Buche de Noel with Salted Caramel Ganache

For years, every December, I dreamt of baking Buche de Noel as “The Cake” for the last week of festivities but always ended up baking our scrumptious traditional cake. However, this year I told myself that it would either be Buche or Nothing for Christmas. Since a cake-less Christmas is no-Christmas, and I didn’t want to wait for another 365 days to dive deep in the revelry, it was more of an ultimatum to yours truly than anyone else. And as self-flogging works sometimes, this Christmas Buche de Noel finally saw light of the day (or Star of David) in my kitchen.

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Buche de Noel or Yule Log is the cake traditionally  eaten during Christmas and New Year in France. I was very fascinated by the whole concept till I read that it was nothing but a jelly roll decorated like a log and that was a dampener. Who eats a simpleton like jelly roll on a festival like Christmas! But as I soon found out, Buche is as simple (or sophisticated) as you care it to be, and I started searching for all kinds of fillings ranging from mincemeat to eggnog and what not. I eventually settled for the salted caramel ganache, and it proved that my decision making was still intact despite the air heavy with all kind of good liquors.

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Baking this log had an emotional string too since the sister is settled in France now. My heart aches for her on most of the days, especially during festivities. As I whipped the chocolate genoise sponge, filled and frosted it, I imagined being in the same festival bubble with her (which she burst by cooking famous Indian sweet “Gulab Jamuns” instead to mark the occasion and her French family and friends loved them!)

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Food brings people together, bridges the distance and nurtures bonds. It also pushes you to tread unknown territories and surprises you in most amazing ways. I hope it does the same to you in 2017! Bonne Anne and Bon Appetite!

Buche de Noel
(Adapted minimally from here)
Baking a genoise based Buche de Noel comes with a few words of caution which must be paid heed to. The trickiest part is to roll the genoise, which should be done when it is still hot. Make sure to dust the kitchen towel heavily with the icing sugar before you turn the genoise on it, else it will stick to the cake. Though my log didn’t suffer any cracks, but I read that in case yours does, fret not, as they can be easily covered up in the frosting.

Ingredients

Chocolate Genoise:
• 6 egg yolks
• 1/2 cup white sugar
• 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 6 egg whites
• 1/4 cup white sugar
• 1/3  cup melted blueberry jam (for filling the cake during assembly)

Salted Caramel Ganache:
• 75 grams dark chocolate
• 75 grams milk chocolate
• 100 gram sugar
• 200 ml low fat cream
• 2 tablespoon butter
• Generous pinch of fine salt like Fleur de Sel

• Preheat oven to 190 degrees C. Line a 10×15 inch jellyroll pan with parchment paper.
• In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until thick and pale, about 9 minutes. Blend in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, and salt.
• In large glass bowl, using clean beaters, whip egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add 1/4 cup sugar, and beat until whites form stiff peaks. Immediately fold the yolk mixture into the whites. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
• Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.
• Dust a clean dishtowel with confectioners’ sugar. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and turn the warm cake out onto the towel. Remove and discard parchment paper. Starting at the short edge of the cake, roll the cake up with the towel. Cool for 30 minutes.

For salted caramel ganache:
• Break both chocolates in a medium bowl
• Place sugar in a heavy bottom pan and heat over low-medium heat swirling intermittently till sugar turns to caramel.
• Carefully add cream to the caramel as it will splatter a lot and keep mixing till it turns to a homogenous mixture.
• Place a sieve over the broken chocolate and pour caramel mixture through the sieve.
• Add the butter and salt and mix gently till you get a smooth and shiny mixture.

Assembling the Buche:
• Unroll the cake, and spread the jam filling to within 1 inch of the edge. Top with the salted caramel ganache.
• Roll the cake up with the filling inside. Place seam side down onto a serving plate, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
• Pour the remaining ganache and refrigerate the cake for another 30 minutes.
• Make bark pattern using a fork, sprinkle some icing sugar to resemble snow and decorate with marzipan or meringue mushrooms. I cheated and did with fondant, but kids loved them the same.

