A litlle more than a year ago, I began working on a book all about mini cakes… elegant little individual sized cakes to make at home. The book was to be called Babycakes. Unfortunately, this publisher was an early victim of the recent cutbacks, and Babycakes future became uncertain.
Left with lots of ideas, some great photos, and even better recipies, I just knew I had to share them!
The first one is mini croquembouche, which is traditionally a French wedding cake. Lovely little cream puffs, filled with pastry cream or chocolate ganache are dipped in a beautiful clear caramel, and glued together while the caramel is still warm and sticky. The same caramel is used to make the glistening spun sugar that embraces the little tower. How dramatic it would be to present each guest at your next dinner party with their own glittery croquembouche! One tower is more than enough to serve two guests.
Start here with the recipie I’ve posted previously for chocolate eclairs.
Instead of piping out strips, pipe out small rounds, about one half inch in diameter. When baked and cooled, fill them with the pastry cream, flavored as you like.
2 cups sugar
½ cup water
-Place the sugar in a medium sauce pan and pour the water around the edges of the pan.
-Put the pot over high heat with the lid on. This will keep the steam trapped inside throught the beginning of the cooking process and let it drip down the sides and wash off any sugar crystals that may form. Keep the pot covered until the sugar has been boiling for about 5 minutes. Do not stir cooking sugar.
-When the sugar begins to take on an amber color, you may swirl the pot to keep the sugar cooking evenly. Cook until sugar has taken on a rich amber hue, careful not to overcook and burn the sugar or it will be bitter.
– Cut a 3” circle out of cardboard. Cover circle with parchment paper and glue it down with a small dab of the caramel.
-Carefully dip the top of each filled cream puff in the warm caramel and place it, with the caramel facing out around the outside of the parchment circle. Continue like this until you have one complete circle. Each subsequent row should start between two of the puffs on the previous layer. Keep builidng up until one puff tops the tower. If carmel starts to stiffen up too much, you can put it over a gentle heat to remelt it, being careful not to cook it further.
-To make the spun sugar, secure a wooden spoon to a counter top with the handle hanging off the edge of the counter. Masking tape is a good way to do this. Its also a good idea to put a couple of pieces of parchment or papertowels on the floor, as this can get a bit messy.
-Warm the sugar so its fluid. Dip a fork in the fluid caramel and swing it with a brisk movement over the top of the wooden spoon’s handle. Thin threads of sugar should form over the handle. Gather up these threads and wrap them around the base of your tower to create a bed for it, or wrap them around the tower as in the photograph.
On Facebook, someone asked if this cake could deliver itself… if only it could! Not quite sure that decadent chocolate cake and rich ganache are aerodynamic, but then I’ve never really understood how those massive steel bodies stay up there anyway!
That brings me to one of the things I love most about cake… each new project is an opportunity to look at thing we take for granted in an entirely new way. The beauty of this plane is that its wing span is almost the length of the the entire body. Its difficult to create the lines in curves in cake, and someone did it out of metal! With projects like this, I really learn to appreciate the talent of those that create and design the things we love and rely on every day!
So often I send cakes out the door and have no idea what happens to them. Usually this is better than actually being at the party, only to come back to see the brand new finger poke holes that have spontaneously appeared!
But this time is a little different… Thanks so much to Heather Barney for capturing the absolutely best moment of a cake’s life… when the guest of honor sees it for the first time and just knows its all for them! And what great seats you had Heather!
And my sincere thanks to Adele for translating this moment in her own special way! What a great way to mark your 21st! Sugar Couture was thrilled to have been a small part of that!
Happy Birthday Adele!
Its official… I must be old. When Sony music called a while back and asked me to create a 21st birthday cake for their Grammy nominated artist Adele, I had no idea who she was! Even if I’m not old, that sure made me feel like I was.
Since then I’ve fallen in love with her music, and it was that music that inspired this 3 foot tall mod birthday cake…
The highlight of an otherwise gloomy, rainy Sunday, was the last class of the Spring 09 Season. The heat of the ovens warmed us all as we worked on cupcake masterpieces! Can’t wait to start dreaming up the new fall projects…
Here is the basic buttercream recipe used in class…
7 fluid ounces egg whites
14 ounces sugar
1 1/2 pounds unsalted butter
Combine sugar and egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Heat over a double boiler, stirring constantly until very hot to the touch and all sugar has dissolved.
