23 Random Things About Me

I used to just love reading those 25 Random Things About Me notes on Facebook a few years back, even if I didn’t really know the person that well. A few days ago, I was inspired by Jenna’s list, and after I read it I wished I could learn these unexpected facts from all of my new friends. So, tonight, while my baking tools were being held hostage in my running dishwasher, I decided to give it a whirl:

1. 23 is my birthday (July 23, 1974), and it’s also my favourite number.

2. My passion, aside from baking & photography, is singing and has been since I can remember. I sing constantly (when at home or in the car), but I still can’t figure out if I’m any good at it.

3. In my young twenties, I had a brief job reading tarot cards for a psychic phone network.

4. I actually loved reading tarot cards and never told a single lie to any caller during that job.

5. I created and concocted a quirky bath & body product collection called Cake Beauty with a friend in my tiny apartment kitchen in 2000, but I left the company in 2003.

6. My least favourite sweet is ice cream. I can take it or leave it, but it belongs in its own bowl and has no business touching my piece of cake.

7. I have 3 tattoos.

8. I wish I had zero tattoos.

9. For some inexplicable reason, I can barely reach or touch my hands flat onto my shoulders. This made the “head and shoulders, knees and toes” song very stressful for me as a child.

10. My husband and his family taught me to waterski when I was 29. It took me almost 100 tries (which they pointed out was almost scientifically impossible) to get up on the traditional 2 skis. I somehow finally did it, and then went on to conquer slalom waterskiing (skiing on one fancy and potentially very speedy ski) and still love it. Dare I say I’m not half bad.

11. Other than #10, I’ve never been an athlete.

12. I am an avid genealogist and spent a total of almost 1200 (yes, that’s twelve-hundred) hours in 2006 working on my (and my husband’s) family tree, and many more hours since that year. I could have baked about 2000 cakes in that amount of time (not that I would do it differently).

13. I cherish my Shel Silverstein book collection, and I’ve now passed it along to my daughters. The very first Shel Silverstein poem I heard was read by my fourth-grade teacher and was called “Sick.”

14. In my life I have been able to recite a total of 2 movies from start to finish: Weird Science and About Last Night.

15. If I had to choose one last meal, the dessert would likely be warm cinnamon buns with whipped frosting. Yes that’s “buns.” Or a chocolate caramel tart. Or bread pudding. Or chocolate cake with malted chocolate frosting.

16. I love to write, but I only enjoy reading non-fiction books.

17. I eat dessert almost every day, and sometimes twice a day, but I strategically eliminate many things I love from my diet (most days) to balance it out, such as mayonnaise, cheese, sugary sodas, and fried or processed food.

18. I can often be found wandering junk shops near and far, searching for vintage baking items or the like.

19. I have a strange connection to French cafe music.

20. I love words, and think more about proper spelling & grammar than one girl should.

21. I’ve been told for most of my life that I’m too sensitive. I am sensitive, and I’d like to stay that way (thanks, Jewel!).

22. I’m a natural-born detective and love solving mysteries. This may explain the strange events of #12.

23. I love fashion & nightlife, but I’m most comfortable at home in my frilly apron.

xo

 

Related posts:

Art is Joy: Painted Chocolate Peanut Butter & Jelly Cakes

Painted Cakes via Sweetapolita

Every child is an artist. –Pablo Picasso

Happy Friday to you! This is a bit of a long (but colourful) post, guys, so you may want to grab a bucket of Skittles and a big glass of milk and get comfy. Heck, make it strawberry milk. Simply put, this post makes me happy. Art is joy and, well, cake isn’t half bad either. So, when I can marry most of my favourite things in life into one post, there’s no getting around it making me so happy. Let’s see, we’ve got colour + art + my cakelets + chocolate + cake + peanut butter buttercream . . . yep, that’s pretty much happiness in a nutshell.

Painted Cakes via Sweetapolita

Art is just a way of life at our house. Aside from my own colourful chaos that has seemingly taken over our home, I have been blessed with two small girls who both embrace art everyday. Sometimes all day. So, even though it adds to that colourful chaos I mentioned, I have started to encourage this love of theirs by leaving appropriate art supplies on every table in the house. And, well, the floor (see below). So as a matter of natural course, I often try to find a way to incorporate baking and caking into their love for arts and crafts. You may remember the Artist Palette & Paintbrush Cookies I created or the Rainbow Doodle Cake that Reese created for her 4th birthday using these pens: Americolor Food Marker Writers- 10 Color Pack. That was the very first time Reese had ever been such a big part of creating her own birthday cake, and she thought that was pretty awesome (as she should have–she’s quite the artist, if you ask me!). Well, I thought it would be super fun for her to do the same type of thing again, but by painting onto a white fondant cake. Since she spends almost all of her waking hours drawing & painting, I knew she’d be pretty enthusiastic about this one.

