Archives for category: Cake

Martin’s birthday was a couple of weeks ago and he opted to spend it chasing a wiffle ball around a gym (note: photo is not of Martin).  I opted to spend it running errands and baking a bona fide birthday cake.  For various reasons, in the end, we were both exhausted from our productive (?) activities.

For my part, I took the Princesstårta recipe from the Swedish cookbook Martin’s parents gifted me years ago.  I think there may have been some things lost in translation.  Either that, or the memory of a million princess cakes flows through the veins of all Swedes and they don’t need things like “recipes” or “directions” when it comes to this yummy concoction.  I’m not Swedish, so I followed the recipe to the best of my ability and essentially baked a pancake and stiff, somewhat bland whipped cream.  I know the stiffness of the cream comes from the three (yes, three!) packets of gelatin the recipe calls for and my pancake came from the line: “Beat eggs and sugar until thick and fluffy.”

Well, I beat those eggs, looked at it and thought, “Ehhhh, why not?” (this is a theme for me when it comes to baking this cake) and threw it in the oven, where it chose not to rise at all.

So I did what any OCD-perfectionist baker would do.  I told myself not to cry, threw it all in the trash and started over with a new recipe.  Specifically, Martha’s.  I’ve never met her but I have heard rumors that she is also a bit of an OCD-perfectionist baker.

Armed with my new recipe, I now knew where I messed up.  See the proof:

I ended up remaking the entire cake because shortly after throwing the second set of cakes into the oven, I tasted the original whipped cream I made and while the gelatin was a great stabilizer, it also made the whipped cream taste off for some reason.

Because I’m crazy, I also made my own marzipan.  I had forgotten to buy it and used Google to determine whether or not I could substitute almond paste.  I couldn’t, but I could make my own marzipan from said almond paste.  Good enough for me and a snap with a stand mixer.

Marzipan:  The official recipe is 1 lb. almond paste, 1 lb. confectioners sugar and 1/3 cup corn syrup.

I did end up tweaking the Martha Stewart recipe.  I combined the vanilla pastry cream and whipped cream because – why not?  I wanted a uniform cream, not a thick cream covered by whipped cream.  I skipped the simple syrup and spread a generous layer of strawberry jam on each cake layer.  I also split the batter between two 9″ cake pans rather than cutting circular cakes from a rectangular cake sheet.  And even though Martha Stewart’s recipe states to “reserve the fourth [cake circle] for another use,” I thought, “What am I going to do with another cake circle?” and just made a giant-freaking-princess cake.

The end result, I thought, was pretty good.  I think you could feasibly cut back significantly on the amount of whipped cream as I had a lot leftover even with generous spreading.  Also, in the future, it would help to make sure the cake is very cold, I think that is the only way to get the “smooth” marzipan look that princess cakes are known for.  As for mine, I felt like it basically just looked like a giant, messy M&M.  See for yourself:

So I’m posting the recipe here, because I made some modifications that I’d like to remember.  I kind of want to post the one from the Swedish cookbook, so that you can see the level of detail I first got versus the level of detail I apparently need.  But all in due time, folks.

Princesstårta
Modified from Martha Stewart

Genoise Cake (if only the Swedish cookbook had called it this!)
1-1/4 cups cake flour (or 18 tbsp. [135g] all purpose flour + 2 tbsp. [17.5g] corn starch)
6 tbsp. (56g) almond flour
1/2 tsp. salt
6 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
1 cup (2oog) granulated sugar
1 stick butter, melted

Vanilla Pastry Cream
2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar, divided
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (35g) cornstarch
1 tbsp (14g) cold butter

To Assemble
Strawberry jam
2-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
14 oz. marzipan (7 oz. almond paste + 7 oz. confectioners sugar + corn syrup until combined)
Green food coloring

Prep-  Preheat oven to 400-degrees F.  Coat two 9″ circular cake pans with spray oil and line bottom of cake pan with a cut out parchment circle.

1-  First, make the cake.   Combine the cake flour, almond flour and salt in a bowl, whisking to combine.  Combine the eggs, egg yolks and granulated sugar in a bowl of a stand mixer and place over a pot of simmering water.  Stir mixture until sugar is melted and warm to the touch.  Attach bowl to stand mixer with whisk attachment.  Whisk on medium for approximately 2 minutes.  Raise speed to high and whisk until mixture is pale and thick and at last doubled in volume, about 4 – 5 minutes.  Sprinkle dry mixture over the top and gently fold to mostly combine everything.  When everything is almost incorporated, fold in melted butter until everything is completely combined.

2-  Divide evenly between the two cake pans.  Bake until springy, about 6 – 8 minutes.  Let cool to the touch and then pop out of the pans.  Discard parchment and let cool completely on cooling rack.

3-  Now, make the pastry cream.  Combine the milk, vanilla seeds, salt and 1/4 cup sugar in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan.  But it will not matter too much if you misread this part and add all the sugar.  In a separate bowl, combine egg yolks, cornstarch and remaining 1/4 cup sugar.  When milk mixture is warm, slowly add the milk mixture to the eggs to bring them up to temperature without cooking.  Place mixture back in saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly until thickened.  Remove from heat and whisk in cold butter.  Strain into bowl, cover surface with plastic wrap and chill until cold.

4-  Now, make the marzipan (if you also forgot to buy it) by combining equal parts almond paste and confectioners sugar in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Start at a low speed to break up the almond paste, then once mixed in with the confectioners sugar, raise the speed as needed to beat the almond paste into the confectioners sugar until the texture of sand has been achieved.  Little by little, add some corn syrup until the mixture forms a ball.  Use a few drips of food coloring until the marzipan is light green.  Remove from mixing bowl, form into a ball and place between two sheets of plastic wrap.  Roll out thinly.  Marzipan can then be rolled into a tube shape for storage.

