A Series of Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Cake (a.k.a Ferrero Rocher Cake)

First of all, I'd like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and the coming New Year. May this Christmas and New Year be the time for us to think and reflect all the blessing that we have been given and that we can channel those blessings to other people as well.

Christmas is coming too soon, so fast in fact that I'm not prepared to it, not at all. It's not just me that has crazy holiday schedule (in my case, it's work and lots of birthdays), but I'm sure that everybody experience the same thing, and I hope in a good and jolly way :). I see a lot of Christmas dishes, Christmas desserts, Christmas parties, Christmas decors, Christmas everything and it is very exciting! It is Christmas morning when I typed this and although the weather is somewhat crappy outside, so cloudy and windy, I have my morning cup of Cappuccino and also a very good freshly-baked chocolate croissant on my side :)

With my mom, my twin sister, and three of my eight brothers are here (it's usually two brothers and their family), we plan to go on a road trip this holiday break. It's been a while since I've been on a road trip and this time, we're going to LA, Vegas, and Utah. There's going to be A LOT of driving involved and with that long drive, I think we need lots of snacks, but let's see if we can actually manage to squeeze in some time to do it.

I almost ran out of new things to post on this blog lately, not that I bake less (it's more like the opposite), but I find myself baking mostly the same thing for the past few weeks.Ever since the wedding had passed, I received quite a number of request to bake the chocolate and hazelnut cake I baked for the wedding. At first, I wasn't planning on making this cake so often, more so by request, mostly because how time-consuming it is to make and the ingredients I used are pretty costly. If you recall this cake, it has about 8 different components. I made a simple version of it for the wedding, which only consists of about 6 components, but it is still a complex one to make.

I bake this same cake four times in a row just in two weeks, and I think that breaks the record for me. I did bake some other cake for different occasions, but I thought I'd combine this one in one post so that I won't post the same thing over and over again.

Most of these are for birthdays, different ones of course, and even though I always reluctant to make this cake due to the above reasons, it's always a joy when they come back and tell you how much they enjoyed it, makes me want to bake some more and more :). Since I don't like making the same exact cake multiple times, at least I tried to decorate it differently, I see this as an opportunity to practice my poor decorating and glazing skill. Some of the glazing looks very poor and not shiny, this is because I was re-using the leftover glaze from the previous cake, which is something new to me.

Again, have a joyful Christmas everyone!!

A Display Cake, Wedding Cakes, and Favors for M&J's Wedding!

It has been a while since the last blog post, and I surely didn't do enough of a good job keeping up with the blog updates :(. Holiday season is crazily busy for most of us, holiday shopping, holiday baking, family members visiting, etc.

Good thing for me, that me and my family has never been big on Christmas gifts, it was never a tradition for us to exchange gifts, but I did try to at least bake some Christmas goodies to give for friends. Last year, it was extremely last minute, I baked some stuff the night before the last day of work to distribute to some coworkers. Then, I promised myself to plan better next year (which is this year) and bake lots of different goodies, I've already had a list of what I want to make and believe me, there are tons and they're all sounds so good! Now that "next year" is finally here, here I am being in the same situation as last year, if not worse. It's only days before Christmas and here I am typing a small part of this draft post on Sunday at work in between firmware builds, so sad I know.

Anyways, back to what this post is all about, I must have mentioned about working on a wedding project a few times now and this is it!
It doesn't feel like too long ago I made this bridal shower cake, and now they're husband and wife!

When M asked me if I would be willing to make her wedding cake (and favor later on), I immediately said yes. Not because it's a challenge (this would be my second time), but how can I say no when it's your good friend who's getting married? This is the least thing I can do to show how happy and excited I am about their marriage.

The word "Wedding" never comes easy. Everything that has that word in it has to be big and special, and unfortunately that also means stress and a lot of work for many people too. As usual, I prepared a giant spreadsheet containing very detail budgeting information, which online store I should ordered from, every single item I need to buy from 10 different stores, details as for how many servings, decorating details, recipe conversion for each size of pan I used, timetable, you name it, heck it has 6 huge different tabs. It took me about a month getting everything together and even during the last week, I'm still updating the spreadsheet every single day.

