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With regard to the addition of macerated fruit , I have been playing a bit lately and found the following to be worth the expense of the alcohol.

Lexia raisins soaked in Australian liquer muscat

Stem ginger and sultanas soaked in Stones Ginger wine with a splash of whisky

The latter goes well in a lighter style fruit cake but with an emphasis on the ginger rather than the fruitiness

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As a Pastry Chef, I can assure you that I don't make wedding cakes with mixes. It is a British tradition to make them with fruitcake (not American, and not French- they make a croquenbouche). I have never been asked to make a fruitcake wedding cake (lots of vanilla bean, chocolate, carrotcake, genoise, fruit filled, lemon or other curd filled). I have made very many croquenbouche though. In New Zealand, Australia, and Canada- plus England- you will find fruitcake wedding cakes.

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I've been doing wedding cakes in Canada for 10 years now (after several years of doing cakes in the US and Puerto Rico.) Altough, I personally enjoy fruitcake, especially the recipe passed down from my mother, who used to make her own candied fruit for the fruitcakes, during my 10 years of doing wedding cakes here in Ontario, I have had 2 brides request fruitcake. The one bride had family coming from Scotland, and the other was originally from PEI and she was having it because of her family from PEI. I don't even offer fruitcake as an option because the majority of the brides do not like it, and even say they are glad it is no longer what is served as a wedding cake. The most popular choices are sponge cakes- the most popular flavors are chocolate, lemon, champagne, and white.

Sharon's Creative Cakes

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Now here is my suggestion for making cakes like these that include a lot of ingredients.

Do not try to do it all at once, it seems like a really big job.  Instead start out with measuring out the fruit, set it to soak.

On another day measure out the dry ingredients,  place in ziploc bags and place in a large bowl or one of the jumbo ziploc bags along with a copy of the recipe. 

Chop the nuts and store them in a ziploc bag.

Then when you are ready to assemble the recipe all you have to do is get out the perishable ingredients and mix then bake.

I do this with the many cookie recipes I do each year.  I have a bunch of bus trays and totes.

Each one is for a particular recipe.  I line them up and measure out all the dry ingredients, and store in ziploc bags, along with any special utensils needed for a particular recipe, put the tray or tote in a large plastic bag and stack them in the pantry. 

This way I do not get into the middle of a recipe and find I am missing an ingredient and it just generally makes things go so much faster.

yow! THANK YOU for some awesome tips!
"Bibimbap shappdy wappdy wap." - Jinmyo
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I candy ginger, citrus peel and dried fruits (glacé) only because I want a fresher flavor and most of the commercial products mostly taste the same and are hard, not tender as they should be.

If you are going to use dried fruits I do suggest that you plump them in a steamer instead of soaking in water. You will have a much nicer effect, and will not lose any of the flavor to the soaking liquid.

If you don't have an electric steamer, you can get the inexpensive bamboo sets, usually come in a set of three, which you can set on a rack in the bottom of a stockpot to keep the bottom one out of the water.

If you place a plate slightly smaller than the steamer inside each one and put the fruit on the plate, it will steam nicely without getting the steame sticky and without transferring flavor from one to another.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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---------------------------------------------------------

Many of my ancestors were enthusiastic about foods, collected "receipts" and grew odd things.  This one came from one of my paternal ancestors, Patience, wife of Antony Nesbitt, Capt., which is how she named herself in her journals.  Apparently she sometimes sailed with him on his ship during trading trips.

andiesenji, that's absolutely incredible that you possess these journals and old records. I hope I'm not being silly but it gives me goosebumps to think that you have such a direct connection with your ancestors--and in the wonderful form of recipes! The oldest relative I am aware of is my great-grandmother. I don't even know where my ancestors came from!

There have been so many appealing recipes on this post, I can't make up my mind which one to try. But the idea of following a recipe that was written so long ago... very exciting!

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Suvir, thanks so much for this excellent post! I'm a big fan of time-consuming recipes, and if you include candying and steeping your own fruit, this one's going to take forever! Before even starting the cake! :biggrin: I love it. Thanks to you, I'm going out shopping right now to start early preparations!

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hi, i was interested in making the white fruitcake you posted, but am intimidated by the glace pineapples and citron peel required. i dont know how to glace fruit and im sure it takes a lot of time (at least two weeks?) and much effort. for that matter any of these recipes with candied lemon peels, dried figs, etc. i actually really like fruitcake, but have never made any because of the trouble of obtaining high quality candied fruit.

anyhow, i think im going to try the cocoa fruit cake, but wanted to find out about the following:

This is my cocoa fruit cake.

...

1-1/2 DRIED CHERRIES

how much are you talking about? cup or pounds? i guess cups, but i would like to double check.

thanks!

"Bibimbap shappdy wappdy wap." - Jinmyo
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I am sorry that there is an error in my cocoa fruitcake recipe as posted.

