Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Filled Up, Poured Out

Last week, I had the wonderful privilege of making a dessert for a Women's Ministries Kick-off event for my church. As I was thinking about what to make, I thought of the theme for this year, "Filled Up, Poured Out." It stems from Romans 15:13, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." I really love this verse and the theme for this year! Hope, joy, peace, filled and overflowing with and through the power of God! Wonderful!

The image that goes along with the theme is a pitcher overflowing with water. I thought that would be perfect for a cake! So, I carved a pitcher out of cake and made it "pour" out water. Pretty cool, huh? I was very excited about how this one turned out!

I haven't carved a lot, so it took quite a bit of planning and thinking for me to get this to work. I wanted the pitcher to appear as if it was tilted, pouring out the water. That was the most difficult part! To make the shape, I took 6-inch and 8-inch cakes and stacked them on top of each other. Then I carved the shape of the pitcher little by little with a thin serrated knife. I covered the top of the cake with blue candy clay so that I could later make it look like the pitcher was filled with water. The rest of the pitcher was covered with gray candy clay. Normally, I would not cover an entire cake with candy clay or modelling chocolate, but I wanted to make the top of the pitcher appear thin and higher than the water. Unlike fondant, candy clay holds it's shape and will stand up even with nothing supporting it directly. The seams are also easier to blend away with candy clay, which melts slightly until the pressure and warmth of a finger.

To apply the candy clay, I rolled it out as thinly as possible onto a sheet of waxed paper, then used the waxed paper to wrap the candy clay around the ganached cake. I then peeled away the waxed paper and smoothed out the candy clay onto the cake using my fondant smoothers and my hands. The edges didn't come together everywhere, so I took scraps of the candy clay and pieced them onto the cake where they were needed, smoothing the edges with my fingers. It was definitely a process and not as easy as it sounds!

I decided to leave the finish on the pitcher a little rough. So, I marked it up a bit and colored it a little with black and silver petal dust, brushed on randomly to create a tarnished look. In the verse, we as humans are the vessels. We are the pitcher being filled with hope from God. We are imperfect vessels, yet we are fully accepted and even welcomed by God and freely given the gifts of hope, joy and peace. So, my pitcher cake needed to be an imperfect vessel, too. Sometimes imperfection can be beautiful!

To make the "water", I used more candy clay, a long rope for the water pouring from the pitcher and a flat piece to be the puddle of water on the board. I tinted some piping gel with blue coloring and swiped it with a spatula over all of the blue candy clay to make it look watery. It worked perfectly!

The board is cut from 1/2-inch foam core and covered with black and white fondant, marbled together. I like the effect, but I wish I would have done a different color. The board matched the pitcher a little too well! The letters and numbers were cut out of an icing sheet.

Inside this beauty is some serious deliciousness. Lightly lemon blueberry cake with blueberry swiss meringue buttercream. White chocolate ganache covered the entire thing underneath the candy clay. It was enjoyed by all!

Here is the recipe so you can make it yourself! Enjoy!!

Lemon Blueberry Cake with Blueberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
For the Cake:
3 cups (12 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour
1 (1/2 ounce) tablespoon potato starch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (14 ounces) granulated sugar
3 whole large eggs
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste
3/4 cup (6 liquid ounces) buttermilk
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup frozen blueberries (do not thaw)

For the Buttercream:
6 egg whites
12 ounces granulated sugar
Pinch salt
12.5 ounces unsalted high-quality butter (I use Kerrygold), very soft room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
½ - 1 cup fresh blueberry puree*

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare 2 8-inch round cake pans by greasing them with shortening, lining them with parchment paper and dusting lightly with flour.

Whisk together the flour, potato starch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and a splash of the buttermilk. Set aside.

Add the rest of the buttermilk and the butter to the flour mixture and mix with the paddle attachment on low speed until moistened, then on medium speed for 90 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Whisk the lemon juice and lemon zest into the egg mixture, then add in three parts to the flour/butter mixture. Add each part on low speed then mix on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition. Gently mix in the frozen blueberries. (Adding them frozen keeps the batter from turning purple, as does mixing them in quickly and gently.)

Divide evenly into the prepared pans and bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached. Cool in pans on a wire cooling rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely. Tort and frost as desired or wrap tightly and carefully in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and freeze for up to one month. Thaw completely before unwrapping.

While the cake is cooling, make the buttercream. Whisk together the egg whites, sugar and salt in a large bowl that sits comfortably on top of a saucepan, or in the top bowl of a double boiler. (The bowl should have no trace of fat (including egg yolks) in it anywhere or your egg whites will not whip up properly. I often wipe my bowl down with some vinegar or the cut side of a lemon to remove any residue then dry it before putting my egg whites in.) Bring about an inch of water to a boil in a large saucepan upon which the bowl will sit without touching the water, or in the bottom pan of a double boiler if that is what you are using. Make sure that the water will NOT touch the bottom of the bowl in which the eggs are placed or the eggs will scramble. Once the water is boiling, turn down the heat to a simmer and set the bowl with the egg whites mixture on top. Whisk continually until the egg white mixture reaches 165 degrees F on a candy thermometer, or until the egg whites are very foamy and all the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes.

