Friday, April 24, 2015

April Showers Bring Cake Flowers

'Tis the season for flowers.  Finally.  Of course, if you've happened to wander out over the past couple of days, you may doubt the statement.  It should be the season for flowers -- but in classic Mother Nature form, a bait and switch appears to have been pulled upon us.  Two glorious days of open windows, runs on the trail, sunshine drenched afternoons leading into breezy warm evenings, and then. . . this.  Rain, hurricane-like winds, and . . frost.  Yes, frost.  But -- never fear, we can still have flowers on cake.  Flowers which are ever-bright and never wilt.  Until they're eaten of course. . . but in that case, at least, the demise is a positive.

Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Macerated Strawberries

Chocolate Cake

This may be my favorite chocolate cake recipe.  And its a boxed cake recipe.  That's right -- Duncan Hines to be exact. Just a few add-ins and you'd never believe it started its life on a dry goods shelf.


1 Box Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake
1 Package Jello Instant Chocolate Pudding Mix
4 Eggs
1/3 Cup Butter
1 Tbsp Ground coffee
1 Cup Water


Combine at low speed for 30 seconds, so as to ensure that the ingredients don't splash everywhere.  (If you succeed at this, you're already ahead of me.  My mixer seems to start on "splash everything everywhere" speed.)
Mix at medium speed for an additional two minutes.

Pour into 2 8-in cake pans or 3 6-in cake pans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, when a toothpick inserted into the center should be clean upon removal.

Cool on a wire rack.

Macerated Strawberries

1 Cup Strawberries, cored and sliced
3 Tbsp Powdered Sugar


Place strawberries in shallow bowl.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar and gently mix with spoon.  Set aside for 30 minutes

Cream Cheese Frosting 

Note: This makes enough frosting for a two layer 6-in cake.  If you are doing a larger cake, you may want to double the recipe


2 8-oz Containers Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 Cup Butter, softened
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Cups Powdered Sugar


Beat, slowly at first to incorporate ingredients, then at high speed until fluffy.
Putting it all together
Level one of the cake layers using a serrated bread knife.  Leave the other with a domed top.  On top of the leveled cake layer, scoop a generous amount of cream cheese and spread evenly, leaving approximately a 3/4 inch border without frosting.  Layer the macerated strawberries on top of the cream cheese.  Spread a thin layer of frosting over the strawberries.  Place the domed cake on top and press slightly as needed to ensure that cake is even. Frost the entire cake. Set aside.


Tools and Ingredients:

2 Packages Wiltons Decorators Preferred Fondant in White
Small Daisy Fondant Punch
White Candy Pearls
Green Gel Food Coloring
Purple Gel Food Coloring
Foam Pad
Veining Tool
Small Paintbrush and Fluffy Paintbrush
Wilton Pearl Dust
Cake Pop Pan
Wilton Pearl Dust


Unwrap one package of fondant and knead until pliable, adding shortening as needed to prevent sticking. Set aside a fist sized amount of fondant and cover with plastic wrap. Roll out the remaining fondant to 1/4 in thickness.  Punch daisies until the entire sheet of fondant has been used.  Place each daisy on the foam pad and draw the veining tip from the center to the periphery of each petal. Push the end of the paintbrush into the center of each flower, so that the petals jut upwards.  Lay upside down on an inverted cake pop pan.

With the second package of fondant: Again, mold until pliable.  Divide the ball into four balls of approximately equal size.  Dye each ball a different shade of green using varying amounts of the gel coloring.  Roll each fondant ball out into a sheet -- at least 1/4 to 1/3 inch in thickness. Cut uniform thickness strips to resemble stems from each sheet. (In the future, I would use a pasta maker to ensure uniform strips -- evidently my hand-eye coordination wasn't as good as I would have imagined, judging from the final look of the "stems.")  Take each stem and tack it to the cake.  Since the cake is already covered in frosting, this shouldn't be hard.  When the cake is completely covered, trip the tops to align with the top of the cake, using kitchen shears.

Take the fist sized amount of fondant that was set aside earlier.  Using the purple coloring, tint to desired shade.  Take about 1/3 of the fondant and roll into a square.  Cut into two rectangles.  Fold one side over to the other side to make a loop for a bow.  Pinch to a point. Do the same on the other side.  Join the two loops, pointy ends together.  They will look a little messy, but that will be covered. Take quarter sized chunk of fondant from the primary roll and roll into a smaller rectangle. Scrunch the fondant in small folds and wrap around the pointy rough edge sides of the loops , with the "scrunches" running vertically, to form a bow.  Roll out the remainder of the fondant into a long ribbon.  Brush one side with water using the small paintbrush.  Being very careful -- wrap the ribbon around the cake (at the center if possible.)  Because the ribbon is so long, there will be a tendency for the fondant to break while being applied, so work as quickly as possible. Apply the bow to the fondant at the front of the cake using water as the binding agent.  You may have to support the bow until it dries, since it's heavy enough that it may fall off from its own weight.

Back to the flowers:  Unmold the flowers from the cake pop pan.  Cover the top of the cake with the flowers -- the more the better. Trail some of the flowers down the side of the cake as well.  When attaching fondant (flowers) to fondant (stems), use a little bit of water applied with the paintbrush to act as a binding agent.

Dab the center of each flower with a few drops of water, and press in a sugar pearl.  Tap out some sparkle dust onto a small plate.  Using a fluffy brush, brush the whole cake with a thin layer of dust.

