Always pack a towel… Sweet Vanilla Mascarpone Cream with Raspberry Cake (pg. 206)

People keep asking me “how are your travel arrangements going?”

I have a difficult time with this one because a) my life hasn’t actually come to a stand-still and so there are other things I would like to talk about and b) I’m trying to not think about it.

Mainly because, while I actually, deeply desire change regularly, I am very reactive, which means I do change when change happens, but I normally don’t bother to do it myself unless I’ve thought about it for…like a year. Gotta be sure, right?

Mentally, I’m pretty okay with this. I wish I could pack some peeps in my suitcase and drag them with me, but aside from that I’m fine. However, deep down inside my cobwebbed heart I guess I’m terrified because the stress is doing a number on me physically. Which. Is. Annoying.

I’m solving this by pretending I’m fine (see previous paragraph) and drowning myself in the English, which is sort of making me feel like a teenager again, except with fewer superfluous safety pins and chains on my clothes.

I make pies and Madness tells me to stay calm during rush hour.

I cycle at the gym and Neil Gaiman teaches me the Tube system.

And thanks to Netflix and my film collection, I’m all caught up with the rock suicides, the silly walks, extermination of the human race, awkward sexual harassment at the office, vacationing by mistake, how Vivienne Westwood became so popular, skin heads can be racist or they could just be nice guys who like big boots and short hair, and skiing is a great way to escape a deranged religious man who wants to cut off your hand.

With that, I assume while I’m in London I’ll likely see Morrissey and Jarvis Cocker in a pub arguing over who is more miserable and that the Benny Hill song mysteriously plays whenever the coppers chase criminals.

One more thing before I moan about how much I dislike this cake:

One time I went to New Orleans by myself. THAT was terrifying. But it turned out to be rather awesome. No one tried to stab me. Southerners are wonderfully kind people.  At the airport I was picked up by the cabbie who worked regularly for the B&Bers I was staying with. His name was Bernie and he was terribly charming and highly enthusiastic about the city. The owners of the B&B were out of town, but their friend Richard was watching the place. I spent some time drinking tea and talking with Richard, partly because everyone warned against my being a lone female at night in a the city with the third highest homicide rate in the country, and partly because he was a neat guy. A sharp contrast against Bernie, Richard spoke so slowly, softly, in his smooth southern drawl. Every word was so deliberate.
While Bernie drove me back to the airport at the end of my stay, he received a phone call.
“Hey, Richard! What’s up? Oh really? You were just thinkin’ about me so you thought you’d give me a call? That’s nice. Do you need anything from the store? Yeah, I can get some Sprite for ya. That all? Yeah, okay. I’ll see ya later, Richard.” He hangs up.

“He called you because he was thinking about you and he wanted to let you know?” I asked.

“Yeah, he does that all the time.” Bernie laughed. Too bloody cute.

Of course, I thought about how I never do that, but that I should probably start, since I’m terrible at vocalizing how much I care for and appreciate the people in my life. Always been more of a gesture kind of person. And subtle ones at that. So subtle I often doubt people pick up on them.

On that note, here is a short open letter to the Lady in London:


You know I like to keep my emotions level (unless, of course, a useless fucking server is involved) because, quite frankly, getting excited for things has never managed to get me anywhere. So while I reply in a monotoned voice that this is going to be fun and I’m fairly excited and blah blah blah, I actually mean it. You know I don’t like using bangs, probably because they remind me of people who like unicorns (god knows why), but I’m seriously looking forward to working with you. You are awesome. I’ve always been totally intimidated by your confidence and talents (in a good way, I hope it rubs off on me). When I said you’ll always be smarter than me, I didn’t mean that as a jab — I’m lucky to know you, I’m lucky to have found someone who shares my passion (I can’t talk to anyone about pastry the way I can talk to you), and the only reason I have the opportunity to do this is because you are in my life. You rock. I can’t wait. I’m sorry times a billion it has taken me this long to get there.

Oh yeah, I have to write about the cake now.


Raspberries and I have a complicated relationship, which is mostly one-sided. My beef with these handsome little guys is the way they are used; I feel like if the goal is to sell something or make it more popular, or appeal a dish to the masses, just make it with raspberry and everyone will be over-the-moon. And the thing about it is IT WORKS. So that doesn’t make me hate the raspberry, but rather I feel bad for it. We aren’t using it for what it is. Instead we cook the shit out of them, giving them a metallic flavour.  I like to think that food is an intellectual preparation. That someone sat down and seriously considered the flavour profile, made tests, tasted the components separately as well as together, tested some more, and voila!* Deliciousness. Alas, often this is not the case. Le sigh.

