Monday, July 1, 2013

wedding cake stuff: part I

this has been an intimidating post to begin. mainly because, there is just so much. but enough is enough, i will not procrastinate any longer.
let's begin, shall we? i hope you're ready for cake tidbits flying at your brain.

long story short. i made a wedding cake for a wonderful wedding.
in the month leading up to may 11, i used/blamed this project as an excuse to immerse my after-work world in all things cake.

everyone wants to make delicious cake. everyone wants to eat delicious cake.
the thing is, cake is good.
unless you've forgotten the sugar or accidentally spilled nail polish remover in your batter, the cake is (most likely) going to be something that you want to eat.

but i want better cake. the i-need-another-piece-right-now kind.

it's got to look nice, which is part of the fun.
but before that, its insides need to be on point. the flavors and textures need to mingle with each other in harmony. 
let's recipe test.. can i getta hot tub!

cake bones and innards.
i made big batches of each component, then ate them in different combos with the cakes. just like putting together outfits but without changing sweatpants or needing to fit into outfits.

i took a few of my favorite elements from my favorite cakes...
the salty caramel and ganache from the sweet and salty cake. and my beloved hazelnut crunch from momofuku...
and figured out a way to smash them all together in one fat cake.

white cake. 
for 2 weeks i was all up in white cake's business, reading and comparing recipes and mixing methods.
i finally decided on a fluffy white cake base from Sweetapolita. if there is anyone that can be thoroughly trusted when it comes to cake, it is her.

raspberry strawberry filling. easily the simplest component. stewed for a couple minutes with a touch of sugar, lemon, and cornstarch. it should taste like fresh raspberries and strawberries.

next, i turned to cream cheese. obviously. 
i tried out a cream cheese filling in the center of the cake. hmm..
i tried momofuku's spreadable liquid cheesecake, which i really dug on its own, but wasn't sold on it for this cake. it needed something more mellow/creamy/complementary. 
i then turned to a basic vanilla bean custard. i spread it onto a hunk of cake with the rasp/strawb filling and hazelnut crunch and hoped for the best. WINNER. 

and for the top cake. one for chocolate and salt lovers. and anyone with taste buds. 
the standby awesome chocolate cake that i will forever count on, built with valhrona cocoa, strong coffee, and buttermilk. 
thin saltier-than-the-norm-caramel, to seep into each layer of cake. maldon sea salt. 

a crazyface whipped ganache that starts with boiling sugar and water. 
sugar and water boils until it is deep amber. 
deep amber = pull off the heat. stream in cream. bubble bubble bubble. boom caramel. 
a boatload of dark chocolate gets dumped to melt into the hot caramel. 

(do you see what's going on here? in a typical ganache, chocolate gets melted into hot cream. 
here, chocolate gets melted into hot caramel...this makes you veeeery excited i know!)

and lastly. after the caramel ganache is cool. it goes into the kitchen aid bowl and butter is whipped in, bit by bit, until 1 pound of butter has disappeared into glossy chocolate bliss. 

and that, my dearest darlings, is what gets spread in between the layers. 

ok. are you exhausted? that's enough cake talk for one night. 
i will continue with the building of this wedding cake beast shortly. 

Fluffy Vanilla Cake

notes: this recipe yields 2 9 inch rounds of cake. i most definitely made more than that. 

5 large egg whites (5 oz/150 g) room temperature
3/4 cup whole milk (6 oz) room temperature
2 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
scrapings of 1/2 a vanilla bean (optional)
zest of 1/2 an orange (optional)
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour (10 oz/285 g)
1 3/4 cups sugar (12 oz/350 g)
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder (19.5 g)
3/4 tsp salt (5 g)
12 tbsp unsalted butter (6 oz), at room temperature

preheat oven to 350 degreesF. grease, line with parchment, and flour two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans. 
in a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the egg whites, 1/4 cup of milk, vanilla, vanilla bean, and zest. set aside. 
in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients together on low speed for 30 seconds. 
add the butter and remaining 1/2 cup of milk, and mix on low speed until just moistened. increase to medium speed and mix for 90 seconds. 
scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg mixture in 3 separate batches; beat on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition. divide the batter in two, spreading it evenly with a small offset palette knife. if you have a kitchen scale, weigh to ensure 2 even layers. 
bake 25-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes clean when inserted into the center. be careful not to over bake. 
let cool on racks for 10 minutes before loosening the sides with a small metal spatula, and invert onto greased wire racks. gently turn cakes back up, so the tops and up and cool completely. 
wrap tightly in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 2 days, or frozen up to 2 months. 

Vanilla Bean Custard
adapted from smitten kitchen

1 cup whole milk
seeds from 1/4 to 1/2 vanilla bean or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 sheet of gelatin

in a small saucepan, combine your milk and vanilla bean. heat the mixture until it is warm, then set aside. 
in the bottom of a small saucepan, off the heat, beat or whisk your yolks and 1/4 cup sugar together vigorously, until it pales in color and it form a ribbon off whisk when lifted. whisk in the flour until fully incorporated. 
whisking the whole time, drizzle the warm vanilla-milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture, just a bit at a time at first. whisk constantly. 
bloom sheet of gelatin in ice water. 
place the saucepan over medium heat whisking constantly, until it begins to bubble. once bubbling whisk it for 1-2 more minutes then remove from the heat. immediately stir in vanilla extract (if using) and butter until combined. squeeze water out of bloomed gelatin and whisk until melted and fully incorporated. pass it through a fine mesh strainer. 
to cool quickly, place the custard in a bowl set in an ice bath. 
press a film of plastic on the surface of the custard as to not develop a skin. 

Hazelnut Crunch here
Salted Caramel Sauce and Whipped Caramel Ganache here

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