 

White Chocolate Freezer Cake with a Sticky Brownie Base

I am a stickler for cake baking books. Of course there are books to be grabbed with closed eyes when they are written by Rose Levy Beranbaum or Dorie Greenspan or David Lebovitz. And there are books without any author names on cover and are compilations of a few cake recipes from many sources.  I buy a few of those too keeping my fingers crossed. The reason my baking spree is negligible  when compared to my buying spree is the number of recipes which vie to be tried first until I do “inky-pinky-ponky” and choose one. And last time, this one won.wp_20161206_15_54_02_pro-2Meet White Chocolate Freezer Cake with Sticky Brownie Base. This recipe is from one such book, titled “desserts” from “Easy everyday” series I bought more than four years ago. The cake was love at first sight and the title sounds so sophisticated but surprisingly is quite easy to bake. In fact here, its the fridge and oven that do all the job. But of course you need not tell this as you smile when the cake grabs eyeballs and people complement you on your “hard-work”wp_20161206_15_57_26_pro-2This double delight combines sticky brownie with home made ice cream topping and can be (read: should be) made ahead. The ice-cream topping as per the book should be as thick as the cake but I adjusted the amount for our liking and topped with a thinner ice-cream layer and it was heavenly. You may use any brownie recipe of your choice and pour this home-made ice-cream mixture on top and leave to set. I have tried different nuts for the brownie base but you may throw in whatever you have on hand including roasted peanuts. Customize this cake your way. Either way you are going to love it!wp_20161206_15_56_43_pro-2wp_20161206_16_05_04_pro-2

White Chocolate Freezer Cake with a Sticky Brownie Base
(Adapted from this book)

Yields one 8 inches cake

For the brownie Base
50 g unsalted butter plus extra for greasing the cake tin.
75 g Castor sugar
40 g dark Muscovado sugar
50 g Plain chocolate
2 teaspoons Golden syrup (I used honey)
75 g chopped walnuts (or any nuts of your choice)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract
25 g Plain flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking powder
1- 8 inch springform cake tin

For the White Chocolate ice-cream topping
300 g Good quality white Chocolate
300 ml Double Cream (I used one with 25% fat)
400 g Vanilla Custard

To decorate
Cocoa Powder and 50g melted Plain Chocolate

Brownie base:
• Preheat the oven to 180 °C and lightly grease the cake tin.
• In a thick bottom pan set over a low heat mix together the dark chocolate, butter, sugar and golden syrup till it is homogeneously melted.
• Remove from the heat and stir in the walnuts or nuts of choice and leave to cool.
• In a bowl whisk the egg with the vanilla extract and add to the cooled chocolate mixture.
• Sift in the flour and the baking powder and stir to combine the mixture.
• Pour into the cake tin and bake for 15-20 minutes until the outside is crisp and the cake has begun to shrink from the side of the tin but the center is still soft.
• Leave to cool.

White chocolate ice-cream topping
• Break up the white chocolate and place in a bowl over simmering water. Mix gently till the chocolate melts. Take off the heat.
• In another bowl whip the cream until it holds shape. Mix in the vanilla custard and then slowly add the melted chocolate.
• Pour over the cooled brownie base and tilt around to level the topping.
• If you wish to decorate, drop small blobs of melted chocolate and draw a cocktail stick through to make the teardrop shape
• Freeze for a minimum 4 hours or until firm.
• Take it out of the freezer 1/2 hour before you want to serve it but keep refrigerated.
• Dust with Cocoa powder just before you serve it.

Swedish Visiting Cake

Relax. I am taking it easy here. You are welcome to join if you are interested or curious or both. I feel that since I have Swedish Visiting Cake ready here, you would be.wp_20161130_14_25_56_pro-2Yes, this is the season of chocolate filled Yule logs and rum soaked cakes, of grandest cookies and gingerbread houses. And that is the reason you need this cake in December even more. I know it is kind of hard to just feed the cakes with rum and not pinching that tiny bit, or building that gingerbread house to perfection while drooling all the while. So, I say, if you have this cake ready, you wont mind not pinching your fruits cake or gingerbread house. In the month of December, this cake is your savior. Really.wp_20161130_14_33_02_pro-2I have baked this cake many times. Its one of the easiest cakes from one of my most treasured cake book. One without any leavening agent, this cake rather sets than baking , filling your house with the most delicious smell of almonds and vanilla. Bake it for yourself, friends or visitors, its a winner all the way!wp_20161130_14_30_46_pro

Swedish Visiting Cake

1 cup sugar (plus more for sprinkling on top)
Grated zest of one lemon
2 eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup flour
1 stick melted butter, cooled
¼ cup sliced almonds (blanched or not)

• In a medium bowl, add the lemon zest to the sugar. Rub the zest and sugar in between your fingers to release the oils, the sugar will become lemon scented.
• Whisk in the eggs one at a time.
• Whisk in the salt and the extracts.
• Change to a spatula and stir in the flour.
• Fold in the butter.
• Stir until combined. Dorie baked hers in an 9-inch cast iron skillet. I don’t have one so I used a regular 9-inch pie pan with removable bottom. You may also bake in an 8 inch cake pan but the cake will be thin , like a sheet cake. Grease the pan.
• Pour the batter into the pan and top with the sliced almonds and a generous sprinkling of sugar.
• Bake in the oven preheated to 176 degree Celsius for 25 to 30 minutes. It will be golden and the edges will have a nice crust.
• Let the cake cool in the pan for about 5 minutes and then take a knife and run it around the edge of the pan.
• This cake can be served warm or at room temperature. It will stay good for up to two days at room temperature or may be 3-4 days under refrigeration. But it won’t last that long. Promise