I asked M from the beginning if she's ok with having display cake and having the real cake in the back, not for budget reason though because having it this way is more expensive, but it serves a couple of advantages:
- I don't have to worry about transporting four-tiered cake to the reception
- No need to worry about refrigeration or the cake being unrefrigerated for hours
- You can be creative about the decor as it is more sturdy (although in my case, it's just a simple decor)
- The last reason which is the most important one for me is that you can be creative with the actual wedding cake and you don't have to be limited to buttercream cake!

The cons are that it's more expensive more labor-intensive, which is something I always try to avoid whenever I make cake, but this time, it's special. I decided to make two flavors on the actual wedding cake, chocolate-hazelnut (a.k.a Ferrero Rocher cake) for the chocolate lovers and white chocolate raspberry cake for the fruit lover. It might sound like a disaster waiting to happen when you're trying to serve individual cake to 200 people, and you can never please anyone, but I can't help it.

The display cake is very simple-decorated, I'm very fortunate that M is a very laid-back person, she's not picky, she's basically ok with everything as long as it won't add more work on my plate. She picked a design based on a magazine we saw and I think it was pretty easy to execute, I just have to match the color and add some flowers to match the theme of the wedding. She didn't request anything for the cake and favors (except for the budget of course), but she left all the flavors, and every single detail up to me, which makes it easier on my end. The hardest part was to constraint every single expense so that it would fall under the budget (or at least close). I wouldn't have so many problems if it's just a buttercream cake but since I wanted a nice (and complicated) cake, most of the ingredients are special-orderred, so it was quite a challenge.

The three goodies for the wedding

The last week of the wedding was insane, intense baking for 7 days, day and night, constant dish-washing, it was hard to imagine that I actually went through all those. Making multiple desserts for large scale in a home kitchen (a messy one at that too) is quite a difficult task. My mom and brother were coming in that week too from Indonesia, busy work week as usual, it was crazy! I think my biggest problem was not having enough refrigeration space for all those cakes and desserts! I really wished I had at least two very large fridge and freezer that can fit multiple half-sheet pans!

The favor: Macaron with rose buttercream and lychee filling

The favor was purple macaron that I brushed silver streak on with rose buttercream filling and lychee center. I finally got some help to fill the macarons and put them in each favor box, thanks A and S! I bought a new silpat mat for this (I used to have only one) but for some reason, every batch of macarons that I baked them on, it always failed, always, and it drove me mad especially when it happened three batches in a row in the middle of the night, and you still have more than 100 macarons to make. All you wanted to do was cry, I almost gave up for quite a number of time to be honest.

The assembly line

Fortunately, everything went very well, everything was done on time. There were some minor glitches such as the catering didn't have a dessert plate, all they had was China plates for the entree, I freaked out. They finally came with a backup plan and although we had to settle with less, I was happy to have a plate for my dessert at least :).

I learned quite a number of things in this experience, one of them is that making cake for large portion is very different than making a small one. I converted each ingredients needed but the result was different for some reason. I was so scared that the taste would get impacted and that it wouldn't taste as good as I wanted to be, but my worries didn't come true. Yes, it tasted different than the small version I usually make and I hoped that it would be better, but as soon as I got a lot of people going to the kitchen asking for seconds, I could start breathing peacefully :). I even heard that some people are going around the tables after the reception to find more unopened favor (the macaron), yay! Mission accomplished!

We had a thunderstorm and a VERY COLD weather that day. We even had a blackout for about an hour in the middle of reception! Yeah, it was unprepared and pretty hectic at first, but I think it made the whole wedding memorable and quite casual as candles were lit everywhere, making it very romantic. The songs that some of the guests were singing had to be improvised to acapella too and they sounded great! Not to mention that M looked absolutely beautiful, she looked gorgeous! Jefry has got to be one of the luckiest men.

The beautiful bride and groom

So cheers to you both and I wish you both a happy and wonderful journey together. As Linda (the maid of honor and also the sister) said "may this day be the day where you love each other the least" --> not sure where she got the quote from but I love her speech! :). CONGRATULATIONS to you both!!

