Tag Archives: Beranbaum

Mini White Cakes + Citrus Curd + Mousseline Buttercream

My sister is coming from Virginia with her oldest daughter in a couple of days.  They used to be California types like us, but life’s necessities took her family to the East Coast for a few years before they were able to return to the Golden State, and then, opportunities not available here saw them back in Virginia.  Forever.  We stay in touch on Facebook, with occasional emails, and like a few mornings, ago phone calls from the grocery store while she was looking for cake flour.   My lovely, svelte sister is not a baker.  Lucky woman.

I miss her quite a bit these days, wondering if I’m suffering from the realization of not having taken advantage of her being closer when she was here.  There were quite a few years when she and I were each raising a house full of children and like most families, found time to get together for barbeques on birthdays and holidays, but we both had careers, so life was quite busy then.  I have three boys, and she, three girls.  She wanted a boy, and I a girl, but that wasn’t what happened, so I always thought I might get my fix of girls from spending time with hers — as in have sleep overs.  Tea parties.  Dressing up and painting toenails lots of crazy colors.  I guess one of my biggest flaws is idealism.  Silly me.  One can’t exactly have a tea party unless one invites a few tea party goers, can one?

Her youngest daughter– the last of our six boys and girls — is just finishing high school and so both my sister and I are facing very different times in our lives.  Mine has been focused on learning to live in a very quiet house newly void of boys since seeing my youngest off to college this past fall.  She is preparing for a wedding — her oldest daughter is to be married this coming summer.

As much as I missed many chances to get to know her daughters better than I have over the years, I was pleasantly surprised — humbled actually — to have my bride-to-be niece call late last year and ask if I might consider making her wedding cake.


Sure, I’ve made cakes.  Lots of them. But I’ve never made a wedding cake.


I’ve never made anything with fondant, either, choosing instead to watch from afar as others work wonders with it.

The cake is to be round, not square.  Three-tiers of lemon with vanilla buttercream for 100 guests.  White fondant with varied shades of  yellow teardrops cascading down the sides.  Clean, sleek, simple.

And I have to figure out how to get it to L.A. where the wedding will be held.

Thankfully, I have many baking friends willing to share their experiences with fondant with me, as well as other great resources I’ve been learning from.  I’ve also buried myself in my favorite cake book, Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible.  I enjoy it because of the way the recipes are organized including both weight and volume in the ingredients list.

Since we’ve had an amazing variety of citrus to enjoy this winter, I decided to use that to begin my first experiments in wedding cake baking.  Three types of citrus curd and buttercream filling six little square cakes covered with a reasonably edible fondant may seem a bit over zealous for a first attempt, but I have a tendency to be that way in general.  It pushes my thinking while I make an enormous mess in my kitchen.

My next practice session begins today so my niece and sister can sample the flavors when they arrive, then I’ll make necessary adjustments and practice a few more times before the real cake is baked in July.

Wish me luck, and by all means, if you’ve done this before and have any recommendations, I will be more than happy to listen.

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Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes

Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes

Yesterday was my oldest son’s birthday, and although I do make him a cake from one year to the next (he’s 31),  I didn’t this year.   Retrospectively, I did decide that the cupcakes made as a Valentine’s Day treat for my two remaining menfolk-in-residence might be as good a reason as any to coerce me to sit and write something in celebration.  My oldest loves chocolate cake, and had I asked what he might enjoy for his birthday, he’d have said chocolate.  Anything with chocolate.  Like his mother, he can do without the calories, so I think it’s fitting this year that a photo of a birthday cupcake take the place of the real McCoy as long as I can get him to look at my blog.  I’m not holding my breath because as my grandmother would have said, the chances are “slim to none and Slim’s on a fast train out of town.”

Where was I?

Cupcakes.  True to form, I haven’t tried either the cake or frosting recipe before, but have tried many others from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum.  This is the book I go to when I want to experiment.  If you’re not familiar with it, you won’t see glossy photos of each recipe.  It’s more of a work horse cookbook.  What sets it apart from other cookbooks is the way the ingredients are listed.  Measurements are provided by volume and weight which makes it quite easy to divide a recipe or to adjust ingredient quantities.  Cakes are presented in one section and toppings in another and although Beranbaum makes suggestions about which go best together, I enjoy considering all the options.  Each recipe also contains a brief section on “understanding” where the science is explained.  As much as I’ve been an avid cook most of my life, I don’t always understand how or why certain ingredients interact with one another, so it’s helpful to understand what may not work when I’m experimenting.

What caught my attention with this recipe was the brown sugar — not something I’m used to seeing in a recipe for chocolate cake.  Equally interesting was the recipe for the buttercream.  Yes, it has an alarming amount of butter in it (hence the name “butter” cream…), but it’s made with egg whites instead of egg yolks, and they aren’t cooked as they would be in a mousseline buttercream.  Both recipes work quite nicely with one another and make a very chocolatey combo that the resident menfolk finished off in a couple of bites — even if it wasn’t in celebration of either of their birthdays.

Speaking of birthdays, Sass & Veracity turns a big three years old this month and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to share with you that Saveur magazine has graciously nominated me in their 1st Annual Best Food Blog Awards in the “Best Individual Post” category.  I’m very honored considering those whose work is sitting alongside mine.  They understand the time and effort it takes to put a good post together — let alone two or three in a week.  The post Saveur has chosen to focus on is one I wrote after returning from Puerto Vallarta last spring at about the time that H1N1 was gaining momentum.  A group of friends and I met there in celebration of a 40th birthday only to find that we may have trouble getting back across the border.  We didn’t, of course, and thankfully I was able to have fun with my own version of Mexican street tacos, which have absolutely nothing to do with chocolate fudge cupcakes or birthdays.

Are you with me?

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