Tag Archives: ganache

Salted Caramel Chocolate Trifle

The first face to poke through the door of my classroom was that of an older woman. She was followed by one of my 7th grade students, who was followed by a white haired man. “Come in! Find a seat anywhere!” I called as I made last minute adjustments to the position of the projector.

Soon people were pouring into my room. They had arrived for Grandfriends Day, where Woodlawn students invited their grandparents (or grandpeople they’d “adopted”) to eat lunch with them and participate in their classes.

I’m going to go ahead and publicly admit that I was terrified of Grandfriends Day. What activity could I plan that both a 60-year-old and a 12-year-old might enjoy? We usually read novels or tackle projects that take weeks to complete. What concept could I introduce and cover in a meaningful way in 30 minutes?

Thankfully, I learned a trick at the beginning of my teaching career that always serves me well in these types of circumstances: when you’re scared of a new thing, get enthusiastic and give it an honest, earnest try. (This also works with baking, writing, and life in general.) So as the students and their grandfriends filtered into my room, I pasted on a smile.

Once they were all somewhat assembled, I took a deep breath and did something a little ridiculous. I turned on the projector and pressed play on this video (no, really, go watch it). Confusion turned into giggles as Maru the cat repeatedly attempted to gain access to a huge cardboard box. Young and old alike cheered when he finally sprang into its depths. I surveyed the classroom as they watched, concluding that funny YouTube clips were, indeed, a language that spanned the generations.

When the video ended, I posed a question: “What was Maru’s goal?”

“To get in the box!” the class cried in unison.

“Did he accomplish his goal the first time he tried?”

“No!”

“How about the second?”

“No!”

“Did he eventually get in the box?”

“Yes!”

Their enthusiasm was cute. They were still riding the wave of cheer that Maru’s antics had created. I distributed sheets of notebook paper as I issued their assignment: “Write about a time when you, like Maru, had a goal you couldn’t accomplish right away.”

Some dove at their paper with ardor while others thoughtfully drummed fingers or pencils on the desk. A short ten minutes later, though, everyone sat staring at their finished anecdote. I asked for volunteers to share, wholly unsure about the quality of work I was about to receive. I needn’t have been concerned, though. I have great students and, it turns out, they have amazing grandfriends.

One man told of learning to drive a car with a manual transmission and repeatedly killing the engine before finally getting the hang of it. Another told of being determined to get his garden planted despite the rain that threatened to prevent it. A third detailed how he and his construction crew had created a machine that could drive 16 nails a second to accomplish their goals more efficiently.

Two women discussed taking a pottery class and working for months before they produced the bowl or vase they’d envisioned. My students relayed sports goals they’d attempted to accomplish: a back set in volleyball, a backflip in gymnastics. Finally, one of my students raised his hand and asked to read his grandfather’s composition.

His grandfather had worked with a veterinarian as a young man and decided to enter into that profession himself. His application to NC State’s veterinary program, however, was denied. Undeterred, he entered the college for agriculture instead, and — my student articulated the following with great pride — became the first person in his family to graduate from college.

We were all quiet for a minute before one clap — and then another, and then another — began a round of applause for this man’s accomplishment. It was one of those moments (you teachers out there will know just what I mean) when I thought, “Oh, this is why I teach.”

Some folks that day had reached their goal by pushing through the obstacles. Others had used trial and error, learning from their mistakes and adjusting their actions. Still others had created a tool to help them accomplish their objective. That man, though, had courage and flexibility I sometimes lack. Instead of getting discouraged, he changed his goal. He created a path for himself that wasn’t what he’d originally envisioned. The pride his whole family felt at his accomplishment was a testimony to his success.

I wish I’d had that much grace this week when making this Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake. Yes, I said cake, because that’s what this dessert was supposed to be.

My goal was to create a towering chocolate cake drenched in gooey salted caramel and frosted with a smooth, fudgy icing. I saw that goal crumble before my eyes, however, when I opened my refrigerator and found all 6 layers sliiiiiiding down like they were preparing to do the limbo. The skewers I’d added for support were leaning right along with the cake.

I could pretend I handled it well, because this is the internet. For all you know I’m a supermodel who, apart from saving puppies and keeping a perfect house, never loses her temper. In the spirit of honesty, however, let’s just say that there was a solid 30 minutes of angst in my kitchen Wednesday night.

Then somehow I flipped a switch. I stopped trying to restack the layers, grabbed a spoon and my trifle dish (thanks for my trifle dish, Joyce!), and started building this bucket o’ cake. As I worked, my mood improved drastically.

Not only was my trifle pretty, less fuss to frost, and easier to transport, but it was also going to taste every bit as delicious as the cake I’d envisioned. The satisfied faces of my family around the Thanksgiving table the next day confirmed that it was a success.

Your turn: tell me about a time when you had a goal you couldn’t accomplish right away.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Trifle



Recipe by: Adapted from Martha Stewart
Yield: About a billion servings. Or at least 10-15.

This is actually a recipe for a 6-layer salted caramel chocolate cake. Feel free to attempt the cake and keep the trifle as a backup plan in case it doesn’t work — or just make the trifle from the beginning! Either way, the dessert you end up with will be rich, moist, and covered in the most delicious salted caramel and fudgy frosting. By the way, if you’re scared of making caramel, don’t be — just make sure you use a candy thermometer, which takes the guesswork out of the process.