When the eggs reach 165 degrees F., pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into the bowl of a stand mixer. Immediately put the bowl onto the mixer with the whisk attachment and whip on high speed until the eggs reach stiff peaks and the bowl is cool to the touch. This can take 10 minutes or more. Once the egg whites have reached stiff peaks, turn the mixer to the lowest setting and add the softened butter one tablespoon at a time until all of the butter is incorporated into the egg whites. Continue to mix on the lowest speed until the buttercream comes together. It will look soupy and curdled at first. That’s normal! Keep mixing on low speed and it will come together. Just keep an eye on it and stop the mixer when the buttercream looks smooth and silky.

Once it comes together, switch to the paddle attachment and add the vanilla extract. Mix on low until incorporated. Add the puree a little at a time to ensure that it is fully incorporated. Add more to taste, being careful not to break the buttercream by adding too much.

*To make the blueberry puree, heat 2 cups of fresh or frozen blueberries in a medium saucepan with a few tablespoons of water until the blueberries begin to break down and the liquid is boiling. Once it is boiling, mash the blueberries with a potato masher or a wooden spoon. For a very smooth sauce, puree with an immersion blender right in the pot or briefly remove from the heat and puree in a blender. Reduce to a simmer and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half. Remove from the heat and stir in a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Celebrating 90 Years

Hello Everyone! I hope that you are all enjoying your summer! We just got back from a wonderful vacation up in Michigan. Though it was a little colder than we would have liked, we had a fantastic time.

Before vacation, at the beginning of July, I had the opportunity to make a cake for the grandmother of one of my very dear friends. Vi was turning 90 and they were throwing her a huge party. I was honored to be asked to make the cake!

For inspiration, I was sent a copy of the invitation and I took my colors from that. The design of the invitation matched a stencil I had, so I wanted to use that too. I kept the whole design pretty simple, with a gumpaste gardenia (Vi's favorite flower) on the top.

I'll start here by showing you the picture of my sketch and inspiration pieces. Maybe you'd like to see how I start? If not, just skip this part! :) My drawing isn't the best, so you'll have to excuse that, but drawing out my cake gives me an idea of how all of the elements will look before I begin my cake. Sometimes I get an idea on paper and realize it wasn't a great idea to begin with. Seeing that right from the start saves me a lot of time and trouble in the end! I also use my sketches to show others my ideas to see if I am on their page about what the cake will look like.

Here is my sketch, the stencil and a picture of a gumpaste gardenia I found online. (Jacqueline Butler from PetalSweet made this one. If you like sugar flowers, go check out her site. You will be amazed!)

This was by far the biggest cake I have made for another person. It was meant to serve 75 people, though some of those servings came from a separate sheet cake so that I could keep the main cake more simple and save costs by not using fondant for the sheet cake.

Here is the main cake finished.

The stencil is my favorite part, I think. I love that it is subtle and adds an element of sophistication and simple prettiness to the cake.

The message on the cake was what was written on the invitation. The whole thing reads "Celebrating 90 Years. And her story continues..." I really love this for a milestone birthday because it shows that it is not only the life lived that is celebrated, but also the life yet to be lived. I was going to use fondant to make the message, but in the end it didn't seem right for this cake. The spacing would have been off and the block letters just didn't seem to "go" with the rest of the design. So, I chose to hand-paint it with food coloring. I really love how it looks on the cake! I was so nervous painting black onto white because every little mistake would show and I'm not really used to painting, especially letters. It was so much fun to "write" with that long, thin brush. Makes me want to learn calligraphy! You know, because I need another thing on my to-do list! :) It would be fun though...

For the topper, I made the birthday girl's name out of modeling chocolate and placed it on top of the cake next to a gumpaste gardenia.

Competing for my favorite thing on this cake is the gardenia. These little guys gave me a bit of trouble, but in the end, I think they are beautiful!

The sheet cake (actually a quarter sheet cake) was iced in smoothed buttercream and decorated with a fondant plaque. I admit that the look of this one isn't my favorite, but I do like the different elements. And I heard that the cake as a whole was loved by all! That absolutely makes my day and makes all of the effort totally worth it!

For those of you who would like to imagine eating this beauty, let me share the flavors with you. The top two tiers were vanilla bean cake with raspberry vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream filling, covered with white chocolate ganache. The bottom tier was chocolate cake with vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream filling covered with dark chocolate ganache. The quarter sheet cake was chocolate cake covered with vanilla buttercream. Of course I had to taste the scraps. You know, just to make sure I'm giving away a quality delicious cake. I may have had a bowlful. I won't tell you how big the bowl was! But I will tell you it was delicious!

Thank you Ginny and Julie for letting me be a part of this celebration! And to Vi, may you have many more happy birthdays to come!

Thanks for stopping by!