May Showers & Wedding Cake


Ever feel like you are living under the Big Top and your life is a three ring circus? Uh-huh. Last Saturday was Project Wedding Cake day and we could have charged admission to the circus that was our home in the morning–all we needed was a trapeze artist or two. We had the rest of the show: clowns (the boys of course), monkeys (yep, boys again), elephant (me after all the cake scraps I ate), gravity-defying acts (4 tiers of cake) and so on.

It wasn’t lively only because I had a wedding cake to pull together on a standard rowdy Saturday morning, but the fact that we were all attending the wedding too; that added a challenging element. (Wait, who’s idea it was to bring the kids anyway?) So of course that meant there were babies to bathe, tiny shirts and pants to iron, and many bags to be packed with activities, sippy cups and the appropriate stuffed animal.
Do NOT ask me how Brangelina do it–I only have two and it’s work. Oh right, they have like 6 nannies.

All day I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it never did and the four of us plus four cakes made it to the ceremony and reception without incident. Oh, did I mention that it was pouring rain? Like the kind of intense downpour that hits the ground so hard it splashes up under your dress.Yeah, not nice.


I assembled the cake from the bottom up at the reception hall and decorated it with simple purple ribbon and fresh daisies. The bride’s colors were purple and yellow and we worked together to incorporated them into the cakes design. She also had picked a cute Precious Moment’s cake topper which suited her to a tee, and I think both the bride and groom were happy with the final result.

Later on that evening, as he busily snapped photos of the cake cutting, the wedding photographer asked me how I felt about my creation and the fact that it was about to be destroyed, ie: consumed. I assured him that unlike some wedding cakes, mine focused first on taste and second on appearances, meaning that it’s ideal destiny was to be consumed down to the last crumb, not just to sit pretty. I would be ten times more upset if it was only for show and never got eaten and enjoyed!


That said, here’s the lowdown on what went into the cake with recipes at the bottom. Hope you weren’t expecting a DIY wedding cake tutorial, because frankly I am not the patissiere for the job! This is my sixth wedding cake over the last 10 years, not a very good ratio. I should probably decide soon if I’m serious about this wedding cake calling or not.

Alright, there was both One-Bowl Chocolate Cake and Yellow Butter Cake in the cake layers, with the exception of the second layer, which was double chocolate. After all, chocolate is a more popular flavor and I wanted extra. Cakes were filled with Chocolate Frosting and covered with Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Rolled fondant covered the cakes for the final touch.


Feel free to shoot
me an email if you have any questions about making these recipes in large quantities.

Recipes:

Yellow Butter Cake
Chocolate Frosting
Swiss Meringue Buttercream

One Bowl Chocolate Cake

From Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

3/4 cup warm water

3/4 cup buttermilk

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two round 9-inch cake pans or one 9×13 pan; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla; mix batter until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to ensure batter is well mixed.
Divide batter evenly among pans. (If I have any extra batter I like to make a few mini cupcakes.) Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed.

Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Frost as desired.

Lemon Raspberry Layer Cake and a ‘Pat the Bunny’ Birthday


I already said my birthday congratulations to Mateo, so let’s get straight to the cake, shall we?
Now, as much as I love the typical ABC baby blocks/first birthday cake in its every form, I wanted to do something a little more original for Mateo, and so his tattered and much-loved ‘Pat the Bunny‘ book became the inspiration behind this cake. Here’s how it came together…


Flavors:
I loved this cake and was thrilled with how it came out! Friends who follow me on Twitter know how I haggled over the perfect flavor combination for this birthday. Chocolate and Chestnut? Too mature. Carrot and Maple? Too predictable. ( I see soooo many carrot cakes for a baby’s first birthday, and most of the time they are the recipe from ‘What to Expect…’)

I started with the marvelous yellow butter cake from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook and her classic Swiss Meringue buttercream. Then I had four egg yolks left over from the buttercream and fresh lemons to use up, so I made a tangy lemon curd and folded it into the buttercream. I sandwiched some fresh raspberries between the middle layer of cake, covered the entire project with Satin Ice rolled fondant and served it with a raspberry coulis.
It was fantastic!

This cake would be a showstopper even without the rolled fondant icing. The spectacular lemon buttercream can certainly stand on its own, so don’t sweat it if you are not up for the fondant. It would dazzle simply topped with a few fresh raspberries.


