Red Velvet Rose Pavlova

Red Velvet Rose PavlovaAs much as I love flowers, I’ve learned over the years that I have a black thumb. No matter how hard I try or how “low-maintenance” the plant is, I manage to kill it. I’ve even killed a cactus. Don’t ask me how I did it. But one day it started to shrivel up and before I knew it, it was dead.  These days, I run away from plants like the plague. The cute DIY terrariums that everyone talks about? Nope. Growing my own herbs? No way. So instead of growing my own plants, I prefer already cut plants because (not to sound morbid) they’re already dying. It gives me a little less stress.
Red Velvet Rose Pavlova 2In the food world, I think Valentine’s Day can be renamed as Red Velvet Everything Day. Is it just me or when February rolls around, everything is red velvet flavored? They come in forms of cake, brownies, whoopie pies, cupcakes and cookies. It is not their fault. There aren’t that many red cakes out there and that deep red hue is kind of perfect for the season.
Red Velvet Rose PavlovaRed Velvet Rose Pavlova Instead of doing the usual red velvet cake, I decided to make a red velvet pavlova. I dyed the layers of pavolva red (or as red as I could get them) and flavored them with a hint of cocoa. Then I made a cream cheese whipped cream (because how would you have anything red velvet without cream cheese) and flavored it with some rose water for a floral note. I finally decorated it with some tiny rose meringues and actual tiny roses. If you are using fresh flowers, make sure they’re pesticide-free and if you want to eat them, make sure they’re edible.
Red Velvet Rose PavlovaThis may be the most romantic cake I’ve made. (Followed closely by this one.)

Red Velvet Rose Pavlova
Makes one 4-layered mini cake

Ingredients
300 g. superfine sugar
150 g. egg whites, room temperature
1 pinch cream of tartar
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
red gel food color
1 batch of cream cheese rose whipped cream (recipe below)
mini red roses, organic pesticide-free (for decoration)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Spread sugar in an even layer over parchment.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites and the cream of tartar.
  4. Place sugar into the oven and bake until the edges of the sugar begins to melt but not brown, about 5 minutes.
  5. Once the sugar begins to melt, turn the mixer onto high.
  6. Remove baking sheet from the oven and the eggs whites should be foamy.
  7. Turn the mixer to medium high and slowly pour the hot sugar from the parchment paper into egg whites.
  8. Once all the sugar is added, turn the mixer onto high and mix until stiff, shiny peaks form.
  9. Reserve ¼ c. of white meringue batter in a different bowl.
  10. Add cocoa powder and red gel food color to the rest of the batter and mix until desired color is reached.
  11. Reserve ¼ c. of red meringue batter in a separate bowl.
  12. Reduce oven to lowest setting 140˚F.
  13. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  14. On one baking sheet, spoon 4 five-inch circles of the red meringue.
  15. Fit a medium closed star piping tip into a piping bag and add ¼ c. each of reserved white and red meringue batter.
  16. On the second baking sheet, form small roses by making small circles with the piping tip.
  17. Bake the baking sheet with the five-inch circles for 1- 2 hours until they are crisp and hollow.
  18. Bake the baking sheet with the mini roses for 30 minutes to 1 hour until they are crisp and hollow.
  19. Turn off oven and let it dry out for about 30 minutes to an hour.
  20. When meringues are completely cool and dry, alternate a layer of the meringue with the layer of the whipped cream.
  21. Decorate the top with the mini meringue roses and mini roses.

Cream Cheese Rose Whipped Cream

Ingredients:

1 ½ c. heavy whipping cream, cold
4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
½ c. powdered sugar
½ – 1 tsp. rose water (be careful with the rose water, too much of it will make the frosting taste like soap)

Instructions:

  1. In a bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form.
  2. Set aside the whipped cream mixture into a different bowl.
  3. In the same bowl, add the cream cheese and powdered sugar and mix until light, fluffy and fully incorporated.
  4. Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.
  5. Add ½ tsp. rose water and taste. If you feel like it needs more, add ¼ tsp. at a time until desired flavor is reached.

