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My goal: a cake that looks like two baby blocks stacked on top of each other, the one on top smaller than the other.

My plan (over-thought and overwrought):

Cake one: 8” coconut cake, filled with coconut filling. I think I use the Peninsula Grill recipe with a few tweaks—I’ve used it for so long and retyped it for my needs, its provenance is cloudy at best. The recipe calls for three 9” rounds, so it should make three 8” squares. I’ll make two batches, and will use four (or five, if necessary) layers to make the first big block. Instead of one four-layer cake (with three filling strata), I thought I’d make two two-layer cakes and stack them, with a cake board in between to increase stability.

Cake two: 4” yellow butter cake, filled with raspberry jam. RLB’s recipe, not worrying about a cake board in the middle.

Construction/Decoration: Bake and fill both two-layer coconut cakes, each on its own board, remembering that I have at least one extra layer if necessary for proper proportions. Ice bottom cake, including top. Insert straws, cut to measure, around the perimeter. Place upper cake in place. Do I need a dowel driven through the entire cake at this point? Finish white icing. Apply colored icing to big cake, except top. Ice small cake in white. Place on top of big cake. (No need for a board, right?) Insert two big straws through small cake and top two layers of big cake, down to first (upper) board? Finish decorating top of big cake. Apply colored icing to small cake.

Transport: 1.5 hours.

Am I doing everything in the right order? Am I worrying about the right things? Advice?

Life is short. Eat the roasted cauliflower first.

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The only thing you may be overthinking, keeping in mind that I'm no cake artist, is that a 4" cube on an 8" cube probably won't need a whole lot of support. Just a little something to keep things from sliding during transport I would think and probably not even that if the weather's not too warm.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I'd use a bamboo skewer or dowel to anchor the two together because you're driving with it for a long time. It won't hurt and gives you a measure of security in case the roads are bumpy or under construction.

You're building the 4" block on a cardboard, right? Otherwise I think you're fine. If you can, chill the finished cake overnight before you start on your trip and keep it on a flat surface - the floor or cargo area - while driving. I once had a woman pick up a two tier cake (it was small) and she put it on a suitcase (flat surface, remember?!) in the back seat and drove with it. The first time she went around a corner, it slid, and the top tier kept sliding after the bottom tier stopped :shock:

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Let me hasten to say 'the bridge is out' on this one. In the first place, you cannot cut an 8" square out of a 10" cake.

You will have 16 right angles to make and 10 surfaces to get smooth connected by the 16 right angles. Then decorate 9 surfaces. This is not a project for beginners or the timid.

I understand how deceptive baby blocks appear. Believe me they are engineering nightmares.

So you definitely need two sets of dowel in a cake that will be 12 inches tall--a 4" cube on top of an 8" cube. Plus you need to secure the insides of the 4". No board under the 4" cube--you gotta be kidding.

All the manipulation for the smoothing smoothing smoothing--I have a friend who I admire who is a very accomplished sought after wedding caker and one of her baby blocks crumbled--she's a pro and pulled it out of the fire but still.

Baby blocks send shivers down the spine of most decorators who have attempted them. They are very difficult.

Do not use freshly baked cake--use frozen cake--I don't know if I would jetison the chichi foofoo fillings and cake--this needs to be made from sturdy stock performance cake that can be mangled a little and survive. I mean a pro could do it but fill a 4" cake? Why? You're gonna have like 2 inches of filling in there and why add the slippery factor to your list of things to have to watch out for.

I think you should bake your lovely cakes and put some chocolate baby blocks on there or something. Or practice this first. It's much more than you think it is.

But I mean plan on taking three times as much time as you originally planned and you should be fine. They are very deceptive.

Edited by K8memphis (log)
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Thanks for the help!

K8, I don't know what you mean about cutting an 8" cake out of a 10" one--I'm using 8" square pans. I'll take your advice and ditch the filling--were you thinking that the four layers and two strata of filling would be 10" high? I'm not wedded to four layers--however many it takes with icing in between to be an 8" cube is what I'm going to use.

The raspberry filling will be just a thin layer of jam, so that shouldn't be a problem.

