Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Twelve Cakes of Christmas - (#12) Candles

Merry Christmas everyone! For the last day of Christmas, we have a special, luminary treat. Jessica made candles like the kind that are lit in windows during this time of the year. The difference is, these candles are edible.

The cake recipe was a lemon poundcake.

A double batch of poundcake, three candles, and some Styrofoam were all that was needed for building the candles.

Using a circular cutting tool and some careful slicing, the cakes were shaped into the right form for candles. Styrofoam gave the cakes the right height. Cutting into the center of cakes made circular holes just big enough to fit taper candles down the middle.

The cakes were rolled in coconut and the tops were poured with a thick icing to give a "melted wax" look.

The best part of these cakes are that they can be lit!

And light up a dark room nicely.

The Twelve Cakes of Christmas 2010 are over, but my waistline will be remembering it for some time to come.

The Twelve Cakes of Christmas - (#11) Gingerbread House

Christmas Eve is here and what's better than snuggling up in a warm house with family? To capture that cozy feeling, Jessica decided to make a decadent gingerbread house. The recipe was for a ginger cake which contained raw ginger, candied ginger, and ginger powder. It made a thin, dense, hearty cake.

Six layers of the cake were assembled with a cream cheese frosting. Because the cake was so heavy, they tended to slide back and forth. A little chilling in the freezer helped keep it all together.

Once chilled, the layers were covered with fondant.

Jessica made a couple rectangular pieces of gingerbread for the roof and glued them on using royal icing. We slipped some LED lights underneath the roof as Christmas lights.

With some more royal icing, gumdrops, candy canes, M&Ms, and lifesavers, the house was complete.

And glowed in the dark like a true Christmas house.

Ready just in time for Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! Hope you're keeping warm and cozy!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Twelve Cakes of Christmas - (#10) Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

The last in the series of 3 cupcakes Jessica made for her coworkers. Jessica made faux-hot chocolate cupcakes. The cakes were from a flourless recipe simply called "chocolate intensity." The cake batter was cooked in the mugs they were to be served in. A water bath provided even heating of the mugs to prevent cracking.

To be true to form, marshmallows had to be added on top...

...and lightly toasted to make them nice and gooey.

A final candy cane was added for full effect.

These (along with 2 other cupcakes) made a great gift, which were very well received. Comments were that the cake was very rich -- appropriate as a "hot chocolate."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Twelve Cakes of Christmas - (#9) Holly Cupcakes

This year, Jessica decided to give her coworkers a set of 3 cupcakes. Yesterday's post ("mini cakes") was one of them. With the next cake, she decided to go with a new recipe: red velvet cupcakes.

The cake is a fairly standard red velvet, but without the obscene amount of red dye that most recipes call for.

The red velvet cupcakes were classically combined with cream cheese frosting. Holly berries made out of fondant provided the topper.

The fondant was pressed into a silicone mold to give a true, leafy texture.

As I sit here writing this, I'm having one right now. And I can say they are delicious! ( that cream cheese frosting...)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Twelve Cakes of Christmas - (#8) Mini Snowflake Cakes

For gifts to coworkers this year, Jessica and I decided to do cookies and cupcakes. This is the first in her batch of cupcakes going to her fellow employees. These "cupcakes" are really miniature cakes meant for one person. This one's a coffee lover's delight -- these are mocha cakes with a chocolate-mocha buttercream filing.

First baked in square cake pans.

Then cut into little cubes, stacked with two pieces of cake and covered in the mocha-chocolate buttercream frosting.

Once frosted, the cakes were covered in a light blue buttercream fondant (the good stuff). Then a snowflake was piped with royal icing and silver dragees were placed on the snowflake.

I really like the silver dragees. I think they really add a touch of class to the little cakes.

Christmas is only 4 days away! To all of you who are seeing actual snowflakes this year -- keep warm and safe on the roads!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Twelve Cakes of Christmas - (#7) Santa's Face

One of my favorite cake recipes is an apple cake. My mom used to make it all the time. It always comes out moist, with that sweet, cinnamon-brown sugar flavor. So naturally I was excited when Jessica decided to make the next cake of Christmas an apple cake. The form of the cake was going to be the true challenge -- a realistic Santa face.

Cinnamon, brown sugar, ginger, and cloves make for a delicately spiced cake.

The finished product! The beard and white part of the hat were made from a meringue-like icing to keep the applied texture. The skin part of the face was made from fondant (not as easy as it seems) with cheeks painted rosy.

Comments when I took this one into the office included:
  • "I love your wife, but my thighs do not"
  • "So...much...frosting...!"
  • "It's terrifyingly realistic"
  • "The eyes follow me wherever I go. It's like the Mona Lisa" (to which I responded, "...he sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake")

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Twelve Cakes of Christmas - (#6) Christmas Ornament

The Guinness chocolate cake (see cake #3 of Christmas) was such a hit, Jessica decided to do use it again as the building material for the latest inspired cake. This time the goal was to make a huge, shiny ornament.

Once again, the chocolate Guinness cake ingredients. This was a double batch so there were actually 2 cans of Guinness in the whole thing.

The cake was baked in two semicircular pans, then glued together to make into a ball using vanilla buttercream. The ball was then covered with a hefty piece of fondant. This was the fancy buttercream fondant, which is far less prone to tearing than the Wilton stuff.