-Put bowl on the mixer with the whisk attachment. Whip whites until stiff peaks have formed.
-Change to the paddle and add butter, in small pieces, waiting for one to beat in before adding the other. Once all butter is added, beat an extra 10 minutes for smoothness.
** You can flavor this anyway you like using:
reduced fruit purees
or anything you can think of!
Last year about this time, Veruschka, a student and lover of art, came to Sugar Couture, with an original request. She wanted a recreation of an ancient Greek vase in honor of one of her art instructors. This year, the lucky recipient was her portraiture instructor. Must be some incredible teachers! Sugar Couture created this replica of a painting that was done of the instructor and her daughter, but this cake/canvas was mounted on an easel!
One of the bigger surprises in my life… I love teaching. Its a great companion to the more solitary life of cakes. I pack a lot into my classes, and students leave with a feeling of satisfaction, as much info as they can absorb while measuring and mixing, and lots of dessert!
So I though I’d share the highlight dessert from this past weekends Decadent Chocolate Dessert class. While not everyone made these chocolate eclairs, EVERYONE asked for one!
Pate a Choux
This dough is a basic cream puff dough. A stand mixer makes easy work of it.
1 Cup Water
3 oz butter
5 ounces flour
5 large eggs
-preheat oven to 425 degrees.
-Combine water, butter and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
-At the boil, remove from the heat and add all the flour, stirring to combine completely. Put the pot back over medium heat, and cook this paste until it leaves the sides of the pan, and then just a little longer to dry it out. (the more you dry it out, the more egg you can get into it and the better the puffs!)
-Transfer the paste to the bowl of your electric mixer. Beat on medium speed to cool the paste slightly.
-Add the eggs, one at a time mixing each until fully combined. Check your dough before adding the last egg… depending on the humidity of the day, you may not need it. You’re looking for the past to be thick enough to stick to your finger, and thin enough to pipe out.
-Place a 1/2 piping tip in the bottom of a piping bag, or alternately, cut a 1/2″ hole in the bag. Transfer the dough to the bag and pipe out batons about 3″ long, leaving at least one inch between them on all sides. (they are going to at least double in size!)
-Coat them gently with a thinned egg wash – one egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water.
-Bake them at 425 for 10 minutes or until they’ve puffed up. Then turn the oven down to 350 to dry them out well.
Prepare the cream filling while the puffs are baking…
2 cups whole milk
2 ounces cornstarch
5 ounces sugar
3 ounces butter
1 tablespoon best quality vanilla
5 ounces bitter sweet chocolate
3 ounces boiling water
-Dissolve the cornstarch in 1/2 cup of cold milk. Add eggs to cornstarch mixture
-Combine the rest of the milk and the sugar in a medium saucepan Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and drizzle hot milk mixture into the egg/cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly. As the eggs become more comfortable with the hot temperature, you can add the milk more quickly. Pour this back into the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk until the cream comes together. It will take a while, but once it starts, it will move quickly. Keep stirring until the cream has become thick. Cook, without boiling, until you see one or two bubbles pop from the cream, to make sure you’ve cooked out the chalky texture of the cornstarch.
-Pour the boiling water over the chopped chocolate to melt it. Stir the chocolate, butter and vanilla into the hot cream, then transfer this mixture to an ice bath, or the refrigerator to cool.
4 oz bittersweet chocolate
3 oz unsalted butter
2 oz light corn syrup
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
-Melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave at 50% power, stopping to stir often.
-stir in corn syrup and vanilla
-Place a 1/4 inch piping tip in the bottom of a piping bag. Fill bag with cooled chocolate cream.
-With the tip, poke a hole in one end of a cream puff. Squeeze bag gently to fill puff – when filled, cream will start oozing out of the entry hole.
-Dip the top of the filled puff into glaze, set aside to firm.
-Enjoy immediately, or keep filled eclairs in the refrigerator for one day.
Not every cake makes the website. Sometimes its similar enough to its predecessor that, while it may be a great piece, it doesn’t bring something new. Often enough there just isn’t time to make a beautiful picture before it heads out the door. And sometimes, because of the custom nature of some of projects, they are so specific to one client that it may not necessarily have meaning to anyone else. Here are a few that I’ve loved, but didn’t get the beauty shot.