Here is my attempt at creating a "garden panorama" so you can have a little look at where the magic happens.
(Well... that is one of the magic-conjuring locations around these parts ((note: by "magic" in this context I mean BIG beautiful food showing up out of the dirt and kids and big people hopefully realizing that the answer to the question "where does dinner come from?" can be "the garden!!" rather than "the grocery store"... (no joke, I have heard that quote many a time)
So that discombobulated panorama is the top garden... there is a lower garden who supplies those monster blackberries and a lot of other purple food like Peruvian potatoes and purple kohlrabi and exotic stuff like salsify!! woah we'll get to that later) ANYWAY that montage ... I've been googling and cropping and nipping and did I mention I have no patience...its not very straight. It doesn't highlight the details very well... If I was only the sort of person who could just concentrate on one thing and actually sit down and read say a book about "how to make a photo montage in Adobe lightroom" or maybe there is one on "how to remember to measure your ingredients so you can write recipes that actually list amounts of ingredients"....
but things like this happen when I am trying to concentrate on one (or eight) things at once...
And I run outside going wowieWOWIEwowieWOWWW and I snap snip snap photo after photo and then my (incredibly focused, non-multitasking thank goodness for him) husband grabs his cool red pentax and implements his amazing panorama-cizing skills and voila'! That is a DvT original.
And then I am outside and I realize (a) it has stopped raining and (b) the lack of attention to aforementioned magic-happening locale for the past month is inexcusable. So I prance up to the thicket and
oh my !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Well hallelujah it is about time I see some results. Or wait, how about "thanks Mo' Nature, you really came through". Thats better. I am ecstatic for the impending artichoke dinner. Unfortunately not many people will be invited because I don't see too many of these badboys kicking around - though there are three on this one plant! jump-jump-jump!!! ...will report back later.
A typical day would involve me going back inside to find that I left a half of a giant bag-full of beans sitting on the counter in mid-pickling process...
big bag o' beans. Then I would probably get a phone call or three, answer some emails, google something like "why have I had a sinus headache for two weeks straight, I feel like someone is squeezing my head and lifting me up by my neck" and there might be a result. Then I would think wow, there is someone else like me out there, then I'd remember about the pickles and remember that I don't actually like pickling (patience issue) because it takes so much time and that is something I dream about... spare time to pickle... wait, if I had spare time to pickle, I'd probably make a cake... which brings me to the list of cakes that I want to invent this month (or re-create and remember to m-e-a-s-u-r-e so I can share the recipes...) such as that Bruléed pineapple & yogurt cake accompanied by brown sugar & cayenne spiced walnut ice cream... THEN I would remember the site of this in the freezer....
which makes me think of this
And the fact that we finally get (got to) eat our wedding cake!!!
I have heard horror stories of much anticipated first anniversaries punctuated by disappointing dried out crumbs... but I was hopeful... that cake was the most delicious cake ever... well a year ago it was anyway... and okay, maybe we are a little biased...
It could also have been the amazing team effort that made it so incredible... Our rockstar pastry-chef friend Chris came over a couple days before the wedding and got to work on ganache-ing and assembly...
(this was taken after the ganache extravaganza, at the wedding)
He took the cake layers that I baked in July, out of the freezer and got to work with the salted caramel sauce I had put together the week before and made a veritable vat of velveteen ganache. ganache ganache ganache. I love that word.
Our cousin Emily the floral wizardress brought over those outrageously perfect bouganvillias (yes they are real AND you can eat them!)
(pictured here collecting cool, lengthy serpentine-y grasses that later were incorporated into the most stunning flower arrangements I have ever seen...and I'll tell you what, I've seen some arrangements)
My lovely bridesmaid Samantha stopped over to my (awesome pastry chef) friend Annie's yard in Atlanta where she has a bay leaf tree (!!) and harvested some boughs, put them in her suitcase and jumped on a plane, met up with dear Katie, the girls found those gorgeous pears en route from the Cape and then crystallized them with paint brushes on Friday morning!!
