Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tree Stump Cake

When I was trying to figure out a cool cake to make for my friend Av's birthday, I realized most of my cakes have been pretty girly. It took a lot of thought to make it more 'manly' and I think the wood grain effect on the top tier made it happen.

To get a wooden effect I kneaded in brown food colouring to the fondant. Once it was an even cappuccino colour, I dipped a toothpick in the food colouring jar and pierced the fondant in various places. Then I rolled it out which created a streak effect.

The bottom tier is a chocolate cake with a mocha buttercream frosting and the top is chocolate with a coconut filling and vanilla buttercream with a hint of lime. I tweaked a recipe from the Hershey site. Here are the details:

Chocolate Cake
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup fresh brewed coffee

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in large bowl.
3. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes.
4. Stir in boiling water and coffee (batter will be very thin).
5. Pour batter into prepared pans.
6. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

Mocha Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup chopped dark chocolate
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
3 tbsp fresh brewed coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

1. Melt butter.
2. Stir in cocoa. It should turn into a paste.
3. Melt chopped chocolate and stir in to cocoa and butter mixture.
4. Stir in cinnamon and vanilla.
4. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.
5. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Makes about 2 cups frosting.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Homemade Caramel Sauce

Peaches topped with caramel sauce and a sprinkle of coarse salt
I love the flavour of caramel. Whenever there is a box of assorted chocolates around I'll always grab the one with a caramel center.  Today I tried making a caramel sauce from scratch. It was everything I dreamt it would be and more—sweet, buttery, creamy and the hint of salt makes it truly addictive.

You can pour it on fruits, ice cream or make your own version of a caramel macchiato. I drizzled some on sliced peaches that were warmed slightly in the microwave. It was so delicious. Trust me, you'll want to lick the bowl clean.

1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
generous pinch of coarse salt

1. Heat water and sugar on medium heat in a pot with high sides. It will start bubbling right away but it's only ready when it turns amber and gives off a wonderful aroma. Be very careful because the sugar is extremely hot and can burn you.
2. Take off the heat and quickly whisk in cream and vanilla. If the caramel hardens while whisking in the cream, put it back on the heat so it will melt.
3. Add coarse salt to taste.

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