Monday, December 15, 2008

Barney & Rubber Ducky chocolate party favors

My daughter is crazy for barney and rubber ducky, so I made these chocolate favors of barney and ducky from white chocolate using molds. I will post recipes and methods soon.

Rubber Ducky in Bathtub Cake: 2nd Bdday

My dear daughter turned two on the 11th of December. This is the cake i made for her birthday party. The cake is a Ducky in a bathtub with glass bubbles covered mostly in fondant. It is a butter cake with creme anglaise buttercream frosting and is served with lemon curd and strawberries.

The total cake took me about six hours of work, two for baking and four for decorating with fondant. I will also post recipes here soon.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Brownie duo: Walnut & Cranberry

Its almost thanksgiving and Cranberries are everywhere.Cranberries always entice me with their bright red color come every winter, but I never knew what to do with them. God they are mouth puckering, brain searingly sour! Chocolate and lots of sugar are the perfect foil to these tart berries.

Cooking from a recipe in a cookbook is sometimes like the story of the elephant and the six blind men who try to describe it. Its impossible to 'read' a recipe correctly unless maybe you are familiar with that flavor profile. Ive made this particular brownie recipe twice, first sticking exactly to it and the second time with tons of modifications. The original recipe yields an intensely chocolaty and bittersweet, the cranberry adaptation is sweet to my tastes. Both in my opinion taste really good with a sprinkling of Kosher salt. SALT? you might ask, DID I READ THAT CORRECTLY? Salt and sugar are like a classical yin yang and a little bit of salt brings out the sweet chocolatyness ( yes i know this word does not exist!).

This recipe is (only slightly) modified from from Sweet stuff : Karen Barker's American desserts by Karen Barker.

Another very good idea Karen Barker had is in the back of her book , the Bakers bookshelf( page 353). Baking is more a science than art, the mixture of oven temperature, sugar and egg and butter demands some precision - more than usual in day to day cooking. For me this means that I can never come up with an original baking recipe, sure I can tweak here and there, but nothing original. So there are a couple of books that I go back to, time and again - Flo Braker and Nick Malgieri for Cakes, and the Bakers dozen book for almost everything els.

So without much ado, here is the recipe for really chocolaty walnut and cranberry brownies. Ive put in my substitutions in italics. If you do decide to make the raisin version instead you could also plump the raisins in bourbon or scotch as Karen Barker suggests for an all adult version of the brownie

8 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped ( I used semi sweet)
16 tbsp butter ( works out to two sticks of butter)
5 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp kosher salt
11/4 cup flour
11/2 cup raisins ( I used fresh cranberries)
11/2 cups lightly toasted brazil nuts( I used walnuts)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips( I used white chocolate chips)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degree F. Butter a 9 x 12 x 2 inch brownie pan. Something close to this is fine too. Line the bottom with parchment paper, and butter the paper.
2. Melt the chocolate using a double boiler( If you use Bakers chocolate like I did, chop up the chocolate and butter into similar sized bits, so that they melt at a similar rate. To make a double boiler, use a bowl balanced on top of a pan with simmering water)
3. Combine the eggs with the sugars in the bowl of a mixer with a whip attachment and beat until the mixture is very thick, light and fluffy( about four to five min)
Add the vanilla and the salt and mix to blend. Add the reserved chocolate butter mixture and mix to blend. Add the flour and mix just till combined scraping the bowl. Add the cranberries., Walnuts and chocolate chips and mix till distributed. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly.
4. Bake at 375 F for about 30 minutes, until the brownies are barely set. The top will appear slightly puffed and will start to develop a few hairline cracks. Do not overbake.
5. Cool the brownies and place them in fridge to chill until several hours. Remove carefully from pan and cut into small squares with a sharp knife to serve with icecream or whipped cream.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mini Chocolate Chiffon Celebration Cake

Every gal needs a go to chocolate cake recipe. This recipe is easy, low fat and you can have a lot of fun decorating the individual little cakes with your kids. I baked this cake in a sheet , 12 inches by 8 inches and about an inch and a half deep.
Once the cake cooled down, I then used round biscuit cutters to cut out pieces in three different circles sizes. For a good finish, ideally referigerate the cake for about 4 hours before cutting the circles out.