Apple Sharlotka (Russian apple cake)

A dessert reputed to be a cake-torte-pie-all-in-one needs a grand introduction but then, you should not be biased by the number of steps or the list of ingredients. And you should not be flabbergasted when you don’t find butter/oil/milk/buttermilk/cream listed under the ingredients even after scrutinizing the recipe five times. And lastly when I tell you that you can bake it ahead of time because it only gets better the next day and it just takes a dusting of icing sugar for decoration, I have an inkling that from this word onward, I am talking to myself.

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In case you chose to stay to know more, let me tell you this light and fluffy Russian sponge cake is raised on a heap of thinly sliced apples. The cake per se is mildly sweet and complemented well by the slight tartness of the apple chunks, which also ooze out the right amount of juices to moisten the cake.  The whiff of nutmeg and cinnamon in this cake is the perfect prelude to the up coming festive season. This cake is also the closest you will come to an apple pie on a weeknight sans all that hard work. And if I need one reason to bake this cake again, this would be it.

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Apple Sharlotka (The Russian Apple Cake)
(Yields one 8 or 9 inch cake)

6 large eggs, at room temp
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ spoon nutmeg powder
¼ spoon cinnamon powder
5 large apples (I used green apples)
Powdered sugar to dust the finished cake
• Preheat the oven to 170 °C. Grease an 8 or 9 inch springform cake pan and line with the parchment sheet.
• Peel and cut the apples into small chunks. Squirt the juice of one lemon and toss apple chunks well. Arrange the apple chunks in the springform pan and keep aside.
• Using hand beater beat eggs with the sugar for about 10-12 minutes on medium-high speed till the mixture falls in thick ribbon form. Whisk in vanilla extract.
• Mix flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg powders. Mix it gently into the egg mixture in three increments using spatula without deflating the mixture too much.
• Pour the batter over the arranged apples and let the batter seep in the empty spaces. You may gently move the pan to help the batter spread faster.
• Bake in the pre heated oven for 50-60 minutes till the tester comes out clean. Cool it for about 15 minutes before releasing the cake from pan.
• Once cooled, sprinkle the confectioner’s sugar on top.

Coffee-Chocolate cake with mocha buttercream

I couldn’t help but smirk when ardent chocolate lovers proclaimed that there was nothing called “too much chocolate”. But of course that was before I started stashing all types of chocolates and cocoa in amounts no sane person would approve. But see, my point is, you never know when a great chocolate cake recipe would suddenly pop up from the pages you browse and the next moment you find yourself sprinting to the the kitchen to check whether you have enough chocolate/cocoa to bake right then. And if you are me,  you bless your stash and vow to yourself never to let it be an ounce lighter!wp_20160905_16_51_56_pro-2Coming to the types of chocolate cakes, its a cake lover’s delight to know of the variety available. This also brings forth the point that while most of the chocolate cakes may have similar recipes, it is an obscure ingredient or step that really sets an everyday chocolate cake apart from “this is the best one I have had!” kind . Be it beetroot as in that or coffee as in this one. Just wait till I tell you about ginger and wasabi, no kidding.WP_20160905_16_52_48_Pro2.jpgSo back to this cake. It is not without a reason that this cake is on “top 30 cakes” list of Bon Appetit. It is one of the best chocolate cakes I have baked. Moist, ultra dark and chocolaty with melt in your mouth consistency, it is worthy of the grandest celebrations. The original one had mocha mascarpone frosting but I didn’t have mascarpone on hand. So, I did the next best thing by frosting it with mocha buttercream and a dripping chocolate ganache. The recipe is actually for a layer cake filled with mocha mascarpone heaven but I kept it simple and baked cupcakes with the remaining batter and frosted them with buttercream alone. So if you have a reason to celebrate with a chocolate cake, look no further. You are right at the chocolate cake perfection. wp_20160905_16_13_37_pro-22wp_20160905_16_12_28_pro2wp_20160905_16_48_35_pro2Did I tell you that these days a filled piping bag fitted with a nozzle is my girl’s new drawing tool? Together we have fun at it and her giggles are the most beautiful reward of the whole exercise.

