Lightning Mc Queen Cake

 

Lightning Mc Queen Cake

So a birthday boy needed a birthday cake. This is the first time that I pulled off something like this! The process is chronicled on my Instagram account (click right!). Thank my lucky stars that fondant is now readily available in supermarkets in Germany. It’s not perfect, but it took me a week to put this together (It would’ve been shorter if I didn’t spend the day hacking my brains out! I was seriously ill with the flu.)

I baked my go to chocolate buttermilk cake for this one. I baked three times the amount of the recipe, and split the batter between two 9×13 inch pans and one 8×8 inch square brownie pan. I also used Magnolia bakery’s chocolate buttercream icing recipe. You would need 1 and ahalf to two portions of the icing to cover the cake.  But you can use whatever cake/frosting recipe you prefer. After baking and cooling the cakes, I stacked the second cake over the first cake, the second cake upside down so that the flat bottom was facing up, using the icing to keep them together. Then I iced 2/3rds of the top layer, and stacked the square cake on it.

I carved the cake using a bread knife for the general shape, and a small steak knife for the refining details. Then I “dirty iced” the cake to keep all the crumbs in, and left it outside, covered with a stiff shopping bag, to freeze. The real reason I prefer baking in winter is because I don’t have a box freezer, and I could just leave it outside when the recipe calls for freezing or refrigerating.

The night the cake spent outside should sufficiently stabilize the cake enough to support the heavy fondant. I needed two big bricks of red fondant, one medium sized brick of black, another medium sized brick of white, and some blue.

The biggest discovery I made so far was pens with food coloring ink to paint the sides and logos! It was really helpful. The wheels were made by pressing an espresso cup into the black fondant, smothing it out with my hands, and sticking it to the sides of the cake.

The kids ended up not liking the cake, and treated it more like a sculpture than food. but hey, it was a great learning experience.

David Lebovitz’s Dulce de Leche Tart

I would like to thank my friend in Berlin for sending me the recipe for this delicious tart. I am sorry that I didn’t do such a good job with the photos, but it tasted really good! I pinky swear it!

The fact that you can now buy cheap, ready made Dulce de Leche from Rewe was the reason I decided to make this tart for my birthday. And I wanted to test my brand new mixer 😀  Since I didn’t have a pie dish with a detachable bottom, I had to make peace with the fact that I wasn’t gonna lift perfect slices, despite oiling the pie dish very heavily.

If you don’t have pie weights, you could use dried beans, like chickpea. I used mung beans, which you could in turn make into guinataang munggo (remind me to share you the recipe one day).

The recipe was published in David’s book My Paris Kitchen. This is how I made this tart

For the Crust: 6 Tablespoons/ 85 g butter (preferably salted) at room temperature or softer, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 1 large egg yolk, 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, 1/4 tsp. flaky sea salt, and 1 Tablespoon water (optional)

Filling: 230 g chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, 2 large eggs, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1 cup (240 g) dulce de leche, and flaky sea salt for sprinkling.

Make the crust before the filling. Using a stand or hand-held mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter with the powdered sugar at low speed, until smooth. Mix in the yolk, occasionally stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl.

In another bowl, whisk the flour and the cocoa powder together, and add to the butter mixture until the dough comes together. If it looks dry, add a tablespoon of water (which I did). Roll into a ball. Pull a plate- sized (about 15 inches by 15 inches) portion of saran wrap (cling film) on a flat surface, place the dough ball on it, flatten a bit with the heel of your hand and wrap the dough in the film.  Set aside for 30 minutes. You can also use a clean plastic bag, it is probably easier.

