Archive for July, 2011

I am like a broken record. Every month it’s the same story. I look at the upcoming Baker’s Challenge at the beginning of the month and say to myself ” no problem, I’ll tackle it this weekend”. Uh, yeah…. And every month I am baking it 2 or 3 days before the 27th of the month (sometimes, the night before). Last month I ended up too busy with other baking/decorating projects that I didn’t even complete the challenge, which was baklava with homemade phyllo. How fun would that have been? I just waited too long and couldn’t get my act together. This month though, I vowed to get back on track. Err, that is to baking the challenge 2 or 3 days ahead of the 27th.  I was happy with my 3 day lead, as small as it is…

Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’s host and she challenged us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine. When I first looked at the recipe I was first reminded of the filled Jaconde that we made a few months back, but then quickly realized this was so different. This is a typical french strawberry cake, since in France a strawberry is called fraise. The fresh berries make a lovely design on the sides of the cake, filled with a pastry cream lightened with whipped cream. The inside had has secret compartment filled with more chopped fruit so when you cut into it you get a nice fruit surprise. Super addictive filling; so light and fluffy (not that I’m saying it’s low-calorie!).I kept my design very simple, but I am sure my fellow bakers are going to come up with some truly inspiring cakes. Take a look over here if you would like to check some of them out.

For my Frasier cake I chose to do a basil infused chiffon cake filled with a Grand Marnier pastry cream. The fruit filling hidden in the middle is a mixture of chopped strawberries and raspberries, freshly picked from my garden! I tossed the fruit with a little basil simple syrup before filling the cake.

Read through the entire recipe before attempting this cake. It’s really just a cake sliced in two and filled with fruit and pastry cream. It is topped off with a thin layer of almond paste, but you don’t have to use that, it you don’t want to or don’t have any on hand. A simple dusting of powdered sugar would be just lovely. There are a lot of steps but I was able to easily make this in one afternoon. That being said, you can spread this out over days if you prefer, which is a really nice option. The simple syrup (it’s just equal parts sugar and water;boiled) can be made way in advance. I happen to always keep a jar of simple syrup in the fridge. I use it to brush on a cake before frosting it, but it’s also really good in a cocktail that needs a little sweetener…

If you want to make it in one day, just follow the steps: Bake the cake. While the cake is in the oven, make the simple syrup (this takes 2 minutes). Make the pastry cream (without the whipped cream) and cool. Cool the cake. Chop you fruit filling. Slice the cake layer in half. finish the pastry cream mixture. Slice a few strawberries to decorate the sides of the cake. Assemble. Refrigerate. Eat and enjoy!

Bake on…

1 baked 8 inch (20 cm) chiffon cake
1 recipe pastry cream filling
⅓ cup (80 ml) simple syrup or flavored syrup
2 lbs (900 g) strawberries/raspberry combination
confectioners’ sugar for dusting
½ cup (120 ml) (5 oz/140 gm) almond paste

Basil Infused Chiffon Cake

1 cup + 2 tablespoons (270 ml) (5½ oz/155 gm) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (4 gm) baking powder
3/4 cups (180 ml) (6 oz /170 gm) sugar
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (1½ gm) salt, preferably kosher
1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) vegetable oil
3 large egg yolks
⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon (3.17 fl oz/95 ml) water
A few sprigs of fresh basil (about 1/4 c)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon  lemon zest, grated
5 large egg whites
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1 gm) cream of tartar
1 drop green coloring (optional)

Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F (160°C/gas mark 3). Line the bottom of an 8-inch (20 cm) springform pan with parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan.

Place the basil leaves, water, and oil in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and let cool. Once cool, puree the mixture in a mini processor or blender; set aside for a moment.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) of sugar, and all of the salt. Stir to combine.

In a small bowl combine the water/oil/basil mixture, egg yolks, vanilla and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly
until very smooth.

Put the egg whites into a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed using a whisk attachment on a medium speed, until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat
on a medium speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites hold firm and form shiny
peaks, but do not overbeat.

Using a grease free rubber spatula, scoop about ⅓ of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.

To unmold, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake from the pan and remove the springform sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment paper.
Refrigerate for up to four days

Simple Syrup:

1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) (2⅔ oz/75gm) of sugar
1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) of water
few springs fresh basil

Combine the water, sugar, and basil in a medium saucepan.Bring the mixture to a boil and let the sugar dissolve. Stirring is not necessary,,Remove the syrup from the heat and cool slightly.Transfer syrup to a lidded container or jar that can be stored in the refrigerator

Grand Marnier Pastry Cream Filling

1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) whole milk
1/2 teaspoon  pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup (60 ml) (2 oz/55 gm) sugar
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons Grand Marnier
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (such as KNOX)
1/2 tablespoon water
1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) heavy cream
1 drop orange coloring (optional)

Pour the milk, vanilla, and salt into a heavy sauce pan. Place over medium-high heat and scald, bringing it to a near boiling point, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a bowl add the cornstarch and sugar. Whisk to combine. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth.

When the milk is ready, slowly pour the heated milk down the side of the bowl into the egg mixture, whisking the entire time (this is to temper the eggs. which means to warm the eggs without making scrambled eggs out of them).

Pour the mixture back into the warm pot and continue to cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly,  until the custard is thick, just about to boil and coats the back of a spoon.

Remove from heat and pass through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl to remove any lumps. Allow to cool for ten minutes stirring occasionally.Stir in the Grand Marnier.

Cut the butter into four pieces and whisk into the pastry cream one  piece at a time until smooth.

Cover the cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for up to five days.

When you are ready to finish the cake, proceed with finishing the filling:

In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for a few minutes to soften.