Coffee-Chocolate Cake
(Adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2009)

2 cups cake flour
3/4th cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ teaspoon baking soda
3/4th tsp salt
3/4th cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups packed golden brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
4 teaspoons espresso powder dissolved in ¾ cup hot water

• Preheat the oven to 162 °C. Butter 2 8 inch baking pan and dust with flour, tapping out any excess.
• Sift 2 cups cake flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl.
• Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth.
• Add brown sugar and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes.
• Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla.
• Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions, beating just until blended after each addition.
• Gradually add hot espresso-water mixture, beating just until smooth.
• Divide batter between pans; smooth tops. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
• Cool cakes in pans on rack 15 minutes. Run small knife around sides of pans to loosen cakes. Invert cakes onto racks and cool completely.

Mocha Buttercream frosting:
(Adapted from here)
• 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
• 3½ cups confectioner’s sugar
• ½ cup cocoa powder
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon almond extract
• 1 teaspoon espresso dissolved in 2 tablespoon hot water
• 2 tablespoons milk or light cream
• Cream butter for a few minutes in a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Turn the mixer off.
• Sift 3 cups confectioner’s sugar and cocoa into the mixing bowl.
• Turn the mixer on the lowest speed (so the dry ingredients do not blow everywhere) until the sugar and cocoa are absorbed by the butter.
• Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, espresso and milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes.
• If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add a little more sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add additional milk 1 tablespoon at a time.

 

 

 

The Wedding Cake

Is there a modest way to declare when you have successfully baked the first wedding cake? I don’t know one yet, but I will try..I BAKED A WEDDING CAKE!!!!!!!!

WP_20160710_16_26_12_Pro (2)-001Baking a wedding cake had been my desire for quite some time. But they are not very popular where I live. So, when my dear friend Anitha requested me to do one for her childhood friends, I didn’t know how to react! To jump with joy or be full of self-doubt as I had never done a wedding cake before. After seven seconds of solemn silence I agreed to take the plunge.

Camera360_2016_7_11_121500The bigger surprise came when I was given a free hand to do the cake, right from choosing the flavors to the decoration. Believe me, it was dilemma overload. Dwindling between vanilla and chocolate, I decided the cake to have both the flavors with a vanilla bottom tier and chocolate middle tier. As for the top tier, I chose Red Velvet Cake because here, it happens to be the current flavor of love.

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I would have loved to do “ wedding cake” chronicle like some most awesome people have done, but my schedule didn’t permit me that. (See, I decided to do the wedding cake right from scratch in two days flat. And since that was insane enough, I resisted from typing away to glory while still slathered in sugar, butter, white chocolate, dark chocolate, cocoa, colors and all that cake jazz!)

(That difference in color of the two cakes is the sunlight. The one with satin was clicked in artificial light.)

Since I do not have step-by-step tutorial, I would love to share with you what I learnt in the cake baking and assembling process. It’s a long write-up so you may skip. For those who still wish to know, shall we start with the cakes I baked and their fillings?

Base layer: Vanilla double layered cake– Each layer 12 inches in diameter and 2 inches thick.

I had at least three recipes to choose from, all with rave reviews. But when you are baking the bottom layer which is going to bear the weight of the cake for close to ten-twelve hours, you do not want to choose a sponge cake no matter how ambrosial it sounds. Instead, you want a wedding worthy cake which should have a rich taste and a firm texture. With those considerations in mind, I turned to my all-time favorite vanilla cake recipe.
Filling: Each cake was leveled, then cut into two layers. The layers were brushed with sweetened vanilla syrup and the lower layer was smeared with a layer of my current favorite white chocolate buttercream. On top of that, I added a layer of mixed berry marmalade heated with a dollop of cream before placing the other layer on top. Steps were repeated for the second cake.

Middle layer: Chocolate double layered cake: Each layer 8 inches in diameter and 2 inches thick.

I decided the middle layer to be a Chocolate cake. There is no dearth of chocolate cake recipes but not every chocolate cake is worth of making it to a wedding cake. But, this one is. Made of butter, brown sugar, cocoa powder AND melted chocolate, this is one of the best chocolate cakes I have come across and is just perfect for the middle layer of a multi-tier cake.
Filling: Each cake was leveled, then cut into two layers. The layers were brushed with sweetened vanilla syrup and the lower layer was smeared with thick silky dark chocolate version of this ganache mixed with orange compote before placing the other layer on top. Steps were repeated for the second cake.

Top layer: Double layered red velvet cake: Each layer 6 inches in diameter and 2 inches thick.

After all that fuss of baking a red velvet cake with nothing but beet root, it was time to soften the stand. Nothing wrong with that recipe, but no harm in increasing the repertoire either! Found this awesome recipe here which yields a cake so fluffy that it can just melt in your mouth. This now belongs to the “must bake again” cake list.
Filling: Each cake was leveled, and then cut into two layers. The layers were brushed with sweetened vanilla syrup and filled with white chocolate buttercream thinned with a dollop of cream. Chocolate chips were generously sprinkled on the filling before placing the other layer on top. Steps were repeated for the second cake.