Painted Cakes via Sweetapolita

That cake would make even the Tin Man smile, don’t you think?

Painted Cakes via Sweetapolita

For those who may not be familiar with it, the “paint” is something that is often used in cake decorating for many effects, and is made by mixing non-toxic luster dust or petal dust with either clear lemon extract or vodka (which evaporates quickly). Luster & petal dusts are dry chalky-looking dusts that are sold in wee jars (about 2-4 grams) and come in dozens of colours. They can be used dry by brushing onto fondant and gumpaste (any frosting that is dry to the touch) for touches of colour or shimmer, or as we did here, used wet as “paint.” Although there are many types of dusts with varying shimmer-factor, luster dust is typically the shimmery dust (such as Super Gold 43-1233 Luster Dust 2g) and petal dusts are matte (such as Fuchsia Petal Dust, 4 grams). We used some of each with this painted cake.

Here’s what I was referring to above–even the floor has become a great spot for my little artists. If you happen to follow my Instagram photos, you might recognize this image of my cakelets colouring all over a huge piece of white photographer backdrop paper that had seen better days and I needed to replace. Sending a recycling message feels good too. I was going to save this once they were done, which I still will (I’m a bit nutty about keeping everything they do–I can’t seem to throw any of it away), but I decided to then use it as the surface top for this post’s photoshoot, complete with toddler scribbles and pre-schooler drawings. I love when things work out that way!

Painted Cakes via Sweetapolita

Because this project is really ideal for preschoolers up to adult, I was going to try to keep little toddler-Neve occupied by having her colour or paint at her own little “station” beside Reese, but there was no way she was letting that go. She wouldn’t leave her older sister’s side (literally) while Reese brainstormed her design. I’m estimating that this had 49% to do with sisterly affection and 51% to do with cake.

Painted Cakes via Sweetapolita

The longer you let your cake chill before painting, the more firm the buttercream and fondant will be, which is ideal for painting, because the little hands will be pressing into the cake a bit while they work. On a sidenote, contrary to what many will say, you can, and I always do, put your fondant-covered cakes in the refrigator while working on them to firm them up. Otherwise, you will end up with fingerprints and dents in your cake, especially when little ones may not realize.

Painted Cakes via Sweetapolita

Perhaps this was creative moral support. Or maybe Neve was plotting her cake-tasting plan.

Painted Cakes via Sweetapolita

An artist at work. I love photographing the kids in more candid situations, as it’s always evident in the photos when they are relaxed and in their element and, most of all, don’t realize they’re being photographed. I think what made this project even more special for her was that it wasn’t her birthday. It wasn’t her sister’s birthday. It wasn’t any holiday at all, but just a regular day.

Painted Cakes via Sweetapolita

 Painted Cakes via Sweetapolita

Because the alcohol in the vodka evaporates so quickly, it’s helpful to keep some nearby (and if you are hosting a birthday party and have a houseful of kids, you may or may not want to keep a martini glass nearby) to add a drop or so when needed. It’s best to keep the paint thin enough so that it glides on the cake but not too thin that the colours look diluted, because the best part about these dusts is that the colour is intense. The luster colours have such a lovely shimmer-quality to them, even once dry.

Painted PB&J Cakes via Sweetapolita

So what’s better than a hand-painted cake? A hand painted cake that is rich dark chocolate filled with the fluffiest and most satiny Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream. For the PB&J version, I spread a thin layer of Bonne Maman Wild Blueberry Jam onto the cake before the buttercream. The other cakes I left as simply chocolate & peanut butter.The reason I did Peanut Butter Swiss Buttercream, rather than the more common sugar peanut butter frosting is that I wanted to put a really thick layer of filling and because it’s not too sweet, it really brings out the peanut butter flavour. Peanut butter & meringue? That is so right. Even though it’s not cloying sweet, it’s still ideal for kids, especially with this cake because the fondant is very sweet. I heard Reese tell her dad that “Mommy made an excellent choice with the icing,” so it sounds like this one could be a winner. I think she was just relieved that it didn’t have key lime in it–long story.

Art = Joy!

For those of you who also love all-things-colour, I can’t get enough of Design Seeds. Endless colour inspiration!

I also found this kids’ painting party idea absolutely darling.

Here’s the recipe and info on making these painted cakes:

Paintable Chocolate PB&J Cakes         {click to print all instructions}

Use your favourite chocolate cake recipe baked in 3 separate cake pans. I used this recipe and baked using 3 Fat Daddio’s Anodized Aluminum Oval Cake Pan, 9 Inch x 2 Inch. I put 500 grams/~17 ounces of batter in each, and made some cupcakes with the extra batter. I then sliced each cake in two when frosting. So in this case, I use 3 pans to yield 3 finished cakes ready to paint.

Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Yield: ~10 cups of buttercream (enough to fill & frost 3 oval 9″ x 6″ cakes)

Ingredients

10 large egg whites (~300 grams/10 ounces)

2.5 cups (500 grams/17 ounces) light brown sugar

3 cups (1.5 lbs/680 grams) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes

2 teaspoons (10 mL) pure vanilla extract (I use Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract)

3/4 cup (190 mL) Kraft (or other quality brand) smooth peanut butter, or to taste

Method

1. Wipe the bowl and whisk attachment of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and brown sugar and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 140°F, or if you don’t have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot, about 8 minutes if you used room temperature egg whites. About 12 if they were cold. Just be sure you can’t feel any sugar crystals when you rub a small bit between your fingers.

2. Place the bowl back into the mixer, and with whisk attachment attached, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10+ minutes or so). *Make sure your meringue is completely cool before adding butter–this may take much longer than you expect, but if the meringue is very stiff and still warm, just turn off mixer and wait until it has cooled. Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add softened butter in chunks until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing on medium-low and it will come back to smooth).

3. Add vanilla and peanut butter, and continue to beat on low speed until well combined. *It’s also pretty delightful to leave unblended swirls of peanut butter.

Notes:

1. You can easily cut this recipe in half, and essentially it is Brown Sugar Swiss Buttercream with peanut butter whipped in at the end, so you also make it minus the peanut butter, freeze it, and then whip in peanut butter when you’re ready to use. That way you have the option of 2 flavours in your freezer. It keeps frozen for ~2 months.

2. You can make buttercream ahead and keep in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, leaving out at room temperature when needed, re-whipping in mixer for 5 minutes.

3. You can freeze for up to 6-8 weeks. To thaw, place on counter overnight, and rewhip for 5 minutes with paddle attachment in an electric mixer.

4. If not satiny enough upon rewhip, take 1/3 of buttercream and microwave in a microwave-safe container for ~8 seconds, then add back to mixing bowl and remix with remaining buttercream.

5. For more detail about making Swiss Meringue Buttercream, you can find FAQ here and photo tutorial here.

Assembly of the Paintable Chocolate PB&J Cakes (or Chocolate PB Cakes)

1. Wrap & chill cake layers in refrigerator for ~30 minutes.

2. Carefully slice each of the 3 cakes into 2, horizontally, using a very sharp, serrated knife. If your cake has domed, don’t worry about trimming it, as you can put the dome side face-down. Since it’s a 2 layer cake, you don’t want to waste any cake by trimming it away.

3. Place first cake layer on a plate or cake board face up, and spread a thin layer of blueberry (or other desired flavour) jam onto the cake. Then spread a 1″ thick layer of Peanut Butter Swiss Buttercream on top, smoothing with an offset spatula. You can omit the jam, if desired, or do some with and some without.

4. Place top layer cut side down (or up if your cake is domed). Cover with a thin layer of the buttercream using an offset spatula and chill until set, about 30 minutes. You can also place in freezer for about 15 minutes. This seals in all of the crumbs. *You must chill the cake at this point to allow for a smooth, crumb-free top layer of frosting.

5. Once chilled and set, add a thick layer of buttercream, trying to get it as smooth as possible using your offset palette knife.

6. Roll out 1 lb 2oz (~525 grams) of white fondant (I love Satin Ice Rolled Fondant – White – Vanilla – 2.5 kg) on a smooth surface dusted with icing sugar or cornstarch, or you can use a fondant mat (I always use Ateco 24 x 36 Inch Fondant Work Mat) until it’s about 1/8″ thick or a little thicker. If your buttercream isn’t completely smooth, you will want to make the fondant on the slighlty thicker side to mask those imperfections (definitely no thicker than 1/4″). Transfer the rolled fondant onto the cake using a rolling pin and gently lay over the cake. Working quickly, smooth the fondant all over the cake using your hands and/or fondant smoothers (I use Wilton Easy Glide Fondant Smoother), working from the top down. Trim the excess fondant from the bottom of the cake using a small sharp knife. Smooth rough edges with a small palette knife. Chill for at least 1 hour.

7. Take selected lustre dust powders and tap small amount into a paint palette or small ramekins. Add a few drops of clear lemon or vanilla extract and blend with small paintbrush. *You can not use water. You can use clear alcohol, such as vodka, as it evaporates when dry. Once your liquid is added, you now have…edible paint! You will need a paintbrush designated for each colour.

