Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Group Wedding Cake

Our last cake of the semester required us to work in a group of three to create a three-tiered wedding cake. My group was assigned the shape of triangle for our cake, while other groups were assigned the shapes of octagon or flower. The wedding cake segment of class was spread out over five different class sessions.

During the first session, we listened to Chef talk aimlessly about different types of wedding cakes, different country's wedding cake traditions, and other random stuff for over two hours. It was incredibly boring. After his incessant information session, he described that we'd have to create a three-tier wedding cake. Each cake layer had to be at least 4 inches tall, and each of us had to decorate one layer.

During the second class session, we brainstormed ideas with our group members and prepared an ingredient and supply list.

During the third class session, we baked our cakes and prepared buttercream. My group also colored fondant and royal icing because we would be using these in our cake.

During the fourth class session, we each had to build and ice our cake layer, which I struggled with tremendously. I had to ice the middle layer which was 11 inches. I am not yet very comfortable with icing straight pointy sides necessary for a cake in the shape of a triangle or square, so this was challenging for me. Overall, I didn't realize how lopsided my layer was until the fifth class session, when we assembled the cake.

On the fifth day, we covered our cake board in foil and placed down the first layer, which was a 14 inch triangle. We rolled out fondant to look like a ribbon placed around the bottom edge of the cake. We then used tweezers to place triangles of three edible pearls in rows across the layer.

We then put dowels in the cake to help the middle layer stand straight, which only helped some to straighten out my crooked layer. On the second layer we placed another fondant ribbon around the bottom edge. We then placed a fondant plaque that I had previously piped with our initials - KJC - in royal icing.

We then put dowels in again to place the top layer, which was 8 inches long. We decorated this layer like the bottom one, with a fondant ribbon around the bottom edge and rows of pearls. Atop the cake, we placed a bow made from fondant. We then had to move the cake to the dining room to be displayed.

Rectangle Birthday Cake

Our last individual cake of the semester required us to complete a rectangular shaped cake for a child's birthday. We did this over three class sessions. On the first day, we baked Spanish vanilla sheet cakes which contain chunks of chopped chocolate. We also prepared Italian buttercream and cut out white fondant rectangles to dry.

On the second day, we prepared part of the decoration for the fondant rectangles. Chef gave us a picture of a dog which we traced with a pencil in order to create a pencil transfer onto the fondant.

After we had a pencil outline of the dog on the fondant, we used piping chocolate to outline the design.

We then colored piping gels to the colors of our choices and filled in the outline to complete the dog.

During the third class period, we assembled the cake. We did this by cutting three rectangle pieces of cake and layering them with simple syrup and buttercream. We placed the fondant decoration on top, then used piping chocolate to create a border and write the words "Happy 5th Birthday, Jenny." We finished the cake by piping a shell border around the top edge and the bottom edge.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

On Friday, October 28th, my Retail Bakeshop class hosted a Cupcake Sale, where faculty and staff could pre-order different types of cupcakes. Instead of a cupcake option, Gilly and I prepared a pumpkin whoopie pie with a maple cream cheese filling.

In order to jazz up the whoopie pie, we came up with a rolled fondant decoration. We first cut a scalloped circle out of rolled fondat, then cut a pumpkin out of the center. We replaced the center with an orange pumpkin cut out.

Next, Gilly worked really hard putting the final touches on the decorations, while I filled the whoopie pies.

All in all, we had a lot of fun experimenting with decorations for our whoopie
pies. These pumpkin ones are really delicious!

Tortes Times Three: Marzipan Dome, Lutetia, Sacher

We had a busy month in Advanced Cake Decorating, executing three different tortes that each have interesting components and techniques.

The first torte is the Marzipan Dome Torte. From the bottom up, we built this torte with the following layers: walnut chiffon genoise, brandy simple syrup, raspberry marmalade, marzipan, walnut chiffon genoise, brandy simple syrup, praline buttercream, walnut chiffon genoise, brandy simple syrup, raspberry marmalade, praline buttercream, and walnut chiffon genoise. After building the layers, we used our serrated knife to cut the cake into a dome shape. Once we had the dome, we covered the entire torte in praline buttercream.

