Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Swiss Chocolate Cake


I've been trying to write this post since yesterday but couldn't come up with a decent introduction.  To start with, I don't really know for sure why this particular cake is so-called Swiss chocolate cake.  I tried a google search and strangely found no clear answers. Did it come from Switzerland?  Did it originally contain only chocolate made in Switzerland?  Now it also got me thinking, why is a rolled cake called a Swiss roll anyway? Hmmm.

My friend Mimi reckons the cake is called such because of the white frosting which reminds us of the snowy mountaintops of the Swiss Alps. Probably.  If that is the case then, to be considered a Swiss chocolate cake, the frosting has to be white always?  If someone out there knows, please enlighten me.

Well anyway, I made this cake upon the request of another friend.  It is supposedly one of the bestsellers in Becky's Kitchen in Manila.  The cake is a two-layered chocolate chiffon filled with mocha buttercream and toffee crunch pieces and frosted with marshmallow icing. Yes, it is quite labour-intensive.  Having to make four different components is enough to turn one off.  The bright side is that at least two of these components can be made ahead of time so you don't actually have to stress so much all in one day.


I made this cake twice already and my family literally devoured both cakes.  It looks really sweet but is actually not.  The cake is very light and so very easy to eat.


I've divided the recipe into four parts.  Parts I and II can be made ahead of time.  The mocha butter icing (Part III) can actually be made in advance as well but I just find it better to use it fresh rather than having to soften and beat it again before using.

SWISS CHOCOLATE CAKE (makes a two-layered 8" round cake)

I.  CHOCOLATE CHIFFON CAKE - Make one using the chocolate chiffon cake recipe here.  Wrap cake well in cling film then refrigerate or freeze until ready to assemble.

II.  TOFFEE CRUNCH - This recipe will yield more than enough for this cake.  However, I recommend that you do the full recipe because it is a little tricky to accurately measure temperature with a candy thermometer when it's in a smaller amount.  I tried halving it and my toffee crunch didn't turn out as good as when I made the full recipe.  I don't think you will have a problem finishing all the extra anyway!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon baking soda, sifted

1. Line a small baking tray with baking paper.
2. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil. Clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan. Cook over medium heat to just below the hard-crack stage (310 deg F or 155 deg C).
3. Remove from heat. Sprinkle the baking soda evenly over sugar syrup. Whisk just until combined. Pour immediately onto the prepared baking sheet. Do not spread. Let stand until cool and hard, about 30 minutes.


4. Crack with a knife and break into 1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces.  Keep in a ziplock bag or in an airtight container.


III.  MOCHA BUTTER ICING - You can actually make whatever coffee-flavoured buttercream you want but I just find this the simplest. Follow the procedure for the old-fashioned butter icing here but use these ingredients instead:

150 grams unsalted butter, softened
pinch of salt
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons instant coffee powder **

**dissolve with sugar in evaporated milk



IV.  MARSHMALLOW FROSTING or SEVEN MINUTE FROSTING - You can either use this recipe or a Boiled Icing recipe (one with sugar syrup, like Italian meringue), whichever you are more comfortable with.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar or 1 Tablespoon corn syrup
1/3 cup water
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 eggwhites
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Place sugar, cream of tartar or corn syrup, salt, water, and egg whites in a large heatproof bowl.  Beat with a handheld electric mixer for 1 minute. Set the bowl over (but not touching) boiling water in a saucepan. (Keep the water boiling at medium heat.)  Beat constantly on high speed with electric mixer for 7 minutes.  Mixture should become glossy and hold stiff peaks. Remove from heat then beat in vanilla.  Use immediately.

See you those stiff peaks?

To assemble cake:

Make the mocha butter icing if you haven't done so already.

Cut your cake horizontally in half. Invert top layer onto your cake board.  Fill a piping bag with some mocha butter icing then pipe a dam around the cake edge.  Spread more mocha butter icing in the space inside the dam.


Fill the center neatly with toffee crunch pieces.


Cover the center with the rest of the mocha butter icing.


Top with the other cake layer, cut side down.  Set cake aside while you make your marshmallow frosting.

Cover the whole cake with marshmallow frosting.  If you want to make the swirl patterns, start at the side first.  Drag your offset spatula from bottom going up.  To do the top, drag the offset spatula from outer edge to center in a curve.

To slice the cake, you need to use a serrated knife and do a sawing motion as you slice in order to cut through the toffee crunch in the center.

That's it!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Avocado cake

When I mention avocado, would you think of it as sweet or savoury?  Would you crave for a dessert or a salad?

My fondest memories of avocado was that of my mother mashing them and mixing them with milk and sugar. She would freeze the mixture and on Sundays, that was our special after lunch dessert - homemade avocado ice cream.  That was the one and only way I knew how to eat that fruit as a child.  

Avocado in cake?  Quite unique, isn't it?  I think that's exactly the reason why this cake became a hit in Manila - it's because it's a flavour you wouldn't really imagine would work. 



The hero of this cake is actually the buttercream.  All the avocado goodness is in it.  I would have wanted to put avocado in the cake itself, but being a delicate chiffon, I observed that mixing in the fruit puree dramatically changes the cake's texture.  I tried many, many times, believe me!  Adding in a puree essentially introduces another liquid to the batter and being a fruit, it also adds acidity.  Mixing in only a small amount of avocado so as not to affect the cake balance does not actually do anything to add flavour.  On the other hand, mixing in a considerable amount to add flavour greatly affects the texture. This, despite adjusting the amounts of the other liquid ingredients.  So in saying that, I decided to put all the avocado in the buttercream.  Trust me, you will taste avocado with your first bite.

