Cake

raspberry peach summer cake [smitten kitchen]

(Originally posted: September 12, 2014)

Peaches finally, finally, finally went on sale.

IMG_0027

So did raspberries.

IMG_0028

In-season and vibrant enough that I wish I could bottle the colors, these perfect summer fruits were absolutely irresistible. I bought more than I knew I could reasonably eat before they went bad, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t try my hardest anyway.

IMG_0029

Seriously, does anybody else pop raspberries like candy? They’re so sugar-sweet, yet tart, and melt-in-your-mouth delicate. I’ve been known to polish off whole boxes while still standing at the kitchen counter.

(Can you tell I’m a little obsessed? I’ll stop.)

In any case, fruits like this just beg to be baked, and that’s exactly what I did. I was staying at Sheena‘s house for the long weekend, and I knew I couldn’t show up empty-handed, so I made this quintessentially summer cake from Smitten Kitchen.

Raspberries that burst in your mouth, peaches that gush juices down your chin with every bite, and a fluffy cake with a perfect crumb combine in this ideal summer evening treat.

IMG_0025

The colors.

I want to eat the colors.

Can we figure out a way to make that possible?

IMG_0022

I followed Smitten Kitchen’s recipe with barley, but, inspired by The Baker Upstairs, I swapped the 1/2 cup milk with buttermilk, and topped the whole thing with 1/2 a cup of raspberries and one large peach, thinly sliced.

(Don’t worry; the rest of fruit–whatever didn’t end up in my stomach–found a home in the freezer, for when cooler days beg for a taste of summer sunshine.)

IMG_0032

As you can see, the cake that went into the oven didn’t look quite like the one that came out. That’s because about 30 minutes in, I realized that the batter had swallowed up the majority of the fruit I had so carefully laid on top of the cake. So I pulled the cake out, added another layer of thinly sliced peaches and another sprinkling of sugar, and then popped it back in for the remaining 20 or so minutes.

Also, out of a lack of desire to buy an entire bag of barley flour, I had borrowed some of Sheena’s barley and ground it up in the blender. The result was a mostly powdery flour, with a handful of larger bits that the blades couldn’t quite break down. Those bits sank in the oven, giving the cake a crunchier crust-like layer along the bottom of the pan. I liked the texture, but next time, I’ll definitely opt for a finer flour to have a more even distribution of barley.

IMG_0034

The verdict? 10/10, would bake again in a heartbeat. It’s light and moist, but with an amazingly complex flavor from the barley. With seven of us in Sheena’s house for the weekend, the cake vanished almost instantly after the first slice was cut.

But next time, I’ll be experimenting with different fruits and flour combinations. The Baker Upstairs’ cake is absolutely gorgeous with those peach slices sinking only slightly into the pale, fluffy cake–somehow reminiscent of butterfly wings–and I definitely want to try to recreate that.

Let me know if you try the cake–especially now as the weather is hinting at turning, and the farmer’s market trades its berries and peaches in for crisp apples and pears.

As always, happy baking! 🙂

TARDIS cake – happy 50th!

Let me preface this by saying that I have the coolest roommates ever.

Phillips, being the perfect person she is, threw a Doctor Who 50th Anniversary viewing shindig, in which all guests dressed up and came over for Doctor Who-themed snacks like Adipose marshmallows…

IMG_5486
…and, of course, to actually watch the new episode and collectively freak out.

Kaitlyn, being the perfect person she is, used her artistic powers for good and turned our door into a TARDIS.

IMG_5441

What? It’s bigger on the inside, you say?

Why, yes, it is.

Sam, being the perfect person she is, sat through several episodes and a crash-course powerpoint presentation (courtesy of Phillips) so that she wouldn’t be lost during the party, and even dressed up as Sally Sparrow.

Sadly, I don’t have a photo of this.

My contribution for the night was a TARDIS cake, inspired by this wonderful tutorial by the Artisan Cake Company.

The results (with a borrowed sonic screwdriver):

IMG_5573

Ooooooh.

Of course, I’m terribly nitpicky, so it kills me to compare my cake to the tutorial. I’m already looking for an excuse to make another one and perfect the design. Probably a bad idea, considering how long this one took me, but I’m not going to think about that.

IMG_5565

This cake was…quite an ordeal. It began on Friday night with the cake itself, the frosting, and the modeling chocolate. The frosting started out as a Swiss meringue buttercream, but I evidently haven’t mastered that yet, because it quickly turned into a regular buttercream. Thankfully, nobody I know is opposed to regular ol’ buttercream. 😉

The cake–well–it was definitely the easiest part of the whole process. I used my go-to chocolate cake recipe from foodess. It’s darker than most chocolate cakes without being overwhelmingly rich, it’s moist, and it has a soft crumble that’s hard to stop eating.

The modeling chocolate, made using this video’s recipe (also referenced by the tutorial), turned out way greasier than the instructions suggested it would. I ended up draining the excess water/grease as I mixed the corn syrup and melted chocolate. I was a little nervous that it would turn the chocolate into a crumbly mess (as threatened by the video), but after sitting wrapped up overnight, it was just as perfectly malleable as I’d hoped. Phew.

