Baking - Cookies, Baking - Desserts, Decorating

Double Feature: Baby Shower Cake and Chewy Chocolate Cookies

I recently made a cake for a baby shower. They didn’t have a specific design in mind, just something simple, a vanilla cake with a baby theme. I find free reign both exciting and daunting, especially if I don’t know the recipient really well. I love coming up with a creative design, but I worry that it won’t be what they expected. However, I try to keep in mind that if they wanted something in particular they would have asked for it. So I let my mind start whirling!

I didn’t have a lot of time for this order, just a few days from request to delivery, so I opted not to try and make any figures for the top of the cake. I went online to search for some ideas and settled on a onesie. It was a simple shape, relatively easy to frost with a standard buttercream, and allowed for some creative flare in the decorating of the onesie. I also kept the colours fairly simple, and since I don’t think they knew if the baby was a boy or girl, I stayed away from pink and blue; I also steered away from the back-up colours of yellow and green, opting for a pale orange instead.

The vanilla cake recipe I used called for four egg whites, and no yolks. Often a recipe will call for both, just mixed in separately. However, this one was only whites, so I had four yolks to use somehow. It didn’t take me long to remember the fantastic chocolate chip cookie recipe I learned from the King Arthur Flour class I took last year: Thousand Layer Chocolate Chip Cookies, by Sarah Copeland.

So for part two of this double feature I give you a taste (so to speak) of the delectable, super chewy cookies that I have been waiting to make, because I didn’t know what I would do with four egg whites!

To make these, you mix the dough and separate it into three parts. After the dough has chilled, you layer the dough with shards of real chocolate (not chocolate chips), and cut them out with a two inch cookie cutter. There are no egg whites in this recipe at all. Yolks give cookies chewiness, whites give crispiness, hence the amazing chewiness of these cookies – as long as they’re not overbaked! It was a nice bonus to be able to make these cookies as a result of the cake order, I love when things work out so well!

Baking - Breads, Ingredient Insights

Waffles: Yeast vs. Baking Powder

With my waffle maker came a small collection of waffle recipes, and I was surprised to see that they all used yeast for leavening. Growing up we just used a box of pancake mix, which contains baking powder (somehow they always tasted different from pancakes, even from the same box!), so I thought that waffles were always a quick-bread.

I also noticed in the small recipe booklet that most of the recipes called for separated eggs, where you had to beat the whites to stiff peaks and fold them in to the rest of the batter at the end. This sounded like a lot of work, so the first few times I used my waffle iron, I followed a recipe that you let sit overnight. The yeast would work its magic overnight (kind of like the no-knead bread), and then it was ready to cook when I got up in the morning. That recipe makes nice, crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside waffles, that I must say were more like what I’d get in a restaurant than the pancake mix ones we made at home.

I made some waffles on the weekend, but followed a recipe from my favourite bread cookbook, which used baking powder, and also called for separated eggs. I was curious to see what the difference would be. These waffles came out much more dense, and reminded me more of a soft muffin. They were still good, but a very different texture from the lighter yeast ones with which I’m now familiar.

I was also more inclined to try a recipe with separated eggs because I could just toss the egg whites into my mixer and let them whip up while I got all the other ingredients together. It was a breeze! So now I will also have to try one of the yeast recipes that uses separated eggs and see how that goes. What a sacrifice, to have to eat more waffles!