Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Candy Cane Peppermint and White Chocolate Swirl Cake

Candy Cane Peppermint and White Chocolate Swirl Cake
Remember how I made this crazy lollipop cake? Well I decided to take it one step further for Christmas and make a crazy Candy Cane cake! I love me some candy canes. They are so pretty and deliciously pepperminty. And now I have enough candy canes in my house to last me a lifetime. I may have gone slightly overboard stocking up on every single different sized candy cane I could find in the stores, because I wanted to make sure I had a good assortment to decorate this cake with.
Candy Cane Peppermint and White Chocolate Swirl Cake
How awesome are the super giant candy canes?! I got them at Target. This cake is far from perfect. I baked it on a super humid day, right before a storm hit and was rushing to get a photo of the cake before the sun completely disappeared. As a result I didn't let the cakes cool completely, the icing melted a little and the cake got messy. I'm sorry. But luckily my not so pretty icing can be covered up with pretty candy canes.
Candy Cane Peppermint and White Chocolate Swirl Cake
The icing is the lovely fluffy white chocolate icing that I made for these cupcakes, with a hint of peppermint. The cake inside is a super moist white chocolate mud cake, with a bit of a surprise. I added a bit of red food colouring to some of the batter to make a red and white marble cake. It's probably unnecessary and I know a lot of people aren't a fan of food colouring, so you can decide if you want to skip this step or not. I think it's kinda fun and a nice little surprise when you cut into the cake.
Candy Cane Peppermint and White Chocolate Swirl Cake
Just don't be like me and rush the making/cutting into of the cake, or things will get messy. It's the most important advice I can give you when making layer cakes - be patient. I rarely listen to my own advice on this, and it always gets me in trouble. Make this cake for a Christmas party and you're sure to wow people. You could even skip all the ridiculous candy canes on top (since they're there purely for decoration), and just cover the cake in crushed candy canes. I find the candy cane bits soften quite a bit in the fridge overnight, so you don't have to worry about the cake being too crunchy from them.
Candy Cane Peppermint and White Chocolate Swirl Cake
Candy Cane Peppermint White Chocolate Swirl Cake
(adapted from this recipe, icing adapted from this recipe)
For the icing (Note: Prepare the mixture for the icing before you start the cake as it will need time to chill):
340g (1.5 cups) unsalted butter
255g (9oz/1.5 cups of chips) good quality white chocolate (min 30% cocoa solids, do NOT use baking chocolate), finely chopped
2 tsp peppermint essence
Additional note: this only just makes enough cake to cover a 3 layer 6" cake, you can make 1.5x the amount of icing if you are making a larger cake. This icing is quite fiddly to work with and softens quickly at room temperature. If you are not comfortable with icing layer cakes I recommend you use this icing recipe instead.
  1. Prepare the icing mixture ahead of time as it will need to be chilled before whipping. Place butter and white chocolate in a large saucepan and melt over low heat, stirring regularly until smooth (the solids may separate but this is okay).
  2. Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes, then chill in the fridge until solid, about 2 hours. If you are impatient like me you can stick it in the freezer for about half an hour.
  3. Prepare cake as per instructions below.
  4. Before you are ready to decorate your cake, remove white chocolate mixture from fridge at least 30 mins ahead of time to allow it to soften slightly.
  5. Place white chocolate mixture and peppermint essence in a large mixing bowl and beat on high with an electric mixer until very light and fluffy.
For the cake:
255g (9oz) butter, chopped
140g (5oz) white chocolate, chopped
370g (13oz/about 1 &3/4 cups) caster/granulated sugar
1 cup milk
225g (8oz/about 1 & 2/3 cups) plain/all-purpose flour
85g (3oz/about 2/3 cups) self-raising flour (can be replaced with an additional 2/3 cup plain flour plus 1 tsp baking powder)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Optional: red food colouring (I used Americolor gel)
  1. Preheat oven to 170°C (340°F) (I set my fan-forced to 165°C), grease and line with baking paper three 15cm (6", this is what I used) or 18cm (7", will result in slightly thinner layers), or two 20cm (8") round cake tins.
