Baileys Tiramisu

Having good friends is a wonderful thing and lately, there are so many things worth celebrating. A friend of mine and my sister in law (which happens to be in the same circle of friends) were pregnant and we're throwing them a get-together to celebrate it. Unfortunately, as much as I want to, I couldn't make a cake for them :( due to some reason. But I guess it was okay since there were so many food that night, good food that is.

Holiday season also means more celebrations. We had thanksgiving (for which I didn't cook or bake since I was away), Christmas for sure, and lots of birthdays! This time, it's John's turn, one of my good friends at work. I literally had a headache for two days trying to come up with a cake, preferably something I've never tried before and something I've been wanting to try, but not so overly complicated, and the most important thing is, it has to taste great!

I know him pretty well to know that he doesn't like chocolate, so chocolate cake is out of the list. He loves coffee and fruit-flavored cake. We're pretty much shared the same taste in food. I thought of making a light cake with yogurt mousse, white peach, strawberry mousse, along that line, but the weather wasn't really supporting at all. It has been really cold here in San Jose, dark, cloudy, and rain at times, typical winter weather. I dont think that yogurt mousse cake would be suitable for the weather. As much as I adore light and fruit stuff, with this kind of weather, all I was thinking was something with coffee, chocolate, banana, caramel, tea, citrus flavor. It's interesting to know how weather can affect your mood and your selection of food :).

It wasn't until Saturday evening that I decided that I'll just make tiramisu. You would probably know by now that I'm such a sucker for tiramisu, really. I don't know how many times I have declared my love for tiramisu in this blog, but I'm pretty sure you got the idea :). But don't get me wrong, I didn't decide this solely for this reason, but one thing for sure, if the guy loves anything other than his family and friends, it would be his booze (no worries, he's not an alcoholic though)! Plus, there will be no baking involved since I can just buy a store-bought lady finger (Savoiardi). I was thinking of making it a cake version with chocolate cake (he wouldn't mind), but the idea went away when I thought that I had to bake some :). I'll blame it on the weather for this as it makes me want to cozy up under my blanket the whole day, not doing anything. So tiramisu was perfect as it was quick, boozy, and who doesn't like tiramisu anyway? To make it different, I used Baileys Irish Cream instead of the usual rum. I've always wanted to try this, but ended up using rum everytime. I guess I was too scared :(.

I was also using this opportunity to try out my new baking tool, cake textured sheet. I just spent a lot buying some baking stuff online. While they definitely would add to my growing baking tools at home, I felt kinda bad for it :(. This one is one of the things I bought. Cake textured sheet is basically just like a textured sheet plastic. It comes in probably a little bigger than a half-sheet pan size, so I had to cut it to fit 8" square pan. I used my 8" square pan for this as my square cake ring is too short. The cake has to be completely frozen before you can peel the plastic off. I tried removing it after about 3 hours in the freezer, but some of the the cream stuck on it. I really like the look of it after I dusted cocoa powder on top and put some gold dragees. Ever since I used Valrhona cocoa powder and high quality chocolate (I use Valrhona, Callebout, or El Rey), I'm never going back to the standard grocery store chocolate and cocoa powder. Valrhona cocoa powder has deeper cocoa taste to it, it's rich in flavor. Tiramisu is definitely one of the more expensive cakes in my repertoire :D.

