The Raspberry Charlotte

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Raspberry Charlotte

The unusual heat wave the other week has stifled my desire to turn the oven on but not, apparently, my preoccupation with reading cookbooks. Which makes this dilemma all the worse because now I’m left with a long list of things to cook or bake.
My addiction to cookbooks are well documented on this blog. It’s not that I use every one of them and more often than not I’m left with buyer’s remorse. I have ran out of shelf space and walls to stack them and have more than gone through the familiar exercise of Sophie’s choice…which one to keep on the kitchen shelf, which one moves to the office bookcase and …shudder…which one gets packed up and banished to the basement probably never to be read from again.

I buy books for inspiration, an idea, a thought, a slight nudge to try something I’ve never made before. 

This time it’s the charlotte. I always found them adorable, tied with a ribbon sash looking very girly. There are four layers in this charlotte – an alternating cake and raspberry mousse. Sadly the recipe I based this dessert on had problems and the book is going to be re-issued later, luckily I was informed that I would be getting a replacement for free.

The problem I had was with the mousse, I knew the recipe read kind of iffy and the end product didn’t look very promising. But I already made my sash of lady fingers and I’ve also torte the cake into layers, all that was needed now was a luscious mousse. Darn if I’d let them go to waste. I decided to salvage my mousse in the only way I knew how, folded in more whipped cream (to which I added some sugar to offset the additional cream) and prayed that it will set … and it did … beautifully.

Top with some fresh raspberries  and voila, a gorgeous dessert I wouldn’t mind taking to that next dinner party.
 

A cupcake state of mind

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Some cupcakes with bling

I got into the wedding business last year and learning and experimenting with new designs and recipes are an ongoing project. The first thing I ask the bride after the event date is whether the wedding is outdoor or indoor. Outdoor weddings are beautiful, but unfortunately you are at the mercy of the weather. In Richmond, the weather is very erratic , it could be already 90F and extremely humid in May and this limits the frosting possibilities for your cupcake. Fortunately, my buttercream had withstood 95F and a very humid June but there are other options albeit not very tasty ones.

Fondant, whether homemade or not, can never taste as good as buttercream, whipped cream or cream cheese frosting, but one thing it’s got going for it is the possibilities it offers up as a lovely canvas and its ability to stay pretty while everyone else is sweating buckets.

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Fondant-covered cuppies

Some people hate frosting (like my darling “Hungry” hubby) so domed-cuppies with half-inch buttercream and flat-topped ones with just enough frosting (or even strained apricot jam) to attach the fondant are options.

Sometimes I get carried away with er…the decorations.

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blossom-filled cupcake
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Sometimes, one can just forget the bling and go for scrumptious triple-threat chocolate goodness – chocolate cupcakes, filled with chocolate pastry cream and glazed with bittersweet chocolate ganache. 😉

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Triple chocolate

I’ll be busy this week. Broad Appetit is June 6 and I’ve got some prep and baking to do. Wish me luck!

Lost? Have a cupcake!

Which was exactly what I did. At 11:30 pm last night, as I watched the Lost series finale credits roll by, I reached for a chocolate cupcake and started nibbling. My mind was saying:

"WTF just happened?!"

*Spoilers*

*Spoilers*

*Spoilers*

"After all those fantastic reunions, they were dead this whole time?"

"Didn’t the writers say it wasn’t purgatory and they weren’t dead?"

Thankfully the extra dose of sugar gave my mind some clarity. What happened on the island was real including the flash-forward. This flash-sideways (as they call it) of the sixth season was some kind of holding place for everyone (that mattered) in the show to catch up with each other and move on to the light together (yep, sounds like an episode of Ghost Whisperer here).

But I still couldn’t process everything late at night. It wasn’t until the next morning after I’ve assembled these floral cuppies for a customer that I had an "Aha!" moment.

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The Losties didn’t die in the plane crash. Everything that happened on the island and in flash-forward, happened. Jack died on the island after reclaiming the light and saving everyone that weren’t dead. Sawyer, Kate, Lapidus, Richard and Miles flew off the island but it wasn’t clear what happened to them. Hurley became the new Jacob and Ben, the new Richard.

The flash-sideways that was shown in season 6 was some kind of after-life where everyone that was connected during the intense events on the island decided to wait for each other to come to closure before crossing over to the light. Some of them died before or after Jack died. Spiritual? Yes, it is.

And I didn’t care in the end if a lot of questions about the island were not answered, for example: why were women having fertility issues on the island? (my theory is the real mother of Jacob and the man-in-black put a curse after she was killed after giving birth) what the heck happened to Walt? what exactly is the island? (yes, I’m still not really sure).

Lost was about relationships fostered, about sacrifice and redemption. I actually cared about the characters, they weren’t perfect, they were flawed, they were searching for something. Sounds familiar?