It should say 1 1/2 cups CHERRIES

There should also be an additional sentence which states other dried fruits may be substituted as long as the proportions remain the same.

I have made the cake with dried cranberries and blueberries or a combinaton of all types of berries and with home dried Red Flame grapes which are very plump and sweet. I have even made it with REAL dried black currants a friend sent me from England.

If you have a Trader Joe's nearby, you can get an assortment of very good dried fruits.

Making glacé pineapple is easy, just buy some dried pineapple, steam it until it plumps and softens then immerse it in simple syrup and gently simmer until it has become translucent.

If you have a small crockpot you can do this without watching it.

King Arthur flour catalog sells very good candied fruit.

Any commercial candied fruit will benefit from the addition of some type of liquor. Brandy is usually the most common, but the sweet fortified white wines by Kedem, often labeled "Sacrametal Wine" is fine too. Put the fruit in a glass jar, add the liquor to cover and close tightly. Shake the jar every day or so, let it soak for a week, drain and save the liquor for using in recipes as it will now be much sweeter or use it to soak more fruit.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I've been lurking on this thread for a few days and have been inspired to actually make my fruitcake for the year. I have several recipes but this year it is Emily Dickenson's Black Cake that is very similar to the Jamaican Black cakes up thread.

This thread was helpful because someone asked me to donate to a silent auction and I do not want to do a dinner ( too much unspecified obligation - much experience with this) and it is much better to have a displayed item for the auction.

I hit upon a "Basket of Traditional British Christmas Baking" - thus the basket got one of the aforementioned fruitcakes, Grandma McCracken's Carrot Pudding (my contribution to recipe gullet) and the classic shortbread - petticoat tails style. A couple of candles, some small Christmas crackers - not the edible kind, the snapping kind and a recipe for Brandy sauce.

The printed material that goes with it - sort of tap dances around the fruit cake issue I called it Black Cake and suggested it be served with a wedge of cheddar or Stilton and port - suggestion of an early poster - and a fine suggestion it was.

The packaging materials cost more than the edible ingredients but it looks very stylish and appealing .

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  • 2 weeks later...

hello. i guess this might be a pm, but just in case anyone else has other thoughts, etc, i will be posting this.

i am a closet fruitcake eater and i am excited that i will be making them for the first time!

i decided to make two sets, following andiesenjis two recipes...

i am following the recipes but with changes (i think/hope that they are minor enough). would anyone care to comment on the changes?

for the white fruitcake: the sweet white wine called for will be cream sherry. will this matter? ive never made anything boozy and i dont know anything about wines, etc. but i am guessing this is alright. i tried to find this thing called "Carmel Cream White" called for at the local stores (two places) but had no luck and got dizzy trying to figure out what is a sweet white wine. (whats a chardonnay? riesling? yes, i am so clueless. but i also dont drink...)

for the cocoa fruitcake: i will not be baking this in the pans called for. instead i will be using tiny mini loaf pans. depending on the amount, i will split this up between 4-6 loaves. ive never attempted this sort of change before. but i think i can pull it off. the question is shall i lower the temperature? i will definitely be keeping an eye on it and probably checking half an hour in and every 5 minutes after that, but anybody have any comments about this?

other than these two changes, i will be following the recipes to a T. macerating for two weeks, steaming, soaking for months, etc. whatever the recipes say, except for the two changes cited above... im not going to screw these babies up! (im in the midst of obtaining some citron, even!)

thanks in advance to those with more experience baking who are able to help out with any comments.

"Bibimbap shappdy wappdy wap." - Jinmyo
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hello. i guess this might be a pm, but just in case anyone else has other thoughts, etc, i will be posting this.

i am a closet fruitcake eater and i am excited that i will be making them for the first time!

i decided to make two sets, following andiesenjis two recipes...

i am following the recipes but with changes (i think/hope that they are minor enough). would anyone care to comment on the changes?

for the white fruitcake: the sweet white wine called for will be cream sherry. will this matter? ive never made anything boozy and i dont know anything about wines, etc. but i am guessing this is alright. i tried to find this thing called "Carmel Cream White" called for at the local stores (two places) but had no luck and got dizzy trying to figure out what is a sweet white wine. (whats a chardonnay? riesling? yes, i am so clueless. but i also dont drink...)

-----------------

Any sweet wine is okay. The white concord by Manichevitz or a combination of sweet muscat and sherry or whatever.

I shop at a lot of stores that cater to Jewish residents and they carry a full line of the sweet wines, both red and white that are traditional and usually on sale near the holidays.

Heck, you could pour in a bottle of Thunderbird and a little brandy and that would work too.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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the cocoa fruitcake has been glazed and is cooling on racks as i write.