I honestly don’t see how raspberry makes this cake anything special. On the plus side, I know a bunch of hungry café boys who were more than happy to take care of this for me.

Here is the cake recipe, because I think its crazy versatile, but I think there are many fruits out there that would benefit this cake. The raspberries are done no justice here.

Raspberry Cake (pg. 207)

224g Butter, soft

200g Eggs (4)

500g Raspberry purée

100g Chambord

480g Sugar

450g Flour

20g Baking Powder


First off, this cake happens to show the only publication error in the Modern Café. It guides you on a Choose Your Own Adventure type journey to find the directions on mixing technique, and then you end up not actually knowing how to make the cake. I’ve made this many times, using various fruits and liquors, and had no problems save for the technique being a shot in the dark. All I can say is this: the batter may break, just live with it. It’s go so much moisture in it, the cake comes out beautiful every time.

Buy raspberries. I used 620g of frozen berries, thawed, to obtain 450g purée. Run them through a food processor, then a drum sieve or strainer. Or buy purée if you are so lucky to know a place that carries it.

Cream the butter and sugar until light. Make sure the eggs and purée are the same temperature (room temp) as the butter. Add eggs in three additions. Combine the Chambord and purée, then stir into the butter and eggs. Add the vanilla. Sift the flour (I prefer pastry, but I’ve also made it with AP and GF without problems) and baking powder. Fold into the wet. Don’t over mix. Spread on a parchment lined sheet pan and bake 10 minutes (or until it springs back) at 350 in a non-convection oven (325 if convection).

The Vanilla Mascarpone Cream… I’ll give you a brief run-down, I’ve said too much already. Basically, Migoya directs one to warm the cheese, gelatin, sugar, and vanilla over a bain marie until the gelatin melts, then build the cake. Welp, this is a liquid situation that doesn’t layer at all. I whipped it to room temp, but it persisted in dripping. I’d had my reservations about this working. I folded in some whipped cream, but came to the same road block as the previous cake; the fat was too high, the texture ended up a bit grainy (though this could have also been the cheese). It was not especially offensive closer to room temp, but I was still annoyed. Boring flavour, irritating directions that didn’t make sense. Oh well. It looks cute.

The chocolate is matte and slightly rippled because I packed my acetate and had to use parchment. Boohoo.

*Yes, I used a dreaded bang. But really. Who can say voila without one?

Ohohoh. I used up the rest of the batter to make madeleines. Turns out glaze made of purée + icing sugar + booze = pretty and tasty.


A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering…Fail? Peanut butter mousse, milk chocolate chantilly, chocolate cake, blahblahblah (pg. whatever)

It’s been a while.

I went to Europe. It was not what I thought it would be. Well, Europe hasn’t changed much since my last visit, so that’s not what I mean. A friend who works at a hotel in central London arranged a short stage for me during my visit.

For readers uncertain of what a stage is (pronounced with a long a), it is basically an internship. The noun is Stagiair (with an e in the feminin, and strangely enough it’s anagram is agiterais – to agitate, which some stagiairs do with flair) and they are how the world’s finest restaurants a) train amazing chefs and b) stay in business.  Places that hold two or more Michelin stars, and especially those ranked on San Pellegrino’s list of the 100 best restaurants in the world take advantage (and so they should) of the eager young chefs happy to crack hundreds of eggs, trim micro greens, and sweep for free. For some (if not all) of the top 25 restaurants, half to three quarters of the kitchen staff are on a highly-coveted stage.

I don’t think it is as glamorous as it sounds; I myself have only had this one experience, though I’ve had a couple of stagiairs work under me, so I cannot speak for those fortunate Chefs who have gone through the system*, but this stage felt just like being back at the bistro. Which was…relieving considering I had quit because I thought I was a failface at my job. Okay. This is what it is like. Deal.

I guess I made some kind of impression. Mostly I think I was very comfortable and got on very well with the boys in the kitchen (boys! I miss working with boys!), but I didn’t really fuck anything up so I suppose my abilities played a role as well. They offered me a job.

So, now I move to London? I guess so. Which also means this blog is going to…change. Question mark.

