Snapshots: Cake Tasting

Cake Tasting

We are finally in less than one year stretch and still doing things ridiculously ahead of time.  We headed down to Orange County this past weekend to visit a friend who just moved back from Hawaii, and conveniently, she lives 15 minutes from our wedding venue.  We decided to take the opportunity to schedule not one but two cake tastings while we were in the area.

Note to brides to be, don’t schedule two tastings back to back. I’m pretty sure I had a sugar hangover when I woke up Sunday morning.  Although the sugar overload wasn’t my favorite, it was nice to try both places in a short period of time because we could remember the things we liked about each place and make a more informed decision.

Cake Tasting

Our first tasting was at Sweet & Saucey Shop in Newport.  Before we arrived for our tasting, we were giving a huge sheet of flavor options and made selections based on what we wanted to try.  For the frosting we chose: cream cheese based: regular, espresso, coconut, peanut butter, and Oreo, buttercream: vanilla, salted caramel, and Nutella, chocolate ganache, strawberries, raspberries, hazelnut crunch, Valrhona chocolate pearls, toffee bits and salted caramel drizzle.

Cake Tasting

We opted for the chocolate, vanilla almond and strawberry cake flavors.  And if you thought the frostings and toppings above were enough, think again – we also tried a few creamy fillings – whipped cream, vanilla Bavarian cream, lemon cheesecake mousse and chocolate mousse.

Cake Tasting

And those were just the cake options… We also tried a few mini desserts- traditional cheesecake with fresh fruit, cappuccino cheesecake, chocolate salted caramel tarts.  Last but not least, we sampled some mini cupcakes: candy bar, chocolate espresso, chocolate peanut butter, carrot cake, coconut, strawberry cream and nutella hazelnut.

After reading all of that, you probably are asking yourself how we didn’t get sick or need to roll each other to the car afterward… Patience my friends, it’s all about small bites.  Just enough to get the flavor combination and not enough to get yourself sick.  It also helped that we preferred the cream cheese frostings, which are less kick you in the stomach sweet compared to their buttercream cousins.  When it came to testing the mini desserts, we only ate a quarter of the tarts and one small fork full of each mini cupcake.  It was the perfect amount to taste the cake, frosting and any fillings, but no need to overload the tummy.

The entire experience at Sweet and Saucey Shop was super enjoyable.  Their décor is very cute and the fact that they have Styrofoam sample cakes all over the shop, helps you get an in person idea of the size of your cake.  We wanted a very simple textured design, so the pricing was extremely reasonable when it came time to talk numbers.  In our discussions with our consultant, we opted for a smaller cake, a simple two tiered style with two different flavors, which we will probably top with fresh flowers and a simple topper.  If cake is not our guests’ thing, we will have 4 different mini dessert options to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth.   Our consultant was very knowledgeable and didn’t feel pushy.  She gave her opinion and was very helpful when it came to pointing out different sized cakes featured in the store to help us picture the cake in person.

I won’t spoil the surprise of what we ended up choosing for our wedding, but just know this – my sweet tooth will be more than satisfied 😉

Apple & Carrot Cake with Goat Cheese Frosting

Apple & Carrot Cake with Goat Cheese Frosting

Carrot cake is one of my favorite desserts; however, more often than not, when I order my favorite treat I am faced with a dry bland carrot cake. It’s always such a bummer to have your high hopes squashed. Look no further for a perfectly moist carrot cake recipe that combines carrots with sweet granny smith apples and tops it all off with a not too sweet goat cheese frosting. My mouth is watering as I type… I love the fact that sweet and savory is perfectly balanced in this recipe, plus the added crunch from the nut topping, YUM! What are some of your favorite desserts? Any favorites that never seem to be right when you order them from a restaurant or bakery instead of making it yourself?

Apple & Carrot Cake with Goat Cheese Frosting

ingredients:
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups packed coarsely grated carrots (about 3 medium)
1 1/2 cups packed coarsely grated tart apples, such as Granny Smith (about 2 medium)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans, plus more for garnish
10 ounce fresh, mild chèvre (goat cheese), room temperature
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar

Apple & Carrot Cake with Goat Cheese Frosting

directions:
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease three 9-in. round cake pans and set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, granulated sugar, baking soda, baking powder, spices, cocoa, pepper, and salt. Whisk to combine, then stir in oil and eggs. Stir in carrots, apples, and 1 cup walnuts.

Divide batter among pans and bake until cakes pull away from pan sides and a cake tester inserted in each center comes out clean, 25 minutes. Transfer cakes to cooling racks and let cool 10 minutes. Turn out onto racks and let cool completely.

Beat goat cheese, cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Gradually add powdered sugar and mix until combined.

Once cakes are cool, arrange first layer on a large plate or platter. Spread some frosting over it, then top with second layer. Frost second layer and top with the third. Generously frost top and sides of cake with remaining frosting. Chill cake at least 1 hour. Before serving, press nuts lightly into sides of cake.