I don't have too many pictures of this as I didn't snap a thing during the reception and the cake-in-the-making, but I'm glad that at least I have something to show you in this post :). Won't show too many of the wedding pictures since they haven't been published yet :)

Happy to get two pieces :)

Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake with Earl Grey Crème Brulee Filling

Still with the cake marathon, this was made just a few days after the previous cake, and only a week before the wedding I prepared the cake and favor for! I still can't believe that I actually executed it in the middle of the insanity that was going on due to the wedding preparation, packing up some stuff for moving, my family coming from overseas and other state, Thanksgiving dinner planning just a few days after the wedding, and let's not forget about work, oh it was an extreme chaos alright.

Speaking about cake, gourmetbaking is participating in CAS (California Against Slavery) by donating a cake of selection for the winner who won the bid. All of the money will benefit the organization to stop slavery (in any kind of form) in California. You can go here to read more about this. There are plenty of items that other people donated, which you can bid too, for a good cause! The bidding will end on Wednesday, December 8, only in two days. Not so much time, but hey... again, it's for a good cause :)

Anyways, when you're making this many cakes in a year, and 90% of your family's and friends' birthday cakes, it feels unusual (at least to me), if you need to buy a cake from a store. Not that they would mind, especially if it needs to happen to keep me sane, sure why not and I was tempted to do so too for this one birthday. It was actually a combined birthday for two of my good friends, H and E, but as stupid (or nice) as I was or maybe just the fact that they kept on hinting that they "expect" me to bake them the cake, I decided to just make it (I guess it's easier to have lack of sleep rather than being "reminded" everyday for a few months that I did not actually bake them a cake on their birthday).

I knew it from the beginning that I will be making a chocolate cake since E is a true chocoholic while H is pretty much fine with everything. So, the usual process where I need to think hard of what cake I want to make that would please me and them was pretty much skipped as I knew what I wanted to "experiment". Being not so much of a chocolate fan, I always try to sneak in some other flavor to compliment the chocolate rather than having a true 100% death by chocolate flavor (unless requested). I've always curious to put both chocolate and earl grey in the same cake as I think they would make a really nice pairing. To me, Earl Grey has that warm feeling kind of taste that reminds me of the cold Fall/Winter, not that I'm an expert on tea but that's the impression I got when I have warm Earl Grey milk tea.

I love texture in a cake, and I especially love crunch in a chocolate cake, just to have that textural balance. I did that in this cake and I LOVE it! Trying to create the same type of crunch, I made a paillete feuilletine layer in the bottom layer, but instead of using hazelnut praline and gianduja paste like the other cake, I decided to make it using milk chocolate, butter, and cocoa nib. I wish I have some praline paste on hand, but I didn't and I don't know where to get them (suggestion is well-appreciated).

The component of this cake is:
- 2 layers of chocolate sponge brushed with brandy (I wish I had whisky on hand) for the bottom and middle layer
- pailette feuilletine with cocoa nib

- dark chocolate mousse
- earl grey creme brulee
- dark chocolate glaze

I cheated and used ready-made crunchy dark chocolate chips for the decoration. I didn't have much time to take pictures too as I was gearing up and was baking some cake base for the wedding cake prep.

We also had some Korean-themed dinner that night which was really good. I loved how the earl grey creme brulee provides a nice creamy surprise in the middle and it certainly provides good textural as well as taste balance to the whole cake. I really wish I have some cross-sectional picture for the inside of the cake, but everything always happens so quickly :(

A Late Little Taste of Summer - Sous Bois

I'm working on my way to post each cake/dessert (almost) on this blog, so bear with me. This cake was made about three weeks ago, wedding cake & favor and also Thanksgiving feast are coming too and I hope you had a wonderful blessed Thanksgiving. I enjoyed my Thanksgiving with my family and friends and Turkey dinner! I'm so thankful to have four out of 7 siblings with me at this time, and also my mom. It's been a while since I've seen her and in this holiday season, there's nothing I want more than to spend time with them. How did you spend your Thanksgiving? Would LOVE to hear them :)

I hope you're not bored yet with cake after cake after cake, because that's all I'm doing mostly for the past few months. It seems like each year, the number of cake I'm expected to make (by friends) increases or it's just me who can't stop making one after another :).
I think I mentioned it before that I rarely follow any recipe from any book when it comes to cake. I don't have that many baking books, but I do have a couple that I really like, such as Pierre Herme, Alain Ducasse, and Hidemi Sugino. I've been wanting to try one of their cake recipe to the tee, without altering anything and I had the perfect chance to do so.

