Monday, May 28, 2012

Update -- Eggless Chocolate Cake

It was yummy. Everyone loved it -- the frosting set really well and covered up the little burnt portions perfectly.
R wanted to maul the cake, so we had to restrain him before he ended up with chocolate frosting all over his face, or worse, in his mouth !

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bakefest! - Eggless Chocolate Cake - Double layered and frosted!

After a brief hiatus after my eggless strawberry muffins project, a lot of which involved packing and moving, I made this eggless double-layered chocolate cake over the last 2 days for my uncle's birthday.
This is a 2-layer chocolate cake which I covered with whipped cream frosting and decorated with store-bought buttercream frosting.

The cake recipe is adapted from Joy of Baking. Although the recipe calls for 2 cakes to be made on the same day, I split my work and made the two layers on 2 days because I just have that much time on my hands (not!), when either R is not seeking my attention or I have office work to attend to.

I will give the recipe first, and my thoughts later in the post.

Cake Recipe

For 1 layer cake, you will need:

  • All Purpose Flour - 1&1/8 cup 
  • Baking Powder - 1 tsp
  • Baking Soda - 1/2 tsp
  • Cocoa Powder - 1/6 cup
  • Butter (at room temperature) - 1/2 cup
  • Sugar - 1cup
  • Chocolate (chopped and room temperature) - 60 grams
  • Salt - 1/8 tsp
  • Vanilla essence - 1 tsp
  • Egg substitution - 1.5 Tablespoons flax seed powder dissolved in 4.5 Tbsp warm water and kept aside for 5 minutes
  • Boiling water - 1/2 cup
  • Milk - 1/2 cup
What you need to do

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius
  • Spray the cake pan with non-stick spray and line it with parchment paper
  • Put the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder in a bowl and add the boiling water to it. Stir till the chocolate melts and it becomes a homogenous mixture
  • In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt
  • In an electric mixer, whisk the butter for about 2-3 minutes till it becomes creamy
  • Gradually add the sugar to the butter and beat with mixer for 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically to make sure all the mixture is getting beat
  • Add the flax seed mixture to the mixer bowl and combine with the butter-sugar
  • Add the chocolate-cocoa liquid and vanilla essence to the mixer bowl and mix it all together well for 1-2 minutes
  • Add the sifted dry ingredients and the milk to the mixer, alternately, starting with the flour mixture and ending with the flour mixture
  • Give it all a good mixing, so that everything is well incorporated
  • Pour the batter into the readied cake pan
  • Bake in oven for 30 minutes

So, as obvious from the title, you will need to bake 2 such cakes and allow them to cool completely before starting with the frosting.


Frosting Recipe

Whipping cream or heavy cream with a butterfat content of 35%-40% is not widely available in Chennai. I found out, recently, that the brand Rich's is available at a shop called Aura & Co. in Teynampet. But I have not been able to go there and pick it up because of all the new one-way problems on Mount Road, and also because I was not sure when I will be needing it.

A convenient alternative is to use BlueBird Whipped Cream powder, which I had purchased a while back and seemed easier to go through with than making proper butter cream. This is available in all department stores like Nuts N Spices, Big Bazaar, Nilgiris etc. I simply followed the directions on the pack -- which said to dissolve contents of the pack in 90 ml chilled water and to beat it for 3 minutes in an electric mixer and refrigerate. The only other tip that I took away from Joy of Baking was to put my mixer bowl and beaters in the freezer for 15 minutes before whipping. I whipped the cream for about 4-5 minutes because I did not use the maximum speed, and I could see that my cream was somewhere between soft and hard peaks. I refrigerated it for a couple of hours until I took it out to frost. I wanted chocolate frosting, so I added 2-3 Tablespoons of cocoa powder to the whipped cream. But, this does not really give a good chocolaty color to it, so I think next time I will add melted chocolate to it. Instead, I added few drops of Americolor Chocolate color gel.

Because I have never used the original whipping cream, I cannot compare what I made to the same. But it did hold shape properly, given the amount of heat that Chennai goes through in May.

