Golf Ball Cake Pops

Posted on November 15, 2013

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Cake pops. They’re the perfect dessert for the golf lover! I have to admit I don’t really understand them in most situations. They’re just too small to be a satisfying piece of cake, and they fall terribly short of being a good substitute for a chocolate truffle.

For a golf themed party they did seem like an excellent choice, and making them was a lot of fun (well, at least the first 50 were).

So if you find yourself contributing to a gathering of people who, as P.J.O’Rourke says “like hitting things with a stick”, or, I suppose, anyone who enjoys a good game of basketball, soccer, billiards, marbles etc, then by all means read on.

How a Custom Fondant Cake Comes to Life – Stage 2: Baking and Frosting

Posted on October 9, 2013

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Back in June, I started a series of how a fondant cake comes to life. Sketches were made and a design decided upon.

The next step is to figure out how much cake to bake. There are several charts for this all over the internet, which list most shapes and sizes. The one I usually use is over here. For a tier that ends up being 4″ tall (the standard), I have to bake it in two pans. In my home oven this often means that not all pans will fit at them same time, so baking a 3 or 4-tiered cake can take several hours. Over the years I have developed my own charts for multiplying my recipes so that I have enough batter for all the pans. I always make a little extra, so that at the end of the day there are plenty of cake scraps for everyone to snack on. Cake pops are a great way to use up leftovers as well.

Once all the cakes have cooled, and all the frosting has been mixed, I cut the domes off each cake to make it level, then cut each one in half and fill it with a layer of frosting.

Crumb coat

 

Each tier is crumb coated. This means spreading frosting all over the outside of the cake. I do one layer to seal in all the crumbs, then refrigerate. When that is firm, I spread on another layer to make it as smooth as possible, so that there are no dents or bulges when the fondant is placed on top.

 Cake assembly 1

The fondant comes ready-made in a bucket, but has to be kneaded before use. It’s important to work quickly because it dries out as soon as it’s exposed to air. Once kneaded and smooth, the fondant get’s rolled to about 1/4″ – 1/8″ thickness and then quickly draped over the cake and smoothed out.

Cake Assembly 2

This all usually happens on the day before the cake is due to be delivered. Tiers are stacked as close to the delivery time as possible.

Stay tuned for what happens to make it all come together…

Mixed Berry Chocolate Chip Tea Cakes

Posted on September 26, 2013

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Tea requires a simple pastry to accompany it. Something to satisfy the sweet tooth (or, in my case the sweet teeth; there are several), that won’t overpower the subtle flavor of the tea. A simple McVities biscuit will do the trick. Or a madeleine. Isn’t that what these things were invented for?

These little cakes have become dear friends of the Earl Grey over the last few days. They were a happy accident, when after a large baking project, I discovered that I had at least two-thirds of a bowl of batter left over. A rummage through the freezer and unusually empty fridge revealed a bag of frozen berries and a bar of raspberry dark chocolate, which I chopped.

I left most of the cakes in the lobby of our building around 3pm with a note, thinking the majority of people were at work, and wondering whether it was wise to let them sit out there till people got home. They were all gone by 3.30pm. Cake lovers are like zombies. They can sense it and are drawn to it. Either that or the super ate two dozen by himself.

Concord Grape and Mixed Berry Pie

Posted on September 19, 2013

GrapePieOk, so last week I said that seeding concord grapes was a once-a-year affair. But it COULD be that you had several very helpful friends who made it easy, and now you find yourself with more grapes than you know what to do with. In that case, you should make pie.

Supplementing with mixed berries not only lessens the effort, but it mellows the strong grape flavor while keeping it distinct. Whip some cream and you’re set!

Once-A-Year Concord Grape Cake with Hazelnuts

Posted on September 12, 2013

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I have something to tell you that you won’t like (please don’t throw your hands and stop reading….hear me out…..it’s so worth it): this cake requires that you cut each grape in half and carefully remove the seeds. I know. It’s crazy.

It’s why you should only make it once a year. Since I first made it last summer, it’s been the one cake that everyone talks about. For a few months now I’ve gotten offers of help in seeding the grapes, just in case I wasn’t going to do it again when they finally showed up at the market.

If you can get people to have a seeding party with you, by all means do so. If not, it’s a great time to catch up and listen to that podcast you’ve been saving, sit down with a big dish towel (there will be purple juice) and find the zen in it.

The cake is crumbly and not too sweet, and it tastes even better after sitting out for a day, covered, when the flavors have really had some time to marinate.