Cake Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tablepoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons safflower oil
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Caramel Ingredients:
4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter

Frosting Ingredients:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
Coarse salt
1 pound semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled
flaked sea salt, such as Maldon

Directions:
Note on scheduling: You can make the cake layers a few days in advance. Just wrap them and refrigerate them, and take them out and freeze them the day you’ll be cutting and assembling them (which will make them easier to work with). You can make the caramel up to three days in advance and keep it in the fridge — just let it come to room temperature for a couple of hours before using it. The entire cake can be assembled a day in advance and refrigerated, allowing its flavors to meld.

Make the cake: Cut 3 circles of parchment paper and use cooking spray as “glue” to adhere them to 3 9-inch round cake pans. Then grease the pans and the paper (I use Wilton’s Cake Release, but you could also use butter and flour). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and coarse salt together in a mixing bowl. Beat the dry ingredients on low until combined before increasing the speed to medium and adding eggs, buttermilk, warm water, oil, and vanilla. Beat about 3 minutes until the mixture is smooth. Divide it among the three pans.

Place the pans in the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with just a few moist crumbs, about 30-35 minutes. Rotate the pans about halfway through so they’ll bake evenly. Let them cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before turning them out onto sheets of wax paper and leaving them to cool completely. Stick them in the freezer if you’re going to make a cake; if you’re going for a trifle, just leave them out.

Make the caramel: Slice your butter into tablespoon chunks and set it back in the fridge for later. In a large saucepan, gently combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Once you put it on the heat, you won’t stir it anymore to ensure that the sugar will not crystallize and give you grainy caramel. Put a candy thermometer on the pan and heat it over high heat (no stirring!). Once the mixture starts turning amber around 320 degrees, you can gently swirl it every now and then (not stirring!) to ensure the sugar caramelizes evenly. Heat it until the mixture is dark amber (350 degrees on your thermometer), about 14 minutes. Remove it from the heat.

VERY CAREFULLY and slowly, pour in the cream. The mixture will bubble up and spatter so just be prepared and stand back — flaming sugar is no joke! Once you add the cream, whisk the mixture until it’s smooth before returning it to the heat and cooking until it reaches exactly 238 degrees (I know it sounds weird, but apparently this is crucial for the texture), about 2 minutes. Pour the caramel into a medium bowl and add the salt. Let it cool for about 15 minutes before whisking in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time (you’re definitely going to want to enlist another set of hands here; otherwise your arm will fall off).

Make the frosting: In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa and warm water. In a separate bowl, beat together butter, confectioners’ sugar, and a generous pinch of coarse salt until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the melted chocolate and the cocoa mixture. Let this sit for about 30 minutes before you use it.

Assemble the cake (or trifle): If you’re making a trifle, simply tear up the cake and alternate layers of cake and 3/4 cup of caramel in your bowl, using a spoon or offset spatula sprayed with cooking spray to help spread the caramel. Do a layer of frosting in the middle of the dish and another layer on top before drizzling with caramel and sprinkling with sea salt.

Alternatively, if you want to try the cake, freeze your cake layers until they’re firmer (this makes them much easier to work with). Use a long serrated knife to level their tops and cut each layer in half. Place one layer on a serving platter and spoon 3/4 cup of caramel on top, using a spoon or offset spatula sprayed with cooking spray to help spread the caramel. Place another cake layer on top and repeat the process, alternating layers of cake and caramel, leaving the top cake layer uncovered. For goodness’ sake, place dowels through your cake (I’d say at least 4), mark them at the height of the cake, remove them, and cut them down to size. Then replace them in the cake. I’d also wrap the entire cake tightly in plastic wrap before chilling it to prevent sliding. Refrigerate it until it’s set (about an hour) before frosting the top and sides of the cake and sprinkling with sea salt.

Serve the trifle or cake: I think this dessert is delicious no matter what, but it’s absolutely out-of-this-world if you heat a serving of it for about 30 seconds before spooning a big hunk o’ vanilla ice cream on top. I didn’t try this with a cake slice, so I don’t know that it’d hold together — another benefit of a messy trifle.

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Fauxstess Cupcakes

I recently saw a letter written by an experienced teacher to his first-year-teacher self, and it reminded me of all the times I’ve thought, “I wish I’d known this when I started teaching.” Tomorrow is my last teacher workday before the students come back on Monday. What better time than the beginning of a new school year to write my own letter to my past self? So here it goes.

Dear Julie of 2006 (or as you’re about to be known, Ms. Ruble!),

It’s the night before the first day of school. I know you’re scared. I would tell you to get a good night’s rest, but to be honest, you’re not going to sleep much tonight. It doesn’t matter, though. Well-rested or not, you’re about to meet around 150 students who will change your life forever.

You’ll meet D, who you’ll admire for his sense of humor and his dance moves, and who will ask you all year when you’re going to let his beloved mother do your hair. You’ll meet L, who will stand up in class and scream in your face, but who needs you to forgive her and love her about as much as she needs air. You’ll meet H and P, who you will never reach. You’ll meet M, who seems impervious but who will shed surprising tears when you speak to her in anger. You’ll meet D, whose artwork will take your breath away.

You’ll meet K, and Julie . . . K will break your heart. Nothing you do will rescue that little boy from his situation. What can I say? This is going to be a tough year. But you can make it one of the most important years of your life.

You don’t lack fervor. I’m not going to tell you to be fervent. You are meticulous. I’m not going to tell you to perfect your classroom management systems. You are fretting about how students will learn science. I’m not going to advise you on unit plans. I’ve been teaching for 3.5 years now and I’m not an expert, but I’m going to tell you the things I wish you’d known.

1. Teach your students to learn. There are so many standards and concepts that you’ll literally try to pack a new topic in every day this year. I know you can drag the kids along at that pace — you’re good at making things happen — but maybe you shouldn’t. You’re trying to cram little bits of application into a full day of lecturing, and that’s not really how they’re going to learn. Put the importance of teaching them every tiny fact about your subject matter into perspective.