  2. Place butter, white chocolate, sugar and milk in a large saucepan. Stir over low heat until smooth.
  3. Set mixture aside for 15 minutes to allow it to cool.
  4. Whisk in flours, vanilla and eggs until just combined.
  5. Place about 1/3 of the batter in a separate bowl and add red food colouring.
  6. Pour small amounts of red and white batter into your prepared tins, ensuring there is an equal amount of batter in each tin. Use a butter knife to run through the batter once to help swirl the red and white batter around a bit. I placed my batter into two pouring jugs to make this part easier.
  7. Bake for about 50-60 minutes (longer if your cakes are thicker obviously), until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out just clean. If the tops of your cakes start to brown too early you can cover the tins loosely with foil. 
  8. Cool on rack for 10 minutes and then carefully remove from tins and cool completely.
To assemble:
Variety of different sized and coloured candy canes
Red and white candy canes, crushed with a rolling pin
  1. Once your cakes are completely cool and your icing is whipped, place one layer of cake on your cake stand or plate. Spread a layer of icing over the top using a spatula.
  2. Sandwich with another layer of cake and repeat. Top with remaining cake layer.
  3. Crumb coat the cake with some of the prepared icing and chill for about 30 mins.
  4. Cover with a thicker layer of icing and smooth sides with an offset spatula. Running the spatula regularly under hot water will help to smooth the icing.
  5. Chill cake again to allow icing to set. Decorate the edge of the cake with crushed candy canes. You can leave the cake as it is for something a bit simpler/elegant, or go nuts and top the cake with lots of different candy canes. 
  6. Chill cake to allow icing to set again. Remove from the fridge 30 mins before serving.
Candy Cane Peppermint and White Chocolate Swirl Cake
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Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Wreath Macarons

Christmas Wreath Macarons
YAYYY! December is here! Far out this year has gone by quickly. There are a lot of intense things going on at the moment, but that hasn't stopped me from getting into the Christmas spirit. Christmas is my all-time favourite holiday to bake for, I never get sick of it and never find it too cheesy (unlike Valentine's Day). So I thought I'd kick off my baking for this month with some Christmas-themed macarons!
Christmas Wreath Macarons
You may remember some of my previous Christmas macarons; Penguins, Snowmen, Present boxes. This year I decided to make some Christmas Wreath Macarons. I piped them just like I piped my Doughnut Macarons, making sure to leave a big hole in the middle of each when I piped them since the mixture spreads out a lot as it settles. I'm totally not impressed with my actual macarons this time around, I underwhipped the meringue so the feet are pitifully small. But the idea is still super cute and festive so I wanted to share it with you guys.
Christmas Wreath Macarons
I was torn as to what filling to fill these with, but I ended up going with a cherry flavour. Cherry is one of those quintessential Australian Christmas fruits, with so much fresh, cheap cherries available at this time of the year. I actually used frozen cherries for this, to avoid wasting time pitting cherries, but you could use fresh ones, or use cherry jam to save even more time. And for those of you on the other side of the planet, you could always substitute it with a more Winter-friendly flavour like the egg-nog ganache in my penguin macaron recipe that I linked earlier.
Christmas Wreath Macarons
I love how vibrant and purple the filling is! This isn't a normal ganache, I didn't need to add any cream since the liquid from the cherry filling was enough to get the right consistency, but you can add some cream if you prefer. I found these adorable holly sprinkles online (link in the recipe below), but you can always just use regular long green sprinkles and round red sprinkles or cachous to decorate it. Anyway I'm hoping I have enough time to test out all the fun Christmas baking I have planned, we will have to wait and see. In the meantime, you can check out all my other Christmas recipes here.
