Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Farewell Cake: A Combination of Chocolate and Tiramisu in A Cake


I've never liked saying goodbye, who doesn't afterall, especially if it's to the person you dearly cherished like parents, dear friends, families, it's never been a pleasure. I've had my fair share of tears at the airport for a few years back saying goodbye to my parents and loved ones when I used to travel back and forth between states and countries, and you would think that I would get use to it after some time, but I didn't. I don't travel much anymore, and if I do, it is for a vacation, so it's a whole different story.

It was such a short notice from my fellow teammate at work, H, that she would be moving to East Coast to join her husband there; I mean, it is only natural and normal that a man and a wife should be together. They've been living their separate live as husband and wife for a few years due to work reason and they've decided that they need to be together, and as much as I'm happy for them, there's this sadness I can't seem to get away from. I've been blessed by so many great people in my life and H is definitely one of them. It makes it even harder to say goodbye when they're no longer just "a coworker", but "a friend" instead.


We had dinner for her farewell, and also lunch on her last day at work, I regret not hanging out with her more often, I guess a lot of things in our life, we take it for granted. I could only think of making her a cake to send her away and I thought it could be a nice gesture.


The girl loves chocolate, anything with chocolate she would eat and it seems like she has quite a sweet tooth. She eats so little during our lunch break and I often tease her about it, sometimes I feel embarrassed for eating twice as much as hers, or more, but she has a hard time saying no to dessert I observed :). It is not the season for chocolate yet, at least in my season but I'll bake anything for the girl and I finally decided on this chocolate mousse and tiramisu cake. She can never turn down coffee too, she ordered mocha shake at Costco, Starbucks, McDonald's, anywhere with coffee, she'd get it. I made this cake the first time out of coincidence and it turned out very good, and I've been making it for a few times ever since, changing it a little each time and this time I added a layer of Valrhona crunchy pearl in the middle of the cake for the added texture.


Just like the previous ones, this cake consists of two chocolate sponge cake, brushed heavily with espresso and rum solution, with dark chocolate mousse in the bottom layer, mascarpone tiramisu cream on the second layer of filling. The whole cake was then covered, top and sides, with milk chocolate whipped cream, and finished off with dusting of rich cocoa powder (I used cacao barry). From the three times I made this cake, I experimented with different chocolate mousse recipe and I think I'm pretty happy with this one, using pate a bombe batter. I need to work on the proportion of each component though so that I don't end up making too much or too little for each component.


This cake wasn't so big, it was only 12x10" but it seems like the surface area is too large for me to decorate. I admit that I'm not very creative in the decorating department, but nothing a few berries can't fix :), you can almost guarantee that berries and chocolate would make a great presentation on a cake.

There was a little cake accident during the transporting process to the office. The chocolate fence was starting to melt in the car, it had to sit unrefrigerated for two hours due to some unavoidable circumstances, but it didn't stop the people from devouring it I guess. I was just glad that I didn't pass out on the spot when I saw my cake almost got destroyed by unrefrigeration.


I got some of the components leftover and I used them to make this mini cake. I used chocolate glaze to cover the top just because I've already made some, and I just realized how hard it is to take good shots with shiny glaze. You can see all kinds of reflection on the cake, making it look not very smooth, but anyways.... The mini cake has the same components as the big one, but only have one chocolate sponge instead of two and dark chocolate glaze instead of cocoa powder just because I wanted to practice glazing, which I found that I am not so good at :(

The pictures of the final cake didn't turn out so good, it was so dark and I didn't have time to play with the camera, so I'll take what I've got :)

So to H, I wish you the very best in life for you and your husband. Thank you for being such a good friend all this while.



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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mascarpone Cheesecake with Chocolate Sauce


I should have posted this three weeks ago or so, because I made this mid august and I have this post on draft for so long and never had a chance to come back to it. It's not that I haven't been baking, trust me because I've been baking up a storm and the posts and pictures just piling up to be done, so I'll get to it slowly while baking for the next one :).

This is at least the third cheesecake I made in just a month (this was made a few weeks ago) and that surely is a lot of cream cheese. What I love about making cheesecake is that (given that you understand the basic method of making a good cheesecake), they're pretty straight forward, it is very versatile, you can modify it all you want and they will come out good, and it's always a crowd-pleaser. It takes longer for cheesecake to bake, and more time resting in the fridge, but technically, there's nothing you need to do really at those time, unlike the multi-component cakes which takes a few days to finish due to the many complicated components that go inside the cake.


