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

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).