8. Remove cake from refrigerator. The fondant may “sweat” a little, which causes it to be a bit tacky at first, but as long as your home isn’t extremely humid, this will evaporate fairly quickly and be ready for painting.

9. Let the child (0r, ahem, yourself) paint until their heart’s content.

10. Wash brushes, blot with paper towel, and let air dry. Wash paint bowls or palette.

Other colourful ideas:

1. Make mini cakes, say 4″ rounds, and let each child at a birthday party paint their own, then pack it up for them to take home as their “loot bag,” to show their parents.

2. Create an entire party around the painting theme. Art parties are so popular right now, and for good reason. They are awesome!

3. You could make these cookies as party favours.

4. You could create this rainbow cake for the inside of the painted cakes, for a real hit of colour.

5. You could create a mix of colouring and painting sweets for a party using the Americolor Food Marker Writers- 10 Color Pack + edible paints.

Whoa…that was a lot of info in one hit. Feel free to leave any questions below, and, as always, I’d love to hear your comments and/or experiences with this cake.

What would you paint on a pure white porcelain-finish cake?

Good luck & enjoy!



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Bakery-Style Vanilla Cupcakes

Bakery Style Vanilla Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Happy National Vanilla Cupcake Day! I’m sorry that I’m sending you these wishes at the end of the day, but I couldn’t go without celebrating this holiday with you, but as usual, this is a late-night write. With such a holiday to celebrate, how could I possibly wake up and not bake a batch of classic pink vanilla bakery-style cupcakes? I couldn’t, so I did.

Bakery Style Vanilla Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

So we’ve got company today–a close friend (you may remember I chatted awhile back about how it was because of him my husband and I met) visiting from Grand Cayman, and I thought it would be a great time to celebrate National Vanilla Cupcake Day. I realized that as much as I make vanilla cake with vanilla frosting (of all kinds), that I don’t often make a classic bakery-style vanilla cupcake with sweet frosting and sprinkles. I know, it’s really inexcusable, considering. So this morning I woke up and made a batch of the Magnolia Bakery vanilla cupcakes. If you’re not familiar with the Magnolia Bakery, it’s a charming bakery in New York City that has been celebrated for its from-scratch baked goods, most notably the pink vanilla cupakes and the like. I first learned of the bakery while watching Sex in the City, but I’m sad to report that I’ve never actually set foot inside the bakery or tried any of their treats.

Bakery Style Vanilla Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Bakery Style Vanilla Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

As you may believe, I love cupcakes, and I have made many, but I hadn’t ever baked or tried their version, so today seemed like a good time to give that a whirl. The cupcake portion of their recipe is a very classic butter cake technique and you won’t find anything too unexpected in the ingredient list, but the result is pleasingly vanilla and perfectly classic. After much blog discussion about vanilla cake, following the Fluffy White Vanilla Cake post (a post about my epic journey to discover a pure white, fluffy, cake-mix-like scratch cake), I have received dozens of emails asking me if that batter would be suitable for the ultimate cupcake. Truthfully, I find that batter amazing and ideal for fluffy cake layers, but with only egg whites, I find it doesn’t make the ideal cupcakes. That’s just for my taste, though, but I love a sweet, sturdy and “eggy” cupcake (sorry if that sounds odd, but it’s the only way I can describe that taste). This recipe calls for, among other things, 4 whole eggs, a generous amount of white sugar and a combination of self-rising and all-purpose (plain) flour, which to me is a great combination for the classic cupcake.

Bakery Style Vanilla Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

If you read my previous post about my Ruffles & Roses tea party, you may remember the Fairy Cakes. For those I used another vanilla cupcake recipe from another popular New York City bakery, Billy’s Bakery, that has a very similar ingredient list, but uses a combination of cake flour and self-rising flour. That recipe, however, uses the reverse creaming method, just as my Fluffy Vanilla Cake does, and the result is very similar to the Magnolia Bakery version. To me, they are both wonderful and consistent options for the perfect vanilla cupcake and I think the biggest difference is the “cake flour” taste–some love it, and some prefer a less distinct flavour that all-purpose flour seems to lend.

Bakery Style Vanilla Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

For the frosting, I opted to sort of combine my favourite whipped vanilla frosting with the sugary-sweet Magnolia buttercream, by increasing the icing sugar, but keeping it a bit less than what they call for. I have to admit that making these pink sprinkled vanilla cupcakes, made me happier than even I could have guessed.

If you’d like to keep up with the seemingly endless ‘National Dessert Days,” just for fun, my friends over at Best Friends for Frosting have a fabulous post including the Complete Directory List of National Dessert Days, and, trust me, I refer to it often!

Speaking of pink sprinkles, I’m not sure my life will be complete if I don’t soon order this. Why do sprinkles make us so silly happy?

