Monday, December 14, 2009

South Park White Cake with White Chocolate Frosting

I am so behind on my cake posts!

I'm always looking for new challenges and exciting things to try for my cake creations. I've had good opportunities to do just this with cakes in the past, like the Reese's cake, Salsa dance-themed one and others. But this time, the challenge was to go in a whole different direction from my usual cake style - I was asked to create a South Park themed cake. For those of you who haven't watched South Park, here's what our friend Wikipedia has to say.

My coworker Russ and his wife Donna's son Alexander's birthday was coming up. After brainstorming, going back and forth on some ideas, we decided a South Park themed cake would be perfect for Alexander, an avid South Park fan. The cake itself would be a white cake with frosting whipped up with melted white chocolate, another one of Alexander's favorite.

I've never really ventured into the 'funny cake land' before so it sure posed a new challenge for me. I decided to stick with what I've done before - making cookie decorations. 

So here it is, the South Park themed cake with the four main character's faces on sugar cookies decorated with chocolate and icing. 

This two layer rich white cake had frothy whipped white chocolate ganache frosting in between the layers and on top. The simple yet elegant flavor combination was a perfect crowd pleaser. 

For some strange reason, my hands were a lot more shakier than usual so the letters and borders on the cakes turned out bumpy much to my dismay. But in the end, it all turned out well especially when Russ sent me some pictures of Alexander with a huge smile in front of the cake. They made me very happy :)  

Thank you Russ and Donna! 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Giant Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cake

I love peanut butter. And I love chocolate. But for some reason, I was never a huge fan of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups...until I made this cake!

My friend Nick's coworker/friend Sasha's birthday was coming up and so Nick requested a cake to surprise her at the office. According to Nick, Sasha (or Sashizzle... what a cool nickname!?) is a huge Reese's fan and apparently, she would time to time mention how awesome it would be if she could get a giant Reese's Peanut Butter Cup cake for her birthday. And so that's exactly what she got!

It took me awhile to think of how to make the cake actually look like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Initially, I planned on using chocolate frosting to create the ridges on the slanted side of the cup. But in the end, I decided to make chocolate lady fingers and cut the tips to pointy ends to mimic the ridges.

This three-layer cake was a dark chocolate baked with loads of good quality dark chocolate. In between the layers were smooth peanut butter frosting with bits of Reese's Peanut Butter Cup spread across to add some texture.

The cake was then topped with dark chocolate ganache to create that smooth top surface like that of Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and to add to the chocolatey goodness. The sides were trimmed to an angle then lined with fluffy chocolate lady fingers dusted with cocoa powder to imitate the ridges. More peanut butter frosting, mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and Reese's Pieces were used for the finishing touches.

I was very very happy to hear back from Nick that Sasha was ecstatic to receive the cake and that it was exactly what she had wanted! Once again, happy belated birthday Sashizzle!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dancing Shoe and Baby Shower Red Velvet Cakes

More Red Velvet cakes!

Coincidentally (or maybe with a tiny little bit of influence from me) and conveniently, I got requested two red velvet cakes during the same week by Maritza and Eddie.

Martiza was hosting a baby shower for her friend who was expecting a baby girl and Eddie was attending a friend's birthday party. The birthday girl happened to love dancing and especially salsa dancing. There were endless things I could do for a baby shower cake. Baby bibs, strollers, rattles, diapers, baby bottle, cute little onsies... just tons of cute little pink things I could make! But how was I supposed to make a cake "dance-themed"???

A couple of ideas came up. Drawing a silhouette of dancers on the cake seemed cool at first but there was a good chance the drawing could end up looking like an unrecognizable blob. I could also attempt rolling out fondant for the first time and make cutouts of musical notes and dancers to put all around the side of a cake, but it could end up looking like random shapes stuck to the cake.

After looking through pages and pages of Google image search results of 'dancers', 'dance', 'salsa dance' and many others, I decided to keep it simple and do a decoration with a salsa dancing shoe. The challenge here was to make the shoe look like a dancing shoe and not just a random sandal but putting some musical notes around the shoe should do the job.

Now that I knew exactly what I wanted to do, I made a couple of sketches of the different shapes, baked sugar cookies in those shapes, and decorated them with simple sugar icing.

It was a ton of fun decorating these cookies - a blank brown sugar cookie slowly taking its shape into a cute little baby rattle as I put on the different layers.