<center><img src="http://www.rawbw.com/~coconut/eg/04/041018fruitcake.jpg"></center>

i tasted a bit and its delicious!

thank you.

comments:

it is a lot of batter! it was enough batter for 9 mini loaves.

the baking took pretty much about an hour. at 30 minutes, i turned the temp down to 325, but at the 45 minute mark turned it back up to 350 since it was still pretty wet at that point. at the hour mark they were just about done and i pulled them out then. next time ill just keep a close eye and bake at 350 all the way.

i had started the glaze just after i popped them into the oven. by the time the hour was up, the glaze was cool enough to touch.

the only change to the recipe i would make is to simplify the glaze... you dont need the water. youre making an orange jam and the water (which you are boiling away during the reduction) is just making the process take more time since orange juice has a lot of water in it to begin with.

i cant wait to begin the white fruitcake!

:wub:

thanks again andiesenji! what a nice family recipe. i am glad you shared it with us. it is amazing how many generations that recipe has lasted! from 1690!!! wow!

"Bibimbap shappdy wappdy wap." - Jinmyo
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I could not understand the fruit cake jokes when I first moved to the states. My own family took great pride in the making of rich fruit cakes for weddings and christmas, of course well in advance so they could be well fed. But there was also a whole range of "daily cakes" (cakes are still consumed daily on my familys farm) such as date and walnut, tea cakes etc that were not as a rich but still moist.

I to had a tradtional fruit cake for my wedding, although my future american husband was a little worried about it.

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the cocoa fruitcake has been glazed and is cooling on racks as i write.

<center><img src="http://www.rawbw.com/~coconut/eg/04/041018fruitcake.jpg"></center>

i tasted a bit and its delicious!

thank you.

comments:

it is a lot of batter!  it was enough batter for 9 mini loaves.

the only change to the recipe i would make is to simplify the glaze...  you dont need the water.  youre making an orange jam and the water (which you are boiling away during the reduction) is just making the process take more time since orange juice has a lot of water in it to begin with.

i cant wait to begin the white fruitcake!

:wub:

thanks again andiesenji!  what a nice family recipe.  i am glad you shared it with us.  it is amazing how many generations that recipe has lasted!  from 1690!!!  wow!

Wow! Melonpan, your photo is great and the cakes look scrumptious.

It does make a lot of batter - the bundt pans I use are the large ones, 10 to 12 cup max and the molds for the trees, large and small use a lot of batter.

It is also enough for a full-sized sheet pan to make a thin cake for cutting into shapes. When I do those I completely cover them with chocolate, rather like a petit four.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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melonpan, you don't have to be a closet fruitcake eater! Who wouldn't want to eat your beautiful-looking cakes. What a perfect deep golden color. I was also pretty inspired by this post to make my own fruitcake. Right now I'm letting my dried fruit soak in rum for a couple of weeks. Can't wait to get started.

I was curious though--and this question could be directed at andiesenji as well, or anyone else--about the combination of cocoa and fruitcake. I've never had it before. Is the chocolate flavor quite noticeable? Or does it sort of meld with all the other flavors?

melonpan, any chance we might get a picture of the inside of one of your cakes? :smile: Or are you saving them to give away?

And please send more pictures when you finish the white fruitcake! :biggrin:

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I'll throw down the gauntlet here with an odd question... has anyone ever had fruit cake with lard or pork in it? Specifically a white fruit cake?

I am trying to re-create a fruit cake for a family member who grew up in Texas, and her aunt used to make a fruit cake that (as she says) "had pork in it". I ask "was it lard" and she says "I don't know... do you think you can do it?" The only other thing I can get out of her is that it wasn't actual chunks of pork.

Ideas?? I was looking at andiesenji's recipe for white fruit cake as my starter... maybe I should use freshly rendered lard in place of butter? Maybe that "second" rendering of lard (as per the e-Gullet lard recipe) that's more pork-like?

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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Oh, this is so affirming. For the past several years, I have been making the fruitcake that my mother has made for years, based on a recipe from Aunty Pat. The recipe I use looks very similiar to the Black Cake - not surprising since Aunty Pat is Jamaican. We have always called it Plum Pudding or Christmas Pudding, though.

The recipe I use makes vast amounts, and so far, I have found exactly one person outside of my small family who enjoys it. But I am convinced to continue making it, regardless. And this thread not only affirms my decision, but also reminds me that I need to start mincing some fruit!

So, we ususally serve the Plum Pudding with Hard Sauce - a totally sinful mix of confectioners sugar, butter, brandy and sherry. The hard sauce is usually just served in a scoop or a schmear alongside the cake. Is this something that other people do? It seems like many of the fruitcakes recipes here involve icing instead.

