Tropical Gateaway in A Cake: Passion Fruit and White Chocolate Mousse, Mango, and Raspberry Jelly Cake

It has been pouring down hard and heavy these past couple of weeks in California, San Jose to be exact. It seems like there are five storms passing with heavy rain one after another (so I've heard). I think this is the longest rain I have ever seen in this area for the past eight years if I remember correctly, when I moved here. I have never liked cloudy, rainy weather. Weather affects your mood, well, at least for me :). While on the other hand, I'm all about sunny warm weather. Sun makes me happy (not scorching hot though) and excited. But fortunately (or is it?), I'm inside an office building with a stable temperature everyday, so the rain doesn't really affect me all that much, except when I'm going out to lunch, weekend, and when I got home from work of course. Believe it or not, I woke up earlier than usual when it rains at night. The sound of the rain hitting the window next to my bed easily wakes me up bright and early in the morning (in this case, dark and early :D).

Anyways, the bad weather makes me longing for something summery, or maybe tropical. Although it wasn't too long ago that summer had passed, but I already miss the smell and taste of berries, cherries, peaches, mangoes, ... It also happened to be San San's birthday last Wednesday. Although weekday birthday is never good for me (if I'm making the cake), but I tried my best to plan my schedule accordingly. I had also been wanting to lay my hands on passion fruit, in terms of creating something with this tropical and exotic fruit. Back in Indonesia, we can easily find this fruit at the grocery store, but it was a pain to eat or to extract the juice, so I didn't really care so much about it, but that was before I started making cakes. I couldn't even cook rice in a rice cooker at that time (can you believe that?)! Now that I'm into cakes and desserts, passion fruit has been one of my most-wanted items :D and I was so excited that I found a baking supply warehouse near San Fransisco and they also sell to individuals! They do carry passion fruit puree as well as tons of many other stuff, so I got that a week before the bday.

It only seems appropriate to match passion fruit with mango, and raspberry was also came to mind. Mostly because they have floral-y or tropical smell that I think compliments each other a lot. I also paired it with white chocolate mousse to balance out the flavor and two layers of almond joconde that have been brushed with Grand Marnier as the base. It might look like too many things going on in one cake, but I love texture and complex flavor combination, although at that point I really don't know how well it will turn out.

I was pretty surprised to find out that the passion fruit puree was really sour and very liquid-y in terms of texture, almost like water although not as much. I have never used passion fruit in any of my baking before so I didn't know what to expect. I put LOTS of sugar to sweeten the puree but it seems like no matter how much I added, it was never enough and I didn't want to add more to it as it was almost the same amount of the puree itself. I had so many difficulties making the mousse as the mixture was so thin (before the gelatin sets) and the mousse was leaking from under the cake ring. After much frustration, remade the mousse to made up the lost amount and put it in the freezer to set, I went to sleep as it was already late.

The big cake for birthday

As predicted, the mousse was on the tart side, a little to tart for my taste in fact. The mango wasn't helping either as it wasn't sweet enough, which is expected I guess since it's not the season for it yet. Good thing the birthday girl likes tart stuff, but it might be too much for some of my friends :D. The gelatin wasn't quite enough to set the mousse as it was a little too soft. So, I put white chocolate fence and a ribbon around it to hold the mousse. At that point, it didn't look too bad, in fact, I think the white chocolate and the green ribbon added another dimension to the tropical theme :D. My friends were all agree that the cake was tart overall. I guess, it wasn't an ultimate success, but hey experiments don't always turn out so perfect, do they :D? I definitely want to play more with passion fruit and still curious with it, somewhere along passion fruit chiffon, or mix it with white chocolate ganache for macaron filling, somewhere along that line and I can't wait to have the ultimate passion fruit cake/dessert!

I brought the mini cakes to work and let my coworkers tried it and surprisingly, they liked it! The textured firmed up a little more and I guess the flavor blend in more after a few days.

I don't have the picture of the inside of the cake, but I left one cake "undecorated" so you can see the layers that made up the mini cakes. There's white chocolate mousse layer in the middle of the passion fruit mousse, you can probably see it from the white streaks in the picture below.

White and Blue Wedding Cake

Remember this? Yes, they are officially married now! They got married in Indonesia back in December, but they were also having a little celebration with their friends here back in the States last week.

I was so excited when Kathy asked me if I would and could make the cake for her mini wedding celebration. The party was for about 50 people so I didn't have to worry about making a huge cake to feed them all. And the most important thing is, I didn't have to worry as well about what cake I want to make as Kathy was dead-set of having her favorite Indonesian cheese layer cake with pandan and vanilla sponge cake. This took a huge weight off my shoulder as deciding on the cake flavor is the most difficult thing to do when making a cake, at least for me :). So, all I needed to worry was the cake design.