Conversation Heart Macarons with Vanilla Elderflower Frosting

Conversation Heart Macarons I learned how stubborn I could be when I went to buy a bag of conversation hearts this past week. I was so convinced that the original conversation hearts were made by Brach’s, I stood in the candy aisle for 5 minutes debating whether Brach’s or Necco made the original conversation hearts with my sister. I guess the average person would’ve pulled out their phone right away and searched Google, but I felt like I was pretty darn sure I was right. Turns out I was wrong. It was originally made by Necco.
valentines day macaronsI was basing my fact on the memory of the boxes of conversation hearts I received during Valentine’s Day in elementary school. Many of my teachers would set up a big box for students to put in Valentine’s Day cards and hand them out on the big day. Some kids would bring a bag full of identical valentines to give out to everyone so no one felt left out. Some kids of course, received more valentines than others, but the usual stash would be a lip or heart shaped lollipop, Hershey’s kisses, and small boxes of conversation hearts. I never really liked the conversation hearts because (if memory serves me right) they tasted like chalk. But if I ever received a box from a crush I would read each heart wishing that it was a heartfelt message from them. SMH Boy crazy from such a young age I tell ya.
macaron batterSo I took a page from my childhood memory and turned them into macarons. I’ll tell you straight off the bat that these macarons are a labor of love. Perhaps it’s because my macarons are made with an Italian meringue or because I just plain stink at it, piping macaron batter into a heart shape is not easy. The batter wants to cling onto your piping tip and ruin the pointed ends that you want to achieve. Also, dividing the batter into 5 colors and changing the piping bag and washing the piping tip 5 times is tedious. And if you only have one spatula? You would have to clean that spatula every time you mix a different color for the batter and you would be dirtying 5 different bowls. This is FIVE times the work required people!

Not-So-Heart-Shaped-Macarons
Not-So-Heart-Shaped-Macarons
The frosting on the other hand is my favorite vanilla frosting flavored with Elderflower concentrate. If you’ve ever been to Ikea, you may have seen the boxed juices that they sell. Elderflower has a mild floral and tart flavor. Why did I add the elderflower concentrate? Because in my mind, flowers = romance = Valentine’s Day.
Conversation Heart Macarons The extra labor aside, these bite size macarons are super cute and would make a very thoughtful gift. Also, I know they’re delicious because the entire batch was gone in one night. 🙂
Conversation Heart Macaron

Conversation Heart Macarons with Vanilla Elderflower Frosting
Makes about 50 small macarons

*Here is a link to the heart template that I used for my macarons:
-Macaron heart template left
-Macaron heart template right

Ingredients:
212 g. almond meal
212 g. powdered sugar
172 g. egg whites, divided to 82 g. and 90 g (aged, if possible)
236 g. sugar
158 g. water
pink gel food coloring
yellow gel food coloring
green gel food coloring
purple gel food coloring
blue gel food coloring
1 batch vanilla elderflower frosting
red food color pen

Instructions:

  1. Line two baking sheets with heart template left and right and parchment paper or silicone mats.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, add the almond meal and powdered sugar and pulse until thoroughly combined.
  3. Sift the mixture over a large mixing bowl, throwing out the lumps as they appear.  Add 82 g. of the egg whites and stir until you get a thick mixture.
  4. Divide the almond mixture into 5 different bowls. Each fifth of the batter should weight 101g.
  5. Color each almond mixture with pink, yellow, green, purple and blue gel food coloring. Set aside.
  6. In a small pot attached with a candy thermometer, combine the sugar and water over medium heat and boil until the syrup reaches 200˚F.
  7. Once the syrup reaches 200˚F, start whipping the remaining 90 g. in the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment on medium speed until soft peaks are reached.
  8. Once the syrup reaches 248 ˚F, remove the pot off the burner and slowly pour the syrup down the side of the mixing bowl with the egg whites on medium speed.
  9. Once the egg whites are fully incorporated, increase the speed to medium high until egg whites form glossy, stiff peaks.
  10. Place one fifth of the egg mixture into each bowl of the colored almond mixture. Fold the egg white mixture into the almond mixture until the mixture “flows like magma”.  The mixture should be smooth and run thick ribbons off the spatula.
  11. With a pastry bag fitted with a ½ in. plain tip, fill the piping bag with the pink macaron batter.
  12. Pipe one side of the heart, releasing pressure as you get to the pointy tip and repeat with the other side of the heart.
  13. The piped batter may have peaks but should smooth away in a minute or two.
  14. Every time you change the batter color, remember to clean the piping tip and use a new bag.
  15. Let the batter stand until the tops of the macarons are dry to the touch, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  16. Preheat the oven to 325-350˚F.  If your oven tends to run hot go for 325˚F, if not then 350˚F.
  17. Lower the heat to from 350˚F to 300˚F. (If starting from 325˚F, lower to 275˚F.)
  18. Bake 8-10 minutes, until the feet are formed and the tops are smooth.  The macaron shell is done when you slightly wiggle it and it starts to come off of the parchment paper / silicone mat.
  19. Remove pan from oven and reheat oven to higher temperature for 10 minutes before baking the next tray, lowering the temperature when you start baking it.
  20. Continue until you bake all of the macaron shells.
  21. Once the macarons have cooled, pair each macaron shell to one of a similar size.
  22. Use the red food coloring pen to write out messages on one side of the macaron.
  23. Let dry and sandwich each macaron with vanilla elderflower frosting.

