Ginger Chiffon Cake with Lime Curd

This is a cake I’ve had my eye on for the past year or so…it’s based on a recipe from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-layer Cakes. I made a couple adjustments, because that’s how I roll, but I think it came out pretty well.

Grating fresh ginger for the cake

Separating the eggs…I love this part!

Beaten egg whites…nice and shiney!

Folding egg whites into the egg yolk/ginger mixture

Into the oven – three layers, but I can only bake 2 at a time

Cooling

Filled with the lime curd…which everyone thought was lemon. Sigh.

And done! I had a bit of frosting left over, hence the random swirly stuff on top.

If I can get a hold of my husband’s phone, I’ll post pictures of the inside.

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Summer 2010

So I’ve gotten a couple complaints from the three people who apparently are checking this blog that I haven’t  been updating. And guess what. They’re right. I really suck at updating. I probably really have no business having a blog if I can’t keep it up to date, but it’s just  so much easier to post pictures on Facebook. So for more consistent updates, check out my Facebook page – Denise Does Desserts!

But I guess that’s still no excuse…so here are some pictures of a few of the things I’ve worked on this summer…

This was a wedding cake I did for a wedding in San Jose…I was just casual acquaintances with the bride and groom, but it turned out I knew about a third of the guests at the wedding!

The bride actually asked me to do 2 cakes – a 2-tier red velvet cake and a single carrot cake. As I recall, the cakes were for the family and the rest of the guests were served another dessert.

The bride made the cake toppers – they were sooo cute!

The carrot cake

I believe the day I was making these cakes was actually National Donut day. I think I must have had too many cake scraps because I decided that while I was making a wedding cake, I had to make donuts, too!

That was really probably not the smartest choice I could’ve made that day. But those donuts were pretty darn good!

And then awhile later, I was trolling the food blogs and saw that Smitten Kitchen had made root beer cupcakes – something that I had been meaning to do for about a year…So I HAD to jump on that bandwagon…

And then there were the baby shower cakes and a wedding cake that I had to make for the same weekend…my apologies for the quality of the picture…my phone was all I could manage as far as documenting. I think each of those was a different flavor: red velvet with cream cheese, carrot cake with cream cheese, chocolate with mocha buttercream, and a vanilla cake with a mango curd…maybe…I actually don’t remember now.

So while I was making those 4 individual cakes, I was also working on a 3-tier wedding cake…this cake in fact:

That’s 3 tiers of a vanilla cake with a fresh strawberry filling and cream cheese frosting. But the best part was the cake topper…

Especially the Lego “bride”…

So that takes us up to the end of July…I did one more major cake, but I promise to do a full post on that one in the near future.

a blast from the past

I don’t know if it’s just me, or if this was the experience of every other Chinese-American kid growing up in the bay area, but layered finger jello was a staple at nearly every party I attended during the 80’s. It was always there, set on folding tables in between the aluminum trays of  chow mein and Chinatown fried chicken. And it was always the same flavors (or colors – depending on how you categorize jello): red, orange, yellow and green. My favorite way to eat it was peel apart the layers and eat them individually.

I woke up the other day with the hugest craving for rainbow finger jello (my other name for layered jello). It was just about the only thing I could think about, so how could I not make it? It took some digging around in my recipe files to find the recipe, as well as a trip to the store to make sure that I had the right colors of jello. I ended up doing only 3 layers of color since it started looking really thick, but I think the rainbow effect is still there.

So, what was your experience as a kid? Was I alone in the ubiquitous rainbow jello fad?

Wedding! (part 2)

Okay…so where did we leave off? That’s right, baking done and enjoying Thanksgiving dinner. That was the end of the San Francisco portion of the project. The next part was probably the most stressful part of the whole weekend – transporting everything to Sacramento. We borrowed my parents’ minivan and loaded it up with the 360 cupcakes, the 14-inch square cake, the 2 foam tiers, my KitchenAid mixer, and about 5 gallons of buttercream. Oh yes, and all of our personal things for the wedding. Once we got to Sacramento, things were a bit more relaxed for me, cake-wise. I didn’t really have much to do until the morning of the wedding, when I planned to frost all the cupcakes.

So Saturday morning, after staying up nearly all night, I got up early and started reconstituting the buttercream. With the help of my wonderful wonderful friends, we frosted and decorated the cupcakes, delivered them to the reception site, and set everything up. I don’t think things could have gone better.

That concludes my first experience baking solo (almost) for a wedding. It was exhausting, but I loved every minute of it. It was a great experience, and I’m grateful that my friends had enough confidence in me to trust me to do this for them. I also want to thank my friends who took pictures to document everything for me; my brain was somewhat overloaded and I certainly didn’t have the presence of mind to even think about taking pictures. Thanks to everyone who helped! Couldn’t have done it without you!

PS – the final shopping stats for all of this:

9 pounds of cake flour

71 eggs

84 sticks of butter

20 pounds of sugar

70 egg whites

10 cups of oil

2 quarts of buttermilk

3 pounds of carrots

3 pounds of cream cheese

Wedding! (part 1)

Whew! What a holiday season! It’s been a little hectic in these parts over the last six weeks or so…as I’m sure it is for most people this time of year. However, I chose to make it even more interesting for myself for agreeing to make a wedding cake/cupcakes for our friends’ wedding the week of Thanksgiving. I know, I know, Thanksgiving was totally over a month ago, but between work and Christmas, I haven’t had a chance to find pictures and post about the wedding craziness. And quite frankly, since my friends were posting pictures on Facebook (in almost real time), I didn’t feel super motivated to post on this blog. Oh well.