This cake felt like spring; and on a freezing cold March day, that was a good thing. In fact, as I was eating a slice the next morning for breakfast (perfectly acceptable, as long as the little ones don’t see) I was remarking on how it would make a lovely wedding cake. Hey, spring IS coming sometime, and with it many opportunities for C-A-K-E: graduations, wedding showers, birthdays…Oh, OH–Mother’s Day!
You better make a mental note of that: Aimée’s Lemon Raspberry Cake for Mum.


Decorations:
Even though the cake’s interior was pure Martha Stewart, the design and decoration was all my idea and execution.

  • The bunny was cut out of plain white rolled fondant and the markings added with edible marker. He came out quite cute, I thought!
  • I dyed the fondant peach (although it was pinker than I would have liked) and pinned a blue ribbon around the bottom.
  • For the pattern on the fondant, I wasn’t sure how to add the delicate three petaled flowers, as I certainly was not going to paint them on by hand. So I quickly carved a makeshift stamp out of a potato, dipped it into the food coloring and went nuts all over the cake. It took about five minutes and gave the effect that I wanted. Never underestimate the lowly potato!!
  • The invitations used a line from the book: “How Big Is Mateo? Sooo Big!” and I was originally going to pipe this onto the cake; however, I chickened out! I just don’t like writing on cakes: I don’t like how it looks and I don’t like doing it, so I stamped the top, too.

Looking to plan a party for your baby?! I’ve included some ideas at the bottom of the post on how to host your own Pat the Bunny theme party too. Yay!

Recipes:
All adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

Yellow Butter Cake
yields two 8-inch round cakes

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans

1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups sugar

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups milk

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-by-2-inch round cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter parchment, and dust with flour, tapping out excess; set aside. Into a medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until combined after each addition.

3. Divide batter between the prepared pans, and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.
They may look like they are going to overflow the pan, but don’t worry they will be fine and you will end up with nice fat layers for your cake. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 20 minutes. Invert cakes onto the rack; peel off the parchment. Re-invert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.

Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Makes about 4 cups, perfect for this cake.

4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons

3/4 cup lemon curd
(recipe below)

In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the egg whites and sugar. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch.
Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and cooled, about 6 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment.
With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. If frosting appears to have separated after all the butter has been added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again.

(Aimée’s Note: I do this every time. It brings the buttercream from a runny whipped cream consistency, to a thick frosting consistency. I prefer to work with it like this.)

Beat on low speed to eliminate any air bubbles. Stir in lemon curd with a spatula until smooth. Frosting is now ready to use or it may be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days. Before using, bring to room temperature.

I love this lemon curd recipe. It requires you to make it with the zest of the lemon, but at the end the zest is strained out through a fine sieve. This imparts the maximum lemon flavor, but the curd still has a silky smooth consistency. Mmm.

Lemon Curd
Makes 1 cup–enough for the buttercream with a bit leftover for you to scarf.

4 large egg yolks
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 4 lemons)

1/2 cup sugar

5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

Prepare an ice bath fitted with a medium bowl; set aside. Whisk together yolks, zest, juice, and sugar in a small saucepan. Set over medium heat, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Cook until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the wooden spoon, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, stirring until incorporated. Pass through a fine mesh sieve into prepared medium bowl. Stirring frequently, let stand until cool.
Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on surface of curd to prevent skin from forming; wrap tightly. Refrigerate until firm and chilled, at least 1 hour. Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Assembly:
2 8-inch round Yellow Butter Cakes
Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream
1 pkg fresh raspberries
1 1/2 lbs rolled fondant (optional)
icing sugar

Slice cakes lengthwise in two ( I like to have them very cold for this part) so that you have four rounds.. Place the bottom layer on a cake stand and top with about 3/4 cup of lemon buttercream. Top with cake layer. Spread a thin layer of buttercream and top with a layer of fresh raspberries. Smear a generous amount of buttercream across the berries so that it fills any gaps.
Top berries with another round of cake, coat with buttercream and place the final layer of cake on top. Frost all over with remaining buttercream. Chill until very firm.
Dust counter with icing sugar and roll fondant into a circle measuring 14 inches in diameter. Lift gently and place on top of cake. Smooth sides, trimming excess fondant. Dust hands with icing sugar and smooth out air bubbles from top and sides. Decorate as desired.
Chill until ready to serve.