Instead, present new information and then find resources, projects, labs, and other experiences that allow them to apply the information themselves. Let them take ownership in their learning and enjoy the process. Give them more time to read and problem-solve together. Let them come up with creative ways to study. They don’t need to remember every step of the rock cycle for the rest of their lives, but they do need to know how to gather and process information.

I know it will take too long. I know you’ll end up not being able to cover everything. But if they come out of your class with the ability to be a curious, driven learner, that’s more important than all the Earth science facts you could give them.

2. Be humble and open to new ideas. This is a lesson you’ve learned, but that you need to continue to wholeheartedly embrace. We all tend to grow up feeling like we have a good handle on how the world works. In a way, deep down, we believe we know everything and can do everything. Teachers especially can develop a superiority complex when they run their classroom well and start to have great ideas. Rather than being a vessel that accepts and pours out in equal measure, they become a faucet, spewing a thick, opaque blanket of know-it-all over their colleagues.

Apart from alienating the people who can be your greatest allies, you miss out on so much when you think you know everything. Remind yourself constantly that some of your most exciting moments in the classroom have come from trying someone else’s ideas, even when they were outside of your comfort zone. Remind yourself that others are competent professionals, too — indeed, when you move on to a different school after this year, you will be surrounded by some of the most intelligent, innovative people you’ve ever met. Remind yourself that it’s okay to ask for help.

Finally, teach your students that they don’t know everything, either. Model humility, and place them in situations that challenge their worldview.

3. Be an advocate for yourself so that you can be an advocate for your students. You’ve been lectured endlessly on being flexible, rolling with the punches, and sucking up the pain. Those things are important sometimes. But what no one’s told you yet, and what you really need to know to survive this year (and I’m not just being dramatic), is this: you are a valuable professional, and you do not have to let people take advantage of you.

You’re the sweet, young, impressionable, flexible new teacher and this year, others will try to steamroll you to further their own interests. Even if they have their students’ needs in mind, it is not okay for them to hurt you and your class. If someone tells you you have to do something unreasonable, say no. If someone tells you you have to do something that hurts your class, say no. If the administration says they won’t assist you, don’t stop insisting. This isn’t a crusade or a mission for which you have to allow yourself to be victimized. It’s your job — and it’s important for you and your students that you are treated professionally.

4. Let yourself fail, and teach your students that failing doesn’t make you a failure. You are a perfectionist, but masterfully handling dozens of unpredictable, unique children is kind of like orchestrating a synchronized swimming team . . . made up of cats. Some lessons and classroom management plans are going to flop. Someone is going to steal the popcorn you brought in as a reward for the students. Someone is going to cut every one of your students’ bean plants in half. You are going to be unnecessarily harsh to a student and regret it.

Show your students that it’s okay to make a mistake by owning your mistakes. Show them that it’s okay to apologize by apologizing to them. Show them that it’s okay to be disappointed in yourself while still loving yourself — that you can pick yourself up and move on.

There are kids who make a mistake and add it to a list in their brains called, “Reasons I Don’t Deserve to be Loved.” Show them that there’s nothing they can do to make themselves failures as long as they keep moving forward. Tell them to expect “excellence, not perfection,” as one of my coworkers said in a meeting today, and to forgive themselves when they miss the mark.

5. Most importantly, Julie, love your students. I know you think you understand how crucial this is, but you will lose sight of it. You will immerse yourself in creating classroom structure, creating lessons, developing systems. You will prioritize academic achievement without realizing that having a loving, secure environment is the bedrock on which achievement is built.

Your students may not remember the different kinds of earthquake faults, but they’ll remember that they had a 6th grade teacher who loved them. They’ll remember that even when they misbehaved, there was someone in their lives who would not give up on them. They will be changed by the fact that you listened to their ideas and treated them like valuable human beings. Stop and let yourself interact with them in a personal way that lets them know you care about them.

That’s all for now — no words of wisdom on how to organize your files or balance housework and schoolwork, because you’ll figure all of that out. You’re going to be great. And even when you’re not, you’re going to change lives and be changed. Thank God for a job where you can say that!

Love and #2 pencils,
Ms. Ruble of 2011

Fauxstess Cupcakes


Recipe by: Adapted from Annie’s Eats and Hershey’s
Yields: about 15 cupcakes

These “Fauxstess” Cupcakes are homemade knock-offs of the Hostess Cupcakes that might’ve shown up in your lunch boxes during your childhood. They were adorable additions to my elementary school throwback picnic. The tender chocolate cake is filled with a marshmallowy cream and topped with rich ganache. Apart from being cute, these things are seriously easy to make and seriously delicious!

Cupcake Ingredients:
1 cups sugar
7/8 cup all-purpose flour
3/8 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water

Filling Ingredients:
9 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/8 cup Marshmallow Fluff
2 tablespoons plus 1 3/4 teaspoon heavy cream

Ganache Ingredients:
3/4 cups heavy cream
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (I love Ghirardelli’s 60% cacao chips)
5 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:
Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two muffin pans with cupcake liners. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat this mixture medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (this will make the batter thin). Fill each well about 2/3 full of batter (be careful to not to overfill them — these cupcakes always bake up a little wonky for me, and if you overfill them, they can overflow the pan). Bake 20 to 25 minutes (I check them early and often, starting around the 15 minute mark) or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Cool completely.

Make the filling: Beat the butter, confectioners’ sugar, marshmallow fluff and 2 1/4 tablespoons (I eyeballed this measurement) of the heavy cream together until fluffy. Transfer all but 3/4 cup of this mixture into a pastry bag with a narrow tip. Add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoon of cream to the remaining 3/4 cup of the mixture and beat until smooth. Cover this and save it for decorating the top of the cupcakes later.

