The Honor of a Reveal Cake

16 Mar

It’s an Honor

Last week, i did my first reveal cake.  I wasn’t aware of this type of cake, despite the quite obvious name, which doesn’t become obvious until you know the reason behind it.

So, i am now aware of 3 ways to find out whether you are going to have a boy or a girl….

1. The doctor tells/shows you during the doctor’s visit.

2. You find out when you give birth

3. You have your doctor tell someone else, who then makes a cake with either a blue or pink center and you gather all your friends and family around and you cut into that cake with bated breath!

    

I did this cake not for some random person who found out that i make cakes… I was asked by a dear friend.  She is the daughter of who i consider my spiritual parents, and so to be asked for this favor, for this reason, blew me away!  After the initial phone conversation where she presented this idea and told me all of the logistical details of when and where and how many people, etc… I hung up the phone and took a minute to really think about what i was just asked to do.

Her doctor was going to call me…. I was going to be the first to know…. My cake was going to reveal to her and her husband’s family and closest friends whether in 6 mos a baby girl or baby boy was going to come into the world! WOW!  What an honor!

I have done my fair share of birthday cakes and wedding cakes…. but by far, this was my most favorite cake to do.  I think it was the emotional tie that it had to my heart as well and knowing the weight of information that i was about to put into that white icing… sitting there in a stainless steel bowl, waiting to get a dowsing of either deep pink or royal blue coloring….

I heard a friend, the other day, define honor as “the attitude of the heart”.  If this is indeed an accurate description of a word that seems to have lost its place in our everyday vocabulary…. then a perfect exchange of honor took place last week.

My friend honored me with trusting me to not only make a beautiful cake that would be a fun addition to the party, but she also trusted me with such a precious piece of information that was meant to change their lives!  In return, i honored her by protecting that information and putting my best forward in every step  of that cake!

Not every cake i do will have this kind of connection for me…. but i will sure treasure those that do.

oh and btw: It is a girl :)

The Scone Epiphany!

27 Feb

 

Over the past few weeks, i have been experimenting with different scone flavors for the local coffee shop for which I provide.  I started with Orange Cranberry and when those began to fly out the door… the demand caused the manager and I to brainstorm about what other flavors customers would like.

I gave her about six to seven options for the next endeavor and she chose Lemon Poppyseed and Ham & Cheddar- another sweet flavor and a savory one that we thought may appeal to the afternoon crowd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, I have been making these scones (mainly the orange cranberry ones) for months!!  My roommate and friends have heard me talk about making them, etc…. yet for some reason, no desire to try them or see what the whole scone things was about occurred to anyone…. Until!

 

me: “Roommate, try this Lemon Poppyseed scone to see if there is enough lemon flavor”

roommate: “ok”.  She takes a bite.

me: “What do you think?”

roommate: “Oh my goodness!  This is great! I never knew scones were this yummy!”

 

And this is when the Scone Epiphany took place…

 

From that day on, word has spread.  I have had friends go to the local coffee shop to buy scones for breakfast.  I have had my roommate offer to pay for a scone that i technically bake in our shared kitchen!  I have even had friends ask for a sign up sheet at our weekly dinner to put in an order for them for the next week!

This is a fun epiphany for a couple reasons….

  1. Scones are indeed delicious! They are somewhere between a biscuit and a muffin…. holding the same creative flavor possibilities as muffins, yet with the not so delicate nature.
  2. Because my friends do get so excited about such things… It has become a great conductor of business for this coffee shop… and thus, jennycakes!  We are selling out of scones a couple times a week now!

 

So, jennycakes fans…. if you have not tried a scone in a while (or ever!)…. Now is the time!!!  Either whip up a batch in your own kitchen or go out to a local bakery and savor one with a hot cup of joe!

Mise en place!!!

18 Nov

Mise en place

      As some of you may have seen on the jennycakes facebook page, I am knee deep in making Whiskey Pecans right now.  It is a recipe I picked up from a chef I learned under in Georgia during my internship, and I think I will always have it memorized and take it with me where ever I go!  As an intern, you are given much grunt work. So during my time at Sea Island Resort I scooped thousands of cookies, mixed hundreds of batches of cheese biscuits and made tray after tray of these whiskey pecans…. I guess Southerners have to find something to do with all those pecans down there!!

