Lemon-blueberry cake and brush embroidery cookies for Catherine

Lemon-blueberry wedding cake

This post is coming all the way from France!   I am on vacation with my mom, and we are on the train travelling from Paris to a little town called Labrugiuere.  Once I have internet access I’ll put this up but I figured since I have the time now, I might as well write it.  Our few days in Paris were full of pastry and excellent bread, as well as important landmarks of course.  I think I won’t be posting anything else for quite a while, since we’re just doing a lot of eating and no baking!

The cake and cookies in this post were made for my sister’s friend Catherine, who got married a couple of weeks ago.  She had seen some of my other baking and requested some for her wedding.  She was the easiest person to bake for – she basically told me to make whatever I wanted!  The wedding had a dessert buffet so I decided to make a cake and some fancy sugar cookies to add to the table.  Catherine really liked the brush embroidery cookies I made previously, so I made more of those, but in three shades of blue/green for the background.  It’s a bit hard to tell from the photo, but if you look closely you’ll see mossy green, baby blue, and teal.  I chose them to roughly match the colours in the rest of the wedding.

Brush embroidery cookies

The cake was a lot of fun to plan and bake.  I wanted to make something with summery flavours, so I chose lemon and blueberry, with hints of lavender, mascarpone, and honey.  The cake layers were once again Alice Medrich’s hot milk sponge cake.  I made a double batch, also adding about two tablespoons of lemon zest, and divided it between three nine-inch cake pans.  After they were baked, I split each in half to make two layers (six in total).

I consulted one of my favourite food blogs, Annie’s Eats, for the filling components.  Inspired by her blueberry-lavender-honey jam, I made a blueberry lavender filling using this recipe and replacing some of the sugar with honey (I wrote down the exact recipe I used if anyone is interested).  It was super delicious, I think my favourite part of the cake.  The lavender was noticeable and went very well with the blueberry, but it wasn’t overpowering or perfume-y.  Some other time I think I’ll have to make some actually blueberry-lavender jam just to spread on toast.  This filling wasn’t quite jam – it was fairly thick but used cornstarch to set, which might be a little odd in jam.

For the other filling, I started to use the lemon-mascarpone filling recipe from Annie’s Eats, but then pretty much stopped following it.  I made some lemon curd, since I had some extra yolks in the fridge.  Then I creamed together mascarpone and butter, and added in icing sugar, lemon curd, honey, and possibly some other things that I don’t remember.  I then folded in whipped cream.  I originally steeped lavender in cream, strained it out, and then tried to whip that, but for some reason it just didn’t whip.  So I just used regular cream.

I then made some swiss meringue buttercream for the frosting, using a little less sugar than usual, and adding honey and vanilla at the end (I also wrote down this recipe if anyone is interested).  This was very tasty, although the honey flavour was quite subtle.

While assembling the cake, I piped rings of buttercream around the perimeter of the cake layers to act as a dam before adding the fillings.  I did cake, lemon, cake, blueberry, cake, lemon, cake, blueberry, cake, lemon, cake (if that makes any sense).  Then I coated the whole thing in the honey buttercream.

I had been really keen to decorate the cake with fresh flowers, but I didn’t manage to get my hands on any organic ones.  Everything I read online says to only use organic flowers for cake decorating if they will be in contact with the cake, since non-organic  ones are not intended for consumption and often sprayed with chemicals.  The farmer’s markets seem to have a few organic flowers at the vegetable stands, but the timing just didn’t work out (I wanted to buy them at most one day in advance so they would last until the wedding).  Anyway, in the end I used wafer paper to make some flowers.  This is a very thin, edible paper made of potato starch that is pretty trendy for making cake decorations.  I didn’t have any of the special tools, but managed to imitate an “open peony” I saw online.  I brushed green and pink petal dust on (my sister helped with that) and then stuck some coloured dragées in the middle using royal icing.

My sister made the cake topper out of wood using the laser cutter at her work.  Catherine and her husband are avid swing dancers, so it seemed like the perfect addition.  We hot-glued toothpicks to the bottom and it stuck in easily.

My sister’s reports indicate that the cake was tasty!  So I call that a success.

Wafer paper flowers

Advertisements

Thomas’s Crazy Space Cake

Blue and orange space cake

My boyfriend has been requesting a colourful cake for a long time, so I let him design this one and he helped make it.  I have to say I was a little dubious of the colour scheme he chose but I think it turned out pretty cool in the end!  It makes me think of a foreign planet, or something from a Dr. Seuss book.  The decorations were once again inspired by Katherine Sabbath‘s cakes.
Blue and orange space cake

We baked a lemon cake from Annie’s Eats for the layers, which was a good standard almost pound cake-like cake.  It might have been a little fluffier if I had used cake flour as the recipe requested, but I never buy cake flour since it always seems to be bleached.  I have heard you can substitute a small amount of corn starch in if you use all-purpose flour, which basically reduces the gluten content to make the cake a little lighter – maybe I’ll try that next time.

