Monday, August 27, 2012

Lemon Curd

As mentioned in my last post, I had made one of the most delicious cakes to date: a blueberry lemon cake filled with tangy lemon curd and topped with homemade whipped cream. Unfortunately, I will not be sharing the actual cake with you as it slowly broke apart on the drive from my place to my parent's, and I foolishly did not take pictures of it before hand (although I didn't have time either). So, that really just means that I have to make the cake again sometime in the future so that I CAN share it with you. :) Perfect logic, right?

What I am able to share is the fabulous lemon curd that I made to fill the cake with. My first attempt at making a curd turned out to be wonderfully easy, and produced the most lip puckering lemony curd ever with a hint of sweetness. In other words, refreshing and drool-worthy at the same time.

Yield: up to 2 cups
4 lemons
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 whole eggs plus 4 egg yolks
1 cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons
4 tablespoons unsalted, room temperature and cut into small cubes


Slice lemons in half crosswise and extract as much of the juice as you can with a citrus reamer. Room temperature or slightly warm citrus (achieved by placing in microwave for 10-15 seconds) is the best for juicing. Repeat until you have 1 cup of the lemon juice, making sure to strain so that there are no seeds left.

Whisk together the juice, whole eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a heat proof bowl until smooth. Add the butter cubes to the bowl, but don't stir.

Fill a medium-sized pot with 1" of water and heat until water is simmering. Place the bowl with the juice mixture on atop the rim, ensuring that the bowl fits snugly into the top of the pot and that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water (or else the eggs will cook). Stirring gently, but constantly, cook until the curd has thickened and all of the butter has melted and is incorporated, about 10 minutes. To test if the curd is thick enough, remove the spatula or spoon from the curd and run your finger down the back of the spoon. If you're able to draw a distinct line through, the curd is ready.

Strain the curd over a bowl using a fine-mesh sieve and then stir in the lemon zest. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly against the curd (to prevent a skin from forming) and chill for at least 3 hours. It will thicken slightly more while chilling.

Source: slightly adapted from Sweetapolita

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Vanilla Raspberry Bachelorette Cupcakes + Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I've been going through a bit of a blogging funk lately, with no real ambition to write any new posts. Not to mention, it's now taken me 3 days to complete this post (although in my defense I was trying to work a new editing program, of which was basically another language to me). You know how sometimes the less busy you are the less motivated you become to do things? I think that's what's been happening with me; after all the craziness of moving and getting our adorable puppy, I've been pretty much lazing around.

I have made a thing or two that I would have liked to blog, but it just didn't work out. One was the most delicious Lemon Blueberry 3-layer cake that would have been perfect to share... if it had not slowly fell apart on the drive to my parent's house. 'Surprise birthday cake Mom! Take a good look at it now because it may be completely destroyed by the time we get to eat it.' FAIL. I also made some pretty tasty Sweet Potato Gnocchi in Brown Butter and Sage sauce for my Mother's birthday dinner, but didn't have time nor was in the mood to snap pictures.
But I am pleased to say that I have these B-E-A-U-tiful and delicious cupcakes that I made for my best friend's bachelorette party that just took place this past Friday! What a fabulous night it was: 13 girls, 1 SUV limo, a trip to Niagara Falls and some very fun events that will not be named...

The cupcakes were made from a yummy vanilla bean recipe that I have made before, found here. Keeping it simple, I filled the cupcakes with Smuckers seedless raspberry jam, which has a nice balance of tart and sweetness and the perfect texture. The cupcakes were topped off with a raspberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream, which was OMG yum (I might have kept squeezing out the remainder in the piping bag onto my finger and eating it), and then with a royal icing transfer, in the shape of hearts, engagement rings and corsets. As you can see by the pictures I also made martini glasses and the letter E for Emily, but they were too fragile to even peel off of the wax paper :(.

To start, the royal icing transfers should be made at least a day ahead, preferably two so they have enough time to dry properly. Transfers might be the easiest, simply because you can copy/trace a picture. I printed the pictures I wanted to the appropriate size, and lay the sheet underneath wax paper. As an added bonus, the shapes are all uniform! To view a recipe for royal icing, go here.

To put filling in the cupcakes, simply cut a small dome in the top and cut off the bottom half of the dome. Replace the dome on the cupcake, and when the cupcake is iced, nobody will be the wiser.

I've recently become a much bigger fan of Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMB). It was the first Buttercream icing I ever tried, and let me say I failed miserably more than once. However, when I first tried Italian Meringue Buttercream (IMB), it worked like a charm, so I may be partial to it for that reason. Also, SWM uses more butter and therefore has a more pronounced buttery flavour, which is why I enjoy the lighter IMB. However, more steps are involved in the IMB and if you're looking to save some time, go with the SMB. It's all done in one bowl (if you have a stand mixer), which is definitely a plus.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream (raspberry vanilla)
Yield: for 24 cupcakes + a little extra
5 egg whites
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
squeeze of lemon juice
3/4 lb butter (1 1/2 cups or 3 sticks), softened to room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
*3-5 tablespoons raspberry jam (or other flavouring, ie. caramel, coconut, strawberry puree, etc.)