By the way, while he doesn't really like plum pudding, my husband has developed a habit of putting a dollop of hard sauce in his coffee. :smile:

edit for grammar

Edited by crouching tyler (log)

Robin Tyler McWaters

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Just the other day, someone gave me the bare outlines of their "West Indian fruitcake" preparations, which they were starting now -- soak yellow and red raisins, currants, pitted dates and pitted prunes in a mixture of 2/3 white rum and 1/3 port or Madeira.  For the rum, I was told to use "overproof" but have forgotten what that meant -- is it just very high proof?

Does anyone have a good recipe for stollen?

The 1981 December issue of Gourmet Magazine had a great Stollen recipe that I used for years, but I'm not sure where I put it--I had lost it once during a move, then got a copy from the library--It's somewhere is one of these recipe files...I'll find it and post it.

I also have a recipe for Chocolate Rum Balls made with Fruitcake! It's a good one to use up the not-so good cakes that come in the mail and sit around all winter. I'll find it and post it, too--they are probably oth on my computer at home--one of these days, I'd like to have all my eggs in one basket--so to speak, or at least all my recipes on all my machines.

Here is the Rum Ball Recipe:

Chocolate Walnut Rum Balls

1 lb. fruitcake, sliced and cut into 2-inch pieces

(I used one of those they sell in gift shops, that have red ruffled parchment paper under them, and wrapped in plastic. Someone had given it to me.)

2 cups (8 ounces) walnut pieces

3 cups confectioners' sugar, divided

3 oz Dark Chocolate bars, chopped

1 /4 cup rum

Place fruitcake and nuts in bowl of food processor fitted with metal chopping blade. Cover and pulse until mixture is very finely chopped. Transfer to mixing bowl.

Add 2 cups confectioners' sugar and chocolate. Mix well with fork. Add rum and mix until ingredients are uniformly moistened. Add a little more rum, if needed, to hold ingredients together.

Line baking sheet with foil, parchment or waxed paper. Shape fruitcake mixture into 1-inch balls by rolling between palms of hands. Repeat to make about 50 balls. Place remaining confectioners’ sugar in shallow bowl. Roll balls in sugar until thoroughly coated. Transfer to waxed paper-lined baking sheet and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Store rum balls in covered container for up to 3 days. Makes 50 rum balls

(though I didn't get 50 balls--more like 30 I guess I made them bigger than 1")

Edited by chefcyn (log)
It's not the destination, but the journey!
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Here's another "fruitcake" treasure from my Mom's recipe box that we make every year at Christmas--she got this when we lived in Cuba in the 50s, doing recipe exchanges with other Navy wives:

Whiskey Lizzies

Place 1 1/2 c seedless raisins in a bowl, add 1/4 c bourbon

Mix and let sit for 1 hour.

Mix and sift:

1 1/2 c flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cloves

Mix:

1/2 c butter

1/2 c light brown sugar

Add 2 eggs, beat.

Beat in the flour mixture.

Stir in the Raisins and...

1/2 lb pecans

1/4 c candied citron

1/2 lb candied cherries

Place spoonfuls on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 325 for about 15 min. Makes about 6 1/2 doz.

We've made them with other candied fruit than the cherries, too like pineapple and they were good--like bites of fruitcake.

It's not the destination, but the journey!
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melonpan, you don't have to be a closet fruitcake eater! Who wouldn't want to eat your beautiful-looking cakes. What a perfect deep golden color. I was also pretty inspired by this post to make my own fruitcake. Right now I'm letting my dried fruit soak in rum for a couple of weeks. Can't wait to get started.

I was curious though--and this question could be directed at andiesenji as well, or anyone else--about the combination of cocoa and fruitcake. I've never had it before. Is the chocolate flavor quite noticeable? Or does it sort of meld with all the other flavors?

melonpan, any chance we might get a picture of the inside of one of your cakes? :smile: Or are you saving them to give away?

And please send more pictures when you finish the white fruitcake! :biggrin:

The cocoa is definitely present. Think of a dense devil's food cake, very moist, with fruit in it.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I'll throw down the gauntlet here with an odd question... has anyone ever had fruit cake with lard or pork in it?  Specifically a white fruit cake?

I am trying to re-create a fruit cake for a family member who grew up in Texas, and her aunt used to make a fruit cake that (as she says) "had pork in it".  I ask "was it lard" and she says "I don't know... do you think you can do it?"  The only other thing I can get out of her is that it wasn't actual chunks of pork. 

Ideas??  I was looking at andiesenji's recipe for white fruit cake as my starter... maybe I should use freshly rendered lard in place of butter?  Maybe that "second" rendering of lard (as per the e-Gullet lard recipe) that's more pork-like?

There are a lot of traditional English cakes that use beef suet. Lard has been used in a number of cakes and fruit cakes. I have to look them up, as I don't seem to have any in my computer.