One sheet will yield about 5 maybe six three layered small tiered cake like in the photograph above. The total height of the the little tiered cake is about three inches. You will need to purchase sprinkles( little round sugar balls of different colors) usually available in the baking aisle. Spread some nutella on the sides of the cake round very carefully. Roll the edge of the cake round in the sprinkles and assemble your mini cake. Top with a Strawberry whopper candy or M&Ms.A fun cake for kids and the kid in us!

Recipe from
Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri

Cake Batter:

13/4 cup cake flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup Cocoa ( Preferably Dutch Process)
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
6 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup Egg whites( from 7 or 8 large eggs)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice

Before you start
A. Preheat the oven
B. Line a pan bottom with wax paper and spray only the bottom with some oil spray.

1. Sift and mix together the dry ingredients.
2. Add the boiling water to the cocoa. Mix well. Once the cocoa cools to room temperature, add to the other wet ingredients and mix well.
3. Beat the egg whites with salt and lemon juice until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually and beat the egg whites to stiff peaks
4. Add the wet ingredients( egg yolks, oil, vanilla, cocoa) to the dry and mix thoroughly with the egg beater
5. Fold in the batter gently into the egg whites.
6. Bake for about 30-50 minutes, depending on the size of your pan. Test with a toothpick after half an hour to see if it is done.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Black Walnut Chiffon Cake

I absolutely adore Chiffon cakes. They are light, they donot have any butter and are the easiest cakes to make. They have a simple dump everything into a bowl, add egg whites and bake kind of recipe structure which is great when you want a home baked cake but donot want to fuss with too many details.

Making buttercream etc is a lot of effort that I donot usually put into everyday cakes. I instead used nutella- a chocolate hazelnut spread easily found in the supermarket and crushed walnuts to dress up this simple yet delicious cake.

This recipe makes two 9" cakes. I then used a biscuit cutter to cut out individual circles of cake, stacked two layers up using nutella as glue and then decorated the outside with walnut bits for a strong walnut taste.

Recipe from
The Good Cook :Cakes- By Time Life Books

List 1

1 cup black walnuts , finely ground
21/4 cups cake flour, sifted
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
5 egg yolks
3/4 cup cold water
2 tsp vanilla extract

List 2:
8 egg whites, stiffly beaten with a tsp of lemon juice

Sift together the ground black walnuts, the flour, the white sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the brown sugar. Add the rest of the wet ingredients -oil, egg yolks, water and vanilla extract. Beat the btter until very smooth.

Gradually pour the batter into the stiffly beaten egg whites, folding the batter into the whites until just blended.

Pour the batter into two buttered and floured layer cake pans that have been lined with wax or parchment paper.

Bake for 45 minutes in a preheated 325 F oven. Then increase the heat to 350 F and bake for ten minutes more or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remember to adjust times if you are using a different shaped pan.

Spread nutella on the cake slices and decorate with powdered walnut pieces.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Book Review: In Defense of Food

I seem to have better luck publishing to Taste of India from my Cakeworks blog, hence this trial post of an article from my regular blog at Sometime foodie.

During my grad school days in the US I travelled via bus to and from my University. On the bus, I was struck by how many poor people, who could not even afford their own car- were huge, overweight and obese. I was puzzled. In India being fat and obese is a mark of prosperity and wealth. If you think about the poor in the US, the reasons are clearer - Coke 1.89 litre is cheaper than water. Fast food burgers are the cheapest food and the most fattening. It is a very disturbing that it takes a lot more money and effort to buy vegetables, or meat and make healthy meals at home. It takes a lot more money to afford a gym. Being thin , slim in the US therefore, is a sign of being well off.

In 'In Defense of Food', Michael Pollan calls this phenomenon, "being overfed and undernourished". Why is this happening and what can we do about it? These are the primary questions raised and answered by Michael Pollan in 'In defense of food'. I am a longtime fan of Michael Pollan, and his many articles on food in the New York Times and via his books - two of my favorite works are Botany of Desire and Second Nature.