She mentioned that her theme would be blue and silver and she wanted the base to be off-white color. White and blue is easy but incorporating silver? hmm... I have to think extra hard and even tried to find inspiration everywhere. I looked at probable hundreds of pictures for inspiration. I was originally planning to use diamonds or crystal to put on the cake but I canceled that idea last minute (umm... the night before) since the crystal will not be edible and I'm afraid someone might accidentally eat it. Besides, I was afraid that the cake will look too "bling-y" (if this is a word).

I started making the sponge a few days before for three days at night after work and the morning before work. This was the only time I could spare since work was so busy that week. I tried to do as much prep as I can to avoid rushing things on Saturday (the party was on Saturday evening). Not to mention that I had to make another cake for Sunday the day after. Luckily, my sister in law and her brother helped me making the figurines. It was so hard for me making the glasses for the boy since it was so tiny, and my hands were shaking, but finally we managed to pull it off after a few hours (yes, we're still amateurs at making figurines :D). All of the filling, frosting, assembling, and decorating were done on Saturday. The design wasn't actually planned, except for the top tier part. It was kind of an instant idea, which I don't think turned out so bad after all :). Even the heart idea came up half an hour before I had to get ready. It was a crazy day, or crazy week I should say as I was on a rush the whole time. The cake was done VERY last minute, and I was about 30 minutes late than what I had planned.

Luckily, the cake landed fine on the table. It was really heavy and I could barely carry it. I had to brush the ribbon and the hearts with pearl dust on the little venue, with some guests watching (which are my own friends too). Overall, I was pretty happy with the look. I was worried that white and baby blue color combo would make the cake looks like a baby shower cake. But I think it turned out okay, sweet and simple. Sure it's not elegant, just like any traditional wedding cake should be. But I didn't want it to be traditional, I wanted it to be fun and I was so glad that the bride and groom were happy with it.

Here are some pictures of the bride and groom. I have to say though, I think Kathy is the most beautiful bride I have ever seen. I wish you could see her wedding pictures when she was in her wedding dress. She looked really pretty, and not just pretty, but really beautiful. Richard surely is a lucky guy, not just because he has a beautiful wife on the outside, but also beautiful on the inside. CONGRATULATIONS for the newly wed! Wish you a beautiful life together and may your marriage be a blessing for other people around you :).

ps: Photos are courtesy of San2, a talented photographer friend of mine (I'm surely gonna miss you San when you're leaving :( )

Another Year, Another Tiramisu

This is the first tiramisu of the year. Although it wasn't too long ago that I made Baileys tiramisu, but oh well, it's another year and tiramisu is a perfect start to a new year.

This was actually a request from a friend for a birthday, so I had no choice and I didn't get to argue or persuade her to request something else :). I guess I do enjoy making tiramisu as it is easy to make, tastes good, and make the house smells like coffee and rum, hmm....

The cake in the picture here was actually made with leftover tiramisu cream from the big cake. I didn't get to take a picture of the big cake because it was so... last minute. The person was almost arrived at my house before the cake was done. Good thing it finished just in the nick of time that she didn't have to wait and watch me decorate it, that would be a nightmare in any way. So yeah, too bad although it was not that special, it's still square, brown colored, chocolate fence, ribbon, gold dragees, textured sheet cake, but I would really like to remember what I made a few years from now :)

But at least I got this picture here. I had some leftover cream and there's no way that it was going to waste. Worst case, I probably going to freeze it, but fortunately, I had some chocolate sponge cake that I then drenched it in the coffee-rum mixture and I had been dying to try one of my newest baking tool collections :D. I used what's called cake transfer sheet. It is basically a textured mold made from clear plastic, about 1.5" high. I did have some difficulties unmolding it after taking it out from the freezer (I have to freeze it before unmolding), but it works great afterall. I used the leftover chocolate squares from the big cake. I used my arabesques chocolate textured-sheet for this one. I'm starting to really like putting gold dragees on top of tiramisu. I think it makes the cake looks elegant :D, but it's just me though :)

Ferrero Rocher Cake

I know it's way too late but I want to wish everybody a belated Christmas and Happy New Year. It's better late than never :). Unfortunately, to be honest, I didn't have a great holiday break this time as I was really sick and literally stuck in bed for the whole three days. I could walk around a little for the next three days, but still need to sit and rest frequently. I was kinda disappointed being sick for a week during the holiday, my plans got thrown away, even the plan to clean the kitchen, my room, and my car, wasn't really come to reality. Making them even worse maybe, especially the room. But I guess it's better rather than being sick on workweek? I dunno, bottom line is, it sucks being sick, really and I mean it. So, please don't ever get sick, if possible :).