The cakes themselves were three layer red velvet cakes. Each layer was generously brushed with fresh blackberry and strawberry puree then layered with vanilla cream cheese frosting and fresh raspberries. I really like the combination of a red velvet cake w/ cream cheese frosting and fresh berries. Because red velvet cake has only a very subtle hint of cocoa, it almost tastes like a very flavorful vanilla cake which makes it a perfect canvas for lots of fresh berry flavors.

I was delighted to hear both Martiza and Eddie that the cakes were big hits at their parties. And apparently, the birthday girl's dancing shoe looks just like the cookie!
Thank you both!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dark Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Mousse and Hazelnut Brittles

I couldn't believe it when my friend Carlos told me that his son Leo's first birthday was coming up soon. Time flies by! It feels like yesterday when I first saw pictures of Leo as a teeny tiny newborn baby.

I was absolutely delighted when I was given the honor of making a cake for the little guy's grand birthday party. Chocolate, fresh berries, hazelnuts, and some crunchy texture were what I was initially given to work with. After bouncing off some ideas and discussing it with Carlos' wife, Aiste, we came up with the perfect cake concept with raspberry mousse and crunchy hazelnut brittle topped with Italian meringue.

Now, the size. The cake was for about 20-25 people which meant that either I could make two 8" round cakes or one rectangular cake that is a quarter sheet size. When Aiste requested for one larger cake to feed everyone, I knew it was time for me to face my fear - making a LARGE RECTANGULAR CAKE!

I am scared of working with rectangular cakes for a number of reasons:

1) Our fridge is just wide enough to fit the cake but not quite wide enough to fit the cake board which meant that I have to be real creative when it comes to refrigerating the cake.
2) I still have yet to find a cake box that is tall enough and big enough to fit the cake. The boxes I find at stores are too short when they are big enough and too small when they are tall enough. So a rectangular cake meant that I had to make my own box or make some modifications to the boxes available.
3) The recipes need adjustments. Most recipes are for round cakes and with quarter sheet sized cakes being about 1.5 larger than the regular round cakes, all the recipes including the cake, frosting, and filling need tweaking.
4) And finally, the cake layers when baked in rectangular sheets are just harder to work with. They are heavy and the spatula is not enough to support the entire sheet when it needs to be lifted up while building the different layers.

When I saw the challenge ahead, I was worried and excited at the same time and absolutely determined to NOT be the one to ruin little Leo's birthday. In the end, the cake ended up turning out beautifully.

This three layer cake had its first layer covered in dark chocolate ganache sprinkled with toasted hazelnut and pieces of homemade hazelnut brittle to add some crunchy texture and nutty kick to the richness of the dark chocolate.

The second cake layer was then brushed with raspberry puree and topped with fresh raspberries and light raspberry mousse. The sweet freshness of the raspberry mousse well complemented the chocolatey goodness. 

Finally, the cake was covered in silky fluffy Italian meringue cream flavored with a touch of cocoa powder and adorned with fresh raspberries, dark chocolate, and more hazelnut brittle. 

I was ecstatic to hear that everyone enjoyed the cake at the party. Happy belated birthday little Leo! 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Red Velvet Cake with Rresh Berries

[Delayed post! I must be more diligent about blogging...]

I love bringing baked goodies to work (although I don't do it as often now...) because my coworkers devour them. I love seeing people enjoy the things I make and that is why I bake (that just rhymed!) - besides the creativity part and the fun process portion of baking. My coworker Iain is one of the people who make me very happy by taking more than a single serving of whatever I bake. So obviously, I was stoked when Iain commissioned a very special birthday cake for his wife, Martha.

While trying to brainstorm for different types of cakes and flavor combinations, I mentioned a red velvet cake as an option, perhaps with a touch of fresh berry puree to add some freshness to the otherwise rich cake. That's when I realized Iain had never tasted or even heard of the greatest red velvet cake!

For those of you who don't know what it is, a red velvet cake is a rich, moist cake with a hint of chocolate flavor and with a red color most commonly found in southern part of the US. It's best paired with cream cheese frosting. It may sound strange, but trust me. It is DELICIOUS and kind of cool with its bright red color.

Anyways, we could either go with safer cakes like a traditional chocolate cake or vanilla cake with fruit filling. But Iain who is always open to trying something new and exciting and adventurous decided to go with the red velvet cake. And I decided to add a touch of my own to the traditional red velvet cake by incorporating fresh berries and berry puree into the cake layers.

