Ruffles & Roses: A Mad(ish) Tea Party

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

You made it! You are so sweet for coming to my first tea party in honour of my enchanting friend and talented artist, Vanessa Valencia and her annual A Fanciful Twist virtual Mad Tea Party. So perhaps her tea party will be a teeny, tiny bit madder than mine, and nothing short of magical, but of course it will. That, my friends, is why she is the one and only Vanessa Valencia. I, however, am more than thrilled to share my Sweetapolita spin on a mad tea party with you all, and to me, a tea party, mad or not, could only be complete with some fancy tea-time treats. Now, let us see if we can find our way to those treats . . .

Oh my goodness, I’ve a feeling we’re not in suburbia anymore. Many miles away from suburbia, the air is different, there are open fields, seemingly endless trees and flowers, and we can hear the loons. It’s definitely a lovely day for some tea, ruffles and roses.

Sweetapolita

Why yes, roses! Now, if you can just find your way past these lovely roses, you may find a much needed cup of tea and treats.

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Finally, you’ve arrived, and you’ve spotted something petite and sweet . . .

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Fairy cakes? What a pleasant change from cupcakes with towering frosting (although I think I have spotted a few of those as well, and that’s never bad news!). Although I’ve heard of many different ideas and descriptions as to what a fairy cake really is, I can’t imagine a cuter name for a l and tastier cupcake, and so that’s what we’ll call this: a tender and buttery vanilla cupcake topped with a sugary glaze, basically a royal icing (meringue powder, confectioners’ sugar, and water). What I really like about it, aside from how lovely and pure white it is (a rare luxury that isn’t possible with butter-based frosting), is the fact that, even though the icing is very sweet, there is so little of it that it really just highlights the vanilla in the cupcake and offers a hit of sweet. And, what do you know? They are perfectly delightful with a cup of tea.

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Can you tell we had a little bit of rain on our tea party day? Actually, it rained the entire day, and as it should be, everything was outside! You can see the petite fondant ribbon roses on the fairy cakes and the icing are shiny and glossy, which happens when there’s so much moisture in the air. But, we weren’t going to let a little rain (or a torrential downpour) stop our fun or our indulgence, and, actually, what’s lovelier than a tea party in warm summer rain?

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

If you decide to make your own fairy cakes, you can always flavour the icing with a little bit almond, clear vanilla, or rosewater perhaps. Really, as long as it’s not oil-based, you can add a wee bit of any flavour your heart desires. I left these classic, but there is a lot of room for experimenting.

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

I agree–we should have one now.

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

And no mad tea party would be complete without mad buttercream ruffles! In the name of petite tea party treats, why not create a few petite ruffle cakes?

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

And petite teacup cupcakes?

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

And,  yes, more petite ruffle cakes! Under all of those angelic Swiss Meringue Buttercream ruffles, you’ll find a rich, Devil’s Food Layer Cake, which is always a nice surprise for tea party guests to reveal when they slice into this cake-for-two (or a few).

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

And yet another petite ruffle cake . . . that is why I love the petite 4″ version, because you can fill a table with them, as opposed to one full-size cake. With ruffle cakes everywhere you turn, it would madder than mad to not take a slice.

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Through the ruffles and roses, I see more tea party sweets: vanilla cupcakes with simple buttercream rose swirls.  With all of that Swiss Meringue Buttercream already created for the ruffle cakes, and all of the delightfully vanilla cupcakes from the fairy cakes already made, why not take a few moments to pipe some roses on them and offer your tea party guests another treat?

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

And since you have the open star pastry tip already out and ready to go from your buttercream roses, perhaps baking a batch of raspberry rose meringues would be a nice addition to the tea-time menu? Sweet and crunchy baked meringue is the loveliest (and simplest) of treats, however, I don’t see them offered as much as I wish they were. These have some freeze-dried raspberries and a quick and easy (and possibly unexpected) raspberry ingredient that gives them their bright pink hue.

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Well, I knew you were coming, so I baked a cake. Or four. Ruffles, ruffles, and more ruffles for us to share.

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Or one mad and not-so-petite bite-full? That would be one divine bite, I believe.

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Or perhaps you’d prefer more cake, less ruffles?