Tonight I was speaking to the Pastry Chef who I will be joining and she exclaims how exciting it is that we now have a Commis.

Note: a Commis is the lowest level position in the French kitchen brigade system. Everyone starts out a Commis. Sadface. 

Okay, that’s great! Olymics are going to murder us, so we have someone to make tuiles! (First pastry commis chore, always). Except this commis worked at… A resto I shant name but is owned by one of the best chefs in the UK and who also happens to be one of my favourites, despite my never having eaten anything he has created. Oh, and his last Chef de Partie (my new position to be shared with my fantabulous pastry cohort) worked at…El Bulli. Because the fact is that like Kevin Bacon, all culinary roads lead back to that magical place in Catalonia.


When one of my PhD friends began Masters, the school forced them to sit in a seminar devoted solely to convincing them they were not frauds, that they all worked hard and had the knowledge to be there. At the end of the class he, much like everyone else I assume, left thinking, “well, no one else is a fraud, but how long will it take them to realize I am?!”

I am Jack’s insecurity as well as his mildly hyperventillating lungs.

Below is the original post I wrote last week when I created this disaster. I had not given my notice at the time, so I wasn’t interested in plastering the interwebs with my plans. This is an excellent example of HOW I AM A FRAUD. Or insane. Whatevs.

This is the first thing I have made since my return.

You may note there is no photographic evidence.

This is because I suck at making cakes.

Erp, maybe only a bit. I can make North American style cakes, which I loath, because it doesn’t require a lot of thought to pipe some scallops around the edges and plunk a rose on top. Hello Costco.

French style cakes require a panache I do not have.

I can make chocolate decor.

I can make macarons (err, most of the time).

I can spray things (including the floor, the table, the radiator) with chocolate.

I can pour glaze on stuff.

But I can’t for the life of me put it all together and not have it look gaudy.

This is why I don’t work in a bakery. Or rather this is possibly why I SHOULD work in a bakery.

Given that Migoya has a selection of “lost cakes” (cakes that are listed but photos were left on the cutting room floor), and this happens to be one of those cakes, I am not posting photos because I didnt take any.

Instead I decorated the cake, crinkled my nose, smooshed it gleefully with a palette knife and scraped it into the trash.**

I really, really hate making cakes.

Now I’m going to gym really hard and think about how much I hate cakes.

Oh, and here is a photo of said cake prepared in a tasting menu style plating. Some guy on Facebook said it looked like a skinned cock and balls. His complaint (aside from the supposed phallus, I still don’t see it) was that it should be bigger and that I make food not arts and crafts. Come on. This isn’t a crochet Jesus fish, it’s a quenelle and some joconde and peanut brittle. And this isn’t innovative or novel in my profession. I’m not growing a jacket out of live mouse fur and calling it art. I attended a Culinary Arts Institute! My clever response of course was “That’s what she said.” I think I’m ready to go back to a kitchen full of boys.

* I was desperately hoping to find some culinary geek had created a flow chart or tree that maps the chefs who have travelled down from El Bulli and/or The French Laundry to end at their own top-ranked resto (ie. Grant Achatz) but alas my search was fruitless.

** For those of you concerned with my seemingly lack of respect for the many food products involved in the preparation of this cake, in my defense it was only 4″ in diameter. I would never discard a full sized cake so non-chalantly. Rather I’d scoop it into a bowl and serve that way.

A Childhood Dream Revisited — the BFG V2.0 (pg.143)

As a child, every time cake was mentioned (usually during a conversation about what to have for special occasion X), I would pipe in


and my mom would reply kinda like

ew. No.

So then I’d probably make a face and cross my arms and pout about how dumb it was to not want anything called Black Forest Cake.

I mean really, to a child (and especially a twisted one), the words BLACK and FOREST together conjured up the most wonderful images, specifically involving shrubs and trees alike, all black, and probably some roving ROUSes (rodents of unusual size). I didn’t care about the chocolate or the cherries. I likely neglected to notice the presence of whipped cream. All I wanted was a cake. From a forest absent of colour. I also really liked to order the ham, but this post isn’t about swine.

The Black Forest Gâteau was invented in the 16th Century in the Black Forest region of Germany. The area abounds with sour cherries, and the locals distill the cherries into a clear brandy they call Kirschwasser. The cake itself is traditionally a lot like this:

So exciting!