Make the ganache: Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan (or heat it for a couple of minutes in the microwave, keeping a watch that it doesn’t boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk in small circles until a smooth ganache forms.

Assemble the cupcakes: Insert the tip of the pastry bag full of cream into the bottom of each cupcake and gently squeeze cream out into the cake. It’s hard to tell how much to squeeze and for how long, but I tried to squeeze as much as possible without bursting the cupcake, and to the point where a small bead of the cream poked out of the bottom when I removed the pastry tip (I then scraped off the excess). Dip the top of each cupcake into the ganache (or, if they don’t rise above the cupcake paper, you can gently spoon the ganache on and spread it with the back of a spoon). Grab the reserved filling mixture with the extra cream and use a pastry bag with a small tip (or a plastic zip bag with a small corner cut off) to pipe curls across the top of each cupcake. Refrigerate the cupcakes to set the frosting. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

P.S. Are you thinking up your own filled cupcake for the Willow Bird Baking Cupcake Challenge? Bake your creation and email photos to juruble ‘at’ gmail.com by Wednesday, September 7, 2011. I’ll feature your cupcake on WBB! Find more details and some cupcake inspiration here.

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Rich Ice Cream and Coffee Cheesecake

I don’t love coffee. If I wanted something scalding, bitter, and hard to swallow, I’d google the Carolina Panthers’ season record. Ha ha.

Yeah, that’s one of those jokes that’s kind of more sad than funny. Oh well.

My mother (yes, of cross stitching birthday party fame) used to feel certain that I would acquire an affinity for coffee as I got older. Periodically she would test this hypothesis, urging me to take a sip from her cup or buying me something frothy and caramely at Starbucks, only to find that things weren’t unfolding as she anticipated.

What can I say? Coffee is gross.

I could load it up with sugar and cream (and donuts — can you do that?) and probably choke it down, but if I’m going to ingest that many calories, I’d rather just have some dessert.

Paradoxically, despite my antipathy towards coffee in its beverage form, I’ve always loved coffee-flavored confections. Coffee ice cream was my absolute favorite treat as a little girl, for instance. Coffee also plays an Oscar-worthy supporting role in Coffee Cookie Dough Fudge Cheesecake, one of my current faves. I adore the coffee-brownie combination in my Ice Cream Cupcakes. You get the idea.

And besides all those things, I’m in love with this cheesecake. IN LOVE. Like, buy it a ring, get down on one knee, drag it to the altar kind of love. It might be one of the best cheesecakes I’ve ever made. Basically: swoon.

For one thing, it has the perfect ratio of rich coffee cheesecake to cold ice cream (oh, and did I mention the layer of fudgy ganache in there as well?). For another thing, the ice cream flavor I chose rocked the Casbah.

I considered coffee or chocolate ice cream, but decided that might be too rich. I also knew I wanted brownie chunks. Ben & Jerry’s makes a Cheesecake Brownie ice cream that fit the bill (how perfect is that, seriously?)

Apart from inspiring a matrimonial sort of adoration in me, this cheesecake is one of the easiest I’ve ever put together. It’s as simple as baking and cooling your cheesecake, softening up your favorite ice cream, and spreading it on top. Freeze the whole thing until it’s firm, cut it with a hot knife, and then call up the preacher. That’s about how it goes.

What ice cream flavor would you like to spread all over your coffee cheesecake?

Rich Ice Cream and Coffee Cheesecake



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking
Yields: 15 servings

Crust Ingredients:
37 chocolate sandwich cookies, finely processed into crumbs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Small pinch of salt

Ganache Ingredients:
3/4 cups heavy cream
10 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I combined both)

Filling Ingredients:
3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons instant coffee granules
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons mild-flavored (light) molasses
3 large eggs

Topping:
Ice cream of your choice (I used Ben & Jerry’s Cheesecake Brownie ice cream)
dark chocolate candies of your choice for decorating (I used Ferrero Rondnoir)

Directions:
To make the crust, butter a 9-inch springform pan. Combine the chocolate cookie crumbs, melted butter and salt in a small bowl. Toss with a fork to moisten all of the crumbs. Press into a thin layer covering the bottom and sides of the springform pan (at least 3 inches up the sides). I did this using a smooth glass to press crumbs into place.

Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Once the cream reaches a simmer, pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk in small circles until a smooth ganache has formed. Pour 1.5-2 cups of the ganache over the bottom of the crust (if you have leftover, save it for eating or decorating with later). Freeze until the ganache layer is firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F and position a rack in the middle of the oven. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium-high speed until well blended. Beat in the flour. In a small bowl, combine the coffee granules, vanilla and molasses, stirring until the coffee dissolves. Add to the cream cheese mixture and beat until well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition.

Pour the filling over the cold ganache in the crust. Enclose the bottom of the springform pan in tightly wrapped foil and place it in a baking dish. Fill the baking dish with hot water about halfway up the cheesecake pan, careful not to let the moisture touch the cheesecake. Bake until the top is lightly browned, puffed and cracked at the edges, and the center moves only very slightly when the pan is lightly shaken, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire cooling rack. Let cool at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Transfer to the refrigerator and let cool at least 3 hours, until completely chilled and set.

Soften ice cream of your choice (I used Ben & Jerry’s Cheesecake Brownie ice cream) for 10-15 minutes or until soft enough to spread. Scoop out a few big scoops onto the top of your cheesecake and spread with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Add more ice cream until it’s flush with the top of your crust. Freeze cake until solid (overnight is best). Decorate with dark chocolate candies of your choice (I used Ferrero Rondnoir). Slice with a knife held under hot water to serve. Keep in freezer when not serving — it melts quickly.

