Making a Geode Cake – at home!

photo-08-09-2016-19-19-09On a daily basis (and mostly around a time that I should be sleeping) I drool over pretty pictures on Instagram, mostly coming from Tortik Annushka, Whipped Cake Co or Coco Cakeland. And who can blame me, I mean these cakes are so, so beautiful! Now to make something in that category is off course a complete different ballgame in terms of added life quality.

The good news is that I think this Geode Cake came together relatively easy, especially if you have baked standard layered cakes before (if not, this guide and these tips might come in handy). I would lie if I tell you that it is quick, because it is not, but if you are looking for a fun project, then I would say, roll up your sleeves and get going. And to add an argument in the mix: mono-tasking and relearning the art of patience are totally cool these days.
Rather than giving you a recipe, I am giving you a list of tips and required ingredients / tools below. It took me quite some time to figure out what would be the best / easiest way to do this and am happy to share my experience so that you can save yourself some doubts and time.
Have fun (and please don’t hesitate to comment in case you have questions)!

A short summary of my main tips & tricks:

  1. Make sure that you hand-color your sugar crystals, it will make your cake 1000 times more elegant.
  2. Be careful with cutting out too much cake for your geode, less is more – plus the cake made into ‘geode’ is inedible due to the rock-hard sugar, you will have to slice around it.
  3. Try to avoid heavily colored cake-filling and rather opt for something that is a little more sturdy, non-drippy, like white-chocolate ganache or fudge. (I used strawberry marmelade and really had to work around the red bleeding into the geode).
  4. Try to work as precise as you can, and whenever you seem to get frustrated, place the cake in the fridge and make yourself a nice cup of tea – it will get easier.
Making a Geode Cake – at home!

Ingredients

  • 1 finished (white) smooth-frosted (layer-)cake (I made this Italian Buttercream layer cake)
  • 1 cup of extra frosting
  • 1 sharp knife and a spoon
  • Rock Sugar - uncolored (I bought something called 'Kandis' in German or 'kandijsuiker' in Dutch - which is way cheaper than buying rock-sugar sticks)
  • Food coloring - I used Wilton's gel colors (from the basic collection 'Violet' and 'Black')
  • A small brush
  • 1 tablespoon of clear alcohol, such as vodka
  • Pestle and Mortar (to smash the rock sugar in to smaller pieces)
  • 1 tweezer (either brand new and super-clean or one bought from a pastry shop)
  • Gold Leave, around 8-10 leaves
  • A larger brush (wider) to apply to gold leaves
  • (If you want to transport the cake: a sturdy cakeboard that is larger than the diameter of your cake)