And there you have your ever-blooming, ever-bright, bouquet of spring daisies:

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Egg-cellent Easter

I love Easter.  Bright dresses, pastel candies, and the sunshine.  Oh, the sunshine!  Easter symbolizes rebirth, but for me it's not because of the religious connotations.  (After all, I'm Hindu. . . )  It's because, right about now, those of us (un)lucky enough to live in the north are finally coming out from a deep freeze.  Now, before anyone gets too excited, we could still get hit with a final soul-crushing blizzard before it's truly over -- it's not June quite yet, after all -- but we are so close.  The flowers are starting to push through, the grass is starting to green.  And we made it through another winter (thank God.)  So in celebration of Easter (and flowers!) here is a sweet celebratory treat.

Chocolate Eggs 
filled with 
Lemon Cheesecake and Passionfruit Curd

The one thing that would make this recipe better -- if it were easier.  Unfortunately, it takes forever, but the end product is well worth it.  Makes 20 eggs (if you don't mess up and crack any of the eggs. . . )

Chocolate Eggs

You will need plastic egg molds.  They cost about three dollars but look like they should cost three cents.  Ah well, supply and demand. . .
You will also need one pound of milk chocolate.  I'm a chocolate snob, so I used E. Guittard 38% Cacao Milk Chocolate, but it came back to bite me in the end, since I absolutely cannot, under any circumstances -- if my life depended on it, as a matter of fact -- temper chocolate to any degree of success.  What does that mean(?) you, my down to earth, non-chocolate-snobby friend may ask.  Well this is what it means:  When the chocolate eggs first form, out of gooey, lovely, reflective streams of molten sugar, they are gorgeous, even, and shiny.  When they sit at room temperature, they become dull and sometimes speckled.  They still taste great. . . but, well,  if one first eats with her eyes, then something is definitely lacking in the final product. I've learned my lesson -- in the future, chocolate candy disks, it shall be.

Melt the chocolate over a double burner, stirring frequently to ensure that it doesn't burn.  When fully melted, spoon one to two teaspoons of chocolate in each mold.  Fill all the molds first.  Then start swirling the sheet around so that the chocolate coats the inner mold.  This is almost impossible to do cleanly.  The chocolate will get on the edges, but that isn't a big deal.  The important part is that the entire inside of the mold is filled completely.  Turn the sheet upside down onto a drying rack with parchment paper or a Silpat underneath the feet of the rack.  This way, the excess chocolate will drop onto the paper so the egg shells aren't too thick,  and you can reuse the extra chocolate if you wish. After about five minutes, turn the sheet over and scrape the edge of each mold with a butter knife so that the edges of the eggs are clean.  Put the sheet in the freezer for at least 1/2 an hour, up to a couple of hours.  After the chocolate is cold, pop the egg shell halves onto your work surface.  Be careful, they will be delicate.  Set aside until needed.


This recipe is from here

For the cheesecake

10 ounces of softened cream cheese
1/2 cup already sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Combine everything but the whipping cream and mix until well incorporated.  Add the whipping cream and beat until fluffy.
Note: For some reason, almost every recipe I've seen instructs to whip the cream to stiff peaks first and then to fold it into the secondary mixture.  However, I think it saves a ton of time (and dishes) to just directly whip the liquid cream into the other mixture until the whole thing forms stiff peaks. 

For the curd

4 tsp passionfruit juice
2 Tbsp apricot preserves
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

This is the easiest curd recipe you will ever, ever, ever find.  And it tastes amazing, so win-win.

Combine everything in a saucepan and warm over medium heat until the butter melts.  Pour into a different dish and refrigerate with cling wrap directly placed (touching) the curd so a skin does not form.  (Told you -- so easy. . .) After 30 minutes the curd can be used.


Lay the egg shells out, hollow side up.  Since each shell only makes half an egg, you will need two halves to make a whole egg.  (Duh, I know, but bear with me.)  Take the shells that are sturdiest and use them for the bottom halves of your eggs.  Hopefully, the prettiest egg halves are left for the tops.  Otherwise, you will have to decide if appearance or structure is more important to you.  Choose wisely. . .

Fill a piping bag (no tip needed) with the cheesecake mixture.  Pipe the cheesecake into the bottom halves of the eggs.  Take a small spoon (I used a dessert spoon) to scoop out a small sphere of cheesecake along the center of the egg, using almost the entire length of the egg.  Use a similarly sized utensil to spoon the curd into the hole.

 (Looks like eggs, get it?!  Although this is almost certainly a waste, because no one will every see the inside of the egg like this. . .)

Heat one to two ounces of chocolate in a double broiler.  Fill a piping bag fitted with a very small round tip.  I used an Ateco 4.  Working quickly, outline the border of each egg bottom with a thin line of chocolate. Carefully top with an egg top.  It's best to do one egg at a time so that the chocolate does not dry prematurely.  While the chocolate is still warm, smooth the edges with your finger or a brush.

When the eggshell halves are firmly affixed, you can decorate!

I used fondant in three colors: yellow, pink and white.  I used gel colors to achieve my preferred shades.  With the help of daisy fondant punches and fondant molds, I was able to accomplish the majority of the decorations.  The only flower made by hand was the rose, and even that was pretty easy.

Here's how to make a quick fondant rose:

Punch 5 small circles with a circle cutter.
Frill the edges of the fondant with a toothpick.
Overlap each circle with the next by about fifty percent.
Tightly roll the circles together starting with the first circle placed.
Cut the roll in half.
Frill the "petals" out to get the desired look.

The decorations can be easily attached to the chocolate eggs with a dab of melted chocolate.  Some sparkly dust and they're ready to eat!