Ardent

 
My dearest readers… If there are any of you… (Mom and Dad, if you guys have been visiting my blog hundreds of times more than once daily, you are giving me false hope. STOP.)
Think not that this blog has fallen to the wayside, nor become a wasteland of sweets lost in the vast Internet.
I promise I’m still here! And today, to make up for my long absence, I have four cakes for you. 
Four!! 
Baked, decorated, delivered, devoured and demolished in the span of 24 hours.
This hectic succession of cakes was brought on by the overwhelming number of September birthdays.
Now why did I feel compelled to bake for four birthdays which fall on a successive Monday and Tuesday? Because I’m stupid crazy kind of a little teeny bit nice sometimes.  Like once every seven months.  Mainly I’m just too preoccupied with whining to be kind.
 
And now that I’m on the subject of whining, I might as well get some of my daily bellyaching over with now.
My oven and I are fast friends and mortal enemies. We have a love/hate relationship, which is comprised mainly of hot, burning hatred for the other.
I swear, this fancy “Wolf” oven is more temperamental than me.  I mean, god, it’s no wonder we don’t get along.
Sometimes, like last week, for example, my oven will be set to 350 degrees F and still manage to burn hot enough to scorch the bottoms of half of a batch of otherwise perfect chocolate macadamia shortbreads.  Awesome. I love trying to scrape blackened ash off of flaming hot cookies. Said no one ever.
On the flip side, when I’m trying to bake a simple and tiny, mind you, boule, something I’ve done literally HUNDREDS of times before, this handy appliance will be blasting at 500 degrees F with a nice steamy inside for a crunchy crispy crust and will still take 50 minutes to bake the damn loaf of bread (Teeny! Loaf! Of! Bread!). How hard can it be, man?!  Get your act together.
Sometimes I wish we could work together more harmoniously, but when I have four cakes that turn out just beautifully, with none sticking to the pan, none over nor underdone, none with domes nor crevasses, I am grateful for my stupidly expensive oven.

Brown Butter Almond Bundt 
for the cake:
ingredients:
2 sticks of butter
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups flour
1 cup slivered almonds (optional)
directions:
Generously butter and flour a 10 cup bundt pan.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Brown butter in a large saucepan.  Meanwhile, combine sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Once the butter is browned, add it to the sugar and mix until combined.  Whisk the eggs and vanilla into the milk and slowly add to the sugar mixture.  Once homogeneous, add in the flour and baking powder, and mix until combined.  Stir in almonds.  Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a skewer inserted all the way into the cake comes out with relatively few crumbs.
for the glaze:
ingredients:
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
pinch sea salt
handful slivered almonds, toasted in a pan (optional)
directions:
Heat cream until almost boiling, pour over chocolate chips and salt and allow to sit for three minutes.  Stir together until shiny and completely melted; pour over cooled cake and garnish with toasted slivered almonds.

English Tea Cake

for the cake:
adapted from Sky High
ingredients:
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk (save the white)
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons buttermilk
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter 3 6-inch pans, line with parchment paper, then butter the paper.  Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder together, then return to the sifter.  Whip the cream and vanilla to soft peaks, then add the sugar and beat just until combined (not to stiff peaks).  Then add the egg and egg yolk and whip the mixture to soft peaks.  Sift a third of the dry ingredients over the batter and fold in.  Repeat until the dry ingredients are all incorporated.  Fold in the buttermilk and pour into pans.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes.
for the frosting:
ingredients:
2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
pinch sea salt
1/6 cup strong English tea (I used Lady Grey)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temp
directions:
Place the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Combine sugar, salt, and tea in a small but heavy saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer.  Heat to 238 degrees F, without stirring.  Once the sugar syrup has reached 230 degrees, begin to whip the egg whites on low.  After the syrup has cooked, increase the mixer speed to medium low and slowly pour in the sugar syrup (do not pour on the whisk, as it will splash onto you).  Whip until the meringue is cooled and the bowl feels neutral to the touch.  Add in the butter one tablespoon at a time, until all is incorporated.
to assemble:
1/2 cup orange marmalade, slightly warmed in a microwave until spreadable
directions:
Place one cake on plate, top with 1/4 cup of the marmalade.  Repeat, then put the last layer on.  Frost with a crumb coat before adding the final coat of frosting.  I decorated mine with some handmade marzipan roses.  I dyed the marzipan with a few drops of fuchsia, yellow, and green gel coloring.
 
Cherry Garcia Cake
for the cake:
adapted from Sky High
ingredients:
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried sour cherries, chopped roughly
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips, chopped roughly
directions:
Heat buttermilk slightly in microwave, then add cherries and allow to soak for at least 15 minutes.  Butter, line with parchment paper, and then butter (again) 3 6-inch pans.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Beat the sugar, salt, and butter together until creamy.  Add in the eggs, egg yolk, buttermilk, and vanilla (Whisk the wet ingredients together first.).  Next, add in the flour and baking powder and mix until homogeneous.  Fold in chocolate chips and pour into prepared pans.  Bake for 22-24 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch.
for the frosting:
ingredients:
1 stick butter, at room temp
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
pinch sea salt
1/3 cup mascarpone
4-4 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup sour cherry jam (I used D’arbo)
directions:
Beat the butter, cream cheese, and salt together until fluffy.  Add in the powdered sugar slowly, then beat in the jam.  Taste as you go, and beyond 4 cups, only add more sugar if you want it sweeter.
to assemble:
2/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream, heated until almost boiling
directions:
Pour the heavy cream over the chocolate chips and allow to sit for at least 3 minutes.  Meanwhile, frost the cake and place in fridge to set.  Once the chocolate chips have melted, stir the ganache together until it is shiny and smooth.  Pour over the top of the cake.  Do not refrigerate the cake with ganache on it.
 
Mocha Cake
for the cake:
adapted from Sweetapolita
ingredients:
6 ounces flour
10 ounces brown sugar
3 ounces cocoa powder
2 tablespoons espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup coffee
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter 3 6-inch pans and dust with cocoa powder and flour mixed together.  Weigh dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and mix until there are no clumps and all are thoroughly combined.  In a large measuring cup, add the oil, buttermilk, coffee, eggs, and vanilla, and whisk with a fork.  Pour into the dry ingredients and mix until homogeneous.  Pour into prepared pans and bake for 22-24 minutes.
for the frosting:
adapted from Sky High
ingredients:
4 ounces melted bittersweet chocolate
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 sticks butter
4 tablespoons cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon espresso powder, or to taste
directions: 
Add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth and well combined.    
for the chocolate curls or shavings 
Melt chocolate, gently, then spread thinly over a cookie sheet and allow to harden.  Using a cheese knife or a putty knife, slowly but firmly push the chocolate off the sheet.  It will curl up.
 
 
 

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