I can’t believe that it’s already been a year of food blogging for me! What a journey it has been.
Even before my first encounter with the blogging tool, I’ve always wanted to document my trials, tribulations and triumphs in my new found passion for food cookery. All these ideas were floating through my head and I had no effective way to park it. I had tried scribbling on the pages of a nifty binder but it looked lifeless – it did not reflect who I was.
My obsession with duck confit sparked an avid online search. And serendipity was on my side for it led me to one of the most eloquently written and photographed blogs thus far. It was this inspiring first encounter that planted the seed of beginning an online food-journal in my head.
After some token procrastination, I eventually started my blog so my family back in the Philippines would know that I was finally finding my way in the kitchen. My mom was always afraid that I would starve to death when I moved to the United States. Not that I blame her for thinking that. After all, I couldn’t boil an egg 10 years ago – and that’s a fact. My brothers still couldn’t believe that I could actually cook (they knew I was a professional eater though); in fact they said they had to taste it to believe it, which they did this year when they visited me.
Sure, there were times when I thought there was so much pressure to post or that I have said everything else there was to say or that nobody really cared what I wrote about, but the “Hungry” Hubby always reminded me that I was doing this for myself – it was the best medium to improve my cooking skills – and anybody who was along for ride was glorious icing on the cake (besides my kitchen disasters are endless and are always a good source of material).
And so I forged on and boy, was I glad I did! Because I have made a lot of wonderful friends on the blogosphere! I’ve even met a couple of them. And I’m a member of a kick-ass baking group! How exciting is that? Plus, how could I miss out on my regular reading of gorgeous, yummy, informative, spicy – did I say gorgeous – blogs?
That is why I made Alice Medrich’s Tribute Cake; to honor all food bloggers and non-food bloggers alike – an ongoing source of inspiration for me. A special mention goes to the “Hungry” hubby who continues to take such wonderful pictures of my creations – yes people, he is the person behind the lens and is indeed most patient with my fumbling attempts at food styling – J. So to my honeybunny – we are indeed a team – my blogging will not be possible without you!
Okaay! Before I begin sounding as though I was giving an acceptance speech at the Academy Awards, let’s get on with the Tribute Cake, shall we?
This cake was the brainchild of Flo Braker and Alice Medrich for the eightieth birthday of Chuck Williams – founder of Williams Sonoma. Otherwise known as “Flo’s cake with Alice’s goop" (meaning whipped ganache and Sarah Bernhardt Glaze), this cake appeared quite daunting to make. But after witnessing Alice demonstrate the very professional and interesting techniques in the making of this cake, she had instilled in me the confidence to recreate this masterpiece.
From Bittersweet by Alice Medrich
· 2 cups (7 ounces) sifted (before measuring) cake flour
· 1 tsp baking soda
· ¼ tsp salt
· ½ cup sifted cocoa powder, natural or Dutch process
· ½ cup lukewarm water
· ½ cup butter milk, at room temperature
· ½ cup water
· 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
· 2 large eggs, at room temperature
· 8 tbs (1 stick) unsalted butter
· 1 cup sugar
· 1 cup packed light brown sugar
Whipped chocolate Ganache Filling, prepared and chilled but not whipped
Sarah Berhnhardt Chocolate Glaze, prepared and cooled to frosting consistency
Ruffled Chocolate Fans
Three 9-inch round cake pans, 1 ½ to 2 inches deep (I used only two which made my layers thicker)
Position rack in lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of the pans with round parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt, then sift onto a sheet of waxed paper. In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa and lukewarm water; set aside to cool. In a glass measure, combine buttermilk, remaining ½ cup of water and the vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs briefly to combine whites and yolks.
In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer for a few seconds until creamy. Gradually add the sugars and beat until light and fluffy, 6 to 7 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, slowly add the eggs, taking about 2 minutes in all. Continue to beat, scraping the bowl as necessary, until the mixture is fluffy and velvety.
Stop the mixer and scrape in the cocoa mixture. Then beat on medium speed just until combined. Stop the mixer, add one-third of the flour mixture, and beat on low speed only until no flour is visible. Stop the mixer and add half of the buttermilk mixture, and beat only until the liquid is absorbed. Repeat with half of the remaining flour, then all of the remaining buttermilk, and finally the remaining flour. Scrape the bowl as necessary, and beat only enough to incorporate the ingredients after each addition.
Pour the batter into the pans and spread it level. Bake until the layers spring back slightly when lightly pressed with your fingers and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool layers on a rack for about 5 minutes before unmolding to cool completely, right side up, on the rack.
To assemble the cake: Beat the chilled ganache with an electric mixer on medium speed just until it stiffens and holds its shape like very thick whipped cream, but can still be easily spread. Do not over beat.