(See that pic below? It was clicked at ungodly 2 am when a chocolate and a vanilla cake were yet to go inside my tiny oven which can bake just one at a time.)

IMG-20160707-WA0001The cakes are leveled best when they are chilled, or frozen. I freeze my cakes in triple layers of clear wrap.

Truth be told, cake baking and filling were the easiest part of the whole exercise. The real deal was to assemble the cake which weighed close to eight kgs in toto. Luckily there is abundant information available online and in books that should make you comfortable before you start turning those layers into tiers of beauty and flavor. But remember, devil is in the details, so pay close attention to every aspect of a step before embarking on it. Here is what I learnt in the process:

1. Assemble each layer separately on its own cake board which should be of same diameter as the cake. This will help you to move the cake around and during cutting and distributing the cake. The lowermost cake board should have an extra 2 inch margin that will give you enough room to lift and move the assembled cake.
2. Dowels are a must if you are doing a three tiered cake. They help to support the structure and prevent the lower layers from collapsing under the sheer weight of the layers above.
3. If an assembled cake is to be transported to the venue as in my case, then I highly recommend using a central dowel which should traverse the entire length of the cake right from the top layer to the bottom of the base layer. It will help to keep the layers in place during the ride. However, you may not need it if you are assembling the cake at the venue.
4. It helps to moisten the layers by brushing them with vanilla syrup or plain sweetened water as the cake would be in fridge for quite some time during and in between decorating steps and you do not want layers to dry up. However, adding too much syrup would make them soggy and tear prone. So be moderate.
5. If coloring the buttercream, it is always a good idea to make in a single large batch even if that leaves you with a bowl full of it at the end of the entire process. That will hurt less than dealing with a second batch of buttercream in a different shade when giving those final touches!
6. Practice the design you are going to make. Spontaneous decorating ideas can be detrimental and will give you tough time if you want to undo and restart. Do your homework about the design you wish to put on the cake and stick to the plan.
7. If planning to decorate with real flowers, make sure that you wrap the stems in aluminum foil before poking in. Also, not all flowers are suitable for placing on cakes so be careful about what you choose.
8. If decorating with satin ribbon, remember that it may get greasy on a buttercream covered cake. It is always a better idea to buy a thick grease proof double sided ribbon. If you can’t find one, use darker colors which would not show grease marks as prominently. Also, place the ribbon right before display or transportation.

These are some of the suggestions that should help your cake assembly and decoration a little easy though there would still be quite a few “I skipped a heartbeat!” moments. Some of the resources I found extremely helpful are listed below and I suggest you to explore more:

  1. http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/category/wedding-cake/
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpQ278VwwL4
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7N4HTmU5F5g
  4. http://joythebaker.com/2010/06/fact-i-made-a-wedding-cake/

Also, a short list of tools and supplies I found invaluable:
• A sturdy mixer
• Aluminum cake pans
• Parchment paper
• Cake boards
• Food grade plastic wrap
• Sharp knife to slice the layers
• Cake decorating stand/Turntable
• Frosting bags & tips
• Icing spatulas

Are you still with me? Thank you for your time! Really. I would like to know you.

So wanna know how I think I fared? I am quite happy the way cake turned out. The newlyweds gave thumbs up to the cake. The taste was impeccable and I am so glad about choosing those flavors. I kept the decoration to minimum and tried floral as well as satin decoration (the final version was with the satin ribbon) but would like to get more experimental in future. Yes, baking and assembling a wedding cake is taxing but I would certainly do it again for the sheer joy of it!

Tres Leches Cake

Dear Blog,

Happy first birthday to you!

Honestly speaking, an year ago I wasn’t sure whether we would be together to mark this day. I have too many commitments to keep you running as much and as frequently as I would love to. Days melt into weeks before the ‘next’ blog post turns the date on your page, though this fellow keeps reminding me, “you have not posted in XX  days”. But the day I started you, I promised not to yield to the pressure of passing days and dates. Instead, I chose to create and write at my own pace as it allows me to take care of more pressing issues vying for my time. And in no terms does that rank you low amongst my most enjoyable vocations. In fact, it makes me value you even more. You have been the means to bring out what was always there deep inside, like a childhood paper plane hidden in an old box. You are not a wall I write on. You are my parallel journey, a sweet one with all those cakes. And this time, the cake is for you. Let me just say that it is one of my most procrastinated cakes, but I am so glad I baked it on your day . You are one of the best things I have done and I hope we have a long journey together celebrating many more birthdays!