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Some little guests appear to love cupcakes and tea, or, is it teacakes in cups . . .

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Shh . . . what’s that sound? This little cakelet seems to hear some buzzing overhead. What could it bee?

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Ahh, of course, the mad sugar bee has landed. Those darn country bees are like no city bee we’ve ever seen. Must be something in those country roses.

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Either way, this tea party guest isn’t sharing her cupcake.

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Unless, of course, it’s with her beloved rabbit. What’s a mad tea party without a peculiar rabbit?

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Finally, after we’ve shared tea-time stories, tales, and treats it’s almost time to part, until next time, of course. Wait a mad moment–is it just me, or have our petite cakes grown? I suppose we just never know what madness will unfold over tea and cakes, but you are always welcome here. We love the company!

And truly, no tea party would be complete without a tiny tea set: Meet Violetta (and her tiny tea set). She is one of Vanessa’s most recent paintings, and, as you can see, she is gorgeous and mysterious,  just as all of Vanessa’s enchanting pieces are. “Violetta and the Tiny Tea Set” is my current favourite painting in the A Fanciful Twist Etsy shop, and Vanessa has generously offered to give away an 8 x 10 print of this original artwork to one lucky reader (so sweet, right?).  To enter (and anyone can enter, as she will ship the print anywhere in the world), simply leave a comment below telling me what your favourite tea-time treat is or would be. That’s it & good luck! Winner will be selected Monday, June 27th at 12pm EST.  *CONTEST HAS ENDED

*Winner will be randomly selected using random. org.

If you’re wondering where the non-suburban gorgeous setting for my tea party was, it was in Hillier, Ontario (Prince Edward County). What  an incredible setting.

If you would like to make some of these tea-time treats, here are the recipes:

Fairy Cakes         {click to print}

 

 

 

 

One Bowl Vanilla Cupcakes for Fairy Cakes

Yield: 2.5 dozen

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups (175 g) cake flour, not self-rising

1 1/4 cups (157 g) all-purpose flour

2 cups (400 g) sugar

1 tablespoon (15 mL) baking powder

3/4 teaspoon (5 g) salt

1 cup (2 sticks, 227 g) unsalted butter cut into 1-inch cubes, room temperature

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup (250 mL/8 liquid ounces) whole milk, at room temperature

1 teaspoon (5 mL) pure vanilla extract (I use Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract for all of my baking)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 325°F (170°C). Line standard cupcake pans with your favourite paper cupcake liners.

2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine dry ingredients (flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt) and mix on low speed until blended. Add cubes of butter, one at a time, and mix again until all butter is coated with flour.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, to mixer and blend until incorporated.

4. In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together milk and vanilla. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down sides of bowl with spatula after each addition. Beat until just incorporated (try not to over beat).

4. Using a 1.5 oz cookie scoop (or your cake batter tool of choice), divide batter among liners (should be 2/3 full). Bake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 17-20 minutes.

5. Remove from oven and immediately transfer the cupcakes onto  a cooling rack by inverting the tray. Carefully turn the cupcakes right-side-up and let cool completely before frosting.

*Recipe source: Billy’s Bakery Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcakes via Martha Stewart

Fairy Cake Icing (Royal Icing)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (125 mL) water

1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) cream of tartar

2 tablespoons (30 mL) meringue powder (I avoid Wilton brand and I like Ateco 480 Meringue Powder, 20 oz.)

*Optional: Flavouring/extract to taste (nothing oil-based) such as, almond extract, rosewater, vanilla extract (clear if you want the icing to remain very white), etc.

1 lb (454 g, about 3 3/4 cups) icing (powdered, confectioners’) sugar

Few drops food colour gel (optional)

Method:

1. Place meringue powder, cream of tartar, and water (and extract, if using) in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and mix on low speed until frothy.

2. Add the icing sugar, and mix on low speed for 10 minutes. You can use the paddle attachment or the whisk attachment and see which you prefer (I tend to use the paddle attachment because it’s how I was taught by Bonnie Gordon, but I’ve done it both ways, and they both work!). The icing will be fairly thick, but glossy and not as thick as regular royal icing at this point.

