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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Have Your Cake and Read It Too

OMG. . . everyone. . . I cannot even begin to describe how excited I am about this cake.  As the younger generation would say. . . SQUEEEEEEEE (if that's still a thing. . . I'm not sure -- as my recent birthday indicates, I'm getting more and more out of touch everyday.) Okay, deep breath. . . are you intrigued yet?

So, as I just alluded to, I recently celebrated a birthday.  I looooove birthdays (especially when they belong to me) and for the past few years I've taken the opportunity to make a really special birthday cake for myself. Kind of like a birthday present from me, to me.  Usually I tackle a technique that I've wanted to try for a while, and just needed a reason to do so. This year, I took this to the next level and made a cake that has significant personal meaning to me.

A lot has happened in the past summer. My husband and I decided to sell our house in the 'burbs and move back to the city.  After a little over half a decade with a thirty minute commute, we came to the conclusion that we'd always be city people -- and forgoing the space and the yard actually has yielded surprisingly few regrets.  It is a bit harder to bake in our tiny little transitional space, especially given my propensity for making huge messes, but our final spot should be just large enough for the two of us.  That's not to say that I don't miss anything about our house. My favorite room in the old place was my library.  I love to read -- I have ever since I was in grade school.  In fact, to quote Jorge Luis Borges,
'I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.'    

Have you heard of this Jorge Luis Borges? According to Wikipedia, he was an Argentinian writer, poet, and essayist who wrote popular short stories intertwining dreams, religion, and philosophy.  (I have to admit, I've never actually heard of him or read any of his works before, but I do so love his thoughts on libraries.) So to commemorate my birthday and pay a tribute to my lovely prior library, haven for my thoughts and dreams, I decided to make myself a mini library replica cake.  

(Yes! A library cake! Jump up and down with excitement along with me!)

I kept a lot of the details the same as the library in my old house, such as the wedding photo of myself and my husband during our first dance, hung over the fireplace.  A couple of things I changed a bit, just for fun -- things I may have done to my own library had we stayed there for a while --but the overall essence is strongly reminiscent of our old place.  In fact when I look at the cake, it takes me straight back to Saturday mornings in the study, curled up on my favorite armchair -- a new book, a steaming hot cappucino, and the delicious anticipation of a story about to unfold.  Mmmmmmm, like I said. . . I love books. . . and I love cake. 

Luckily for me, and to quote C.S. Lewis, 

“Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably.”


Can that just be my motto for life?  It is pretty much the epitome of my hopes, dreams, and desires.  Smart man, that C.S. Lewis (and Jorge Luis Borges too -- I haven't forgotten about him.)

 I digress. Because of the way I decided to construct the cake, I had to pull out my very dusty math skills (the Pythagorean Theorem!)  Thank God for computers and calculators.  I actually had a headache by the end of the computations, and I have a feeling that the math wasn't even that hard to begin with.  My high-school self would be disappointed (or maybe sympathetic -- math was never my favorite subject.)  Anyways, the thought was that I'd use the square cake (8 in) to simulate the outside of the building, with a trapezoid (math!) cut out of the center, using the negative space for the floor of my library and the trapezoid cake sides as the walls of the library.  I found a picture of a library online which was pretty similar to my own previous library, helping me with the proportions of the walls and base.  I tried to make the cake 4 inches tall, which was a gross overestimation.  It only ended up being 3 inches in height which threw off some of the proportions of the decorations, but I managed to add some height with the fondant wall paneling used to cover the cake, so it worked out in the end.

This was a task.  Because of all the tiny little components, I made the cake over the period of a month.  But I enjoyed doing it, so it was a pleasant task.  The cake itself, sadly, was a little bit of a disappointment.  Of course, none of my projects every proceed perfectly smoothly, but the way the cake baked was seriously frustrating.  I had baked it leaving very little margin for error with the cook time, completely forgetting that I was using a new oven, and right up against the deadline of a meeting that I could not miss.  Consequently, I was hunched in front of the oven staring through the window, willing the cake to bake faster than my analytical brain knew possible.  To make a long story short, I tested it way too early, poking a hole into the still cooking middle and causing a result remarkably similar to an inverted volcano.  The second the skewer went in, I heard the small hiss of air and the instantaneous deflation of the, until then, gloriously puffed up cake surface, and my stomach sank right along with the cake.  Luckily, with some extra filling, I managed to straighten the surface, although the slices did look a little wonky when cut. 

I am somewhat of a glutton for punishment, so I'll likely make the cake again to see if it works out with a proper baking time.  I'll publish the recipe regardless, so if anyone wants to try the adjusted baking time out before I get to it, let me know how it works.