Fortunately, everybody liked the cake and the appearance of it (phew!). It's a little sweeter than the one I made with rum, I guess it's because Baileys is sweet and it's adding some sweetness to the overall cake. I'm glad that the cake wasn't too boozy as the last time I made tiramisu with rum, I went overboard with the rum and almost got everybody at work drunk :P. Overall, the tiramisu is equally good with Baileys, but if I have to choose, I think I like the rum version better :)

I made the leftover cream into this mini version with chocolate sponge drenched in the espresso/baileys mixture

Taking Red Velvet to A New Level: Red Velvet Cake with White Chocolate Cheesecake Filling and Mascarpone Frosting

When my friend Yanni called me the other day (more like a few weeks ago :P) and asked if I would be able to make a birthday cake for two of her bible study group friends, I couldn't say no (I don't think I'd ever could). She specifically asked for a red velvet cake, which was making me paused for a second there as I wouldn't expect her to pick that cake. Red Velvet Cake is a type of American cake and I was never a fan of a dense (although it's moist) cake, with loads of food coloring added, encased in painfully sweet cream cheese frosting. If you read my blog regularly, you would know that I'm all about soft, spongy and light cake that won't make you feel sick after eating it, but more like a palate cleanser. Nothing against American cakes though as I really think it can be good as long as it is not super sweet (blame my Asian heritage :D).

So I asked her if she would be okay if I put some twist on the cake, meaning that it won't be the traditional red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, but something lighter and hopefully better :). She gave me all the freedom to twist it all I want (thanks Yanny, you're the best!) since her bible study group is a dessert lover, they will gobble anything as long as it tastes good :).

As soon as she said ok, my mind started to work hard trying to come up with something good. I googled red velvet cake and see what other people had came up with. While most of them made it with the traditional cream cheese frosting, I found one or two people that were trying to replicate "Stefanie's Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake" from Cheesecake Factory. I have never had it before but the idea sounds really intriguing. Imagine a cheesecake layer sandwiched in the middle of two moist red velvet cake. So I took the idea and tried to come up with my own twist, but still not taking all of the traditional elements of red velvet cake. I wanted to incorporate white chocolate, cream cheese, mascarpone, and heavy cream instead of butter for the frosting, but it sounds like there's a lot going on in one cake. But I made it anyway :D and finally came up with red velvet cake with white chocolate cheesecake filling in the middle and frosted with a combination of cream cheese and mascarpone frosting lightened with whipped cream.

This would be the second time I'm making red velvet cake and after a few days of research of the history and quite a few different recipes, I decided to recreate "Cakeman Raven" RVC recipe. I actually watched the episode where I think it was a throwdown and he won. I made the RVC the first time using the same recipe actually, but it wasn't what I expected since it turned out to be a salty RVC. Yes, I totally forgot to put the sugar in :P and everything ended up in a trash. But from what I have remembered, the textured was actually pretty good, not too dense and moist. I baked the white chocolate cheesecake first and after cooling in the fridge overnight, I transferred it to the freezer so that it would be easier to unmold (I used regular cake pan to bake the cheesecake in).

Since it was pretty cold lately, the frosting firmed up quickly. The cream cheese won't soften as much as during summer time and even after I microwaved it and beat it for a few minutes, it was still cold and it makes it harder for me to fold the whipped cream in. The end textured looked like a firm cream cheese frosting which makes it easier to frost as it's not runny. I thought I would need a cake ring to hold it in place until the frosting firmed up in the fridge overnight, but no need. I covered the sides with white chocolate shavings and topped it with white chocolate curls. It's my first time that I was successful in making white chocolate curls (thanks to winter weather :D). I used my marble board to do it although you can also use the back of a sheet pan. I didn't even have to refrigerate it, I just let it sit at room temperature (which as about 60-63F in my kitchen that morning) until I felt it was the right texture. It needs some trial and error for you to determine the right consistency or temperature of the chocolate to be curled up. I can't wait to do this with dark chocolate when I'm making something chocolaty.

I added red maraschino cherry to add some color to it. The idea was to make it christmas-themed. The white chocolate was supposed to represent the snow, and the red cherry was just a christmas color and to make the whole thing popped. I don't know if I executed correctly though :). I really don't know what the inside looked like as I forgot to ask Yanni to take a picture of it. But I have some red velvet cake left and some cheesecake filling that are now sitting peacefully in the fridge. I'm just waiting for the right time to make it :).

