Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cake decorating with Chef Walter Howald

I have the great pleasure to work with Chef Walter Howald who has been in this industry for .... well... for longer than I have been on this earth and he is still passionate and excited to share his knowledge and expertise with myself and my students. He is great fun to watch since he constantly reminds the students that, "decorating is like a dance, stay loose!" and, "you won't get better without practice, I wasn't born with this, you know!" Even though he does it like he had a pastry bag in his hand at birth!

My students are always riveted to his hands as he works. They say I make it look easy but he makes it look effortless and always so much fun! I only hope to keep my passion alive as long as he seems to be staying strong but I can only hope to be as lively and enthusiastic as he is as I go even older... 

He showed us this great technique using coating chocolate and ice that he had made in a half sphere mold. 

Piping the chocolate over the ice back and forth to form long strands and then when it has set up in just a few seconds he lifts it off the ice and forms a flower. 

And then he makes a second one and places it in the first one to strengthen and enhance the flower. Finally he places a fondant pansy he had made and dried in the center for color.

The butterflies he makes are all out of chocolate. He uses a template that he has made and on a sheet of acetate he pipes first the chocolate lines and then when they have set the white chocolate with color added. After the wings have set up then he attaches the wings together with dark chocolate to form the body. The butterflies add a lot of dimension and color to a cake.

His piped buttercream designs are not only fun and colorful but they add a theme to a cake for whatever occasion that might be happening. 

Here we have a poodle and a bear, great for kids cakes.

I love the way he enhances his writing with flourishes and curls. 
My class loved him so much they had to have a group shot with Walter. 
Thank you so much Walter for sharing your passion with all of us!!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The CAKE SHOPPE! Coming soon!

It is really happening! I am opening a business downtown Santa Cruz called the Wedding Stop and Cake Shoppe! It will be a full service business for couples needing resources and services for their special day! I am going into this venture with two dear friends and colleagues. Marty Ryhanych of New View Photography and Andrea Mollenauer of Lifestyle Culinary Arts catering and wedding co-ordinating. I will have Chefany's cakes at the Cake Shoppe and we will have many other referrals to offer the happy couple. We are promoting local businesses and offering discounts to couples who choose more than three of our services. I am also going to start something kind of new, around here anyway...
CAKE RENTALS! Funny, I know... this is how it works; A couple doesn't have a budget for a large custom decorated wedding cake but wants to have one to show on display... I have pre-made "fake" cakes that I rent to the couple and then I add one real layer to it and have the rest in the kitchen for service. This should cut the cost of a fancy cake by half and allow the couple a beautiful cake to display. The guests will never know because after the first slice is cut by the couple the caterers come and whisk it away to the kitchen for cutting and service. Out comes the cut up cake and no one is the wiser!
OF COURSE, I will provide the best tasting cake made with organic flour and the freshest ingredients and will make the cake of the couples dreams if they can afford the cost of a real cake. But I thought so many today are on a strict budget and I want to offer services that can help them make their day beautiful and affordable too!
I am also taking orders for special occasion cakes and custom themed cakes too! I will not have cakes for sale only special orders but am hoping to get into making more of the sculpted and custom style cakes like my Ratatouille cake! I will have a minimum because with all this, I am not quitting my day job! I love teaching too much to give it up so I am doing this with help and mostly weekend orders. So I will not be making small birthday cakes, for that we have several fabulous bakeries in the area that have them offered fresh daily.
So tell me please... have I lost my ever loving mind or what??? I think this will fulfill my creative urges not met in the classroom. I think watching all those cake competition shows got to me too! Not that I want to compete but I just love putting together unique cakes that people love to eat!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Successfully making vanilla genoise

This cake is the most delicate and difficult cake to make successfully. Well, in my ever so humble opinion anyway! I believe that if you are armed with the tricks and tips to making it correctly you can and will be successful!! It may take a couple of times making it, but do not get discouraged. Part of what makes this cake difficult is that you need to know what to look for and if you haven't made it... So I will provide some photographs to help you understand what it is you need to know about this fine and delicate batter.
I don't want to scare you, only give you the info you need to make it work but somehow in imparting these directions I tend to freak folks out so I am putting out a disclaimer right now...this is NOT my intention :)
Here is the formula and following will be the detailed but not scary instructions:
I am using Rose's formula since it comes out so beautifully light and airy, not the typical dry and grainy of the classic genoise. But I have added some of my tips on making a perfect genoise.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (or browned for that extra nutty flavor)
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 large eggs
1/2 cup fine sugar
1/2 cup sifted cake flour (sift before measuring)
1/2 cup minus one Tablespoon sifted cornstarch (again sift before measuring)
Now sift the two together.

For this cake you will need two 9" x 2" round cake pans coated with baking spray and the bottom lined with parchment paper.
Preheat the oven to 350F
Melt the butter, add the vanilla and keep warm.

Place the eggs and sugar in a metal bowl and combine with a whisk. Place the bowl with the eggs and sugar over a pan of simmering water. With the whisk, stir the eggs constantly until they reach about 100F which is just above body temperature. Make sure the sugar has broken down and you can tell this by rubbing a bit of the batter between your thumb and first finger to see if you can feel any sugar granules. If you do then continue stirring just a minute or so more making sure you don't curdle the eggs by over heating them.
Attach the whip to your standing mixer and whip the mixture on high speed for about 5 minutes or until quadrupled in volume, it should look very thick and airy and make a ribbon when the whip is pulled out of the batter.
Remove almost one cup of the egg mixture and whisk it into the melted butter.
Sift about half the flour mixture over the eggs and with a balloon whisk or spatula gently but rapidly fold in the flour. Repeat until all the flour has been folded in. Be very careful to not overmix at this point. You do not want to deflate the eggs mixture. Now gently fold in the butter mixture just until incorporated. When you are folding make sure you reach all the way to the bottom of the bowl to ensure you have mixed all the flour in. Make sure all the traces of flour have been mixed in... but again, do not over do it! When you stop seeing flour, stop folding! Gently pour the cake batter into the prepared pan. Do not move the batter about in the pan. It will fall out and it should fill the pan about 3/4 of an inch to the top if you haven't deflated the eggs.
Bake for 20 - 30 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. Avoid opening the oven door for the first 20 minutes. Test toward the end of the baking time and just crack the oven door a bit to peak in and see if it is done. Touch the center of the cake with one finger if it leaves a finger print it is not done. Leave it in for 5 more minutes.
When the cake comes out of the oven, run a small paring knife between the sides of the pan and the cake to release the cake from the pan. Invert the cake onto a wire cooling rack. Cool completely. It should be 2" high with a nice flat top.
This is a most versatile cake. It loves cake syrups with flavorings such as Grand Marnier or lemon juice. It goes well with soft icings like whipped cream. curds or mousse fillings. Have fun and make a cake today!