We next rolled out a layer of marzipan to cover the entire torte, placed this on top, and carefully used our hands to smooth out the dome all around. We trimmed the bottom edges. We marked the torte into 16 equal slices, and used piping chocolate to pipe a thin ornament on each slice. We finished the torte by creating a marzipan rose, colored with a spray gun, and three leaves.

The second torte we executed was the Lutetia Torte, named for a Romanian princess. This torte also contains layers of walnut chiffon genoise, rum simple syrup, and raspberry marmalade, but it varies in that it contains chantilly cream and soft ganache. After building the torte, it was chilled for 20 minutes so the soft ganache could set up. While chilling, we took time to prepare a ganache coating. This was spread over the torte and smoothed as best as possible using a palette knife.

To decorate this torte, we marked it into 16 equal slices. Using royal icing, we piped a design on the edge of each slice. A quarter piece of walnut dipped in chocolate was placed within the piping.

We finished this torte by creating a carnation out of marzipan, which was also colored with a spray gun and adorned with three green leaves.

The third torte executed was the Sacher torte, named for the pastry chef in Austria who created it. The cake layers for this torte contain marzipan and cake crumbs in addition to hazelnut flour and cocoa powder so generally speaking this is a flavor profile that I can get excited about. This torte has two layers of the Sacher cake with a layer of apricot marmalade in between. It is covered with soft ganache, then chilled for 20 minutes, before being covered in ganache coating.

To decorate this torte, we marked it into 16 equal slices and used piping chocolate to pipe "Sacher" on each slice. We had to do this in the style used by Sacher himself.

Overall, these tortes allowed me the opportunity to execute a variety of new techniques such as building a dome out of cake, covering a cake with marzipan or ganache, piping with different goals in mind, and using marzipan to create roses and carnations. All in all, it was a busy month with lots of new techniques and skills.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Iron Chef Competition

Last Friday, my school hosted an Iron Chef Competition at our downtown campus as part of the weekend's Taste of Charleston events. Last year, I volunteered and was assigned to assist two of the competing chefs. This year, I opted for behind the scenes volunteering and helped platter chocolates and petit fours for the dessert spread. I didn't actually have a part in making any of these products, but it was fun to plate and re-plate and talk with guests.

Here's some photos of the desserts, which included a variety of chocolates (nut clusters and ganache filled), cookies, coconut cake pops, mini bourbon-pecan pies, and many more.

Another highlight of the event was that three of my friends from school - Katelyn, Kait and Sandrea - worked to create a wedding dress out of cake. They called their event "Wear Our Cake, and Eat It Too." Pretty cool stuff:

Retail Bakeshop - Cakes & Pies

During the second rotation of retail bakeshop, my group was assigned cakes and pies. For the first week's bake sale, Gilly and I worked on a variety of quiche and mini pies.

We made two types of vegetable quiche, one with broccoli and one without, while both had tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and cheese:

For the meat lovers, we made spinach bacon and cheese quiche as well as ham and cheese quiche:

We also made mini apple pies and mini pecan pies:

In our second week of this rotation, Gilly and I experimented with some whoopie pie recipes. The first is a traditional chocolate whoopie pie with marshmallow fluff, which we made from scratch:

The second recipe was a hazelnut whoopie pie with a nutella cream filling, and it was absolutely delicious:

Our next rotation is cookies and brownies and such so more fun stuff on the way.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sunday Supper with Virginia Willis

Back in February, I had the amazing opportunity to work with a fabulous group of women and assist on the photo shoot for Virginia Willis's second cookbook called "Basic to Brilliant, Y'all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Company." If you missed my recap on that fantastic opportunity, you can read about it here.

Virginia's cookbook was released a few weeks ago, and she scheduled a few launch events here in Charleston to promote her book. One of those events was Sunday Supper at Heirloom Book Co. in downtown Charleston. Heirloom is a gem of a store - it's dedicated to cookbooks, and they have an amazing collection of newer cookbooks for sale as well as authentic, original editions of some very old, and very fabulous, books. I had visited the store once before, a few months ago after they first opened, and thought it was a really unique place to peruse cookbooks. Now that I know more about it, I feel like it needs to be one of my new hangouts. Seriously, they offer wine, good conversation, and great people - what's not to like? The staff is equally as fantastic as the store, and that makes for a great experience.