Vanilla Elderflower Frosting
Ingredients:
1 c. whole milk
¼ c. flour
⅛ tsp. salt
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4-6 tbsp. elderflower concentrate

Instructions:

  1. In a small pot over medium heat, whisk milk, salt and flour until combined.
  2. Continuously whisk mixture until thickened to a pudding like consistency.
  3. Once thickened, strain through a mesh strainer into a bowl with a spatula to remove lumps.
  4. Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the flour mixture (to prevent skin from forming) and put bowl into the fridge until fully cool.
  5. In a mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the sugar and butter on high speed until fluffy and pale about, 5-10 minutes.
  6. Add the chilled flour mixture and continue to whip on high speed until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is no longer gritty, about 5-10 minutes.
  7. Add vanilla extract and 4 tbsp. of elderflower concentrate.
  8. Taste and if you want a stronger flavor, add another 2 tbsp. of elderflower concentrate.

 

Calcifer Meringues

howl's moving castle meringues
“May all your bacon burn.”

If you still haven’t watched Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle, then I’m pretty sure you are confused (or possibly amused) by today’s post. When I mentioned it to my sister, her reaction was, “That sounds like Lucifer, or a devil.” Actually, a very similar response was echoed by my friend. (They both did not watch the movie.)
Calcifer MeringuesCalcifer is a fire demon and in the English dubbed version of the movie, is voiced by Billy Crystal (aka. Mike Wazawoski from Monsters, Inc., Miracle Max from Princess Bride or Harry from When Harry Met Sally <= my favorite movie of all time!). Incredibly cute and boisterous at times, he is one of the most memorable characters of the movie.making meringuesThe meringue recipe I’m sharing is delicious and can be flavored with different extract or add-ins, but this time I chose to keep it simple by tinting it in different colors and shaping it so it has a flame-like body. Stirring the gel food coloring does deflate the meringue a bit and spooning it onto the parchment paper in layered dollops seems to produce a few cracks in the meringue. This is just a theory because I’ve made this recipe before and it produces very white, no-crack meringues when piped into little shapes.
inside meringue cookieI wanted the meringues to be super vibrant, but this is as bright as I could get them without compromising the structure of the meringue batter. As for the inside of the meringue, the color is much more vibrant on the inside and I am in love with it. Color and small crack issues aside, the meringues are melt-in-your-mouth crisp and has a wonderful marshmallow-y chewy interior. It’s love at
first bite.
calcifer cookies

Calcifer Meringues
Makes 7 Large Meringues

Ingredients
300 g. superfine sugar
150 g. egg whites, room temperature
1 pinch cream of tartar
yellow gel food color
orange gel food color
red gel food color
white candy melts
candy eyes

