Wednesday, November 16, 2011

blogiversary and banana cream tuxedo cake

I totally missed my one year blogiversary.  My very first post was October 5th of last year, and I totally forgot about it until I suddenly realized one day in November that I had missed it!

To celebrate, I decided to recreate a cake that I had eaten at a birthday party a few months ago.  It was a banana cream cake - two layers of moist banana cake, filled with a thick layer of pastry cream, and covered with whipped cream.  And it was delicious!  To take it one step further, I wanted to decorate it like this tuxedo cake at Annie's Eats, with a gorgeous ganache glaze dripping down the sides.

For the cake I initially considered using my mom's banana bread recipe, which I love because it's so easy and very moist and delicious.  But I thought perhaps I should choose a recipe intended for cake, since i wanted a cake-like fluffy texture.  So I chose a recipe from David Lebovitz's book "Ready for Dessert".  It called for ingredients that I would never think to pair with bananas, including cinnamon and espresso!  I was curious to see how the combination would taste.

Once the cake was baked and cooled, I made a batch of pastry cream, using the recipe from my boston cream pie inspired cake.  After letting the pastry cream cool in the fridge, I piped a thick layer on top of a layer of banana cake, and returned it to the fridge to let it set.  When I though enough time had passed, I placed the second layer of banana cake on top, and placed it back in the fridge while I prepared the whipped cream frosting.

When I was ready to decorate the cake, I opened the fridge, and gasped when I saw that the pastry cream was oozing and dripping down the sides of the cake.  Not pretty.  I guess I didn't let it set enough.  But I tried not to freak out, and just used a spatula to scrape off the excess pastry cream and dump it in the sink.  What a waste.  At least there was still a thin layer of pastry cream in between the two cakes!

After covering my cake with whipped cream and piping a shell border on the bottom, I returned it to the fridge and then began to make my ganache glaze.  I used an Ina Garten recipe, and it was so simple to make - just semisweet chocolate, heavy cream!  I didn't want the glaze to melt the whipped cream on my cake, so I waited for it to come to room temperature first.  But perhaps I waited too long, because by the time I spread it over my cake, it wasn't drippy enough to ooze down the sides!

The next time I make this, I think I'd change a few things - a) I'd use my mom's banana bread recipe, as it is still my favorite; b) I'd lighten the pastry cream with whipped cream, which might help it from oozing out the sides; c) I'd spread the ganache when it's warm and still slightly runny.  But the cake still ended up tasting great, and I especially loved the flavor combination of all the components!  Bananas, chocolate, and cream - YUM!  Perfect for a blogiversary! :)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

carnival birthday cake - red velvet cake filled with cream cheese frosting and topped with cream cheese buttercream

To go along with the carnival animal cookies that I made in my previous post, I also made a 12 x 17 inch red velvet carnival cake.  The only other time I made a cake this large was the Superman birthday cake that I made for my son Matthew, and for that cake I had used four 9 x 13 inch cakes (two side-by-side, and two on top of that for the second layer).  But I was hesitant to do that again, since I felt like I could see a line down the middle where the two sets of cakes met.  So this time I bought a 12 x 17 inch cake pan, so that I could make it the right way!

(Notice in the picture above the size of the 9 x 13 inch pan is on the left, compared to the giant 12 x 17 inch pan on the right!)

I thought since I had the right pan this time, that everything would go smoothly.  But since the pan was so large, I found myself extending the baking time over and over again so that the middle of the cake could finish baking.  When the middle was finally done and the cakes came out of the oven, I could already see that the edges of the cake were overdone, and even looked crispy!  So after the cakes had cooled, I sliced off about half an inch of cake from each of the edges.

After sandwiching the two cake layers with a thick layer of cream cheese frosting, I whipped up a cream cheese buttercream to use for the crumb coating and decorating/piping.  I basically made a buttercream frosting, but added a stick of cream cheese to it because I prefer the flavor of cream cheese to buttercream, but I knew that a straight cream cheese frosting would not hold up on a cake this large (another lesson learned from my Superman birthday cake!)  So this was a way to get the same stiffness of a buttercream, with a little bit of cream cheese flavor.

After applying a crumb coating over the whole cake, and a second coating over the top of the cake, I started to decorate my sides.  I was inspired by the red and yellow stripes of Martha Stewart's carnival cake, and thought the look would go perfectly with this cake.  I had brainstormed different ways to make the carnival stripes, but in the end went with the original idea (see below, my brainstorming sketches for the cookies and the cake).

Next, I piped a shell border along the bottom and the top of the cake, and then I was ready to add the final touches to the top of the cake.

To tie in with the animal cookies, I used black icing and a star tip with various colors of icing to pipe the face of a giraffe:

an elephant:

and a lion:

And finally, I added a birthday message with black icing.  I had originally also wanted to include fondant stars on skewers or florist wire, but in the end I left it out because I didn't want to clutter the cake.  Instead, I bought a little star-shaped candle to go along with the cake (not pictured).

Hope you had an awesome first birthday Jianna!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

circus carnival animal cookies - giraffes, lions, and elephants

My friend Cindy has a friend Michelle who was planning a carnival-themed birthday party for her daughter, and she asked me to make cookies shaped like animals for the party favors.  After a few emails back and forth, I decided on making elephants, lions, and giraffes.  (Luckily a few months ago I had purchased this animal cookie cutter set, so a variety of different animals were at my fingertips!)

After baking and cooling my cookies, I set out to decorate the cookies with royal icing.  I decided to pipe the elephants in blue, and after the first layer of icing had dried (overnight), I piped on eyes and ears and outlined the elephant for the finishing touches.

For the giraffes, I piped them in yellow, and while the icing was still wet I dropped in some brown royal icing for the spots.  Then after all that had dried, I piped on the eyes and a yellow outline.

The lions were also piped in yellow, and after they dried overnight I piped on a bright orange mane, eyes, and outlined it in yellow as well.  For the mane, I couldn't decide between a curly-Q mane or a solid filled-in mane, so I ended up doing both!

I loved all the colors of the final result!  Stay tuned for my upcoming post on the carnival cake that I made to go with these cookies!

*** Update: The carnival cake post can be found here!