As soon as I find one I will post it.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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      Lookin' like a flowerpot! Mmmmmm......look at all those cake scraps on the table. Yep, a few went in my mouth (quality control you know) but the rest went into the garbage......Next it's time to put a layer of buttercream on there, for extra smoothy goodness:

      I snapped the pic with one hand as I was holding the pastry bag in the other. Not easy. I like to use the giant pastry bag with the giant tip for applying icing....makes for less work later.

      Ok, here's a pic for folks that wanted to see that "paint masker thingy" in action. Tried to snap a pic myself, but just couldn't muster up the co-ordination. Luckily, Amber, the front deli counter girl, took a pic for me. I hadn't meant for her to include ME in the pic (Gawd!) but I wanted more of a close up of Mr. Smoothing Tool. Oh well, you take what you can get. See that I have my sketch on the reach-in behind me....along with all my other wacky magnets. Hey, I like to decorate my workspace.....Notice I hold the "pint masker thingy" by the bottom when I am smoothing the sides. If I don't, and hold it by the handle, it tends to kind of bend. I hold it by the handle when I go across the top. See how nice and smooth?:

      Now it's really starting to look like a flowerpot. But wait! It's upside down! Why is that, you ask? Because it's easier to carve and ice that way, and most importantly, much easier to apply the fondant. Into the walk-in it goes, to firm up. Now for the second pot:

      This is going to be the bottom flowerpot. It's going to be larger, and a slightly different shape than the top flowerpot. I baked off 2 10 inch rounds and 1 8 inch round for this one. I only ended up using half the 8 inch round, as you can see. I have the saran wrap underneath the cake and on top of the board, so it will be easier to flip over later. Here it is all carved out.....mmm....more cake scraps.....into the garbage they go.....

      Below, here it is, with a layer of buttercream. I didn't use the "paint masker thingy" on this one because of the curvature of the cake. I just piped the icing on and then smoothed it out with my offset spatula as best I could. After I refrigerate it, I will do the final smoothing.

      So now I'm waiting for my pots to set up. Time to do some other stuff, like:

      "Cuiz" my chocolate cookies to make the "dirt" for my pots. And......

      start dusting my flowers and leaves with luster dust to add a little depth and realism to them. For this project I just made "whimsical flowers" in that they really aren't any particular flower....they're just cartoonish and colorful. Well, the roses are, well, roses.....gotta have a few roses. In the background there, you can see sort of how I did the gumpaste umbrella. I happened to have a dessert cup at home that was well suited for it. I filled out the top with gumpaste and added "ribs" with gumpaste, then put some saran on the top of that and put a gumpaste disk on it. I then cut out the rounded parts between the ribs.....and voila....umbrella! This was the first thing I made because I wanted it to have the maximum amount of drying time. Now if I were really smart, I would have made not one, but two or even three umbrellas because stuff always breaks. Always. No matter how careful you are. Especially in a commercial kitchen.....not only do you have to worry about yourself but everyone else too. I make more flowers than I need because I always manage to break quite a few. But, as it was, I only made one umbrella since I was so cocky and sure of myself. Turns out I was lucky......this time! Ok, time to roll out some terra cotta colored fondant!

      Dust the table liberally with cornstarch and roll away. I've done this so much I can just eyeball how much fondant I'll need to cover a certain sized cake. When rolling out fondant, waste no time from the time you're done rolling til you get it on the cake, because it starts drying out right away. Drying out means yukky little cracks, and me no likey little cracks! So I race to walk-in, retrieve cake, and cover it quickly.

      Then I take my trusty little pizza wheel and cut the excess away. This excess will get kneaded back into the remainder of my fondant so that I'll have enough to cover the other pot. So I take the rounded pot out of the walk-in, and, after washing my hands like a surgeon, I use the warmth of my hands to smooth the buttercream out so I have a perfect surface on which to cover with fondant. I tried using latex gloves for doing smoothing, but they are too much of a barrier to my body warmth. I need that warmth to lightly soften the buttercream for the proper smoothing. And here we have a nice smooth surface for the fondant:

      Into the reach-in it goes to set up while I roll out my fondant.......and here it is covered, with the excess trimmed away. Notice that I trimmed off my plastic wrap quite a bit before I covered it. Otherwise I would have gotten into a wrestling match with it and the fondant.

