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

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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.