I made my usual swiss meringue buttercream recipe (6 egg whites worth was pretty much perfect for filling and frosting the cake with a bit left over for piping).  I added some crushed freeze-dried raspberries, vanilla extract, and purple food colouring to the frosting for between the layers.  I added lemon extract and blue food colouring to the frosting for the outside.  I prefer the lemon buttercream I made another time by adding lemon curd – the lemon extract almost tastes like fake lemon candy to me.  But it was definitely easier!

For the decorations, we made stripey meringues, sugar glass, and added some orange rope-y candies that I found at the candy store.  I used the same striping technique as for the last meringues I made, but mixed a bit of orange food colouring into the meringue itself so there would be less contrast with the stripes.  I also added orange extract instead of orange zest, and used the recipe from Sweetapolita.  Following this recipe, the meringues dried out completely, which I prefer to the last ones, which were still chewy on the inside.

I used this recipe for the sugar glass (but I made only a half recipe, and added liquid orange food colouring).  It turned out very neat, and didn’t take long to harden at all!  I accidentally let it heat up to about 350 degrees, but it was still fine.

Here’s a view of the purple on the inside of the cake:

Blue and orange space cake

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

The Wedding Cake

The wedding cake

A few weeks ago, my mom and I had the exciting job of making my sister’s wedding cake.  My mom was a chef/baker/caterer for her first career, so she has made many wedding cakes before.  I watched her make one a few months ago for a friend, and this time I decided to get more involved.

This is not the first wedding cake my sister has had.  As a toddler, when my mom made wedding cakes for customers, my sister would ask for a piece, but of course she couldn’t have one.  So for her third birthday, she requested a wedding cake.  My mom delivered:

My sister's third birthday

That’s my sister about to blow out the three candles on her “wedding cake”.  On the top are a pair of little wedding bears that my mom had found at a dollar store.  My sister has kept those bears ever since, and we decided to reuse them (this time with no candles).

Wedding bears

The cake is Alice Medrich’s Hot Milk Sponge.  Each tier has six layers of cake (three rounds each cut in half).  My mom did the actually baking of the cake while I was away for a few days during the critical wedding-preparation week.  I believe she did three batches of the sponge recipe (each batch making one large, one medium, and one small round).  We soaked each layer in a simple syrup with limoncello and lemon juice.  We then layered them alternately with the lemon mousse recipe from Maida Heatter’s Lemon Chiffon Icebox Cake and with white chocolate buttercream (loosely following Sweetapolita‘s swiss meringue buttercream recipe).  When adding the lemon mousse layers, I first piped a ring of buttercream around the edge to act as a dam.  All three of these recipes are delicious and versatile, and my mom and I have both used them for many different desserts.

I didn’t take any photos of the process, but each tier was assembled on a cardboard cake circle.  After doing a crumb coat and final coat of white chocolate buttercream on each tier, I set the bottom tier on a tinfoil-covered piece of plywood.  I then stacked each tier by inserting four dowel pieces into the layer below (there’s an illustration of this here).  My trusty assistant helped me cut the dowels to be exactly flush with the top of the cake tier once inserted (we stuck the dowel in first to mark the right length with a pencil).  I stuck a blob of icing in the center of the four dowels to help glue the next tier on.  Once we stacked all the tiers like this, I did the piping where they joined in order to cover up the crack (and because I thought it would look pretty).  We then carried it very very carefully into the fridge.

Between the reception and dinner, a couple of hours before the cake was going to be served, I added the flowers.  The day before, I had gone to pick them out from our friend who did the bouquets.  I was a bit torn between doing a small cluster of flowers and a big cascade, but as you can see I went big – the flowers were so bright and pretty that I couldn’t resist.  I added dahlias (from a local farm), roses, and little green berries.  I didn’t have much method – I basically started with the biggest blossoms and added them near the bottom, and went from there, filling in all the gaps and making sure the colours were distributed evenly.  I used a skewer to poke a hole in the cake before inserting the flowers.

We also made two sheet cakes (not shown), since there were 160 people and we were worried about the tiered cake being enough.  In the end, we had way too much, and the tiered cake didn’t even get touched – we were giving it away for the next couple of days.

The cake cut beautifully and the servers added a strawberry to each piece.  The lemon mousse is similar in colour to the sponge cake, but you can see it if you look closely.

The wedding cake

The first slice

Photos taken by the awesome Richard So (see his flickr page here).