Ah, yes, sprinkles. I have too much to say about them. No, really, I do, but, oh friends, it’s the middle of the night here in my world, and I think I must go to sleep! I don’t say that often, but tonight, I must. I will be back very soon to talk about all sorts of life-altering topics: flour, buttercream, frosting cakes, chocolate, pink . . . zzzz.

Off I go to dream about cakes and rainbows. Or more sleep.

Bakery-Style Vanilla Cupcakes

Yield: 24 standard cupcakes, or two 9-inch round cakes

Ingredients

    For the cupcakes:
  • 1-1/2 cups (190 g) self-rising flour
  • 1-1/4 cups (160 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks)(227 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (400 g) white sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (237 ml) milk
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla
  • For the frosting:
  • 3 sticks (345 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 5 cups (625 g) confectioners’ sugar (icing, powdered)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) milk
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

    For the cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 standard muffin tins with cupcake liners of your choice (24 total).
  2. In a small bowl, combine the flours and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended.
  5. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners and bake in middle of oven until tops turn golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out just clean (a few crumbs is okay), about 18 minutes.
  6. Cool the cupcakes in tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.
  7. For the frosting:
  8. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 5 minutes on medium speed (I use “4″ on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  9. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 5 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy, and fluffy.
  10. Add touch of gel food colour, if desired and mix until blended.
  11. Best used right away.

Notes

[cupcake recipe adapted from Magnolia Bakery]

Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin
http://sweetapolita.com/2011/11/bakery-style-vanilla-cupcakes/

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

1. To keep frosting smooth and creamy (and not filled with air-bubbles), work it often in the bowl with a rubber spatula, in a pressing & smearing movement to remove air bubbles.

2. To decorate these cupcakes, I used a few drops of Americolor Electric Pink Soft Gel Paste to achieve the “bakery-pink” colour. I then piped a generous swirl of frosting onto each cupcake using a plain round decorating tip inserted in a piping bag, followed by pressing the bottom flat side of a small offset spatula into the centre of the frosting swirl, working in a gentle circular motion, to create an indent and swirl onto the cupcake.

3. I try to avoid keeping cupcakes in an airtight container, as that seems to cause some of the liners to separate from the cupcakes. Cake boxes with the flaps closed seems to work well.

Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart {Giveaway Winners Announced!}

Here are the winners for the Seriously Chocolaty Giveaway:

Prize #1: Goes to Renee“Oh My Goodness!  I would have to say Chocolate Ganache is my absolute favourite!  Use it on any kind of dessert to elevate it, but really, the BEST part, is the left over bit in the bowl in the fridge.  Sneak a swipe at every entry!  Grab some grapes or banana pieces and dip those too!  And, all too often I see little tiny kiddie swipes in there too :)…”

Yay for Renee! She wins 2 spots in the November 24th & 25th (6:30pm-9:30pm) Holiday Truffles & Bonbons class at the highly-respected Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Artsin Toronto + 1 kg box of Cacao Barry Origins Dark Chocolate Couverture Mexique 66% + 1 kg box of St. Domingue 70% + a copy of Barry Callebaut’s Simply Chocolate Magazine, featuring recipes from Canada’s top pastry chefs & chocolatiers. This prize values over $450!

Prize #2: Goes to Truc: “My favorite chocolate treat is probably a brownie.  Thanks for the giveaway!”

Truc wins a 1 kg box of Cacao Barry Origins Dark Chocolate Couverture Venezuela (72%) + 1 kg box of Tanzanie (75%)

Prize #3: Goes to Karissa Ferguson: ”I love truffles. My mom made my husband and me some last Valentines and we were crazy about them! I think it’s time I try them myself and would love to with these delicious chocolates :)”

Karissa wins 1 kg box of Cacao Barry Origins Dark Chocolate Couverture Equateur (76%) + 1 kg box Milk Chocolate Couverture Ghana (40.5%)

Congratulations sweet winners! I’ll be in touch with you all via email.

True, true, I am a cake girl, but don’t let that cause you to believe that I don’t appreciate a good tart from time to time. Well, by now you’ve probably figured out that I’m pretty easy to convince that something is worth making if it involves good chocolate, butter, sugar, caramel and Fleur de Sel. Okay, well, very true–the list could have stopped at chocolate, as that’s usually enough to get me inspired. What is it about chocolate that draws us in? Dark chocolate, extra dark chocolate, milk chocolate, it really doesn’t matter to me as long as it is quality chocolate.