Loads of love!

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Tres Leches Cake with white chocolate frosting:
(Adapted from Make it ahead by Ina Garten)

Tres Leches or “Three Milks” is a popular Mexican cake. It is a vanilla sponge cake  which gains it’s character from the three types of milks its drenched in- sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and milk cream. This cake is overly sweet and you may want to cut down the sugar, or do away the white chocolate frosting (we don’t celebrate birthdays without chocolates!), or go the traditional way with the whipped cream topping if that is available. It keeps well under refrigeration and gets better with time. I really wanted to use coconut cream and rum to the milks but then we had our share of that goodness not so long ago. Coconut, almond, raspberry, rum or may be even cardamom, feel free to experiment with flavors. The cake will happily make the flavor its own.

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4th tablespoon salt
3 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup whole milk
1 ¼ cups heavy cream (I used amul low fat cream)
350 ml evaporated milk
400 ml condensed milk

• Preheat the oven to 176 °C. Butter a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking pan.
• Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a small bowl and set aside.
• Place the eggs, granulated sugar, and the vanilla extract in a big bowl and beat on medium-high speed for 10 minutes until light yellow and fluffy.
• Reduce the speed to low and slowly add half the flour, then the milk, and finally the remaining flour mixture.
• Mix with a rubber spatula to be sure the batter is well mixed.
• Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothen the top, and bake for about 25 minutes, until the cake springs back when touched lightly in the middle and a cake tester comes out clean.
• Set aside to cool in the pan for 30 minutes.
• In a large bowl, whisk together the cream, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla extract.
• Using a bamboo skewer, poke holes all over the cooled cake and slowly pour the mixture over the cake, allowing it to be absorbed completely before continuing to pour on more of the mixture.
• Cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

P.S. I made my own evaporated milk by reducing 500 ml  full cream milk to 350 ml over gentle simmering.

White Chocolate Buttercream:
(Adapted from here)

170 gram white chocolate
230 gram unsalted butter
240 grams confectioner’s sugar
2 table spoon light cream
½ tsp raspberry flavor
¼ teaspoon salt

• Prepare a bain marie with barely simmering water.
• Finely chop the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over bain marie such that the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl. The bowl should fit snugly to avoid any steam escaping and getting into the chocolate bowl. Take the bowl off heat when about 30% of the chocolate is still not melted and keep whisking gently. The chocolate will keep melting as you whisk. Cool it till it is still at pouring consistency.
• In a medium bowl, beat the butter on medium speed for 1 minute. Switch the mixer to low speed and slowly add the confectioners’ sugar.
• Stir in the cooled white chocolate. Switch the mixer to medium speed and beat for 2 minutes until combined and creamy.
• Add the cream, raspberry extract, and salt. Beat for 1 minute until combined.
Frost the cake as desired.

 

Pina Colada Cheesecake

On Sunday we had such fun filled birthday celebrations in Bahamas! Or so I imagined, eating this Pina Colada Cheesecake that really made up for a few misses. Well, almost.2Its been a long time since I baked a cheesecake though there often is a demand for one. As we geared for the birthday in smoldering May, a coconut cheesecake seemed the best choice. A few splashes of rum and a few chunks of pineapple make everyone merry. Did I mention hidden chocolate chips in the rum cream topping? I was ready with the plan.1WP_20160529_08_54_22_ProThough we do get mascarpone here, it’s obscenely priced and I can’t bring myself to bake with an ingredient I wouldn’t be happy buying. Luckily, you can make your own mascarpone at home and that what I do. It tastes far better than the store bought and costs a fraction. Though it takes a bit of planning as making mascarpone at home takes two days, it’s totally worth the time. I suggest you make your own mascarpone and spend that hard earned money on that Ruby woo or Nymphette, or both. Making your own mascarpone can empower you in some ways.WP_20160530_17_50_03_Pro (2).jpgI believed that Pina Colada would be a great flavor to be translated into a cheesecake and I wasn’t wrong because it’s one of the most superlative cheesecakes I have baked, and is decadent at its best. Though I trust my gut feeling while choosing a flavor, it’s the smiles, hugs and kisses which really tell it all.3Homemade Mascarpone Cheese:
(Adapted from here)
Yields around 650 grams cheese

• 1 Liter amul cream (25% fat)
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Prepare a bain marie  large enough to hold the vessel you are going to pour your cream in. Bring water to simmer.
2. Empty the cream in a large heatproof vessel and place in bain marie. Heat the cream gently till it registers a temperature of 85° C.
3. Add the lemon juice and keep stirring the cream till it thickens and coats the spatula, 3-4 minutes.
4. Take the cream vessel out and cool it to room temperature. Chill cream for up to 24 hours. It will thicken further under refrigeration.
5. Spread layers of clean muslin cloth and empty the thickened cream into it. Hang it inside refrigerator for 24 to drain out whey.
6. Store tightly under refrigeration for up-to a week.