The fondant was then painted with silver and gold luster dust. Silver dragees were attached with tweezers.

For the bow, we first had to learn how to make one (thanks to some YouTube clips), then tied one and placed it right on top of the cake.

The cake cut really clean and there was plenty of chocolaty goodness!

We served the cake at a holiday party for our neighbors, and it turned out just as yummy as the first time we tried the recipe. Guinness chocolate cake is certainly a keeper!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Twelve Cakes of Christmas - (#5) Bûche de Noël

Almost to the halfway mark of the 12 Cakes of Christmas, and this one nearly made Jessica want to give up the whole project. This cake was a Bûche de Noël, a French cake that resembles a log and is traditionally served around Christmas. The cake is baked thin, then filled with icing and rolled up like a Swiss roll. She made this cake a couple years ago with no problems, but wasn't able to find the same recipe. This recipe she used gave a cake that consistently ripped -- meaning that Jessica had to go through 4 iterations to get it to come out the way she wanted.

The recipe was for a a chocolate cake with a delicious mocha buttercream filling.

The finished product, complete with fondant holly berries and mushrooms.

Side view showing the spiral rolled cake and filling.

Jessica was finally delivered this one on time, albeit with a few more grey hairs. Lesson learned: if the recipe ain't working, change it to one that does!

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Twelve Cakes of Christmas - (#4) Present

Following up on the post from yesterday -- what is Santa's bag filled with? Beautifully wrapped presents! That's what Jessica decided to make here with this very moist genoise cake. This is a French/Italian cake that doesn't use any leavening agents. Instead, the cake relies on the puffiness of beaten eggs to provide the airiness in this dough. When piped into strips, genoise cake is know as lady fingers.

The recipe was pretty simple. This was everything for the lemon genoise cake and the chocolate buttercream.

Starting off with a little bit of eggs.

Which get tripled in volume from vigorous whisking.

Covered with fondant and decorated with a bow it looked like it belonged under the Christmas tree.

It was a fairly stiff cake that cut fairly clean.

Overall, this wasn't our favorite cake because of the spongy texture of the Genoise cake. But, lesson learned and it made a nice little decorative present along the way.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Twelve Cakes of Christmas - (#3) Santa's Toy Bag

Why do we leave cookies and milk out for Santa? After schlepping around all those toys, I don't think that's what he really wants. No, I'm sure what he'd really like is a beer. And my guess is that living at the North Pole, he drinks those hearty, thick, warm-you-from-the-inside-out kind of beers.

Who's to say Santa doesn't like beer?

I bet Santa would be even jollier if the tradition was to give him a tall glass of Guinness and a slice of chocolate cake. Why not? Well, Jessica knows that I'm a beer aficionado (I brew my own) and with her passion for cakes -- she decided to make the two things happen at once. Yes, a Guinness Chocolate cake. Sound strange? It's really not. The recipe was from her cake bible, The Cake Book, and let me tell you, this cake is delicious! It's moist, has a subtle dose of chocolate, and perhaps just a tad bit of roastiness from the Guinness. It was such a hit, we've had 2 requests to make it again!

Recipe has about 1 can of Guinness stout, cocoa powder, vanilla, and cinnamon.

This was a double batch of cake (made in springform pans), then cut to give it rounded edges. Fondant was draped over top of the cake, leaving excess fondant around the edges. Then we flipped the cake over and used newspaper to hold up the excess fondant while it dried in place. The result was Santa's bag that we could stuff with toys.

The rope is fondant painted with gold luster dust.

All the toys are made from fondant, except the candy canes (which are real candy canes).

And the best part about this cake? I get to drink the leftover Guinness. Cheers!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Twelve Cakes of Christmas - (#2) The Grinch

So when Jessica was hunting for ideas for Christmas cakes to make, my research group suggested The Grinch. What better Christmas icon? (I know, there's Santa...just be patient...). We figured it would be most appropriate for the Grinch to be made of devil's food cake with chocolate buttercream.

Pretty straightforward recipe with lots of cocoa powder!

The finished result!

This one was covered with a butter cream fondant (the blue background), which spreads a lot thinner than the Wilton fondant. To be honest, it tastes a lot better, too. The Grinch was piped out of royal icing. This cake disappeared in one day amongst the 10 or so people in our office.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Twelve Cakes of Christmas - (#1) Snowman

On the first day of Christmas, my true love baked for me...

...isn't that how it goes? Well, that's what I've been feeling like this holiday season. Jessica decided this year to bake 12 cakes in honor of Christmas. So starting today, we'll be posting one Christmas-themed cake a day until December 25th. Here's the first one to start it off.

Since we live in Florida and have no realistic chance of making a real snowman (despite recent freezing temps), Jessica decided to make an edible Frosty the Snowman.

This was a coconut cake with coconut custard and coconut buttercream from one of Jessica's favorite recipe books, appropriately titled "The Cake Book."

The cakes and buttercream prior to assembling.

The head (actually a cake ball), abdomen, and bottom.

The finished product.

I was reminded of the twisted snowmen from Calvin and Hobbes from my childhood. However, Jessica probably wouldn't go for making Killer Monster Snow Goon out of cake.

Check back tomorrow for the second cake of Christmas!