Other than that, I spent the rest of my holiday just eat, eat, and more eating. Seriously, I don't think it's possible for a human to be sick of eating but I kinda did. We ate crabs three times in less than two weeks, we talked about lunch tomorrow when we haven't even started with the dinner tonight. But in the midst of all that, I'm still thankful for everything, all the food, the friends, the companionship. I'm back to normal now, my normal appetite and the craziness of this life :).

Before I got sick, I got the chance to cook up a Christmas Eve dinner with a bunch of close friends. I REALLY wanted to make it special and over-the-top but unfortunately, things will never go as planned when you're in a hurry. The planning was last-minute as we had a birthday celebration a few days before, so my mind was taken up to think about the cake more rather than the Christmas Eve dinner. Plus, I was still working until Dec 23rd evening, not even going home early, so that's not really helping. But that's not the most important thing, is it? As long as you have friends and family with you, that's all that matters :).

Now, let's talk about the birthday or the cake to be precise :D. I knew all along that this time, it would be chocolate cake, or something similar, not fruit-flavored. Nothing against it as he likes it anyway, but he's more of a chocolate lover, not really chocoholic, but there's no doubt that he likes his chocolate. He craves it once in a while. For some reason, all I can think about at that time was a ferrero-rocher-inspired cake. I've been dying to recreate the flavor and the texture of ferrero rocher chocolate into cake form. I've been scribbling down notes for ideas of what the components should be. I want taste as close as the real thing as a lot of texture for sure. The real Ferrero Rocher chocolate is composed mainly of milk chocolate and hazelnut flavor. It is a little too sweet for me so I decided to use both dark chocolate and milk chocolate in the cake as to cut the sweetness.

After much thinking with the options of the components and the ingredients that are available without having to online order it, I decided on something finally. The hardest part was to determine what would I use for the crunchy layer of the ferrero rocher chocolate in this cake. So lo and behold! This cake has two layers of chocolate sponge cake brushed with brandy, chocolate-hazelnut praline (made with rice krispies), toasted halved hazelnut, chocolate-hazelnut mousse, valrhona cruncy pearl, milk chocolate cream, and finally dark chocolate glaze. Phew! This cake was all about texture! There's no doubt that there was plenty of crunch and crackling sound with every bite of this cake and I absolutely love it! I actually made a hazelnut dacquoise base but ended up throwing it away as it was way too sweet even after I cut the sugar down by half. So I had to use two layers of choc. sponge instead of dacquoise and choc sponge.

What I was so happy about in this cake, is the praline. I was about to go buy some feuillantine online, but I didn't want to spend the shipping just for it, plus there was not enough time. So, I used rice krispies instead and it works wonders! This was also the first time I used valrhona crunchy pearl, and despite the high price, I love the texture it gives to the cake. And the last thing, I was completely happy with the chocolate glaze. I have been looking for a recipe for a shiny mirror-like chocolate glaze, not the ganache type as the color becomes dull after being refrigerated. I used lots and lots of Valrhona cocoa powder to make this and it gives the glaze a dark and deep taste as well as the color. What I like so much about it too is that it doesn't taste powdery at all. My only regret for this cake is that I didn't have edible good leaf to put on top of the cake. I would imagine it would look a lot better with it instead of a piece of hazelnut :(. And with no doubt, this cake ranks the highest immediately among my friends. Even until now, this cake was still mentioned at birthday celebration, and that means a success!

I had to make this cake again a few days after the bday for the Christmas party dessert by request. I used almond joconde to replace one of the sponge layer and I like it even better. I think the second cake looked kinda plain, but my friend was dead-set against me putting something on top of the cake as they said that "it will ruin the smooth and shininess of the glaze", LOL! I still wish that I had some gold leaf though :(

I quickly wrote down the amount of each ingredients I used to make the cake on the paper so that I won't forget it like the way I used to do, but... sad but true, I lost the paper!!! I got sick just a few days after making this cake and when I got better and was about to type it up, I couldn't find it, even until now :(. I guess this only means one thing, and yes you guess right, I just have to make it again! :D

Oh, here's a picture of the inside of the cake. It looks messy after being butchered but at least you get the idea of the different layers that go into this cake