Which prompts me to say: if you’re using Wilton candy melts, you’re going to end up with alarming amounts of liquid as you’re mixing. Don’t panic. Drain the excess, wrap the chocolate in plastic wrap, and go to sleep. It’ll be fine. Really.

IMG_5465

There are few situations I could’ve imagined in which I’d be molding a cake using a paring knife. This is what happens when there’s no way you can get your hands on an exacto knife.

Several layers of modeling chocolate later, I had a vaguely shaped blue box. Hooray!

IMG_5506

Windows, decals, and a lot of coaxing later, I had turned my blue box into a TARDIS-shaped blue box. Double hooray! 🙂

IMG_5539

In the interest of keeping this cake as cheap as possible–and actually finishing it in time for the party, which was a struggle as it was–I passed on the white fondant and the intricate painting of windows, using leftover buttercream and a bit of black gel food coloring to finish the decorations.

IMG_5578

IMG_5566

I also used a tiny balled up piece of aluminum foil instead of an actual floral light.

I’m a college student; what am I supposed to do with an entire pack of floral lights?

Topped that with leftover modeling chocolate painted black, and I had a “light” for my TARDIS.

IMG_5569

At some point during this process, I switched from apron-clad apartment baker to a femme eleventh Doctor putting the finishing touches on her precious ship.

IMG_5530

The suspenders and blazer showed up later.

IMG_5586

All in all, definitely a successful project. It was painful finally cutting into the cake–but also beyond worth it when everyone actually got to enjoy it.

IMG_5589

The support straws got sliced in the process and looked rather silly.

Also dang, look at those slabs of modeling chocolate. I didn’t even realize how much frosting and chocolate had been layered on there until I cut the thing open.

IMG_5609

Overall: 10/10, would definitely try something this out there again. Too much fun!

For progress photos & many more detail shots, head over to my flickr. Most of these are courtesy of Kaitlyn, who is responsible for the majority of the party documentation.

Thank you, Kaitlyn!

Next time, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming that includes far less time-consuming recipes.

To my UChicago friends: happy 10th week! And to all, happy December! Let the season of peppermint and huge sweaters begin 🙂 x

s’more poke cake [confessions of a cookbook queen]

Last night, I was joined by the lovely Gabby Costa in my somewhat janky house kitchen, where we attempted to recreate these beautiful squares of marshmallow-and-graham-cracker-goodness.

Let me tell you: it got messy.

But I mean in the best of ways–the kind that includes fluff stuck to fingers and far more Aaron Carter than is probably acceptable anymore.

And on the topic of fluff, can we address how terrifying the stuff is? It sticks to anything and everything except what it needs to, its shelf life is alarmingly long, and somehow, it is still delicious. Seriously, there’s something wrong with this picture.

IMG_2948

Nothing wrong with this picture, though. All those golden, perfectly toasted marshmallows topping a fudgy chocolate cake made even more gooey with smooth chocolate pudding.

Oh yes. That’s quite the cake.

IMG_2955

So this particular recipe was actually chosen by Gabby. I was instantly sold when I saw that there was chocolate pudding involved. Spouts of pudding? Inside my cake? Yes, please!

Unfortunately, as you can see from my photo (especially compared to the ones on the original recipe), the pudding never quite made it into the cake. Despite borderline destroying the cake with holes, we couldn’t get much of the pudding to actually sink into the cake. This brings up two issues:
+ Make big holes for your pudding! Either use a wooden spoon with a thicker handle, or just push the handle around to make the holes bigger. Otherwise, the pudding won’t actually fill your cake.
+ 3.4 ounces of instant pudding is a lot. Like a lot. Like way more than you actually need for this cake.

And you know what else is a lot? 13 ounces of marshmallow fluff. I ended up using just over one 7.5-oz jar of fluff, and if you look, it was enough to coat the 9×13 cake with a good, thick layer of marshmallow. Save yourself the trouble of dealing with 13 ounces of the monstrously sticky stuff, and just use less.

Lucky for us, we were baking in a dorm, and we had no trouble getting rid of things like extra chocolate pudding and fluff.

Other adjustments: I dropped the sugar from the graham cracker crust–the cake is sweet enough–and increased the baking time of the actual cake from 20 minutes to ~30, because mine was still jiggling after only 20. You want it to be just baked, so that it can still sit in the oven for a little while after the pudding and marshmallows are added.

The final product was gooey, got all over our hands/faces/clothes, and went perfectly with a tall glass of milk. The only way I could cut through it so neatly was with a heated knife (which Gabby thought of; thanks, girl!). But they really did taste like s’mores fresh off a campfire, with the golden-crusted marshmallows and everything. All in all: would definitely bake again. 😉

IMG_2961

That’s all for today, folks! Don’t forget to keep placing those cupcake orders! Remember that Relay for Life will be getting 50% of the proceeds from orders placed between now and May 17th 🙂
And in the meantime, enjoy the beautiful spring sunshine!