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 :(