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Celebrating Cheesecake — and a challenge for you!

Taylor from Taylor Takes a Taste tweeted me yesterday with a very, very important message: Today is National Cheesecake Day! Well, okay, it’s actually National White Chocolate Cheesecake Day, but I’ve never made a white chocolate cheesecake, so just ignore that part. I’ll add it to my to-do list.

In order to celebrate, I thought I’d compile Willow Bird Baking’s many cheesecake recipes and issue a challenge for you!

My goal is to inspire kitchen confidence in home cooks by encouraging them to tackle fun, challenging new recipes. So I’m challenging you this month! Here’s what you do:

Choose one of the cheesecake recipes below that feels like a challenge to you and make it for friends, family, or coworkers.

– Take a photo and email it to me at juruble ‘at’ gmail ‘dot’ com with a few comments about how it went and a link to your blog (if you have one — if you don’t, that’s okay too!).

– Do this before April 5, 2011. In exactly a month, I’ll post all of your cheesecake masterpieces here on Willow Bird Baking!

– You can also grab the badge at the bottom of this post if you’d like to let your readers know that you’re participating in the Cheesecake Challenge, but it’s optional.

If you’d like to participate, leave me a comment below and let me know! If you’ve already made one of the recipes below, that counts too! Just send me a photo!

Willow Bird Baking’s Cheesecake Recipes:

1. Coffee Cookie Dough Fudge Cheesecake



2. Red Velvet Cheesecake



3. Caramel Fudge Brownie Cheesecake



4. Chocolate Peanut Butter Bliss Cheesecake



5. Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes



6. Chocolate Cheesecake-Stuffed Cupcakes with Ganache



7. Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Squares with Shortbread Crust



8. Marbled Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies



9. Pumpkin Cheesecake Bread Pudding

And don’t forget to watch my (slightly embarrassing) cheesecake tutorial for great cheesecake pointers!

Finally, here’s the Cheesecake Challenge badge if you want to grab it:

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Three Delicious Ways to Celebrate World Nutella Day

Groundhog Day’s okay. I mean, Punxsutawney Phil is kind of fat and cute. I like his handlers’ top hats. And Phil said winter was going to be shorter this year, so that’s cool, I guess. At least one of my students is determined to celebrate Groundhog Day (please head over to support his young blog).

But honestly, y’all, it’s hard to be too enthusiastic. Just three measly days later, it’s World Nutella Day. Pshhhh. Punxsutawney who?

If you’re anxious to celebrate today’s clearly superior holiday in creamy-chocolatey-hazelnutty style, here are three of Willow Bird Baking’s favorite Nutella treats!


Wacky Candy Cupcakes


Nutella Truffles in a Chocolate Bowl


Ferrero Rocher Cupcakes

P.S. You may have noticed that I never revealed that announcement mentioned on my Red Velvet Cheesecake post — that’s because there’s been a slight change and I want to wait until things are settled. Can’t wait to let you know!

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Red Velvet Cheesecake

Every year around this time, I get the urge to build a mailbox.

Don’t look at me like that. I blame my elementary school teachers. At the beginning of almost every February, my teachers would pull out construction paper, glue, stickers, markers, and paint, and we’d all set to work constructing mailboxes. Sure it wasn’t the most glamorous construction job I’ve ever been a part of, but I was very serious about it nonetheless, because this wasn’t just any mailbox — this was a Valentine’s Day mailbox.

On February 14, we’d all bring in our packets of valentines and circulate about the classroom uncomfortably, dropping one in each of the waiting mailboxes. We tried not to pause too long at anyone’s desk or — heaven forbid — make any accidental eye contact, lest it be misinterpreted during this socially charged process.

Secretly, though, I’d probably spent the night before carefully selecting the perfect Strawberry Shortcake Valentine for the boy I liked. One that could be interpreted as being totally casual — plausible deniability in case he had no interest in me whatsoever — but was also slightly on the mushy side, in case he was just waiting for a sign of my interest. If I was appending candy to my valentines that year, I probably spent another eternity choosing the candy heart or chocolate that I thought he’d like the very best.

(Yes, I now realize that the boy I liked, in contrast, had probably spent the night before Valentine’s Day being hounded by his mother to at least write his classmates’ names somewhere on the valentines she’d bought for him, eating most of his valentine candy before it got attached to anyone’s card, and playing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video game until bed.)

Anyway, when every valentine was passed out and the time had finally come to sit down and empty our mailboxes, I was always breathless with suspense. Imagine the possibilities! Forget bills and junk mail — these mailboxes were carefully crafted to hold L-O-V-E. Every year I fully expected to receive a long letter handwritten by the boy I liked (actually, any boy would’ve done. Or a secret admirer? Yes, please!) detailing the many, MANY reasons he was smitten with me. He might even include a phone number. Maybe a special conversation heart. Maybe an engagement ring! You never know.

Reality was a little disappointing. I’d dump out all the valentines and quickly shuffle through the boring ones — Scooby Doo holding a bunch of flowers and saying, “Rees are for Roo, Valentine!” or Power Rangers crying, “It’s Morphin’ Time, Valentine!” My eagle eyes were looking for two things: candy and handwritten messages. Candy because it would sustain me on my arduous journey toward discovering the love of my life, and handwritten messages from said love.