I was first introduced to "food-blog" when I was in college, I didn't know that there are blogs out there dedicated for food only, accompanied with such gorgeous photography. I don't know how but I found myself on this site. I wasn't into baking yet at that time (I was more into cooking), but the pictures in that site were enough to make me dream about the cakes she made. I even made one of the cake picture my desktop background, which happens to be her miroir cassis picture. I found myself reading and re-reading every single post she has and admiring her skill. Unfortunately, she doesn't post many recipes, especially the cake recipe, but she always mentions which book does the recipe taken from. And that's how I was introduced to Hidemi Sugino, a Japanese pastry master, more like the Pierre Herme of Japan.

When I was more knowledgeable about cake a few years after, I was determined to hunt for that book even though I knew that it only comes in Japanese translation with Japanese/French ingredients, but it doesn't stop me from ordering it straight from amazon japan. I had his other book also, The Dessert Book, which is written in English and covers some simple desserts, but I don't look at it as much as the other one. I own the book for almost two years now but not once did I make any of his recipe, until now. I was using it more for inspiration and admiration of his perfection, clean lines of the dessert.

Since I was first in love with Hidemi Sugino through Nordljus' Miroir Cassis, which is Sous-Bois in Hidemi's book, I decided that if there's any recipe I would try from his book, this gotta be the first one. It doesn't look too complicated though, it looks like something that I would make normally, except for the fact that most of his fruit mousse has both italian meringue and heavy cream in it. I think this is one of the drawbacks (other than the fact that his recipes are in Japanese and I score 0 on that) from me trying his recipes, because that's mean an extra step I need to do. So, armed with the very minor knowledge for French (only limited to baking ingredients) and my basic knowledge to make mousse, bavarian cream, joconde, and other stuff, I was ready to tackle it.

I ordered the frozen blackcurrant puree a few months ago and I was never bothered to try it. I have never had blackcurrant before, not the real one at least. Sure I had those boxed blackcurrant juice, blackcurrant tea, and I LOVE them! In the drink form, it has a very aromatic taste that I like. I was a bit surprised though when I found out that the real one (the puree at least) doesn't taste anything like that. It was mostly tart without the strong taste I expected like in the drink, a bit like blackberry, but the color was gorgeous! Reminded me so much of black raspberry. I haven't had the time to take a picture of the blackcurrant puree I'm using, but I'll add it once I have the chance to.

This cake consists of:
- joconde base moisten with raspberry syrup (He brushed his joconde sponge with creme de cassis syrup, but I brushed mine with the raspberry liquid used to marinade the blueberry. I don't fancy creme de cassis that much or maybe the one I have is the cheap kind?).
- Blueberry mixed with raspberry coulis (His recipe calls for black and red currant but I didn't have fresh or frozen blackcurrant (I don't think you can get them in CA), so I substituted with blueberry for the compote or what he called "garniture")
- Kirsch bavarian cream
- Cassis mousse
- Patterned joconde on the side with black raspberry jam (he used homemade blackcurrant jam, but again since I don't have it, I used black raspberry jam)
- Clear glaze ( he mixed his with blackcurrant puree but when I did that, the two won't mixed well, so I just used a clear one)

His recipe calls to make another joconde with no pattern for the base, but since I already had some extra from making the previous cake (it was taken from Pierre Herme's recipe), I used that instead. I also added another layer of joconde in the middle for the big cake, not for the smaller version.

The verdict? I was pleased with the way it turned out. I love the combination of the tartness of the cassis combined with the creaminess of kirsch. I don't normally use kirsch in my baking, particularly because it reminds me so much of the cherry-flavored cough medicine I used to take when I was a kid, but after using it in this cake (which I hesitated at first), I think I might have to reconsider my statement again :). Some friends said that it's too tart but it's something you inherit from the fruit itself. Just like lemon or raspberry, no matter how much sugar you put, you will still taste that pleasant tartness in it (well, maybe not if you put a ton of sugar in it), so I won't worry about it. This cake can be adapted to so many different variation, I don't see why we can't substitute blueberry or raspberry for the blackcurrant.

