tiramisu and dark chocolate fondant from scratch, bitches!
Brian came to me late last week with a request for two cakes for a Hail & Farewell at work today. A Hail & Farewell is a little party for the people who are transferring in (Hail) and out (Farewell). Cassie is transferring to Italy, and Little Jim is going to Japan. (So we'll be seeing him again soon enough.) Brian's idea was for two cakes that played off of each other to make the joke work, with Jim's cake as the punchline.
This is a tiramisu-inspired layer cake. I used this recipe, although since it is for a 3-tier wedding cake, I had to cut the recipe by 1/3. Which, let me tell you, was not easy at all. Some of the fractions were just impossible to multiply by 1/3 and end up with a quantity that it was practical to measure. (Alton's right - why the heck wasn't this recipe written out by weight? Measuring by volume stinks!) Anyway, I used this recipe for the cake instead, since it has the same ingredients (except for having whole eggs instead of egg whites) in similar proportions. I also didn't want to use actual alcohol, since this is for a work event, so I used kahlua-flavored coffee syrup instead - which turned out to be sugar-free, ew. I hate Splenda. Oh well, when I make this for my birthday in September, I'll do it the real way. (Which of course means I'll also have to make the chocolate cake...for the kids, you know. Yeah, for the kids.) I also left out the sweet marsala in the frosting - even though I have some and have absolutely no use for it (since chicken marsala requires DRY marsala) - I used more cream and a couple of teaspoons of rum flavoring instead.
I was originally going to use a piping-gel transfer for the lettering; I found a beautiful font and traced it onto parchment paper and everything, but then I realized that the cream cheese frosting doesn't crust, so doing a transfer wasn't going to be possible. I had to do it freehand, which was pretty scary considering that I have horrible handwriting and I'm even worse at piping out letters. The "er" in "Arrivederci" is all squished together but otherwise I think I did okay. Not fantastic, but okay.
I did the roses in the Wilton ready-to-use decorator icing, because even though it's really stiff at first, once you get it warmed up a bit it's really the best thing for roses. I've never been able to get smooth edges on the petals with icing I make myself.
This is quite possibly the richest, most decadent chocolate cake ever made. The cake and buttercream (the Wilton class buttercream) were made with Hershey's special dark baking cocoa; the ganache filling was made with Nestle Chocolatier dark chocolate (53% cacao, I think), and the fondant was made with both. (I added 6oz of melted dark chocolate, which wasn't nearly dark enough, so I added cocoa along with the sugar until it was the color I wanted.) The fondant turned out too dry again; I forgot that it stiffens up considerably in the 24 hours you have to let it rest, so you have to stop adding sugar when it's still a lot softer than you want it to be. Maybe I'll get it right next time; but at least I'm getting closer. And, DAMN, it tastes good. Seriously.
The original concept was for this one to say, "F#@* OFF, JIM." - but we thought the better of it. I still think it would have been a lot funnier, though. We also considered making it banana bread instead of cake - "F you, Jim, it isn't even a real cake!", but the thing is, we actually like Jim. Also, I thought that for the joke to be really effective visually, it needed to be chocolate fondant, and I wasn't sure how that would taste on banana bread. So I just went for the chocolatey-est chocolate cake ever. The chocolate-stained cake board, by the way, is part of the joke.
I don't think that they're even close to professional standards, but I'm definitely improving. And I do think that they must taste fantastic. The thing that makes me go, "d'oh", however, is that when a Hail & Farewell is for people who don't have a spouse & kids themselves, spouses and kids generally don't come to the party. So these are the first cakes I've ever made that I'm not going to be eating! And if all went well, there won't be any leftovers. Because, you know, they're like the best cakes EVER. We'll see.
I believe that women's lib means I can live however I choose - even if that means staying at home, baking cookies from scratch and knitting baby booties all the livelong day. I believe that discriminating against anyone based on their color is racism - even if they're white. I believe that the bad auditions on American Idol are the end result of twenty years of focusing on self esteem - "you are perfect no matter what" - piled on top of a century of growing up consuming music rather than making it together as a family. I believe the children are our future. I believe in miracles. I don't believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.