Place one cake layer, up side down, on the cardboard cake circle. Spread with half of the Ganache. Place the second cake layer upside down on the ganache and press in place. Spread with the remaining ganache and top with the third cake layer (upside down). Chill the cake at least one hour or, up to 2 days, before glazing it.
Spread a very thin layer of the cooled glaze over the top and sides of the cake. This layer is called the crumb coat; it is just to smooth the surface, glue on any crumbs and fill any cracks. Chill the cake for a few minutes to set the crumb coat.
Set the bowl of remaining glaze in a pan of barely simmering water and reheat it very gently, stirring with a rubber spatula, until it is fluid and shiny; it should be now warmer than 90°F. Center the cake on the turntable or lazy Susan. Have a clean dry metal icing spatula ready. Pour all of the glaze over the center of the cake. Working quickly, using just 3 or 4 strokes and rotating the turntable, spread the glaze over the top of the cake so that it runs down to coat all sides of the cake. If there are any bare spots left uncoated with glaze, use the spatula to scoop up excess glaze and touch it to the bare spots, but don’t spread it: spreading the glaze as it begins to set will make it look dull. Refrigerate the cake immediately, and save the excess glaze.
After the glaze is set, you can decorate with optional chocolate fans or write a greeting on top of the cake.
Whipped Chocolate Ganache Filling
· 8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
· 2 cups heavy cream
Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until it comes to a gentle boil. Immediately pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is mostly melted. Let stand for 15 to 20 minutes to be sure all of the chocolate particles are completely melted.
Stir the ganache until perfectly smooth. Let cool. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Chocolate Notes: For chocolate 62% to 64% use 7 oz instead of 8. For 66% to 72% add at least 4 teaspoons sugar to the cream before heating it.
Sarah Bernhardt Chocolate Glaze
· 8 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
· 12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
· 1 tbs light corn syrup
· 5 tsp water
Place all the ingredients in a small heatproof bowl set in a wide skillet of barely simmering water and stir frequently until the chocolate is almost completely melted; do not overheat. Remove the glaze from the water bath and set aside to finish melting, stirring from time to time until perfectly smooth. Stir gently with a spatula or wooden spoon until completely smooth: do not whisk or beat. If necessary before using, cool the glaze to 88 to 90 °. It will remain shiny if you pour it at that temperature.
Ruffled Chocolate Fans
I think if you are serious about making the chocolate fans, you better buy the book, “Bittersweet” ;).
This cake is the best chocolate layer cake I have ever tasted. I think it could have been moister if I had not let the layers bake too long in the oven (it should begin to pull away from the sides but if it totally pulls away it is over cooked) – it still was not dry though, just not as moist as I wanted it to be. It was also nicely soft – albeit not as impossibly soft as the one I made during my Chocolate Workshop class in San Francisco (I have an inkling it was the cake flour I used).
I am not one for layered cakes; I prefer tarts and denser tortes. But this particular layered extravaganza tickled my whimsy – and how could it not?
For it is quite the lyrical sonata of different chocolate intensities and textures: from the light and tender cake gently squishing playfully-whipped ganache, to the enrobing sinful, shiny glaze kissed by flirty, curvy fans – am I waxing poetic yet?
The best part of all is that the making of the Tribute cake can be several lessons in baking:
1. Sifting the flour 3x will reduce the time needed to incorporate it, so will adding it in batches. Working the flour too much will result in that dreaded “dome” of death.
2. Whisking the eggs and dribbling it in, to protect the sacred structure of air you have creamed into the butter and the sugar, is also a good practice to follow.
3. Being miserly in your baking soda measurement – too much and you risk turning your cake into the taste of an Oreo cookie. Baking soda leaches away chocolate flavor.
4. Making a whipped ganache – the sexiest filling, period! Use the paddle attachment of the mixer for this. And you cannot whip it into oblivion either. There comes a point when it’s going to turn grainy, so the trick is knowing when to stop. And that takes practice. It also helps to finish whipping by hand.
5. Making a delicious all-purpose glaze. Remember – it has to be around a temperature 88-90°F for it to stream perfectly around your cake.
6. Making chocolate fans. Again this takes practice and I honestly have not gotten the hang of it yet so I cannot offer much wisdom in this. Using a plastic spatula is a great help though because chocolate will stick to the metal ones. It can be quite messy as evidenced by the chocolate smears I am still finding in the kitchen, so wear an apron and maybe cover working surfaces with plastic wrap to facilitate clean-up! I put my fans on top of the cake because I was not going to pipe any greetings on it. No way will I chance messing up the glaze!
So there you have it! My 116th post, my tribute to all of you who are reading or who have read my blog, my heartfelt thanks! I’m looking forward to another year of food, cooking and blogging!