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

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.

Tea Party

Cardamom rose petits fours

My sister and I hosted a tea party last weekend.  We sent out invitations folded like tea bags, tea included, to a few friends (in the actual mail!).  We had a lot of fun planning the treats – I made cardamom rose petits fours and little chocolate mousse cups, and my sister made mini cream puff swans and cheese scones.  My sister’s collection of vintage Petalware dishes came in handy, and I picked up some flowers and arranged them for the table (this was actually surprisingly fun – who knew that picking out all your favourite flowers in a shop would make such a pretty bouquet!).

Petalware

It was my first time making petits fours, and I was very happy with how they turned out.  I made a single recipe of Alice Medrich’s hot milk sponge cake in a baking sheet (not sure what dimensions, but the kind that fits in a normal oven), adding freshly ground cardamom and orange zest.  I then made three egg whites worth of swiss meringue buttercream, adding rose water and a small amount of red food colouring.  Then I cut the cake into three rectangles and stacked them with the buttercream in between.  Following the advice of an online video, I put the cake into the fridge with a weight on top for a few hours to make it compact and chilled.  Then, I cut it into 21 squares and poured glaze over each one (just made of icing sugar, milk, and a little vanilla).  The glaze was the most annoying part – I had to keep scraping up the overflow glaze and pushing it through a sieve so I could reuse it.  I watched another video where they froze the cake squares first, and then just dipped them, but I didn’t have the patience to wait for it to freeze – maybe next time.

Cardamom rose petits fours

My original plan was to make candied rose petals, but I couldn’t find any organic roses for this… I thought that non-organic roses might not be super safe since they’re not intended for eating.  So in the end, I found a gum paste recipe online just made of icing sugar, gelatin, and corn syrup.  I added a little red food colouring, rolled it out, cut out and formed the flowers, and let them dry.  This would have been much easier if I had a flower cutter (I was using the large end of a piping tip to cut circles and then forming petals), but you gotta do what you gotta do!  The next day I added pink “petal dust” in the center (edible dust for this exact purpose!), attached pink dragées in the centres and stuck them on the cakes using more glaze.

I made the mousse cups by painting multiple layers of chocolate on the inside of mini muffin cups, refrigerating them, and then peeling off the cups.

Chocolate mousse cups

My sister followed my mom’s recipes for the scones and the cream puff swans, filling the cream puffs with raspberries and whipped cream.  Tasty and super adorable.

Cream puff swans

Cheese and dill scones

The only sad part of the day was before the party, when we were loading the car to head over to my sister’s.  The weekend before, we had spent several hours decorating some pretty pastel cookies.  I had them in a tin and placed them on the car roof while I put everything else in.  I’m sure you can imagine what happened… there were a lot of happy seagulls on 4th avenue that day.  It was especially tragic because we didn’t get any pictures of them.  Oh well, I’ll make them again another time!

Photos taken by Katie Byatte.