Before such dainty and edible work could ensue, mind you, there were some necessary de-dirtifyng rituals to attend to...
We had to get serious (some of you may be familiar with the state of a farmers foot in late August...) and Samantha found just the secret weapon for the job
So there you have the deconstruction of our wedding cake.
And if you hadn't before pondered the connection between gojo and wedding cakes, maybe you learned a little something new today.
OK OK the other reasons why this cake is so off-the-chain delicious, is because it marries sweet and salty. I think sweet and salty are a match made in heaven... woah, with reference to food that is, not humans, I don't think. It is important to note however, that even if you are not a fan of the opposite flavors combinination trend, this cake is not actually salty in the 'ewww I added salt rather than sugar to my coffee' sense...
So last July when I saw a few inspiring cakes by Martha, and consulted Annie, the same (cool as can be, sweetheart & badass pastry chef) gal who has the bayleaf tree in her yard, suggested I have a look at the "Sweet & Salty Cake" recipe from the bakery "Baked" in Brooklyn...
I was SOLD. And I still am. Our anniversary was last Sunday, August 21
(we found a treehouse on an island in Lake Champlain)
and we just polished off the last crumb this morning...a week later... you see our top layer was extra tall (one of my more clever ideas) and the thing never dried out.
Actually, contrarily, it was the most-moist perfect crumb-ed creation... perhaps that is thanks to Chris' protective forcefield in the form of a silky triple-wall ganache so to speak...
I know, I know, maybe this doesn't qualify under my usual insistance on fresh food... but some traditions are worth implementing... Like calling your bride's parents to ask permission to get down on one knee for example... (a brilliant way to ensure perpetual impressed-ness of the 'rents)
OK the RECIPE! This baby has three parts - the cake, the SAUCE, and the ganache. The recipe which inspired this cake uses a whipped caramel ganache but we opted for a darker, richer, silkier ganache for ours...
And we obviously had loads of experience cutting wedding cakes, hahahaha... I think we are declaring that that top best make to a safe place...
(8in. x 3in. layer version of) Jojo & Vonny's bittersweet chocolate & salted caramel wedding cake (Inspired by Baked bakery's Sweet & Salty Cake)
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder ( I used the best stuff I could find... worth it - but a forewarning - cocoa must be a hot commodity these days because the nice ones are $$$)
- 2/3 cup sour cream
- 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
- 3.5 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt (I use Sel Gris, my fave!)
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening (YIKES right!? who uses that yucky stuff anymore... I found this non hydrogenated, organic palm oil version at the health-food store - next time I am going to try coconut oil)
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (I use raw organic)
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla
- 1 tbsp whiskey!
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and butter three 8x2in round cake pans (your normal cake rounds - or you could use any shape you want!! - this chart will help you figure out how much batter to use for your choice of pans) Line each pan with a parchment paper round, butter and flour the parchment. Note - you can just wing it without parchment if you are not as concerned about perfect edges...
Whisk together the 3/4 cup cocoa, 1 1/4 cups hot water, and the sour cream and set aside to cool.
In another large bowl, sift together 2 2/3 cups flour, 3.5 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp. salt. Set aside.
Beat the 1.5 sticks butter and 1/2 cup shortening together until very smooth, about 6 mins (use electric mixer w/ paddle if you have it!) While the mixer is on low, add 1.5 cups sugar and 1 cup brown sugar and beat until fluffy, about 7 mins. Add 3 large eggs, one at a time, and beat until well incorporated. Add 1 tbsp vanilla & 1 tbsp whiskey! (whiskey always deserves an exclamation point). Stop the mixer and rubber spatulize (killer new word!) the sides of the bowl to make sure all ingredients are incorporated, then beat again for 30 seconds. Begin to add the flour mixture - alternating with the cocoa mixture, until all of your batter is a luscious thick sea of rich darkness!
Divide the batter evenly among the three pans. Bake about 20 mins - until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let it cool completely - no exceptions.
