Project M + A Wedding Cake: Cake Tasting

Baking has taken over my life! I’m not complaining. I enjoy baking and even getting up at 6am to say, make croissants, but baking a wedding cake is exhausting on a whole other level. As I said before I am making a friend’s wedding cake. I am absolutely thrilled and slightly terrified at the same time to be doing this. That’s where planning and practice comes in hand. I’ve been baking a bunch of cakes to get a feel for the right recipes and also to practice my frosting and decorating skills. A couple weeks ago, I held a tasting in my teeny apartment for Michelle and Adam, and our two other friends, Chris and Lorie.


Research (and commonsense) told me that cake tasting should come with food. Otherwise, we would all be on a crazy sugar high and probably get diabetes. For dinner I made a light pasta with shredded zucchini, tomatoes, ricotta, lemon zest and chives – no sauce necessary! The lemon zest and chives were bold and fragrant enough to flavor the dish. I also served some baked polenta fries (recipe coming soon). We also had some cheese, salami and salad. I wish I had a picture of dinner but we ate it too fast.

After filling our stomachs with some calories, I cleared the table, got out new plates and shiny forks to begin the real festivities. I was adamant about everyone not filling up too much during dinner. Though there is always room for cake, let’s be real.

I made four different (mini) cakes: a vanilla cake with mango-lime curd and blueberries and vanilla buttercream, a spice cake with strawberry filling and buttercream, a chocolate cake with salted caramel buttercream, and a pineapple carrot cake with cinnamon (American) buttercream.

They were all super fun to make. Though it was a lot of work. I think I have purchased more butter and eggs in the past month than in my entire life combined. The biggest cake I have made before all of this was Ina Garten’s Coconut Cake which is a 2 9-inch layer cake. And I probably have made that cake a handful of times but it’s always been for my family, an easy crowd to please. Much to my relief, everyone liked all the cakes. Even when we went around and ranked the cakes from our most favorite to least, each cake was number on someone’s list.

The winner of the night for Michelle and Adam was the first cake, the vanilla with mango-lime curd and blueberries:

(Photo taken the next morning.)

I tried out three different vanilla cake recipes and although I liked the one we had that night I will ultimately use this Martha Stewart recipe. I like the texture and color better of that cake (it’s the one I used for my birthday corgi cake). The mango-lime curd here got a little soggy. For my birthday cake, I whipped in some buttercream to the curd and that helped hold it better. It’s been a lot of trial and error so far. I also have found a favorite Swiss meringue buttercream recipe which I will share in a later post.

Chris’ favorite cake was this pineapple carrot cake:

I kind of made up this recipe by combining two different ones. And the cake is vegan! Though unfortunately the buttercream is not. I pulled a MacGyver in the kitchen that night since we ran out of eggs (catastrophe) and I had to improvise on the original pineapple cake I intended to make (yay, day saved). There was an episode where MacGyver made up a cake out of thin air…and baked it with two paperclips, I think. 

And my favorite was the chocolate cake:

Some pineapple carrot cake got on this somehow…opps!

Coincidentally this cake is also vegan. There were two vegan cakes that night and this cake was intended to be vegan. I used Joanne Chang’s recipe and it was so easy to make. I loved the flavor of espresso in here and it paired really well with the caramel buttercream.

The last cake was a spice cake:

It was kind of like a gingerbread cake without molasses. If I make this cake again I would amp up the spices. The taste of cinnamon, cloves, and allspice were too faint for me. For this cake I paired it with a strawberry buttercream. Michelle and Adam can their own strawberry jam so I wanted to play around with that and incorporate it somehow in one of the cakes. The sweet strawberry buttercream went really well here to balance the spice of the cake.

And that was the night of the cake tasting. Of course there was lots of cake left over. Fortunately I seem to always have willing volunteers to take them off my hand. The wedding is about two weeks away! More cake to come!

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Chocolate Orange Ginger Cupcakes

 

How is it almost July?! Lately I feel like I’ve had my hands full with work and other personal stuff that I wish I had more time to do nothing. No time, there’s never any time! OK, I’m done with my Jessie Spano breakdown. Well even though this week has been crazy, I was really looking forward to baking some cupcakes for my coworker’s birthday.

