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Archive for October, 2007

Wii and controller were unharmed in the making of this cake (unless refrigerating them counts)...

In the peace and quiet of the midnight hours a couple of months ago, I was mindlessly Googling “unique”, “fancy”, “strange”, “elaborate” and the like attributes, placed next to the word “cake”. I was quite determined, too, to steal creative ideas and techniques from anyone’s edible pieces of art, preferably ones without a price tag and “here’s how to order” button.  

And then, the most bizzare cake-related image materialized in front of my eyes, after following a link on page 7 or 17, not sure anymore… a Martha Stewart Wii Cake!!! On the cover of Wired magazine, mind you! I had to have it! It would be full of elaborate directions, an impossible-to-duplicate recipe (without spending 72 straight hours in a kitchen with five ovens, an industrial sized prep island and a team of a dozen bakers) and most of all – it would make me a hero in the geek community of my husband’s friends when I made him a Wii cake for his birthday.  

18 hours later, when hubby brought the magazine home from the office collection of a co-worker with no use for it, I was wondering if I got a defective copy with missing cake pages. After skipping though it forwards and back – twice – I still hadn’t found the five pages a cover story deserves… Eventually, after having diligently read through two-thirds of the magazine, I saw the tiny, useless blurb. Oh well. Nonetheless, the cover was still there – quite enough for inspiration, I suppose. I kept joking with my husband that I was going to make him a Wii cake. I had some other ideas brewing at the time, and in fact a plan for another Halloween/Birthday cake was already set in motion… 

Anyway, hubby’s Halloween birthday party came and went on the 27-th. The primary BloodRayne 2 chocolate raspberry cake fortress was an absolute hit. The secondary pumpkin-shaped, pumpkin-tasting cake also received compliments – in fact, people didn’t realize it was a cake until I sliced throught it! – they thought it was a decoration, yeah! But then, there was cake number three… Can you tell I go overboard in the number of cakes I make for a party?… I must have easily spent $150 just in supplies for those cakes, let alone the sleepless nights to bake and decorate them… Crazy? Maybe.

The fact is, for me it is a form of meditation and self expression… I get to forget about my mile-long, never tamed to-do list at work, I get to listen to the midnight silence, empty of the shrilling chatter and royal demands of our two adorable little guys, and remind myself that occasionally, the “I” in me still exists…  Like an artist watching a painting emerge with each brush stroke, seeing how a shapeless fluid brown mass turns into an evenly baked smooth and fluffy cake layer, which in turn absorbs the fresh, tangy raspberry flavor, to come to full harmony with the layers of smooth melted chocolate and cream — oups, that’s the wrong cake, sorry, check BloodRayne’s castle in the above flavour :-)… That’s a cake right?! And then the really fun part begins, when fondant, just like clay, can be colored and shaped in all things imaginable…

So there was cake number three – flourless walnut cake with meringue cocoa buttercream… Uncut. The other two cakes were so big that even after more than a dozen families left the party with to-go boxes of both cakes, number three was uncut.  

Then, it hit me. Cake number three had been waiting to become a Wii! It was its destiny all along! The night after the party I thought about it… The day after the party I looked at it, peacefully lying in the fridge, nicely cured but completely naked in its buttercream crumb coat.  I also happened to see this great attempt at making a Wii cake before the Wired cover… And I knew what I was doing that night…  

But a white Wii with gray base was already made, nothing original about that… There was still a day left before Halloween, and I did have some fondant left from an orange pumpkin and a black fortress… While my husband’s Wii and controller spent a few hours next to sugar and sharp tools, they were completely unharmed in the making of the cake (unless refrigerating them counts… just joking).

About this cake:

It is called Walnut Cake – it is flourless — and is made from a recipe in a cookbook dated 1962, with yellowish pages and orange fraying linen hard cover that my aunt bestowed upon me back in the days I didn’t know what a cookbook is used for but I vaguely suspected I had to have a “real” one. I could list the recipe in detail, thought I find it more curious to summarize that I made three batches for this 5-layer 9”x13” sheet cake, and among a couple of secret ingredients I used 33 eggs (you read it correctly, thirty-three eggs), 7.5 cups of powdered sugar, 3 cups of white sugar, 2 cups of cocoa powder, 7.5 cups of finely chopped walnuts, 3 cups of ground almonds, 1.5 cups semolina, 2lb of butter, rind of 2 lemons and 2 cups of rum. Yes! – 2 cups of rum! Enjoy.