3. If too thick, add water, 1 teaspoon at a time, mixing well after each addition, until the icing just runs off a spoon and is glossy and spreadable (but not too watered down). I was also taught at Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts that you can run the tip of a knife through the icing and count how many seconds until the line disappears, and when it takes about 8 seconds (in this case), I find it to be the best consistency for these fairy cakes.

4. Cover with Glad “Press’n Seal” until you are ready to use, and in between use. You can also use a damp cloth over top of it to keep it from drying out, but you need to keep it covered as it will dry out and get crusty very quickly if it’s exposed to the air for too long.

5. Best used right away, but as the brilliant Callye from The Sweet Adventures of Sugar Belle explained, you can, if necessary, keep in refrigerator in the mixing bowl itself with a damp cloth and dinner plate over top, and it keeps well that way overnight. Genius! This was quite a revelation considering I used to throw unused royal icing in the garbage *cringe* after being told it couldn’t be used after day 1.

Assembly of the Fairy Cakes

1. Make your mini fondant ribbon roses: colour approximately 8 ounces of fondant desired colour (I used Sugarflair “Pink”) and seal in small Ziploc-style bag. Remove quarter-size ball from bag and roll out into a long strip 1/8″ onto lightly icing-sugar-dusted surface. Using a pizza cutter, cut out approximately 3″ x 1″ strips, folding each one in half lengthwise and thinning the folded edge slightly by pressing down gently withyour fingertips (you can place a small piece of plastic wrap between the fondant strip and your fingers). Roll the strip fairly tightly until you get a rose-like effect. Trim the underside with a small, sharp knife and set aside to dry.

2. If you would like to include the green leaves, you can either use a small silicone leaf mold, or you can always colour and roll green fondant (I use Sugarflair “Gooseberry” for a more authentic leafy green) 1/8″ thick and simply cut small leaves by hand. Set aside to dry.

2. If you would like pastel fairy cakes, divide your icing into small bowls and colour as desired (since royal icing is pure white, you need very, very little colour, particularly if you want pastel shades).

3.. Holding the cupcake in one hand, add a spoonful of icing onto the cupcake and tilt the cupcake so the icing spreads itself and clings to the sides of the paper liners. You can also use the bottom of the spoon to spread it, but be careful to not get crumbs in the icing. The last thing we want to do is to make the fairies cringe when they see crumby fairy cakes! If you find your icing is too thick, add a bit more water to the bowl of icing.

3. Set each one aside as you finish icing them, and gently add your fondant rose (or any other decoration you may choose) and leaves about a minute after you’ve iced each one. Try to avoid picking them up again until they have completely set (a few hours), or the surface won’t be as smooth as it should be, and will likely crack. I like to place them into a cupcake carrier, as I go, so that when they are complete I can just pop the lid onto the carrier to keep them fresh and to avoid too much handling.

Raspberry Rose Meringues           {click to print}

 

 

 

 

Yield: 28 2″ meringues

Ingredients

3 large egg whites, room temperature

pinch of salt

1 package (3 ounces) Raspberry Jell-O

1/4 cup freeze-dried raspberries (optional)

1/4 cup (50 g) sugar

1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) vanilla extract

Method

1. Preheat oven to 200°F (94°C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Grind the sugar and freeze-dried raspberries in a food processor until it reaches a powdery consistency. (If not using freeze-dried raspberries, omit this step and add sugar on its own in step 3.)

3. Place the room temperature egg whites and salt in a grease-free bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until frothy. Add the Jell-O and sugar mixture into the mixing bowl in a steady stream, and turn the mixer speed to med-high, beating until meringue is stiff, thick, and glossy — about 5 minutes.

4. Add the vanilla and mix until incorporated.

5. Place the meringue into a large pastry bag (such as 14″) fitted with 1M pastry tip (or other desired open star tip) and pipe the roses onto the baking sheets. Begin in the middle and, moving outwards, pipe 2 complete circles. Keep roses about 1 1/2″ apart.

6. Bake for 2 hours, then turn off the oven and keep the trays in the oven overnight.

*Store in airtight containers or Ziploc-style bags at room temperature and away from moisture. Trust me!

*Recipe adapted from uTry.it

Petite Ruffle Cakes  

1. Bake and cool your favourite cake recipe in 4′ round cake pans. I used Devil’s Food Layer Cake, from this post. Keeping with the “petite” cake, I used only 2 layers per cake.