After 30 minutes, roll the dough relatively flat in the bag or unwrap the dough, place another sheet of cling film over it, and roll with a rolling pin. When the dough is wide enough to cover a 9 inch (23 cm) pie or tart ring with a removable bottom, remove the top sheet, place the dough in the tart ring by flipping it in using the plastic film for stability, and try to evenly cover the walls of the dish by pressing your fingers at the dough located at the bottom and sides of the dish and pushing the dough up the walls, until the rim. Sprinkle the sea salt over the dough and press it into the pastry. Cover the tart ring with the wrap you used to roll it in, and freeze for 30 minutes. Colder temperatures means that I could just open the balcony door and let it rest outside.

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Once the 30 minutes are up, line the dough with aluminum foil and cover the bottom with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 30 minutes, remove the foil and the weights, and bake for 5 more minutes, until the shell feels set. Take the shell out of the oven and reduce the heat to 150°C.

During the waiting/baking period you can get cracking on the filling. Melt the chocolate in a bain-Marie, remove the bowl from heat once melted, and set a strainer on top.

Whisk the eggs into a bowl. Heat the milk in a saucepan until just warm, and whisk the milk into the eggs. Not too warm, we don’t want the eggs to scramble! Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a spatula or a wire whisk, until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Pour the custard through the strainer into the chocolate, and add the vanilla, stirring until smooth.

Carefully spread the Dulce de Leche over the hot tart shell in an even layer. It helps to let the Dulce sit for 30 seconds before spreading, the warmth of the tart bottom will soften the cream enough, making it easier to spread. Set the tart sheet on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, then carefully pur the chocolate custard over the dulce de leche. Smooth the top, and sprinkle with more salt.

Bake the tart for 20 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave the tart with the door closed for 25 minutes more.

You can remove it from the oven and let cool before serving. I just let the tart in the oven overnight and served it to my guests the day after.

David recommends serving it with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, but the tart is so filling, I don’t think you will need more sweet! The crust tastes a lot like Oreo cookies, so it was really addictive.

Darth Vader Cake

dv

 

I was asked to make a Darth Vader cake two weekends ago, and the mere thought of it make me laugh so hard that I thought, “why not?” The recepient is a four-year old boy, who is probably not super-critical of the cake’s imperfections. And hooo boy, they were many!

This is a cake of firsts. Not only is this my first Darth Vader cake, this was my first-ever cake iced entirely with fondant, and the first ever cake I have ever molded freestyle, without a template to follow.

And I so thank the Lord that Xenos has ready-made fondant! No more making my own and worrying about how to get the color! I bought two bricks, for 3 euros each. With fondant this cheap, it was perfect for experimentation. This cake was very instructional for me on how to work with fondant. As you see, things didn’t patch up quite nicely. Lesson number 1: Do not break up fondant to flatten, as the seams will show. Maybe it is better to roll, then flatten?

Under that fondant is my standard Chocolate Buttermilk cake, although any kind of cake will do. I baked two cakes, one in a lined, buttered and greased  round springform and another in a square pan. Make the cake the night before and freeze to dry out. In my case I just left it outside, since temperatures were hovering just above zero (40°F).

The next day, I liberated the cakes from the forms, cut the round one across in half and placed the dome-shaped top at the bottom of the glass plate. Spread some icing (I used Magnolia’s choco buttercream) to even the surface, then placed the other half over it, bottom-side up. I did the same thing to the square pan, but instead I cut the cake again in half, then in triangles. The proportions were just estimated to suit the size of the round cake, so I couldn’t give any exact measurement. All I can say is that I cut a right triangle, slathered it with cream, then put another triangle on top of it. Then slather the whole thing with frosting, locking in all the crumbs.

After that, I rolled the fondant on a marble surface dusted with starch, and draped it over the cake. I cut the excess in some places and it tucked in the cake, but there were places that came up short and I had to add a few more fondant strips to the sides.

The details were made using white and gray fondants, based on this Darth Vader cake. Despite the imperfections, the birthday kid was happy, the parents were happy, and the children happily ate Darth Vader. So I guess I’m happy, too!