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Spread sugar in an even layer over parchment.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites and the cream of tartar.
  4. Place sugar into the oven and bake until the edges of the sugar begins to melt but not brown, about 5 minutes.
  5. Once the sugar begins to melt, turn the mixer onto high.
  6. Remove baking sheet from the oven and the eggs whites should be foamy.
  7. Turn the mixer to medium high and slowly pour the hot sugar from the parchment paper into egg whites.
  8. Once all the sugar is added, turn the mixer onto high and mix until stiff, shiny peaks form.
  9. Divide batter evenly into three separate bowls, coloring each portion red, yellow and orange.
  10. Reduce oven to lowest setting 140˚F.
  11. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper.
  12. Taking two spoons, place a dollop of the yellow batter and layer it with the orange and then the red. Repeat until all the meringue batter is used.
  13. Bake about 2-3 hours until they are crisp and hollow.
  14. Turn off oven and let it dry out for about 30 minutes to an hour.
  15. When meringues are completely cool and dry, melt two white candy melt wafers and dot behind two eyes and place the eyes onto the bottom third of Calcifer’s face.
  16. Let candy melt set and you are now ready to enjoy your meringue.

Meringue recipe adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook.

 

Peanut Brittle Coffee Fudge Cake

Peanut Brittle Coffee Fudge CakeI have a brother whose birthday is on the fourth of January. Every year, after all the New Year hoopla, we gather around for the first birthday celebration of the year. I tend to pay a little more attention to his cake than the ones that follow because my soul feels a slight breeze of refreshment when the new year rolls around. Plus, this year was his big 3-0 so I had to think of something more unique.
peanut butter chocolate cakeIf there is one thing I know about my brother, it is that his two favorite flavors of all time are peanut butter (or peanuts in general) and coffee. In fact coffee, peanuts and my brother are synced so closely together in my brain that every time I go out of town, I usually bring back something that has to do with those two things. Things like Virginia peanuts from the south or a giant espresso peanut butter cup made by the local craft chocolate shop are no brainers when it comes to souvenir gifts for him.
honey roasted peanut brittleSo I made a cake that combines both flavors. It features alternating layers of fudgy chocolate and coffee scented cake which are sandwiched by a light and fluffy peanut butter frosting. The whole thing is then covered by a vanilla – peanut butter Swiss meringue buttercream and topped with homemade honey roasted peanut brittle. honey roasted peanut brittleWhen looking at the recipe, you might wonder why I made two different types of frosting. After years of baking, I realized that as much as I love the texture and flavor of boiled frosting, it does not ice as smoothly as Swiss meringue buttercream. So, these days I make two types of frosting for one cake. Is it a pain in the butt? Yes, but the flavor and the presentation are so worth it.
Peanut Brittle Coffee Fudge Cake

Peanut Brittle Coffee Fudge Cake
Makes one very tall 8” cake

You will need:

2 – 8” buttermilk coffee cake layers, leveled (recipe below)
2 – 8” chocolate cake layers, leveled (recipe below)
1 batch coffee frosting (recipe below)
1 batch coffee and vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream (recipe below)
1 batch honey roasted peanut brittle (recipe below)

Instructions:

  1. On a cake board, place a chocolate cake layer and frost the top with coffee frosting.
  2. Top the chocolate cake layer with a coffee cake layer and frost the top with coffee frosting.
  3. Add another chocolate cake layer and frost the top with coffee frosting.
  4. Top the chocolate cake layer with the coffee cake layer.
  5. Use the remaining coffee frosting to crumb coat the cake.
  6. Place in freezer for 5-10 minutes to set.
  7. Fill an icing bag fitted with a very large round tip with the white swiss meringue buttercream.
  8. Remove the cake from the freezer.
  9. Ice the cake from the top with the white swiss meringue buttercream, moving slowly down.
  10. Once the white frosting runs out, add the light brown swiss meringue buttercream to the same bag and continue moving downwards.
  11. Once the light brown frosting runs out, add the deep brown swiss meringue buttercream to the same bag and continue frost down the cake until you get to the bottom of the cake. (The cake will look bulky and messy. This is normal.)
  12. Using a flat spatula, start going around the cake and smoothing out the sides.
  13. As you move around the cake and start removing frosting, an ombre pattern will appear.
  14. Frost the entire cake smooth and then top with shards of honey roasted peanut brittle.