Christmas Wreath Macarons
Christmas Wreath Macarons with Cherry Filling
(recipe adapted from Trissalicious)
For the macarons:
Note: this method uses an Italian meringue. If you prefer, you can continue to use the French method I normally use. If you are a beginner with macarons read up and practice plain macarons first. BraveTart has lots of useful advice and info on the subject
Almond Meal Paste:
125 grams almond meal
125 grams icing/confectioner's sugar
50 grams egg whites
Italian Meringue:
125g caster (granulated) sugar
35g water
50grams egg whites
Pinch of egg white powder
Green powdered/gel food colouring, sprinkles to decorate (I used these, Wilton also has these, plain red and green sprinkles will also be fine, or silver cachous)
  1. In a food processor, blend the almond meal, icing sugar and egg whites until this resembles a fine paste. Set aside.
  2. To make the Italian meringue, place the caster sugar in a saucepan.  Add the water and make sure that the sugar is dampened.  Heat the mixture and bring this to a boil (do not stir).  Place a candy thermometer in the syrup and take the temperature of 118°C (245°F)
  3. While the sugar is cooking, beat the egg whites and egg white powder using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat at medium speed until the eggs become foamy. Continue beating on high until stiff peaks form.
  4. Stop the syrup from cooking once it reaches 118°C (245°F) and take this off the heat and let the bubbling subside for a few seconds.  Pour the syrup in a thin, steady stream over the beaten egg whites while the continuing to whisk at medium speed.
  5. When all the syrup has been added, (add food colouring here) continue to beat until glossy and meringue has cooled to room temperature (around 10 to 15 minutes).
  6. Using a silicone spatula, fold a third of Italian meringue into the almond mixture to loosen it.  Then, fold in the rest of the Italian meringue.  (You really want to beat all the large bubbles out of the mixture, which is easily done by smearing the mixture on the bottom and side of the bowl with your spatula) Continue folding and stirring until the batter is glossy, and fluid. Take care not to overmix, the mixture should flow like lava and a streak of mixture spread over the surface of the rest of the mixture should disappear after about 30 seconds. 
  7. Place mixture in a piping bag with a narrow (about 0.3cm) round piping tip. Pipe a thin ring about 4cm wide on your prepared trays, leaving about 3cm space around each one. (Make sure to pipe these with a wider hole in the centre than you want the final shape to be, as the mixture will spread slightly)  Tap baking trays carefully and firmly on the benchtop a couple times to remove any large bubbles. Top with red and green sprinkles.
  8. Leave to dry for about 60 mins, until when you press the surface of one gently it does not break/stick to your finger. This will help prevent any cracking and help the feet to form on the macs.
  9. Preheat your oven to 130-150°C (265-300°F), depending on your oven (fan-forced ovens may need to be set as low as 100°C, it really depends) . You can place the tray of piped shells on top of an upside-down roasting tray or another baking tray, for better heat distribution.
  10. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Carefully test if the base of the shell is ready by gently lifting one and if it’s still soft and sticking to the baking paper, then it needs to bake for a few minutes longer. 
  11. Remove from the oven and cool on the tray for a few minutes, then gently remove from the sheet and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
Christmas Wreath Macarons
For the Cherry Filling:
Note: You can replace the cherry sauce with store-bought cherry jam to save time
50g (1.7oz) cherries (fresh or frozen), pitted and diced
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
A few drops of pure vanilla extract
1 tsp cornflour (cornstarch) + 1/2 tsp cold water
100g (3.5oz) good quality white chocolate, finely chopped
  1. Prepare the cherry filling first; place diced cherries, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a small saucepan and place on medium heat. Stir over heat until sugar dissolves. 
  2. Mix cornflour and water together in a separate small bowl then add to the saucepan and stir over medium heat until mixture thickens, about 2-3 minutes. Set aside to cool. 
  3. Place cherry mixture and chopped white chocolate in a heatproof bowl and stir over a pot of simmering water until the chocolate melts and the mixture combines (if chocolate splits, add 1 tsp of water at a time and stir over heat until mixture reincorporates). 
  4. Chill mixture until it thickens (if it is too runny, you can add melt more white chocolate into it), and then spoon mixture between macarons shells.
  5. Chill macarons in an airtight container overnight to allow flavour to mature. Serve at room temperature.
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