Lost is brilliant.

And my prediction came true: Jack was going to die but not until he passes on stewardship of the island to Hurley.

And if I’ve lost you, that’s okay…

Just have a cupcake…

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birthday cupcakes

* Sorry readers, I had to get the Lost Finale off my chest. I think it’s better to do it in a post than to do several tweets of 140 characters. 🙂

Busy October…

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Cupcakes and macarons

Cupcakes and macarons seem to be the dessert of choice this October. I had so much fun making these and thought you all would want to see what this obsessive macaron maker was up to. The above dessert table was for a bead store opening. The Fandangled Bead store is located at the Shops at Stony point. I can’t believe the selection of beads in this store.  I can see how gorgeous it would be to decorate a cuppie with beads except I have to make sure that no one eats the beads: "Warning, take beads off before eating!" 🙂

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My other store event was for the 30th anniversary of Rostov’s Coffee. The "Hungry" hubby has been getting coffee from them since 1985 and they have the best selection in my opinion. We like to mix the following beans (equal amounts): Excelso and Yirgacheffe.  And boy, did we underestimate how much macarons and cupcakes were needed. Since the owner was also having an oyster roast with other finger foods, I told her not everyone was going to eat dessert. Well, that day the weather was freezing and it was raining. Guess what the customers wanted first when they came in: coffee. And what went so well with coffee? Macarons! The 200+ macarons disappeared in 45 minutes. The 156 cupcakes? 30 minutes later.

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Cupcake tower 1
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Cupcake tower 2
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Chocolate-Espresso/ Vanila Vanilla macarons
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Caramel/ Pistachio/Passion fruit

In hindsight, it probably was not a good idea to put the macarons by the coffee area.

🙂

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Chocolate cupcakes were the first to disappear

Owner said, she would order 500 of each next time. Ofcourse, I hope she was joking.

And here’s another little project for a small wedding. Rose cuppies.

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Rose chocolate cupcakes

Bring on the apples!

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Apple upside-down cake

If you are all like me, the second the mercury drops below 65F you are already plotting the stream of apple desserts that are going into the oven. I’ve already baked the first apple pie before the official fall season began and even if that ended with a bit of drama – the filling juices escaped the bottom crust – it was a delicious mess.

When I received Rose Levy Beranbaum’s new book “Rose’s Heavenly Cakes”, I hurriedly earmarked her apple upside-down cake and her apple-cinnamon crumb coffee cake – both looked absolutely well…uh…heavenly!
I quickly stocked up on apples and warned the “Hungry” Hubby not to eat any of them. You have to be clear with HH regarding which fruits are meant for straight consumption, he is a veritable fruit-eating fiend and there is always some type of contention whenever he is out of his own stash of fruits and starts to covet the plums, figs and especially the apples meant for my baking pleasure.

Because of some time constraints on baking day, I decided to go with the apple upside-down cake which appeared to be the simpler of the two. At first, I thought RLB forgot the cinnamon in the recipe, I mean how can you have apples without cinnamon? I was tempted to add 1/2 a teaspoon but my rule was always to follow the recipe faithfully the first time, see how it turns out and then make adjustments to my own taste as needed.
 

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Have a slice!

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An Asian Inspired Pound Cake

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Condensed Milk Pound Cake

I love condensed milk. I have not used it much in baking, but really, I should experiment with it more often. It is a common sweetener in Asian countries. I remember drizzling it in between a hot pandesal to have as breakfast or as a nighttime snack. It’s great drizzled on fruit too, from papaya to avocado and to the popular Filipino Fruit salad. I also know it makes a great pastry cream without cornstarch and this method is widely used in the Philippines.
I am happy that Pichet Ong frequently employs this sweet alternative to sugar throughout his book “The Sweet Spot” . I’ve always wanted to make his condensed-milk pound cake and was waiting for an opportunity to present itself.
This past weekend, we visited “hungry” hubby’s aunt in DC. Tea-time is a favorite in-between/after meal custom at her house and slices of pound cake with tea seemed like an ideal combination at the moment. The rain that hounded us all weekend even added to the desire to just hang out and drink tea.

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Work before play

 I get so carried away with my cupcake decorations that when customers ask me for a simple design I have no pictures to show them. So I decided to shoot some samples today.

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Simple cupcake decorations on vanilla-vanilla cupcake

I also had to reshoot the cupcakes with flags on them, as I was informed quite bluntly that I had terrible composition in a previous picture.  What can I say? After baking, frosting and decorating 160 cupcakes, I didn’t have the energy left to scrutinize the photo. But point taken – it was bad. Hopefully this is better? 🙂

 
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Now, that I’ve gotten these out of the way, I can play in the kitchen. I really miss those days :(.