      So back into the walk-in they go to stay firm while I take me a little breaky:

      This is the view out the back door of the kitchen. We look over the Kai-Tai Lagoon and the Olympic Mountains. Unfortunately you can't see the Olympics in this picture because it's cloudy. But man, on a clear day......it's outstanding. Off to the right, beyond the trellis thing, is a large garden full of culinary things....a la Chez Panisse. We've got rosemary, bay, basil, fennel, oregano, chervil,onions, squashes (in the fall), thyme, decorative flowers, arugula, and more. Whenever we need herbs....just go out back. We get most of our produce from local farmers who come to our back door. One of the things I LOVE about Tinytown. It really beats the in-city large mass produce vendors. As I look out the back door, I sip on a latte that I made myself from our aging and undependable espresso machine. Luckily, today, I managed to pull a pretty good shot. Ok, break time over! Back to work! My next step is to turn my pots over. I will turn the larger pot over first. I slip my offset spatula underneath the saran wrap and lift the cake off, and set it aside on the table. An important thing to note: If I'd used a mousse, curd, or jam filling, I wouldn't have been able to do this so easily. With a refrigerated buttercream filling, the cake doesn't flex at all as I lift it. I managed to nick a little of my polyfoil covering with my spat when I went to lift the cake. Nuts. Oh well, I'll cover that with a flower later. I melt some white chocolate and smear some in the center of my board. I need to anchor the bottom pot so it doesn't slip around.

      I flip the bottom pot over, place it on top of my melted white chocolate, make sure it's centered, and peel the saran wrap off.

      My next step is to mark where I'm going to place my top pot, then insert straws within that area to support the weight of it. I decided to place the top pot slightly off center, and traced a circle with my paring knife to mark it. For most cake supports I use straws. They're easy to cut to fit, cheap, and they work. The only time I use wooden dowels is when there is an UNGODLY amount of weight or a weird center of gravity involved. I used to use regular heavy duty bar straws, until I discovered.......bubble tea straws! They are super heavy duty and very large.....they have to be for people to suck up that lovely bubble tea. I don't really think that fad is going to catch on here much in the states, but as long as I can get the straws I'm happy. I get them from an asian novelty wholesaler in Seattle. I think it's Viet-Wah, but can't remember for sure.

      Anyway, I insert the straw, mark it with my thumb where it's flush with the top of the cake, then pull the straw out and cut it. I use that straw as a measure to cut the rest of my straws. In this case I will use 5. One in the center and four around.

      Now I'm all ready to place the top pot on......oh, wait, except for a swirl of buttercream on top of the straws to anchor it a bit. Next, I use my melted white chocolate to adhere an appropriately sized round cardboard on the bottom of my top pot.

      Once that's set, I flip over the top pot, and place it on my bottom pot.

      Voila! Now, I really have to make sure that the top pot won't slide around, so I stick a few bamboo skewers down through the middle and through the cardboard til it hits the bottom board. I use the side of my needlenose pliers to pound the skewer down through. Now starts my very favorite part of this whole thing.....details! I figured that using my silicone lace impression molds will make great detailing on the pots. Here's the one I'm going to use to detail the bottom pot:

      I dust the inside of the mold with cornstarch........then roll out a quick piece of fondant, and roughly press it in:

      Then I place the top piece of the silicone impression on top, and roll it like crazy with a rolling pin. With the top part of the impression still in place, I pull off as much of the excess as I can.

      Then I remove the top piece, and pull all the ragged edges back in......

      Then I brush a little water on the back of the piece, and adhere it to the pot. I keep making them until the pattern has gone all the way 'round.

      I use a different lace mold to make a pattern on the top pot. Now it's time to do the rims. When I did the lace impressions around the pots, I used fondant, because I needed the stretchability of it to conform easily to the shape of the pot. A little stretchiness in this case is good. But when it's time to do the rims, I don't want ANY stretching going on whatsoever.....I want uniformly thick and perfectly straight strips, so for this I'm going to use modeling chocolate, which of course has been colored the same color as the fondant. See the neato embossing on my strip? I found that little embossing wheel at Seattle Pottery Supply, believe it or not, and it was cheap too. The embossers are interchangeable and it came with about 10 different patterns! I rolled out my strip, then embossed the pattern twice (one next to the other) then used my pizza wheel to cut nice straight even edges. I made two top strips and two bottom strips....the bottom strips are just plain.

      And here are the pots with all their details.....

      These guys are going into the walk-in for a while while I work on the other details. Gotta make the baby! First I start with a styrofoam core. The reason for this is for stability and less weight. There was a time in my career when I thought I shouldn't use ANYTHING that wasn't edible, but talk about making life hard. I've made things out of solid modeling chocolate, but they were very heavy and hard to support. Then over the years, I realized that people really don't eat the decorations anyway (except for a few overzealous kids), so I decided to reduce my chocolate expenses and weight by using styrofoam to bulk things out more and more. I pat out a disk of flesh colored modeling chocolate, and place my styrofoam ball in the middle.

      Then I bring the edges up around the ball and squeeze the chocolate together so that no seams show. I stick a couple of skewers in it so that I can hold it in one hand and model it with the other. Then I manipulate it in my surgeon-scrubbed hands to model the face, add a little nose, eyes, mouth, ears, hair and of course, a dimple. The baby head needs to go somewhere while I work on other stuff.....oh, here's a good place.....right in the edge of my equipment box.