Apple & Carrot Cake with Goat Cheese Frosting

Classic White Cake with Brownie Surprise

Classic White Cake with Brownie Surprise

There’s nothing more surprising that cutting a slice of cake and finding something pleasantly unexpected. I’ve seen many a cake with hidden polka dots and yummy fruit fillings, but this secret brownie layer and chocolate sauce takes the SURPRISE element to the next level. My mom’s birthday always falls right around Thanksgiving, so she always feels a little down that she has to share her day with a big fat turkey. This year to help her cope, I decided to surprise her with a birthday cake at our family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Not only was the cake a surprise, but the so was that oh sooo sly brownie layer. The combination of a perfectly baked white cake, whipped cream cheese frosting and a delicious brownie make this cake a go to for any birthday or holiday celebration!

Classic White Cake with Brownie Surprise

ingredients:
white cake:
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 cup milk at room temperature
6 large egg whites at room temperature
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened but still cool

Classic White Cake with Brownie Surprise

brownie:
1 cup granulate sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cake flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dark chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
7 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 Tbsp Water

Classic White Cake with Brownie Surprise

frosting:
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup milk

Classic White Cake with Brownie Surprise

directions:
white cake:
Heat oven to 350 degrees and prepare two 9-inch cake pans.

Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into medium bowl and mix with fork until blended.  Set aside.

Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter, cut into cubes and continue beating on low for about 1-2 minutes. Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to flour mixture and beat at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat for about 1 minute.

Pour batter evenly between two prepared cake pans. Bake 27 to 30 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow cake to cool to room temperature.

brownie:
Heat oven to 350 degrees and use foil to line a 9-inch cake pan.

In stand mixer, combine sugars, butter and vanilla and mix on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time until well blended.
Sift flours, cocoa and salt in medium bowl. Gradually add the flour mixture to butter mixture with mixer on low speed and blend until ingredients are fully combined.

Remove bowl from mixer and fold in finely chopped chocolate by hand using a spatula. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

To make the chocolate sauce, place the chocolate, sweetened condensed milk and 1 tablespoon water in a small saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring until the chocolate is melted.

While the brownies are still warm, place the brownie layer on a cake stand. Slowly pour the chocolate sauce on top, letting it soak into the brownie. Allow the sauce to soak in for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the cream cheese frosting.

frosting:
Combine the cream cheese, butter and vanilla in a stand mixer and mix on medium speed until incorporated, about 1 or 2 minutes. Add the confectioner’s sugar 1 cup at a time, until the frosting is light and creamy. For thicker/stiffer frosting, add more confectioner’s sugar 1/4 cup at a time. If the frosting is too stiff, add milk 1 tablespoon at a time.

Place a white cake layer on top of the brownies and top with approximately 1/4 cup of the frosting using an offset spatula.
Add the second white cake layer and cover the cake in a layer of cream cheese frosting. Chill the cake until ready to serve.

Classic White Cake with Brownie Surprise

White Cake and Brownie Recipe from I am Baker. Cake found via Kitchen Meets Cake.

Olaf Summer Dream Cake

Olaf Summer Dream Cake

It’s definitely not a secret that I love any opportunity to bake. So when my coworkers approached me about baking a cake for a surprise baby shower, I jumped at the request. Little did I know that there were big plans for this little cake… Initially, I wanted to create an easy yet impressive four layer pink ombre cake and call it a day. However, the theme was already set—frozen with Olaf as the main character. Luckily for me, Etsy has an extensive collection of premade Olaf cake toppers {although my boss worked her own magic to customize Olaf to fit the summer dream theme of the shower}. While the hardest part was already done, I was faced with the semi daunting task of my first fondant cake.

Word to the wise, read up before you attempt any sort of fondant decoration. I ended up making a Strawberry Short Cake {the mom to be’s favorite} but had to swap out the whipped cream frosting to avoid fondant disaster. Here are some great links to guides on Fondant. I used a store bought product and while it didn’t taste awful, I would still recommend a nice helping of your favorite buttercream in between the cake and fondant décor.

Olaf Summer Dream Cake

ingredients:
Berries
2 pints strawberries, rinsed and hulled (about 4 cups)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Cake
2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon lightly packed finely grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Filling:
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1 cup heavy cream

Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Decor
2 lbs Satin Ice Buttercream Fondant
Blue Americolor Food Coloring
Rolling Pin
Nonstick Mat
Frozen Characters

Olaf Summer Dream Cake

directions:
For the berries:
Combine all ingredients in a medium nonreactive mixing bowl and toss to thoroughly coat strawberries. Let macerate at room temperature at least 20 minutes before using. Strain macerated berries and reserve syrup separately.

