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Thickening jam to use as cake filling

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I tried some jams that I absolutely adore and they taste great in my cakes. However, unless served direct from the fridge, they're too runny and the cake layers slide around a bit, what to speak of when a customer picks it up and takes 30 minutes to drive home. How do I go about thickening it up so it's more stable?

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You can boil it down on the stove to thicken it up a bit... maybe add in some gelatin too. Also, to make it easier on you, you can spread the jam filling thin on a baking sheet and freeze it and then put it on the cake while it's frozen so it'll go on as one sheet. I saw a show where Thomas Haas was making a cake with jam layers and he sprinkled a bit of gelatin over the jam layer to reduce the sliding factor between the jam and the cake.

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Rather than trying to thicken up "slidy" fillings, such as jams and curds and cream cheese, I just pipe a "dam" of buttercream around the outer edge of the layer and then spread my "slidy" filling within the circle of buttercream. The "dam" prevents the layers from sliding, and also keeps the filling from squeezing out between the layers.

Note: even thick jam is still "slidy". :wink:

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I dig out a shallow circle of cake, leaving an outer ring of cake "dam". Then I fill. The cake "closes" completely, and there's no ooze or sliding. ;)


Edited by Lkfarkas (log)

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Tweety- I'll try boiling it and see what happens! The gelatin idea sounds awesome, but alas, I don't use gelatin as I'm a vegetarian.

Chefpeon- I do pipe a dam. This isn't a dam issue; it's a slidy issue. A place I used to work for had a very thick and delicious organic jam (that came in 5 gallon buckets) that stay put and didn't slide. And the stuff I use now... if you don't eat it the SECOND it comes out of the fridge and you take too long to eat, it slides while you're eating it! You stick your fork in and all three cake layers start sliding, even with a thin layer of jam. I've tried so many brands and keep coming across the same problem. But I can't buy a 5 gallon bucket or else it'll just go bad. Well... unless I buy stuff with preservatives in it. *sticks tongue out*

Has anyone tried adding more pectin to jam? Hmmmm....

Or does anyone know of a vendor that sells organic filling/jam that's thick and comes in smaller sizes? Even though the place I used to work at was very high volume, they didn't use their filling quick enough and it would always get moldy before it was even half-way empty.

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I take fresh or frozen fruit and add a peeled cored granny smith apple cause it has lots of juju (maybe pectin) to make the fruit stay put. I cook it all down, no water at all, and add some lemon and a minimum of sugar so it's nice & tart & contrasts with the sweet icing. Then I toss in food processor and then strain. To friggin die for good. Easy peasy to make. I have a better formula written somewhere...

Here it is:

Raspberry filling from K8

I made one by putting a 10 oz bag of thawing frozen raspberries (from the grocery store freezer section) or use fresh into a heavy sauce pan with a peeled diced granny smith apple and one third cup of sugar and a squirt of lemon juice and brought to boil stirring often while cooking gently for about 15-20 mins.

Optional: in a little cup mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water, then pour into bubbling fruit stuff stirring constantly for another two minutes.

Cool, puree in food processor and then strain out the seeds. Add almond extract if you want. Be sure to securely seal the edges of the filling with buttercream.

You can actually use any combination of berries.

This is not difficult and the fresh bursting taste is well worth the little bit extra effort. Enough for a quarter sheet. Yum Yum

NB--you do not have to use the cornstarch, I usually do not. Only if I talk myself into being a wus. Just a safety valve there.


Edited by K8memphis (log)

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You could also thicken with Xanthan gum. That would do much the same job as constarch but would not require heating.

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Tweety- I'll try boiling it and see what happens!  The gelatin idea sounds awesome, but alas, I don't use gelatin as I'm a vegetarian.

Has anyone tried adding more pectin to jam?  Hmmmm....

There are several vegetarian alternatives to gelatin. Most can be found in health food markets.

Agar or agar agar is an excellent substitute for gelatin. I have often used it to prepare lakhoum for friends who are vegan. It gives a lovely clear result and has a silkier texture than gelatin.

I have also used kudzu powder (which is usually in lumps) made from kudzu root and can be found in Asian markets. You have to crush the lumps to powder and soak the stuff in cold water before use.

with cooking, it can get as "tight" a jel as anyone could wish. I overcooked a small batch of mulberry jelly (which often resists jelling) and ended up with stuff that could be bounced off the walls.

Xanthene gum, as another mentioned.

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Tart apples like Granny Smith too for getting it to set up nicely.

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You can boil it down on the stove to thicken it up a bit...

This was my first thought, too. Like caramel, jams are a sugar thing. The marmalade I made last year was (would have been !) perfect at 104C or 106C, but at 108C it was too thick. Ahem. Heat-retaining Le Creuset is not the best jam-making vessel :smile:

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I boiled it for 5 minutes and I LOVED the results! Of course I put it through a sieve first to remove the seeds so between that and the boiling, I lost about 50%. But the texture is so perfect that for now, I don't care about the loss. But I know I will when I get more orders for jam fillings, so I really do need to start making my own.

K8, thanks for the recipe. I will give it a try. Is there a reason why it has to be a Granny Smith Apple as opposed to another variety? I'm assuming because it's low in sugar? Or does it actually have more pectin?

As for vegetarian thickening agents:

Agar- I tried this back in pastry school and it just never worked for me. I remember having to make Bavarian domes and I ended up using 3x the amount than gelatin and it still melted quickly. I tried it in a few other things as well and the same results or worse. I'm sure it works for some people, but I'm not one of them.

Kudzu- never tried it, because after agar, I was turned off by all that stuff. I also could never find kudzu except for Whole Food$.

Xanthan gum- tried it in jam and it doesn't give very nice results. It was the first thing I tried. Works well for other things though.

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I boiled it for 5 minutes and I LOVED the results!  Of course I put it through a sieve first to remove the seeds so between that and the boiling, I lost about 50%.  But the texture is so perfect that for now, I don't care about the loss.  But I know I will when I get more orders for jam fillings, so I really do need to start making my own.

K8, thanks for the recipe.  I will give it a try.  Is there a reason why it has to be a Granny Smith Apple as opposed to another variety?  I'm assuming because it's low in sugar?  Or does it actually have more pectin?

As for vegetarian thickening agents:

Agar- I tried this back in pastry school and it just never worked for me.  I remember having to make Bavarian domes and I ended up using 3x the amount than gelatin and it still melted quickly.  I tried it in a few other things as well and the same results or worse.  I'm sure it works for some people, but I'm not one of them.

Kudzu- never tried it, because after agar, I was turned off by all that stuff.  I also could never find kudzu except for Whole Food$. 

Xanthan gum- tried it in jam and it doesn't give very nice results.  It was the first thing I tried.  Works well for other things though.

I am surprised that you had that result with agar. When I used it in the laboratory for growth medium, we used it both in petrie dishes and in stab tubes and both could be inverted while in the incubator and the agar media would not melt. It actually had a rubbery surface that could have a wire loop dragged gently over it without it cutting into the surface.

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Any real tart apple like a Granny Smith. I guess the tartness has more umm pectin or something. In other words, if I used a different type of apple I would add the cornstarch probably.

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Pectin works! Basically you can make a pate de fruit/fruit roll-up. Once, I made it, poured it into the cake pan 1/4 inch thick, and let it set up. Voila, no trimming no spreading no ooze and a perfect fit. It was mango/apricot and superyummy with white chocolate butter cake.

Granny Smiths -- pits cores and peel -- have lots of pectin, but either Pomona's Universal or the thermoreversible from Patisse work. Do a pate de Fruit search here and you'll find lots of info, just don't cook it to as high of a temp.

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