2. Make a batch of Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

3. Trim first cake layer so the top is nice and flat (if necessary) and place face up on a 6″ round cake board, or plate. Place 1/2 cup of Swiss Meringue Buttercream(or filling of choice) on top of layer and smoothwith a small offset palette knife. Trim the second layer, and place face down on the cake.

4. Apply a thin layer of Swiss Meringue Buttercream (I don’t recomment using sugary buttercream, but Italian or French Meringue Buttercreamswork nicely as well) over the cake, smoothing top and sides with a small offset palette knife (as you can see, I use this all of the time!) to seal in crumbs and to give the buttercream ruffles something to adhere to.

5. Using the a petal decorating tip of your choice (they come in different sizes, but I use the larger size Wilton #123 or sometimes a smaller size, such as Wilton #104) use the buttercream ruffling technique found in this previous post, complete the cake and serve!

Thanks so much for joining me at my mad(ish) tea party! I hope you enjoyed your visit, and I’ll see you soon with another baking post this coming week!

Good luck & enjoy!

Love, Rosie xo

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Dark Chocolate Chiffon Cake with Fluffy Rosewater Frosting

Chocolate & Rosewater Chiffon Cake via Sweetapolita

There’s something about the word “chiffon” that simply makes me happy. And hungry. Pair it with the word cake, and you know I’m going to be intrigued. I’ve been wanting to share a chiffon cake with you for some time now, but truly, there are so many flavour variations out there that I felt it would be best to wait until I made one that really excited me and that I found unique and nothing short of delightful.  What makes a chiffon cake a chiffon cake? Well, it’s a light and springy cake that gets its height from a generous number of egg whites that are beaten separately from the egg yolks into a stiff peak meringue and folded into the blended batter base, which typically includes oil (never butter), flour, baking powder, and sugar. It bakes up lofty and full, and the high oil and egg content yields a really moist cake that seems to stay that way for days. With the absence of butter, therefore less saturated fat, you could almost say that it’s a healthier cake option, and, this is what I uttered to myself repeatedly while I ate 2, or was it 3, slices today. And, wait, I also used sunflower oil, so I almost can’t afford to not eat it, it’s that healthy.

Dark Chocolate & Rosewater Chiffon Cake via Sweetapolita

According to What’s Cooking America, the first chiffon cake was introduced in 1927, by its inventor, Harry Baker, a Los Angeles insurance agent who kept his recipe guarded for two decades, baking and selling it to Hollywood stars exclusively. It is explained that Mr. Baker eventually (1947) sold his recipe to General Mills, who stated that he sold his recipe” so Betty Crocker could give the secret to the women of the America.” This cake was said to be a huge hit after being printed in Better Homes and Gardens in 1948, and by the 1950s chiffon cakes were all the rage. So now that I’ve inflicted my love for cake history upon you, let’s talk about this particularly delicious chiffon cake!

Dark Chocolate & Rosewater Chiffon Cake via Sweetapolita

I’ve been wanting to incorporate rosewater (or rose water) into a recipe (or a few) lately, and although it’s known to work well with such flavours as vanilla, white chocolate, raspberry, and many others, I was so excited to pair it with chocolate. I suspected it would taste great, since lavender does and my instincts told me it would, but I was particularly pleased to discover this officially, since all I can think about these days is chocolate. And cake. And pink frosting. I went with a dark chocolate chiffon cake because I love the contrast of the delicate, pink, fluffy rose water frosting against the deep, dark chocolate cake–both in taste and aesthetic. In this case, though, since the cake only appears to be heavy and dark, it’s actually super light in texture (in true chiffon style), which makes the overall experience even more pleasing and suited for spring indulgences and summer days to come.

For this frosting, I added a small amount of rosewater to one of my favourite sugary-type frosting recipes, as an accent, resulting in a sweet, rich-but-light buttercream with just a hint of rose ringing through. With a certain magical tea party on my mind (you can learn more about that wonderfully curious event below), I’ve been recently dreaming of this type of sweet and fragrant confection, and this one hit the spot. If you’re not familiar with rosewater, it is literally just that: a steam distillate made from rose petals. Although there are many wonderful uses for rosewater (I use it in toner form on my face each day), as an ingredient it’s most often found in Middle Eastern, Greek, and Indian cuisine. I find it adds a really delicate and unique touch to the frosting in this case.