The moist, vibrantly colored cake layers were generously brushed with thickened berry puree made from fresh raspberries and strawberries. In between the cake layers were fresh berries and light cream cheese frosting with a hint of vanilla. Finally, the cake was coated with some more cream cheese frosting for the white velvety finish and adorned with more fresh berries.

I was delighted to hear that Iain, his wife, family, and friends who got together to celebrate Martha's birthday enjoyed the cake a lot. Most of them had not had a red velvet cake before like Iain and I hope that this cake put the red velvet cake way up there on their favorite cake list! 

Thanks Iain!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Raspberry Almond Cake with Fresh Berries

My friend Derrick Jue and I used to literally spend 24/7, every minute together throughout college. We would have the exact same course schedule every quarter (we were both mechanical engineering majors), work on our problem sets, spend miserable nights debugging our impossible code and circuits together. It was only natural that I felt weird, sad, and empty once we graduated and Jue spent most of his working hours in China on very lengthy business trips. My friends and I all got so used to him being away that we stopped worrying about eating nuts and started baking goodies and cooking with nuts (Jue is deathly allergic to all nuts and peanuts).

A while ago, his girlfriend Vanessa made a plan to visit him here during a well-deserved vacation after completing her CA (Certified Accountant) exam, but China, once again, called for him to be shipped in on a very short notice.

Feeling sad that he won't be able to spend time with Vanessa during her visit here, Jue asked me to bake a cake for Vanessa in time for her visit. Something with no chocolate since she's not a huge fan and something with nuts since she had been much deprived of nuts since becoming his girlfriend.

After digging around for that perfect cake, I decided to make a raspberry almond cake with fresh berries.

The cake layer was a simple vanilla cake with a hint of almond and generously brushed with fresh raspberry puree to moisten it. In between the cake layers were a light melt-in-your-mouth almond cream cheese frosting and fresh berries.

Finally, the cake was topped with more fresh berries and cream cheese frosting. The nutty cream cheese frosting was a perfect complement to the sweet and juicy berry flavor and fluffy vanilla cake.

Jue asked me to put some equations and number on the cake as a part of the congratulatory message for completing the CA exam. I had no idea what sort of questions pop out in CA exams. After my roommate and I made an unproductive attempt to Google some CA questions and equations, I started putting on random unrelated numbers... :)

The fresh berries made this cake a good fit for the hot summery day. I hope you enjoyed the cake Van and sorry you couldn't be here Jue!

We miss you here. COME BACK PLEASE.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pina Colada Cupcakes

More birthdays!

My beloved friend Penny is a very fun, adventurous, and quirky girl. Petunia (or Petunes or Tunes) became our nickname for her when she told us the story of how she randomly decided to give herself a flower nickname in high school. This is also when she thought Fertile Surroundings would make an awesome name for her website name that would display her graphics design work. Yup, she is definitely unique.

It's only fitting that her birthday cake is as exciting and special as she is. So last year, I baked a Mojito (a cocktail made with rum and mint leaves muddled in sugar) cake for her and this year, keeping with the cocktail theme, I wanted to make a Pina Colada cake. And since we were planning a birthday picnic lunch for her out near a U-Pick fruit orchard, I decided on cupcakes for easy transportability.

The fluffy vanilla bean coconut cupcakes made with creamy coconut milk were perfectly moist with tiny black specs of vanilla beans and a hint of coconut and rum flavor.

These cupcakes were then filled with a generous amount of sweet, tangy pineapple curd with small bits of fresh pineapple in it. They were topped with rum spiked coconut cream cheese frosting. And then finished with a light sprinkle of toasted coconut with a simple adornment of dried pineapple on top.

I love cupcakes with filling because it's such a pleasant surprise when you take that first bite into the cupcake and the filling starts oozing out. This cupcake especially provided a good contrast in different textures: fluffy cake with creamy pineapple filling and frosting and then the crunch from the toasted coconut. The coconut flavor was subtle (non coconut-lovers liked the cupcakes!) but strong enough to come across and meld with the pineapple and the rum just as in a refreshing glass of Pina Colada.

I'm already getting kind of excited thinking about what cake I can make for her next year's birthday!

Happy Birthday Petunia! Love you! <3 font="">

Friday, August 28, 2009

Twelve Layer Mocha Cake

It has somehow become a tradition for my roommates and I to bake each others' birthday cakes as a surprise. When one of our birthdays came close, we would sneak some of the measuring cups, measuring spoons and ingredients out over to someone else's kitchen (usually the boyfriend's) and bake the cake discreetly. Last year, Sandy and I managed to bake Erin's cake in our kitchen while Erin was not around. When the time that Erin was supposed to be home came close, I ended up icing the cake in my bedroom on my desk because I was so worried that she would bust in before the cake was done. For my birthday last year, Sandy and Erin made a beautiful tres leches cake and they apparently almost set Rick's place on fire trying to work the blow torch to carmelize the meringue on the outside.
Good times.