Put two inches (55 mm) of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat Measure 1/4 cup (2 oz/60 ml) of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel bowl that will sit across the sauce pan with the simmering water, without touching the water. Heat the pastry cream until it is 120 F (48.8 C).Too much fuss for me ,  I microwaved mine for 40 seconds instead, checking the temp after 30 seconds.

Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream.

In a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula. You are now ready to assemble your Frasier.



Line the sides of a 8-inch (20 cm) springform pan with plastic wrap (I just used acetate). Do not line the bottom of the pan.

Cut the cake in half horizontally to form two layers.

Fit the bottom layer into the prepared springform pan. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer evenly with the simple syrup. When the cake has absorbed enough syrup to resemble a squishy sponge, you have enough. I used all of my basil simple syrup between the two layers.

Hull and slice in half enough strawberries to arrange around the sides of the cake pan. Place the cut side of the strawberry against the sides of the pan,
point side up forming a ring.Pipe cream in-between strawberries and a thin layer across the top of the cake.Hull and quarter your remaining strawberries and place them in the middle of the cake. Cover the strawberries and entirely with the all but 1 tbsp. (15 ml) of the pastry cream.

Place the second cake layer on top and moisten with the simple syrup.Lightly dust a work surface with confectioners’ sugar and roll out the
almond paste to a 10-inch (25 cm) round 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) thick. Spread the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of pastry cream on the top of the cake and cover
with the round of almond paste.Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

To serve release the sides of the springform pan and peel away the plastic wrap.Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

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This past weekend was our dear friend Donna’s birthday so we hosted a party for her at our house. Lots of good food; itailan heros on homemade ciabetta, garden picked rosemary foccocia stuffed with gorgonzola and ham, sausage and broccoli rabe, roasted pepper salad, etc… AND great company. Since she is such a unique individual I designed a cake to suit her personality. The bottom 2 layers are “dummy” cakes, meaning the cakes are really styrofoam. This is a decorators trick so you can still have the height but you don’t need 100 people to eat the cake.! For competition you are only allowed to use dummy bases, as well. They are covered/decorated  in fondant. The zebra tier  is a red velvet cake with a cream cheese buttercream frosting. The zebra stripes are fondant. The fantasy flowers are made out of gumpaste.

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Summer’s here, and the time is right… for ice pops! Rhubarb ice pops to be more precise. The rhubarb plant out back is gigantic right now, the weather has been sunny and hot, and my little one loves ice pops. The perfect combination.

These are simple to make and so sweet and tangy. It seems almost every store now carries ice pop molds, but if you don’t have any, no problem. Dixie or small plastic cups and wooden popsicle sticks work just as well. All you need to do is pour the mixture in, cover with plastic wrap and then insert the wooden stick in.The plastic wrap will hold the stick upright. For a more grown up version, add a shot of mango liqueur or tequila…


2 Cups (8 oz or about 5 stalks) rhubarb, cut into small pieces
1/2 C (4 oz) granulated sugar
3/4  C  (6 oz)water
1 Vanilla pod
1 inch piece fresh ginger
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 C (2 oz) heavy cream

Place everything except the ground in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 15-20, or until the rhubarb is nice and soft. Remove the knob of fresh ginger; discard. Take out the vanilla bean, slice open and scrape out the seeds; place the seeds back into the pot. Rinse off the pod and throw into your sugar bowl (this will fragrance your sugar for the next time you bake). Stir in the ground ginger.

Place the rhubarb mixture into your food processor or blender and whirl until smooth. Add the cream and blend thoroughly.

Carefully pour into your  ice pop molds and freeze until set. Enjoy!

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Gumpaste Flowers

While I have not been busy posting, I have been busy trying new recipes and enjoying the beautiful summer weather here in Calgary. This past Friday began with the annual parade to start the 99th season of the Calgary Stampede, the world’s largest rodeo competition and fair. The city becomes quite crazy for 10 days, with hundreds of thousands of tourists coming in from all over the world, free pancake breakfasts everywhere, all day drinking parties, and nightly fireworks. This year the parade was just that more abuzz with the special guests, Prince William and his new bride Kate.

So we made sure to avoid anywhere they might be. …Much to the dismay of our little girl.

We found a spot right at the tail end of the parade route with a great view of everything

There are SO many horses currently in the city that it is mind boggling!  We had a fun time at the parade but
I was still busy at home getting gumpaste flowers prepared for Saturday since I was demonstrating at the Stampede
Grounds in the western showcase building on behalf of the Calgary Sugarcraft Guild. I was a little behind schedule (what else is new) in being prepared, since I only began Tuesday night to think about what I would do. I decided on making a few samples of some gumpaste flowers to display and then I brought some fondant covered cupcakes and decorated them with simple flowers and designs to make decorating more approachable to the beginner. In the end there was one decorated with hydrangea blossoms, another with small rosebuds, another with simple daisy cutouts, one with small purple blossoms, etc… I wish I had taken pictures of them but I did not bring my camera since I knew I would be too busy demonstrating. At the end of the day, I saw some weary people sitting down for a cup of coffee and donated my cupcakes for them to enjoy.

I made a small banana cake and covered it with fondant to display these tulips (the cupcakes were also banana).

These were the first tulips I had ever made and am quite impressed with myself! There are so many colors of flowers  that you can just let your imagination run wild.

Some daisies….

and magnolias…

I will admit that making gumpaste flowers is not for everyone. They are time-consuming , but they can last a lifetime. When making a wedding cake or other special cake I think that sugar flowers are best since most fresh flowers are poisonous or sprayed with pesticides. When using fresh flowers it is important to make sure that there is a protective barrier between the cake and the flowers. Or play it safe and make gumpaste flowers!

p.s. thanks to everyone for all of your support during the Canadian Postal lock out. Due to back to work legislation the lock out is now ended and the postal workers are again delivering the mail.

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