Fill a pot with approximately 1 inch of water and heat until simmering lightly. Whisk together egg whites, sugar, salt and lemon juice in the bowl of a stand mixer or heat proof bowl. Place the bowl on the pot of simmering water, and whisk the mixture continuously until it reaches a temperature of 160 degrees F, and the sugar is completely dissolved.

Transfer the mixture to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high sped until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8-10 minutes.

Reduce the speed to medium-low and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated. It will be ready when the buttercream transforms from a soupy curdled appearance into a whipped-like consistency. You may need to whip it on medium-high for several minutes to achieve this consistency, or add a few more tablespoons of butter. At this point, whip in the vanilla extract and jam until just incorporated. 

Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.

Source: adapted from Martha Stewart

The final result: YUM!

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ombre Bridal Shower Cake

Part III and the final edition to my Bridal Shower series! The main focus of the food spread: the cake!! You may have remembered me mentioning multiple times in previous posts the difficulties I was having with trying to narrow down what to make for a cake. I went through thinking about fondant, to a 3-tier cake, to using different icing techniques for every tier, and to using different icing bases for the different cakes.

What I decided on was a classic Vanilla cake with strawberry filling and Strawberry Italian Meringue Buttercream icing for the bottom tier, and a Chocolate Devil's food cake with Caramel/Butterscotch IMButtercream icing for the top tier. I was torn between using previous recipes I had tried out, or trying something new. I went for completely new recipes, mainly so that I could share the results with you!

Unfortunately, in my opinion, only half of that paid off the way I envisioned. The vanilla cake was dense, making it ideal for a heavy layered cake, but it was also too dry (although that might in part be my fault as I remember vaguely seeing that you should make a simple syrup to help add moisture to the cake after it was done baking, which I omitted due to time constraints... and, well being lazy). I still have yet to find a good flavourful and moist yellow cake recipe, so if anybody knows or has a recipe that they really like, I would love to hear from you! The chocolate cake turned out quite well, although it was a bit crumbly, which made icing a bit more of a challenge. It called for butter rather than oil, which is fine although my favourite chocolate cake recipe involves oil. It wasn't as moist as the recipe that calls for oil, but it had a lovely deep chocolate flavour that was perfect for the chocolate-lovers in the crowd.

The flowers were made with a gumpaste and fondant mixture, and some petal dust to coat, as the pink faded quite dramatically as it dried. A simple dollop of icing held them in place.

Because I was not overly satisfied with the results of the vanilla cake, I'm not going to write the ingredients and directions, but I will post the link. The lovely Heather Baird from Sprinkle Bakes (if you don't know of it, check it out here: Sprinkle Bakes) made a guest post on here. As I didn't want the bottom tier to be overly high, I thought it perfect that the recipe was set in quantities for a 8 inch pan, when I was using a 9 inch pan. However, much to my dismay (and possibly misunderstanding the instructions) the quantities given were enough for 2 layers of cake. Like 2 thin layers. Not layers that are high enough that you can tort them, like the instructions indicated. I pulled the pans out of the often and realized that they had barely risen at all, and with a great sigh I determined that I would be making a second batch of the recipe to yield the 4 layers I had originally been hoping for. For instructions on how to make the strawberry filling and IMButtercream, you can check out my post on Strawberry Cupcakes, although I would use some cornstarch in the strawberry reduction to thicken it up further. Also, I multiplied the icing quantities by 1.5 (x2 wasn't needed as the filling was used between the layers).

The chocolate cake recipe was also taken from Sprinkle Bakes, although Heather souped up that cake to something of incredible imagination. I simplified it quite a bit, and also cut the recipe down to 3/4 as it was filling 6 inch pans. I've put the quantities for a 6 inch cake in brackets.

1 oz. (3/4) fine quality unsweetened baker's chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup + 1 1/2 tablespoon (3/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup (3/4) hot coffee (decaf is fine)
2 eggs
2 (1) egg yolks
1/4 (1/5) cup sour cream
1 (3/4) tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/4  cups(shy 1 3/4) flour
1 1/2 cups (1 cup + 2 tablespoons) light brown sugar, packed tight
1 teaspoon (3/4) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon (1/4+1/8) salt
16 tablespoons or 2 sticks (12 tbsp or 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch (or 6-inch) cake pans with shortening and line with a circle of parchment paper. Grease paper and flour the pan; tap out excess flour and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the chocolate, cocoa and hot coffee until smooth. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks, sour cream, half the chocolate mixture and vanilla until just combined.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt on low for 30 seconds. Add the softened butter and the remaining chocolate mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

With the mixture off between additions, add the egg mixture in two parts, starting on medium-low speed and gradually increasing to medium. Beat on medium speed for 45 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients. The batter should be fluffy. Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans and smooth with a spatula. Tap the pans on the counter a few times to release any air bubbles.