Today, in honour of quite likely the chocolatiest giveaway ever sponsored by Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts and Barry Callebaut, I decided to celebrate chocolate by making a Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart, which uses both my favourite Cacao Barry Extra Brute (extra dark) cocoa powder (you probably remember it from, well, almost every chocolate cake I’ve ever blogged about!) in the crust as well as one of the exceptional Cacao Barry Origine Dark Chocolate Couverture varieties (St.Domingue 70% cocoa) for a deep, dark and satiny ganache top. These rich and dark chocolate components are sandwiching a thick salted caramel filling and topped with a generous sprinkling of Fleur de Sel for one seriously decadent tart. Who knew that a dessert that stands a mere 1″ high could pack so much flavour and texture?

So as I mentioned in my last post, I have a super exciting, fabulously chocolaty giveaway for you guys, and I’m so excited to share it. No, that’s not blogger speak for “please enter my giveaway,” because I am sincerely excited about this. Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts in Toronto (where it all began for me!) has generously saved 2 places for a winner and friend to attend the upcoming Holiday Truffles & Bonbons class with Chef Marisa Scibetta, where students will learn the following techniques:

-    Easy chocolate tempering tricks
-    Molded and hand-rolled chocolates
-    A variety of specialty ganaches recipes
-    How to showcase and package your treats
-    Working with transfer sheets

In addition, the sweet folks over at Barry Callebaut have generously offered to send 3 sets of two Origins Dark and Milk Chocolate Couverture varieties + a copy of their Simply Chocolate Magazine (which I have and love, by the way!). As someone who has tried all of these varieties, I can promise you they are all unique and incredible so even if you cannot attend the class, you can still win the chocolate prizes.

Here’s how the prizes are structured:

Prize #1: 2 spots (for the winner + a friend) in the November 24th & 25th (6:30pm-9:30pm) Holiday Truffles & Bonbons class at the highly-respected Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts in Toronto + 1 kg box of Cacao Barry Origins Dark Chocolate Couverture Mexique 66% + 1 kg box of St. Domingue 70% + a copy of Barry Callebaut’s Simply Chocolate Magazine, featuring recipes from Canada’s top pastry chefs & chocolatiers. This prize values over $450!

Prize #2: 1 kg box of Cacao Barry Origins Dark Chocolate Couverture Venezuela (72%) + 1 kg box of Tanzanie (75%)

Prize #3: 1 kg box of Cacao Barry Origins Dark Chocolate Couverture Equateur (76%) + 1 kg box Milk Chocolate Couverture Ghana (40.5%)

As you may know, I took my passion for cakes and baking to the next level when I took many courses at Bonnie Gordon College beginning in 2008, and I believe with all of my heart that for those passionate about baking and confectionary arts, that is the place to start. My experience there was, literally, life-changing. I learned more than I could have imagined, and the moment I walked into the school for my first course, and those that followed, I was struck with a surrounding sense of creativity and warmth.  I say warmth because after being out of school for quite some time, I was a little unsure what to expect, but for a school that packs so much talent and knowledge, it was comfortable and inviting, and the classes were small and intimate; it was somewhere I wanted to be.  And be. And be. Sure, being passionate about baking is exciting, but being trained by some of the best in the industry, that is empowering. When I walked out of the school each time, I felt more inspired than I had ever been and pretty much ready to take on the world of sweets. With so many classes and courses added often, I will likey never stop attending.

Giveaway Closed

 

Here’s how to enter this chocolaty giveaway: 

 

1. Again, even if you cannot attend the Bonnie Gordon College class on November 24th & 25th evenings,  you are entered to win the premium Cacao Barry Chocolate Couverture prizes just by leaving a comment on this blog post telling me what your favourite chocolate treat is (baked good, pure chocolate, truffles, etc). That’s it! If you are able to attend the class (it doesn’t matter where you live, provided you can get yourself there), just make a note in your comment stating so, and you will be entered to win any of the prizes.

2. For an extra entry, tweet about this post (with the link) and include @Sweetapolita, then come back and let me know (your actual blog post comment is your entry, so be sure to write a separate comment for your tweet).

3. For an extra entry, tell your friends on Facebook (with the link), then pop back over here to let me know (your actual blog post comment is your entry, so be sure to write a separate comment for your facebook share).

Winner will be announced on Thursday, November 10th. Be sure to check back for see if you’re the winner. Good luck!

*Just a note that for those who are interested in registering for the Holiday Truffles & Bonbons class, they are offering a second date of December 15th & December 16th from 6:30pm-9:30pm. The giveaway for the class, however is for the November 24th-25th session. You can learn more about the class here.

