Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cake 1 - Pistachio Petit-Four Cake

I alluded earlier this week to having a grandiose plan for baking my wedding cakes. Well, maybe my plan isn't exactly grandiose, but I'm the one eating cake over here, so I'm not complaining ;).

Let's talk numbers. Mr. Rye and I figure about 80 people max will come to our wedding (how did we come to that number? I don't know, cuz we sure didn't use math!). There are some fancy cake cutting guides, but let's be honest with ourselves - we're not going to get all technical about the sugar rations after cake is smashed in my face! Ahem - cake is NOT smashed in my face ;)

I read smittenkitchen pretty often (read: religiously), and I'd seen some pretty smashing (har har!) cakes on her site. What - you've never heard of this lovely site before? Go there - now. I'll wait. (I can certainly lose a hefty chunk of time with those recipes!)


Back? Hungry yet? Don't worry, there's still cake! :)

Honestly, I got my first inspiration for "wedding" cake from the pictures on her website (which she sells, btw).

Just look at this doll - the Pistachio Petit-Four cake from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes. I've never really been too enamored with pistachios per se, but Mr. Rye certainly loves himself a pistachio-feed (what is it with guys and pistachios? and pie?). The clincher for the two of us with this cake was the marzipan filling. Yes yes - that's ganache on top too. Whatever. You see those lovely little layers in between? That's apricot jam. And then marzipan. And then ganache. And then all over again! I was sold.

Luckily, I started my cake-practicing endeavors right around before Mr. Rye's birthday.

ignore the lame-o cake decorations

I wasn't that great with taking docu-photos back then, though - I think I was a little more preoccupied with hosting a birthday party ;).

SOooooo.. yeah - the icing - it doesn't look that hot. I know. I kinda don't care. The icing (ganache) called for extra bitter-sweet chocolate, and that just can't be found in the grocery stores here. I substituted with a dark chocolate candy bar. The result was a little lumpy, but everyone said it was delish! I think it's also maybe my lack of experience (hence the practicing).

I served this cake at Mr. Rye's b-day party, and it was a hit! I froze the layers 2 days in advance and thawed them on the counter (in the saran wrap!!) the day of. The most common comment I got was how moist the cake tasted. People didn't believe me when I told them it was made from scratch!

One of the most important things I learned from this first trial was this: layered cakes feed a lot of people. We had about 15 people at the party, and after everyone had had (at least!) one slice, there was still over half a cake left!

There's a couple of things I need to work on, though -
1. fix that ganache! I've since tried making another ganache, and I'm convinced the secret is to keep stirring the chocolate & heavy cream until smooth (I didn't wait till it was smooth. Would you wait, when chocolate's at stake?)
2. level the cakes. This means that I'd have to slice the little "dome" off the top of the cake before it goes in the freezer. Professional bakers usually do this, but it's a little challenging - you might slice off a wrong part of the cake!
3. get the proper sized cake tins. This was technically my first from-scratch cake, and as such, I didn't own any cake tins. The recipe calls for 8" diameter, but for some reason the grocery stores in Chile only sell cake tins as small at 9.5" in diameter! Crazy! The result wasn't bad, but I figure I should give it a go the way the recipe recommends.
4. make marzipan pears. I kinda weaked out on the decoration this time around (see above). There are magical ways to make marzipan pears these days, so I'm not too worried.

As I mentioned before, I'm not too concerned about the decorations. A little marzipan pear here, some lavender twigs there, and we've got ourselves 1 of our wedding cakes!

Besides the traditional cake topper, what are some of your favorite ways to decorate a cake? Do you prefer frosting embellishments, flowers? Also, what's your all-time favorite frosting for a cake?

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