A cake of this size currently costs nearly P700 pesos in Manila so I would say, it's really worth making it yourself.  Here in Australia, avocado prices fluctuate by the week.  One week it's affordable, the next week, the price doubles.  Pistachios are quite expensive too.  Overall, this cake is not cheap to buy or make! Having said that though, I would choose homemade anytime.


AVOCADO CAKE 

For the chiffon:

{A}
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons white sugar

{B}
¼ cup corn/canola oil
4 egg yolks, from extra large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup water
about 1/4 - 1/2 tsp liquid green food colouring (add only enough to make the mixture greenish) *

*If using gel paste, you probably need only a drop.

{C}
4 eggwhites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

{D}
6 tablespoons white sugar

Procedure:
1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
2. In a large bowl, combine {A} well. Add in {B}. Beat with electric mixer or by hand until smooth and well blended.
3. In a separate bowl, beat {C} on high speed until frothy. Gradually add in the sugar {D} and beat until stiff peaks are formed. Gradually and gently fold in egg whites into egg yolk mixture. Pour batter into an ungreased 8” round, 3” high pan.
4. Bake for about 50 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Invert pan into wire rack immediately and cool completely.
5. To release cake from pan, carefully run a thin knife around sides of pan and invert.  Wrap well with cling film and refrigerate or freeze until ready to assemble.

For the avocado Swiss meringue buttercream:

4 eggwhites
1 cup granulated white sugar
300 g unsalted butter, very soft
a pinch of salt
puree of 1 ripe avocado mixed with 1 tsp lemon juice (about 120 grams)

In a large, clean heatproof bowl, combine the eggwhites and sugar. Set the bowl over (but not touching) simmering water in a saucepan and heat the mixture, whisking constantly, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is very warm to the touch. Remove the bowl from the saucepan. 

Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the eggwhite mixture until it is fluffy, cooled to room temperature, and holds stiff peaks.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the salt and the butter, a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. If the frosting appears to separate or is very liquid after all the butter has been added, continue to beat on high speed until it is smooth and creamy. Add the avocado puree gradually and beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

To assemble cake:

**You will also need about 70 grams coarsely chopped shelled pistachios for topping.

Cut your cake horizontally in half. Invert top layer onto your cake board. Spread a layer of buttercream over your cake half, then top with other cake layer, cut side down. Cover the whole cake with more buttercream. If desired, use a cake comb on the cake sides.  Pipe out a reverse 'S' border around the cake top and a shell border on the bottom.  Top with pistachios.


My cake is more yellowish than light green as I only put a few drops of green liquid food colouring.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Flower pot cakes

I'm really sorry I didn't get to greet you mums out there on Mother's day.  I hope you all had a wonderful day and that you were truly spoiled by your loved ones! 

What extraordinary thing did your kids do for you? It's usually the girl(s) in the family who's the thoughful one, isn't it?  With boys, what can you really expect? My sons greeted me as soon as they woke up in the morning then off they went about their own business for the rest of the day.  My daughter, on the other hand, really went all out to make the day special for me.  She bought me flowers and sour lollies (which I love).  And she cooked for the family from breakfast till dinner!  She couldn't get the older boys to do anything but managed to "coerce" her (not so) little brother to somehow help her.

As for me, I made some flower pot cakes for a few of my mum friends.



I've been thinking about buying those silicone flower pots I've been seeing online lately but they seem to only come from the UK or US and are very, very expensive.  So instead, I went to our local home improvement store and bought real terracotta flower pots!  I bought twelve 9cm pots for only 74 cents each!

After cleaning with soap and hot water, I seasoned the pots by greasing each inside and out with oil, and then I put them in a 190 deg C oven for 30 minutes.  When they cooled, I repeated the process one more time. I read that seasoning seals the pores in the pot, prevents future cracking and somehow creates a non-stick surface for the pots as well.

Before baking, I greased and floured the pots first.  Then I filled them about 3/4 full with my chocolate cake batter. I baked the cakes at 180 deg C for about 40 minutes.  One cake was about 2 1/2 times bigger than a standard cupcake.


After they had cooled, I tapped the cakes out of the pots.  They cooked beautifully and came out really easily.  I trimmed the tops so I would have a level surface to put my frosting on, after which I placed them back in their pot.



I covered each cake top with chocolate frosting just enough to have a flat surface to pipe my flowers on.  I whipped up a batch of  Swiss meringue buttercream, made small portions of different colours, and then I was ready for the fun part!

First flower: chrysanthemum.  Used tip #81 for the petals, tip #3 for the center and tip #352 for the leaves.


Second flower: sunflower. Used tip#352 for both petals and leaves, tip#4 for the center.


Third flower: hydrangeas.  Used tip#103 for the petals, tip#3 for the dots, tip#352 for the leaves.


And lastly, roses. Used tip#104 for the petals, tip#352 for the leaves.


Here they are all together. Gorgeous, aren't they?


Sadly, I gave them all away!  I didn't leave even one for myself.

But that's ok.  I had a lot of fun and I know I made some friends pretty happy :).



PS.  I have a new recipe to share! It is for a really unique kind of cake. I'm just super busy till the end of this week but will do my best to do so really soon. Watch this space!