Espresso and Chocolate Mousse Cake with Cheesecake Filling

This was a week before Thanksgiving a few weeks ago that I received an email asking if I would be willing to make a cake for birthday party. Long story short, what I thought to be "a cake" turned out to be "a couple of individual cakes". They wanted 8 individual cakes with espresso and cheesecake flavors in one cake. I had to think really hard for a combination of the two that would actually work and how to incorporate it together and I finally suggested this cake, espresso and chocolate mousse cake with cheesecake filling and they agreed.

Little did I know that I would be really busy at work before Thanksgiving holiday, and I was gone the whole 3 days of the holiday for a retreat. The cakes were for Sunday afternoon and I came back home on Saturday afternoon. You would think that I would have plenty of time to make everything, and I thought so too, but flu came without notice. It was probably because I was out in the cold and slight raining for about two hours on the day before and my roommate was sick too, not a good combination I tell ya :). I did took a nap for a few hours after I got back home, but it didn't help much. It wasn't a fever, it was a sore throat, congested nose, headache, and ache all over my body (we had days packed of activities in the retreat), but don't worry, none of the virus was transferred to the cake in the making and I was really making sure of that :).

Fortunately, I already made the chocolate cake base and the cheesecake filling before I left and wrapped them really well in the freezer. It would make it easier for the cheesecake to be inserted in the cake as well. The sponge base was moistened with brandy mixture. I wasn't going to put the chocolate fence around the cake because I wanted the cake to show the different layer of chocolate mousse and espresso mousse, you can't really see the cheesecake filling since I put it in the middle of the mousse, smaller in diameter. But as wish would have it, there are some air bubbles showing and making it not perfectly smooth. So, the chocolate fence was a last minute decision. It wasn't what I envisioned it to be but I guess it was ok.

I was just glad that I could finish the cake in time and maybe I was also glad that it was for Sunday and not Monday because I could hardly stand that day. I'm so glad to hear that they all loved the cake afterwards. In the end, that's just all I wanted to hear :). Happy belated Thanksgiving!

Blueberry and Cheese Mousse Cake

I hope I haven't bored you with cakes by now as I still have a couple of other cakes on my archive to be posted. I know I should have posted it as soon as I made it as it's still fresh in my mind, but most of the time, it's very difficult to do.

Anyways, onto the cake now.
It was my good coworker friends, Tony's and May's birthday a few weeks ago. It was actually two weeks apart but due to time limitation, I combined the cake on the second birthday. I feel grateful to have such good friends at work. They're not just coworkers to me, in fact, I don't work often with some of them at work, but they are my good friends and I won't take it if they order a birthday cake from somewhere else :D. Well, with exception of course, but I do want to bake their birthday cakes if I can and I'll try to. We don't usually see each other at work, other than lunch time, but it was the time where we "bond" I think, that includes joking, story-telling, even arguing. We are completely different individuals but for some reason we became good friends and I'm thankful for that.

It was one of busy weeks and I had to come up with something quick and doesn't need a long time to make but still tastes good, a new cake I've never tried before is preferred :). But one thing leads to another and I decided to make this cake. I always love the combination of cream cheese and blueberry. I made the combination a few times before but I wanted to make something different with these two flavors, in terms of texture.

So here's what I came up with. I made blueberry compote with lemon juice, zest, sugar, and gelatin. The blueberries I had was very sweet and didn't need much sugar, it was very fragrant as well. Next, I made cheese mousse, which was based on pate a bomb. I usually made a quick cheese mousse with just cream cheese, sugar, gelatin, and cream, but I wanted to try something different and see if I can notice the difference. I think mousse made with pate a bomb base has better texture, although it is definitely more time consuming to make, involving boiled sugar syrup. I had some difficulties when I made this cake. Other than that I burnt my hands twice, it was cold in my kitchen that night and after beating the cheese until soft, I let it sit at room temperature for a while, about two hours because I needed to do something else. When I was about to fold the cream with the cheese, the cheese was cold and was harder to mix with the whipped cream. You can see little bits and pieces of solid cream cheese in the picture. Oh, and I forgot to put the gelatin in!!! First time I've done this. It was late already and I couldn't wait to rush to bed, but fortunately, the mousse held up well. The base was two layers of cotton sponge cake which I always use with blueberry and cheese combination.

