Raspberry, pistachio, and white chocolate cake

White chocolate, raspberry, and pistachio bark

The other day, my boyfriend and I made a trip to Gourmet Warehouse, a local store that sells cooking supplies and ingredients.  Their baking section has an amazing array of every form or chocolate or sprinkle or flavouring you could imagine.  I bought some freeze-dried raspberries and was very excited to incorporate them into a cake.  I have been seeing lots of pictures of cakes by Katherine Sabbath, and cakes inspired by hers.  They are super colourful and dramatic, and many are decorated with shards of chocolate bark sprinkled with freeze-dried berries, nuts, or candy.  So using her cakes as inspiration, I made a raspberry, pistachio, and white chocolate layer cake decorated with chocolate bark.

White chocolate, raspberry, and pistachio cake

Since chocolate will seize if you add any water to it (unless you add enough to smooth it out into an actual sauce or ganache), I couldn’t colour the chocolate just by adding normal water-based food colouring.  I think most people use candy melts, which are pre-coloured “chocolate” pieces that are very stable for melting and re-hardening.  I wanted to use good quality white chocolate, but rather than going out to buy some oil-based food colouring, I just pulverized some of the freeze-dried raspberries and mixed in the dust to some of the chocolate.  This actually worked quite well to colour it pink without changing the consistency (I don’t think the flavour was noticeable, but I really just wanted the pink colour).  After swirling together the white and pink chocolates on a parchment-lined baking sheet, I sprinkled on toasted pistachios and crumbled up freeze-dried raspberries, and put it in the fridge to set.

If you look at Katherine Sabbath’s Instagram page, you will probably see the chocolate bark I was inspired by!  Hers has gold leaf on it – maybe something to try next time.  I saw some fancy bark like this at the recent “Eat! Vancouver” festival.  I think it would make a nice gift on its own, or as part of a little box of treats.  I plan to experiment more with other toppings I can add – I have seen dried rose petals on some!

For the cake itself, I used three layers of Alice Medrich’s hot milk sponge cake, and two layers of pistachio sponge.  I was hoping the pistachio cake would be a little greener… my sister pointed out that it looks a little like falafel!  Maybe next time I’ll add a bit of green food dye – although, to be honest, the flavour wasn’t particularly noticeable, so maybe next time I’ll just use almonds.  In any case I think it’s an interesting contrast to the vanilla cake.  In between the layers I used raspberry filling from Sprinkle Bakes (very tasty), and white chocolate swiss meringue buttercream.  I sifted more raspberry dust over the top of the cake and then stuck in the chocolate bark.  I just made a 6-inch cake because we seem to have an unhealthy amount of dessert over here!  If you happen to be in my neighbourhood, please stop in for a piece of cake…

White chocolate, raspberry, and pistachio cake

Advertisements

Golden bee cookies

Golden bee cookies

Here are some bee-themed cookies that I made yesterday.  I had been planning to make these for a while… I had an image of the circular ones in my head.  I used my bee cookie cutter for some of them as a bit of an after thought, but I actually like those ones just as much.

I made the little golden bees by piping them with royal icing on parchment paper.  I did this in stages so there would be some definition between the different parts; I did the head and abdomen first, then filled in the middle bit (the thorax), and then added the top wings, and then the  bottom wings.  In between I let them partially dry so that the different parts wouldn’t run together.  Once they were completely dry, I mixed some edible gold glitter with vodka and painted that over top in two coats, then peeled them off the parchment and stuck them to the cookies with a little more icing.

I used yellow icing to pipe the little bees, which gave them a pretty intense gold colour.  In retrospect, maybe I should have just used white icing, so they would match the gold details on the rest of the cookie.  I think they’re pretty cute though!  Especially posed on this saucer.

Golden bee cookies

Knitting, sewing, and treats!

My recent sewing and knitting projects

Today I’d like to share a random assortment of things.  Above are my recently finished knitting and sewing projects.  On the left is the Norby hat designed by Gudrun Johnston for one of Brooklyn Tweed’s “Wool People” collections.  I love the patterns in these collections… I’m planning to start a sweater soon and will probably be using one of the Brooklyn Tweed patterns for that too!  In the center is an apron I just sewed.  I didn’t have enough fabric to follow a real pattern, so I just made the most basic apron possible – basically a rectangle attached to a waistband, using every inch of the pink fabric!  I sewed on a pocket as well.  On the right is a cowl made with double knitting, which is a technique that gives you a double-sided fabric.  This was my first project using the technique, and although it’s very slow going, the finished product is very thick and cozy!  The pattern is called Trapper Cowl and it’s from Interweave Knits magazine.
My recent baking

Here are a few of my edible projects as well!  In the top left are almond pear mini bundt cakes from the book Bake it Like You Mean It.  The cake was tasty although maybe a little too almond-y or a little too sweet for me.  Slices of pear poached in white wine were embedded in the middle of the cake, very yummy.  In the bottom left is a strawberry rhubarb pie following a recipe from The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book.  I bought this book for myself using some Christmas money and have definitely gotten my money’s worth out of it!  So far I have baked the Salty Honey Pie (still my favourite), Black-Bottom Oatmeal Pie, Lemon Sour Cream Pie, Salted Caramel Apple Pie, Junipear Pie, Lemon Chess Pie (except using lime instead of lemon, and honey instead of part of the sugar – tasty but intense!), and Rhuby Rhazz Pie (the one from the photo – I used strawberries instead of raspberries).

In the top right is a blueberry pie (not from the book), and in the bottom right is a birthday cake for my boyfriend’s lovely mother, both baked on our recent trip to Saskatchewan.  The cake was layers of angel food cake with lemon curd in between, and frosted with strawberry swiss meringue buttercream, with strawberry purée poured on top.