For the decoration part, I used Betty Crocker's Ready to Use Cupcake Frosting, which I found at Amma Naana. The price is quite steep, and I think making buttercream at home would be more satisfactory, but I already had this at home and did not have extra time to make buttercream from scratch.
The frosting is a lovely Buttercup Yellow in color -- but I wanted something different, so I added few drops of Americolor Orange color gel to get a peachish-orange color for decorating.

Assembling the cake

  • Spray a large plate with a non-stick spray and put one of the cake layers on it. I leave it to your judgement to decide which cake should be which layer and whether it should be top-up or bottom-up. 
  • Put a big dollop of the whipped cream frosting on the first layer and spread it out evenly with an offset spatula
  • Place the second layer of cake on top of the frosted first layer and repeat the process
  • Once the top of the cake is reasonably smoothly covered, use the remaining whipped cream to cover the sides of the cake.
  • Put this in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes, if you live in tropical climates like I do. By the time I had finished covering the cake with frosting, it was starting to melt.
  • Take the assembled cake out of the refrigerator and use a pastry bag fitted with whatever tip suits your fancy and filled with the buttercream to decorate it as you like.
This is how my cake finally looked

My thoughts and learnings
  • My cakes weren't perfect. Both of them got burnt slightly at the bottom and the second one was breaking by the time I was assembling the cakes. Anyone have any thoughts on what I could do to improve this? Although, I am blaming my oven for the burn.
  • It was definitely way easier to do things with an electric mixer than with a hand beater. Next post, I will put up photos and descriptions of all the baking stuff that I got from USA.
  • The measuring cups and spoons were a god-send. Otherwise, earlier, I used to rely on my general not-so-great judgement on measurements
  • I bought the Wilton 53-piece supreme cake decorating set. I used the disposable pastry bags and tip 16 for all the decoration and tip 3 for writing the message
  • This was my first time writing and decorating a cake with professional tools and icing. I do hope to improve tremendously
  • I bought a 10-piece silicon bakeware set (also from US). The cake mold that you see in the first photo is one of the 2 round cake pans that this set contains. Usually, silicon bakeware does not require greasing or parchment paper -- but I still went ahead and did both. The cake did come out very easily from the sides and bottom. The parchment paper stuck to some of the burnt areas, so I just took those off along with the paper.
Oh, and at the time of posting this, I still haven't tasted the cake. It is sitting in my refrigerator as I write, waiting for the cutting ceremony this evening. I will post an update about how it tasted.

So, until the next Bakefest posting, peace out!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

HIMYM Season 7 Finale : No Magic there!

*******Spoiler Alert********

Let me start out by saying that I am one of those people who doesn't get what the big deal is about how bad this season was. I am no review snob nor am I knowledgeable on the technical aspects of acting, writing, direction etc. etc. But I have always felt that How I Met Your Mother entertains me. I do not particularly relate to the general storyline or feel that any of the stuff they go through is realistic in any sense. Give me Friends for that any day.

But I had to write about how bad the season finale was. Folks all over the world have been waiting for The Magician's Code to air -- wondering if at least the last episode will redeem everything that happened during this season. You see, as inane as I find HIMYM, I thought this season was not particularly worse. I do however, believer that the finale was a complete disaster!

I have read reviews on how Part 1 was better than Part 2. But I beg to differ -- both of them sucked. 

Part 1 basically dealt with Lily's labor and Marshall's attempt to reach NYC from Atlantic City to be by her side. As it happens in sitcom world, this is obviously a herculean task. Not only does Marshall seem unconvincing as drunk enough to talk Yoda but also his complete inability to do/think anything even after hearing that his wife is in labor was just.... Barney, on the other hand, was the only character who responded to the gravity/emotional connect of the situation by showing a softer, more concerned side of him. Oh, and the motorcycle bit was well done.

In NYC, Ted and Robin's stories to take Lily's mind off the pain were not interesting in the least and if I were in labor, I would have found them doubly irritating.

So, Part 1 just goes by in a blur of random activities carried out by the various characters and my problem with the whole episode was that I did not feel a tug when Marvin Waitfoit Eriksen was surrounded by the gang. I did not feel like I belonged with them. 