In school I was stoked to make this cake, because man oh man did I want to show my parents how tasty this thing could be. This is what I made:

Now that I am a grown-up and I know there are no forests made of coal, no ROUSes, that Get Smart was really racist, I understand that BFG isn’t all its name is cracked up to be, that it’s pretty boring and too often made with Maraschino cherries, waxy chocolate, and whipped topping.

Wait, I forgot!

Why do I keep calling the Black Forest Cake a BFG?

Technically, it is a Gâteau. Sure it’s a French term, but the French have their ways for a reason; although the English to French translation of cake becomes gâteau, which the English use liberally and without purpose, there is more to it. The French use the word cake. Weird, eh? I didn’t see that coming either. A cake is, well, cake, but gâteau is cake with flair, gusto, joie de vivre!

Let’s look at a drawing, since I kind of like those:

My favourite Chef from school summed it up much more simply than that drawing: A cake goes on the counter, a gâteau goes in the fridge. Because a Black Forest cake is smothered in whipped cream, it is really a gâteau, as some very unpleasant things happen to whipping cream when left on the counter.

However, I will note that this particular version is more of an Entremet.

Maybe I’ll bore you with the definition of an Entremet another time?


Devil’s Food Cake

Chocolate Mousse

Vanilla Chantilly Cream (whipped cream with a touch of sugar and vanilla)

Cherry Compote

Start by baking a chocolate cake. I know this sounds Sandra Lee instructions, but I still haven’t found one I like, so until I do you’re on your own. The closest I ever managed was a gluten-free/vegan cupcake I doctored that actually made me happy. I find the recipe for Devil’s food suggested is…boring. I’ve tried it now four times, and have been disappointed each time. I also find it is very easy to overmix, as I have overmixed the batters 50% of the time.

The Mousse though, is fucking lovely. I recommend it for most of your special occasions.

Dark Chocolate Mousse pg. 147

200g Eggs

58g Sugar

250g Chopped Dark Chocolate (64%)

Heavy Cream, whipped Medium peaks and chilled

Prepare a Bain Marie for sabayon – Whisk eggs and sugar over double boiler until 60 degrees Celsius (140F). Whip by hand or in a mixer until 35C and ribbony. Melt chocolate over hot water bath or in microwave and cool to 35C. Strain the eggs over the chocolate and whisk until homogeneous (will be thick). Start by folding half the cream into the chocolate mix, then incorporate the rest. Fill piping bag with mousse.

With the cherries, I picked up a compote of Montmorency Cherries, loosened it over heat by adding half a cup of water and some lemon juice to cut the sweetness, along with a couple glugs of Heerings Cherry Liqueur.

The vanilla chantilly is as mentioned above, slightly sweetened whipped cream with vanilla, spread on a saran lined tray, frozen, and trimmed to the size of the cake layers.  I used some left-over mousse and cream to create mounds for my forest landscape, then froze it overnight.

I finished it all up with my fav, the chocolate spray-gun, chocolate trees, and cause it’s Valentine’s Day (okay, no, because I needed some colour and visual excitement), teeny gold hearts and red sugar flakes.

I like the landscape look — I’ve been ruminating over this for many years, but this is my first execution. I think I’ll work on it some more. This isn’t perfect, but it is a good start.

Here I threw together a plated version, cheese-y tree and all. I left it “deconstructed” despite my hatred for that cliché term, only because I had to use this bowl for something. And quite frankly, often desserts must be designed around the dish available to serve it on. Oh well.

A Christmas Cliché and a new direction – Caramelized Pears and Brown Butter Pastry Cream Tart with Crème Fraîche re-imagined (pg.251)

So when I started this project, I didn’t want to change the design of the dishes and products Migoya gives us in The Modern Café.  A chef friend of mine rolled her eyes and told me to just make everything mine, go with my gut, blah blah inspirational blah.  I felt uncomfortable with this because:

– I can’t follow instructions to save my life.  I do.  I learn. I remember.  Copying, despite my culinary education, is not something I do well.  I wanted to make everything in this book essentially verbatim as a way of forcing myself to practice being the type of chef I would like to someday become.  Disciplined. Precise. Thorough. Technically sound.

– Is it really my place to stand here, with my little experience and knowledge, to mess around with a great chef’s hard work? I mean, where do I get off thinking I am better than him?

