Holiday Bakes and New Skills

Well, what haven’t I cooked or baked lately. I’ve been rewatching old episodes of Bake Off and if that doesn’t inspire you to get down with some butter and cream then I don’t know what to do with you. It should at least inspire you to eat dessert, if you don’t want to make it!

Over the Christmas holiday I made a lot, a lot of delicious things. I made the smoky vanilla buttermilk fudge, I made chocolate biscuit cake, I made Irish cream. I made coffee ice cream and strawberry ice cream. I made a tapenade tarte soleil that was AH-MAY-ZING:


(I made another one more recently that looked even better but the evidence was consumed before it could be photographed.)

Speaking of Smitten Kitchen (and really…when am I not), I also made her Better Chocolate Babka:


I used the compressed timeline rather than the overnight version. Next time I will try the overnight method, but I wasn’t at all unhappy with how the babka turned out, and neither was anyone who ate it.

My Bake Off inspiration was to try and successfully make a genoise sponge, something at which I’ve failed wildly in the past. I used a very simple recipe and tried to exercise patience with the batter. It was mostly fine! I may have overbaked it slightly, but the rise was good and the two layers were perfectly level. When the cakes had cooled, I split them with my leveler and set them aside while I made an easy hazelnut buttercream. (Someday I’ll master something other than American buttercream but two new skills were enough for me in this outing.) I just used the Serious Eats recipe and replaced some of the vanilla with hazelnut flavoring.

After putting on a very thin crumb coat between all the layers and over the top and sides, I chilled the cake while studying a relatively straightforward recipe for a chocolate mirror glaze. I used one from a cake recipe because it seemed simple and used ingredients that I already had on hand. It was not difficult to make at all, and in the end, it worked – with an asterisk.

My mirror glaze was definitely shiny and did have a good flavor, but the appearance wasn’t exactly how I would have liked. This could have been for a couple reasons. One, I left the gelatin to bloom too long. It was a little bowl-shaped puck when I retrieved it to add to the glaze; it dissolved again but I wonder if this impacted the final overall appearance. Two, I used semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of a nicer chocolate. The recipe did not warn against this, but I feel like it could have affected the look of the glaze.

Anyway, definitely shiny:


Those aren’t bubbles in the glaze – it was perfectly smooth. They were more like…flecks? The consistency was perfect however, and it held together without being too rubbery.

And the cake was quite nice:


Overall I was very satisfied with the experience. A good-tasting result with a few adjustments to make and things to learn!

Last week I ordered coconut milk powder and coconut flavoring from King Arthur so I can make their coconut cake recipe. I’ll make that at some point soon and share the recipe and (hopefully successful) results.

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