Christmas Cake

I love fruitcake when it’s done right. But I personally can’t stand buying nor consuming those scary looking glace cherries and other neon-colored candied fruits soaking in corn syrup that you get in supermarkets. I used dried fruits in this fruitcake with the only “candied” exceptions being the orange peel and the crystallized ginger. Do not skip the crystallized ginger– it transforms this cake from an ordinary fruitcake to a transcendent experience. Merry Christmas! There are two presents in this post — the recipe and my nutso husband impersonating Paul Hollywood.

Feeding the fruitcake


Christmas Fruitcake

  • 300 g dried dates (chopped)
  • 450 g sultanas (golden raisins)
  • 225 g dried apricots (chopped)
  • 142 g dried cherries (chopped)
  • 114 g candied orange peel (chopped)
  • 100 g crystallized ginger (chopped, I used Beech's)
  • 115 g sliced almonds (toasted and chopped)
  • 1 medium orange (zest and juice)
  • 70 ml brandy (plus more for feeding)
  • 225 g unsalted butter (softened)
  • 200 g brown sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 280 g all purpose flour

Glaze

  • 2 tbsp apricot jam

Marzipan

  • 90 g granulated sugar
  • 140 g confectioner's sugar
  • 220 g almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 large egg (beaten)

Royal icing

  • 3 large egg whites (90 g)
  • 750 g confectioner's sugar
  • 2 tsp glycerine
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  1. Combine all the dried fruit and almonds in a large bowl. Add orange zest, juice, and brandy. Cover and leave at room temperature for several hours or overnight.

  2. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line the base and sides of an 8"x3" cake pan with 2 layers of parchment paper.

  3. In a very large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together for several minutes until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, with a little flour each time. Stir in the fruit mixture. Sift in the remaining flour over the mixture and fold in with a large spoon. Pour the mixture into the cake pan and level the surface.

  4. Bake in the middle of the oven for 3 hours then check with a long skewer to make sure it comes out clean. Let it cool before removing from the pan. Then let it cool completely, even overnight, before wrapping in parchment paper and then foil.

  5. Feed it with brandy for at least two days or up to three months: use a skewer to poke several holes in the cake. Pour 1-2 tbsp over the top of the cake. Do this once a day if you only have a couple of days before serving the cake or every few days if you have longer. Wrap it back up in the parchment and foil afterward.

  6. Heat the jam with one tbsp of water until liquid and brush the entire cake with it.

  7. Dust your counter with a small amount of confectioner's sugar. Roll out 300 g of the marzipan into a large circle and use the cake pan to cut out an 8" circle. Lay this on top of the cake. Roll out the rest of the marzipan into two 3"x 13" strips and use these to cover the sides of the cake, trimming to fit. Press the edges of the marzipan pieces together to seal.

  8. Frost the cake with the royal icing and decorate as desired. Leave to set until icing is firm.

Marzipan

  1. Combine the sugars and almond flour in a large bowl and mix well. Stir in the almond extract and egg with a fork until evenly combined.

  2. Turn out onto a surface dusted with confectioner's sugar and knead until smooth. Cover in saran wrap and chill for 3 hours or overnight before using.

Royal icing

  1. Beat the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer until frothy. Add the icing sugar gradually. When all the icing sugar has been added, add the glycerine and lemon juice and continue beating until the icing is thick and holds peaks. You might need to add water, 1 tbsp at a time, to thin it out just enough to easily spread on the cake but the icing should still hold stiff peaks.





Everyone’s Favorite Chocolate Mud Cake

I call this “everyone’s favorite” because no matter how many other cake flavors I offer this is the one that my family and friends prefer. It is the only chocolate cake I use for tiered cakes.


Chocolate Mud Cake

Adapted from Summer Stone's recipe to make it sturdier for stacking

  • 227 g unsalted butter
  • 198 g dark chocolate (chopped)
  • 397 g sugar
  • 57 g Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 300 ml hot water plus 1 tbsp espresso powder
  • 15 ml vanilla extract ((1 Tbsp))
  • 284 g AP flour
  • 5 g baking powder ((1 tsp))
  • 9 g baking soda ((1½ tsp))
  • 4 g salt ((½ tsp))
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with baking spray or grease and flour. Line bottom with parchment paper and for extra sharp sides — line the sides as well.

  2. In a large microwave safe bowl, melt butter and chocolate. Heat butter and chocolate for one minute followed by 30-second intervals, whisking until completely melted.

  3. Whisk in sugar and then cocoa powder until fully incorporated. Gradually add hot coffee, whisking until smooth. Add vanilla and then the eggs one at a time.

  4. In a mixer bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix with the flat beater until combined, about 30 seconds. With the mixer on low speed, gradually pour in the chocolate mixture. Once it is all added, beat on medium-high speed for one minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and and beat for 30 seconds more until smooth.