The reason I now know more about Heirloom is because Virginia asked me to assist her and her colleague Angie Mosier in preparing the Sunday Supper, which was a 5-course meal paired with wine for 32 guests. Of course, I said yes, because I knew this would be an another amazing opportunity.

You can view the menu here.

After getting things settled in the kitchen, Virginia asked me to prepare the soup course - roasted tomato soup with gruyere flan. I was thrilled to dive into this recipe, because tomato soup in general is one of my absolute favorite things to eat. And the gruyere flan was a little bite of heaven in accompanying the soup. Test the gruyere flan? Yes, please.

Once I had the soup going, Virginia asked me to prep the dessert course, which was a Bittersweet Chocolate Bread Pudding with Chevre Caramel Sauce. The chocolate bread pudding was made with french baguettes so some part of it held its rustic crunch while other parts softened with the chocolate; it was dark and decadent, and of course, delicious. I wasn't sure caramel sauce could be more delicious, but with chevre as well? Again, yes, please. Really amazing stuff.

While I was working on those two dishes, Virginia and Angie prepped the remaining dishes - the appetizers (shrimp rillettes on endive, black pepper cheese shortbread, and pickled vegetables with aioli), the main course (garlic and sausage stuffed pork with sweet potato grits, and brussel sprouts with apples and bacon), and the cheese course (endive and rouqefort slaw). The day choreographed smoothly in terms of preparation, maneuvering equipment, and accomplishing tasks.

After the guests arrived, we dove into plating each course. It was really enjoyable for me to play a part in the plating - for each course, the three of us worked in assembly line fashion to add components to each dish. All were beautiful in appearance, appetizing the eyes of guests. And each dish tasted amazing. Seriously, amazing.

I loved every dish that was prepared for this meal. Seriously, these recipes are amazing. I have grown to love southern food over the past few years, and these recipes are some of the best I've eaten over the course of my time in the south. Seriously, if you didn't think you like grits, I dare you to try Virginia's recipe and not fall in love with them. Same with the brussel sprouts - her preparation takes a bit of time, but it's so worth it in the end. Pork, sausage, and garlic - yeah, that's a slice of heaven in my book.

Honestly, everything prepared for this meal was absolutely fantastic. I can't wait to dive into more of the recipes, now that I am the proud owner of my very own signed cookbook! Seriously, if you want a new cookbook to experiment with, go out and buy this. Or don't go out, order it online. However you do it, just buy it. Seriously. It's absolutely amazing; the photographs, compliments of Helene Dujardin, are gorgeous, and the recipes are sure to be crowd pleasers. You'll love it. I promise.

Did I mention the cookbook has my name in it?!? Seriously. Amazing.

This whole experience has been absolutely phenomenal. I have a ton of memories from the photo shoot and yesterday's dinner. I learned skills and ideas, and saw the nuances behind how cookbooks truly come to life. From start to finish, this has truly been one of the most memorable experiences I've ever had.

What's equally amazing is that I have my own copy of this cookbook, and have a tangible way to relive these memories. I love flipping through the cookbook and reading Virginia's stories, as if she is reading them straight to me. I love seeing the gorgeous photography of Helene's and thinking about how amazing it is to capture these dishes in such beautiful ways. I love thinking about the kitchen tid-bits I picked up from Gena Berry and Angie Moser through these experiences. And if that wasn't enough, I love thinking about opening the book, finding a recipe, and executing it at home, as a way to keep these memories alive. It's truly an amazing gift, in so many amazing ways.

I know I played but a teeny tiny part in all of this, but it was truly magical for me. So again, I say thank you to Virginia Willis, Gena Berry, Angie Mosier, and Helene Dujardin for this great opportunity. I will always cherish it, and I hope to keep sharing my memories with family and friends.

