The Test Kitchen turns One

Cakechoc

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.

Tributeslice

Tribute Cake

From Bittersweet by Alice Medrich

Ingredients

·         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

Equipment:

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” ;).

Cooking Notes:

            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!

The cakes stand and plate are made by the talented Whitney Smith of Whitney Smith Pottery. I first encountered her beautiful works of art at the pastry boutique, Miette .

48 thoughts on “The Test Kitchen turns One

  1. What a lovely post! I just joined the food blogging community, and I hope a year from now I can count as many successes and new friends as you have :). That cake looks scrumptious, btw!

  2. Lovely post indeed. Glad to be a part of this as I have also learned so much from your blog and experiments. Can I have my Quaresimali now made from Hazelnuts not almonds?

  3. Happy blog birthday! Isn't the blogging community the best? I would have never made it as long as I have (which is not as long as you!) without the kindness and inspiration from other bloggers. And the cake looks amazing!

  4. Happy 1st blog birthday! May there be more yummylicious years to come.

    Btw, I didn't know that you can use the paddle attachment to whip ganache. I always use the whip attachment…

  5. Thanks Dana- welcome to the food blog world. You're in for a fun time!
    HH- thanks sweetie. I've got a couple of things more to make then you can have your hazelnut biscotti.
    Thanks Jaden – I would just love to meet you. Maybe you get the Tampa trib to fly you up to richmond 😉
    Hi Deborah – I love the bloggin community. I think it's because everyone is passionate about the same thing.
    Thanks Mary! I have quite a few projects down the line for the TEst Kitchen.
    Thanks Mandy! Alice used the paddle attachment in class, I think it is to prevent the ganache from being overwhipped.

  6. Happy birthday to your blog! At first glance the cake reminded me of Maida Heatter, but Flo Braker is a genius as well. Excellent chocolate fans! I hear hey're a PITA to make!

  7. What a wonderful post! Happy blog birthday! As someone relatively new to this blogging thing, I can empathize with you about feeling pressure to keep posting and to keep going. But it's all worthwhile in the end–especially when chocolate cake is involved;)

  8. Happy Blog Birthday! I really enjoyed reading this post. What a loving tribute to all of us bloggers (and to your talented photographer as well!) Keep up the lovely posting, Veronica! 😀

  9. Happy Birthday, Veron! I will gladly share in a piece of that gorgeous (and gorgeously photographed) cake! You have indeed been an inspiration to us in your fervent discovery of the world of cookery. It was sooo much fun to meet you this summer, and I hope that someday we may actually get a chance to cook together in the test kitchen!

  10. Congratulations. Your blog now, in turn, inspires new bloggers like myself. Your recipes are wonderful and your posts are a joy to read.That's a wonderful cake and I hope you enjoy every bite.

  11. I somehow stumbled upon your blog right after you began posting, and have been enjoying it ever since! I still mean to start one myself one of these days (when some other commitments ease up!)…
    Congrats! Happy Blog Birthday!

    When I first started commenting, there weren't many others leaving comments, and I was anxious for you to get discovered as I thought the level & quality of your blog was very high! I'm glad that you have arrived!

    Keep up the fabulous cooking & experiments! I look forward to reading about them all!

    From a fellow cookbook & baking junkie!

  12. Thanks Manggy! Yes the fans tricky to make but I think with practice you can get better. I think it's a skill worth learning.
    Thanks Lisa! I'm definitely hoping for more years of blogging.
    Hi Burnt Lumpia -chocolate is definitely worth posting for.
    Hi Helen – I cannot wait to use whipped ganache for macarons!
    Thanks Farah- I'll extend the compliment to my photographer :).
    Thanks Pille!
    Thanks Brilynn!
    Hi T.W. – I was thrilled to meet you in New York! Yes, someday we shall cook up something in the kitchen together.
    Thanks Hannah!
    Thanks Anh! Your blog is so inspiring too!
    Thanks Maybahay ! I love discovering new food bloggers!
    Thanks Peabody – you know it's like I've known a lot for you for longer than a year. Does that mean we're having too much fun!
    Thanks Hillary – I wish they would develop that teleporter so we can send food quickly, anywhere!
    Hi Robin – Ofcourse I remember you as one of my first commenters. Your feedback gives me so much inspiration. You should start a blog soon, you know -give those cookbooks some exposure!