 

Tow Mater Cake

cakeSo my boy’s birthday just rolled by. Wow, I gave birth to him how many years ago? Time flies so fast…

This time of the year, I turn into a baking dervish (is that a term?) cooking and baking for my kid’s birthday party. This year was a little different. Since I have a full-time job, I was a little pressed for time to make a 3-D Mater Cake–my kid’s special request this year. So I made a compromise and adapted a cake from this recipe.

I am not a big fan of box cake mixes, so I made my go-to recipe for moist chocolate buttermilk cake. Like with all other cakes I’ve made the past birthdays, challenges cropped up when I least expected them. First of all, I am so grateful to have found ready-to-roll out fondant at the local Xenos shop, and not the liquid goop they sell at the supermarkets here. This means I did not have to make my own fondant this year.

Basically the hardest part was finding substitues for the American products suggested my the recipe. No way in hell I was gonna order a whole pack of Jolly Ranchers online when I only needed two of them for a cake. My goodness, I had no idea that finding chocolate chocolate donuts were gonna be a challenge. I finally found them at the local McCafe for a euro fifty a pop–quite steep but I hoarded all three left at the stand. This place seriously needs an Dunkin’ Donuts.

So basically the side mirrors and wheels were made from two donuts, the bars holding the mirrors in place were yellow fondant, the eyes and teeth were made of white fondant, and irises were a mix of white/green/yellow, and the busted headlight black fondant cut out using a cough medicine bottlecap. The other headlight is a Haribo Jogi-Bussi. The pupils are brown mini-Smarties

Now the recipe had a template for the eyelids and the mouth, but it was more difficult to get the fondant in that dark color. It was easier to mix more brown coloring into the chocolate buttercream icing, and just free-style scratched out the areas where they were supposed to be and carefully spread out the darker icing in that area.

cake1I guess my frustration at not getting to make the 3-D cake that I wanted drove me to make three mini-Mater cupcakes made of honey loops, M&Ms, and white fondant (God forbid I use Eclipse gum on a cake!). The one pictured came from my 4 inch springform pan and a normal cupcake, while the two others were made with normal.sized cupcakes and mini-cupcakes. I left out the frosting except at the places where the wheels and the headlights had to stick.

All in all, I was quite happy with the results and the best part was that the party was a success. I am looking forward to Disneyland next year when I don’t have to do any baking at all!

Chocolate Upright Pear Cake

The air is starting to be crisper, leaves turning into wonderful shades of red and brown. Truly, Fall is slowly creeping into my kitchen as well. I got a windfall of pears, and I have been itching to try out a recipe ever since I saw a picture of it in New Urban Farmer from Celia Brooks Brown.

Apart from its appearance, the cake is also unsusual in that chocolate cakes are normally made moist by the amount of oil in them. This is made moist by the pear juice. It looks really stunning in person and I can only recommend this cake.

Ingredients:

100 g all purpose flour, 1 packet baking powder, 50 g cocoa powder, 50 g ground almonds, 175 g softened salted butter, 175 g brown sugar, 3 eggs, 2 Tbsp. milk, 5 small pears or 4 big pears.

You need a 23 cm (9 inch) springform pan. Line it with parchment paper and grease the sides. Pre-heat the pan to 180°C.

Mix the dry ingredients together well. First the flour, cocoa and baking powder, then the ground almonds.

With an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Mix in an egg, and add a tablespoon of the dry ingredients. Add the two other eggs, then the flour mixture with the milk. Pour this into the pan and spread it evenly with a spatula.

Slice off the bottom of the pears and place them in the batter. Make sure that the pears are at least an inch apart and an inch away from the border. Place in the oven for 45-60 minutes. (I followed the recipe but I ended up with a burned cake. I’d say 30-45 minutes. trust your instincts on this one!) Let cool and separate from the form. Could be served with whipped cream.

