Saturday, October 22, 2011

Almost baking disasters

Another weekend, another hen's party for my friend from work. She must be a great bridesmaid, as she keeps getting asked to be part of her friend's bridal parties (which means I keep getting asked to bake dessert - win).

The last hen's party I baked for had an Alice in Wonderland theme. This hen's party was a more lavish affair and therefore called for something a bit more decedent. The result, chocolate and champagne.

I decided to bake chocolate ganache tarts and strawberry champagne cakes, as well as whip up some chocolate blueberry truffles. I had a look around for the best ganache recipe for my tarts and ended up going quite simple and using the recipe from the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook. Some recipes I found called for heaps of steps and ingredients, Bourke Street just needed cream and chocolate - easy.

I started baking on Friday evening. First I did the pastry bases, followed by the fillings for my truffles, then finished the night with the ganache for the tarts. I must have used all my kitchen luck up on Friday, as Saturday was a disaster! The first batch of strawberry cakes took too long to cook and then completely stuck to the tin. I then changed tins and went for a more basic design, although after about 10 minutes in the oven I smelt burning. I had pushed the cakes in too far and the back ones had been sitting over the flame. Once the cakes were out (and a little liberal scrapping from two cakes to remove any "dark" colouring) I started the buttercream. I was trying the buttercream from raspberri cupcakes however it curdled as I was adding the campagne, so I started again. This time I used the buttercream from the Miette Bakery Cookbook and when it came to adding the champagne, I did it very slowly and stopped just before curdling.

The truffles turned out ok, not quite round but they tasted pretty good so think that's forgivable. Also, at least they couldn't be mistaken for store bought...

So, after an evening of being covered in chocolate and a morning of cake disasters, I came out on the other side and am quite happy with the results. Hope all you girls have a great time at the party tonight. I think I might put my feet up and finish the bottle of pink champagne. 

Strawberry Champagne Cakes
Adapted from raspberri cupcakes

85g butter, softened
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
1 punnet strawberries
1 cup pink champagne

Hull and halve the strawberries. Wash the strawberries then in a bowl, pour over the cup of pink champagne (use more if needed). Now, pour yourself a glass of champagne and enjoy it as you bake the rest of the cake.
Grease a cup cake tin (I used one that held 12 cakes) and preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together into a medium bowl. Put butter and 1 cup sugar in a separate bowl and mix on medium-high speed using an electric beater until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low; mix in egg, milk and vanilla, mix until smooth.

Reduce speed to low; gradually add in flour mixture. Be careful not to over beat. In the base of each mould, add a small teaspoon of batter. Top with a strawberry from the champagne mix (shake off the excess liquid before adding the strawberry to the batter). Finish filling the moulds with the batter - be careful not to overfill, about 2/3 of the mould. Sprinkle the cakes with the remaining caster sugar.

Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until a skewer can be inserted and come out clean. Leave to cool in the tins for about 10 minutes, then remove them and leave to completely cool on a wire rack.

Adapted from Miette Bakery Cookbook

1 cup caster sugar
1 tablespoon water
3 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
350g butter

Pour the sugar and water into a saucepan and cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes (sugar should dissolve and the liquid start to slowly boil). Just before the syrup is ready, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together until you get soft peaks. Slowly pour the syrup into the egg whites and beat on high until the mixture returns to room temperature (about 10 minutes). When the egg mix (aka meringue) is thick and glossy, drop the butter in, one tablespoon at a time. Make sure each tablespoon of butter is fully mixed before dropping in the next. To finish the buttercream, strain the remaining strawberries from the champagne and add to the buttercream, about a teaspoon at a time. This is where my original cream curdled, so make sure to be very careful and stop when you notice the buttercream starting to change texture.

Using a piping bag, pipe the buttercream onto the cooled cakes. Top with a strawberry and serve.

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