A couple of notes.  You can make your own salted caramel sauce, but I just used ice cream topping to make it easier.  Same with the caramel simple syrup.  I had some in the pantry since I  purchased several simple syrups as a gift for my husband to use when making cocktails (so yes, admittedly, it was more of a gift for me than for him -- but it backfired since he never used them.)

And yes, I did use two pounds of chocolate.  It is decadent

Caramely goodness

Upside down cake!

There's that math. . .

Drawing straight is harder than it looks.

Don't worry, I saved all that cake. . . no way is it going to waste!

print recipe

Baileys Chocolate Cake with Caramel Filling
Ultra rich chocolate cake with a hint of Baileys and Caramel. Totally Decadent.
  • 1 cup Unsalted Butter
  • 2 1/2 cups Sugar
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 cup Dutch Processed Cocoa
  • 1 cup Baileys Liquor or Baileys Coffee Creamer
  • 1 cup Water
  • 2 3/4 cup Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Espresso Powder
  • 1 cup Mini Chocolate Chips
  • 2 1/2 cups Rich's Bettercream
  • 1 small package Caramel Instant Pudding
  • 2Tbsp -1/4 cup to taste Baileys Liquor or Baileys Coffee Creamer
  • 1 lb Caramelia Chocolate Feves
  • 1 lb Dulce Chocolate Feves
  • 3/4 cup Heavy Cream
  • 2 tsp Fleur de Sel
  • 1/4 cup Corn Syrup
  • 1 cup Salted Caramel Sauce
  • Salted Caramel Simple Syrup
1. Spray a 3 in deep, 8 in square pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line bottom with a piece of parchment paper and a flower nail in the center.2. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together in large bowl. Whisk until combined.3. In a Kitchenaid Mixer, cream room temperature butter and sugar together at medium speed for 10 minutes.4. Add eggs, two at a time until fully incorporated. Scrape down bowl as necessary.5. Boil the water. When boiling, mix in cocoa powder and espresso powder until fully incorporated.6. Warm Baileys slightly and add to cocoa mixture.7. Alternating dry and wet, add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture in 4 parts, and the cocoa mixture to the sugar mixture in 3 parts, starting and ending with the flour mixture.8. Fold in chocolate chips gently, so as not to deflate batter.9. Pour into prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.10. Meanwhile, heat the chocolate over a double broiler until fully melted.11. Dissolve corn syrup and fleur de sel over medium heat into heavy cream. Bring to a boil. 12. Combine with melted chocolate and mix vigorously until combined.13. Let sit at room temperature for several hours, or a couple hours in the fridge until thickened.14. Still while waiting for cake to complete baking, combine Bettercream, and instant pudding and whip until soft peaks form.15. Add Baileys to Bettercream, to taste. Set aside until cake is ready to fill.16. When cake is baked, torte and spray layers generously with salted caramel simple syrup.17. Build a dam around the bottom layer surface, and top with salted caramel sauce and Bettercream filling.18. Frost cake with whipped ganache, using upside down frosting technique.19. Enjoy or freeze as desired.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 1 8" square cake

I used a frosting sheet to have my wedding photo printed as well as a quote from Hugo to go over the bookshelves, and to line the study with wallpaper.  I did this in the past with my husband's wine bottle cake, but I used a different vendor this time -- InkYourSweets. It's interesting -- the previous frosting sheet I used with the wine bottle was ultra thin -- like if I blew on it, it would tear.  It worked well for that project because it made the label look oh-so-authentic, but in general I prefer the sturdier sheet that I got from InkYourSweets.  It was much easier to work with. 

The beginnings of the bookcase

The fire in the fireplace is made from wafer paper, dyed with powdered food color, and the fireplace grate is made from thinly piped chocolate.  The ladder is pretzel sticks dipped in chocolate. The rest was a lot of fondant, and a lot of experimentation, and some hand-painting to make things look just so.  

Look at all of those books!

Things are coming together!
Piping hot cappucino -- one of my favorite details!
Can you feel the heat from that crackling fire?

I used fondant paneling to line the walls of the library.  The "outside" panels are imprinted with a brick texture, and I added a door and a small doorstep with some greenery as well.  

Trying to get everything to stay straight!


Making my mini-me (and the super comfy couch!) was one of the most fun parts. . .

The headless baker. . .

Can you see the resemblance?
I kind of wish I had used play-doh more as a child -- my sculptures may have been a bit better.  Regardless though, the more I played around with the dough (no pun intended) the better my little decorations turned out.My mini-me still looked slightly reptilian -- I think I did something weird with the forehead/nose junction, but I can't quite figure out what. . . but otherwise everything turned out pretty well.  And absolutely everything (well except for the tree trunks for the porch trees, which are toothpicks) is edible!

Makes me want to curl up with a book and a cappuccino. . . and probably a piece of cake as well!