Spätsommer Fest at Goldhelm Chocolate

What a magical, magical night. In what was possibly the last warm summer night of the year, the border to France magically moved itself 600 kilometers to the East, and a small public party to the loyal customers of Goldhelm Chocolate Manufacturer. There were crepes, a photo booth, a corner to make your own truffles, a graffiti corner for kids, and Momo, a French chanson, and his kick-ass accordion player!

partyI’ve been wanting to attend their late summer party for two years now, but I only had the opportunity to go this year. It amazed me how so damned twee everything was.

I had a wonderful caramel-encrusted cheese (camembert?), a chocolate and hazelnut crepe, and a non-alcoholic drink mix in what could be the cutest packaging ever!

Striped  paper straws!

Striped paper straws!

And that the team of Goldhelm pulled everything off wonderfully. Everybody had a great time, especially after the guests had imbibed a good deal of alcohol.

Thanks Goldhelm, I had a lot of fun, and I hope I could attend next year!

Das Ist Keine Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte/Not A Black Forest Cake

As a kid, I always saved up money so I could buy a slice of “Black Forest Cake” from our school canteen. Sure, the “cherry” was red glace icing, and there weren’t any cherries between the cake layers, but still. Chocolate! One of the things I said to myself when I started baking was, I needed to learn how to make this!

Six years in Germany, and I still haven’t eaten “real” Black Forest Cake. Don’t you know it is a regionally protected brand? The Kirchwasser doesn’t come from Swaben, the cake wasn’t made in Baden-Wüttemburg, so technically, this Black Forest Cake…isn’t. So call this an imitation Black Forest Cake.

I would like to thank Sofi from Chefkoch.de for sharing her wonderful recipe. It is quite easy to make, but the execution is tricky. I have made this cake in the most rudimentary of conditions in the Philippines, using my homemade cherry jam as a filling (thank you balikbayan boxes!) in a turbo broiler! My tip: refrigerate the eggs, since the whites turn to stiff peaks much quicker than ones in room temperature.

For the cake itself, you would need:

140 g baking chocolate (55% cocoa solids), 75 g (a little less than 1/3 c) butter, 6 eggs, refrigerated, 180 g sugar, 100 g all-purpose flour, 50 g cornstarch, 2 tsp. baking powder.

For the layers and icing:

2 650 g jars of preserved sour cherries, (makes 700-800 g cherries when drained), 500 ml  cherry juice from the preserves, 4 level Tbsp. cornstarch, 800 ml whipping cream, 3 Tbsp. (or 3 packets, if you prefer it sweeter) of vanilla sugar. This can be replaced by sugar mixed with vanilla extract or vanillin in Manila. 100 ml Kirchwasser, (optional if making cake for children) 17 cocktail or candied cherries, and 100 grams of chocolate shavings. While it can be bought ready-made in Germany and the US, this is not the case in the Philippines. It is easy enough to make using either a potato peeler or melting, then scraping the chocolate off a flat pan. Please use European chocolate with at least 50 % chocolate solids, like Lindt or Ritter Sport. I was most disappointed by the quality of baking chocolate in the Philippines. If making this with cherry jam, about 600 ml cherry jam will do.

How to : the cake

bf2In a double boiler (bain-Marie), melt the chocolate and the butter together over very warm (not boiling!) water. When melted, set aside to cool a little. Separate the eggs. Mix the yolks with the sugar with an electric mixer until lemony-yellow and foamy, then mix in the choco-butter mixture. Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Sift the flour, baking powder, and cornstarch over the egg whites, then fold gently. Add the chocolate mixture to the egg whites and continue folding until the mixture is well incorporated.

Line the bottom of an 8-9 inch springform pan with parchment paper. (Cut up a sheet of paper, put over the bottom, put the barrel over it, tighten to seal, then cut the excess paper around the springform). Bake in a 175° C preheated oven for 40-45 minutes. When this is done, allow to fully cool before removing the ring. The cake is dry, as it needs to be.