This year, Sandy and I decided to not go through the trouble of being homeless bakers but just to ban Erin from peaking into the kitchen and the fridge while we are making "something special" for her birthday. She knew it was coming anyways -- not a surprise anymore!

Sandy and I decided to take on a challenging cake -- twelve layer mocha cake. TWELVE layers! We spread the whole process over onto three days. First two days for baking the different layers and the last day for making the cream layers and finally the assembly.

The layers go like this starting from the bottom:
  • fluffy cocoa cake generously brushed with hazelnut and kahlua syrup
  • sweet mocha buttercream
  • hazelnut meringue layer that was baked till crisp
  • light coffee buttercream
  • dark chocolate souffle layer that has the texture of an airy souffle and the richness of a flourless chocolate cake
  • more mocha buttercream goodness
... and then repeat these six layers.

Lastly, the cake was topped with unsweetened whipped cream flavored with coffee and sprinkling of cocoa powder. And then the homemade ladyfingers were added to surround the cake to keep the different layers a pleasant surprise when the cake was cut into.

The cake turned out beautifully and was devoured by everyone! The different layers provided flavors that all melded together and varying textures that added an interesting dimension -- especially the crunchy meringue layer with bits of toasted hazelnut in between creamy buttercream layers.

Welcome to the quarter century club Erin! <3 br="">More birthdays coming up and the cake tradition continues...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Strawberry White Chocolate Mousse Cake

Making a mousse cake is a lot of work. It involves baking a cake, making the mousse (two different types in this case), chilling it, and assembling the cake in a ring mold, freezing the cake so the ring mold can be removed without perturbing the different layers and then finally the finishing touches.

But the finished product is definitely worth all the work. My friend Fenglin from Google wanted a special birthday cake for her piano teacher at her brunch party -- something fruity, something light and refreshing. Strawberries are at its peak season and everybody loves chocolate. So I decided to create a strawberry white chocolate mousse cake.

This cake has seven different layers -- starting from the bottom: 
  • fluffy dark chocolate sponge cake 
  • silky white chocolate mousse 
  • strawberry puree, which accentuates the sweet strawberry flavor 
  • more white chocolate mousse
  • dark chocolate sponge cake
  • strawberry mousse with bits of fresh strawberries
  • and finally topped with a thin layer of white chocolate mousse

The cake was lined with chocolate ladyfingers to add to the texture and decorated with dark chocolate dipped strawberries. And as a final touch, I baked a little sugar cookie for a special birthday message per request!

This is probably the most complex cake I've created so far, but I love challenges and seeing a beautiful slice of the cake with different layers makes me happy. :D 
And of course hearing from Fenglin that everyone enjoyed the cake made everything more worthwhile!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

German Chocolate Cake

I've been wanting to bake a German chocolate cake for awhile now ever since watching an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay on Food Network on german chocolate cake throwdown against Make My Cake bakery in Harlem, NY (Bobby won for those you curious ones).

And I was given the perfect opportunity to when Sanjay asked me to bake a cake for a get-together to celebrate his friends Adam and Laura's engagement. They love chocolate and they are German. PERFECT! Although, German chocholate cake did not get its name because it's from Germany. According to our good ole trusty Wikipedia:

Contrary to popular belief, this cake did not originate in Germany. Instead, the name derives fromBaker's German's Sweet Chocolate, which was created in 1852 by an Englishman named Samuel German for the Baker's Chocolate brand. The original recipe for "German's Chocolate Cake" was sent by a Dallas, Texas homemaker to a local newspaper in 1957. The cake became quite popular and General Foods — which owned the brand at the time — distributed the recipe to other newspapers in the country, and sales of Baker's Chocolate are said to have increased by as much as 73%. The possessive form (German's) was dropped in
subsequent publications, forming the "German Chocolate Cake" identity we know today.

In any case, I wanted a better version of the traditional German Chocolate Cake. So rather than using Baker's German Chocolate, I used a high quality dark chocolate for deep chocolate flavor and buttermilk for perfectly moist, fluffy texture.