I worked through the recipes, trying to make them look like the photos, hoping they taste like what Migoya’s versions would taste like.  That was fine.  But now I’m bored.  This is not fun.  And considering how much time this takes, I would like it to be fun, because that’s the point of doing what you love.  Sure everything takes tedious work, and it isn’t all rainbows and balloons (if that’s what you think fun is), but if I can’t do whatever I want at my job, why be boxed in at home?

Here is my version of the Caramelized Pear and Brown Butter Pastry Cream Tart:

Not a tart.  More like… a Bûche de Noel.  Ooops.

When I worked at the bistro, I was excited to hear I would be making yule logs for dessert at lunch the week before Christmas.  Near the end of the week, when I was getting bored of making 24” yule logs and piping holly berries and leaves on every plate in chocolate, Chef told me he had a surprise for me.

“Guess what.  You get to make zee log for two more weeks! And we will serve with ze special holiday dinner! Hope you make enough sponge!”

Granted, had I been working at a bakery, I probably would have made yule logs for 2000 people, but adding 750 servings of yule log to the menu on top of the other desserts did not make my heart flutter.  Nor did making 1400 meringue mushrooms, lovingly brushed with cocoa for that naturalistic, Martha Stewart perfection, excite me in the least.  Somewhere over the three weeks of logs, the holly leaves on the plates went from three to two, and the mushrooms from two to one.

I chose to yule-log this tart because I love the idea of Gingerbread houses, but hate the waste.  The yule log allows for cheesy, ridiculous décor, as well as a completely satisfying dessert. That and this proves you can yule-log anything.

Brown Butter Diplomat mousse

126g Milk

30g Sugar

Sprinkling of salt

1/2 a Vanilla pod, scraped clean, 2 tsp vanilla extract, or 1 tsp vanilla paste

4 eggs

20g Cornstarch

25g Browned Butter

100g Whipped cream, Chilled

Heat the milk with the vanilla pod (if not using one, add vanilla flavours at the end) and half your sugar.  Infuse for 20 minutes to maximize your vanilla flavour.  In a bowl large enough to whisk eggs and cornstarch, whisk up your eggs, sugar, and cornstarch until sugars are mostly dissolved. Reheat your milk to just a boil (be this is a tiny amount), temper your eggs, and whisk everything together in the pot and whisk like your life depends on it until the mixture is thick and boiling.  Remove from heat, drizzle in the cooled browned butter, and pour the custard immediately onto a sheet pan or plate lined with plastic wrap. Cover and chill.

If you have a couple of cornstarch lumpies here and there, don’t fret.  You can throw that pastry cream into a stand mixer and smooth the cream out, and if they are really problematic, and you have a stick blender, do what the Cuisiniers do, and emulsify those lumps into oblivion.  I won’t tell.

When your cream is cool and smoothed, fold in the whipped cream, and fill a 2” pvc pipe (lined with parchment — you can also use a paper towel roll like me), wrap in plastic and freeze overnight.

*While it would be safe to put a sheet of gelatin to stabilize the cream, I filled, rolled, decorated and served the log within a couple of hours, so I didn’t bother.  If I were selling this or had less control over the environment, gelatin is a good way to go.

Caramelized Pears

5 Pears, peeled

300 g sugar

1lt water, boiled

Caramelize the sugar dry — heat it in a heavy pot over medium-low heat until it browns.  Since you won’t be using the sugar save for watering it down, it isn’t a big deal if you stir it or not.  It will begin to brown unevenly, so stir it then.  Cook the caramel to your desired colour.  Everyone likes caramel made to different degrees, so I won’t give you a temperature.  If you aren’t sure how dark you like it, aim for lighter rather then dark.  Dark is good if you want less sweetness, a complex, bitter flavour, but too dark will leave you with an overly bitter, charred aftertaste, which some people love, but many people are repulsed by caramel that dark.  Remove from heat.

Add the water slowly.  It will spit and fizzle and if you burn yourself that is not my fault.  Heat the caramel water until all the sugar has dissolved.  Remove from heat and add your pears, then cover with a plate or tray until cool.

To prepare the pears, slice them in half, remove the small core and string with a spoon or melon baller, then chop into even, smaller than bite-size pieces.  Reserve, straining.  Scale out 150g poaching liquid and heat with 100g sugar for soaking.  I totally pan-fried these to dry them further and give them some maillard browning for added flavour.