Was his heartfelt letter to me in this envelope? Nope, a smurf card. How about this one? Nope, an I Love Lucy valentine — you can tell Mom picked those out. How about the envelope with a heart drawn on the front? Nope, that was from my BFF. Thanks a lot for getting my hopes up, girl. Slowly but surely, my stack dwindled. One after another, the valentines were slapped down onto my “read” pile with barely more than a glance. Finally, the fateful moment came when I’d read and dismissed the very last card.

No proposal. No secret admirer. Not even a lousy paragraph about my eyes being like the sun or something. Nothin’. At this point I’d probably look at my crush across the classroom and sigh, appreciating the suave way in which he used his lollipop as a sword to launch attacks against his friend’s ear.

Childhood is rough. Adulthood is a lot better. Yes, there are bills and junk mail in my mailbox now. And unfortunately, I didn’t get to MAKE my mailbox. And, okay, I’m not going to get a pile of colorful valentines, some of which are boasting candy.

But here’s why adulthood rocks. This year, when Christof Van Snufterplucken (names changed to protect the innocent — or lame) doesn’t turn off his video game long enough to write me a love letter about how awesome I am, I can remedy my disappointment in a mature, adult way: by making and eating a ridiculous amount of cheesecake. Red Velvet Cheesecake, to be exact.

Reader Victoria first gave me the idea for a Red Velvet Cheesecake back in November and I thought it sounded fantastic! She made a beautiful layer-cake-like version, and I went the cheesecake-like route. This ultimate Valentine’s dessert includes an oreo crust filled with layers of ganache, creamy cheesecake, and moist red velvet cake decorated with ganache and cream cheese frosting. Perhaps this is obvious, but apart from being pretty (especially when served with chocolate-covered strawberries and white chocolate hearts), this thing is delicious, indulgent, and yes, romantic. So even if your crush loves radioactive reptilian ninjas more than you, you can have your own little slice o’ love.

Tell me about one of your elementary school crushes. Did you ever receive a fantastic valentine in school?

Red Velvet Cheesecake



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking
Yield: 11-13 pieces

Crust Ingredients:
32 chocolate sandwich cookies, finely processed into crumbs
5 1/3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Small pinch of salt

Ganache Ingredients:
3/4 cups heavy cream
10 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used half semisweet and half bittersweet)

Cake Ingredients:
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 egg
1 tablespoon cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tablespoon white vinegar
1 ounce red food coloring

Filling Ingredients:
3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs

Decorative Toppings (optional):
2 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
white chocolate for drizzling
strawberries

Directions:
Note on cheesecake making: Cheesecakes are simple and super customizable. New to cheesecake making? Watch my 6 minute Cheesecake Video Tutorial for visual assistance!

Note on scheduling: This cake is easily separated into two days of preparation, and can be prepared ahead of time. On day one, prepare the red velvet cake, cool it, and freeze it. On day two, prepare the cheesecake. You can then assemble and decorate right away, or leave this for day three.

Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom and the sides of an 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides to make it easier to lift the cake out of the pan when it’s done. Cream shortening, sugar, and eggs. Make a paste of the cocoa and coloring and add to the shortening mixture. Add salt and vanilla. Add buttermilk alternately with the flour, beginning and ending with flour. Mix vinegar and soda right before using and add to mixture by folding in. Pour batter into the cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely, cover in wax paper, and freeze for 30 minutes or until firm.

Make the cheesecake: To make the crust, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and place it on a baking sheet. Combine the chocolate cookie crumbs, melted butter and salt in a small bowl. Toss with a fork to moisten all of the crumbs. Press into a thin layer covering the bottom and sides of the springform pan (at least 3 inches up the sides).

Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Once the cream reaches a simmer, pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk in small circles until a smooth ganache has formed. Pour 1 – 1.5 cups of the ganache over the bottom of the crust. Freeze until the ganache layer is firm, about 30 minutes. Reserve the remaining ganache; cover and let stand at room temperature for later decorating.

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F and position a rack in the middle of the oven. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium-high speed until well blended. Beat in the flour. Add in the vanilla and beat until well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition.

Pour the filling over the cold ganache in the crust. Place the springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the top is lightly browned, puffed and cracked at the edges, and the center moves only very slightly when the pan is lightly shaken, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire cooling rack. Cool at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Transfer to the refrigerator and let cool at least 3 hours, until completely chilled and set.

Assemble topping: Whip room temperature ganache to create a fluffy texture perfect for piping. In a separate bowl, mix together cream cheese, butter, and confectioners’ sugar to make a small amount of cream cheese frosting for decorating.

Assemble the cheesecake: Wrap a warm towel around the outside of the springform pan to help loosen the crust from the sides. Carefully remove the springform. Transfer the cake to a serving platter. Here, you can schmear some ganache on the cheesecake to help the red velvet cake adhere. I didn’t, but it’s a good idea. Then place your red velvet cake layer on top of cheesecake (right side up). Decorate top of cake with drizzled white chocolate, piped cream cheese frosting, whipped ganache, and strawberries.

P.S. Who could this photographer be shooting my cheesecake? Find out this coming Wednesday!

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Browned Butter Pumpkin Croquemcake with White Chocolate Chai Mousse (Project Food Blog Round 8!)

Because of YOU, Willow Bird Baking is one of only 24 blogs in Project Food Blog Round 8! I am so beyond grateful for your support and love throughout this process. Challenge #8 was to create a baked good using pumpkin. VOTING IS NOW OPEN! (Thank you for voting! Voting is now closed.) I’d love it if you’d pop over to cast a vote for me by clicking “Vote for this Entry” here. Thank you all!!

I am basically an architect. I know some folks who worked through countless hours of pesky schoolwork to call themselves architects and may disagree with me. But I think I have enough experience to go ahead and claim the title.