Bake for 30-40 minutes. Cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed in the middle. Let the cakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wired rack. Let cool completely.

For instructions on the Caramel IMButtercream icing, check out my post on Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes. For the cake, I added in 1 additional egg white.

 I apologize for the poor quality of these photos; I had literally seconds to get a snapshot and it wasn't until after everybody had been served.

As you can see, my cake skills aren't perfect. The layers weren't evenly torted, but that's not the end of the world.
Also, I was unhappy with myself for this cake as there wasn't as much filling/icing as I was hoping there would be, which was especially needed with a drier cake. But, you live and learn, right?!

Also, I forgot to mention that when making a tiered-cake, it is important that you use some sort of supports to help keep the structure of the cake intact. I cut 5 wooden BBQ skewers to the height of the bottom cake, and inserted them where the top tier would be sitting. You also need to have a cardboard layer in between the cake tiers, so that there is something firm sitting on top of the skewers.

And, while she might not appreciate this, a picture of the happy bride-to-be!

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Goodbye Ottawa... hello London

Hey Guys! I apologize that it's been so long since my last blog post, but lots has changed in my life in the last 2 weeks and I've been busy busy!

We moved from our old, very tiny apartment in Ottawa to a much larger and nicer apartment in London, which is also wayy closer to my family. While I was excited for the move and to be closer to home, I also miss my friends, coworkers, clients, and the vibrant city. But now you can finally get a glimpse into the great working space that I had! What, you don't think my cubby hole of a kitchen is decent? The fact that I had to put my microwave on top of my apartment-sized fridge, and have only one counter space to work on (since my dish rack would always be on the counter in the picture to the right by the sink)?  Common... still no? Well, I do have a much larger kitchen now, although I don't have pictures yet of the new place; it's still a work in progress.

We were lucky to have 4 amazing friends help us move. Although with our small elevator, it still took us over 2 hours. At least it was easy to pack our massive truck! FYI, we did not choose to rent a truck this big, but they didn't have the size we asked for the day we were picking it up so we were 'upgraded'.

After staying at my parent's place overnight, we left bright and early the next morning to be at our new apartment for 8:00 sharp, as we had the elevator booked. Unfortunately, 5 minutes before arriving, this happened:

That's not our truck; that's the truck of an 18 year old kid who smashed into the back of our Uhaul, which we did not buy the insurance for. I mean, how do you not see a big, looming 26 foot truck in front of you?? 2 hours later, after getting a toe truck and making a police report at the reporting station, we finally arrive at the apartment building. We had to haul butt because the elevator was booked at 11 for another person, but luckily they didn't arrive and we managed to get everything up in just under 2 hours! That was with the help of my one friend Carolyn for about an hour, and just Sean and I after that. We took care of returning the Uhaul and dealing with the accident, unpacked for a few hours, and headed back to my parents to spend the night again.

After 5 days of unpacking, doing lots of shopping, errands and settling in, we picked up the newest addition to our family: Tucker!!

He is the cutest, sweetest little boy who's smart too. But after a week of having him, he's come out of his shell and has plenty of attitude and is chewing on everything too!

Case and point.

This weekend I had originally planned to go to an outdoor country concert on Friday, featuring Tim McGraw and various other artists, and then head up to my friend's cottage. Unfortunately, the weather was crap, cold and raining, and I decided not to go. At least I hadn't purchases tickets beforehand, so I wasn't out that way.

As a result, my best friend's mother asked me somewhat last minute to make a cake for Emily's family bridal shower on Saturday. Of course I said yes, and my brain went into immediate spinning mode on what to make. What I chose to go with was a 3-tiered square cake, featuring a vanilla cake on the bottom, chocolate in the middle, and cherry chip (Emily's favourite) on the top.

I wish I had a better picture, or more pictures, but I was extremely pressed for time. I wasn't completely satisfied with the final result, but I had put in around 11 hours and worked up until the last possible minute, and frankly just ran out of time. This is by far the largest cake I have ever made, and was not difficult except for the math it took to make the recipe larger. I used a simple vanilla buttercream for everything, except for a chocolate buttercream for the middle of the chocolate cake.

I haven't been completely happy with chocolate and vanilla recipes that I've used in the past, so I decided to try out 2 new recipes and crossed my fingers that they turned out OK. And boy, were they delicious! The yellow cake was sweet, moist and fluffy, while the chocolate was fudgey, very moist and dense. I will definitely be using these in the future. To make sure they remained moist, I brushed them with a simple syrup the night before assembling them.

Thanks to Annie's Eats for her Fluffy Yellow Cake, taken from Cooks Illustrated, and her Chocolate Cake, taken from The Barefoot Contessa. They were truly great cakes.

That's it for now! Thanks for reading! Pin It