Archive for the ‘Cakes’ Category

Mad about Ice Cream

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

              Empty Glasses

This particular ice cream journey began with a spur-of-the-moment decision to visit Island Creamery after a less-than-satisfactory dinner. I was particularly impressed by the burnt caramel and apple pie ice cream that my brother had chosen and wondered if I could reproduce those same delicious flavours at home.

I was a little apprehensive since I’d made ice cream only twice previously, both attempts which produced less-than-ideal results. My very first attempt was made without an ice cream maker. On top of that, I didn’t freeze-then-churn the custard sufficiently. resulting in a slightly icy texture and vanilla specks that sunk to the bottom of the tub. My second atttempt saw a custard recipe that called for double cream. While the ice cream wasn’t as icy as before, it wasn’t sweet enough and left an unpleasant coating on the tongue, presumably from too high a fat content. It was a pretty disappointing waste of very expensive dairy ingredients.

I was determined to make my third attempt a success.

Burnt Caramel Ice Cream

              Home Churned Burnt Caramel Ice Cream

I turned to Michael Recchiuti’s Chocolate Obsession for the burnt caramel ice cream recipe. Having read his instructions very carefully, especially the part about turning on a kitchen fan if I had one, I had this vision of my kitchen filling up with acrid smoke while caramel turned black in my pot. Fortunately, it was nothing like that. Yes, there was some smoking, but just a few wisps and the caramel wasn’t ebony black, but a very dark amber instead.

Burnt Caramel & Vanilla Pods

The truth be told, I began to have doubts about the chosen flavour when I tasted the burnt caramel base on its own; it was bitter and tasted … well, burnt. But once dissolved into the creamy custard, the taste was absolutely fantastic and even better after churning and ripening! The ice cream had a deep caramel taste with mild burnt overtones. The best part was that it was completely smooth and the vanilla specks stayed happily suspended in the frozen ice cream.

Cocoa Nib Ice Cream with Caramelised Cocoa Nibs

Cocoa Nibs

Emboldened by my success with this ice cream recipe, I moved on to another from the same book. The 1-kg bag of Valrhona cocoa nibs, delivered right to my doorstep a couple months ago, was still untouched. The second I’d cut the bag open, the most wonderful chocolate fragrance filled the air. It was just like opening up a bag of roasted coffee beans, except that the smell was that of pure chocolate heaven.

              Cocoa Nibs Caramelised

Oh, how I regret not having ripped open the package the moment it arrived! All this time a heavenly culinary moment was just sitting in a corner of my kitchen, waiting to happen! I had no idea that cocoa nibs smelt this good. I’m not entirely sure how to describe it; somehow I keep thinking the words “pure” and “clean”, certainly not adjectives one usually associates with chocolate, but that was exactly what I felt it was: a very pure and clean chocolate aroma.

Home Churned Cocoa Nibs Ice Cream

The cocoa nib ice cream reminded me very vaguely of Milo and Ovaltine, but there was something different about it. I don’t think it’s a taste I can describe acurately. You’ll just have to try it yourself to find out!

The caramelised nibs mixed into the churned custard tasted slightly bitter as I’d messed up the caramelising process and ended up with small chunks of unmelted sugar and some burnt nibs in the mix. I’ll probably leave the caramelised nibs out of the custard in the future and just sprinkle it over the ice cream.

I’m thinking apple pie ice cream next!

Old School Blackforest Cake

              Old School Blackforest Cake

The photograph here is of the blackforest cake I’d made for my brother’s 30th birthday. It was a little daunting to make since this was the most frequently requested cake in my mum’s cake business while we were growing up. Fortunately, I had my mum’s recipe on hand and some carefully written notes on the side. Still, I wasn’t sure if the cake I’d made would live up to our memories of what it’d tasted like before.

But I’m glad to report that the cake turned out well and mum actually thought it tasted fine, just that I’d been a little too generous cream-wise!

