Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ice Cream Parlor Cake

Since it's summer, I thought it would be fun to make an ice cream sundae inspired cake. Plus, I really wanted the excuse to use my new red striped chocolate transfer sheets.

The cake is made up of three 7" round layers. I made mine with 2 layers of vanilla bean cake and one layer of chocolate cake, but it's probably easiest to make one recipe and split it between three pans and baked all at one time. I only had to pans, so I had to make two separate cake recipes.

For the vanilla bean cake:

3 cups sifted cake flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean, scraped
6 egg whites
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water

Sift together the pre-sifted cake flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside. Cream together butter and sugar. Add vanilla and then add in egg whites in 2-3 addition, mixing well. Combine water and sour cream in a separate bowl, whisking together. Add in dry ingredients and wet ingredients, alternating, in two batches. Do not over mix. Separate batter into 3 7" cake pans. Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees, or until cake springs back to the touch.

For the Swiss Meringue buttercream:
6 egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 package oreos
2 cups fresh strawberries

Create a double boiler and whisk egg whites and sugar continuously over the water bath until sugar is completely melted and mixture reaches 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. Put egg whites and sugar into bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment and whisk until mixture is thick and shiny and fully cooled. Add in butter piece by piece, mixing well after each addition. Add in vanilla and switch to paddle attachment. Mix for another 2 minutes.

Set aside 2 bowls of 1/2- 2/3 cup of the swiss meringue buttercream.

For the Cookies and Cream filling:

From a regular sized package of oreos, add 1 1/2-2 rows of cookies to a food processor and process until cookies are mostly all crumbs with a few larger pieces. Add 1 cup of oreos to swiss meringue buttercream, using offset spatula. Continue adding more little by little to taste, if desired.

For the Whipped Strawberry filling:

Slice about 12 strawberries in half and to food processor with about 1 tbsp strawberry or raspberry jam. Process using short, quick bursts, so as not to puree strawberries. Add strawberry mixture to swiss meringue buttercream using offset spatula. Set aside.

For the Waffle Cone Chocolate Ganache
3/4 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
2 small waffle bowls (can be purchased at grocery store)

Heat cream in small saucepan over stove top until hot- sides should be bubbly, but mixture should not be boiling. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in chocolate until smooth. Crush up waffle bowls and add to mixture. Place in fridge to cool until thick, but still spreadable.

To assemble:

Cut top layer of cakes off with a sharp knife until each cake layer is flat and of equal size. Place bottom layer on cake circle. Spread cookies and cream frosting onto cake until smooth. Add next cake layer. Spread strawberry frosting onto cake until smooth. Spread ganache onto bottom of third cake layer until smooth. Place last layer on top of the cake.

Once assembled, place cake in fridge for 1-2 hours or in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. Set aside small amount of swiss meringue buttercream for the star border. Tint remaining swiss meringue buttercream to color of your choice. Frost entire cake using offset spatula. Keep in mind that the sides do not need to be frosted perfectly if you are applying a chocolate transfer.

Cut chocolate transfer sheet to appropriate width and height. You will need to tape together 2-3 pieces to fully cover the cake. Spread candy melting wafers or tempered chocolate onto the rough side (food coloring side) or the chocolate transfer in a thin, smooth layer, using an offset spatula. Allow chocolate to set for 5-7 minutes until set, but not fully hard. Apply chocolate transfer to cake with the wet side of the chocolate (non-shiny side) directly on the frosted cake.

Tape the chocolate transfer where the two edges of the sheet meet on the cake. Place cake in the fridge for about 30 minutes so chocolate can fully set. Once set, carefully peel off plastic side of chocolate transfer.

To decorate, I piped a simple star border on to the top and bottom layers of the cake. I made the ice cream cone toppers by cutting the tops of three sugar cones off with a seratted knife. The "ice cream" is made out of balls of fondant, which I placed on top of each cone and add a pressed layer of fondant to the edge of.

For very detailed instructions on how to apply a chocolate transfer to a cake, please see this tutorial. It's actually quite easy to do (it was my first attempt) and it creates such a pretty and special effect. I think it's my new favorite decorating technique.

Happy baking!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Spumoni Cupcakes

This weekend was Mr. Pixie Crust and my one-year wedding anniversary. Time certainly does fly. I really can't express how lucky I feel to have him for a life partner.

Since our honeymoon was in Italy one year ago, I decided to make Spumoni Cupcakes to celebrate. The cake part is chocolate, filled with cherry mousse and a bit of cherry syrup, and topped with pistachio swiss meringue buttercream and a sparkling maraschino cherry.

For the Chocolate Cupcakes:
Makes 24 cupcakes
2 1/4 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups light brown sugar
3 oz unsweetened baking chocolate.
1 stick unsalted butter
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup boiling water

Sift cake flour and then measure out 2 1/4 cups. Set aside.
Cream butter, sugar, and eggs together until thick and creamy. Add in melted baking chocolate (you can melt in microwave or in a double boiler) and mix thorough. Add in vanilla extract. Add salt and baking soda last.

Add cake flour to batter, alternating with sour cream. Once combined, stop mixer. Add in cup of boiling water and stir by hand to combine. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 way full and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Cupcakes are done when they spring back to the touch. Set aside to cool.