Instructions

  1. To start off: my main aim was to make a cake that is elegant. When I was looking around online, it seemed like a lot of home-made geode cakes on Pinterest lacked a certain finesse, due to the fact that the rock sugar was monotone in color and left in too big pieces. Another mistake is - from my point of view - is to cover too much of the cake in 'geode' construction.
  2. And by all means - I tried to avoid the lady-parts look at this geode (and I don't even know how to say this differently but once you start to look at the Pinterest pictures from that perspective it is hard not to laugh out loud).
  3. So, to achieve all of this: start with coloring your rock sugar. You might want to get a head-start on this and do this the day before you build up your cake to make sure the pieces are dried (and thus easier to handle).
  4. Use three small bowls (I used egg cups for this), and place vodka in one, and the purple and black food coloring gel each in one as well.
  5. Get a piece of baking paper and place the rock sugar on it.
  6. The amount pictured was (to my surprise) way too much for one cake, I would estimate I used 20% of that.
  7. Take the small brush and dip this in the vodka and then in the foodcoloring. I added more vodka to the coloring between coloring some crystals to create different shades of black and purple.
  8. In any case, be sure to not color around 30% of your crystals, to keep the appearance of your geode natural.
  9. After the sugar crystals are dried (for me it took around 24 hours), place them in a pestle and smash carefully with a mortar. I can imagine that this would also work between two wooden boards or with a dough roller. Be careful to leave enough bigger pieces to work with.
  10. Now get a cold, frosted cake (I made a layer cake with italian buttercream and carefully mark the surroundings of your geode.
  11. I marked the outer linings with a little wooden pick, to make sure I would make too big of a hole in the nice cake.
  12. Then, carefully cut into the cake where you drew the line and use a spoon to deepen the space. Be careful as you don't want the pieces of cake to drop against the rest of the smooth outside of your cake.
  13. Also keep in the back of your mind: all the cake you are making into a geode, is cake lost, as nobody wants to chew on rock-hard pieces of sugar.
  14. Then, use the extra frosting that you have on hand to line the inside of the gap you made in the cake. You will need this to stick the pieces of sugar in.
  15. After you have carefully covered the inside of the cavity with buttercream, you can shortly place the cake in the fridge (for about 15 minutes). This will make everything more firm and easier to work with. Having said that, it might also make it more difficult to get the sugar crystals to stick.
  16. Try to find out what works for you.
  17. Now place yourself on a chair in front of the cake (to avoid your hand from shaking - unless you are wayyyy cooler than I am that is;)) and start placing the pieces of sugar in the cavity, placing the darker ones on the inside, brighter ones to the outside.
  18. This is all a matter of taste and you can spend as much (or as little) time as you like.
  19. Then, when you have applied sugar crystals in all of the cavity and can't fit in anymore, have a look at the color. Do you like it? If not, you can still amend it a little by using the same paint as you used to color the rock sugar and carefully put it in there. I thought this was really scary, but this way I was able to fine-tune the looks of the geode.
  20. Let your cake firm up in the fridge before you continue with the last step, applying the gold leave. Then, when the cake has sat in the fridge for around 2 hours, take out a larger brush and the gold leave. With help of the brush, carefully place the gold leave around the geode. This is a messy process and the leaves will often tear up - I'm afraid there is not much to do about that and my advice is to let it go and roll with it. It seems like it always ends up being truly beautiful.
  21. After you have added gold leave to your liking - your geode cake is ready!
https://tukskitchen.com/2016/10/17/making-a-geode-cake-at-home/

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Italian Buttercream Sprinkle Cake

Photo 09-06-16 21 14 11Although I do love the word ‘naked cake’, I think working with buttercream is tremendous fun. Besides all possible decorating fun, buttercream also does a surprisingly amount of hard work in the flavor department. It seems like all the dough, filling and topping melt together in a very pleasant way. 

Even though that all sounds very airy, it took me a lot of trial and error before I succesfully made buttercream. In the name of project wedding cake I made and tried different kinds of buttercream (I know, a very special detox program in case you have a big party to look forward to ;)). A very helpful guide was recently published by Food52 and I can only recommend reading this if you’re interesting. If you’re not really up for reading more, I have found us a perfect recipe!

My favorite buttercream turns out to be Italian (or meringue) buttercream. This type of buttercream is made on a basis of egg whites whipped stiff with hot sugar syrup. When the meringue is ready, you gradually add pieces of butter. This way the bulk of your cream is coming from eggs, not from sugar, which makes a less sweet butter cream than for example an all-American buttercream that I have made in the past. The consistency is wonderfully creamy when you have just whipped it, which makes it really easy to cover and pipe a cake. After you put your cake in the fridge this cream does firm up beautifully as well, which is a big plus as it makes it less likely that you will damage or dent your cake.

Due to the emulsion of the egg whites and butter, the process of making Italian Buttercream is a lot like making mayonnaise. Whenever during the process the mixture tends to crumble, you can fix this by either cooling the bowl in an icebath or melting a small portion in the microwave. In case your buttercream doesn’t seem to firm up: just keep mixing it. Helpful clues are to not double portions but rather take the time to make each portion individually (otherwise it might take hours to firm up), and to use a standing mixer (or have someone help you in the process). In case of trouble, I have found this blog post to be very helpful, if not soothing.

And in case you have made your buttercream, why not cover it in sprinkles?:)

On a more practical note: a cake covered in sprinkles or fondant will be much easier to transport than a cake that is solely covered in buttercream. This beauty traveled all the way from Frankfurt to Amsterdam (!) and still looked unaffected.  View Full Post

Confetti Cookies

Confetti Cookies - Tuks Kitchen

Confetti Cookies – Tuks Kitchen

Anyone else completely sucked up in a series? I know this is the most unlikely time of the year to come up with this (like really, why can’t I just settle for picnicking and grilling now?!), but I honestly can’t stop watching Lie to Me. Well, that and eating cookies. My rather worrisome new habits aside, these cookies are really worth talking about.

