I might not have spent my Friday night at The Whalesbone – but I think I got to do something just as cool (ok… well since I’m a baker first… it might just be a tad cooler – but just a tad)… Kate, the head of catering for The Whalesbone Catering asked me to bake some baby cakes for her. Yep. That’s right. I was asked to make the little cakes that would be on display and on offer for her annual Whalesbone Catering Open-House. HOW COOL????? Super, duper, amazingly cool. I think you can all tell that I’m still excited about being asked to do this.
When Kate asked me, she specifically requested:
1. 40 mini cakes please – no cupcakes!
2. a few different flavour options – not just chocolate.
3. make them look like what you could find in a bakery / gourmet shop
Done & Done… & Done!
I pretty much went straight home that night and started to work on a template.
1. I grabbed my biscuit rounds and figured out the best size… I baked a cake and started cutting out some nice rounds – 2 inch, 1.5 inch and 1 inch rounds. I stacked those up for added height, took some pictures to send to Kate, and then brought them into the office for some feedback. Everyone felt that the 1-inch rounds were the perfect size. Baby cake template – check!
2. Flavours. I really, truly love my lemon cake. No matter how many times I make it – I still heart it. I Love to bake it and I love to eat it. Making a batch of lemon cakes was pretty much a given. I also heart my marble cake recipe. Sigh. That batter has been my dinner on many an occassion… and really… I’m ok with that. Marble cake was therefore a must (plus Kate’s boyfriend loves marble so they were both stoked that I picked that). Finally, the third flavour… how about… apple bacon spice cake with maple buttercream? Doesn’t that sound delish? Doesn’t that sound like a donut I recently sampled? Well… my San Francisco delight was turned into a the moistest cake ever. Plus my kitchen smelled amazing. I think Kate was as excited as I was when I told her my plan. Flavours – check!
3. How to make them gourmet shop pretty? Obviously it meant… fondant. That’s right folks – I willingly offered to make something that required me to use fondant. Can I just say… thank you Emily!!!! Once my template had been made I went over to Emily’s house and she gave me a 5 minute demo on how to work with it. That demo was a life saver. So working with fondant – check!
I’m really thrilled with how my baby cakes turned out. Seriously… they look so… professional. I’m used to being the baker and then handing it off to Emily to make it pretty – it was nice to see that I could make it pretty too!
lemon baby cake – nicely decorated with yellow ribbon
marble baby cake with marbled chocolate fudge & vanilla fondant… pretty eh?
apple bacon spice baby cake – green ribbon and a sprinkle of bacon bits… amazing!
This cake is great if you love a really moist cake – the apples honestly keep it so light – and I was able to punch up the flavour by sautéing the diced apples in bacon fat and also by grating in some fresh nutmeg. Then to top it all off… well I obviously had to add some bacon to the top of my baby cake… doesn’t it look pretty? I was up until 2:30 am finishing off my little baby cakes… I am so super proud of how they turned out.
I’m going to post about the Open-House too… but not today. Today is all about my little baby cakes… my pride and joy at the moment. Plus… it’s about time I share a recipe with all of you. It seems all I’ve been doing is eating and blogging about the food… when really – I do spend a lot of time baking (I swear!).
apple bacon spice cake
1 ½ c. packed dark brown sugar
1 ¼ c. sunflower oil
¼ tsp vanilla extract
2 1/3 c. flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
pinch of salt
10 oz (about 3 large) apples, peeled, cored, diced
4 large slices of bacon, finely chopped
Pre-heat your oven to 325 F. Spray two 9-inch rounds (or a rectangular slab) with non-stick spray. I obviously was using a rectangular slab for this recipe since I needed to cut out perfect rounds for the mini-cakes. Set aside.
In a large non-stick pan over high heat, cook your chopped bacon. Get it nice and crispy, them remove the bacon bits from the pan and place on a paper towel. Set aside. Turn down the heat and toss the diced apples into the bacon fat. Sautée the apples in the fat until they soften. About 3 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and set aside.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat together the sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla. You want everything to be really well incorporated, increase the speed to medium.
Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
While the mixer is running, slowly incorporate the dry ingredients. Allow everything to be well mixed. At this point, turn off your mixer, toss in the diced apples, and fold them into the batter.
Pour the batter into the pans, and bake for 35 – 40 minutes – – until golden brown and the cake bounces back when touched. Allow to cool slightly (about 20 minutes) in the pans on a wire rack before turning them out and cooling completely.
the beginnings of the baby cakes – apple bacon spice cake
Once cooled, make your frosting.
Seriously people… maple & coarse sea salt buttercream is probably the greatest thing ever. Salty sweet – which plays off the salty / sweetness of the cake as well… sigh. DELISH. I first started making maple buttercream as a teenager. I can remember discovering the combination and my eyes widening in delight. True story :0)
I have to tell you something… I have a problem with it comes to making buttercream frosting… you see… I “cook” my recipes. What the heck does that mean right? Well…when I bake, I pay attention to all my measurements… when I cook, I just toss things into the bowl. In this instance I started with the following:
1/2 c. salted butter, room temperature
3 c. powdered sugar, sifted
And I just mixed those two ingredients together using my paddle attachment in my stand-mixer.
This is when I start to “cook”.
I just add maple syrup until I think it looks right. And then I add some coarse sea salt a pinch at a time. And then to loosen up the batter a little (at this point my mixer is at a faster speed), I add some milk. Maybe 1 tbsp at the most… maybe a little less. I don’t know. I really just keep an eye on my buttercream, I ensure that the sides of the bowl are scraped down and I dip my finger in and taste. If I think it needs to be sweeter or saltier I add accordingly. But that’s my buttercream secret… oh yeah… and I let it mix for about 10 minutes. That’s it.
But it looks good eh?
maple and coarse sea salt buttercream
It was time to cover each baby cake in buttercream. A little more difficult a task than I originally thought… small cakes – big hands… oh well. They still turned out exactly as I had hoped.
lemon baby cake covered in buttercream
Then things got really fun. FONDANT! I learned through Emily’s demo that fondant is basically like pastry dough… only you can knead it way more than you would pie crust. I didn’t make the fondant from scratch. Nope. I went to Artistic Cake Design and bought their fondant – which is delicious (seriously… it’s pretty darn incredible). I pulled out a handful of fondant at a time, kneaded it well (since it’s pretty firm when packaged), and then got to work.
1. Using non-stick spray, spray directly on your clean surface.
2. Toss some powdered sugar on top of the sprayed area (exactly like using a well floured surface for pie crust)
3. Place your disk of kneaded fondant on top of the powdered surface and grab your rolling-pin.
4. Roll it out and then cover your cake.
That’s it. Simple eh? One thing to note – don’t roll the fondant too thin – otherwise it will pucker or tear when you place it on your cake. Overall, my first experience was pretty painless… a little more time-consuming than I thought – but my goal is to get faster at it :0)
Once the baby cake was covered, I then trimmed the excess fondant with a sharp knife. It really is exactly like pastry dough!
I even decided to mix together some chocolate fudge fondant with the vanilla fondant to create a marbled effect for my marble cakes. I was super pleased with how those turned out. Such a cool effect!
As a final touch (and to make it look more professional), I wrapped different coloured ribbons around the base of each cake (it totally tidied up the bases), held them in place with a pretty little pin, and then topped the apple bacon spice baby cake with a sprinkling of bacon bits.
I’d say job well done. Actually… if you saw me on Monday – I was saying that and patting myself on the back. ;0)