5-  Make the cream mixture by combining 2-1/2 cups of whipping cream and 2 tsp. vanilla extract in mixing bowl.  Beat until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold the vanilla cream into whipped cream.

6-  To assemble the cake, use a serrated knife to cut the two round cakes horizontally, making 4 total.  Spread the first layer with strawberry jam, then at least 1/2 cup of vanilla cream mixture on top.  Place second cake layer on top and repeat.  Place remaining cake layers on top, repeating with filling.  Spread entire cake with remaining whipped cream.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or 2, depending on how much time your husband gives you).

7-  When ready to serve, unroll the marzipan and gently place on top of the cake.  Trim excess away.  Try to smooth, then give up.  Decorate with a marzipan rose if you are a traditionalist or if your husband says that’s the best part of the cake for him.

Servings:  12.  At least.  This cake is massive.

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If you read as many food blogs as I do, you can definitely see trends as they rise and fall.  A few months ago, it was rainbow cake.  Everyone and their mother had variations of this kind.  There’s the tie-dyed variety, the layer cake variety, cupcakes … just Google “rainbow cake” and you’ll find so many creative options.  When I first saw the trend, I even tweeted about wanting a 28-layer rainbow cake (and yes, I still do.  Maybe one day my dream will become a reality).

I was really intrigued when I saw these cakes making the rounds on the food blogosphere because I remember my 8th grade science teacher turning rainbow cakes into a geology lesson.  She mad tie-dyed styled cupcakes and we were “geologists” who used straws to excavate portions of the cupcake.  We then had to sketch out what we thought the cupcake looked like, before cutting it in half to verify and then finally applauding our hard work by eating said cupcake.

This was obviously a memorable lesson for me.  I suppose anything food related is, as I also remember one where we had to convert a recipe to metric measurements.  Then we had to make said recipe for a class eating frenzy.  Everyone brought in cakes and cookies, I brought in deviled eggs. This is just more proof that I have always had a deep and abiding love of these little suckers, in addition to the fact that I will make them at any occasion that can even hint at needing deviled eggs.  Easter?  Birthday?  Potluck?  Why, let’s make deviled eggs!

I knew I wanted my rainbow cake to be a layer cake because I wanted distinct colors and I wanted the outside to be frosted completely white, for that extra surprise when the first person cut into it.  The night before the party, I kept Leslie up way too late as we set about completing the cake.

We used a boxed mix rather than making a cake from scratch, partly because I never have any luck making light and fluffy cakes and partly because I wasn’t sure if this would even work.  We used up two boxes of mixes, split it into five equal portions and colored it using gel food coloring.  It must be gel because liquid food coloring will water down the batter and produce pastel shades rather than the really vivid tones I wanted.

After it was all baked, we slathered it with buttercream frosting that had an insane amount of butter.  On the table, it looked beautiful! The frosting was fluffy and white and looked so smooth thanks to Leslie’s amazing frosting skills.  Then we cut into it and it was everything I wanted it to be: bright, happy and just right for the birthday party of a girl who’s still silly at heart.

I’ve had a 1 pound slab of chocolate in my fridge for awhile and it’s been ear-marked all this time for just one thing:  making brownies using Tartine’s recipe.  Seriously, dude.  Tartine means business with this brownie.

It always seems like people who like brownies are divided into two distinct camps:  those who love cake-y brownies and those who love fudge-y brownies.  I am not into super fudge-y brownies, I actually love them to be super chewy.  But if I did have to choose, I’d choose fudge-y, every time.  My thoughts: if you wanted cake-y brownies, why not just eat cake?

These are some seriously decadent brownies and when you see the ingredients list, you’ll know why:  1 pound chocolate.  2 cups brown sugar.  5 eggs.  Almost half a pound of butter.  And barely enough flour to bind it all together.

I used a double broiler to melt the chocolate and butter together.  If you use that method, make sure no water touches the chocolate or else the chocolate will seize and everyone will be sad because you won’t be able to make them any delicious brownies.


Mmm, crackly top brownies.  How I love you.

The insides are so moist that you can’t really use the traditional toothpick test to determine done-ness.  Instead, you just look for a crackled top.

The insides part were really rich, almost goo-y, but the edges were chewy, just the way I like them.  I could barely eat two bites in a row, so these go great with milk or a cup of tea or under a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream. These are so soft that I don’t think they would cut well in the pan, so lining the pan with overhanging parchment paper to help lift them out will result in neater slices and a pan that needs no cleaning afterwards, win win!  I also read that these freeze well, so I plan on saving some of them that way, for when my next chocolate craving strikes.  The recipe states that this makes 12 servings, which is mind boggling to me.  Really, just twelve?!

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Tartine Bakery Brownies

Recipe By: Tartine
Serving Size: 12
Yield: 12 brownies

3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 lb. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups light brown sugar
5 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1- Preheat oven to 350F. Line the bottom and sides of a 9″x13″ pan with parchment paper. Grease the paper and dust with cocoa powder.

2- In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Remove from heat and add the chocolate to melt. Stir until fully melted and set aside to cool.

3- Sift the flour into a small bowl. In another bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla. Beat on high until the mixture becomes pale and thick, about 4-5 minutes. With a spatula, fold the cooled chocolate into the egg mixture. Add the flour and chocolate chips (if using) and fold it in gently so that you don’t deflate the air that’s been incorporated into the eggs.

4- Pour the batter into the prepared dish and smooth out the top. Bake until the top looks slightly cracked and feels soft to the touch, about 25-28 minutes. Remove and cool completely in the pan. Refrigerate overnight. With a sharp knife the next day, cut into 12 squares.