Now that I've tried one, I think I'm ready for the next one :)

The winner of the previous giveaway from random.org is ......... HARI!! I'll send you email shortly for the coupon code that you can use. CONGRATULATIONS!!

Tropical Cake with Exotic Fruits and A Giveaway!

When most places are covered with snow now and most people are preparing the perfect Thanksgiving meal, here I am posting some tropical cake that seems really out of place and time at the moment. Well, this cake was made a few weeks ago when the weather was still warm and although it is freezing cold and raining, it feels nice to look at this cake and have a glimpse of the warm sun we've had.

When I was back from Hawaii (yes, it was a while ago but I still can't get over it :D), it was a bit sad to find that San Jose was all cold and rain, really missed the warm sun and beach there. I was trying to find some way to reminisce the warm tropical weather we just had and it also happened that my friend, Tony's birthday was coming up!

Before I went to Hawaii, there was this dessert competition in the company that I was supposed to participate. But since I was very weak to say no to Hawaii (it was super last-minute) deal, I had to back out just two days before the competition. Yes, they really gave me a hard time on that and can't stop calling me chicken from being scared and had to run away to Hawaii (tough love). Before I knew that I was going, I have already composed of what I would want to call "the perfect tropical cake", at least in my opinion. I wrote down the components and the layering to the very detail but didn't get to actually made it happen. So, in the spirit of tropical weather, despite the rain we've been having, I thought it would be perfect for Tony's birthday, especially since the birthday boy is a fruit type of guy, not the chocolate kind of guy.

The cake was also perfect due to the fact that I had some fresh passion fruit, thanks to my cube neighbor. The story began a few weeks ago when I was walking toward my cube and I smelled something really familiar but couldn't remember what, when I peeked in her cube, she was eating fresh passion fruit out of hand! I think I squealed a little when I saw that and immediately asked where she got that. I've been looking for fresh passion fruit here in the US for forever! I saw it once in a grocery store, but they're all wrinkly and ugly, and I just couldn't pay $3 for a very small size fruit, especially when I was so busy with birthdays that week, so I had to pass.

Ever since I discovered the passion fruit my neighbor at work has, I've been getting quite a few of them but didn't manage to make or decorate anything with it. I let it all get wrinkly and put them in the freezer hoping that they would last, they're like a gem to me. I also happened to have some starfruit on hand, first time ever here. I used to have the tree back home (in Indonesia), and now it is so hard to find them here. Seems like everything was in place for the tropical cake!

The cake consists of:
- Almond dacquoise
- Creme aux Ananas (pineapple cream)
- Sauteed Pineapple (with rum)
- Grand Marnier bavarian cream
- Joconde
- Exotic fruit mousse (pineapple, passion fruit, mango, and lime)
- Exotic fruit glaze

I hope you haven't got lost in that layering yet but I love playing with flavor combination and texture, trying to achieve that perfect bite. Being a tropical-flavor fanatic, I spent so much time trying to build the perfect cake and I got too excited in incorporating too many layering and I had to trim it down to the ones above.

It was a bit nerve-wrecking to find out how the cake would taste like, is it gonna be too sweet? too sour? too soft of a texture? I think I was too scared that this disaster would happen again, where the cake was waayy too tart (luckily the birthday girl loves tart). It was my first time dealing with passion fruit puree and I was surprised to find out how tart it is.

The kitchen smelled so good when I was making the exotic mousse, you can almost imagine being in an tropical island, just listen to Jason Mraz song or "Hey Soul Sister" song and you're good to go.
I can safely say that I think this cake worth all the effort and time making it. Although it took me four days to make, everything was paid off by the satisfaction of the people eating it. Glad that the birthday boy LOVED it, even though he only got a small piece of the cake (people are butchering the poor cake).