Michael Pollan begins with outlining the rise of "Industrial Agriculture" in the US, and its devilish spawn- the processed food industry. He is very entertaining and lucid as he reveals the true extent of their lobbying and marketing power. The extent of their manipulation of government and media is frankly frightening.

These might sound like big words, but everyday we, you and me; hear & see & read news reports saying that X ingredient is good for your health and then within six months we read that no, no actually X ingredient is bad for your health. In short, the scientists really donot know.

This is a direct result of Food Companies "sponsoring" research in food. Yesterday Oat bran was in fashion, today it is Omega 3. I guess they will put Omega 3 in your french fries too tomorrow- does that actually make your french fries healthier?

He names this manner of studying food, one ingredient at a time, nutritionism.He points out that this food fashion buisness does not really lead to any benefits in the long run and then goes on to suggest some really practical rules for all eaters leading to a healthy life and happy stomach.

Personally, i think this book is a MUST read for every foodie who wants the best for their family. Unless we realise how we are being manipulated by the food industry, in every meal and every snack - we cannot resist or more importantly - fight back.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bavarian Orange Caramel Mousse & Chocolate Cake

I used to think that cakes were all about the baking. Baking is more of a science, get the temperature correct, whip the eggs right- a mini dictator in my kitchen. Now cakes are more about assembly, bringing different flavors and ingredients together to create a stunning flavor combination. That has put the FUN back in baking :). This cake that I made to take along for Mr and Mrs. S's potluck this weekend is a good example. The sketch below shows the layers that went into this cake.

Armed with just a few cakes in your repertoire and a few fillings; making tasty cakes is a wonderfully easy process. Juggling in fruits, whipped cream, Jams, sprinkles or M&Ms can unleash your creativity and have fun mixing and matching. You can play around this idea with boxed cake mixes to begin with.

I leave you with this potent idea and the recipe for the Bavarian Orange Caramel Mousse adapted from Flo Braker's, The simple art of Perfect Baking by Flo Braker. Enjoy.

Makes 3 cups

For the caramel:

1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp water
1 tsp lemon juice

1/2 cup cream

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup concentrated orange juice( Take about 1.5 cups of orange juice, add some orange peels- only the orange part without the white pith, boil on the stove until volume reduces by atleast half- about half an hour)

3 tbsp water
2 tsp gelatin

1 cup heavy cream
3 egg yolks

1 tbsp orange oil( available at cake shops ) optional

1. Make the caramel: Take the First three ingredients in a small heavy bottomed pot. Melt the sugar on medium low heat. Donot stir or your sugar will crystallize. Warm the half a cup of cream over the stove or microwave simultaneously. When the sugar turns a nice brown color, pour the hot heavy cream into it and stir to mix. The caramel will bubble but donot worry. Keep stirring with a wooden spoon.

2. Once the caramel cream mixture is cool, add the orange juice and milk in equal proportion to the caramel to get 1.5 cups of total fluid. Dont worry if the milk seems to separate when you add the orange juice. The next step will take care of that.

3. Make the creme anglaise: Stir the egg yolks to combine and add to the pot with the caramel cream and orange juice mixture. Place over medium heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. If you have a candy thermometer, the mixture should register between 165 to 170 degrees. Sieve the mixture into another bowl to remove any solids.

4. Finishing the Bavarian cream: Soak the gelatin in the water for five minutes. Add to the caramel mixture and stir until it is dissolved. Wait until the mixture cools - about ten minutes. Whip the remaining one cup of cream in a chilled bowl until it is thick enough to create swirls in the bowl but is liquid enough to move when the bowl is moved. Fold the whipped cream into the caramel , mix thoroughly and referigerate for atleast four hours to set the mousse.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Summer Single Serve#2: Orange Chiffon Cake

Chiffon cakes were invented and popularised in the 1920s by a Southern California Baker( From Bakers Dozen). They are essentially angel food cakes with yolk and vegetable oil. Because of the fat from the yolks and oil, they have a smooth satisfying texture. Lemon is the traditional flavor, but chiffon cakes are endlessly adaptable. They are easy to make too little more than two steps.