So, as I am preparing myself this afternoon to make a few batches of these incredibly addicting pecans, I began to think about what I will need.  Ingredients, equipment, temperature on the oven…etc.  And as this list was forming, a phrase from culinary school came back to me: mise en place.  Little did I know until looking up the “official” definition, the culinary school I attended actually “coined” the phrase in the culinary world…

I decide what ingredients to put together based on when and how they are incorporated into the recipe. If you look closely, you can see brown sugar, salt and cinnamon all in the same bowl together.

Mise en place (pronounced [miz ɑ̃ plas], literally “putting in place”) is a French phrase defined by the Culinary Institute of America as “everything in place”, as in set up. It is used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients. (Wikipedia)

We all know the situation:  you think, “Let’s make cookies!!”  You find a recipe and just start throwing things in the mixer…. If you are like me, you haven’t even read through the recipe because you think, “of course I have everything”, as you briefly scan the pantry.  But then you come to that one ingredient… baking powder…. eggs…. chocolate chips…. and you either don’t have enough or any at all!

 

 

**** I have the solution to the above situation!!  Mise en place!!! ****

my next two batches of whiskey pecans and ready and waiting!

If you have wondered why in the world you may need a million different sized bowls and ramekins…. now is the time to have an epiphany.   Measure everything in advance!  There are two main advantages of this: 1. You will know if you have everything you will need. 2. It makes whipping up those cookies so quick and easy!!

So friends, I highly recommend you heed the mise en place rule.  Measure things out first. Be an organized baker!  It will prevent that great idea of making cookies from turning into a very frustrating experience!!

Scrape, Scrape, Scrape… and then Scrape again!

22 Oct

Scrape, Scrape, Scrape… and then Scrape again!!!

       Have you ever mixed up a batch of cookies or cupcakes or brownies in the mixer?  You carefully follow the instructions… All the ingredients were measured out precisely… You carefully add everything, in order, mix everything for the exact amount of time the recipe says…. and THEN you begin to divide the batter either into mounds on a cookie sheet or into cupcake liners… and as you near the bottom of the mixing bowl, you find half the ingredients just sitting there!  Not mixed into the rest of the batter!!  You think to yourself, “What did I do wrong?”

Well, the most omitted step (in my humble opinion) in a recipe is the simple act of scraping.  In my very first class in culinary school, Baking Foundations, one of the steps that was repeated over and over… and over again, was scraping!  We would present our finished products to the chef instructor, knowing that every flaw was about to be pointed out:  “See those streaks of raw flour in your poundcake? You didn’t scrape enough!”  “Do you notice how crumbly your texture is, when it should be uniform and spongy?  You didn’t scrape enough!”  So I learned very early on, that taking the time to scrape down that mixing bowl is of utmost importance!!

Here is an example of how I wish most recipes were written… and then below I will give a better definition of what scraping should look like.

1.  Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffly

2.  Turn off mixer, remove bowl and attachment and SCRAPE down both into center of the bowl.  Reattach all.

3.  On low speed, add each egg until fully incorporated. Add vanilla.

4.  Turn off mixer, remove bowl and attachment and SCRAPE down both into center of the bowl.  Also, be sure to turn up the batter from the bottom of the bowl. Reattach all.

5.  Add sifted (remember last blog?) dry ingredients, mix until just incorporated.

6.  Turn off mixer, remove bowl and attachment and SCRAPE down both into center of the bowl.  Also, be sure to turn up the batter from the bottom of the bowl. Reattach all.

7.  Mix again, for only 30 seconds until batter is smooth and homogenous.

Yes, the process went from four steps to seven, but I promise that the results will never fail you!  

Below are pics of before and after scraping.

Scraping is simply using a rubber spatula or bowl scraper (my personal choice) and making sure that all the batter that has

come up on the sides of the bowl, the batter that is clinging to the attachment and the batter that settles in the bottom of the bowl, get re-centered, if you will.  Rarely does that attchement- be it a paddle, whisk or dough hook- ever really reach the bottom of the mixing bowl.  This means that whatever settles down there, will never be mixed in with the rest of the ingredients, unless it is given a little manuel help!