I also made a smaller version the week after for different occasion, Kiki's birthday! Her ultimate favorite cake is actually the Ispahan cake (lychee, rose, and raspberry), but I really don't have time making it, especially when I am in the middle of committed birthday cakes and wedding cake preparation. I can't just let her birthday go by without a cake, at least not without me trying to make it happen, so I decided to make this cake again since I have a few components ready. It is slightly different though, instead of covered with the mousse, it is covered with bavarian cream, with the mousse inside (I had the leftover mousse that I kept in the freezer). There is no alcohol in this cake either as Kiki is expecting a baby boy, except the rum in the sauteed pineapple, in which case the alcohol got burned off completely.

Unfortunately, I couldn't attend the birthday as I was sick, but I hope this cake can make it up for her.

But anyways, I have had done giveaway from CSN store twice before and the last one was not too long ago. They have been so generous and offered me the third one, a $45 giftcard! If you haven't noticed, CSN store is probably the largest online shopping company I've known, it has everything, and I mean E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G! In this holiday season, I thought their suitcase is perfect for those of you who are traveling, the kitchen stuff definitely makes a great holiday gift, accessories, anything you can think of, heck they have 200++ online stores!

As usual, the rule is so simple, just leave a comment on this post between now until Nov 28, 2010. Only US and Canada residents are valid for the giveaway (but of course anyone can leave a comment), no anonymous or no name comment (I won't have a way to view your profile to see where you are or if you're not some automatic machine typing), only one entry per person. Multiple comments under the same name will be counted as one entry. . The winner will be picked through random.org as usual. Good luck and have a GREAT Thanksgiving week!

Bridal Shower for Soon-To-Be Wife, Merry!

I was so happy when I heard that Merry, one of my close friends and certainly one of my first friends in the US, got engaged to her boyfriend, Jefry. Merry has always been that boyish kinda girl, which is cool. I still remember the time when all of us with her brother and sister and my twin sister (did I tell you that I have a twin?), would hang out together after school and we'd go to a bubble tea places, cheap Chinese restaurants and all. We don't do that (at least not that much) anymore since we've all grown up now, but we would still go way back.

So, imagine how excited I was when I heard this, so excited that I started thinking about her bridal shower immediately (and wedding cake too but that's for later), which kinda made me the default to coordinate it. I wanted to make it look as nice and as pretty as it can get. I kinda enjoy all the planning for events like this, I've always been the kind of person who loves spreadsheet, timetable, and everything, I love to see visually how things would flow and such. So, there I was planning, budgeting (the hardest part), arranging the bridal shower on a giant spreadsheet that contains everything you can possibly imagine, from very detail budgeting and pricing, menu, person who's in charge, favor, table setting, centerpiece, guest list, you name it, it's all there.

The original plan was to have an outdoor garden lunch but unfortunately, we found out earlier in the week that it would rain that weekend, bummer! So, the plan has to be changed to an indoor lunch. It also happen that in the same week as the bridal shower, I "had" to go on a last-minute vacation to Hawaii, which left me only two days to decide what cake I would make, the decoration, what favor, buy ingredients, gifts, and finalizing everything else. Oh yes, it was hectic, not a pretty situation, but thankfully there are always friends who are willing to help.

note: above photos are courtesy of nana
It was raining and a bit windy, but it didn't stop us from gearing up for the party. We had a wonderful decorating, thanks to Irene, the master of all creativity. The color theme for this shower is white, green and brown. The wedding itself is gonna be in bright purple and silver but we wanted the shower to have different color scheme. I think white, green, and brown has a warmth feeling to it, especially in the Fall season. We also had a very satisfying pasta lunch made by Merry's aunt. It was a bit sad when we had to tear down the decoration when the time of renting the place was up, it was too pretty. Merry looked wonderful that day, she had a trial make-up session with her salon for her wedding, so it was the perfect timing!

I made a traditional Indonesian cake, also known as "Lapis Surabaya" or "Spiku", as seen here, and brownie for the favor. I don't have a picture of the brownie inside the box as we had no more time, but I was determined to make it again, this time all dressed up with the ice cream and sauce! I'll post the recipe then as I had quite a number of people requesting the recipe for the brownie after the shower.

passion fruit drink
So there Merry, I wish you a wonderful beginning for your journey ahead, so sad that you will have to move after getting married, but hey, LA is not that far anyway :), we'll go visit :). Congratulations and big hug for you!