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Monday 21 May 2012

Miette's Tomboy

This is not the cake I'm talking about in the post below, but I did borrow the 'Tomboy' style to see how it translated to a single layer. I like it! And that's a whole pack of butter in the icing by the way.

There's a bakery in San Francisco called 'Miette'. I know that this will not be news to most; it's a rather famed institution locally and getting well known internationally as well, thanks to mentions online and the publishing of a book of recipes from the bakery.

Needless to say, when we arrived in SF on the final leg of our honeymoon (or: 'How much can Pete and Perce squeeze into 10  days?!'), it was with great excitement, knowing that I was going to get to try one of Miette's coconut mousse bars that I had been dreaming about since learning of their existence. And also, let's be honest, happiness that we were going to be staying in a proper hotel again, having spent several nights staying in the kind of motels that have rooms opening right out onto the forecourt and remind you of those awful American murder films where the perpetrators get away with it.


So, Miette: it was lovely. Everything was small, which was nice, since in Santa Cruz I had been shocked almost speechless by the sight of seven layer cakes. Who can manage seven layers? Even I would shrink from the challenge.

The thing I loved most was the 'Tomboy', Miette's signature cake. It isn't a recipe as such, more a style of frosting. I have attempted to recreate it in this post. We're talking nude sides (shock!) and piped edges (fancy!), with a smooth finish (edgy!) on the top and a sugar flower garnish (classic!). The over-all effect (when looking at the real thing) is very special. The cakes look simple, fresh and sweet. I have not managed this in my photographs; it was my first time working with classic buttercream, and I have since made this a few times and learned a few tricks in the process. However, you get the idea.

You can have a little internet search to get the recipe for this cake, should you wish. I certainly can't reproduce it here for you now, since I just cannot bring myself to type that much. I'm fighting the jet lag and I have my heart set on the buttercream. I'd certainly recommend Miette's book as well. It has US cup measures, but also imperial weights (no metric, sadly). It's actually littered with mistakes for the weights actually, but comes with an errata to correct it, so the recipes work fine so long as you check them against it. It shouldn't put you off buying it, I think it's a lovely book.

The buttercream however, is worth talking about. I didn't follow Miette's recipe for mousseline. I used an adapted version of one of my beloved Rose Levy-B's. She adds a little lemon juice and uses a slightly different method, which works perfectly, but I can't be bothered with the faff of pouring hot sugar syrup from the pan into a measuring jug to stop it reaching a higher temperature. I also add a little extra butter. I followed her instructions to the letter the first time, and the second made my changes; it still worked, so I'm not going back.

Mr. P's Rule Breaking Strawberry Buttercream

You will need:

3 egg yolks
75g caster sugar
85g golden syrup
250g butter, cool, but squishable
100g high fruit strawberry jam (I used Bonne Maman)
2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. In a large heatproof bowl, put the egg yolks and beat them on high speed with an electric beater for about a minute, or until slightly thickened.
  2. Put the sugar and syrup into a small saucepan and stir until all the sugar is moistened. Then place on a medium heat, stirring constantly until the edges of the mixture start to bubble. Stop stirring and remove the spoon or spatula you were using from the mixture.
  3. Allow the syrup mixture to reach a full rolling boil. This means that you should see large bubbles over the entire surface, including the centre. It shouldn't take long.
  4. Begin rebeating the yolks again, on medium speed, and immediately pour in half of the syrup. Avoid pouring it directly on the beaters, as it will splash against the side of the bowl. Beat for around 30 seconds then add the remaining syrup in the same way. This time beat the egg yolk mixture until the outside of the bowl is cool to the touch. That will take maybe 10 minutes or so.
  5. Add the butter gradually, on medium speed. Once all the butter has been incorporated, add the jam and vanilla and beat until smooth. You now have lovely strawberry buttercream.
To ice in a Tomboy style, use a star tip (a large one) to pipe a ring of buttercream around the edge of the cake layer you wish to frost. Then fill the centre and smooth with a small spatula.

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Coconut and Jam Génoise with Ganache


Yeah, so I have been away for a month. I'm not even going to make excuses. There have been things for me to do, but frankly, if I told you everything that went on in my life, you'd realise that I wasn't really completely super fabulous and stop coming back here. So rather than the boring truth, let's just say that I was off trying to find someone who actually likes Thousand Island salad dressing.

I reckon that that would take at least a month or two. Which explains the absence rather well.

I was planning on posting something else today (another cake, as it happens), but sadly, I forgot to put my recipe notes into the suitcase when I was packing for my trip (I'm am typing this from my hotel room). So you get a rather fancy-looking cake with a difference. The difference being that it was made expressly to use up ingredients I had lying around. Though admittedly this was months ago, so I can't remember exactly why I had to use them. It was probably to do with cream. There's always too much cream. I know it's stupid and illogical, but I always feel that if I cook with the cream, not having it in the fridge any more makes me feel better. Healthier. Even if all I do is turn it into ganache!

I see that actually, now I think about it, last month's cake was also made to deal with too much of the white stuff. But I stand by that cake; I have made it twice more since. Once for a friend's housewarming, and once for a friend's thirtieth. Though on both those occasions I added the zest of an orange. I don't think that there can be more than a handful of things in life that can't be made better with the addition of fresh orange zest, though obviously, Thousand Island is very much on the list.

I don't even like typing the words.

So. My 'use-up' cake. I think really, in posting this, what I want to convince you to do is try making a génoise. I have implored you to do this before, but truly, it is a magical cake and you would doing yourself a great disservice not to at least have a go.

The gossamer-textured crumb is kept moist by infused sugar syrup. Mine contained Malibu (ha!), but since the sponge is simply flavoured with vanilla, frankly you could play with this any number of ways. You could drench the cake with lavender syrup, made by steeping dried lavender in the warm sugar and water solution, and smooth white chocolate cream cheese frosting around the cake instead of ganache. You could even add orange zest to that very white chocolate cream cheese frosting. And if you did all of those things, well, you could even go one step further and Fed Ex a piece right over to my house. I'd make sure somebody was home.

Coconut and Jam Génoise with Ganache

OK, from memory, this cake was made up of various components that I already had. I'll give you a recipe for the ganache below, because I have the amounts of each ingredient needed down to a tee for this size of cake. But otherwise:
  • the cake itself was made following these strictures;
  • the jam was homemade and I used about 1/2 a jar to sandwich the split layers of cake;
  • camelias are not edible. Remove before eating!
  • I didn't make the shredded coconut. I'm not Superman. 
Now, the ganache and syrup are pretty easy peasy. I'd make the ganache first, since it needs to cool. To do that, break up 200g of your favourite eating chocolate. I seem to remember making up the weight of this with white chocolate, so don't worry about mixing things up. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and pour over 250ml double cream that has been heated just until it nearly boils. Don't actually let it boil. I believe this is known as 'scalding'. Stir until the chocolate is melted and allow to cool. It should then be thick enough to frost the cake.

The syrup is simple: heat 60ml water and 60g caster sugar together until the sugar is dissolved. Cool slightly and add 3 tbsp liqueur of your choice. Use to moisten the cake before frosting it.

OK, how thrown together was that? Proper post next time!
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