Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Hope you all had a fun (and safe) Halloween! Between Hurricane Sandy and coming down with a cold, I didn't go all out this year like I did last time. But I did manage to add a gorily festive touch to these fluffy Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate Filling and Frosting by splattering them with red-colored simple syrup. I usually need to put my personal stamp on recipes, but this super versatile white/yellow cake recipe from Beyond Buttercream is perfect as is. I followed her directions for a coconut variation, and it was a thing of beauty. For a cupcake version, fill liners 1/2 to 2/3 full (this batter rises a lot) and bake at 350 degrees F for 19 to 22 minutes or just until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out mostly clean (moist crumbs are okay; wet batter means it needs to bake longer). Since my chocolate frosting has my personal spin, I will post the recipe below. Enjoy!

Bloody Cupcakes
I know I've been out of the blogging loop and haven't been visiting your sites as much as I'd like to, so I'd love to hear about your Halloween or just about how you've been in general in the comments below!

Dark, Rich Chocolate Buttercream Frosting [Printable Recipe]
Makes enough to frost at least 2 dozen cupcakes

2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
4 to 5 cups powdered sugar
Large pinch salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
5 to 8 Tbsp milk, half and half, OR heavy cream
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract

Sift the cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and salt into a large bowl. In another large mixing bowl, cream the butter using an electric mixer. Alternate adding the sifted mixture (1 cup at a time) with adding the cream, mixing well between each addition. Once all the powdered mixture and 5 tablespoons of the milk have been incorporated into the frosting, turn the speed up to high and continue beating until a light, fluffy texture is achieved, at least 2 minutes. [Since the frosting will significantly lighten in color as it's beaten, you will need to scrape the sides of the mixing bowl carefully to ensure the darker portions are mixed in to make a uniformly colored frosting. Add more cream or powdered sugar if you want to thin or thicken the frosting. Use finished frosting right away to frost cooled cupcakes or cakes. If not using right away, frosting can be covered and stored at cool room temperature for at least 2 days. However, you may need to re-beat the frosting briefly if it's been siting a long time.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Celebration Cake (Yellow Layer Cake with Milk Chocolate Ganache)

When it comes to yellow cake, fluffy and moist are where it's at in my book. But sometimes I just can't deal with all the crumbs that break off the second I apply frosting. Especially in planning my first ever multiple-tiered cake, I knew I'd need a yellow cake endowed with a touch more strength and structure than my current go-to. I get enough baking anxiety without adding collapsing cake tiers to the not-so-little list of horrors! Luckily my favorite white cake recipe had a yellow cake (egg yolk) variation built right in! A double batch was just right for the 2 tall tiers pictured above (5 x 4 inches and 8 x 5 inches), and the cake came out nicely firm without sacrificing moistness or flavor.

SMS Cake
Yellow Cake with Milk Chocolate Ganache and Covered in Fondant

Surrounding each cake layer was a generous coating of milk chocolate ganache (I used Trader Joe's Pound Plus bars, which are just $5 for 17.6 oz. and taste seriously amazing). I recommend a milk chocolate-to-heavy cream ratio of 2.8 or 2.9 to 1 so that the ganache will set up firmly and provide a sturdy, smooth (and decadent) base for your fondant covering. And I calculated the total amount of ganache needed using this awesome tool called The Ganacherator. Now if you've read anything about fondant, you'll have heard that a cake covered in fondant will only look as good (read: smooth and straight) as the buttercream or ganache underneath. This is absolutely true, and ganache is much easier to learn with as it will set really firm at room temperature (unlike buttercream). Making celebration cakes is really an art-form and I've got a long long ways to go (as evidenced by the elephant skin, not-quite-straight sides, and drooping of the corners in the above cake). But for anyone interested in going down the rabbit hole, I've shared some of my favorite video tutorials below of ganaching, covering, and smoothing the fondant to get a clean professional look to your fondant cakes. I hope this helps the other beginners out there, and I'd love to get feedback on improving my fondant work from any cake experts out there! Cheers!

Making Ganache for Decorating Cakes by Inspired by Michelle
Covering a Cake in Ganache with Smooth and Straight Sides by Inspired by Michelle
Rolling out Fondant, Covering, and Smoothing a Ganached Cake by Planet Cake
Smoothing Cake Covered in Fondant to Get Sharp Edges by Inspired by Michelle