Instead of Crème Fraîche Quenelles, I whipped 100g heavy cream with 100g Crème Fraîche and 50g of sugar to stiff peak and spread it on the Browned Butter rolled sponge, sprinkled the pears, and rolled the frozen cream baton while soaking the sponge with the caramel syrup.  Roll the naked log in plastic wrap or Parchment, tightening the roll as best you can with a long metal spatula or bench scraper.  Freeze until just solid, then cut the ends on a bias, using one or both pieces as cut branches.

Chocolate Buttercream

100g yolks

200g sugar

400g Butter, soft

100g melted chocolate


Make a Pâte a Bomb by whipping the yolks in a mixer on high while bringing the sugar and 10% water to 120 degrees Celsius.  Turn the mixer to medium and stream the sugar into the bowl along the side, avoiding the whisk or the sugar will just spray to the sides and leave a mess in your bowl instead of cooking your yolks.  When the sugar is all added, turn the mixer on high and run until the yolks are cooler then body temp, ideally the same temperature as your soft butter.  Turn the machine down to medium-high and add the butter in chunks.  The buttercream will appear to break, but keep running the machine and it will come together into a lovely light yellow cream.  Pour in the melted chocolate, and add cocoa to your liking.  I often add a flavourless black colouring to chocolate frosting when I’m making logs, but this is personal preference.

I frost my logs with a small palette knife.  Tradition dictates making the bark with the prongs of a fork, but that’s too 70’s ugly for my taste.  I like my logs looking like cedars.

I used almond paste to make the figures.  I won’t describe this process, as I am always learning how to sculpt with sugar paste or marzipan.  I can’t learn from sculpting books, only from trial and error.  Besides, everyone should go with their own style.  Mine did contain floral wire, but to maintain Elf authenticity, they were all different sizes, varying demeanors, and had their own stockings.   Tasty.

…7. How aurum-in-a-can saved the day – Pumpkin Spice Cream, Pumpkin Cremeur, Pumpkin Bread, and Molasses and Crème Fraîche Quenelles with Pumpkin Seed Velvet (pg.182).

I’m going to get this out of the way right now: my love affair with the Wagner Painter Power spray gun is over.  Well, no. We’re on a break.  I’ll explain why I’m sort of traumatized when it comes to cakes that are sprayed with chocolate.

When I was in school we had to spray a tart with chocolate.  It was something ridiculous like an apricot streusel tart topped with pistachio “crème brulée”, a name which confuses me to this day because it wasn’t bruléed and it contained gelatin.  Anyway, here is the finished tart:

Do you see those chunks of white crap? Clearly the white chocolate spray session was a major Fail because the chocolate cracked from condensation almost immediately, leaving the tart looking like it was garnished with a giant psoriasis plaque, which out of the many thousands of gross skin ailments, psoriasis is one of the less horrific ones, but I wasn’t thinking about how thankful I should be that my tart didn’t appear to have leprosy, I was only thinking about not getting a minus a million for a grade, so I scraped it all off in shame.

At the time, I blamed both the 35+ summer heat (that’s Celsius) and my incompetence.  But mostly the heat.

The second time I gave it a whirl was when I learned that the chocolate should be cooler than normally advised because my freezer is a bad freezer (while my fridge seems to be an alright freezer, weird).  Fail # 2.

The third time, the Lego cake, was a success, until I dropped the spray gun on the cake and dented it.

This…this was not so much a success as much as it was a test of my patience, which if measured in volume would amount to about four millilitres.

I have no shame in admitting I my money situation is…corseted.  Expensive school and my desire to own silly pastry equipment and only the expensive cookbooks has not helped matters.  On top of that, I almost exclusively spend what’s left after bills and debts on this blog.  Basically, I fucked up this cake because I ran out of money.  Le Sigh.

Pumpkin Bread, Gluten Free, Adapted (pg. 185)

This makes an 8” round cake 1/2” thick — sorry, I didn’t weigh the gluten-free flours. I always screw it up if I don’t go by volume.

56g Butter, melted and cooled to 21 degrees

1 Egg

25g Whiskey

127g Pumpkin Purée

124g Sugar

1/4 C. Millet

1/4 C. Brown Rice Flour

1/4 C. Arrowroot

1 tsp Xantan Gum

5g Baking Powder

2 tsp Cinnamon

Not gonna lie, I browned the butter because browned butter is delicious.  I almost always brown butter if the recipe calls for it to be melted.