I used to be sceptical about cookies as they take some care and time, but these days I really start to warm up to the concept. There is something incredibly inviting having homemade cookies around.

It *might* have something to do with the fact that it is perfectly unnoticeable to have a cookie yourself before taking a batch outdoors. How often would you already take a slice out of a piece of cake before bringing it to a party or bringing it out of the kitchen?

I know!! Well, cookies more or less solve this problem. Have a wonderful weekend, filled to the brim with coffee and cookies. 😉 View Full Post

Project Baking my own Wedding Cake – part I: the Introduction

Photo 21-02-16 12 04 19I might have casually dropped this on you before, but for real, I am baking our wedding cake (!). We will be getting married in May and I’ve embraced this cake project in the fullest way possible.
My not so hidden agenda is to have as much anticipating fun as possible, especially when this involves me pottering around the kitchen and feeding my friends (test audience sounds even much better!). But honestly I think that if there’s one day that I would like the cake to taste amazing, it will be this day, and I am happy to contribute to that. 

After reading Deb Perelman’s wedding cake series, I was convinced that this project would be a good idea. Because yes, it all makes sense. There is no way that a professional bakery can put as much effort into every little detail as you would yourself, due to the fact that they are restricted to their time-efficient processes and profit margins.

Now, there is no way to really avoid saying that I went into this project head-on without any clue about crumb-coating (what?), trimming a cake or building up a layer cake in general. My previous attempts on buttercream have looked somehow fit for a low-key birthday party but have lacked the oomph I generally drool over on Instagram. In case you are worried, please consider yourself in good company (read: possibly everyone around me in a good state of mind). 

By no means am I considering myself an expert, but what I would like to share with you is what I learned over the last couple of months. As there are actually many steps to baking and building up a layered cake, I will discuss in a couple of blog posts.

And in case you are not on the market (ha!) for a wedding cake, just consider that the same principles apply to baking any layered cake with a bit of festive ba-boom.
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Principles of this Wedding Cake:

  • Happy couple plus happy guests equals awesome wedding. I would love this cake to look absolutely stunning, but it is not the most important thing. Non-perfection is perfectly acceptable and I would choose taste over looks one million times (which I think is also the perfect thought for any wedding;)).
  • There will be around 80-100 guests that are hopefully all hungry for cake! The cake will be served after dinner, which – according to the venue – means that not everyone will eat a huge piece. If it would be up to me we would solely eat cake but I don’t want to spoil appetites before the ‘real food’ is served (not my words;)). Altogether I decided to play it safe and I’m holding on to the Cake Bible’s portion guides.
  • Our wedding venue is 200 meters away from our home and this means that I will be able transport the cake by walking to the venue, holding the cake (stand) in my hands. I’m therefore lucky enough to not have to worry about packaging, the cake getting warm or a bumpy road.
  • The cake will be having a simple, round shape as I didn’t want to buy extra springforms. I’ve decided upon a rather large 26 cm diameter springform and have bought three of those to be able to bake different layers in one go.  
  • The cakes themselves need to be simple, not too sweet and sturdy enough to hold up. The choice is to make one cake a classic yellow cake, and the other one a classic chocolate cake. Requirement is that the cakes need to be prepared in advance, wrapped and frozen without a loss of taste or texture.
  • I love cakes with intriguing fillings and have chosen accordingly, preferring those that can be prepared far in advance. The choice is a Homemade Simple Lemon Curd filling in the yellow cake, combined with slivered strawberries (how I love spring!). The chocolate cake will be filled with alternating salted Dulce de Leche (!) and raspberry marmelade. These fillings can be made at least one month upfront, and it is only the strawberries that need to be cleaned and sliced last minute.
  • Upon starting this project, I gave myself a budget to invest in some kitchen tools. Having said that, I have been careful not to procure anything that will not serve use in the future. Hereby a short summary of the materials I already had or have bought: three large spring forms, two large mixing bowls, multiple spatulas to mix with, a buttercream plastic comb (from the Ikea), food coloring (I’d highly recommend you buying good quality gels), a hand mixer, a little brush, dowels, a cake board to support the cake, a strong piping bag (worth the investment as many have failed on me), a pasta machine (not necessary, but utterly brilliant to ‘roll out’ fondant with), a cake turning table and this mind-blowing tool to make roses.
  • Tips for buying tools: think thoroughly about what you’re really going to need. Then, think outside the box. Have a look at your local DIY store, as similar tools tend to be available, but for much better prices. Examples are a turning element to put your cake on (instead of a cake-turning table), paint spatulas (to apply buttercream), small paint brushes (to sprinkle any sparkling dust on your cake) and floor levellers (to make the top of your cake even).
  • What I didn’t buy: cake strips (I found I didn’t need those when I baked my cakes at a low temperature and in thin layers), a cake leveler (instead of slicing cakes horizontally, I chose to bake thinner layers, to avoid the mess), complicated piping tips or molding tools.