For the Cherry Puree:

Using a blender, puree one cup of maraschino cherries, or another type of cherries. I combined Morello cherries with maraschino cherries. Add a few tablespoons of juice to the cherries so they puree easier. Pour through a fine mesh sieve. Set aside.

For the Cherry Mousse filling:
1/2 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks (set whites aside for buttercream)
3 tbsp cherry puree
1 1/4 cups chilled whipping cream
1 tsp almond or amaretto extract
1 tsp cherry extract (if available)
Pink food coloring

Whisk sugar, yolks, and cherry puree in large metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bowl to touch water); whisk until candy thermometer registers 160°F, about 3 minutes. Remove bowl from over water. Using electric mixer, beat egg mixture until completely cool and thick, about 5-6 minutes.

Beat cream and extracts in another large bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold cream mixture into egg mixture and add in food coloring.

For the Pistachio Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
4 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter
2 tsp (or more to taste) pure almond extract
2-3 tbsp pistachio paste
Green food coloring

Combine egg whites and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Place mixing bowl over a simmering saucepan of water to create a double boiler. Continuously whisk sugar and egg white mixture until it reaches 160 degrees. Remove from heat and place in bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Mix on medium-high until mixture is thick and fully cooled. Add in butter piece by piece. Once fully combined, switch to paddle attachment and mix for an additional 2-3 minutes. Add in pistachio paste, almond extract, and food coloring- mix well until combined.

To assemble the cupcakes:
Once cupcakes are fully cooled, core out the center of each one using a paring knife. Fill each cupcake halfway with cherry mousse, using a pastry bag. Pour tsp of cherry puree on top of mousse, fill with another layer of mousse until it reaches the top of the cupcake. I also added some dark chocolate shavings to the top, but this isn't necessary. Once all cupcakes are filled, top with swiss meringue buttercream and chocolate sprinkles. Lastly, top each cupcake with a maraschino cherry (pat dry before using) and sprinkle cherry and top of cupcake with edible disco dust.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Nesting Baby Bird Cupcakes

I made these Nesting Baby Bird Cupcakes, originally featured on Martha Stewart, recently for a baby shower by special request. To make these adorable and fairly simple cupcakes, first bake a batch of your favorite cupcakes- I made mine chocolate filled with caramel and topped with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream.

You will need a bag of shredded coconut, a batch of swiss meringue buttercream (this is the best icing to use because it has a stable consistency for decorating), disposable pastry bags, some melted chocolate, toothpicks, and an Ateco #349 leaf tip (for the beaks) and #11 plain round tip (for the heads).

For the Toasted Coconut Nests:

Spread 3 cups of shredded coconut on a baking sheet. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until toasted and tan colored (it smells amazing!). Use a spatula to flip coconut to ensure even toasting. Set aside to cool.

For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
1 cup sugar
4 egg whites
3 sticks unsalted butter (a bit colder than room temp)
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Heat sugar, egg whites, and salt in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pan of simmering water, whisking until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Return bowl to mixer, and whisk, gradually increasing speed from low to medium-high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Add butter, a few pieces at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in vanilla. Switch to a paddle attachment and beat until air bubbles are gone, 2 to 3 minutes more.

Set aside 1/2 of the buttercream in another bowl to be spread on top of the cupcakes.

Split the other 1/2 into another two parts (you can set aside a larger portion for the blue) and dye one part golden yellow and the other part light blue.

Scoop blue buttercream into pastry bag fitted with round tip. Scoop yellow buttercream into pastry bag fitted with leaf tip.

To assemble:

Spread icing onto each cupcake. Sprinkle coconut onto edges of cupcakes.
Using blue buttercream in pastry bag fitted with round tip, pipe 3 3/4 inch rounds (they should touch) onto the center of each cupcake. Try to pipe in one fluid motion, otherwise the heads will look wrinkly instead of smooth. Also, try not to touch the middle/bottom of the pastry bag, or else the buttercream will begin to get runny and the piping will be frustrating.

After all of the bird heads are piped, use the yellow buttercream in pastry bag fitted with leaf tip to pipe beaks onto each head. You will need to position the tip vertically in order for the beaks to be facing the right direction. Try to do swift, elongated motions (if that makes sense) when piping the beaks to attain the right shape and size.

Lastly, melt chocolate and apply "eyes" with the pointed end of a toothpick.

After your cupcakes are directed, place in the fridge until close to serving time. Swiss meringue buttercream does not crust, but it becomes very hard in the fridge, which preserves any designs made with it. You should allow the cupcakes to rest at room temperature so that the buttercream softens again when it's time to serve them.

Here are some of my decorating tips I came up with in the process...

TIP 1:
I found it easiest to first sprinkle the coconut onto the edges of the cupcake and then add any extra coconut after piping the bird heads, if necessary. It was hard for me to add all of the the coconut after the birds were already piped on because the sharp ends of the toast coconut made little scratches in their heads.

TIP 2:
I also found that I could get into a good rhythm by piping all of the heads onto the cupcakes first and then piping on the beaks. I added the chocolate eyes with toothpicks last.

Tip 3:
Practice your piping for a good 15 minutes until you're satisfied with the results. The best part is, if you're really unhappy with how the baby birds turn out on a cupcake, it's not that big of a deal to scrape the icing off and re-do them.