Salty Caramel (Adapted from Baked bakery - the only thing I changed was using Sel Gris instead of Fleur de sel - but I did make double the sauce and cooked the second batch for a longer time which resulted in an amazzzzing ooey-gooey caramel sauce that we heated up and poured over everything in sight until it ran out. Then our teeth were rotten and we spent way too much $ at the dentist.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon fleur de sel (I use Sel Gris again here)
- 1/4 cup sour cream
Combine 1/4 cup water, 1 cup sugar, and 2 tbsp corn syrup in a saucepan. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Position a candy thermometer and watch like a hawk until the mixture reaches 350 degrees (approx. 10 minutes).
In a different (small) saucepan, mix together cream and salt. Bring cream to a boil and cook 3 to 5 minutes, just until the salt has dissolved - again, watch like a hawk. Then set aside.
After the caramel reaches 350 degrees, remove it from the heat and allow to cool for 1 minute. Add the hot cream mixture, stirring to combine (and being careful not to splash the molten lava on yourself like yours truly...) Whisk in the sour cream. Cool down, try not to eat it all before you have a chance to put it on the cake, and store it in a jar in the refrigerator.
A good go-to Ganache
- 1 lb bittersweet (or semi-sweet) chocolate (I often use Ghirardhelli 60% cacao chips but if you've got the coin go with scharffenberger or Valrhona!)
- 1.5 cups heavy cream
- 2 tbsp light corn syrup (if you want some sheen action)
*Note - for this cake I kept it simple but I often add some strong brewed espresso or even some ultra finely ground espresso
**Note #2 - If you want a fluffy, rather than shiny, consistency and look, you can let the ganache cool completely and then whip it with an electric mixer before icing your cake.
Put the 1lb of chocolate into a large stainless steel or ceramic bowl. Over medium heat, bring 1.5 cups cream and 2 tbsp corn syrup to a simmer, then pour this mixture over the chocolate and let sit for a fe seconds until the chocolate starts to melt...
Beginning near the center and working outward, stir the melting chocolate into the cream starting with your spoon at the center of the bowl. Stir just until mixture is smooth.
Set aside in a cool spot or in the refrigerator and give it a stir every 5 minutes or so, until the frosting just begins to thicken. This is when you should spread it - when it is still slightly warm and ultra silky. Or, if you are opting for a whipped look, cool it all the way down and whip before spreading it. Whatever you decide, remember to lick the bowl.
To achieve that silky look for your final layer, you may need to reheat the ganache ever-so-slightly so that it spreads on flawlessly...
This is where I like to utilize the old lazy susan... Don't worry if you don't have one though, I've been cake-ing for about 26 years and I just got one the other day...
(killer mu-mu Grandma Mimi, where'd you stash that beauty!??)
Using a long serrated knife, trim the tops of cakes to make level. Place the first cake layer onto your cake plate (put a dab of icing or caramel to secure it to the plate). Using a 1/4 cup measure, dip into the caramel, and spread a thin layer on the cake, allowing some of it to soak into the cake. Now, you can either let it soak in and then follow up with another bit of caramel or you can do a layer of the ganache here (I'd recommend whipping about a cup or a little more than a cup) of your ganache for the interior if you choose to go this route.) Place the second layer on top and repeat the regime with another layer of caramel followed by a layer of ganache. Place the remaining layer on top of the second layer bottom side up. Now for the final coating of icing - make sure your ganache is smooth and spreadable (warm it up a little if need be) and pour it on slowly, turning the lazy susan if you're using one and spreading with a spatula... * I will add in some pics the next time I do this! :)
Then - either sprinkle the top with some of your Sel Gris or Fleur de Sel or get your friends in on the scene and go all out...
I am thinking of my dear friend Kristen who is very pregnant and dreaming of this cake... the stork might have to bring two special deliveries her way ;)
I want to hear about your baking stories and remember yes, you can bake your own wedding cake, and no you don't have to pay an arm and a leg for a (perhaps stunningly beautiful) fondant coated sculpture that (oh dear) probably tastes YUCKY because that stuff is so WEIRD.
I'm going to bake cakes.