For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F and arrange rack in upper third. Butter and flour two (9-inch) cake pans. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a mixing bowl; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, combine vegetable oil, water, lemon zest, vanilla extract, egg yolks, and 1 1/4 cups of the sugar. Whip on medium speed, until mixture is airy and light in color, about 5 minutes. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl; add dry ingredients and whip until smooth, about 1 minute more.

In a clean bowl, whip egg whites to medium peaks. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute more. Using a rubber spatula, fold 1/4 of the egg whites into the cake batter until evenly incorporated; gently fold in remaining egg whites until just combined.

Divide batter between prepared cake pans. Bake until surface of cakes springs back when pressed and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Remove cakes from the oven, and let cool 15 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of each, and turn them out onto wire racks to cool completely. Meanwhile, make the filling and the frosting.

Olaf Summer Dream Cake

For the filling:
Combine mascarpone cheese and heavy cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Olaf Summer Dream Cake

For the frosting:
Whip butter in the bowl of the stand mixer until light in color and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Combine vanilla extract, sugar, and heavy cream and whip at medium speed until medium peaks form, about 3 minutes.

To assemble:
Using a long serrated knife, trim the tops of the cakes as necessary so they are level. Place cake rounds on a clean, dry surface and, using a pastry brush, brush 1/2 of the reserved strawberry syrup on the cut side of the first cake round; repeat on the cut side of the second cake round.

Evenly spread 1/4 of the mascarpone filling over the cut side of the bottom cake layer. Arrange strawberries standing upright, stem end down, over the mascarpone layer and trim as necessary to create an even layer. Using a pipping bag, cover berries with the remaining filling, being sure to fill in any empty space.

Place second cake layer over mascarpone and strawberries, cut side down, pressing gently to secure it. Using an offset spatula or a long, thin spatula, spread the frosting in a thin layer over the top and sides of the cake.

Olaf Summer Dream Cake

For Decor:
Knead the fondant and add food coloring. Once the color is spread throughout, roll out the fondant to 1/4- 1/8th inch thick. Carefully transfer the fondant to cover the frosted cake. Smooth out and bubbles carefully trim away any excess fondant using a paring knife.

Decorate the top as desired. I used brown sugar to create a beach for Olaf and a party drink umbrella to set the scene.

Olaf Summer Dream Cake

Double Take Earl Grey Layer Cake

Double Take Earl Grey Layer Cake

In high school, I absolutely loved planning tea parties for my girl friends. From the bite size tea sandwiches to the perfect sorbet pallet cleanser and finally picking the best teas. Tea parties were an easy way to impress my friends and have a quick and easy party with minimal cooking effort.

But who says tea is only for drinking? I love the hint of spice and subtle flavor that makes tea what it is. So why not harness those flavor profiles and add it to something delicious like cake? Don’t mind if I do. I present to you a double dose of Earl Grey in cake form. These two different cake recipes combined create a gorgeous presentation of chocolate and plain cake. Paired with a soft vanilla butter cream, try to resist this delightful cake.

Double Take Earl Grey Layer Cake

Chocolate Earl Grey Cake:
ingredients:
6 Earl Grey tea bags or 2 tablespoons loose Earl Grey
1 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
4 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted & cooled
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt

directions:
Heat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease and flour two 8″ round pans.

Brew the tea in the water 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags or strain the leaves and set the brewed tea aside.

Using a mixer, beat the butter, eggs, and granulated sugar until fluffy. Blend in the chocolate. Beat in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, yogurt, and brewed tea. Pour into pan.

Bake 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out with a few crumbs attached. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes.

Turn out of pan and cool.

Earl Grey Cake:
ingredients:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp corn meal
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons of loose leaf Earl Grey tea

directions:
Preheat oven to 350°C. Lightly grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans.

In a bowl, combine the flour, corn flour, baking powder and salt.

In your mixer, beat butter, sugar, vanilla and 1 tablespoon ground tea leaves until light and fluffy. The scent of the tea leaves will emerge.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each.

In a small saucepan, heat milk and 3 tablespoons of whole tea leaves until just boiled, remove from heat and let steep for a few minutes until the milk changes color. Strain out the tea leaves and set the “tea milk” aside.

Add the combined flour mixture into the wet mixture, and finally pour in the “tea milk”. Mix just until blended.  Immediately pour into the prepared pans and bake for 40-45 minutes.

Double Take Earl Grey Layer Cake

Frosting:
ingredients:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 ½ tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

directions:
Combine all ingredients in your mixer and whip until fluffy.  You can adjust the recipe for thicker or thinner frosting by using more or less sugar and butter.

Double Take Earl Grey Layer Cake

Assembly:

Starting with the plain Earl Grey cake, apply a thin layer of frosting and alternate cake flavors until all four layers have been assembled.  Frost the top and sides of the cake with a thin even layer.

Double Take Earl Grey Layer Cake