August 22, 2012

Making your cake, eating it too.

I'm a big fan of cake, 'cause who isn't. But, my fandom took on especially hard-core tendencies as a teenager, where I often baked like 3 or maybe 5 cakes a week after school as a self-motivated extracurricular activity. I liked the actual cake-making, loved the cake-frosting, loved feeding other people, loved the potential for flavor combinations that involved infusions and concocting syrups that I could soak the layers with. Also, making cakes is a good excuse to learn about various spirits and alcohols: grand marnier, kirsch and chambord all make good cake-layer saturates.

My first cake cookbook love was the Williams-Sonoma Cakes book from the Williams Sonoma Collection. In the suburbs, upstate, in the mid-nineties, Williams-Sonoma was basically the fanciest thing that existed. And these cakes had chocolate shavings, requested particular cocoa grade chocolates and asked that you used a piping tube for frosting. It was very, very fancy.

And so when I was 16, I made pretty much every single cake in that book. I was a cake master (for a 16 year old).

But, even then I had a few hard rules: 1) No buttercream 2) None of that gross sugary frosting crap 3) No marzipan 4) Fresh fruit makes things better 5) Whipped cream is delicious 6) Don't mess with cake flour. Most of these are still true to this day as a baking philosophy.

Anyhow, a few pastry chef-ing stints and many years and careers later, I don't make cakes on a very regular basis. But on the occasion of a few loved ones' birthdays a year, the pastry tube comes out and I scour for recipes and get really pumped about the chance to MAKE CAKE. Yes!

Last weekend we had an early celebration for my little brother's almost-turning-27. My mom suggested a chocolate cake, for which I don't have a good go-to recipe. After much scouring, I went with Molly's Far-from-Disaster cake, which makes three bountiful insanely moist layers of deep, chocolatey fudgy cake. I opted to skip the ganache (too intense for my taste) and made a cinnamon whipped cream with mascarpone whipped in. The mascarpone adds great tang and gives the cream a bit more thickness and texture than the standard whipped cream.  Over the bottom layer I spread a thin layer of a nice, bitter orange marmalade. Lastly, I dumped on tons of blueberries and raspberries from a local farm on top along with some chocolate shavings. The tartness of the berries cut the sweetness of the cream and cake; it all came together pretty damn nice.

The full structure:
Chocolate cake recipe HERE
Cinnamon Mascarpone Cream
12 oz. heavy cream
2 Tbsp confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
5 oz. room temperature mascarpone cheese
1/4 tsp salt (optional)

Blend cream with sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and sugar (and salt) until it reaches soft peaks. Add mascarpone and continue whipping until the cream reaches stiff peaks.

Use 2 or 3 layers, depending on how tall a cake you want. On all but the top layer, spread a thin layer of your favorite orange marmalade. (I like Sarabeth's Blood Orange Marmalade or Orange-Apricot Marmalade or if you want to be fancy, June Taylor's Marmalades)

Top the marmalade with cream, spread evenly, then add the next layer. After adding the top layer, spread the remaining cream to fully cover the cake.

To put on top: 
1/2 pint blueberries
1/2 pint raspberries
chocolate shavings (leftover from chocolate cake recipe)

Enjoy everything as much as possible.