Still under consideration:

  • I am still debating how many tiers the cake will have. Initially I considered to make two large round 1-tier cakes, but I start to realise that there is quite some visual appeal in having a stacked cake. My main worry here is that the cake will need to be disassembled (right?) before slicing into it and that a stacked cake needs a strong foundation, to prevent the top cake from sinking or collapsing into the bottom tier.
    To achieve this, the top tier cake is placed on a cake board and dowels (wooden or plastic sticks) are stuck in the bottom tier cake. I am planning to practice using these tools the upcoming weeks and will let time decide whether I am comfortable with all of it.  
  • Buttercream will be the only thing to cover the cakes. Reason for this is that I really do not like the sweetness (and general blandness) of fondant, even though it tends to look beautiful. At the moment I am trying out different buttercream recipes that are not using a majority of sugar, but are rather less-sweet tasting, such as Swiss Buttercream or Buttercream on a basis of roux (cooked milk with flour).
  • The decoration of the cakes and the looks of it in general is the thing that worries me most, as it is completely out of my comfort zone. I’ve watched several youtube videos (you are warned, this couple is amazing and the rabbit hole is luring!) to get accustomed to the different steps and the apparent needed precision (so much patience!). I hope to make a cake with white buttercream, a dotted boarder, and a stream of fondant roses on the side. 
  • The timing is still a debacle, as the cake needs to be ready two days in advance, including the buttercream frosting and decoration, due to the fact that the day prior to our wedding is a banking holiday and the venue will be closed the day prior to our wedding. Alternatively we could do the last bits of assembling on the day of our wedding (there will be a three hour break), but I can imagine that the chances of me collapsing with cake into dress or into handsome suit are increasing.

Sources that I have found useful:
The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum (a very old-fashioned cooking book in a way that it doesn’t have many pictures, but really in depth with its technical descriptions, warning is that you do need to take a bit of time to dig into all of the information);
Smitten Kitchen, the wedding cake series;
Smitten Kitchen with tips on making layered cakes;
Food52 on baking a wedding cake;
Cake Style on Youtube (in case you find yourself unable to stop watching, consider yourself warned :)). 

Big Mac Phyllo-dough Pie

Photo 14-02-16 12 47 35Last week I read this article that I think is just spot-on. Because really no food is healthy, it is all about nutrition and keeping an eye on the balance of all of it (truthfully, sometimes the scope really needs to be broadened to make up for some days, but eventually they will;)).

So in case my awesome roommate (also fiancee (!)) is a great fan of Big Macs, we are not aiming for a ‘healthy’ version of it. Nope. We are aiming for a better version. And I am calling it better because there is a lack of soggy sweet bread, because there is a deep umami flavor, there’s crunch (!) and best of all it can be eaten at a real dining table with cutlery and candles (for the win!).

The idea for this pie comes from the Flavour Thesaurus in which Signit argues that what makes a Big Mac so intriguingly good is actually the dill pickles, mustard and meat together in a sandwich. These tastes have been taken to a next level in this phyllo dough pie. I can imagine you are sceptical, but I’m not kidding when I say it’s good. 🙂 View Full Post