      I've been so good about taking pictures at nearly every step! But here's where I fail you.......when I get "in the zone"......meaning that I'm so intent on my little details....I sort of forget about the camera! Here's what I did in between this picture and the next two:
      *made the baby's shoulders and neck and arms out of modeling chocolate
      *sprinkled my cookie dirt inside the pots
      *dusted the centers of my flowers with luster and color, made the calyx's (sp?) and mounted *them on my green skewers
      *rolled modeling chocolate onto a skewer to form the umbrella stem
      *made the bottom banner and wrote on it
      *made the baby's flower bonnet
      I modeled the baby's neck and shoulders, then stuck that right on the top pot. Then I cut the skewers that are coming out of his head to the right length and pushed it down through the neck and shoulders.

      I placed the arms and formed the hands. I stuck my umbrella stem through the arm and down into the cake so there would be adequate support......but darn, I wasn't watching carefully, and the skewer came out of the side of the pot because my angle was a bit off. Oh well, I'll cover that up with a leaf. At least you can see where the umbrella stem is on the skewer. On top of the umbrella stem is a little half dome of modeling chocolate, to support the gumpaste umbrella. I dab a bit of melted white chocolate on that, and stick the umbrella on top. Now all I have to do is place my flowers, mount the banner, and put his little bonnet on.

      And here we have the finished product. It's sort of hard to read the banner....it says, "May Showers Bring Adorable Flowers". One thing I always seem to to do.....I'll shoot the picture of my finished cake and I'm always tired.....so I'm too lazy to find a good backdrop. Then I curse myself later when there's that yukky kitcheny background. God, in one picture I took, my cake had a dirty mop bucket behind it! All I can say is, thank god for Photoshop......I can always "fix" it later.
      It took me 8 hours to put this together and that's not counting all the prep I did the whole week prior. I don't think a whole lot of people realize the time that goes into this stuff.....and it's also why you don't see it very often.
      Anyway, the girl that's getting the baby shower has NO IDEA this is coming. Surprising her is going to be the best part!
      Fast forward to the next day. My boss's wife and I are bringing the box inside the house, then removing the cake from the box. Kids are dancing around us....."is that a CAKE? Is that a CAKE?" People gather round, and the girl who's getting the shower sees it and starts crying. She gives me a big hug and says "I don't know how to thank you!" I told her she just did.
      The shower went on, presents were opened, food was eaten, champagne was sipped.......and then.....it was time......the part that the kids almost couldn't wait for.....time to eat cake! Which of course, means, time to cut cake. And guess who gets to do it. Yep. Me. I don't have to cut my own cakes very often, and that's a good thing. Usually I'm nowhere in the vicinity when my cakes are cut and consumed.....I have only the memory of a photograph and my labor. This time I also do the deconstructing.....and I gotta say it was bittersweet. Especially since knowing it took me 8 hours to build it and only 15 minutes to take it apart. May I say.......wah? Yes. Wah. Luckily I'd had a couple glasses of Mumm's so my "pain" was numbed a bit.......
      Hope you all have enjoyed this bit of cake sculpting. Now back to our regular programming.......
    • By Nn, M.D.
      I'm very excited to share with you all a recipe that I developed for a double crust apple pie.  I had been inspired a few weeks ago to come up with a series of 3-ingredient recipes that would focus on technique and flavor but still be simple enough for the unseasoned chef.  I decided to make an apple pie as a challenge to myself--never having made one before--and as a way to show those who might find pastry intimidating how easy and adaptable it can be.
       
      Basic Shortcrust Pastry
      Ingredients:
      - 300g flour
      - 227g salted butter, cold
      - 2 lemons, zested with juice reserved
       
      1. Cut butter into small chunks.  Beat butter, zest of the 2 lemons, and flour together with an electric mixer OR combine with pastry blender OR rub together with fingers OR blitz in a food processor until it resembles sand.
      2. Add just enough water to bring the mix together into a dough (about 20g for me).  You'll know your pastry is ready when you can press it together and it stays in one piece.
      3. Divide dough in two and wrap tightly with plastic.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
      4. When ready to use, roll out each portion to 13 inches in diameter. (I do this between two sheets of parchment paper.  Don't worry too much if the parchment sticks to the pastry. I periodically placed mine in the freezer to help keep everything cold, and the butter will separate from the parchment when frozen.)
      5. Take 1 portion of rolled dough and place it in a 9-inch tart tin with a removable bottom.  Gently press into the sides to ensure even coverage.  Place in the freezer for 30 minutes.  Freeze the other portion of dough in-between the parchment pieces.
       