The farmers' market was out of blueberries the day before when I was looking for it to decorate my cake with and I only had a handful of frozen blueberries left in my freezer. I thought hard of how to make it look nice, but it was one of those days when you really can't think of anything, you just run out of ideas. As you can see, the decoration is very poor and I'm not happy at all. Even the chocolate on the side had problems. Originally, I was about to do woodgrain pattern on the white chocolate sheet, but the dark chocolate set up too quickly (again, it was cold and this time was early in the morning) that it clogged the woodgrain pattern tool. So I scrapped everything off and started everything again and did a plain white chocolate sheet. I wrapped it in ribbon to make it more "colorful", and not too plain and boring.

There was another friend that has ordered a guava cake from a bakery. I couldn't actually make it to the celebration as I has my weekly meeting that day but I made it clear to them to save me a piece (a big one) of the guava cake as I was SUPER eager to try it. Sure enough when I came back to my cube, there was a HUGE piece of hot pink-colored cake waiting in my desk. From what I heard, my cake was gone so quickly and everybody loved it as it was really light and not too sweet at all. Phew... I was relieved, and I actually ate a little spoonful of it from my friend's plate. I definitely need to work on my cake decorating skill, but as long as my friends like it, that's all that matters the most right? Happy Birthday dear Tony and May!

Gift Box Cake

This one is another cake I made for a friend's birthday. It was actually requested by the wife for her husband. The birthday was on weekday so I had to pull an all-nighter and early bird to complete this cake. It might look simple to you, but fondant cake is never simple to me. If you're here in my kitchen, you would see that all tools are out and the table is full of fondant stuff and covered in white powdered sugar.

She wanted a gift box cake, which I thought was pretty simple, round with simple bow on top. I always thought that gift box cake is a really boring cake. It is simple but it's boring. It's just my thought, so I decided that I'd make it not too standard at least. Knowing that I didn't have much time to spare (I don't usually do fondant cakes on weekdays for a reason :D), I had to manage my time wisely and decide what did I need to make at night, or in the morning, making sure that I gave enough time for the bow to dry out and everything.

I was always curious of those gift box cake that has "lid" on top of them. I don't know how they can make it so perfect, perfect cut and finish, and perfectly straight. This is something about fondant, you have to make it perfect for the expected look or it won't like nice. I gathered my strength and decided to make one of those even though I knew exactly nothing about how to do it. I also wanted to do a diamond pattern in the middle because I felt like I needed to practice this as well. The one I did before for a wedding cake wasn't really satisfactory to me, so I wanted to learn more. I used a diamond cutter before to embose the fondant but this time I used a stitcher (I don't know what the exact name) with a roller to make the pattern. But I made it too big and I couldn't re-do it since the fondant was already applied on the cake. Oh, and for some reason that night, I had to roll and re-roll the fondant for four times!!! It wasn't enough the first time, and for a couple of times after that, the bottom sticks and torn up. I don't think I had energy left to finish the cake but I did fortunately.

I made two kinds of bow actually, the regular ribbon bow and this kind of bow but I felt like the ribbon kind is way too girly (and this is for a guy) so I decided to use this instead. I didn't make enough loops so I can only do a layer of it, and not a full loop ribbon (if you know what I mean), but I guess it turned out okay. It was simple and nice I think. The inside was Indonesian cheese layer cake that seems to be a favorite among my Indonesian friends :). I hope the cake adds up a little more joy to the birthday celebration. It's always a joy and a blessing to be a part of something special even if it's just through a cake :)