I opted to add it into more of a confectioners’ frosting, over my beloved meringue buttercream, or the like, because I felt, after experimenting a bit, that for my personal taste it paired best with the sweetness of the sugary frosting. A rosewater glaze was also an option, and I imagine that would have also been incredible. I was envisioning swirls of fluffy rosewater frosting though on a bundt shape cake this time, so maybe next time, when I try it ungreased in a chiffon (or angel food cake) pan, I’ll try the glaze.

Dark Chocolate & Rosewater Chiffon Cake via Sweetapolita

One of the notable differences between making a bundt cake and a chiffon cake, aside from bundt cakes including butter, is that chiffon cakes typically require an ungreased cake pan. From what I’ve read, this is so the light cake can cling to the edges of the pan, allowing it to rise to, and stay, a lovely and lofty height. The recipe I used for this cake, from contributing pastry chef Mary Bergin from the fabulous book Baking With Julia, did instruct greasing and flouring the pan, so I did. Her incredible recipe from the book is a decadent creme brulee with Chambord filled and glazed version using the bundt shape as an important part of the dessert’s structure and appeal, so I imagine that is why she greased the pan; in my experience, if you don’t butter and flour a bundt pan properly, you’ll likely never get the baked cake out in one piece.

So . . . creme brulee and raspberry liquer inside the cavity and drizzled all over a chocolate bundt cake, you ask? Oh yes, and I cannot wait to make that entire recipe someday soon, when I’m armed with a flurry of friends who will help me devour it. The source is linked below, if you can’t wait another day to make that version, and if you do, please come back and tell me how it was! As for this version, I love its sweet simplicity and unique flavour combination. Next time, I will definitely give it a try that way in an ungreased chiffon cake pan with removable bottom, just to get a better idea of the difference in height.

Dark Chocolate & Rosewater Chiffon Cake via Sweetapolita

If you make it, don’t be afraid to really slather on that frosting; it was a highlight (although, I recommend not going overboard with the rosewater; it can overtake the flavour if you’re not careful)! I loved the combination of flavours, and I really enjoyed the springy texture and deep “chocolate-ness” of the cake.

Just a note that if you’d rather make an actual bundt cake with this frosting, which would also be a great combination, you can bake my Chocolate Espresso Bundt Cake and top it with the Fluffy Rosewater Frosting.

Dark Chocolate Chiffon Cake with Fluffy Rosewater Frosting

Yield: 1 standard Bundt cake

Deep, dark, moist chocolate chiffon cake topped with fluffy and sweet frosting with a hint of Rose.

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 1-1/2 cups (300g) sugar
  • 1 cup (130 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (90g) dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons (10 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.5g) salt
  • 4 eggs, separated, and room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable oil (I used Sunflower oil)
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water, warm
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites, room temperature
  • For the Frosting:
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick)(114g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups (250 g) icing sugar (powdered, confectioners'), sifted
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml) whipping cream (heavy cream, 35% fat)
  • 1/8 teaspoon rosewater, or more to taste (but use sparingly)
  • pinch of salt
  • Few drops pink food gel colour (optional)

