Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Belated Birthday Cake

There's an amazing bakery in San Diego called Extraordinary Desserts that my partner and I frequent when we visit.  However, let me define what I mean by "frequent."  Our visits usually consist of an extended weekend of a mere three days.  Thus our frequenting means that we pretty much go each day...  They have extremely decadent cakes--like over the top decadence--if such a thing can be said.  And it can, because I've been to this bakery.

They fill their cakes with rich mousses and douse them in sweet syrups and then cover them in light creamy frostings.  There's this one particular cake that caught my partners taste buds called the Creme Ivoire.  Last year when we went, he ordered it on each visit.  Needless to say he was quite taken with this cake.  So, when I asked what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday this year he wasn't sure at first.  But then as I started listing off types of cakes I mentioned the Creme Ivoire--which neither of us actually remembered the name--and he stopped me and asked if I thought I could actually make that cake.

I was quite offended.  Of course I could make that cake!  But before I said that to him, we scoured the menu on the bakery's website until we found the one he adored so much.  I read the description which went something like this: A pound cake (I can make that) soaked in vanilla bean syrup (check) filled with white chocolate mousse (been done before) and covered in whipped cream (easy peasy). So yes, I felt I was quite capable of making this cake.  Well I was sorta right and sorta wrong.

The cake part was fine, the syrup couldn't have been easier but it was the mousse that got me.  It wasn't that I couldn't make the mousse because I could and did and it was rich and spectacularly light--perhaps exactly what a mousse should be.  But what this particular mousse shouldn't be is a filling for a cake--at least not one with six layers of pound cake sandwiching it.  I mean they don't call pound cake pound cake because it's light.  Anyway, basically--if you haven't guessed--the mousse was spilling out the sides of the cake and the layers were sliding off of one another.

So I grabbed some chop sticks and pierced the cake with them to hold the layers in place.  But that was really just a temporary fix and then I got mad at the whole mess and threw the cake in the trash.  My partner was upset.  But I explained what had happened and he accepted it and then I told him I'd go and get him a Dinkels cake for his birthday--which is a bakery that makes cakes we both love.  I also promised him that I would try again to make the same cake--a belated one.  So then I made a new mousse that was specified as a good cake filling and again, it was a great mousse.  But I still ended up with the same problem and I still ended up sticking more chop sticks in the cake to  prevent the layers from sliding and I got mad again.  But I didn't throw the cake away this time.  I threw it in the freezer instead.  And decided to encase the whole cake in white chocolate to create a sort of shell that would prevent the mousse from spilling out and keep the layers in check.  I probably could have just kept it refrigerated but it seemed like a cool idea.  In the end, the cake was probably nothing like the one at Extraordinary Desserts.  But it was good and decadent and I used it as an excuse to do some fancy decorations too.


"Perfect Pound Cake" from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

3 tablespoons (45g) of whole milk at room temperature
3 large eggs (150g) at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2c (150g) cake flour
3/4c (150g) granulated sugar
3/4tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
13 tablespoons (184g) butter softened at room temperature

-Preheat oven to 350 F
-Grease two 6" cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper
-Sift all of the dry ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer
-With a paddle attachment, turn the mixer on for 30 seconds on the lowest setting just to ensure that all of the dry ingredients are well combined
-In a separate medium bowl, combine the eggs, milk and vanilla and lightly beat until well combined
-Add the butter to the dry ingredients and half of the egg/milk/vanilla mixture and turn the mixer on the lowest setting  and continue mixing on the lowest setting until the dry ingredients are well moistened (30-45s)
-Turn the mixer on to a medium-high setting and let it mix for 1 minute
-Turn the mixer off and add half of of the remaining egg/milk/vanilla mixture
-Turn the mixture on low-medium and mix until combined (30-45s)
-Repeat with the remaining egg/milk/vanilla mixture
-Divide the batter evenly between the two greased parchment paper lined cake pans and smooth/even the batter
-Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean
-Remove from the oven and let cool at least 10 minutes in the pans before removing from pans

Vanilla sugar syrup

1/2c (100g) granulated sugar
1/2c water
1/2 vanilla bean

-Combine the water and sugar into a small-medium saucepan
-Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into the pan along with the pod
-Bring to a boil over medium heat until all of the sugar is dissolved
-Remove from heat and let cool completely

White chocolate mousse slightly adapted from Food and Wine

1/2 tsp unflavored powdered gelatin
1/2 tablespoon water
1/2c chilled heavy cream
2 tablespoons water or a flavored liqueur
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons of sugar
pinch of salt
4 oz white chocolate melted and cooled

-In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand until softened
-In the bowl of stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk the cream until soft peaks are formed and then refrigerate for about 10 minutes
-In a small bowl, heat the water or liqueur in a microwave on high for about 45 seconds
-Remove from microwave and stir in the gelatin--set aside
-In another separate bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks with the sugar and salt until the yolks are pale in color and the mixture is thickened (5 min)
-Next, beat in the water or liqueur/gelatin mixture
-Then beat in the white chocolate
-Remove bowl from the mixture and in two additions, fold in the chilled whipped cream
-Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours until the mousse is set

Whipped cream

1c chilled heavy whipping cream
Granulated sugar to taste (depending upon how sweet you want the cream--I used about 2 tablespoons)

-Place the chilled whipping cream in the bowl of stand mixer
-With a whisk attachment, whisk the cream on medium-high speed
-When the whisk begins to leave tracks in the cream--the cream is thickening--slowly add the sugar and whisk until hard peaks form

8oz white chocolate melted and cooled (this is more than you'll need but you can always just let the extra white chocolate harden and use it for another recipe)

To put everything together (work as quickly as you can--you may need to refrigerate/freeze intermittently while you work to ensure that the mousse doesn't get too soft and things start to fall apart)

-First, slice each cake layer in half using a long serrated knife
-Next, lay one layer on your serving platter with the cut side facing up
-Using a pastry brush, brush the cooled vanilla sugar syrup on the layer evenly--don't drench it--just moisten it
-Add 1/3 of the while chocolate mousse on top of the bottom layer and spread evenly--or just let the weight of the next layer push it out over the layer...
-Repeat with the next 2 layers
-Add the last/top layer
-Wrap the cake in plastic wrap lightly and place in the freezer for at least 1 hour--mine was in there for a day...
-After the hour is up, remove the cake from the fridge/freezer and remove from the serving platter. -Place the cake on a cooling rack set over a cookie sheet and pour the cooled melted white chocolate over the cake and use an offset spatula to guide it/smooth it out and to scrape off any excess white chocolate from the cake
-Carefully place the cake back on the serving platter and back in the fridge/freezer until the chocolate is set
-Once the chocolate has set, remove the cake from the fridge/freezer and frost with the whipped cream
-Decorate as desired--or just leave plain
-Refrigerate until ready to eat


Please feel free to post any comments or questions!