For the Buttermilk Coffee Cake:

Ingredients:
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 egg yolks, room temperature
1 c. black coffee, divided
4 tbsp. powdered buttermilk
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. coffee emulsion
270 g. cake flour
300 g. sugar
2 ½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚ and grease and line the bottom of two 8” cake pans with parchment paper.
  2. In the mixing bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until combined.
  3. Mix powdered buttermilk to the cup of black coffee and whisk until combined.
  4. Add the butter and ¾ c. of the coffee mixture to the flour mixture and mix on low until combined.
  5. Scrape the bowl to mix everything evenly.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk eggs, egg yolk, the remaining ¼ c. coffee mixture, and vanilla extract.
  7. With the mixer on low, add the egg mixture to the flour mixture slowly until combined.
  8. Divide batter evenly amongst the two cake pans and bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating the cake pans halfway.
  9. Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out of cake pan and move onto wire cooling rack to cool completely.

For the Chocolate Cake:

Ingredients:
1 ¾ c. all-purpose flour
2 c. sugar
¼ c. natural unsweetened cocoa powder
½ c. Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1. tsp. kosher salt
½ c. vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. strong, hot coffee

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚ and grease and line the bottom of two 8” cake pans with parchment paper.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, both cocoa powders, baking soda, baking powder and salt until fully combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract until combined.
  4. With the mixer speed on low, add the egg mixture to the flour mixture until combined.
  5. Turn off the mixer. With a spatula, scrape the sides of the bowl to fully incorporate the two mixtures.
  6. Turn the mixer on low and slowly add the hot coffee to the batter. Once added, raise the speed to medium until completely homogenous.
  7. Divide batter evenly amongst the two cake pans and bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating the cake pans halfway.
  8. Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out of cake pan and move onto wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Coffee Frosting (for the filling)

Ingredients:
1 ½ c. whole milk
⅓ c. flour
¼ tsp. salt
12 oz. (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ c. sugar
1 – 1½ tbsp. coffee emulsion

Instructions:

  1. In a small pot over medium heat, whisk milk, salt and flour until combined.
  2. Continuously whisk mixture until thickened to a pudding like consistency.
  3. Once thickened, strain through a mesh strainer into a bowl with a spatula to remove lumps.
  4. Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the flour mixture (to prevent skin from forming) and put bowl into the fridge until fully cool.
  5. In a mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the sugar and butter on high speed until fluffy and pale about, 5-10 minutes.
  6. Add the chilled flour mixture and continue to whip on high speed until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is no longer gritty, about 5-10 minutes.
  7. Add 1 tbsp. coffee emulsion and mix until combined.
  8. Taste and if you want a stronger flavor, add another ½ tbsp. coffee emulsion.

Coffee and Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream (for the outside)

Ingredients:

1 ¼ c. sugar
5 large egg whites
3 ½ sticks unsalted butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. coffee emulsion
brown food gel color

Instructions:

  1. Simmer an inch of water in a medium pot.
  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk egg whites and sugar together.
  3. Place the bowl over the pot of simmering water and whisk the egg white and sugar mixture continuously until the mixture becomes lighter and no longer grainy.
  4. Remove the bowl from the pot and transfer the bowl into the mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.
  5. Mix on high until mixture becomes white and fluffy, and cool (check for this by seeing if the outside of the bowl is cool to the touch).
  6. Add in vanilla extract and butter one stick at a time until a silky smooth frosting forms.
  7. Remove a third of the vanilla frosting into a separate bowl.
  8. In the original mixing bowl, add 2 tsp. of the coffee emulsion and whip until light brown and homogenous.
  9. Remove half of the light brown frosting into a separate bowl.
  10. Add a few drops of brown food gel color and whip until the mixture becomes a deep brown.

Honey Roasted Peanut Brittle

¾ c. honey roasted peanuts
1 c. sugar
½ c. water

Instructions:

  1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat.
  2. In a small pot, boil sugar and water together until the mixture turns amber.
  3. Once the mixture turns amber, stir in peanuts and quickly transfer mixture onto the silicone mat using a silicone spatula.
  4. Spread the brittle with the spatula so that the peanuts are all one layer.
  5. Let cool and break into shards.