Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mini Carrot Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

For my dear friend Heesun's birthday, her sweet roomie had organized a surprise day trip to Sonoma Valley for a fun filled day of wine tasting, delicious food, and good company.

The seven of us rented a limousine and started the day off with a bottle of champagne on the way to our brunch at The Girl & the Fig in downtown Sonoma. If you haven't been here, be sure to stop by the next time you make your way up to Sonoma! The deelish brunch was followed by a couple of wine tasting sessions at wineries.

For this very special day, I decided to make a little birthday treat for the limo ride. I remembered that Heesun's favorite cake is carrot cake. A couple of years ago, her best friend Janice wanted to make a cake for her birthday and came over to get help in baking a carrot cake, Heesun's favorite.

So I made mini carrot cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. I've tried a bunch of different carrot cake recipes before and I think I finally found THE ONE. It is the recipe from Rose's Heavenly Cakes. Her cake is moist and light and has the perfect amount of spice.

Also, I grated the carrots a lot coarser than usual per instructions in the recipe. This really helped the subtle carrot flavor to come through and gave the cake a great texture.

For the frosting, I used Rose's Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Frosting with a pinch of cinnamon for taste. I am an avid advocate of cream cheese frosting but most recipes call for an obscene amount of powdered sugar. This frosting does not use any powdered sugar but instead uses creamy melted white chocolate to to sweeten the whipped up cream cheese. The white chocolate flavor adds an extra dimension to this creamy frosting and gives it the perfect silky texture. The mini cupcakes were decorated with green tinted white chocolate decoration and an orange colored mini M&M.

The weather was beautiful, the wine was excellent, everyone had a blast and the birthday girl was happy and bubbly from the wine. It was just a perfect day!
Happy birthday Heesun! <3 div="">

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dark Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Mousse and Hazelnut Brittle & Sweet Potato Cake

A few weekends ago was my roommate and my friend Carlos' birthday.

Carlos' wife, Aiste who ordered a cake from me last year for her cutest little baby boy's first birthday, ordered a cake for Carlos's suprise birthday party she was planning. I remember I was so grateful last year to hear them rave about the cake afterwards especially because I spent many sweat breaking hours making the large rectangular cake with multiple layers. Now, that all feels like a long long time ago. I still can't believe I made a multi-tiered wedding cake since then!

Aiste wanted the same cake as last time but I wanted to put a little twist to include beautiful strawberries in season rather than raspberries and changing up the frosting a bit to add to the dark chocolatey goodness.

Last time, I used a more dense butter based cake recipe but my formerly mentioned new found love for chiffon cakes continues to shine on this creation. The first layer of the dark chocolate chiffon cake was spred with whipped up dark chocolate ganache. I discovered this whipped up version of the commonly found ganache in the Rose's Heavenly Cakes and found it to be light and fluffy in texture while retaining the same richness. I think this is going to become my go-to chocolate frosting for cupcakes from now on.

The layer of ganache was then generously sprinkled with homemade hazelnut brittle to add some crunchy texture and nutty kick to the chocolate. The second layer of the cake was then brushed with raspberry and strawberry puree and then topped with strawberry mousse and bits of fresh strawberries.

Finally, the cake was covered with more of the whipped dark chocolate ganache and then decorated with dark chocolate covered malt balls and fresh strawberries.

Aiste, thanks for seeking me out again and Carlos, I hope you are enjoying your new job!

Okay, now moving onto my roommate's birthday cake. So as I've mentioned before, it has become a tradition amongst my friends and I to present each other with homemade cakes on birthdays. Last year for my roommate Sandy's birthday, Erin and I thought hard about what kind of a cake to make and decided that it would be fitting to make her an asian inspired one -- a taro cake. So we bought fresh taro, made a mousse using homemade custard cream and whipped cream. The cake turned out a gorgeous purple hue and had a very good flavor but the problem was the gooey, slimey taro texture. Even though Sandy seemed to have enjoyed the cake a lot, I consider this cake a bit of a failure because of the odd texture.

So this year was a chance for redemption. I wanted to stick to the similar asian theme but this time, replacing the taro with sweet potatoes! A sweet potato cake may sound strange, but it's actually very popular in korea and I happen to love anything and everything sweet potato. So this cake choice makes a ton of sense to me. I wanted to make something light and unique for Sandy.

The cake itself was a simple classic genoise lightly brushed with a bit of a hazelnut syrup to add an extra layer of flavor and moistness. In between the four layers of cake was a generous amount of sweet potato mousse made with mashed sweet potato, honey, custard cream infused with vanilla beans and then lightened with whipped cream. I absolutely fell in love with this mousse and I may have slipped in a spoonful(s) of it here and there while making it. It was light, and perfectly sweet with that touch of honey.

Finally, the cake was covered with lightly sweetened whipped cream and adorned with fine cake crumb and chocolate covered malt balls. I accidentally overwhipped the cream for the decoration portion so the piping job was not so great but overall, the cake turned out nice and simple.

The birthday festivity spanned throughout the day beginning with: a surprise picnic at the Shoreline park, a picnic lunch with homemade noodle salad, wraps, sandwiches and snacks, a heated game of croquet on the grass (my first time!), followed by a surprise sushi making lesson at Fuki Sushi where we learned how to make three different types of sushi (the names are slipping my mind at the moment) and then finally the cake celebration back at our house. What an eventful day! Oh and did I mention we love to take jumping photos?

We love you Sandy!