  5. Pour into cake pans ( I scale to 800g) and bake for 35-40 or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out completely clean. Cool for 10 minutes then turn out of the pans.

Yields approx 1600 g or 6.5 cups





Filigree Swirl Wedding Cake with my Favorite Chocolate Mud Recipe

I’ve only ever made one wedding cake and it was a 2-tiered naked cake with fresh lavender. Very low pressure and yet my hands were still shaking when I was arranging the lavender around the cake. I had no intention of making another wedding cake. But then my priest’s wife called with a request. (In the Coptic Orthodox Church our priests marry and have children). She wanted me to make her son’s wedding cake. I have never denied a request from Fr. Daoud — he helped me and my family through some really tough times and he is the only reason my semi-white husband felt comfortable converting to the Coptic Orthodox faith. So I asked her to send some pictures of what the bride wanted. My heart dropped when I saw the pictures — a four tiered hand-painted cake by a cake designer, Yuma’s Couture Cakes. With flowers . I hate making flowers. But so began a 6-week long planning process.

I. Flowers

The first challenge was to make those flowers. I recently subscribed to the Paul Bradford Sugarcraft School and I love that all the instructors use ganache which is my preferred coating. So I went there first but all the flower tutorials were so complicated and time consuming and didn’t look like the flower I was going for which was more like a gardenia. So I got on the PBSS facebook page and asked for help.

Another user had this great idea to start with a flat disk of gumpaste and attach rows of ruffles. This idea worked beautifully. It was simple with the added benefit of a flat back which was easier to attach to the cake later. I used 50/50 gumpaste/fondant for the flowers. For the flowers with the “button” in the middle I just used a brooch mold that I had to shape it and give it some texture.

II. Baking

I had to buy some additional pans and since the Magic Lines were on sale I bought those. All my other pans are Fat Daddio’s. The Magic Line pans yielded very different results! The cakes came out with cleaner edges and were more evenly baked; I had even less doming than usual even though I was using the same techniques ie baking strips, heating rods. I may consider replacing all my pans with Magic Line ones.

Regarding heating rods, I really like the Fat Daddio rods and found it necessary to use at least one for the 10×3″ and two for the 12″ cake pans.

III. Fillings

I used pulverized freeze dried strawberries for the strawberry IMBC and pistachio praline nut paste with rosewater IMBC for the other vanilla cake. The chocolate cake had a dark chocolate ganache, caramel and walnut filling.

IV. Filigree Swirls

The original cake designer had hand-painted all of those swirls but I did not trust myself to do that so I tried to figure out a less abstract method of getting them on the cake. I have been using the Cricut machine to do a lot of cake stencils so I tried a few patterns — first hand drawn then downloaded images — and settled on four that I used on the cake. I used 6 mil mylar sheets to cut the stencils.

I was nervous about airbrushing the stencils because the last time I had tried to stencil a complicated design on a cake it came out blurry. One of the mistakes I realized I had made was that the cake was not perfectly round/smooth. If the surface is not smooth the stencil pops out in places and the stencil does not come out as sharp as it should. So having a smooth surface is critical. Also, I used the Evil Cake Genius method of taping a piece of tulle over the stencil to keep the smaller pieces of the stencil flat against the cake. As you can see in the picture below I have a collar of parchment paper taped to edges of the stencil with masking tape; there is a piece of tulle taped snugly over that; a few pieces of masking tape covering the pieces of stencil that are above the level of the cake to avoid spraying the top of the cake.

 

I practiced on the top dummy tier first in case it came out poorly.

The flower was attached with royal icing

I only sprayed one stencil on at a time to allow it to dry before doing other parts of the cake so I basically had a rotation of tiers being airbrushed. I was pretty happy with the results.

V. Dummy tier

Did you know you could easily slice through styrofoam with a hot knife? I do now. All my tiers were 5″ but it is not easy finding a 5″ dummy so after some internet searching I bought two 3″ dummies, heated up a knife over my stove, used a 2″ cake pan as my guide and sliced through one of the 3″ dummies. I then adhered the new 2″ piece to the 3″ piece with melted chocolate. DH is still complaining, however, about the knife I allegedly “ruined.”

VI. Fondant

The fondant was the beast of the whole project. I have gone through several brands lately trying to find one that I like since I’ve gone off Satin Ice. I love Dream fondant but it’s hard to find. I decided to give Fondx a try. I tried it out on the dummy first which was my smart move. But I bought 10 lbs of it which was my dummy move. I tried nine times to cover that dummy but it kept tearing off. I ended up panel wrapping the dummy which was fine but I still had to cover 3 more tiers. I emailed the company and they advised not to knead it for too long. They were very nice and sent me another 10 lbs but I still struggled with it and ended up panel wrapping all four tiers. It worked out okay although I wasn’t fond of the seams. I used a mix of 90% ivory/10% white Fondx. Also, I found it much easier to stick the top piece of fondant for about 10 minutes before placing it on the cake and trimming it.