All over the place, this episode be

Part 2 was all over the place. The Barney-Quinn arc was introduced very abruptly in the season and it became very serious very fast, highly uncharacteristic of the show and its characters. C'mon, how many times have we been around Ted & Robin or Barney & Robin? What is so awesome about Quinn anyway, other than the fact that she is a stripper! So, Barney takes her on a conciliatory trip to Hawaii, thereby getting caught in a stream of events that gives the episode its name. Barney's proposal was mind-numbingly endless. And did he propose because he found out that she had quit? 
Back in NYC, Robin is asking Ted to go after Victoria because clearly just because she passed all of Ted's basic hygiene factors, she is The One. What follows is random conversation between Ted and Victoria, followed by a random supposed drive into the sunset, briefly interspersed with Ted trying to be a nice guy, and ending with eh-not such a nice guy after all! Bleh!

And don't even get me started on how TV shows portray new parents and their struggles! I am not getting into each and every point of this, but the writers could have at least withheld Lily from downing a Tequila shot while holding a newborn in her arms -- clearly, it is okay for a breastfeeding woman to not even give it a thought!!

The only reason I was excited about this finale was to figure who Barney's bride would be -- and I am super happy that it's Robin. I loved Barney and Robin together -- they just made sense. This entire fast-forward romance with Quinn was probably meant to be a red herring all along. Or maybe not. God knows what random events will take place next season in order to explain the randomness that was The Magician's Code!

Dear R

Dearest R

This is the first in what I think should be a series of letters that I want to write to you. Because you are too small to understand today and because I would like to preserve my thoughts and feelings for you now so that you can share them when you grow older.

My darling R -- today, for the first time in the five months that you have been born, my heart is aching. And do you know why? Because, last night you fell off the bed. :( 

Last night, Grandpa was returning from his US trip. So, I was awake with Grandma to greet him. By the time I got to bed it was 1:30 am and you had been sleeping since 10 pm. Not too long after, I woke up to your gurgled voice -- the time was 3:45 pm and you were fully awake and playing. After feeding you and trying to coax you to go to sleep, I just decided to let you be and drift off to sleep myself. I knew you had rolled over and were playing because I did open my eyes every now and then to see what you were doing. But the next thing I heard was a dull thud and I sprang awake immediately. I knew you had fallen. For a minute, I didn't even know which side you fell off as I searched for you. By this time, of course, you were howling from the shock of taking the fall. Its amazing how I didn't have an ounce of sleep left in my body as I picked you up and consoled you. Poor baby, you cried for 5 minutes and I offered you my tried and tested comfort method -- nursing. You were back to your usual self in 10 minutes and were still not ready to go to sleep. With my energies at the peak and my mind and heart reliving that thud every second, I cuddled you so that we could sleep together. Of course, without any success, I finally put you to sleep in your thooli and slept on the sofa myself for an hour before having to get up for work.

I did not tell your G'pa - G'ma what happened. Because, childish as it is, I did not want to hear their doubts and worries and feel worse than I already was. But I did tell Appa. He was rightly concerned even though he did not blame me. He actually blamed himself because he was not around to help. I still feel like I should tell your grandparents also about what happened - because they are such an intrinsic part of your life and feel as much love and responsibility towards you as Appa and I do. Maybe I will tell them later today. Ask me when you read this, if I did.

It's funny because I was watching Friends only yesterday - The One with the Giant Poking Device - in which Monica bangs poor Ben's head on the ceiling and Ben keeps saying "Monica Bang". In the end, Ross decides to fake-punish Monica for keeping it from him by telling her that Ben was walking funny. It seemed so funny in the episode Pattu, but I don't think I could live with myself if any such thing ever happened to you because of my carelessness. 

I said sorry to you umpteen times today but you just looked at me and grinned. I am writing this to say sorry to you when you are able to understand what I am saying. I am sorry I slept off sweetheart. I am sorry I didn't notice that you were about to fall off. I am sorry to realize that this is just the beginning of many things that I won't be able to protect you from. But, I will always be there for you. If I can, I shall prevent bad things from happening to you. If I am unable to at times, which is what the reality is, I will still hold you and comfort you -- no matter how old you become.

Love always,