Thursday, February 27, 2014

mocha pocky layer cake

For my mom's 70th birthday last year in March, I made this mocha cake decorated with chocolate Pocky (thin biscuit sticks dipped in chocolate). It actually just started out as a mocha cake - chocolate cake layers filled and frosted with espresso whipped cream - and since I had a 2-week old newborn at the time (plus a then 5-year old and 3-year old), I only had time to decorate it with a quickly piped shell border and chocolate sprinkles.

But then the chocolate sprinkles got out of hand. I couldn't stop! I added more, and more, and more, until it started looking like ... stubble. Very NOT attractive!

So the next day (the day of the dinner party), I sent my husband out to buy as many boxes of Pocky that he could find, because the only thing I could think to do was hide the chocolate sprinkle stubble.  And that's how Pocky saved the day!

I cut off the undipped ends of the Pocky sticks, and began to stick them along the sides of the cake, inserted into the bottom shell border. And slowly by slowly, my chocolate sprinkle stubble problem became a thing of the past.

And at the end of it all, I was left with a bowl of tasty snacks :)

The cake ended up tasting great, and the kids went around to all the adults asking for their Pocky sticks!

Stay tuned for this year's birthday cake for my Mom - I already know what I want to make!

Friday, February 21, 2014

mini heart individual cheesecakes for valentine's day

For Valentine's weekend this year, I decided to make these mini cheesecakes decorated with mini raspberry puree hearts! I've made similar cheesecakes in the past (see here for raspberry and here for blueberry), but I always gave them a marbled look with the fruit puree. This time, I was inspired by all the cute heart desserts and things on Pinterest (such as these adorable heart cookies at Annies Eats, or this gorgeous cheesecake decorated with mini hearts at Cooking Classy), so I decided to use the same technique to make little individual cheesecakes instead.

First I made a simple crust with chocolate graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. I placed a couple teaspoons of the crust mixture into each cup of a cupcake pan lined with paper liners, and gently patted down the crusts before baking them at 350F for about 7 minutes. Then while they were cooling, I got started on the filling.

The cheesecake filling was made with cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. So simple! Once it was all mixed well, I used an ice cream scoop to plop one scoop directly on top of the cooled crusts.

Next I made the raspberry puree. I threw a couple of handfuls of fresh raspberries into a food processor, tossed in some sugar, pureed it, and then strained it. I discarded the seeds and used the smooth puree to make the hearts.

Now for the fun part - I used a small spoon to dollop a few dots of the raspberry puree on top of the filling. 

And then I used a toothpick to "connect the dots" and draw a line through the center of each dot. And that's how you get the adorable mini hearts!

Once all the hearts were "drawn", I baked the cheesecakes in a water bath at 325F for about 25 minutes. When they were done, I let them come to room temperature, and then put them in the fridge to set overnight.

I like these best cold and straight out of the fridge, but you can also serve them at room temperature once they are set.

Happy belated Valentine's Day! Hope you had a great one!

*** Update: You can now find the recipe for mini cheesecakes in my new book, The Hello Kitty Baking Book!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

blue funfetti birthday cake with piped shell sides

My friend Helen's baby had her first birthday exactly one month before my youngest baby Micah. She had asked me to make a funfetti birthday cake, but at the time I was so busy that I wasn't able to (so sorry, Helen!). But when it was time for me to make Micah's birthday cake a month later, I just couldn't get funfetti out of my head! So I made him a vanilla cake using my favorite vanilla cake recipe, and threw in a half cup of rainbow sprinkles to make it funfetti.

Then I baked the cake layers in two 8-inch pans. They came out so fun and colorful compare to the first funfetti cake that I made (I didn't add enough sprinkles to that one!)

Then I sliced each cake layer into half horizontally, and filled them with freshly whipped cream.

With the rest of the whipped cream, I tinted it a pretty aqua color (using Americolor Sky Blue), and used it to frost the outside of the cake.

Then for the sides of the cake, I drew inspiration from this adorable rainbow cake at My Cake School! I had seen it randomly the week before while browsing Pinterest, and loved the look of the piped shells covering the sides of the cake.

I loved the look of the cake, and almost just left it like this, but thought it needed a "birthday" touch added to it ...

So I sprinkled some multicolored round confetti sprinkles around the sides on the top of the cake to give it more of a "birthday" feel!

Micah certainly liked it - boy, does this kid love cake! He couldn't get enough of it!

I can't believe my youngest baby is already one!

Happy Birthday to my little Micah! We love you!!!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

two triple chocolate mousse cakes with raspberries

I made these two triple chocolate mousse cakes two summers ago (where does the time go?!), but never had a chance to blog about them until now! The first one was an 8-inch version, which I made for a co-worker who was leaving the company (he went to work for Google - so jealous!).

And then second one was a smaller 6-inch version, which I made for a casual dinner/playdate with my good friend Cecila. Our kids get along so well, which works out great because then the adults can catch up while the kids play!

I've made this particular cake many, many times, and I always love it each time. I've decorated it simply with just a bit of whipped cream. Or I've made them into individual cakes like these, for a fun and elegant dessert. I've decorated the rim with fresh raspberries or halved strawberries like with this cake, which adds a nice colorful decoration as well as a nice tang of fruit to go with the rich chocolate cake. I've done a piped decoration on top, in this case a cute wreath mousse cake for Christmas. I've even made them in different shaped molds, such as this Hello Kitty triple chocolate mousse cake. So versatile! And the cake components themselves are pretty simple to make, you just need the time to be able to let each layer set before adding the next.

The cake starts with a rich chocolate cake for the bottom layer. The original recipe from America's Test Kitchen uses a flourless chocolate cake, but I prefer to use a regular chocolate cake recipe instead. Then the middle layer is a rich chocolate mousse, made with melted bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder which is folded into freshly whipped cream. And finally, the top layer is a simple white chocolate mousse, with a bit of gelatin to help it set properly.

I don't know about you, but my mouth is watering just thinking about this cake again!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

strawberry footballs with white chocolate laces

For Melodie's preschool Chinese New Year's party this year, the only thing left on the sign up sheet was "strawberries". So I signed up for that. But of course, I couldn't just bring plain 'ol strawberries, so I decided to dress them up with a bit of melted white chocolate. I melted some white chocolate chips on the stove in a double boiler, then let it cool slightly before pouring the chocolate into a ziplock bag with a corner snipped off (I was too lazy to deal with piping bags and tips - it was midnight by the time I got around to making these!), and then piped a bit onto each strawberry.

The next day, when my son Matthew saw me bring the strawberries to Melodie's preschool, and he whined, "Awww, but I won't get to have any!" I assured him that I had another package of strawberries at home, and that I would make some for him as well.

And that's when I thought to myself, wouldn't it be cute to pipe football laces on the strawberries, especially since it was going to be Superbowl weekend?

So I washed and dried my strawberries, and again used a ziplock bag to pipe my melted white chocolate. (Although I think next time I'll use a piping bag - the ziplock method is pretty convenient, but I can't stand how messy it looks!)

Matthew saw me piping them and said, "Hey, they look like footballs!" Awesome! I was starting to think they looked kind of silly!

Turns out I wasn't the first one to think of this though! There are a ton of strawberry footballs out there on the internet, and most of them are even fancier because they are dipped in milk chocolate first, and then decorated with white chocolate laces. Oh well, great minds think alike ;)