VII. Ganache

I used both dark chocolate ganache and white chocolate ganache to coat the cakes. I find that since white chocolate ganache tends to take longer to set I need to make it about 24 hours in advance and leave it at room temperature. A 3:1 ratio of white chocolate to cream has worked best for me. Dark chocolate ganache can be made about 10-12 hours in advance and will be set.

The method for making ganache that I prefer is to heat the cream on the stove first but just before boiling microwave your chocolate for one minute to soften it up. Pour the cream over top and let sit for five minutes before whisking slowly.

VIII. Stacking

I think everyone gets nervous about stacking cakes. One thing I wish hadn’t done was keep the cakes on their work boards after they were covered with fondant. The fondant edges stuck to the work boards and gave me rough edges when I went to move them. Mental note for next time. However, I was very pleased with the doweling. I used instructions from one of my favorite pastry chefs at www.wickedgoodies.net. She advised not just one dowel through the center of the cake for horizontal support (ie to keep the tiers from sliding off of one another) but two dowels through each pair of tiers. See diagram below. Two long dowels run between then 2nd and 3rd tiers at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock and two more long dowels between the 3rd and 4th tiers at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock. My cake did not budge. It did not even twitch. For the stand I got a footed MDF board which was fantastic. So much easier to be able to put your fingers underneath the bottom board!

IX. Transportation

To be honest, this was the part that scared me the most . I have transported three tiers before but not a 4-tiered cake and not 30 miles. Also I had no idea how I was going to lift it even with a second person. I failed my DH here because I would not consider his first idea which was to use a long plywood board. I just kept picturing something out of a circus where the clowns are trying to balance an elephant on a board and the poor elephant topples over. Actually, I think that’s a movie called Dumbo. Anyway, I betrayed my husband by going on the cake forums and it turns out that is exactly what people use. He drilled holes to make it easier to grip and it worked like a dream. More like a palanquin than Dumbo on a stretcher.

Thanks for tuning in for this whole post. All together I conservatively estimate that I put in about 27 hours making this cake! One last thing. For disassembling I found needle nose pliers to be indispensable in removing the dowels.

You can watch most of the assembly in this short video.

X. Recipe

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Chocolate Raspberry Zefir Cake: Updated with Recipe

Exciting times… Christ is Risen, Christos Anesti! Beautiful liturgy last night followed by feasting today!

Also, I had some Barnes and Noble credit and treated myself to a new cookbook which I love, The European Cake Cookbook by Tatyana Nesteruk from TatyanasEverydayFood.

It is full of classic European tortes and cakes which are my favorite because they entail so many essential patisserie techniques: meringues, sponges, European buttercreams, curds, etc. and there’s a recipe for Esterhazy Cake which is a Hungarian favorite. DH is Hungarian and we are going there this summer! 

For our Easter picnic today I wanted to make the beautiful Chocolate Raspberry Zefir Cake. Per Tatyana’s recommendations I was able to make the zefir (marshmallow) a couple of days ahead of time and store at room temperature.  I made and assembled the cake and stored it in the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap a day ahead of time.  I also made the chocolate garnish a day ahead.  So this morning, I just had to make the glaze and decorate the cake. I then let it come to room temp before the picnic.  

I also made the Esterhazy Cake because I was afraid we wouldn’t have enough dessert at the picnic.  I was able to squeeze that in today before the kids woke up and during the little one’s nap so it was super easy!

I also recently bought some new acrylic cake boards and scraper from Cake Safe that I loooove! I am so tired of having to trim my cakes in order to give me some frosting space on the traditional cake boards.  I ordered cake boards from cake safe that are 1/4″ wider and I now have a little extra space for frosting my cakes.  But I am in love with the scraper.  I have been through so many scrapers looking for the ideal one.  I even designed one myself and had an acrylic store make it for me but it wasn’t exactly perfect.  I will have to review all my cake scrapers in a post one time.  Anyway, this one is perfect. 

My lovely daughter told me all about time lapse videos so this is my first go at it.  And of course, my DH set up the tripod and the camera for me.  Unfortunately, some of the clips were sideways.  I don’t know why.  I think it was his fault.  He tried to apologize but no need…all sins are forgiven today.  

 

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All Whites Vanilla Cake from Colette Peters (Sturdier for Stacking)

From Colette Peters:

21 oz sugar
8 oz butter
1 cup egg whites, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
18 oz cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups milk, room temperature

 

Preheat the oven to 325

Grease two 8 or 9 inch round pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until airy.

Add the vanilla and the eggs, scraping the sides of the bowl, and mix until light and fluffy.

Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, mixing after each addition and ending with the flour.

Mix each addition until just combined.  Do not over mix or the cake will be dry.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 min then flip out to cool completely on racks.  If not using immediately, I wrap them in saran wrap several times right after I turn them out (while still warm) and store in the freezer.

 

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Scott Clark Wooley’s Fudge Brownie Cake

 

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