Whisk egg with purée and whiskey, drizzle in butter to emulsify.

Whisk all dry ingredients together.

Add to wet.  Spread in pan. Bake until set at 350 in a sad oven like mine, 320 in a real oven.


What the hell is a Cremeur, you ask?

I tried to find out, but does not have a definition, nor does  This word was never used when I was in school, but my Chef at the bistro liked to call most things Cremeux.  I guess I should have asked him why.  I will hypothesize that a Cremeur is a thick, creamy product that is neither a mousse (light, airy) nor a ganache (emulsion of cream and chocolate).  Cremeux is pipe-able usually, though this recipe is thickened with gelatin rather than butter or starch, so it was surprisingly liquid.

This recipe is just an anglaise with pumpkin and gelatin.

I made use of a silicone mold I picked up on a foodie trip to Chicago.  We visited the Chicago School of Mold Making, a mecca for pastry sculpture aficionados.  They let us run around their tiny supply room and I bought $350 worth of silicone molds (or 4 pieces, no joke).  The customs officer at O’Hare was…confused.

Migoya freezes the Pumpkin Cremeur in pvc pipes.  Specialty silicone I have, pvc I do not.  So I used the sphere mold instead.

Spice Cream.

I like this because instead of infusing the cream with whole spices, he throws in the ground product.  I like flecks and speckles in things for visual excitement.  This was just another Bavarois.  I was always nervous about making Bavarian cream, residue from the first experience in school (the Saint Honoré, which was the last and “OMG the hardestthinginbasic!”), but after making 4 cakes in the last month with Bavarian bases, I’m getting a little bored. **Oh shit, I’ve forgotten my pastry smarts: Saint Honoré is made with a Chiboost, not Bavarian Cream.  See, so traumatizing I forgot it even existed.

Quenelles  (pg. 187)

Equal parts Crème Fraîche and Whipping cream, whipped on high together with 11% molasses until stiff.

This just pissed me off.  I can make quenelles, dammit.  I couldn’t get crème fraîche, so I thickened some sour cream with lemon juice but it didn’t cut it, so the result was too lose and couldn’t properly be quenelled and then they collapsed before the terrible freezer could keep them looking remotely presentable.  Fuck.

Pumpkin Seed Velvet

Okay, so I didn’t have enough money to buy more cocoa butter because all I can get is raw stuff from the local health food store where they gut you like a fish every time you buy something, so silly me who wasn’t thinking until it was too late (as always, I figure it out but seconds too late), I subbed some white chocolate, not thinking that since it sets at a much lower temperature, would result in the spray running off the cake.  Would have had more success had I not put in the oil, but heck, cute but stupid.

I managed to give the cake a shell of white chocolate but had to resort to using most of a brand spanking new can of spray-gold to make the thing look remotely appetizing, but it’s still a ridiculous monstrosity I am totally embarrassed to have made.  Thankfully, everyone at my friend’s birthday party ate it so it no longer exists.

Self loathing kicks in in 5, 4, 3…

…5. Looks like delicious, delicious childhood – Espresso Cream, Crisp Chocolate Meringue, and Flourless Chocolate Cake (pg.150).

Any time people have asked me things like “So if I need to travel with _____ for _____ number of hours/days…” I immediately cut them off and say “I don’t recommend that.”  I am very adamant that my products be served at their optimal-life state, either ten minuted out of the oven or two hours from being decorated.  While a lot of bad pastry comes from mediocre recipes, some from poor technique, many suffer from irresponsible storage or age (see Macaron rant when I post it).

My first food job was at a café that specialized in fresh-baked scones.  The concept was brilliant — the scones were baked in small batches all day long.  The likelyhood of anyone buying a scone baked more then 2 hours earlier was extremely low, unless it was a very, very slow day.  And while this commitment to freshness caused some issues (different flavours sold at different rates on different days so being out of one or two flavours out of eight was likely, but a fresh batch was never more then 30 minutes away for the patient), it meant the product was always at it’s optimal state.  This is why I am now so picky about when I finish and then deliver cakes.

And yet I am going against everything I believe in right now.

The espresso-filled Lego-shaped cake in the trunk was finished at 8am this morning.  It is now 7:42pm (it’s in a portable fridge, don’t worry).  It will be served two days from now (say whaaaat?).  Le sigh.