How to Plan a ‘Pat the Bunny’ Birthday Party:

OK, I can take credit for the cake, but the rest of this was the creative thinking from the super talented Abigail from Piece of Cake. Trust me when I say she has the credentials, and I don’t just mean graphic design! A master party planner, she processed my idea for a Pat the Bunny cake faster than my PC can re-boot, and offered these amazing (and affordable) suggestions for the whole Pat the Bunny experience! Abigail is also half the team behind the fabulous creations at paper and cake. You’ll never stress over another party again thanks to their adorable downloadable templates. Abigail designed Mateo’s darling birthday invitations (pictured above), which I’ll be saving for years to come. Thanks Abigail!
Party on!

Color scheme: turquoise, peach and white

Decorations:

  • Make cut outs of rabbits, carrots, or little bunny footprints of construction paper and affix to the walls or windows.
  • Purchase ribbon to swag everywhere.
  • Make a garland with the baby’s name by cutting letters out of peach/turquoise paper and gluing them to the opposite color cardstock and threading on a ribbon across the room/door/window.

Goodie Bags:

  • Pat the Bunny puppets
  • Bunny ear headbands
  • Pat the Bunny book in a clear cello party favor bag filled with some cotton balls and tied with your peach/turquoise ribbon. (My goodie bag is pictured above. I gave the book Peakaboo Bunny.)

Craft: (If the children are old enough)

  • Pat the Bunny coloring sheets (print from here) available on a kid’s table covered in butcher paper, lots of crayons.
  • Cut the bunny shape out of contact paper and affix (double sided tape, staple, glue) to peach or aqua cardstock. Adults will be needed to help the kids peel off the contact paper backing, then the kids can stick on cotton balls and maybe googly eyes too. This could also be done with glue, but it might get messy.

Activity:

  • Hide stuffed bunnies around the house, and have the kids go on a bunny hunt.
  • Play a touch/feel game. Put ultra textured items in a box or bag, show a picture of the item before having each child find that item (ie. pinecone) without looking.
  • Read Pat the Birthday Bunny or Pat the Bunny

Birthday Cake For Bébé Mateo


Mateo, my sweet, you are One today.
Well, technically, it’s not really your birthday because you were born on a leap year, but we are celebrating having you with us for a year. Already!

It seems like you’ve been lighting up our lives for a lot longer than twelve months; I can’t imagine our little family without you. Your serious big blue eyes suggest a wisdom far beyond your year(s), but every time I hear those deep giggles spilling out of you, I know you’re going to be a silly as your big brother. Thanks for every time you’ve lain your head on my shoulder and sighed a sigh as big as the world. It makes me feel worthy to be your mom. You’re an expert cuddler, a clear sign that you belong in this family.


There are just a few little things I’d like to bring up, since we’re having this talk. Now that you are crawling, please don’t eat every speck of dust or unidentified object that you find on the floor, OK? I’ve already increased the vacuuming by at least 50%, but I’m only human.
I really appreciate you being slightly more tolerable to my cooking than Noah ever was, still, you could step things up a little in that department. Oh, and pretty soon you’re going to find out that nursing is not the solution to life’s problems. I’m sorry.

I will say this, though: bacon comes pretty close.


I love you, my baby. Happy Birthday!

To my readers: I know you’re looking for the cake recipe, but you’ll have to wait just a little bit! It’s all coming to you in its Lemon Raspberry Layer Cake goodness VERY SOON (decorated with a “Pat the Bunny” theme), but right now I am just too tired! Time to kiss the birthday boy goodnight, his big brother too, and put my feet up.

Chocolate Nemesis With Raspberries For Your Valentine

This recipe was first published on August 17, 2007.


OK, so I know I said this cake was my favorite chocolate cake, but I need to clarify that it’s my preferred everyday chocolate cake and today’s recipe is my favorite special occasion chocolate cake. It is OK to have more than one favorite, right? I mean, you can have a favorite pair of heels and a favorite pair of flats, but they’re both shoes.

So I was scanning my archives for something Valentine’s related (since we’ve been way too sick around here to bake or do anything at all) and this post popped out at me; with its chocolate and raspberries, flowers and pretty heart shape, it has got love written all over it. Goodness knows what I was originally making this in the middle of August for, but I’m sure I had my reasons. Oh right, pregnancy cravings can do weird things to you.

This decadent chocolate cake from the River Cafe Cookbook is well worth a re-run. It’s incredibly moist, thanks to being baked in a water bath, and amazingly enough, calls for only four ingredients. However, it is essential to use the very best chocolate possible. Don’t even think of icing it, you need only to dress it up with a few fresh berries or sliced fruit.