In between these three layers of chocolate cake is wonderfully sticky coconut pecan filling. And the cake got a light coating of airy chocolate frosting to enhance the deep chocolate flavor and add that extra something that just melts in your mouth as soon as you take a bite.

I wasn't able to make it to the party but I was happy to hear that everybody had a good time and enjoyed the cake too. Congratulations Adam and Laura!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Summer Fruit Tart

Did I mention I make other baked goodies than just cakes?

My friend Phung's friend Bambi wanted a lighter alternative to a rich cake for her special birthday party - fruit tarts! What can possibly be a more perfect, colorful, festive substitute to a birthday cake?

The crispy, crumbly tart shells were coated with a very thin layer of bittersweet chocolate and then filled with vanilla bean infused pastry cream. The chocolate does not only add an extra layer of flavor, but also keeps the tart shell crispy and fresh longer. The tart was topped with a heaping amount of various summer fruit: mango, kiwi, strawberry, blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, and grapes. Finally, the fruit on top got a very light coating of apricot glaze to keep them pretty and shiny.

I made four of these 8" tarts to feed Bambi's hungry guests. I had a ton of fun making these tarts and working with the fruit, arranging them in different patterns. Seeing the pretty, colorful end product made me very very happy. Thanks guys!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dark Chocolate cake with Fresh Strawberries

My friend Jenfu asked me to bake a cake for his girlfriend's birthday - a heart-shaped chocolate cake with strawberries. How sweet and adorable! I had never made a heart-shaped cake before but it turned out to be not so tricky. I baked the cakes in 9-inch rounds and carefully cut the cakes in a heart-shape before splitting them.

There are so many different recipes for chocolate cakes out there. But this one's got to be one of my favorite ones. This chocolate cake uses a combination of both the melted bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder with a touch of coffee to intensify the flavor for those chocolate lovers out there. And it has a perfect texture that is light, moist, and fluffy but firm enough to hold its shape to be split into thin layers for a multi-layer cake.

I like my cake fluffy with a moist filling like bavarian cream or pastry cream. So for Jenfu, I created a three-layer dark chocolate cake with custard cream infused with vanilla and fresh strawberries. And it's topped off with light, airy vanilla meringue buttercream and decadent dark and white chocolate covered strawberries.

I hope you and your girlfriend had a very special day together and enjoyed the cake!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Google Street View Devil's Food Cake

I am a fulltime engineer at Google working on Street View for Google Maps. (For those of you who haven't used Street View, open up Google Maps right now and type in your address in the search box, and when a white bubble pops up on the map, click on the link "Street view" and drag the little yellow man around for 360 view of the different streets!)

And in mid May, our team hit a very important milestone and decided to celebrate everyone's hard work and achievements by getting the whole team together with a delicious cake.

While I was absolutely ecstatic when I was given the opportunity to make a cake for this very special occasion, I was also worried about my lack of experience in making such a large cake. But I managed to pull it off with the help my friend Penny and moral supports from my roommates. Thanks guys!

I can't quite show the entire cake because the information written on the cake is apparently confidential, but I drew our Street View car camera system on the cake with frosting as per request!

Here is an image of a Street View car with the camera system on top for a reference.

I wanted to keep the flavors simple and do something chocolatey -- a pretty safe bet when the audience is as big as 30-40 people. It is a two-layer cake of light, moist devil's food cake and chocolate pastry cream between them and topped with fluffy vanilla buttercream.

This is by far my biggest cake project up to date and it was definitely not easy, but seeing everyone on the team enjoying it made it all worth the time and effort.

And my cake made it onto Twitter!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mocha Crunch Cake

My first official cake order! Yay!

I was thrilled when my friends Aaron and Tsu requested a birthday cake for their friends giving me the freedom of making any cake of my choice as long as it had two things -- chocolate and coffee. Classic chocolate cake with coffee flavored frosting was the first thing that popped into my mind, but I wanted to do something special and different for my first official cake order. So I created Mocha Crunch Cake!

One of my favorite treats growing up in the Philippines was Choco Mocha Crunch cake from Red Ribbon Bakeshop. This cake is my own take on the childhood favorite cake.

Between the layers of airy chocolate sponge cake is a medley of chocolate custard cream, lightly sweetened coffee whipped cream and delicious honeycomb coffee crunch bits.

The cake is topped with the same coffee whipped cream and chocolate covered espresso beans, and surrounded by homemade chocolate lady fingers.

Thanks Aaron and Tsu for being my first official customers! I hope that both Vince and Flor had a happy birthday and that you all enjoyed the cake.