      Apple Filling (and Assembly)
      - 1 kg apples (I used about 7 apples for this recipe.)
      - 220g dark brown sugar, divided
      - 1 egg, separated
       
      Making the apple butter: 
      1. Cut and core 500g of your apples, but do not peel.  Add cut apples, juice of the one lemon, about 100g or so of water, and 170g of sugar to a large saucepan.
      2. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer and cover.  Let the apples cook for 20-30 minutes or until tender.
      3. Remove from heat and blend until smooth.
      4. Return puree to saucepan and simmer uncovered over low heat, stirring occasionally, for an hour.  Color should deepen and the mixture should thicken slightly, but do not allow it to scorch.
      5. Remove from heat and refrigerate until cool.
       
      Apple filling:
      1. Peel, quarter, and core the remaining 500g of apples. Slice on a mandolin to about 1/8th inch thickness. Place sliced apples in a large bowl of cold water while slicing remaining apples.
      2. Once apples are sliced, drain water and add the juice from the remaining lemon, as well as the remaining 50g of sugar, over the apples. Stir to coat.
       
         
       
      Assembly:
      1. Remove pie base from the freezer.  Dock with a fork and brush on egg white.  Place back in the freezer and allow to set for for about 5-10 minutes.
      2. Pour the entire recipe of apple butter into the pie base and even out with an offset spatula.
      3. Arrange apple slices over the apple butter.
      4. Remove remaining pie dough from the freezer and cut designs in while still cold. Transfer to the surface of the pie and seal overhanging edges.  Trim excess dough.
      5. Brush top pastry with egg yolk (beaten with any remaining egg white) and bake in a 365˚F oven for 60-70 minutes.  Crust should be shiny and golden brown.
      6. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before removing from tin.
       
      Some notes:
      The reason for using salted butter is I think the flavor incorporates a little better into the mix than if I were to use unsalted butter and added salt.  That being said, you could do that instead, though your recipe would then have 7 ingredients The addition of apple butter here takes the place of the normal apple pie filling, which is usually thickened with cornstarch and is typically quite sweet.  By using the apple butter, I push the flavor of apple forward beyond what you would find in a typically apple pie.  Also, the apple butter acts as a glue of sorts so that my slices are always clean, so no need to resort to adding thickeners or extra sweeteners. I'm always looking for a way around blind baking, and using an egg white seal has worked out very well for me. The egg white creates a water-tight layer between the crust and the filling, so no matter how wet my filling is, the crust will always bake crispy and won't get soggy for as long as the pie is around. Feel free to change this up as you see fit.  Obviously you can spices to this (I recommend cinnamon, clove, and cardamom) but the beauty of this pie is that it's really not necessary.  Although at first blush it may seem one-noted, the harmony between the flaky, almost savory crust and the bright and refreshing filling is one that doesn't need any help, in my honest opinion.  

       
      So there you have it! My 6-ingredient apple pie, sure to become a go-to for me, and hopefully for you as well!
       
    • By ResearchBunny
      Posted 6 hours ago Dear EGulleters,
      ResearchBunny here. I've just found you today. I've been lolling in bed with a bad cold, lost voice, wads of tissues, pillows, bedding around me. I spent all of yesterday binge-watching Season 2 of Zumbo's Just Desserts on Netflix from beginning to grand finale. I have been a hardcore devotee of Rose Levy Beranbaum since the beginning of my baking passion -- after learning that she wrote her master's thesis comparing the textural differences in cake crumb when using bleached versus unbleached flour. I sit up and pay attention to that level of serious and precision! While Beranbaum did study for a short while at a French pastry school, she hasn't taken on the challenge of writing recipes for entremets style cakes. That is, multi-layer desserts with cake, mousse, gelatin, nougatine or dacquoise layers all embedded in one form embellished with ice cream, granita, chocolate, coulis. After watching hours of the Zumbo contest, I became curious about the experience of designing these cakes. Some of the offered desserts struck me as far too busy, others were delightful combinations. I was surprised that a few contestants were eliminated when their offerings were considered too simple or, too sophisticated. So I'd like to hear from you about your suggestions for learning more about how to make entremets. And also, what you think about the show. And/or Zumbo.
      Many thanks.
      RB
      ps. The show sparked a fantasy entremet for my cold. Consider a fluffy matzo ball exterior, with interior layers of carrot, celery, a chicken mince, and a gelatin of dilled chicken broth at its heart!
    • By TexasMBA02
      After batting about .500 with my previous approach to macarons, I came across Pierre Herme's base recipe online.  After two flawless batches of macarons, I've been re-energized to continue to work at mastering them.  Specifically, I want to try more of his recipes.  My conundrum is that he has, as far as I can tell, two macaron cookbooks and I don't know which one I should get.  I can't tell if one is just an updated version of the other or a reissue or what the differences really are.  I was hoping somebody had some insight.  I have searched online and haven't seen both books referenced in the same context or contrasted at all.
       
      This one appears to be older.

       
      And this one appears to be the newer of the two.

       
      Any insight would be helpful.
       
      Thanks,
       
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