 

It’s just a boring cake… until you flip it to its side…

 

 

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BloodRayne 2 Fortress Cake

Happy Birthday, Precious!  

Layers of double entendre for anyone who’s known my husband long enough…

The fortress is “death by chocolate”, built of 14 layers (two 4-layer cakes for the bottom and a 6-layer top), filled with chocolate raspberry Chambord ganache, and covered with chocolate fondant (I vaguely follow this recipe which I’ve made at least a dozen times now with some modifications – such as using unsweetened cocoa instead of coffee (unpopular with 2- to 4-year olds), skipping the cinnamon and allspice, using raspberry extract instead of vanilla and lastly always, always doubling the amount of raspberries and chocolate per batch. When time is pressing, and I need to resort to cheating, I use organic chocolate cake mixes from Whole Foods (oups, I should not have said that – no one has ever caught the difference…) and still fill it with the chocolate raspberry ganache awesomeness from scratch…) Gargoyles and doll are not edible. For the latter, credit goes to an amazing doll artist by the name of Eliza, who fashioned a good old Barbie into the sexy dampire. I had planned for eight towers on all sides of the fortress (two stacked up bottom-to-bottom ice cream cones covered in fondant) and a lot more detail on the cake overall, but I ended up making it in a hurry…  

The week before, we were not even sure if there was going to be a party – we live less than 2 miles away from one of the SoCal fires, it was raging on the edge of the neighborhood… Thankfully the firefighters were able to keep it on the empty hill side of the road, but we kept breathing smoke and ashes through the week, checking in with friends and following the updates – right now it’s at 75% contained… Amazingly, everyone we know was fortunate to have been away from the path of the fire, so we decided to have the party after all – just things were done with a lot less prep than I would have liked… The party was joyous, lots of friends showed up, most everyone was in costume (pirates were popular), plus a dozen more kids, who had a free reign of the house, munchies and drinks were devoured, people felt good about eating by dancing it all off afterwards…  Now the cats are still playing with feathers from some fluffy boas in three different colors through the house…

But the cake, oh, the cake… I tortured our guests to wait… and wait… and wait some more after the grand unveiling. You know, there is this rule for ganache cakes to be left at room temperature for an hour, sometimes longer, for the chocolate to soften to a heavy mousse-like state and reach their optimal consistency… Special thanks to a friend of ours, who took on the role of DJ, bringing in his unique selection of irresistible body twisting, shaking, and jumping rhythms, who managed to keep the crowd well entertained, otherwise there would have been a riot and the fortress might have been overtaken…

BloodRayne Cake Colage

BloodRayne 2 Cake

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Pumpkin Cake

 

 

 

 

Happy Halloween, Little Trick-or-Treaters!

 

 

An off-cake-topic story… On my first Halloween candy-giving experience some seven years ago, I had this crazy notion to make kids trick me before – or instead of – giving them treats… I also had the apparently insane thought of giving out home-made cookies, what did I know about bizarre assumed safety rules, according to which store-bought packages of who-knows-what-unpronounceable ingredients were safer than home-made cookies made of butter, sugar and flour… Ok, ok, I get it now, I would never let my kids eat a home-made cookie from a stranger, but I wasn’t a parent then, and I don’t have 15 years of trick-or-treating experience under my belt either, give me some slack… My husband warned me that requesting a trick may not be that great of an idea, and I sweetly thought he was just being protective of his new wife and didn’t want me to get badly smothered in spray paint, my painstakingly just-completed, elaborately designed vampire-gone-witch-lacy-red-and-black renaissancy dress destroyed by some childish notion of a trick…

 

 

 

Alas, that was not what he was implying… Kids had NO idea what “trick or treat” meant! I could qualify that, now a mommy of two myself (outch, that sounds serious, and makes me feel ancient), and give 3-year-old princesses and ninjas a break – maybe they really don’t know much about tricking… Though, they’re natural into tricking unsuspecting parents into yet another bedtime story three books later, another piece of chocolate-covered macadamias with the box half-way empty, another toy of the kind piled up and forgotten in the corner, another five-minutes-turned-half-hour at the playground, another … you get the pattern.