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter and flour (I use a mix of flour & cocoa powder for this process when baking chocolate cake) the entire inside surface of a 10-12 cup Bundt pan. You can also use an angel food pan. (Typically, you wouldn't grease the pan for a chiffon cake, but this recipe comes from the book Baking with Julia, and greasing the pan is directed.)
  2. Sift 1 cup (200 g) of the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks, oil, water, and vanilla until blended. Gradually whisk in all of the dry ingredients until combined and smooth. Set aside.
  4. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and a mixer bowl wiped clean with lemon juice, whip the 6 egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup (100 g) of the sugar to the foamy egg whites, and continue to whip on medium speed until the meringue reaches stiff peaks, and is glossy and thick.
  5. Gently fold in 1/3 of the meringue into the chocolate mixture with a silicone spatula, then gently fold in the remaining meringue until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake until top bounces back when gently touched, about 35 minutes, and cake begins to shrink from sides of pan, and skewer comes clean when inserted. Be sure to not over-bake.
  6. Let cake cool in pan on cooling rack for 25 minutes before gently inverting onto wire rack.
  7. For the Buttercream:
  8. In mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine icing sugar and butter on low, for about 2 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix on low speed for about 2 minutes.
  9. Add whipping cream and salt, and mix on medium-high for 2 minutes. Add rosewater and pink gel colour, and whip until blended.
  10. Assembly of the Dark Chocolate Chiffon Cake with Fluffy Rosewater Frosting
  11. Gently place the cooled chiffon cake on a pedestal or plate.
  12. Smother the top of the cake with Fluffy Rosewater Frosting using a small offset palette knife.
  13. Store in a cake-keeper at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Notes

*Rosewater is very fragrant, and very intense in flavour, so you will want to use sparingly, to taste.

**The chiffon cake can be baked in advance, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw at room temperature.

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*Cake recipe adapted from Mary Bergin’s recipe in the book Baking With Julia, by Dorie Greenspan. I found the online recipe here.

Now, onto this glorious Mad Tea Party! I have a special friend, who you may already be familiar with, artist Vanessa Valencia; she’s the magical, quirky, and infinite talent behind A Fanciful Twist art, blog, and so much more. Okay, so I don’t use that adjective very often, “magical,” but to describe Vanessa, well, there’s  no other way to say it, and once you step into her world, you’ll likely agree. It’s not just Vanessa who is magical, but everything she touches, including her living and work spaces (she was recently featured in the Summer 2011 issue of Where Women Create; you can take a peek here).You may remember my chatting about her in my previous post, Artist Palette & Paintbrush Cookies (with a special “Twist”), well, she’s the special twist. Can you tell I adore her madly?

This year she’s hosting her annual virtual Mad Tea Party, and oh me, oh my, I’m the honorary guest! On Saturday, June 25th, 2011 I’ll be sharing my Mad Tea Party post here on my blog, filled with curious tea party confections, recipes, and more. If that’s not fun enough, there will be oodles of other virtual attendees sharing their mad blog posts, all linked and hosted through her blog on A Fanciful Twist blog. To read more, sign up for the fun, or escape into Vanessa’s magical existence, click the invite below:

I’ll meet you here (and there) for this fanciful mad tea party on June 25th, and I’ll see you back here even sooner to share another recipe.

Good luck & enjoy! I’ll see you soon with my 50th blog post!



 

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Love, Cake & Sprinkles {Pink Vanilla & Sprinkles Cake}

Love, Cake & Sprinkles via Sweetapolita

When I first met my husband, Grant, by chance while I was living in Grand Cayman in 1999, well, let’s just say that our meeting was a tad untimely. Sure, his gorgeous hazel eyes, true-blue demeanor, sincere compassion, and a few other remarkable (and seemingly rare) characteristics (that may or may not include a Calvin Klein model’s physique…if you don’t believe me, check him out in this previous post, here), were all striking and impossible to ignore, but it simply wasn’t the right time for us. After several years (4 to be precise), a move back to Canada, and a fresh start and move-in with a mutual friend in Toronto, he landed on our doorstep, almost literally. At that point, the timing was better, but still not perfect. A few weeks, and a bit of spring cleaning later, the timing was suddenly, well, perfect. We started to “date,” and it didn’t take me long to figure out that I was finally home.