I decided to branch out and try something new. I typically don’t like using oranges in baked goods (mostly because I have a hard time peeling oranges), but I thought these came out so well!
So you may have noticed if you looked at the ingredients that this cupcake is vegan. I almost didn’t want to point that out since I know vegan desserts are not highly coveted because of its taste and texture. This cake was super moist and full of spice from the fresh ginger and orange zest. I think my favorite part about this was that it was incredibly easy to pull together in no time which allowed me to catch up on The Bachelorette -er, I mean watch the nightly news and learn about world affairs.

I do agree that vegan desserts just don’t taste the same. I made two extra cupcakes for Chris and I and he didn’t know they were vegan until after I told him. I feel like I would not have known either unless someone told me these cupcakes were vegan but that after I knew, I would definitely notice why they are vegan. And I’m not saying that in a bad way! I hope this all makes sense. It’s just that you could tell it wasn’t laden with butter because butter has a distinct feel and taste.


Next time I would add in dark chocolate chips to heighten the chocolate flavor. But otherwise, I thought this was a fabulous cupcake! Now back to the Euro, Syria, healthcare, and other things I should be focusing on besides who Emily is eliminating in the rose ceremony…

I’m off to Boston this Thursday night for a friend’s wedding. I can’t wait! I hope to have some awesome things to post after this weekend. 


Chocolate Orange Ginger Cupcakes 
Recipe slightly adapted from Kohler Created via The Kitchn
Makes 12-14 cupcakes depending on tin size

Get

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Glaze

  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons orange juice

Bake
*Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners or grease with baking spray and set aside.
*Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a large bowl.
*Add in remaining wet ingredients except for the cider vinegar. Mix until just combined.
*Add in the cider vinegar and quickly stir to combine. The mixture will bubble and lighten in color a bit.
*Once the mixture darkens you know the cider vinegar is fully incorporated. Fill muffin tins 2/3 of the way with batter and bake for 15-17 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
*Let cool in tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
*Mix powdered sugar and orange juice to create glaze, adding more orange juice if you prefer a thinner glaze. Brush over muffins and add some orange zest if desired.

Enjoy!

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

Moist lookin’ cupcakes.

I have been baking for a few years now and I have not really experimented much with vegan baking. But I think that will change. This is my second foray into vegan baking and it’s fantastic. The taste is not compromised at all. I made these cupcakes for a coworker’s birthday who is vegan. It is not easy finding vegan desserts in San Francisco particularly in the Financial District where I work. Sadly, we do not have a Babycakes bakery. So I wanted to make something myself and I feel like I say this a lot, but this was really, really easy to make.

Vegan and delicious!

I used a mixture of peanut butter, powdered sugar and water for the frosting but these were good plain too. These cupcakes fooled many who did not know they were vegan! If you make these, I bet vegan baked goods will get less of a bad rep. Try it!

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes
Recipe adapted from allrecipes
Makes 12 cupcakes


Get

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup diced cooked apples (one medium apple sautéed in water and brown sugar until tender)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 cup water

Bake
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with paper or foil liners.
*In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients with a whisk.
*Add in wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
*Using a big spoon, fill the muffin tins evenly with batter – about 3/4 full.
*Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, rotating the tin halfway through.

Enjoy!

Note: I used almond flour to make it more nutritious and to add a slight nutty flavor. Though please feel free to stick to the original recipe and use 1 1/2 cup of AP flour instead. I also like to use sautéed diced apples in my recipes when it calls for oil or applesauce. I think it makes a huge difference. I cooked the diced apples on low-medium heat in about 4 tablespoons of water and 1/2 tablespoon of brown sugar until the liquid dissolves and the apples are tender and a bit on the mushy side, about 5-6 minutes. Feel free to modify this as well. 

Vegan Pumpkin Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars

Pumpkin everywhere! In the spirit of the season I am trying to get into pumpkin more. I saw this and thought it would be fun and easy to make. And it has peanut butter; one of my all-time faves.  Like if I was a contestant on Survivor, I would bring chunky peanut butter as my one personal item. Another bonus, these bars do not need eggs or butter so no need to bring anything to room temperature – these can be made on the fly. 

It was so simple and only requires one bowl. Double bonus! Or are we at triple now? I lost count.

Vegan Pumpkin Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars
Recipe adapted from Love Veggies and Yoga
Makes about 16 squares
Get

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (I use chunky PB)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
Bake
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 8″x8″ baking pan with margarine or cooking spray.  Note: If you want to keep it vegan, make sure you don’t use butter.
*Mix all ingredients into a bowl. 
*Spread mixture into greased pan. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool before slicing.

Enjoy! See if people like them and then tell them it’s vegan 😉