Hummingbird cookies

Hummingbird and flower cookiesWith all my new free time, I’ve been doing a lot more baking!  I made these hummingbird cookies just because I had a hummingbird cookie cutter.  I decided to do a stained glass style, by piping black outlines and then filling in the gaps with coloured icing.  I did a few flowers as well.  I had some problems with “cratering”, where the icing collapses as it dries in small areas.  Although I’m not sure why it happens, I followed the advice online and started drying them in front of a fan, which seemed to solve the problem (see the top right hummingbird, which dried in front of the fan, versus the one below it, which didn’t).

Anyway, I’m quite happy with them!  Expect more posts in the near future since I’m on a four-month vacation!

Hummingbird and flower cookies

Lemon-blackberry cake

Lemon-blackberry layer cake topped with meringues

My lovely boyfriend had a birthday yesterday, so I made him this colourful cake.  I used a lemon layer cake recipe from Annie’s Eats, and put whipped cream folded with blackberries in between the layers (the last bag of blackberries in the freezer from last summer!).  I frosted the cake with swiss meringue buttercream with lemon curd and yellow food colouring added in.  The frosting was super tasty and very easy to frost and pipe with.

I had seen meringues being used to decorate cakes on Sweetapolita and Sprinkle Bakes, and my boyfriend loves meringues, so I decided to give it a go!  I used this recipe for the meringues, flavouring them with lemon, orange, and lavender.  The stripes are made by painting lines of food colouring on the inside of the piping bag before adding the meringue.  If I were going to do this again, I think I’d use a different recipe for the meringues – they were not quite the texture I was hoping for.  Also the lemon and orange zest in them went a little strange and crystallized – next time I think I would stick to extracts.  The lavender ones worked beautifully, though.

Looking forward to August when we can pick some more blackberries!

Lemon-blackberry cake

Colourful dot cookies

Cookie gift

Friday was a big milestone for me – the last class of my degree!  I still have final exams and a project to finish, but I’m getting closer!  I decided to bake cookies this weekend and give them to one of my professors as a thank-you for his help.  I was inspired by these colourful cookies but had a frustrating time trying to reproduce them.  I don’t have a cookie stencil, so I was trying to get the same effect with piping, but the geometric designs just looked kind of messy free-hand.  I decided to go with simpler designs mostly made up of dots.

I got the cute cookie box and ribbon from a neat craft supply store called Urban Source.  They have tons of cute boxes and bags like this that are perfect for giving away baking, and I had a lot of fun picking them out!  The box fits two cookies stacked, so I included the two below.

Decorated sugar cookies

Chocolate ricotta gradient cake

Chocolate ricotta cake

This cake was based on a recipe from a book called “Bake it Like You Mean It” that I got a couple of years ago.  It’s full of beautiful photos and great inspiration, but for a few reasons I’m always a bit suspicious of the recipes themselves – the book came with a gigantic list of errata, the quantities seem crazy at times (three pounds of butter to frost a nine inch cake?!), and the instructions don’t seem to match up well with the picture of the end product.  So when I finally made this cake, I decided to make some modifications and take the instructions with a grain of salt.

I used the filling recipe in the book, which is a mixture of ricotta, mascarpone, whipped cream, and chocolate (I left out the coffee).  The idea is to divide the filling into five different bowls and mix different amounts of chocolate into each one, so when you assemble it the layers of filling form a gradient.

Chocolate ricotta cake with white chocolate flower

I decided to make a six inch cake instead of an eight inch cake (making half the amount of filling), and used a chocolate cake recipe from my mom, baking three six inch rounds and cutting each in half horizontally.  I’m not sure where the chocolate cake recipe came from originally, but it’s delicious and moist, and I use it all the time for cakes and cupcakes.  I left out the coffee syrup that is used in the book, since the cake was already so moist.  I then frosted the cake in ganache and topped it with a white chocolate flower following Alice Medrich’s instructions in her book Chocolat.

By far the trickiest part of this cake was frosting with ganache, which I have never done before.  Since the lighter filling layers didn’t have much chocolate in them, they were very soft, so it was tricky to get the ganache to stick to this part of the cake.  Also, even when I got the ganache to a nice spreadable consistency, it seemed to get very hard as soon as I started frosting.  I’m not sure what the solution to this is… maybe just get the ganache even softer and just work quickly?  Or maybe try just pouring liquid ganache over the whole thing?

Making the white chocolate rose was a lot of fun and worked surprisingly well.  It’s made from “chocolate modelling dough”. This is just chocolate and corn syrup, which you heat until the chocolate melts, stir together, and pour onto a plate and leave to sit.  I let it sit overnight, and when I went to use it today I just scraped it off the plate and kneaded it until it felt like play-dough.  To make the flower, you just roll nine balls of dough and flatten each one into an oval with a rolling pin.  You then form each one into a petal by gathering one edge and fit it into a bowl lined with plastic wrap, with a little melted chocolate in the bottom.  I made this in a sugar bowl about four inches across.  The rose is a little tall for my liking, so if I did it again I would use a shallower dish or just make the petals smaller.  (You can’t tell as much from these photos, because I chose the photos where it looked best!)

The chocolate dough was very easy and fun to work with, and since it’s almost pure chocolate it’s tasty too.  I think I’ll be making more with this in the future!

White chocolate flower

Chocolate ricotta cake

Chocolate ricotta cake

The filling is very tasty and melds nicely with the cake.  It has a good tang to it that’s a nice change from just plain sweet fillings.