See, in 6th grade, my classmates and I were divided into teams and charged with a task of monumental proportions. We were to engineer a bridge out of toothpicks, string, and glue. Each of these “resources” was assigned a cost, and we were given a budget of imaginary money with which to purchase supplies. The team whose bridge could hold the most weight at the end of the competition would win epic bragging rights.


Moist, amazing Browned Butter Pumpkin Cake!

We must have been hyped up on marshmallowy breakfast cereal or something, because as soon as the teachers said GO, it was on.

We were ruthless. We pasted, chopped, measured, quarreled, budgeted, collaborated, and in a move that I’m still not sure was entirely legal, pilfered cast-off supplies from the trash can. Hey, we were just being green, right? Nowadays we’d obtain a high L.E.E.D. certification and get a pat on the back. I’m sure my teachers would’ve seen it that way . . .

I remember waxing intellectual about the structural integrity of domes, lecturing a classmate on how strong the ends of an egg were for this reason. Another peer gave an impromptu diatribe on the virtues of suspension bridges. We ended up with some sort of Frankesteinian hybrid, a bridge held up by suspension and bulky domes underneath. We were still furiously glopping on excess glue in hopes of bolstering the bridge’s integrity when the teachers called time.

We watched breathlessly as the teacher judging the competition picked up a thin book and placed it on our bridge. It held. Another volume was snapped up into her fingers and laid gingerly on our opponents’ bridge. It held.

One by one, she stacked books on top of our lopsided, aesthetically wreck-tastic but apparently strong-as-an-ox toothpick bridge. Every book our bridge held was matched by one on our opponent’s bridge — until the teacher picked up two textbooks. Ours held under the weight. Our opponents’ bridge collapsed — and so did we: we collapsed into cheers and giggles, inebriated with victory. We had done it! We were brilliant engineers! We had won!


Pumpkin profiteroles — with pumpkin in the choux dough itself — were filled alternately with White Chocolate Chai Mousse and ganache.

As the crowd thinned, we stood around and stared in wonder at our messy little Golden Gate. My friend Ashley was not yet satisfied. Sure, our bridge was stronger than the other team’s, but just how strong? With her hands on teammates’ shoulders for balance, Ashley stepped — first one foot, and then the other — onto the bridge.

It held.

I’ll never forget that moment standing in front of my elementary school, seeing Ashley’s huge grin, relishing the easy pulse of victory through our already-marshmallow-filled veins. So, yeah, I’m basically an architect. Right?

At least, it was this (misguided?) confidence that led me to believe that I could construct what I’ve officially dubbed the croquemcake.

I wanted to pull out all the stops for Project Food Blog Round 8 (do I say that every round? It’s definitely true every round!) The challenge was to create a baked good using pumpkin, and I was torn between building pumpkin profiteroles (made from pâte à choux) into a lovely croquembouche (mounted cream puff tower) or baking a pumpkin chai cake. Suddenly, it hit me. When in doubt, do both.


I may or may not have tweeted my desire to bathe in luxurious Swiss buttercream.

Thus, the croquemcake was born: a browned butter pumpkin cake filled with a comforting white chocolate chai mousse heart, frosted with velveteen Swiss buttercream frosting, and topped with a croquembouche of pumpkin profiteroles filled with chai mousse and ganache. The cake is served in slices accompanied by a few plucked cream puffs, and is essentially the embodiment of all things autumn.

At first I was panicky about trying to stack a tall, leany thing on top of a tall, frosted thing, but it turned out to be super easy, and it produced a ravishing effect.


The White Chocolate Chai Mousse is incredamazing, y’all. Even if you put off making the whole shebang until Christmas, you should make some bowls o’ mousse ASAP!

. . . oh, and it just might be my new favorite dessert ever. Every bite had an insanely satisfying combination of textures and flavors. This beautiful croquemcake would be the rockstar of any holiday table.

Don’t be scared of the length of the recipe. True to Willow Bird Baking’s mission, this dessert is also surprisingly easy to make. Let me qualify that: it takes three days and has tons of steps, but the steps themselves are simple and manageable. Use my note below on timing to space out the recipe steps into manageable chunks. It is so worth the effort.

What’s your favorite childhood memory?

Browned Butter Pumpkin CroquemCAKE with White Chocolate Chai Mousse



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, compiled and adapted from sources including Fine Cooking, Annie’s Eats, America’s Test Kitchen, Cookin’ Canuck, Martha Stewart, Gina DePalma, Alone and Unobserved
Yields: 15-20 servings, depending on your size o’ cake slices. You’ll have the topping croquembouche plus about 30 other cream puffs to serve alongside.

Pumpkin Puree Ingredients: (or use canned pumpkin puree)
about 7 pounds worth of sugar pumpkins (or pie pumpkins)
2-3 cups water

Browned Butter Pumpkin Cake Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups of your pumpkin puree
3/4 cup unsalted butter; more for the pans
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk

White Chocolate Chai Mousse Ingredients: (I had a lot of leftover mousse; you could probably get by with 2/3 of this recipe)
2 1/4 teaspoons powdered gelatin
3 tablespoons water
18 ounces white chocolate chips (see note)
4 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
heaping 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
heaping 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper (white or black)
dash cayenne powder

Swiss Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites , at room temperature
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Profiterole (Cream Puff) Ingredients:
1 1/8 cups water
9 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/8 teaspoons salt
1.5 tablespoons sugar
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
6 large eggs
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
Egg wash (1 egg yolk and 1/2 cup heavy cream, lightly beaten)

Ganache Ingredients:
10 ounces bittersweet and semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream


Directions:
Note on timing: This dessert is easy to create, but involves many steps. For this reason, I divided the work over three days. On day 1, I roasted and pureed my pumpkins (you can nix this day if you use canned pumpkin). On day 2, I baked my cake and froze it, baked my profiteroles and froze them, and made my chai mousse. I also piped out white chocolate snowflake decorations to dry overnight. On day 3, I made my frosting, assembled and frosted my cake, made ganache, filled my profiteroles, and constructed my croquembouche.