Pina Colada Cheesecake
(Adapted from here)
Makes a 9 inch round cheesecake

Ingredients:
For the Crust
• 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted, divided
• 3/4 cup digestive biscuits crumbs
• 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted, cooled
• 1/4 cup sugar

For the filling
• 680 grams cream cheese, room temperature
• 1 ½ cup sugar
• 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
• 3 tablespoons corn flour
• 4 large eggs
• 1 cup canned cream of coconut, unsweetened
• 1/4 cup rum

For the topping
• 400 grams amul cream
• 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
• 2 tablespoons rum + a handful of chocolate chips (optional)
• Small chunks of freshly chopped pineapple

Bake the crust:
1. Preheat oven to 176° C. Brush 9-inch-diameter springform cake pan with 2.5-inch-high sides with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Line the pan with parchment paper; lightly brush paper with some of melted butter.
2. To roast coconut, scrape a fresh coconut and roast at 176° C for 7-10 minutes, tossing the coconut regularly till it turns very light golden. Cool and keep aside.
3. Blend crumbs, coconut, sugar, and remaining butter in a medium bowl. Press mixture tightly over bottom of prepared pan. Bake crust until lightly browned at edges, about 10 minutes. Cool. Reduce oven temperature to 150° C

Prepare the filling:
1. Using electric mixer, beat first 4 ingredients in large bowl until blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating for a whole minute before adding the next. Beat in cream of coconut and rum.
2. The batter will be thin. Gently pour batter over crust.
3. Place the pan on a big sheet of heavy duty aluminium sheet such that you get over-hangs above the edges. Secure the overhangs to make it a watertight contraption.
4. Place cake pan in large roasting pan. Add enough boiling water to roasting pan to come 1 inch up sides of cake pan.
5. Cover roasting pan with foil and bake cake 1 hour.
6. Remove foil. Bake until cake is pale brown, puffed, and just set in center, about 40 minutes#. Cool cake in water bath 2 hours. Remove from water; run knife around cake to loosen. Chill cake in pan for minimum 6 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.)

#My cake took more than two hours at this step and I almost became impatient. A frantic google search enlightened me by the fact that it was alright to bake as long as the center was jiggling and that the baking time has a lot to do with the temperature inside the oven. Mine being an old equipment, took more than two hours but you really need to keep a check to avoid over-baking. The key is to turn off the oven when its still jiggling in the center and leave it in the water bath inside the oven where it will keep on setting with time.

For the topping:
1. Chill the amul cream at least for six hours. Remove the thickened cream in a bowl and discard the separated water. Add the confectioner’s sugar and beat gently to lighten the cream.
2. Add in the rum and beat once more. Mix in chocolate chips if using.
3. Spread over the cooled cheesecake and decorate with pineapple chunks and cherries.

Red Velvet Cake.

It was one of the best moments. It was like Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMBC) moment! I will tell you all about it, but first let’s have the cake!WP_20160511_12_12_54_ProSo, remember my last attempt for a Red Velvet Cake which turned into a one of the best chocolate cakes ever? But I wanted a Red Velvet Cake right? No, not just another Red Velvet Cake. I wanted one naturally colored with beetroot, not with synthetic food color. WP_20160511_11_12_29_Pro.jpgWhen I started to read about it, it came as a surprise that Red Velvet Cake is actually a chocolate cake. But the kind in which chocolate flavor floats just very lightly without showing up the color. The actual color comes either from beetroots or from red food color, but I had my own reasons for insisting on beetroots. There is no dearth of the recipes which use beets and truth be told, I tried at least three recipes but every time I had a chocolate-colored-chocolate-cake on hands. Something was surely not right and that something had to be fixed. And that something happened to be the pH of the cake batter which is very important if you are baking a Red Velvet Cake with beets. WP_20160511_15_08_49_Pro.jpgSo, to keep it short and simple, you need to provide lots of acidic ingredients when you are baking a Red Velvet Cake with beets. Vinegar, buttermilk, lemon juice, or even orange juice AND you should use just the baking powder and NOT BAKING SODA. The alkalinity of the baking soda turns the beautiful red color of beets to brown, while acidity helps to brighten up the red color. The roasted beets make the cake extremely moist, impart the beautiful red color and a rustic flavor to the cake. This cake is slightly on  a denser side. I opted for raspberry flavor to infuse the batter and some color coordination. Just joking, but it worked really well. Its different from a vanilla flavored cake in a pleasant way.WP_20160511_14_56_44_Pro.jpgI didnt want the usual cream cheese frosting for this cake, because I dont like it. Instead, I frosted the cake with the white chocolate buttercream and this combination is my current favorite thing.