Now, onto the incredible chocolate goodness that is this tart. When I first spotted this tart on Saveur, I knew I had to try it as I love sweet & salty (remember this cake?). This was, though, my first time using the Origine St.Domingue chocolate, which I used for the ganache top of this tart. What makes this chocolate couverture special is that, as the folks at Cacao Barry describe “Cultivated in limited quantities, harvested exclusively in one country, the rare beans that make up the exceptional chocolate couvertures of the Origine and Origine Rare collection are one of Cacao Barry’s best kept secrets,” and I have to agree. I’ve been a big fan of theirs for quite some time, but this chocolate is so rich and intense, which is exactly what I love in a ganache, so it was a perfect fit. My husband who swears he doesn’t like dark chocolate, said it was his favourite part of this tart. Hmm . . . I wonder what he’d say if he knew the St. Domingue is 70% cocoa (the milk chocolate is 40.5%). I think it’s because it is so smooth and the true cocoa flavour is so pure and decadent.

Here’s the recipe:

Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart          {click to print}

*slightly adapted from Saveur

Servings: 8

Ingredients

For the crust:

1 1⁄2 cups (180 grams/6 ounces) all-purpose flour

1⁄4 cup + 1 tablespoon (35 grams) dutch-process cocoa powder (I used Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Dark)

1⁄4 teaspoon (2 grams) kosher salt

10 tablespoons (150 grams/5 ounces) unsalted butter, cubed and softened

1⁄2 cup + 2 tablespoons (70 grams/2.5 ounces) confectioners’ (icing, powdered) sugar

2 egg yolks, at room temperature

1⁄2 tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract (I use Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract)

For the Caramel:

1 1⁄2 cups (300 grams/10 ounces) sugar

6 tablespoons (90 mL) water

3 tablespoons (45 mL) light corn syrup

1⁄4 teaspoon (2 grams) kosher salt

6 tablespoons (90 grams/3 ounces) unsalted butter

7 tablespoons (105 mL) 35% whipping cream or heavy cream (36%+)

For the Ganache:

1⁄2 cup (125 mL/4 liquid ounces) 35% whipping cream or heavy cream (36%+)

115 grams (4 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Cacao Barry Chocolate – Pure Origin – Saint-Domingue – 70%)

Fleur de Sel for garnish ( I used Fleur de Sel De Guerande- French Sea Salt ; 6oz)

1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350˚F. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Using a handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until mixture is pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes; mix in egg yolks and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients. Transfer dough into to a 9″ fluted tart pan with a removable bottom (such as Kaiser Bakeware Noblesse 9-1/2-Inch Non-stick Quiche Pan with Removable Base) and press dough evenly into bottom and sides of pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Prick the tart shell all over with a fork and bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool.

2. Make the caramel: In a small heavy saucepan, whisk together sugar, corn syrup, salt and water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook undisrupted until a candy thermometer inserted into the syrup reads 340°F. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, look for the caramel to turn a rich amber colour, then remove pan from heat and whisk in butter and cream (the mixture will bubble up, so be careful!) until. If you suspect your caramel has gone too far in colour and that it is burnt, you will have to discard and start the caramel again. Pour caramel into cooled tart shell and let cool slightly; refrigerate until firm, 4–5 hours or overnight.

3. Make the ganache: Bring heavy cream almost to a boil (I remove from heat as soon as I see a few bubbles under the surface) in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Put chocolate into a medium bowl and pour in hot cream; let sit for a moment, then stir slowly in a circular motion with a rubber spatula, until smooth. Pour ganache evenly over tart and spread with a small offset spatula, then refrigerate until set, 4–5 hours or overnight. Sprinkle tart with sea salt, slice and serve chilled.

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • When I read the reviews for the original recipe, there was a lot of concern from Saveur readers who had tried the recipe stating that the caramel filling oozing out when served, which is why it says to serve chilled. I wanted to firm up the caramel, to avoid it being too sloppy, so once I stirred in the butter and cream, I put the caramel back on the stove on medium heat and heated to 240°F. In the end, this made it quite firm and almost toffee-like. It tasted incredible, but next time I will try it without that step, the way it reads in the recipe and will save the more firm toffee for candy.

Either way, it’s amazing . . .

Good luck & enjoy!



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Chocolate Stout Cake with Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting

Chocolate Stout Cake via Sweetapolita

This was kind of an unexpected post, actually, so you may notice that there is only one photo of this cake, which isn’t how it usually goes around here. Since it has been so dark and gloomy outside for the past few days, I just couldn’t hold out any longer for nice natural light to take photos (or to eat the cake!), so I took a quick photo and decided to share this recipe with you anyway, because I have a feeling you, like me, have a thing for cake. Yep, I’m catching on quick.

Before I chat about it though, I want to share the winner of the Taste of Home Baking book that I talked about here (along with those rich and chocolatey dipped brownies!).

The winner of the giveaway is…

Sarah {Songbird Sweets}: “…my favorite dessert is definitely chocolate peanut butter cupcakes…i just cant seem to resist them:-)”

Congratulations, Sarah! I will be in touch with you via email!