To Sift or Not to Sift

30 Sep

To Sift or Not to Sift….

It is the age old question (among other more important age old question, such as: What’s the meaning of life?) When a recipe says to sift the dry ingredients, the question that always goes through my mind is: Do I have to?  And when I ask this, I do it in a whiney voice because it means one more step, one more thing I’m going to have to wash!  Usually I am not spending a leisurely Saturday baking and have time to do everything “the right way”.  I am usually whipping something up the night before… or one hour before, fitting in baking a cake or batch of cupcakes into an already crazy busy schedule.  Clearly adding the butter can’t be omitted, but for me, sifting is the first to go.  Yes, my cupcakes still turn out tasty and beautiful, but are they the tastiest and most flavorful they could have possibly been?

 So, what is the big deal with sifting anyway?

Well, its about quality.  More specifically, quality of your finished product.  When professionals look at their final product, whether it be bread, pound cake or cupcakes, they typically cut it in half and break it apart (yes, just like communion) to examine the crumb.

Crumb is a term referring to the interior texture, gluten network, tenderness, and general feel of a bread.  Desirable crumb size and texture varies depending on the product. (taken from website: http://www.thefreshloaf.com)

With some breads, sifting may not be as important because the dough is mixed so much that all the ingredients are worked together well.  Raw bread dough is smooth and elastic and no one ingredient is visible.  In other breads, such as focaccia and ciabatta, the crumb is fully of large gaps that air bubbles have formed when baking.  For these breads, this is a good thing.

 Cakes are a different story.  Over mixing cake batter, to be extreme, is detrimental!!  Without getting too scientific: over mixing = a tough cake.  Nobody wants a tough cake!  The most pleasing cake is one that is fluffy and light.  So, how do you get a light airy cake, but make sure that everything gets mixed in well enough?  In essence, how do you prevent over mixing?

Now get ready…. I am about to reveal why sifting matters.

Imagine biting into a gorgeous cupcake and there is a big clump of raw flour or cocoa powder.  Trust me, it is not a nice experience.  Flour does not naturally “cook out”.  Unless it is worked in with a liquid (butter/oil, sugar, egg mixture), it will remain raw.  Same with cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and spices!

So here are two main reasons to sift:

  1. It takes lumps out of ingredients mentioned above. Once  you have sifted the ingredients, anything left in the sieve should be thrown way.
  2. It homogenizes the ingredients to insure even distribution throughout the batter. (which means no mouth full of raw flour!)

Will forgoing sifting ruin your dessert?  Nope, not at all (in most cases).  But will taking the time to quickly sift those dry ingredients benefit your dessert? Absolutely.

So, the moral of the story is (or blog as it is):  If you have the time, take the time.  Sifting is a wonderful technique to enhance the texture of your cakes.

Cakes for a Cause….

5 Sep

Cakes for a Cause… this phrase has been rolling around in my head since Christmas time of last year.  I had worked in previous years as a professional pastry chef, yet more recently than that I had returned from a year traveling the world.  I didn’t travel as most do, hopping from resort to resort, sight seeing in the biggest cities. I lived in the slums of the least desirable towns and cities in countries on four different continents. I saw too many needs to comprehend.  And then i returned to America… back to my “real” life.

So there I was, just over a year later, thinking about possibly getting back into the dessert world, yet knowing I couldn’t ignore what I had seen.  That’s when “cakes for a cause” rang through my ears.  Why not use the skills I already had to meet the needs of those impoverished and neglected all over the world?!  There are so many organizations truly making a difference… Why not support them through the making and selling of my baked goods?!

That’s what jennycakes is all about!  It’s using my passion to help fund projects that are actually bringing hope and change.  My goal is that one day soon, jennycakes will partner with a different organization every 3-6 months and donate proceeds from sales to projects currently in progress.  I cannot wait to see how these partnerships turn into testimonies and stories of how even something as small as a cupcake can make a difference.

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