To make pumpkin puree: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the tops off of above 7 pounds worth of sugar pumpkins (also called pie pumpkins). Cut the pumpkins in half and scrape out the seeds and innards. Place the pumpkin halves peel-up, cut-side-down in a baking dish and fill the dish 1/4 inch deep with water (about 2-3 cups). Roast pumpkins for 60-90 minutes, or until flesh is fork tender. Allow them to cool for a bit before scooping all flesh out of the peel and placing it in a food processor. Puree for 2-3 minutes until completely pureed, then drain in a paper towel-lined colander for about an hour. Store your pumpkin puree in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze it in 1-cup increments for later use. Alternatively, you can use canned pumpkin puree for this recipe.

To make browned butter pumpkin cake: I baked my cake in a pan that allows you to fill your cake with a heart-shaped tunnel of mousse (please comment if you’d like the details). If you don’t have one of these pans, you can still create the tunnel effect! You can use this technique by the fabulous Amanda, or this tunnel technique featured previously on my blog.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two cake pans (either the heart-tunnel pan or regular 9-inch cake pans) very thoroughly. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and cook it, swirling occasionally, until it’s golden brown with a nutty aroma, around 4 minutes. Remove it from heat and pour it into a bowl to cool for about 15 minutes.
Whisk or sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves in a small bowl. In a separate, large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until well combined. Use a spatula to stir in the dry ingredients until just combined, and then whisk in the browned butter. Pour batter evenly into prepared cake pans.

Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs, around 28 minutes. Let cakes cool in their pans until mostly cool before turning them out onto wax paper to wrap and freeze. Freeze at least 30 minutes or until firm.

To make white chocolate chai mousse: Mix spices (cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, pepper, cayenne) together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Place 3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over top to dissolve and soften for at least 5 minutes. Place white chocolate in a medium bowl. Combine 1 1/2 cups of cream and spice mixture in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until simmering. Remove from heat, add gelatin, and stir to dissolve. Pour gelatin mixture over white chocolate and whisk in small circles until smooth. Cool completely to room temperature, stirring occasionally, around 5 to 8 minutes.

In a separate bowl, beat remaining cream to soft peaks. Use a whisk to fold about 1/3 of the whipped cream into white chocolate mixture to lighten. Then fold the rest of the whipped cream in until no streaks remain. Refrigerate your mousse until set, then stir slightly to break up before using.

To make profiteroles: Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.

Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs. Stir in pumpkin puree.

Pipe the batter using a pastry bag and a plain tip. Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide. Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top. Brush tops with egg wash while trying not to drip the wash down the puffs onto the pan (which could somewhat inhibit rise).

Bake the choux at 425 degrees F until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool (tip from a pro: poke each puff with a toothpick while cooling to release the steam inside. It shouldn’t cause your cream to leak, but will help the puffs stay crisp). Can be stored in a airtight box overnight, but I recommend, if you aren’t using them right away to create your croquembouche, that you freeze them. When you’re ready to use them, bake them at 350 degrees F for 5-6 minutes to refresh and recrisp them.

To make ganache: Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan (or just stick it in the microwave for 2 minutes in a microwave-safe bowl). Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Once the cream reaches a simmer, pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk in small circles until a smooth ganache has formed. Let ganache stand at room temperature until fully cooled, then whip to frosting-like consistency for piping into cooled profiteroles.

To make Swiss buttercream frosting: Combine sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil without stirring until syrup reaches 240° on a digital thermometer, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer on medium speed, gradually pour in hot syrup in a thin stream; avoid pouring syrup on whisk. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until stiff peaks form and mixture is cool, about 8 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition. (If at any time buttercream appears curdled, beat on high until smooth, then reduce speed to medium and continue beating in butter.) Once all butter is added, beat on high speed until buttercream is smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla extract.

To assemble your cake: Line up cake layers and trim sides as needed with a long serrated knife. No need to thaw before you do this — it’s actually easier with frozen layers. Spoon white chocolate chai mousse into heart-shaped wells in your cake layers (if applicable — or spoon it into whatever shaped cavity you’re using). Carefully position the top layer on the bottom. Apply a thin coating of frosting all over as a “crumb coat” and refrigerate the cake for a half hour or so. Then frost the cake generously with the remaining frosting.

To assemble your croquembouche: Fill cooled profiteroles with leftover chai mousse and ganache as desired. Melt white chocolate bark and dip tops of each profiterole into the chocolate, lining up on wax paper to dry. Cover a plate with wax paper — this is where you’ll build your croquembouche. Start with bigger, broader profiteroles and use the white chocolate as “glue” to piece together a sturdy base. I refrigerate my croquembouche after the construction of each new layer, to harden the chocolate and avoid any toppling incidents! Continue building a cone, fitting the profiteroles together according to their shape. Use white chocolate to pipe snowflakes on wax paper, and to “glue” them onto your croquembouche once they’re dry. Refrigerate your croquembouche until you’re ready to assemble your final product.

To assemble your final croquemCAKE: Carefully ensure that your croquembouche isn’t sticking to your wax paper. Gently lift it onto the center of your cake. Surround your cake with leftover cream puffs for serving. Enjoy!


Roasting pumpkins! While there’s not a huge taste difference from using this process versus the canned stuff, it’s a fun, satisfying thing to try!

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