So, back to this decadent Chocolate Stout Cake with Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting…it will be a short and sweet post, but wow, guys, I loved this cake. I’ve been seeing Chocolate Stout Cakes here and there on other blogs, and I’ve always been intrigued, but never tried it. Since International Stout Day is fast approaching, I figured I better get a move on. Okay, no, I just read that tonight, but that would have been impressive, no? This is a rich, dense and moist cake made with, among other things, dark beer or stout, such as Guinness. The beer really just heightens of the chocolate-ness that’s going on and adds moisture to the cake, but I won’t lie–the dinstinct Guinness flavour is definitely present, however unexpectedly appropriate. It just all works (and trust me, you don’t need to be a beer drinker!). It did, however, lure my husband into trying it, and he was quite amazed. Just promise me you won’t tell him there’s sour cream in it? Don’t ask.

I decided to fill and frost it with my new(ish) favourite sweet frosting, the Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting, rather than the popular chocolate frosting variety, simply because I love contrast in both taste and visual. Since this frosting (as you may recall) tastes like vanilla bean ice cream, all together this cake is kind of like a Guinness Ice Cream Float, and, although I’ve never had one, I’m pretty sure that’s not a bad thing.

Before I leave you with the recipe, I wanted to give you a save-the-date of sorts, for a fabulous giveaway I’ll be posting about next week. As part of the giveaway prize, Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts (where it all began for me!) will be saving 2 spots in the upcoming 2-evening Holiday Truffles & Bonbons class on November 24th & 25th from 6:30pm-9:30pm for a winner and a friend to attend! I’m so excited for the future winner of this prize, truly. Anyone will be able to enter, however you would need to be available those evenings and able to attend the Toronto class. There will be more even more chocolate goodness added to the prize from Barry Callebaut (you know, those folks who produce all of the premium chocolate products I love to use in my recipes, including the extra dark cocoa powder I use in all of my chocolate cake, including this one!), so stay tuned for details.

I’ll be back with another recipe shortly, friends!

Chocolate Stout Layer Cake with Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting         {click to print}

Yield: One 9-inch round two-layer cake–12-16 servings.

Cake Layers

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups (12 fluid ounces) stout or dark beer (I used Guinness)

1 1/2 cups (340 grams/12 ounces/3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1  cup sifted (115 grams/4 ounces) King Arthur Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa (I use Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Dark)

3 cups (360 grams/12.5 ounces) all-purpose flour

3 cups (600 grams/20.5 ounces) granulated sugar

2 1/4 teaspoons (12 grams/11.25 mL) baking powder

1 teaspoon (8 grams) salt

3 large eggs, at room temperature

2/3 cup ( 165 mL) sour cream, at room temperature

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch round pans (2″ deep), line bottoms with parchment paper circles, then grease circles, dust with flour and tap out excess. Set aside.

2. Place the stout and butter in a large, heavy saucepan and heat on medium heat until the butter melts, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat, and whisk in the sifted cocoa powder until smooth. Pour into a large heatproof measuring cup or bowl and let cool.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (flat beater), mix the eggs and sour cream on medium speed (I use #4 on KitchenAid) until well combined, about 3 minutes.

5. Add the cooled cocoa mixture, and mix on medium speed (I use #4 on KitchenAid)  until combined, about 1 minute.

6. Add the dry ingredients slowly and combine on low-speed (I use #2 on KitchenAid) until blended, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of bowl, and then mix for another minute.

7. Divide batter into prepared pans evenly. If possible, weigh the pans and batter with a kitchen scale for accuracy and even layers. If you do, each pan of batter should weigh ~1 kg/2.2 lbs. Place cake pans on middle oven rack side-by-side, but about 2″ apart and bake until toothpick inserted into centre comes clean, about 35 minutes.

8. Let cakes cool on wire racks for ~10 minutes, loosen edges with knife or small palette knife, then gently remove from pans to cool completely.

*Chocolate Stout Cake recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting

Note: This is the same frosting recipe I often use, but I have modified the quantity to yield enough to fill and frost this cake.

Ingredients

1 pound (454 grams/2 cups/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes

3 3/4 cups sifted (600 grams/1 lb + 5 ounces) confectioners’ sugar (icing, powdered)

4 tablespoons (60 mL) milk

1 vanilla bean, scraped

2 teaspoons (10 mL) pure vanilla extract — I use Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract

pinch of salt

Method

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed (I use “4″ on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.

2. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy, and fluffy.

3. Best used right away (for ideal spreading consistency reasons).

4. You can eliminate the vanilla bean and use 4 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract.

*Adapted from Donna Hay 

Good luck & enjoy!



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