              Old School Blackforest Cake

After having the cake, my brother confessed that he’d never really liked blackforest cake (and I’d thought it was his favourite!) and to be completely honest, neither had I! But I was glad that I gave my mum’s recipe a shot because my dad and hubby thoroughly enjoyed it.

Mad about Chocolate Cake

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

              Chocolate Cake

So, I wasn’t supposed to bake any more before the next birthday, but the last cake I made (last section of this post) tasted so disappointing (based on feedback from my family) that I just HAD to redeem myself.

What better way to do that than with a chocolate cake? After all, there’s nothing like a generous slice of good chocolate cake to make things right!

Chocolate Cake Before and After

I went with devil’s food cake, sandwiched and frosted with whipped dark chocolate ganache, made with my very last stash of Valrhona 66% Caraibe.

The cake turned out so delightfully moist and soft that I had to stop myself from eating the cake fresh from the oven. Although it turned firm in the fridge, letting it sit for 20 minutes at room temperature before serving brought back that wonderful texture.

              Chocolate Cake Slice

I was also happy to put my recently acquired Wilton decorating tips to use. The drop flowers didn’t turn out too well; ganache probably isn’t the best medium for pretty drop flowers. I absolutely prefer the version without the flowers. Note to self: stick to simple shell borders and lines when working with ganache.

Roses Cream Cake

The rose cream cake pictured above was made with vanilla victoria sponge layers I had leftover from this cake. I was anxious to try piping roses with whipped cream instead of royal icing, since my joints didn’t take too kindly to the latter.

While the roses turned out fine, although extremely tedious to pipe because of the really warm weather on that particular day, I suspect the cake had dried up somewhat from being refrigerated for 2 days (despite my best cling wrap efforts). I believe my brother actually used the term “biscuit” when describing the cake! That’s definitely a word I NEVER want to hear again in association with any cake that I bake.

              Roses Cream Cake

In any case, I’ve never really fancied the texture of victoria sponges, using it only when I need a cake with sufficient structure to hold up heavier decoration. I’m going with a sturdy, but still delicious carrot cake next time!

Mad about a Basket-of-Roses Cake

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Rose Cake

Whenever September rolls in, I start to get a little panicky. Why? Because there are five birthdays to be celebrated in my family over the next two months and what’s a birthday celebration without a birthday cake?

Five may seem like a paltry number, given that there are 60-odd days. But believe me, when 2 of the said birthdays are less than 10 days apart and the following 2 just 3 days apart, it’s a real challenge, given that I like to have plenty of space between each baking session. Since I haven’t got as much time this year, I’m planning 3 cakes to be shared.

A Basket of Roses

The 1st cake on my birthday cake baking schedule is the topic of this post. The design idea for this basket-of-roses cake comes from the cover of this Wilton Decorating Cakes book.

The cake consists of vanilla Victoria sponges, sandwiched with raspberry preserve, vanilla buttercream and fresh raspberries, covered with vanilla buttercream. A buttercream basket-weave is piped around the cake and royal-icing roses, accompanied by pale green buttercream leaves, grace the top.

              Royal Icing Roses

This cake marks 2 firsts for me: royal icing roses and basket weave piping. Needless to say, my right hand is aching really badly from all that piping. Who knew that stiff royal icing could be such a pain (literally) to pipe?

The 1st batch of royal icing made with fresh eggwhites wasn’t stiff enough and the petals turned out a little droopier than I would have liked. The 2nd batch made with meringue powder was perfect in consistency and I was delighted at how the roses turned out, although I was a little less thrilled when the red ones turned out more fragile than the pink ones. I’ll be sure to pipe a few extra roses in the future!

A Basket of Roses

As for the basket weave, I think I need a little more practice. The overall look would have been better if I’d spaced the vertical lines a little closer. Still, I’m quite pleased with how pretty the cake turned out and I hope my aunts, whom the cake is for, like it too!

              Rose Cake