My mission: Create a 3 tier wedding cake and cupcakes for 250 guests. The wedding was on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in Sacramento. I basically had two days (Wednesday and Thursday before the wedding) to complete everything.

On Wednesday, I focused on the actual wedding cake – a vanilla buttermilk cake with mocha buttercream filling. In the interest of full disclosure, I really only had to bake one tier of the three tier cake. Since the bride and groom were only interested in having a cake for pictures, they opted to have the top two tiers made of foam and only have the bottom tier be real cake. So as far as baking cake, I only had to make one 14-inch square tier. But when I say “only” one 14-inch tier, that single tier needed to be four inches high, which meant three individual layers of cake…and since I only have one 14 inch square pan that meant I had to do each layer one at a time.  And actually, despite all the months of very very careful calculations, I somehow miscalculated the volume of cake batter I would need for each layer of cake and they ended up too short…which meant that I needed to bake an additional layer of cake to reach the required four-inch height requirement. While I baked and cooled each layer of cake, I worked on the mocha buttercream. After filling and constructing the cake, I needed to cover the darn thing in white fondant. That nearly made me cry. I felt like I needed at least 4 additional hands to help me lift the fondant over the cake. Unfortunately, it was just me and the two hands God gave me, so we did our best. That’s why some of the sides are less than perfect.

Thursday (actually Thanksgiving day), I got to work on the cupcakes for the wedding. The bride and groom had decided on 4 different flavors of cupcake: red velvet with cream cheese frosting, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, lemon cake with lemon cream cheese frosting, and vanilla buttermilk cake with mocha buttercream. For 250 guests, I had calculated that I would need about 70 of each type of cupcake, for a total of 280 cupcakes. Somehow, despite, all my careful math, I ended up with 360 cupcakes. Oh well. Math was really never one of my strengths, and better to have too many than not enough, right?

Thankfully, my lovely sister pitched in that morning and helped me with the cupcakes. She deserves a huge prize.

By early afternoon, nearly every surface in our apartment was covered in cupcakes. It was either beautiful or terrifying, depending on how you looked at it.

After all the cake was baked, I started on the rest of the frosting. I ended up making 6 batches of swiss meringue buttercream, and each of them nearly gave me a heart attack. No matter how many times I make that stuff (and I’d done it dozens of times of prior to this), I always freak out that it’s not going to come together. Thankfully, there were no problems with the buttercream, but I was a little worried that my poor mixer was going to give up on me after the third batch.

When all the buttercream was done, and after I stopped in at work for about an hour, I was finally done with the baking portion of this project and went off to Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house.

Biscotti

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I went through a phase when I was younger where I loved hard, dry cookies – including my baby cousin’s teething biscuits. I’ve always thought of biscotti as a kind of more adult version of teething biscuits, albeit slightly tastier. I’ve had a standard biscotti recipe that I’ve been making since I was in elementary school, but for some reason I decided I wanted to mix things up a little and try something new. As someone who typically has a difficult time with change, I think I may have found a new standard. But should I really be surprised? They are, after all, from Dorie Greenspan, and when does she ever fail?

lovely toasted almonds awaiting the food processor

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awaiting the first baking

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sliced up and ready for the 2nd baking

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of course, I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I made chocolate ones, too.

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with a smear of chocolate

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double chocolate

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Chocolate Biscotti

adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my home to yours

2 cups  flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons instant espresso powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temp

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup chopped almonds

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

2. Sift together flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until pale (about 2 minutes). Scrape down bowl. Add eggs and vanilla and beat for about 2 minutes (mixture may look curdled). Reduce mixer speed to low and add dry ingredients in 3 additions, mixing only until dough forms. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix in nuts and chocolate.

4. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead in any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

5. Divide dough in half. Working with one half at a time, roll dough into 12-inch long logs. Flatten both logs so that they are about 1/2 to 1 inch high and about 2 inches wide. Carefully lift each log onto the baking sheet.

6. Bake logs for about 25 minutes, or until slightly firm. Remove baking sheet from oven and cool logs for about 20 minutes.

7. Working with one log at a time, cut each lot into slices between 1/2 and 3/4 inch wide (use a serrated knife). Stand the slices up on the baking sheet and bake the cookies again for about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack.


Yellow cake with Chocolate Frosting

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A few of you might remember that I had some issues with the yellow cupcakes we made for our cupcake party a few weeks ago. What with the crazy lemon bars and the hole-y cupcakes, I was starting to feel like somewhat of a fraud and a failure. Despite all the reassurances from my friends that the cupcakes were fine, the fact that they were less than ideal was really bugging me. In order to prove to myself that I can make a good basic yellow cake without the assistance of the Pillsbury Doughboy, Betty Crocker, or Duncan Hines I felt the need to try again.

a much better yellow cake

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My plan had been to fill it with the leftover coffee buttercream I had from the party, but I quickly nixed that idea when I failed miserably at reconstituting it.

gross coffee buttercream

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I quickly changed plans and filled and frosted the cake with chocolate mousse buttercream…much better idea.

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And finally…ta-da! Much better than the cupcakes!

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IMG_4105Sorry, no pictures of the interior. Despite my intentions, I forgot to bring the camera with me to our friends’ house where we ate it. Oh, and just in case anyone is wondering, all of this was done a couple days after the cupcake party…I just haven’t had a chance to post in since then. So the coffee buttercream didn’t go bad due to age…more like user-error.