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!

Double Princess Cakes for Two Birthdays and A Chocolate Hazelnut Cake!

What a week! Remember when I said in the previous post that more birthdays are coming up just a little over a week from the previous birthday? Yup, this is it. I had to make three cakes earlier this month and it might be the most cake I make in a week and they're all for Friday and Saturday.

After the older brother's birthday, it is now the sister and she's turning 5. She's the only girl among her siblings and just like every other girl, she LOVES anything princess and girly stuff, long dresses, hair bands, kids jewelry, heels, you name it. Being a good aunty as I am, I made her a barbie cake on her 2nd birthday, the first year I moved back here in CA, then I made her a castle cake on her 3rd birthday, a tinkerbell cake on her 4th birthday, and I'm running out of ideas for the 5th one. I asked her what she wanted for her birthday cake and as usual she answered "princess cake! A princess in a park!" Hmm.... okaaayyyy......

I didn't have much time to think about her cake as I have two other cakes I needed to make, but I asked her if she has a small princess plastic figurine I can use for the cake topper so that I don't have to make it out of fondant, a huge time saver! It turned out she only have one plastic girl figurine, not a princess, just a girl wearing a t-shirt and a short, hmmm.... I guess I could tailor it, put some fondant skirt and call it a princess, simple and fast. She'd be happy with anything that just look like a princess, she's pretty easy to please :).

The cake for her birthday cake was a couple layer of vanilla sponge, with baked cheesecake filling in the middle and raspberry mousse (made from a mix due to time constraint), covered with thin buttercream. Since she mentioned "a princess in the park", I decided to put some grass all around the cake to make it look more like she's in a park, don't know if it really succeeded what it was meant to be. The other accessories were from her birthday presents that night.

The next cake was for her grandma and she's turning 70! What a milestone! I admire her for who she is, she's really kind at heart, willing to help, and the sacrifices she made for her kids are just unconditional. I decided on the D-day that I would make her a Swedish Princess Cake just because I have everything on hand, so that I don't have to do to the store to get the ingredients. I thought the Princess theme really shows here although she might not have believed that this cake really is a princess cake.

We had a join celebration for these two birthdays and we enjoyed the Swedish Princess Cake that night. The other princess cake was brought to the church the day after for her to celebrate it with her sunday school friends.

The last cake was a small cake for a coworker's birthday. She's been requesting me making her a cake since two years back, and I had not able to fulfill her request until now. I decided to make her the same Chocolate Hazelnut Cake, the smaller version, since I have a couple of the components left in the freezer from the previous one I made. Plus, she's a chocoholic so this was perfect! Nonetheless, she was beyond happy when she knew I really made it for her and that's just makes every sweat and every second of that lack of sleep worth it.

At the end of the week, I was just thankful that the crazy week had past and everyone seemed to be happy. I guess cakes always put a smile on everyone's face and that's just priceless :)