Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Google Neopolitan Cake and More Pina Colada Cupcakes

My second Google cake was in order to congratulate some of the team members who worked on a camera system (part of our Street View car) for reaching a major milestone!

The first cake was done last year and because it was my first large cake, I ran into a couple of problems during the assembly process like cake layers sliding off and other unexpected obstacles along the way. This time, I felt a lot more confident having done numerous cakes since then and with some know-hows up my sleeve and of course the help of my trusty friend Penny.

Instead of drawing the system on top of the cake like I did for the last Google cake, I wanted to make the cake itself look like it (shown below) and have everything be edible.

To achieve the smooth white surface, I opted for rolled fondant. But because store-bought fondant often tastes dry, paste-y and chemical-y, I decided to make my own out of mini marshmallows after poking around for recipes online. After a lot powder sugar dusted everywhere and lumps of gooey marshmallow in my hair, I had soft, smooth, and tasty fondant in my hand.

Since I did plain chocolate cake last time, I wanted to do something different this time, but something that everyone can still enjoy so I came up with a Neopolitan cake. The base cake was composed of two layers -- a layer of rich vanilla yellow cake and a layer of fresh strawberry cake with a generous layering of dark chocolate ganache in between.

I had to do some tinkering with the strawberry cake since I could not find any good made-from-scratch strawberry cake recipes anywhere! All the ones I saw used store-bought white cake mix but I wanted to stick to my philosophy of making things fresh from scratch as much as possible wherever I can. After a second try, I was able to bake up a beautiful pink hued cake studded with bits of fresh strawberries that was sweet and slightly tangy from the strawberries, moist and pillowy in texture.

The cake was then iced with airy chocolate italian meringue buttercream to add lightness to the texture. Finally, it was adorned with dark chocolate covered malt balls.

The second tier in the shape of the camera system was a two layer dark chocolate cake with some more rich chocolate ganache in between for the chocolate lovers. The outside was covered in the homemade marshmallow fondant and then decorated with M&Ms for the bolts, licorice, strips of fruit leather, and chocolate fondant for the connectors.

The cake was admired and shared during our weekly group meeting with the remote attendees painfully watching and listening to us devour the entire cake via video conference. I am very excited about how the cake turned out and how hassle-free the whole process was. I feel that I am more and more ready for the biggest project I will be working on very soon - a multi-tiered wedding cake!

Stay tuned!

Donna ordered a large batch of pina colada cupcakes for a gathering for the weekend. As seen on earlier posts, they were moist vanilla bean coconut cupcakes filled with tangy pineapple curd with real chunks of pineapple and then frosted with coconut infused buttercream.

To make the coconut flavor a bit more pronounced in the buttercream this time I infused the milk with dried coconut flakes before it was added to the frosting. The finishing touches were crunch toasted coconut flakes, dried pineapples, and little yellow curls of lemon zest to brighten up the flavors.

Thanks Donna for the order as usual!

Monday, February 8, 2010

St. Honore Cake

When Jon asked me to bake a cake called St. Honore for his mom, I had no idea what he was talking about and neither of us knew how to properly spell it. Huh? St. Onerie? Onoray?

After googling and poking around, I found out that it was a cake named after St. Honore, the French patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs. (How cool is it to be a saint of bakers??) It was more like a pastry made with puff pastry dough and pate a choux (cream puff) and not the traditional cake we know. It was the cake that Jon and his mom used to buy at a bakery way back when but no longer to be found. He wanted to surprise her on her special birthday with a cake very fond in her memory.

I began to study the different recipes, video clips of how to assemble, baking books, and online blogs to learn about this mysterious cake that I had never heard of before. It was daunting to make something for the first time, but an excitement of delving into a whole new pastry world soon took over the fear.

The very bottom of this cake is a layer of puff pastry with pate a choux (cream puff dough) squeezed out in circular pattern on top creating a wall around the edge and then baked to golden brown, crispy, flaky beauty. I briefly thought of using a store bought puff pastry but decided to make my own from scratch because I wanted to keep everything homemade and entirely Cakes by Ji.

Small cream puff rounds were baked and then some were filled with vanilla and others with raspberry custard cream lightened with whipped cream. A generous amount of the cream was spread out onto the baked puff pastry layer. This sweet cream filling was so irresistibly light that I couldn't help myself from sneaking in a spoonful here and there while making it. The cream puff rounds were then dipped in hot caramel and set around the round puff pastry creating a crown using the caramel as a "glue".

The cake was adorned with lightly sweetened whipped cream, swirly caramel decorations, fresh raspberries, and dark chocolate covered malt balls. And last but not least, a heart-shaped flaky pastry dough was covered in pink icing for a personalized message.

The crispy flaky puff pastry layer with rich yet light custard filling, and small cream puffs with a sweet crunch from the caramel and bursts of cream filling inside make this cake perfectly fresh and unique.

Jon kept me updated via texts during the birthday candle celebration of his mom's reaction and how happily surprised she was to see the cake. Seeing a picture of her holding the cake with a big smile makes me love baking even more. And now, St. Honore cake has been permanently added to my baking repertoire!

Thanks Jon!