Baking - Desserts

Note to Self: Don’t Make Buttercream While Distracted.

It’s been a long time since I made a true buttercream with an egg base. They are so yummy I wanted to start getting back into it, so for Valentine’s day I decided to make a cake with an Italian Meringue Buttercream. The cake had been made the day before and was nicely cooled, just waiting for that creamy coating. I went over my recipe several times to refresh my memory and had all the ingredients and tools ready to go.

I had a couple issues that I should have thought about beforehand. One: I didn’t give myself a lot of time. I didn’t think it would take very long, so I waited until just before dinner to make it. And Two: My kids were awake, which usually means interruptions and distractions about every 30 seconds. Not so good for the focus I needed.

I got my egg whites beating, which was fine, they looked great, but it was cooking the sugar syrup that got me. I would hold the thermometer in the pan to track the temperature, get distracted and take it out for a few seconds, then go back and put it in again to re-check the temperature. After doing this a few too many times I realized that my syrup was at the hard ball stage instead of soft ball, which is about 20 degrees higher than it should be. Oops!

If I had left myself more time I would have made a new syrup, but because I assumed everything would go perfectly I didn’t have the time to spare and decided to pour it in and see what would happen. It ended up being quite curdled, nowhere near the smooth and creamy coating I had anticipated. The flavour was fine, but the appearance was not.

At least it was for my family, and thankfully they’re happy to eat almost anything I make no matter what it looks like. But next time I’ll plan ahead and work while the kids are asleep!

Baking - Desserts, Decorating

Cheese Wedding Cake

Okay, so it’s been another long stretch since my last post, but today’s post is so exciting that I’m hoping I’ll be forgiven for slacking off on the blog front.

A while back some good friends asked me if I would make their wedding cake. I was very excited, and somewhat intimidated, by the idea. I never really wanted to get into wedding cakes, too much pressure. But for friends I’m always willing to make exceptions, especially when they give me free reign on the design!

I brainstormed several possibilities, and in consultation with them finally settled on a cheese cake. Not a cheesecake with cream cheese; and not a stack of actual cheese, tiered up like a cake; but a stack of cakes that would look like wheels of cheese. They love cheese (who doesn’t?!), so I thought it would be very fitting for their celebration.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to do several posts about this cake. Since this was my first wedding cake, which is a big project, I tried to document each step and test along the way, and I thought it would be fun to post about it so you can see what all goes into designing and making the perfect cake.

I feel incredibly lucky to have such supportive friends, and I am grateful that they gave me the chance to test and expand my baking experience!

Baking - Desserts, Recipe

Chocolate Log Cake

For my dad’s birthday in the fall I gave him the gift of a baked good of his choosing, which he only recently cashed in. He told me that he would like a chocolate log cake at the next big family dinner. So Easter dinner it was!

I made a simple chocolate sponge on a baking sheet, and whipped up some vanilla bean buttermilk frosting to spread on the inside. I was actually able to beat the egg yolks and whites at the same time (whites in the stand mixer, yolks with the handheld), which saved me some time. I decided not to frost the outside because I thought that would be excessively sweet. It was a rich treat, so it was a good thing most of the family was there to share it all!

Chocolate Cake Roll

  • 1/3 c flour
  • ¼ c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • ½ c sugar
  1. combine flour, cocoa and baking soda and set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl beat egg yolks and vanilla with electric mixer on high speed for 5 min., or until thick and lemon coloured. Gradually add the 1/3 c sugar, beating until sugar is nearly dissolved. Thoroughly wash beaters.
  3. In another bowl beat egg whites on med. Speed til soft peaks form. Gradually add the ½ c sugar, beating til stiff peaks form.
  4. Fold yolk mixture into beaten egg whites. Sprinkle flour mixture over egg mixture; fold in gently just until combined.
  5. Spread batter evenly onto greased parchment lined 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Bake at 375F for 12-15 min.
  6. Immediately loosen edges of cake from pan and turn cake out onto parchment lined cooling rack. Once cool, remove rack but keep paper. Spread buttermilk frosting to within 1 inch of edges. Roll up cake, using parchment paper to keep it even.

Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Frosting

  • ¾ c softened butter
  • 3 c icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2-4 Tbsp buttermilk
  1. beat all ingredients together, adding buttermilk gradually until desired consistency is reached.
Baking - Desserts, Decorating

Rocky Mountain Cake

My brother lives on the west coast and got married there in the fall; but he and my new sister-in-law decided to have a reception out here in the east this spring so that those who couldn’t make the trek would still be able to celebrate with them. As soon as plans were in the works I offered to make a cake. They gave me free reign on the design, so I set to brainstorming and thought that a mountain would be a good representation for them.

At first I wanted to make a cake that was solely a mountain. When I started to think about the logistics of different cake pan sizes and stacking them all up, and then how to cut a cake that high, I decided to brainstorm a bit more. I settled on a slab cake that I could build a small mountain upon at one corner.

I used one of my favourite cake recipes, a chocolate stout cake. I made three small oval cakes to stack for the mountains, then a regular rectangle pan for the slab. I frosted between the mountain layers, and then used a small knife to sculpt the shape of the mountains. And once it was set up on the corner of the cake the rest of the icing was pretty straightforward: grey mountains with white snowy peaks (coarse sugar to make the snow sparkle), a small river flowing down from the mountains, and green grass perfect for a picnic.

Then came the more tedious part. I had a bit of sugar paste left from a previous project, so I used that for the blanket because I wanted a classic red and white checkered picnic blanket. I wove the red and white strips together and flattened it with a rolling pin to get it nice and even. The rest of the decorations were molded out of marzipan. I tried a new technique for the trees, by shaping a cone, then using scissors to gradually snip down the entire shape. I was very happy with how they turned out.

The cake was a big hit at the reception, and I am so glad I had the opportunity to add to the celebration in that way! If you’re interested in the cake recipe you can find it by clicking here. (I used a standard butter cream for the frosting, not the one listed with the cake recipe.)