Thursday, August 26, 2010

Decorating with Chocolate!

It's true, I have an addiction problem. Passed down to me from my dear mum, my only vice is...chocolate. Which is why, for her birthday, I decided to go on a quest to find the best way to fit the most chocolate anyone has ever put in, and on, a cake. Forget frosting, every detail you see on this cake is made from melted chocolate. (Except for the one strawberry in the middle. Look mom! Fruit! It's healthy, really!)

Oh yes. This is ALL chocolate.

As I mentioned in my last post, my goal is to make this a blog for normal people. You know, the ones who come home from ten hour work days and then plan on roasting an entire chicken and making cilantro rolls and  a summer strawberry salad and fondant covered penguin cupcakes for dessert. Oh, wait, who has time for that? Sure, we may get ambitious once a month or so, but who has the time to spend six hours making dinner on a weekday? Or baking and decorating a three tiered cake for a 2 year old's birthday?

So welcome to the cheater method. This is a blog that includes all of the fun parts: decorating, tweaking simply recipes to make them tastier, and, quite simply, baking. I fully admit to using cake mixes and canned frosting, phyllo dough and pre packaged croissants. The main goal of baking is to make something tasty, right? Let some massive corporate company play with flour and baking soda. I'm going to spend my quality time with the details. Frosting, chocolate, sprinkles, fruit fillings.

This said, time to move on to the cake!

Chocolate, Strawberry, and MORE Chocolate cake!
1 Box Triple Chocolate Cake Mix
1 Can Dark Chocolate Frosting
1 Bag Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 Bag White Chocolate Chips
Strawberries (or fruit of your choice)

Squeeze Bottles (Available at JoAnn Fabrics)
Rolling Pin
Cookie Sheets (Or something else to catch dripping chocolate)
Frosting Spatula

Just because I use box cake mixes, doesn't mean I don't add a little to them. The triple chocolate mix I found includes them already, otherwise I always add mini chocolate chips to chocolate cake mixes. You can add walnuts, sprinkles to create funfetti, a bit of already brewed coffee to make it more moist. More tricks like this to come later.

So for this, I had a box of strawberries, begging to be eaten. So, I rewarded their tasty looks by smashing them into a pulp.

Messy, but delicious!
Pick your favorite fruit, take a potato masher, fork, sledge hammer, or whatever tool of choice is and get it as close to frosting consistency as you can. Add sugar if it's a sour fruit, though not too much. It's a great way to sneak something mildly healthy into your cake and hold the layers together.

Once you have the layers together, frost as you normally would. It takes about one can of frosting for two nine inch rounds. To smooth the frosting, use a flat frosting spatula, dip it in water, and then spread the frosting on the cake. It turns out looking like this:
Not quite fondant smooth, but not bad, either!

And now, for my favorite part of this cake. Put the semi-sweet chips in one bowl, the white in another. Melt both in the microwave, and have a squeeze bottle full of white chocolate and a bottle full of dark chocolate. I used about half a bag of each type of chips.

For the decorations around the edges, place foil over a rolling pin, as seen below. Drizzle both chocolate types in about inch thick arches. Your goal is to not let the arches touch. You need to make sure there are no gaps between the chocolate types in each arch, otherwise getting them off the rolling pin unbroken will be very difficult.

Method courtesy of Essential Guide to Cake Decorating

Second, set several sheets of foil flat on the table. I made all of the stars, curlicues, leaves, and letters using this method. All you do is drizzle the chocolate in the design you want. If you have a design you want to trace, use plastic wrap or wax paper instead of foil.

Keep in mind, the side of these candies that you'll want showing on the cake is the side currently touching the foil. See those leaves? They look terrible on this side, but since you have the dark chocolate outline and the white is just filling, what is technically the bottom can be as messy as you want.

For lettering, remember, you need to write all of the letters backwards so you can flip them and have them be readable on the cake itself. Guess who didn't realize this until she had to redo most of them?

For decorations like these, a few things are key to remember. You need to be able to remove these with a spatula later, the curlicues above were too delicate to do this well. Make several layers of chocolate, and keep the decorations in the freezer until you are going to place them on the cake. Yes, this means the cake should go in the fridge until serving, just to be safe.

Always make more decorations than you will need! Some will break, or fall off, or look funny. I ended up not having enough unbroken curlicues which was this cake's main flaw.

But all in all, it was fantastic, both looking and tasting. Experiment with your decorations! Just free hand a few, and see how they turn out. Make sure you peel them off of the foil with a spatula, and very slowly.

Sorry for the blurry details on the last one, but I had to show you the curlicues on the sides and the archways.

That's it for now! Have a fantastic day.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Baker is Back!

Eight months later, I am finally out of the dorms and into an apartment with my own kitchen! Prepare for an onslaught of brand new recipes. With a few new friends who love baking as much as I do, expect a few guest authors as well!

From now on, I will be picking ordinary recipes and tweaking them in tasty, fun ways. For example, a few weeks ago my friend Britni and I got bored with banana bread. After picking 10 pounds of strawberries, we decided Strawberry Banana Chocolate Chip Bread would be better. Expect that recipe coming up soon!

Without further ado, the grand re-opening cupcakes! When I'm feeling particularly ambitious, I'll bake a cake from scratch. Yesterday, however, was not one of those days. After all, decorating is the fun part! With Alex Barker's book, Essential Guide to Cake Decorating, I have a plethora of new fantastic ideas for cake decorating. The book was given to me for my birthday by one of my best friends and my fellow baker for the day, Simone!

This is her disdainful face. ^_^
Yesterday was my friend Larry's 20th birthday, and the book conveniently had adorable birthday cupcakes. He requested strawberry cupcakes, so I bought a box mix from the grocery store and called it a day. Really, to me, baking from scratch is more for bragging rights than lack of tasty alternatives, there's a few box mixes I prefer to any recipes I have.

So fast forward through the eggs and oil and mix bit, to the magical decorating. Apologies in advance, these are not the best photos because I was baking at night and on a deadline.

So once you have pre-made cupcakes, cover them in Royal Icing. What, you're not sure how to make royal icing? Well then, here's a guide!

Royal Icing
1 lb of Powdered Sugar
2 Egg Whites
1/2 Teaspoon Flavor Extract (Lemon, Vanilla, Almond, whatever you want!)

To make more icing, simply double the recipe. To change the consistency, simply add small amounts of water at a time. And by small, I mean increments of teaspoons or so.

Here is my trick for giving royal icing that smooth, almost fondant look. Fill a glass with water, and put your spatula or knife in it. If you spread the icing then use a very thin layer of water to smooth it out, you get a result like the blue cupcakes above.

This is the same type of icing used on those gorgeous sugar cookies that I could never figure out how to decorate. (Hint: This will be coming up soon.)

Simone and I used squeeze bottles from JoAnn's craft store to decorate these. Frosting tips are totally unnecessary if all you want is a thin line of frosting, and these are a less messy alternative to piping bags. You can buy them here.

All we did was copy from the book, so this is really a less recipe and instruction intensive post.

Three frosting colors: White, Light Blue, and Dark Blue
The book includes those shiny spherical sprinkles, but I couldn't find silver ones.
So welcome back to baking! Lots more to come!