Meanwhile, you can make the cherry filling. If you are using cherry jam, lucky you, no need to do these next steps.

Drain the preserved cherries, setting aside 500 ml (2 cups) of the juice. Take about half a cup of this juice, and mix with the cornstarch and sugar. Boil the rest of the juice in a saucepan, then add the juice slurry in it. Mix in the cherries, and add half (50 ml) of the Kirchwasser.

Ok here it comes. How to thinly slice across a cake . if you don’t have a cake leveler, you would need a) a bread knife, and b) sewing thread long enough to go around the cake (around 30 inches/ 70 cm)

bf3With a serrated bread knife, cut a groove around the cake about a centimeter and a half (half an inch) from the top.

bf4 Place the sewing thread into the groove you cut. Make an x with both ends of the string. with a see-sawing motion, pull the threads to and fro until the threads cut into the cake. do this until the top separates from the rest of your cake. Set this cake top aside, and repeat this

bf5process with the second half of the cake, cutting it in half, ending up with three different pieces of cake. Never mind the crumbs and pieces falling off: this can be repaired later with icing. If using Kirchwasser, sprinkle it over the cakes.

Whip 500 ml whipping cream, adding 2 Tbsp. Vanilla sugar in the middle of the whipping process. You know that it is whipped if you can turn the bowl upside-down and the cream doesn’t slip out. Do not overbeat unless you want to accidentally churn butter.

The next step is better done on cardboard cake lining. Place this lining on a cake butler tray if this cake is meant to be transported.

Place the ring of the springform pan on the cake board, then put the top part of the cake, baked side up, at the bottom. The ring acts as a mold for the cake.Spread half of the cherry mixture or jam over the cake. Then spread half of the whipped cream over it. Repeat the process with the middle portion of the cut cake. Then place the whole thing in the fridge overnight for the cherry mixture to set. If using cherry jam, you can skip this process.

bf6The next morning, place the bottom part of the cake, cut side down and the smooth side up, on the cake. Remove the ring. Whip the rest of the cream, half-filling a pastry bag capped with the largest star-shaped tip you have for the garnish, and use the rest to cover the entire cake with it with a spatula.

Now, covering the cake  sides with chocolate shavings takes some practice. Using a small cup or a small, stiff plastic bag, splay the sides of the cake with the chocolate shavings with a flick of the wrist. Remember how a priest douses churchgoers with holy water? Like that. Then sprinkle the top. This gets messy, so a pastry brush is very helpful to clean up the mess.

Pipe the rest of the cream on top of the cake, one very large dot at a time. then place the cherries on top.

I make this cake once or twice a year. It really is worth the effort!

Eat Your Heart Out in Berlin!

Unlike my last few visits to Berlin, which could be described as pit stops rather than visits, I finally had more time to explore Berlin and visit places that I’ve been meaning to do for some time now. and That Queer Expatriate’s Adam was a very gracious host and toured me around the best eats in his ‘hood or Kiez.

One of the first things I did upon landing in Berlin was make a beeline for Pan, the only Filipino restaurant in Berlin. I ordered Sinigang, a traditional Philippine sour soup/stew that is eaten with rice. It can be filled with pork, fish, and shrimps. Although souring agents for sinigang nowadays comes from a packet, it is traditionally soured with unripe tomatoes, kamias, sampaloc (tamarind), or other sour fruits.

Ok, it was not exactly his turf, but Berlin was freezing, and I needed comfort food. Does it hit the spot? I dont’ know what to make of it. It smelled Pinoy, it looked Pinoy, but there was   something different about the texture of the veggies. It wasn’t cooked to death!

Saturday was jam-packed with activities. Adam and I woke up early to get to the Schöneberg Winterfeld Market. It was freezing cold in Berlin, I thought I was gonna freeze my toes off, despite my winter shoes. It didn’t stop us from eating this wonderful, luxuriously covered Tiramisu from an Italian street vendor.