This cheesecake however, was made by request from a friend for his wife's birthday. They're both a cheesecake lover and they (more like the husband) want nothing else than cheesecake on the birthday. I was a bit disappointed and relieved at the same time when this request came, disappointed because cheesecake=no challenge=can't experiment with new stuff; relieved because cheesecake=easy=quick=works great with my schedule which means that I don't have to slave myself in the kitchen early in the morning and late at night, besides, I can always try something different with the accompaniment or the decoration for that matter. It worked for the best actually as I was out the whole day before the birthday, so cheesecake was the perfect choice :)

Even though I made a lot of cheesecakes in my baking life, I don't normally use the same recipe each time. When I was in college, I used a lot of recipes from foodnetwork, and let me tell you, I made quite a number of cheesecake during that time, from regular dense NY cheesecake, cheesecake using whipped meringue, you name it. They were all very good and gone in a few minutes, but for some reason, nothing quite stick in my head.


When I started baking more seriously and from the many simple experiences I have with cheesecake, I began to understand how cheesecake works, not saying that there's a whole lot to it, but why some cheesecakes have flour in it, why some have cream, sour cream, etc and I develop my own preference toward cheesecake. I also learned that basically, all base cheesecake recipes are very similar and that you can flavor and play with them in hundreds of different ways. So, that's why I've never stick with one recipe for cheesecake because it is so versatile, you can change it up any way you like.

This mascarpone cheesecake though, is based on just a very basic cheesecake, and substitute half the amount of cream cheese with mascarpone cheese. This is the only cheesecake recipe I stick to whenever I want a very good and creamy cheesecake, not too dense, which is the way I like it. I love mascarpone cheese so much that I'm trying so hard not to use mascarpone in all of my baking. The creamy sweet taste and texture just makes everything tastes better. I reduced the sugar from regular cheesecake because mascarpone is not as tangy as cream cheese, I'm still using the same basic almond crust that I'm always using.


I don't usually make cheesecake with a sauce accompaniment, mostly because I'm too lazy. Most of the time, I just used some jelly on top, or fresh fruits, but I thought it would be so good to eat this with just a simple chocolate sauce drizzled on the top and with fresh sweet strawberries.


Oh, I gotta tell you this, I went to farmers' market at the Ferry building in SF the day before I made this. I went there a few times before during winter and spring time but there wasn't much around, and I really wanted to go there during Summer and see what they have to offer, and I'm loving it!! The price is a little more expensive that the ones we have here in San Jose area, but I found some interesting thing I never found here. For example, I found this cute little organic strawberries (the one I put on top of the cheesecake), they're a lot smaller than regular strawberries, the shape is different too, a little pointy, but let me tell ya, they're one of the sweetest strawberries I've ever eaten. When I cut the strawberries open, most of them doesn't have a tiny bit of white flesh showing up and they're very tasty! Too bad SF is not very close to me or else I would go there every week. I also bought some zucchini flower, and I was very excited to cook with it, but unfortunately, little did I know that they go bad real fast. They turned brown and wilty after one day and molds grew on the second day :(.

So back to the cheesecake, I was keeping it simple with the decoration. Well, to be honest, I was trying to find the fastest decoration I can do since there was really no time to do anything else :).
I apologize for the poor shots, these were shot just before the cake was butchered by 20 people, talking about being under pressure.


Anyways, Fall is starting to creep in here in San Jose. We still have gorgeous weather, mid 70's mostly, chilly in the morning and at night, we've also had a few heat wave not too long ago (more on this on the later post of how it destroys my cake :( ), I'm not sure if I'm ready to welcome Fall yet, as I don't think we've had a real summer here in Bay Area, except for a few very hot days, but I'm trying my best to get a hold of the last stone fruits, and fill the already-overflowing freezer with assorted berries. I haven't had the chance long enough to make all the frozen treats in my list, or even had the chance to make some sangria or cocktail :(

I hope you're enjoying the last summer wherever you are, because if you're like me, who gets excited easily just by seeing assorted berries laying in front of you like jewels, or the smell of the air early in the morning at at night, or just the joy of wearing flip-flops, shorts, or pretty dresses, you'll be dreading waiting for the next summer to come. I hope all these projects (work and non work) scheduled around me for the next few months will keep be distracted from the weather, at least then I can start baking with salted caramel, banana, chocolate, citrus, back again. There's surely something special in every weather you got :)
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