  13. Happy blog birthday!!! A year of blogging is an amazing achievement. I've enjoyed your blog — I always learn something here — and I'm looking forward to Year Two in the Test Kitchen.

  14. Happy blog anniversary Veron! I'm so glad I "bumped" into you out here…you are definitely one of my regular reads too! 🙂 And chocolate is the perfect way to celebrate! And what a cake that is…absolutely luscious!

    Looking forward to year 2!

  15. Happy blog birthday Veron! Your sweetness and enthusiasm have been such a great addition to the blogosphere! You've accomplished so much in your first year and I know we're all looking forward to what else is going to come out of your kitchen!

    P.S. Gorgeous cake!

  16. Your tribute cake is a thing of beauty!

    Happy blog birthday and congratulations on reaching the one year mark. You and your husband make a great team — his pictures really capture the delicious and beautiful food you make.

  17. Yay! One year, that's wonderful! And that is what I call a cake, Veron! Its beautiful, and I can almost taste that ganache filling all the way over here in Georgia! What a beautiful creation to commemorate a year of happy blogging. 🙂

  18. Oh, happy blog birthday, Veronica. Yours was one of the first blogs I visited when I started and remains of my favorites. Your posts are enthusiastic, informative, and delicious. Wishing you many more! Now, let's eat some cake. 🙂

  19. Congratulations! What a fantastic blogging year you've had. I am still looking through your archives & enjoying your posts very much.

    This is such a gorgeous cake!

  20. happy birthday!
    such a gorgous cake! I've seen that cake in Alice's book but was a bit intimidated in trying it now seeing that it can be done….i'm having second thoughts might try it sometime when i'm not so busy. love it! the filling looks so yummy too!

    if you don't mind me asking where you were from before moving to united states? got curious LOL!

  21. Thanks Lydia – your blog is so informative too. I always learn about new items for my pantry.
    Thanks Bea – your beautiful blog is always a great encouragement to continue an online food journal.
    Thanks Meeta – i'm looking forward to year two of more cooking and eating!
    Thanks Tanna – Yeh, chamgpagne is good. I think it goes well with chocolate ;).
    Thanks Joey – am I glad I ran into you too. I love reading your mouthwatering posts.
    Thanks Anita – I have learned so much in my first year -it's really hard to recall now what a total klutz I was in the kitchen before this but there is still so much to learn and I'm looking forward to year 2!
    Thanks Julie -those are such sweet words both about the blog and my hubby's pictures. so tickled :).
    Thanks Susan – Let's have some cake indeed!
    Thanks Nora – I both feel like it's been long and short year. Long because it seems I've met so many blog friends that seem like old friends that I've know forever, short because my weekends speed by so fast because of cooking!
    Hi Susan – you are one of my regular reads too. I always enjoy your stories of family and how they relate to food.
    Hi SimplePleasures – the cake is completely doable. You just need to practice making the fans. I'm from the Philippines – although I am pure chinese – go figure ;).
    Thanks Sis! You know how much mess I made making them fans!

  22. Happy Anniversary on the birth of your blog. We have enjoyed reading your imaginative posts and tasting your creative dishes for the past year. Keep up the great work!!

  23. Thanks Valli – I'm very happy that you enjoy reading my posts, I'm looking forward to more cooking in the kitchen.
    Thanks Big Boys Oven – great thing about this bloggin is meeting new cyberfriends like you – yep hope to meet up one day!
    Hi Ilva – happy anniversary to you too!Two years old – that 's really great!

  24. Veronica!

    I can't believe I missed your blog birthday! Time certainly flies when you're having fun and I can definitely say that your blog is and remains one of the most vibrant, interesting and worthy blogs out there. You're unique and I always love to read your words. All the best to you in the test kitchen in the year to come!

    Tanti auguri!

  25. Happy belated birthday, Veron!

    thanks for sharing all the fabulous recipes with us the past one year. And this cake looks really yummy! =)

  26. Happy Blog Birthday, Veron!
    Would you please bake this cake again and send it to me? It looks so good!

    I love the little flowers around it too. Very nice touch.

    All the best and here's to another good food-blogging year to come…

    Cheers!

  27. Happy blog-anniversary, Veron! Wonderful cake choice to celebrate your success. Next month is my own anniversary and I definitely understand both the feeling of disappointment at times, but mostly the feeling of satisfaction and achievement as we record our successes, and failures, in the kitchen, and learn from each other as we go along.

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