Special Equipment required: Two empty cans. Using cans ! Why did I never think of this? The credit for this idea goes to a book called Small batch baking by Debby M Nakos. More recipes and ideas from this book later.

This particular recipe has been adapted from Nick Malgieri and David Joachims book, Perfect Light Desserts.

To make two servings

Ingredient Set 1:
1/4 cup cake flour
1 tablespoon + 1 tsp granulated sugar
1/3rd cup Orange juice
1 Large or Extra Large Egg yolk
1 small pinch salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tablespoon + 1 tsp vegetable or canola Oil. ( you can use melted cooled butter for an extra flavor punch)

Ingredient Set 2:
1/4rth cup Egg whites at room temperature( about 1 extra large egg or two large egg whites)
squeeze lemon juice
1 tbsp confectioners sugar

1. Preheat Oven to 350 degree F. Either grease the bottom of the cans only or place a circle of wax paper. Donot grease the walls of the cans.

2. Dump all the ingredients in Ingredient list 1 in a bowl and mix very well with a fork or egg beater. In another, preferably metal bowl, beat the egg whites with the lemon until soft peaks form and then add the sugar gradually and beat to stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the bowl with the Ingredient set 1. Mix gently and well.

3. Bake at 350 degree F for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top is well browned. Invert cans on the counter and wait until thoroughly cooled. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the cake and then invert can and tap onto a plate.

4. This is the texture that you should end up with. Light and soft and spongy.I love it plain , but you could also serve it with Orange Caramel Sauce or some fresh whipped cream and berries.

Approximately 240 calories per serving.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Summer Single Serve#1: Angel Food Cake

Angel food cake is a great figure friendly light summer cake. It has no fat, i.e no butter , no yolks, no oil- not even a drop. It is made from the simplest of ingredients: egg whites, all purpose flour, sugar and salt. Compare these four ingredients to the 18 found in a Boxed angel food cake mix,"Sugar, Wheat Flour Bleached, Egg White, Corn Starch, Leavening (Baking Soda, Citric Acid), Modified Corn Starch, Corn Syrup, Calcium Chloride, Corn, Modified Soy Protein, Salt, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean or Cottonseed Oil, Cellulose Gum, Artificial Flavor, Dextrose, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (A Whipping Aid), Color (Yellow 5 & 6, Red 40, Blue 1), Nonfat Milk."

When you think about it, an angel food cake is really just a souffle. Souffles are single serve all the time right? Make a little cake all for your self with fresh fruits and a good book, you are all set for a long hot afternoon.

Make your own angel food cake mix: Mix together thoroughly Cake flour 1 CUP, Confectioners sugar 1 CUP and salt 1 TSP in a zip lock bag and keep in a dry cool place like the referigerator. Makes 8 single serves.

To bake a single serve: Whenever you want to make a single serve, take 1/4rth cup of the dry mixture.Turn on oven to 350 F to preheat. Beat 1 extra large egg white with 1 tbsp of sugar and a drop of lemon juice, until stiff . Fold the flour into the egg white gently.Spray one ramekin ( approximately 2 X 2 x 2 inches) with pam. Then put in a couple of tablespoons of sugar and rotate the ramekin until he walls of the ramekin are evenly coated with sugar. Tap out any excess.Fill 3/4rth of the ramekin with the folded mixture. Bake at 350F for around 20 minutes. Makes one single serve with approximately 150 calories and no calories from fat.

Cool Down Usually you must invert the angel food cake pan on top of a bottle or something similiar to cool down for around two to three hours. The ramekins are very difficult to turn upside down, especially when hot. So turn them on their sides, that way the angel food cake will get a chance to cool down and stabilize. Otherwise you will find that your cake collapses!

Very important: You must do the sugar on the ramekin walls or else the angel food cake will not rise. Traditionally , angel food cakes are baked in a tubular cake pan and no butter or flour is applied to the walls so that it can cling to the walls of the pan and rise.

