen of vanilla butter cream, (making the mounds even more breast-ish), then drizzed with melted bittersweet chocolate. (I forgot to take pics, so you have use your imagination here).

Cake number three (as seen above) was the same cake recipe filled with chocolate butter cream and iced with Nesquick flavoured whip cream, then liberally sprinkled with chocolate rocks. Those rocks taste good...gotta get some more of those!

The cake component of this recipe is very versatile, it worked for all three above variations quite nicely.

Chocolate Coffee Volcano

for the cake:
300g caster sugar
140g plain flour, preferably Italian 00
80g cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, separated, plus 2 more egg whites (from the yolks you need for the cafe creme)
125ml vegetable oil
125ml water
1 teaspoon vanilla

for the cafe creme:
225ml double cream
6 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons light muscovado sugar
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder

for the topping:
approximately 12 teaspoons (i.e., 4 tablespoons) Tia Maria or rum
125g chopped walnuts
4 tablespoons demerara sugar

25cm bundt tin, oiled
chef's kitchen blowtorch, (Instead I popped mine under the broiler with no problems.)

It makes sense to get on with the custard first. So, warm the double cream gently in a saucepan. Mix the yolks, sugar and espresso powder together in a bowl, and pour the warm cream over this mixture, whisking to combine. Pour the mixture back into the rinsed-out suacepan and cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens; with this ratio of yolks to liquid, it won't take any time at all. Pour into a bowl, cover with wet baking parchment and leave to cool.

Get on with the cake as soon as you've made the custard. It, too, must cool before assembly. (Indeed, you may well find it easier to make both cake and custard a day in advance.)Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4 (not that that means a hell of alot to us here!), putting in a baking sheet as you do so. In a large bowl, mix together 200g of the caster sugar, the flour, cocoa, baking powder, bicarb and salt. I don't bother to sift if I'm using 00 flour; otherwise, you should. In a measuring jug, whisk together the yoks, oil, water and vanilla. Pour over the dry ingredients gradually, beating to combine.

In another bowl, whisk the 6 egg whites until they are foamy and forming soft peaks. Add the remaining 100g of sugar, a spoonful at a time, still whisking, till the whites are thick and shiny and hold their shape. Briskly beat a large dollop of whites into the cake mixture to lighten it, then a thrid at a time, fold in the remaining whites.

Pour the mixture into the oiled tin and place on the baking sheet in the preheated oven. Bake for 40 minutes, by which time the cake should be springy and coming away from the sides of the tin. Let the cake cool in its tin on a rack for 25 minutes before turning it out.

Pour or sprinkle the Tia Maria - or rum - onto the top of the cake, letting the liqueur soak in after each teaspoon. Of course, you could use tablespoons or just pour from the bottle, but you do want to make sure the cake's moistened rather than drenched.

When you are ready to serve, place the cake on a plate with a lip - or an almost-flat wide bowl - and fill the centre with the walnuts. Pour the cold custard into the remaining space in the centre, letting it overflow a little over the shoulders, so to speak, and the sides. Sprinkle the demerara sugar, a little at a time , so that it doesn't soak in, on top of the cake, and use the blowtorch to caramelize the top.

Serves 8.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

New Book for the Library

I couldn't stop laughing when I got this book in the mail. It is f$%^@*g huge. And beautiful. My man's first comment upon seeing it was, "you better start making some cakes".
And how does this book fit in with my cooking library? Decorating said cakes of course. Not that I will be doing anything quite so spectacular, but inspiration is everything.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Over the Top Chocolates

Wow, these chocolates were good. Beautifully made, with lots of attention to detail, both in taste and looks. Check out the blue one. Weird, I know, but it tasted amazing...espresso caramel. It had an espresso flavoured ganache with a little pool of caramel at the very top of the dome, (inside of course), with that wacky swirly blue exterior.
Now, I'm not so crazy about chocolate being combined with fruit flavours, so when I ate the passion fruit bon-bon with the exterior coating of chocolate I wasn't wowed. BUT, when I sucked out the passionfruit filling without mixing it with chocolate it was divine.
I have realized over the years that there are very few fruit and chocolate combinations I like. I find that most taste almost like chemicals to me, especially dark chocolate and raspberries - a very popular combination. I tried it in a piece of cake the other day and could hardly eat it, (which means I ate almost all of it!)
So when I taste things like chocolates with orange or other fruit flavours, I have to separate the tastes, or rather think about the chocolate and fruit as two seperate elements and try to ignore what I think is the weird flavour - gauge the quality of the bon-bon by texture, colour and if no one is looking, suck out the filling before eating the exterior. I have tried to do this while the bon-bon is in my mouth en masse, but think I must look really funny while in the act.
I have also nibbled off the top of a bon-bon and drawn out the insides like that, but it reminds me of my cat when she used to have a baby bunny feast in the spring and only eat their little brains in much the same manner. Ugh.
Well, how do I wrap up a food post after that image. Well, I guess those were kitty bon-bons, so it is all kinda related.
Bon Appetite!!!

Oh yeah, the chocolates were from Over the Moon Chocolates in Vancouver, BC.

Friday, March 09, 2007


I used to think I found serenity in a forest. I thought I found stillness there.

I stand corrected.

I have never felt so still, so completely part of the world as when I sat late at night in a muted hospital room beside my father.

The suck and hiss of his breath had the same effect as a soft tide rattling a shingle beach. Hours would pass easily, broken only by the weak wave of a skeletal hand, adjustments of pillows, quilts and body or a gentle touch to my cheek.

I believe in family lines; blood, whether one likes it or not, binds family. I felt that chasm open in the moment my first child was born, and I walked along the path beside it with my father while in that hospital room.

My father walked that path with a courage and strength of will that is inspiring. He did not trip into the vast purple unknown, he stepped out strong when the chasm widened before his feet.

His grandchildren play in the grass behind me. I stand on the edge, waving.