I would’ve lingered over this tiramisu if it weren’t so damned cold out. It wasn’t cloyingly sweet, and the mild cherry amaretto wasn’t alcoholy-tasting at all! It really tasted like cherry.

I was looking for earrings, so Adam bought me food-themed ones (thanks Adam!) and then he went over to a stall to buy freshly-made spaghetti and other produce straight from Italy.

I would’ve bought a load of food from the stall if I hadn’t just come from Italy. Oh well, maybe next summer.

After a quick brunch at a Cafe, where Adam played around with his fancy new camera toy, I left to attend a conference. I already had planned to eat Ethiopian that evening, but the weather and Adam’s ketchup-stained shirt had other plans for us.

A trip to Berlin for me would never be complete without a stop at my favorite Asian supermarket in Berlin, which we did Saturday evening. Because Adam’s pants were too thin for the cold weather, we decided to eat at Chay Village, a vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant in his Kiez.

Now, I’m skeptical of vegetarian Vietnamese dishes. Vietnamese food has a lot of vegetarian dishes, but I was in the mood for soup in a very cold winter day. I couldn’t imagine eating Pho without beef broth. I was pleasantly surprised by this restaurant. I was first baffled by the sauce they served us with the dimsum. I thought it looked like apple cider vinegar, but it wasn’t sour enough to be that. I thought it could be fish sauce, but it wasn’t salty enough to be that, either. It turned out to be home-made soy sauce!

And the Pho had fried Tofu, mushrooms, and scrambled egg strips in it. It tasted just like normal Pho. Yum!

After that we just stayed home and watched Magic Mike. Thoroughly enjoyable film.

I gorged myself full on Dunkin’ Donuts while waiting for the bus that would take me home.

I would like to thank Adam for so graciously hosting me!

How To Be a Chocolatier

If you are a tourist in Erfurt, one of the highlights of the trip would definitely be a visit to Goldhelm Schokoladenmanufaktur. The original location is at the Krämerbrücke, one of the oldest inhabited covered bridges in Europe, with a second, larger location behind the bridge.

I have been a fan of this chocolate shop since they opened. I love chocolate, and they make wonderful truffles and other unusual chocolate combinations, like matcha tea and chocolate. I like drinking their hot chocolate concoctions. They’re so thick they remind me of Spain. Or the Philippines.

I could really taste the passion for chocolate behind every bite, that it is a labor of love, and I am amazed that this passion has not receded over the years.

On this note, I treated myself to a praline-making course at their shop. I learned a lot, and it was worth it.

It all really starts with the beans. Like wine, the quality of the beans determine the quality of the chocolate. I’ve read about the criollo bean before, how it is considered to be the best chocolate bean in the world, and how it was almost  wiped out due to disease in the 1940s. The restaurant has recently bought a chocolate farm in Peru, where they source all their chocolate, and plant criollos exclusively.

I find it really strange that in the Philippines and other chocolate producing countries, we only get to eat rough chocolate, and that most of the refineries that produce the chocolate we eat are located in Europe! Do we produce criollo in the Philippines? As far as I know we have Trinitario.

We made ganache, a mixture of heavy cream and melted chocolate. This is used to ice cakes, but did you know that they are also used to make pralines and truffles? Really yummy stuff. From that, we experimented with different flavors like balsamic vinegar, chestnut oil, ground coriander seed, cardamon, and powdered ginger. Surprisingly, a touch of vinegar did the chocolate good, although the fermentation process of chocolate removes much of the acidity and bitterness of the chocolate bean.

We decorated with candied rose and violet petals, pistachos, hazelnuts, and the like. We also made white chocolate pralines, which is actually cocoa butter.

All in all, I was very happy with what I learned. I hope that the next time, I would hear that their chocolate is sourced from the Philippines!

Goldhelm Schokoladenmanufaktur

Krämerbrücke 12-14 and

Kreuzgasse 5

99084 Erfurt