Sunday, April 3, 2011

A long post about cakes

When I went to Las Vegas in November with my best friend, we went to The Cheesecake Factory for supper one night.  It was actually quite disappointing, because I filled up on a chicken burger that was mediocre at best, and then I didn't have room for dessert!  How I could go to The Cheesecake Factory and not try a piece of cheesecake is still something that baffles me.  Luckily my friend ordered a piece (even though she was full too) and I managed to squeeze in a bite of hers, but I'm still mad at myself for not scarfing down a huge piece all by myself.

Anyway, for my husband's birthday this weekend, I thought I would try to recreate the Red Velvet Cheesecake that my friend ordered.  I also thought I would try making a vanilla and chocolate checkered cake using an insert that looks like a bullseye - you pour the chocolate and vanilla batters in alternating circles and remove the insert before baking.  When you make 2 cakes like that, you can layer them together and when you slice into the cake it should look like a checkerboard.

Neither of those plans worked out for me, but let me give you the recipes first and then I'll explain the dilema and how I resolved it.

"THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY" ORIGINAL CHEESECAKE RECIPE (this can be found all over the internet)
4 pkg. cream cheese (room temperature)
1 1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. sour cream
5 eggs

Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Add vanilla and sour cream and continue mixing.  Add eggs and beat just until blended.  Pour into a 9" springform pan (I put parchment paper on the bottom so it doesn't stick, and you should put tinfoil around the outside to keep water out, but I forgot.)  Place in a large roasting pan and pour in enough water to cover at least 1" of the springform pan.  Bake at 475 F for 12 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 F for about 1 hour.  Remove springform pan from the roaster and let it cool for a few hours.  To remove from the pan, gently go around the edges with a knife and then release the spring.

RED VELVET CAKE (slightly adapated from this recipe)
1 c. butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
4 tbsp. red food colouring
3 tbsp. cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

Beat butter and sugar, then make a paste of the food dye, cocoa, and salt and mix it into the butter mixture.  Beat in remaining wet ingredients, then mix in dry ingredients just until combined.  Pour into two greased 8" round pans and bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes.


JILL'S WHITE CAKE (my sister's formerly-top-secret recipe, but now that she's an ultrasound technician instead of a wedding cake chef, I'm hoping she won't mind that I'm sharing it.)
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. oil
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. milk

Beat sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla together.  Combine dry ingredients, and add half of it to the wet mixture.  Mix together, then add milk and continue mixing, and then add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until combined.  Pour into an 8" round pan and bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes.

Now that you've got the recipes, let's see where my problems arose:
  1. My cheesecake pan is 9" and my cake pan is 8".  So the red velvet cake and the cheesecake were two different sizes.
  2. The red velvet cake wasn't very red.  It wasn't going to look very striking against the white cheesecake.
  3. I can't ice a cake to save my life, so I knew if I somehow managed to put the two cakes together, I would make a horrible mess when I tried to ice it.
  4. When I attempted to use the insert to make the checkered cakes, the batter kept leaking out the bottom so there was no way the cakes would really look checkered, so I just ended up making one chocolate and one white cake.
Now I had all these cakes, and no idea how to put them all together.  I decided to serve the cheesecake on its own, and put the other three cake flavours together in a fabulous triple-decker cake!  (And I still have one red velvet cake left over for snacking!)

In between each layer I put cream cheese icing (1 pkg. spreadable cream cheese, about 2 c. icing sugar, and vanilla.  Beat it together until it looks/tastes right.  Add more icing sugar if necessary.)

Since my icing skills are less than spectacular, my sister the chef suggested using chocolate ganache instead.  The ganache is 1 1/2 c. whipping cream heated till almost boiling and poured over 2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Lay the cake on a small plate and place it on a cooling rack over top of the sink.  Slowly pour the ganache over top and let it drip down the sides to cover the entire cake.  Let it cool and harden before serving.
(Check out my new backsplash!)

Triple Layered Cake with cream cheese icing and chocolate ganache
I spread the extra ganache over top of the cheesecake and served it on its own.
Cheesecake with chocolate ganache
Both cakes were a huge hit at the party!  But next time I come up with some big ideas for birthday cakes, someone please remind me that I'm really not that good at making pretty cakes and I should stick to something a little simpler!
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