 

 

 

 

I vividly remember standing at the door, my beautiful witchy costume at its best, hat and all, Mary Poppins would have been so proud of me, for what seemed like an eternity in the stare of a perplexed young fellow, anywhere between eight and ten years old – no clue what his costume was…

 

 

 

“Trick me”, I replied to his mumbled “Trick or Treat” greeting, the open white plastic bag pushed in front of him. He looked up from it, uncomprehendingly, as no candy fell in for a while. “Trick me!”, I said in a louder, witchy voice, thinking he may not have heard me the first time, with wrappers rustling in his bag… “Trick or Treat?” he repeated almost pleadingly, his face starting to melt very childishly for his size – not sure if he was scared of me, or of the thought he was not going to get candy… My husband emerged to his rescue with the basket of Ghirardelli chocolate squares – as close I could bring myself to “candy”. Later in the evening I was convinced past any doubt whatsoever that anything un-resembling miniature chopped-off body parts was worthless to the little trick-or-treaters… “I wanted him to trick me-eee”, I wailed loud enough for the kid to hear, while running away from our bewitched house, with his unrewarding green-wrapped mint chocolate square… My husband gently, almost parentally, smiled at the silliness of my request, which was even cuter in his nobleman outfit, hat and feather, and real sword and all…

 

 

I repeated that request throughout the candy-giving couple of hours. “Trick Me!”… “Huh?”… “Trick me!” … “?”… “Trick me-eee!” – getting witchier and witchier as the evening went on. I did get a “Boo!” – the subsided scream of a tween girl in her wannabe cheerleader pompons was the only redemption to the unimaginative crowd of youngsters, who passed through our doorsteps that Halloween… I did get some complements on my costume from a few young girls, which made it all better… And I guess I learned my lesson – give out the candy and don’t dig into semantics or pretend to be original…

 This Halloween our older son was almost four. He was, of course, a pirate. Hubby thought him some PG piraty language, so if any candy-giver might have refused to shed the valued treasures willingly, he would have screamed on top of his lungs “Walk the plank!”, pulling out his plastic dagger and assuming a swordsman’s stance.

 

 

 

 

No trick request were received.

All candy nastiness was given voluntarily. Though, I have to say that together with the above mentioned tiny body part replicas, there were some animal crackers in festive purple-and-orange packages and pumpkin- and bat-shaped single-serving pretzel baggies in my son’s pumpkin loot basket… Thank you, Neighbors, for not poisoning my child, and thank you Manufacturers for bringing some sense to this sweet Halloween madness.

 

 

And what’s the moral of this story? Oh, enough with the Trick-or-Treating didactics, just let them eat cake!

 

 

 

 

The pumpkin cake…

 

Ahm, it is a “cheater” – the pumpkin-tasting layers are Trade Joe’s pumpkin bread mix, four boxes of it. It is baked in a bundt pan I purchased for the occasion, which supposedly can hold up to 15 cups of cake mixture. The filling is cream cheese-based, with some heavy cream and I enhanced it with a jar of pumpkin butter – also Trader Joe’s. I had the most difficult time with the fondant – as a result, please note the naturally-looking texture of the pumpkin, I was shooting for a lot smoother version – because coloring it destroyed the fondant’s texture, and no amount of powdered sugar was enough to restore it. It is a new brand that I tried for the first time, Choco-Pan – it’s chocolate-based, very tasty and with no “nasty stuff” in comparison to everything else called ‘fondant’ out there – but with zero instructions on their site of the time of this post, and a very brief, bullet-pointed sticker on its box. Eventually, I resorted to corn starch, and it worked a lot better than the suggested powdered sugar, but the pumpkin was beyond salvaging in the smooth department, unless I had three more hours to spare – which at 4am, I did not…  My mom, who is visiting with us for a few weeks, stayed up with me all night for moral support and kept insisting that the roughness makes the cake look more like a real pumpkin… Eeh… Maybe.  

 

 

 

Pumpkin Cake Colage

 

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