Serve with Fresh fruits- Strawberries or Mango.

Recipe adapted from the Bakers Dozen Cookbook

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Frangipane Pear Tart with Pate Sucree (Sweet Tart Pastry)

I was originally making this for AFAM: Pears hosted by Raaga of the The Singing chef for the month of March. I am posting this recipe after she has even finished with the round up! Talk about Indian standard stretchable time:) I wanted to explore frangipane tarts more thoroughly before writing about them.

The frangipane tart in terms of taste was a great contrast of slightly tart fruit with the crisp chewiness of the macaroon like almond filling.

Frangipane in the pastry world is a sweetened almond filling used in tarts and pastries. I was very delighted to discover that it has an Indian connection. Frangipane is the name of a flower, which was originally used to flavor the almond paste. Look familiar? I love this flower, it has a sweet intoxicating smell which usually denotes summer for me.

For the Frangipane itself I followed this recipe from the Washington Post.For the shell instead of going with the cream cheese tart shell as in the WP recipe, I went for a Pate Sucree ( Sweet Tart Pastry Shell) from the Bakers dozen cookbook.

Couple of important pointers for anyone who might want to attempt this. One is that The frangipane receives equal billing with the fruits. This is not a tart you want to stuff with fruits. The picture I have of my pear tart is actually a good example of what not to do with a frangipane tart. You want give the frangipane enough space to puff up and develop a nice brown crust. A very good example is Spittoon extra's Apricot and Fig Frangipane Tart.

You can substitute the pear with any stone fruit, Apple or Plums being favorite choices. You can also flavor the almond frangipane filling like I did with cardamom or even perhaps nutmeg. I made a Plum filled one as well, but I donot have any pictures because my little daughter really liked it. She polished it off with the ten teeth she has!

This tart shell is perhaps one of the easiest bcause it does not depend too much on the correct mixing of the butter into the flour, which is perhaps the most technical part of forming a good tart shell. So it is good for newbies.

Pate Sucree( Sweet Tart Pastry Shell)
from the Bakers dozen Cookbook.

6 tbsp unsalted butter, cool but not chilled
2.5 tbsp sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of fine sea salt
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour

1. In a medium bowl, using a hand-held mixer on medium high speed, cream the butter and sugar until light in color and texture, about 2 minutes. Break the egg into a cup, mix it thoroughly with a fork, and measure 2.5 tbsp. Discard the remainder. Beat it in with the vanilla and salt just until blended. Scrape down the bowl. On low speed, add the flour all at once and mix just until the ingredients are moistened. Donot overmix.

2. Turn the dough out onto an unfloured work surface. Quickly finish combining the ingredients by smearing small amounts away from you. Using a bench knife or plastic scraper, scrape up the dough and gather it together. Form into a flat disk about 1/2 inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap. Referigerate until firm, atleast one hour.( The dough can be prepared upto a day ahead, wrapped, and referigerated.)

This dough tends to break, but it is easy to repair.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Fondant Welcome home cake

I made this quick and easy cake on Saturday for my cousin G. in Baltimore and her cute new baby daughter. The cake itself is a chocolate chiffon cake with vanilla buttercream. The cake topper is a white chocolate baby pram with royal icing decorations.

Chocolate Chiffon Cake recipe from here

Friday, April 4, 2008

Cakeworks for Mahanandi: Devils Food Chocolate Cake

I am really lucky and honored that my first order in my new Cake baking venture, CAKEWORKS, came from Indira of Mahanandi. I am much obliged to her for her thoughtfulness and support. Indira ordered this cake for an event in Philadelphia, on the 29th of March.

Indira says via email,"Cake looks yummilious!:) Great job with the decoration. I like it."

This cake is an all butter devils food chocolate cake with chocolate ganache filling. The two buildings on top of the cake are the Liberty Place buildings in downtown, that I have modeled out of vanilla chiffon cake. The cake is covered with chocolate and white fondant. The roofs of the buildings are non edible and carved out of foam.

I hope to develop a professional career in baking over the years. I will be posting detailed recipes and instructions here.