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I’ve made the non-vegan and vegan versions of this and they are both great.

Plum Cake

Posted on September 5, 2013

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Well, it’s actually prune cake. No, not the dried prunes that your grandfather eats from a bag. Prunes, contrary to common belief, are just another variety of plum, more oval, with a seed that’s easier to remove, and skin that is the most beautiful, matte shade of blueish-purple. In Northern Germany, where my parents live, they’re the most common kind of plum available, leading to lots of great plum desserts. This yeast cake with a nutty streusel topping is probably the most popular. When I was little, my friend Moritz and I used to make it with his mom, and then sell slices by the roadside, along with fresh coffee from a thermos. Those sad little lemonade stands could suck it! It’s how we afforded our first fish tank, which was housed in Moritz’s room, but to which I had unlimited visitation rights, leading to a life-long obsession with fish (and plum cake)!

Salted Caramels

Posted on August 28, 2013

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Last Thursday, I left Brooklyn to spend 4 days with some of my dearest friends and their families in the Canadian woods, near Ottawa. It was so good to escape the city, to spend long mornings drinking tea and catching up, helping to split wood for the winter, going swimming in the river (well, the heartier Canadians went swimming, I just dipped my toes in), jumping on the giant trampoline, and cooking and eating with eight people.

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The three kids kept saying they were craving caramels, so after much searching, we found a recipe (over here) that didn’t call for corn syrup, and we decided to wing it without a candy thermometer. I don’t necessarily recommend the latter, because it can be hard to gauge when the caramel has cooked enough to be solid when cool. Our were just on the edge of starting to burn, but they ultimately tasted great.

 

If you’re making these with kids, you want to supervise very closely, because a hot sugar burn is one of the most dangerous and painful things that can happen in a kitchen. I recommend having    an adult do the actual cooking, and letting the kids do the fun part of measuring, sprinkling the salt, and wrapping the finished candies.

 

 

 

 

Raw Vegan Mango Cheesecake with Pistachio Crust

Posted on August 21, 2013

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I promised you a vegan, raw version of last week’s mango cheesecake, so here it is. Apart from the little bit of maple syrup, this dessert is actually good for you. Clearly, I don’t believe that that’s a requirement, but with something this delicious, it also can’t hurt. The possibilities for variation are endless. Any fruit purée would work and so would most nuts, in the crust. Have you made any version that you love? Please share!

Mango Cheesecake with Pistachio Crust

Posted on August 13, 2013

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Mangoes were a big part of my childhood. When I was eleven years old and we had just moved to Ghana, one of the first things I learned from my new friends there, was to pick ripe mangoes from the tree in their garden, bite off the tip and then slowly peel away strips of skin to eat our way around the pit. It’s still my favorite way to eat a mango: outside, without the need for a knife, not caring about the mess. If you rinse it well, biting into a store-bought mango to break the skin, would be no worse than biting into an apple I suppose, but the experience just isn’t the same when you’ve got no mango tree to stand under, and on most occasions these days, I really do care about the mess.

Every once in a while there are some great mangoes in the food co-op and I buy up way more than I can eat fresh. Luckily our friends recently gave us a cookbook called “660 Curries,” at the back of which hides a recipe for mango cheesecake, which is the color of curry, but otherwise has no connection. It’s perfectly creamy but light (ish) and it tastes of a much needed tropical vacation. Here’s how I made it:

(I’m working on a raw, vegan version for next week, so stay tuned)

Madeleines, Proust, Paul Auster, and the Brooklyn Bridge

Posted on July 30, 2013

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This is the epitome of summer in New York. A perfect evening, in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, listening to great writers read the work of another great writer (organized by the fabulous Community Bookstore in Park Slope).

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Of course, the 100th anniversary of “Swann’s Way” called for a picnic of madeleines. I thought there would be dozens of us feasting on the little cakes, but from what I could tell, I was the only one. Paul Auster read the famous passage, so I sat there and enjoyed the “little scallop-shell of pastry, so richly sensual under its severe, religious folds”* while a cool breeze swept of the East River, ferries honked and helicopters droned overhead. The city at its best.

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I opted for pistachio madeleines. It’s certainly not the way Proust would have had them, but the fact is that nobody knows what Prousts madeleines actually tasted like (it seems to be a matter of some controversy), and I couldn’t resist the vibrant green pistachios that were sitting on my counter, waiting to be used for something delicious.

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*Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way (The Modern Library, 1992), page 63.