I can recall one cold Sunday afternoon date in particular. We went for lunch to what soon became our favourite and most frequented greasy spoon, The New York Cafe, or as we like to call it, “The New Yorker” on “The Danforth” in Toronto. After that lunch date, for some reason (and yes, I’m in denial and swear it wasn’t our beloved New Yorker’s fault), I felt so ill. I managed to get the 40 paces home, but barely, and I could keep my eyes open no longer; I had to rest. I did feel a little weird about the whole needing-to-pass-out-or-die thing, considering we were on a date and really didn’t know each other that well (yes, I sure know how to wow a man, don’t I?), but it was really life or death, or so it felt. Grant asked me, in his sweet and famously compassionate manner, if there was anything he could get me, and I jokingly replied, “I’d give anything for cherry chip birthday cake with pink frosting and sprinkles.” Although this may seem logical, considering, I really cannot explain any of the following: A. Why I would crave cake when I was sicker than sick. B. What I thought he was going to do about it, even if I was joking, considering he’d never baked a cake in his life. C. If this was actually some kind of pseudo-subconscious dater’s test on my behalf. I can tell you, though, that if it was indeed a test of any kind, he passed; he rocked it, actually. While I was sleeping, he walked to the grocery store in the blistery-cold, came back armed with the provisions for making my cake wishes come true, and before I could say “father my children,” he presented me with what was possibly the loveliest-but-most-dilapidated cherry chip, pink frosting, and sprinkle-happy cake–talk about a serious kiss-ass romantic, but I was genuinely impressed and touched. It was such a fun and thoughtful thing to do, and, of course, the visual of this science-minded newly-graduated Chiropractor swirling pink icing and sprinkles all over his first-ever cake attempt, well, it definitely got us off to a sweet start.

If we fast forward 2 years from that day, and 6 years ago this exact moment, the night before our wedding, I was about to return alone to the quaint little single-cottage honeymoon suite at The Waring House in the beautiful countryside of Picton, Ontario. We had just finished up our rehearsal dinner at Grant’s father’s home on the farm property on which Grant was raised, and I was most ready for a good night’s sleep (back when I knew what that was) before our “big day” the next day. When I walked into the cottage suite room, there on the table was the cake I remembered so well, and could never forget: cherry chip layer cake smothered in fluffy pink frosting and covered in colourful sprinkles. And a card. An impeccably written but candid and heartfelt card, in which he expressed that if he has it his way, he will spend the rest of his days making sure my days were filled with such cakes and sprinkles. And, although we know that marriage and life are never filled solely with such literal and figurative loveliness, it sure helps. ♥

This week, to celebrate our anniversary, I made us a classic 3-layer vanilla bean cake with pink vanilla buttercream, and heaps of colourful sprinkles. Before we talk more about that cake, I thought it would be fun to share some snippets of my night-before-the-wedding cake surprise, and our wedding day, June 4th, 2005:

Sweetapolita

Not bad, right? Grant explained that he was so proud of his second attempt (yes, he did indeed wait the full 2 years to make this cake, but we’ll go easy on him), and I think he should be. He confessed that the back right portion of the first cake he made me, years before, had fallen off and the rest was held together strictly by strategically-placed gobs of frosting. I decided that night that I should wait until the wedding day morning to cut into this cake, and so I did. Seeing as this was long before my budding food photography days or, well, even my Sweetapolita days, I’m particularly pleased that the wedding photographer thought to take these photos. And, yes, that’s me on the morning of my wedding day, hovering over a table eating cake before going to the church. To think that the Sweetapolita in me had not yet been born; she would have been so proud! Looking back, it was a respectable and ironic way to start one of the best days of my life, and I love that Grant knew me well enough to come up with such a surprise. Here are a few more sprinkles from our wedding day (best I could do without digital files, but I still wanted to share):

Sweetapolita

Sweetapolita

Sweetapolita

Yes, we’re both drinking wine on the loose, but the good news is that the entire bridal party was doing the same. More good news is that we had a handy (and huge) limo bus to carry our insanely large and possibly tipsy bridal party back to the reception. And even more good news is that we were on the gorgeous Chadsey’s Winery property, in Prince Edward County, doing wine tastings and getting rustic country photos taken, so it all made sense at the time. Wait, there really is no bad news in this story.

Love, Cake & Sprinkles via Sweetapolita

So, as I mentioned, in honour of our 6th wedding anniversary this weekend, I wanted to make a cake reminiscent of Grant’s pink cake with sprinkles. I made his favourite flavour, vanilla bean, with a version of pink vanilla buttercream that I’d never tried before: it’s a white sugar and meringue base buttercream, similar to Italian Meringue Buttercream, but much quicker. The main difference technique-wise is that it doesn’t require a candy thermometer; the main difference ingredient-wise is that it uses light corn syrup. I found the texture to be incredibly fluffy, satiny, and stable; and the taste to be very similar to the meringue buttercreams. I will admit, that although this is a fabulously quick and easy classic buttercream, I still adore the corn-syrup-free Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Don’t get me wrong, this one is gorgeous, and I love that it doesn’t have powdered sugar. On a sidenote, I thought I’d point out that I bought so much pink ribbon for our wedding that I am still trying to come with ways to use it, such as above! You’ll likely see, and may have already seen, it make its way into my photos often; let’s think of it as the “Where’s Waldo” of food photography.