I'll put a board under the small cake and secure it all the way through to the bottom (i.e., use a 12" dowel).

I haven't sculpted with the coconut cake before, but it's pretty sturdy. Are you thinking I should construct with still-frozen cake layers? Then defrost before icing?

You guys are great!

Life is short. Eat the roasted cauliflower first.

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Let me hasten to say 'the bridge is out' on this one. In the first place, you cannot cut an 8" square out of a 10" cake.

You will have 16 right angles to make and 10 surfaces to get smooth connected by the 16 right angles. Then decorate 9 surfaces. This is not a project for beginners or the timid.

I understand how deceptive baby blocks appear. Believe me they are engineering nightmares.

So you definitely need two sets of dowel in a cake that will be 12 inches tall--a 4" cube on top of an 8" cube. Plus you need to secure the insides of the 4". No board under the 4" cube--you gotta be kidding.

All the manipulation for the smoothing smoothing smoothing--I have a friend who I admire who is a very accomplished sought after wedding caker and one of her baby blocks crumbled--she's a pro and pulled it out of the fire but still.

Baby blocks send shivers down the spine of most decorators who have attempted them. They are very difficult.

Do not use freshly baked cake--use frozen cake--I don't know if I would jetison the chichi foofoo fillings and cake--this needs to be made from sturdy stock performance cake that can be mangled a little and survive. I mean a pro could do it but fill a 4" cake? Why? You're gonna have like 2 inches of filling in there and why add the slippery factor to your list of things to have to watch out for.

I think you should bake your lovely cakes and put some chocolate baby blocks on there or something. Or practice this first. It's much more than you think it is.

But I mean plan on taking three times as much time as you originally planned and you should be fine. They are very deceptive.

Ok, I already admitted I'm no cake artist but I was picturing four 8"x1 1/2" square layers (+ icing and filling) for the bottom and two 4"x1 1/2" layers (+ icing and filling) for the top. Something like this (random web image I searched up as an example) stacked which didn't seem too difficult in my head. Is the main difficulty getting everything nice and square?

Disclaimer: not being argumentive, just trying to learn from those who do this sort of thing.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I do baby block cakes a lot; usually I use a 7" square and it's on the lines of the picture Tri2Cook linked to. I make four layers of cake and three thin layers of filling. The height isn't 7" tall, but more like 5 or 6 and it works. It isn't a perfect cube, but I don't need a perfect cube for the effect. It's a PITA to get squared edges but the reality is, there's a border or some other decorative effect at the edges that helps to hide any imperfections that might occur :wink:

Usually if they need to serve a lot of people, I suggest they get four individual blocks and have each one a different letter: B A B Y. It is more work for me, but it's easier for them to transport (I put them on separate boards, they move them close together when they display them).

If you already have a 4" pan, you could just bake a LOT of 4" squares and do the four layers cake/three layers filling idea and make four blocks and avoid the whole stacking issue altogether. But that's only if you like the idea and need that much cake. But there's nothing wrong with leftover cake!! :biggrin:

I love the Peninsula Grill filling, I use the food processor to grind up the shredded coconut so it's not quite so long when you're eating it. I think this would work with either size, because it is going to be thin and not a thick slather. (If it were a thick layer of filling, it would be a hazard, I agree.) Use a buttercream dam around the edge for insurance.

You'll be fine!

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Tri2Cook--that's exactly what I had in mind! I thought it would be within my abilities. . . :unsure:

Jeanne--Thanks! I was hoping that the borders would hide a multitude of sins; it's good to have that confirmed! Everyone loves the filling--if you think it won't be a hazard if I grind the coconut a little smaller, I'd sure like to use it. I was planning on a buttercream dam.

Thanks for the vote of confidence.

What about freezing the cake--necessary? construct with it still frozen?

Life is short. Eat the roasted cauliflower first.

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I think if you use well chilled cake layers you'll be fine. If you use rm temp layers, you get lots of crumbs and risk breaking/cracking the bigger layers. If I freeze any cake, I let it thaw overnight, but I know of other bakers who use the frozen layers and seem to have no ill effects.