You can make it in one large round tin, as per the recipe, or divide it up into individual heart-shaped molds as I did.
Chocolate NemesisServes 10-12675g (1.1/2 lbs) bitter-sweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
10 whole eggs
575 g sugar
450g unsalted butter, softenedPreheat the oven to 325F. Line a 12×2 inch cake pan with greaseproof paper, than grease and flour it.
Beat the eggs with a third of the sugar until the volume quadruples-this will take at least 10 minutes in an electric mixer.Heat the remaining sugar in a small pan with 250 ml (8 fl oz) water until the sugar has completely dissolved to a syrup.Place the chocolate and butter in the hot syrup and stir to combine until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Add warm chocolate mixture to the eggs and continue to beat, more gently, until completely combined- about 20 seconds, no more.Pour into the cake tin and place in bain-marie of hot water. It is essential for the cake to cook evenly that the water comes up to the rim of the tin. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until set. Leave to cool in the tin before turning out.
When you are ready to serve the cake, loosen around the edges of the pan with a hot knife. Place the pan on a hot stove burner for 45 seconds or so to warm the bottom. Place a plate on top and invert the pan. Tap bottom gently with the butt of a knife and the cake should drop. Remove pan, peel back parchment, and voila!
Serve with a few fresh berries.

Relaxing with Lemon Cake


Some people put their feet up in from of the TV when they need to relax, others go for a walk or have a warm bath, but not me, I head for the kitchen.

Last week was a particularly busy one around here and to cap it off, I babysat for a friend on Friday afternoon. I had a four-year-old, a three-year-old, a two-year-old and little Mateo, bouncing around the place and my, it was busy! My nerves were a little shot by the time Danny got home from work and so after dinner he graciously bathed both boys and put them to bed while I headed to the kitchen. I was in need of some baking therapy and I had the perfect recipe to try: Lemon-Drenched Lemon Cake from Joy the Baker.


Joy is no stranger to turning to the kitchen after a rough day and she always knows the best remedy for finding your mojo again. I bet she’d make a great girlfriend; she would be the one with a listening ear and a plate of cookies at the end of a long week.

The lemon cake was the ideal way to relax and wrap up the busy week. It is a recipe simple enough to follow with half a brain, as I had that evening, and so fun to put together. My favorite part was rubbing the lemon zest and the sugar together; my hands have never smelled so good!

Danny joined me in the kitchen and did all my dishes. What a sweetie.


Light and tender, tart and moist, you need not ever look for another lemon loaf again.

Lemon Drenched Lemon Cakes

For the Cakes:
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of salt

2 1/3 cups sugar

1/2 plump, moist vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out and reserved, or 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

6 large eggs, preferably at room temperature

2/3 cups heavy cream

zest of two lemons, finely grated

1 stick, plus 7 Tablespoons (15 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the syrup:
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup sugar

juice of two lemons

Making the cakes:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8 1/2-4 1/2-inch loaf pans, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. Even if the pans are nonstick, it’s a good idea to butter and flour them. Place the pans on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular sheets stacked one on top of the other.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Put the sugar and the lemon zest in a large bowl, working with your fingers, rub them together until the sugar is moist and thoroughly imbued with the fragrance of lemon. Add the vanilla bean seeds and work them into the sugar. If you are using vanilla extract, add it later, after you have added the eggs.

Add the eggs and whisk them into the sugar, beating until they are thoroughly incorporated. Whisk in the extract (if using), then whisk in the cream. Continuing with the whisk, or switching to a large rubber spatula, gently stir in the dry ingredients in 3 or 4 additions; the batter will be smooth and thick. Finish by folding in the melted butter in 2 or 3 additions. Pour the batter into the pans, smoothing with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.

As soon as the cake goes into the oven, make the syrup.
After about 30 minutes in the oven, check the cakes for color- if they are browning too quickly, cover them lightly with foil tents.

Making the syrup: Stir the water and sugar together in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar melts, then bring to a boil. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Pour the syrup into a heatproof bowl and let cool.

When the cakes test done, transfer them to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes before unmolding them and turning them right side up on the rack. Place the rack over a baking sheet lined with wax paper and, using a thin skewer, cake tester or thin-bladed sharp knife, poke holes all over the cakes. Brush the cakes all over with the syrup, working slowly so that the cakes sop it up. Leave the cakes on the rack to cool to room temperature.