Red Velvet Cake
(Yields one 8 inches round cake)
(Adapted from here)

Ingredients:
1 medium beetroot
1 ¼ cup cake flour
1 ½ tablespoon cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
110 gram unsalted butter
1 teaspoon raspberry extract
1 ¼ cup sugar
2 eggs
¾ cup buttermilk
1 ½ tablespoon white wine vinegar (or regular vinegar)
½ cup roasted beetroot puree

1. Preheat the oven to 176 degrees Celsius. Wash and wrap a medium whole beetroot in an aluminium foil and roast for about an hour or till a knife easily cuts through. Cool, peel and puree. This can done upto a day in advance
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder.
3. In another medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, beet puree,and vinegar.
4. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and raspberry flavor. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add a third of the liquid ingredients, followed by a third of the dry ingredients, alternating wet and dry and mixing well after each addition.
5. Pour into your prepared pans and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and the tops look firm. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting

White Chocolate Buttercream:
(Adapted from here)

170 gram white chocolate
230 gram unsalted butter
240 grams confectioner’s sugar
2 table spoon light cream
½ tsp raspberry flavor
¼ teaspoon salt

1. Prepare a bain marie with barely simmering water.
2. Finely chop the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over bain marie such that the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl. The bowl should fit snugly to avoid any steam escaping and getting into the chocolate bowl. Take the bowl off heat when about 30% of the chocolate is still not melted and keep whisking gently. The chocolate will keep melting as you whisk. Cool it till it is still at pouring consistency.
3. In a medium bowl, beat the butter on medium speed for 1 minute. Switch the mixer to low speed and slowly add the confectioners’ sugar.
4. Stir in the cooled white chocolate. Switch the mixer to medium speed and beat for 2 minutes until combined and creamy.
5. Add the cream, raspberry extract, and salt. Beat for 1 minute until combined.
6. Frost the cake as desired.
7. Excess buttercream can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Before using, bring it to room temperature and whisk well.

 

 

 

Chocolate beetroot cake

The world needs peace. Really.  Oppugnant characters need to come together, we need to stop taking sides and make peace. Somewhere I believe it involves bringing Chocolate and beetroots together and I did my bit. We need to be inclusive.

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I have always tried to love beetroots. Loving them for their color came naturally but somehow they never tickled my taste buds. I still keep buying them and incorporate them in meals quite regularly but have never seen a smiling face the day they are on table. However, this cake changed it all.

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This cake started as a red velvet cake. However, the amount of the cocoa was way too much even for the ferocious beet red to show up. So, it ended up as the softest, moistest, and deeply chocolaty chocolate cake with that right punch which no one would believe comes from beet root. It also proved that its not going to be the last cake I have baked with beets. But this cake wont give you the ticket to hop onto the “eating healthy” bandwagon because c’mon! lets not kid ourselves. A beetroot shared by two people over a span of three days (with that amount of cocoa)  doesnt even come close.

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Its a very easy cake to bake, the only extra step is roasting beets in oven for slightly more than an hour and grinding that into a puree. From there its as easy as it can be. The mild sweetness calls for a good quality ganache if you really want to dress it up for an occasion. or just dust it with plain icing sugar on a regular day. Go and hunt for that languishing beetroot. It deserves a place in the oven, instead of fridge.

Chocolate Beetroot cake
(Yields one 8 inches round cake)

Ingredients:
1 medium beetroot, around 150 grams
½ cup neutral oil (I used sunflower)
¼ cup milk
2 tablespoon plain yogurt
½ tsp white vinegar
2 eggs
¾ cup flour
½ cup dark cocoa powder
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt

1. Preheat the oven to 176 degrees Celsius . wash, dry and wrap whole beetroot in an aluminium foil and roast for about an hour or till a knife easily cuts through. Cool, peel and puree. This can done upto a day in advance
2. Whisk together all of the dry ingredients and set aside.
3. Blend the wet ingredients including the puree until uniform.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir until combined.
5. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick in the center of the center comes out clean. Cool before icing.

Chocolate ganache:

200 ml light cream
200 gram good quality chocolate (not bitter or dark)
25 gram butter
A pinch of salt

1. Chop chocolate in a heatproof bowl and keep aside
2. Heat cream in a thick bottomed pan over medium low heat till bubbles start appearing over the edges.
3. Turn off the flame and pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolates. Top with butter. Cover and keep aside for 5-7 minutes
4. Whisk well and add in the salt. Cool before spreading