Love, Cake & Sprinkles via Sweetapolita

The cake itself is one of my favourites, the Vanilla Bean Layer Cake from the previous Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake post. A fairly dense, but stable, moist, and wonderfully vanilla cake (it’s also a great option for cakes that will be covered in buttercream and fondant).

Love, Cake & Sprinkles via Sweetapolita

Wishing you a weekend (and more) of love, cake & sprinkles!

*Wedding photos by Click Photo Co.

Pink Vanilla & Sprinkles Cake

Yield: One 3-layer, 8-inch round cake

Ingredients

    For the Vanilla Layer Cake:
  • 1-1/2 cups (341 g)(3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2-2/3 cups (540 g) granulated sugar
  • 9 (275 g) egg whites, at room temperature
  • 4 1/2 cups (575 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons (28 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (8 g) salt
  • 2 cups (480 mL) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean, split & scraped or 1 tablespoon (15 mL) vanilla bean paste
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) pure vanilla extract, best quality
  • For the Vanilla Buttercream:
  • 5 large (150 g) egg whites
  • 1-1/4 cups (250 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (213 g) light corn syrup
  • 2 cups (454 g) (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1-2 drops pink gel food colour

Instructions

    For the Vanilla Layer Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter three 8" x 2" round cake pans, line with parchment rounds, and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy and pale, about 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the egg whites gradually, mixing until fully incorporated.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Mix vanilla extract and vanilla paste (or contents of vanilla bean) into buttermilk.
  4. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. (If possible, weigh the batter in each cake pan on a digital kitchen scale to ensure even layers.) Smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes clean.
  6. Let pans cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.
  7. For the Vanilla Buttercream:
  8. Wipe a mixer bowl with dampened with some lemon juice to remove any traces of grease.
  9. Place the egg whites in the mixer bowl and, in the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk on medium-high speed until foamy.
  10. Gradually add 6 tablespoons (72 g) of the sugar and beat on high speed to medium peaks (the whites should be smooth, full, and shiny, and the peaks should curl a little).
  11. Combine the remaining 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar and the corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring briefly to dissolve the sugar. Continue to cook just until the mixture comes to a rolling boil; there should be bubbles covering the entire surface, and no pockets of sugar undissolved on the surface.
  12. Promptly remove the syrup from the heat and, with the mixer set on medium-high speed, slowly pour the hot syrup down the side of the bowl in a steady stream between the bowl and whisk, being very careful not to let the syrup hit the whisk (otherwise you end up with sticky hot syrup splatters stuck to the sides of the bowl).
  13. Set the mixer to medium speed and whisk until the bottom of the mixer bowl feels neutral to the touch. Add the butter in, 1 tablespoon at a time (doesn't have to be precise, just in small chunks), until it has all been incorporated.
  14. Add vanilla extract, pinch of salt, and a few drops of any food colouring gel you want to use, and beat until thickened and smooth.
  15. Assembly of the Pink Vanilla Cake:
  16. Place bottom layer face-up on a cake stand, plate, or thin cake board. Spread and smooth ~ 1 cup frosting using a small palette knife. Repeat with second cake layer.
  17. Gently place third cake layer, face-down, on top.
  18. Spread a thin layer (also known as a crumb coat) all over cake using an the offset palette knife for the top and straight palette knife for the sides. Then, using a bench scraper, gently scrape off excess frosting from the cake, for a smooth finish. This works best while slowly spinning your rotating cake stand with one hand and holding the bench scraper with the other.
  19. Refrigerate your cake for at least 30-60 minutes.
  20. Use remaining frosting to decorate your cake.
  21. Add sprinkles or any other decorations that make you happy!
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You may enjoy this previous post, 50 Tips for Baking Better Cakes.

Good luck & enjoy!

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