I like grinding the coconut because the long shreds can be a pain, the shorter strands make handling and eating it easier. I have also found that I can use this filling the day I make it, I just dump in the coconut when the "custard" is still cooling but not too hot. I've also been known to add more coconut than it calls for :wink:

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My goal:  a cake that looks like two baby blocks stacked on top of each other, the one on top smaller than the other.

My plan (over-thought and overwrought):

Cake one:  8” coconut cake, filled with coconut filling.  I think I use the Peninsula Grill recipe with a few tweaks—I’ve used it for so long and retyped it for my needs, its provenance is cloudy at best.  The recipe calls for three 9” rounds, so it should make three 8” squares. I’ll make two batches, and will use four (or five, if necessary) layers to make the first big block.  Instead of one four-layer cake (with three filling strata), I thought I’d make two two-layer cakes and stack them, with a cake board in between to increase stability. 

Cake two:  4” yellow butter cake, filled with raspberry jam.  RLB’s recipe, not worrying about a cake board in the middle.

Construction/Decoration:  Bake and fill both two-layer coconut cakes, each on its own board, remembering that I have at least one extra layer if necessary for proper proportions.  Ice bottom cake, including top.  Insert straws, cut to measure, around the perimeter.  Place upper cake in place.  Do I need a dowel driven through the entire cake at this point?  Finish white icing.  Apply colored icing to big cake, except top.  Ice small cake in white.  Place on top of big cake.  (No need for a board, right?)  Insert two big straws through small cake and top two layers of big cake, down to first (upper) board?  Finish decorating top of big cake.  Apply colored icing to small cake.

Transport: 1.5 hours.

Am I doing everything in the right order?  Am I worrying about the right things?  Advice?

I thought you were using round cakes to cut 8" squares out of--my bad.

The dowel need to go where they will bear the weight of the tier above--place them in from the perimeter.

If you don't board and dowel the middle tier you will have eight inches of cake stacked all on itself and I don't think it will make the trip. I might have misunderstood that part too. But you need to dowel every 4 or 5 inches of cake height. So two sets of dowel in the 8".

I tell my daughter that flourless cake is easy because it is, yes? But the first time she makes it she wants to kill me because the first time someone makes something it's unknown ergo difficult. So these are your first baby blocks and they ain't easy. Just be advised.

I know you'll do good especially if you plan on using lots more time than you have planned. Maybe you will be the exeption to the rule and be fast and wonderful at it. Great!

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It wasn't until I saw your highlighted text that I realized I'd left out the part about using the 8" square pans. (I just meant the batter should fill three 8" squares.) No wonder you were concerned!

Thanks for all of your help. You're right--the first time for anything is going to be ten times as hard as the second . . . which is why I'm asking for all this hand-holding here!!

Life is short. Eat the roasted cauliflower first.

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Report:

The construction worked out just fine. After putting together the larger cube, I realized that putting the smaller cube on top would look disproportionate--sort of pinhead-y and tower-y. So, I put it next to the bigger one, and I was satisfied. The dowels were easy.

K8 was right--I severely underestimated the effort and skill needed to smooth sufficiently, and I'm not particularly happy with what I settled for, but it was late and time to say good enough.

The other problem was the texture of the icing. I have only myself to blame for this--instead of using a buttercream that I know pipes well, lays smooth, and holds, I used a coconut cream cheese frosting that everyone loves that I make with sweetened coconut cream in addition to the cream cheese and butter. It tastes divine, but boy, is it soft! I ended up adding some extra confectioner's sugar to stiffen it before icing the entire cake (probably not enough), but needed to add cups of extra sugar to stiffen the colored icing enough so it wouldn't slide off the sides of the cake. So my piping (which only gets a B+ on my best days, anyway) isn't anything to write home about. (And, in retrospect, my judgment at 1:00 am was impaired--I should have spent the five minutes to find the star cookie cutter rather than free-handing a star shape.)

I'm at the office (where I dropped off the cake) and will post a photo when I get home. THANKS for all of your help--I wouldn't have felt confident enough to try it without you all!

gallery_24378_1656_10825.jpg

Edited by onehsancare (log)

Life is short. Eat the roasted cauliflower first.

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      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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