Those beautiful cakes you see in the bakery window or the box of cupcakes at an office party are likely decorated with buttercream. But, what kind? “Buttercream” is a word used for a whole category of frostings, so it is helpful to know the different kinds so you can make the one you love most. The buttercream most of us grew up with, the kind that piped into colorful decorations and were just slightly crunchy on the outside and creamy in the middle is American buttercream. The shiny, smooth covering on a wedding cake with pristine edges and delicate flowers is likely Swiss or Italian Meringue buttercream. There are others that are rich and creamy like pudding. They are all delicious but have their own personality and functions. Here is a deep dive into the types of buttercream I use most.Read More
The magic trick of cake decorating was revealed to me 16 years ago when I attended a week long class at the Wilton School of Cake Decorating and Confectionery Art outside of Chicago. Anyone who loves cake and piping icing knows the Wilton name and reaches for their products to get the job done. I was beyond thrilled and honored when they asked me to try out their new line of products, Texturra Performance Bakeware and Versa-Tools, and create a signature dessert using them. This Cherry Blossom Cake came to me instantly, because I wanted to utilize the piping skills I learned from their classes all those years ago. I had just been on a trip to NYC and the cherry trees were in full bloom with their sweet, delicate blossoms. The inside of the cake is a spiral of sponge cake, which I baked in the new Texturra Performance baking sheet. Since they claim it is truly non-stick, I tested it by skipping the parchment paper. This is not something I would usually do, since parchment is the insurance policy, I rely on to make sure my cakes don’t glue themselves to the pan. The Wilton promise was spot on, the cake released from the unlined Texturra pan with ease, rendering the extra parchment unnecessary. For avid bakers, you know how exciting this is.
I filled the sponge cake with a simple whipped cream and cherry sauce. This is where the new multi-functional Versa-Tools came in handy. I used them to make the filling, spread it, roll the cake and even decorate the sides. They are flexible, useful and multipurpose, which is everything you want in a kitchen tool.
For the flowers I piped a simple cherry blossom with lemon royal icing and stuck them to the buttercream covered cake. There are a few steps to this Cherry Blossom Cake, but it is such a fun project and the results are stunning.
You can watch me make this cake start to finish in my Instagram video and the recipe below.Read More
An Easter Basket made from Red Velvet Cake with Buttercream Basket Weave and Roses is a decidedly Southern treat. According to The New York Times it originated in Texas in the 1940s, but red velvet cake spread to the rest of the south and then found its way north. I first heard about it from my stepmother, who is from Alabama. Her mom made it for her when she was young and now I make red velvet cake for her at her birthday. I always pair red velvet with cream cheese icing (which is one of the classics), and used it to fill the layers and do a crumb coat on the cake (way more about that in the book), but if you are going to attempt this basket weave finish (see my reel on instagram to watch how I did it) I would suggest going with a buttercream icing, which is much easier to pipe and less temperamental than cream cheese icing in a warm kitchen. You can use any of the buttercreams (there are many) from Zoë Bakes Cakes, but for this cake, I went with the simple American Buttercream.Read More
This cake makes me think of sitting on the porch swing in my Italian grandmother’s lanai. It was about 1973 and I would have been 6 years old and eating something sweet and spring-like. She had hanging baskets of flowers dangling from the ceiling from elaborately woven macramé; in shades of orange, chartreuse and gold. I’m sure I was eating Jell-o, but it should have been this cassata, with its basket weave icing and magical candied fruit flower. Ok, truth be told, my grandmother isn’t Italian, she didn’t have a lanai, I just like the word, and there probably was macramé, but I don’t actually remember any. But, this cassata makes me wish all these things were true. Not only is it visually stunning, but the cake is so delicious I licked the plate clean.
I really made the cake with my friend Bret, who I’ve known since I taught my very first baking class at Cooks of Crocus Hill about 13 years ago. He is a dynamite chef and baker, and I love playing in the kitchen with him. We decided to make this classic Italian ricotta cake after seeing it on the pages of Saveur magazine, just in time for Easter. Bret’s interpretation honored the traditional style of the cake and I went for a more 1973-macramé-hanging-on-the-lanai look. We were in a zone and made, not only the cake and all of its parts, but we also candied all the fruit. I discovered that one of my all time favorite taste sensations is a whole candied kumquat. They become translucent jewels in the process of cooking and the flavor is both tart and sweet. I ate them like popcorn. The candied citrus is a perfect compliment to the creamy smooth layers of ricotta and the orange liqueur soaked sponge cake. The frame around the cake is made from pistachio marzipan, which is a revelation of its own. I adore marzipan made with almonds, but this is exponentially better and adds a bit of flash to the outside of the cake; as if the basket weave and candied fruit flower weren’t enough.Read More
About 30 years ago my father introduced me to Patricia, the most glamorous woman I’d ever seen. She wore a light blue polyester pant suit with eye shadow to match and had a pile of perfectly coiffed blond hair. She was lovely and clearly not from Connecticut, where we lived at the time. Just one word from her mouth and you could hear the south, Alabama in fact. Patricia is my stepmother and in honor of her Southern roots I made her a Red Velvet Birthday cake. Her mom used to make them for her when she was a kid. I wish I had her mother’s recipe, but I found one that was fascinating and dated back to WWII. The milk chocolate cream cheese frosting done in an elegant basket weave adds to the romance of the cake.Read More
More than half of the cakes I do for clients are covered with fondant. It is gorgeous, sleek and can be simple or ornate. Over the years I’ve tried just about every product out there and have loved some and loathed others. Some are easy to use but have no taste feel like chewing gum in your mouth. Others are melt in your mouth and have a pleasant flavor, but are nearly impossible to work with unless the conditions are just right. Not to mention the cost. For those of you who have worked with it you know it is very spendy, as we say here in MN. So make your own and get the flavor, the texture and the price you like. It is very easy, albeit a tad messy, but most of all fun!Read More