Now it's time to delve into some leftovers from last night's dinner. And I think it's time for you, my family and friends, to order your own copy of the book so you can share the magic. As Virginia would say, "Bon Appetit, Y'all."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mocha Buttercream Torte & Ganache Torte

We've done a lot of new and challenging techniques in the last few Advanced Cakes classes, so I figure it's about time I get around to sharing these with you. Life gets in the way of blogging sometimes...

Anyway, three weeks ago, we made the Mocha Buttercream Torte. In terms of building the cake, this one was fairly standard. We used three vanilla chiffon genoise layers and the mocha buttercream. The only twist here is that we also added a layer of apricot marmalade on the bottom layer to add color contrast and provide a bit of tart taste to the overall product.

The challenge in this cake came in the decoration. After marking the cake into 16 equal slices, we placed a three-inch ring in the center to mark an area for sliced almonds. We then piped a line of buttercream down the middle of each slice, then piped a line that crossed over the center line. The trickiest part was then piping a very thin line of chocolate over the second line, which provided a color contrast and an accent to the design. We then placed a mocha bean on each slice as well as sliced almonds in the center and around the bottom edge in order to finish the cake.

Overall, I was really pleased with my effort on this cake. It's one of the best cakes I have decorated to date so I feel like I am finally making progress in the area of cake decorating as a whole. And, I really liked the mocha flavor in this buttercream so that's a nice bonus.

Two weeks ago, we made the Ganache Torte. I love ganache, as much as I love saying the word ganache. What's not to love about cream and chocolate in perfect harmony, right?

Well, it wasn't exactly perfect harmony this time around. We attempted to make a soft ganache but it ended up being somewhat chipped. Regardless we were able to proceed and execute the cake.

This cake had three vanilla chiffon genoise layers as well. Nothing special in building the cake, just layering the cake with ganache. To decorate the top, we piped a reverse shell border and then piped 16 rosettes on top. The challenge in this cake was to pipe with chocolate the words "Happy 20th Birthday, Elizabeth" in a stylized font on a fondant disc, which was placed in the center of the cake.

A few weeks ago, we had a homework assignment to write the alphabet in capital and lower case letters as well as numbers in two different stylized fonts. Most people practice this piping in advance of making this cake, because it's somewhat nerve-racking to do this under pressure. I feel generally comfortable with piping based on my progress last semester so I chose not to make any time to practice ahead of time. I attempted one disc fully and then piped a second disc, and was pleased with my second effort. With the exception of the "E", I liked my stylized font and the accuracy with which I was able to pipe the greeting.

To date, this is the best effort I have made on a cake in this class, so I was again really pleased with my effort and my progress. A year ago, I couldn't pipe a reverse shell border, and I found it easy this time around, so that's good for my confidence and my progress. I'm also glad to know my piping skills have remained fairly intact even though I haven't practiced as often as I used to. All in all, I feel like I'm getting into a good stride in my cake decorating, and that's a pretty good feeling.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Roulade Torte

In this week's Advanced Cake Decorating class, we made a Roulade Torte. Roulade implies a roll of a thin sponge cake and a filling. In this case, we had a thin vanilla sponge cake with chocolate buttercream.

To build this cake, we placed a vanilla chiffon genoise layer down first and then spread a thin layer of chocolate buttercream. We then cut strips of the vanilla sponge cake and layered on chocolate buttercream. We rolled this and placed it in the center, then continued to place strips around to continue to form the roulade to the outer edge.

After completing the roulade layer, we spread a thin layer of chocolate buttercream and then placed another layer of vanilla chiffon genoise on top. We covered the entire torte in chocolate buttercream. I must say, I rebounded well from last week. With some pointers from my friend Anna who is a great cake decorator, I was finally able to do a better job on smoothing out the sides and the top of my cake. We then marked the cake into 16 slices and piped spirals on each slice.

We finished the cake by placing almonds around the bottom edge and placing a slice of marzipan covered in chocolate on each of the 16 slices. I didn't do a great job overall with making my chocolate-covered marzipan slices, and I'm generally not crazy about how large they are, but it does make for an interesting and different garnish.

Chef cut into his cake so we could see how the inside looks when sliced.

I really like the look of the inside of this cake, and I think it could have lots and lots of applications in terms of flavor combinations of cakes and buttercreams.