This cake is made with the following:

A chocolate meringue disk —

Meringue, which I can only spell because I have to say Mer-rang-guay in my head, as with So-Crates and Jel-la-pen-o (and we all know I so often have to write Socrates and Jalapeno in the snail-mail I compose), is equal parts sugar and eggwhites.  It can be made three ways – cooking whipped whites with sugar at 120 degrees (I-tal-ien style), whisked over a pot of simmering water until thick and fluffy (the Swiss way, which I like to think of as the Difficult way, because the Swiss were always difficult and “neutral”), and by just whipping the whites with the sugar, the efficient French way.

To make this chocolate meringue, you make a French meringue, add 1/4 of the meringue’s total weight in Icing sugar (ie. 50g i.sugar to 200g meringue when 100g whites and 100g sugar are used), whip for at least 5 minutes, then fold in the same quantity of sifted cocoa powder.

Now, here is the point where I explain why this came out weird.  I have a gas stove with no fan.  Yes, the meringues came out quite flat.  And they took 3.5 hours instead of 2 (at 200 degrees instead of 187, wtf).  BUT they are pretty awesome.

Dip said meringue in chocolate.  More awesome.

Migoya’s Flourless Chocolate Cake – pg.152

100g Yolks

75g Sugar

225g 64% Chocolate

112g Butter

150g Egg Whites

Prep a pan with parchment, sheet pan or springform.  Heat oven to 350.  Whip yolks and 1/2 sugar to ribbon stage while melting butter and chocolate over a bain marie. Combine once chocolate is melted but not hot.  Whip whites and remaining sugar to just before stiff and fold into chocolate mix carefully.  Spread evenly in pan with offset.  Bake until firm.

This I made to the same thickness as the meringues, which means my montage should be good.  This recipe is wonderful.

Espresso Cream

This is really just a Bavaroise.  And instead of using espresso beans, I used ground espresso for the look and the mouth feel.  I have a very crippling coffee addiction, so the idea of eating the grinds excites rather then hinders me.

This is a cake with no photo, but Migoya’s instructions say to place a silicone block inside the cake mould, then build the cake upside-down so the result is to have a recessed space for those chocolate-coated puffed rice he is so into.  As I did not have said rice puffs, I opted to make 12 salted ganache demi-spheres, which I froze, then lined up on the frozen barvaroise before spraying the cake with a chocolate-loaded paint-sprayer.

Hence why my cake looks like Lego. GIANT CHOCOLATE LEGO.

But that’s okay, I made it for my big brother’s birthday, the guy who gave me 10kilos of lego when he moved out.  Happiest 5 year old ever.  Given his coffee addiction and love of chocolate, this seemed like the perfect birthday present.

Here is my spray-station.

Thankfully, I’m the girl who moves into an apartment with a giant roll of window-plastic for winter and never puts it up but also never gets rid of it.  I knew that roll of plastic was going to come in handy eventually.

Here is the part of the cupboard I didn’t protect.  Lesson: make a good spray-station!

When you spray your cake with chocolate, always use equal quantities chocolate to cocoa butter.  The cocoa butter has a higher melting temperature, but it liquifies the chocolate and allows it to set as soon as it hits the frozen cake, which is how the texture is achieved.  I had to lower the temp to 34 degrees rather then the more common 38 because my freezer is not awesome, so the cakes are never as cold as they would be in a quality commercial freezer.  If the chocolate is too hot, it will not texture, just wash over the cake and look liquid and shitty.  It’s happened to me before.  Don’t let it happen to you.

This is the Wagner spray-gun I use.  Oooo, ahhh.

Regrets: In the future I will be very careful about placing demi-spheres, as I did manage to disturb the barvaroise even though it was frozen.  I should have heated an offset and smoothed the surface.  Also, I have this tendency to, due to strain from over-use and arthritis from immune deficiency, release things spontaneously.  Like drop a bag of groceries in the street.  My hands sometimes just let go.  And, as you can see in the upper portion of the cake, I dropped the spray gun ON THE CAKE.  Silly me didn’t make extra ganache orbs.  I hate how imperfect this cake is.  I want a remake.  I can’t look at this anymore.

No plated version, as this was a gift.

But I did sneak this montage photo, which I will post later.


Ohohohwait! This was tasty! Again, not sweet.  The only adjustment I would make would be to add maybe 50g oil to the melted chocolate the meringue is dipped in, because we found it umpossible to cut with a fork, and that isn’t acceptable.

…3. Those photos are looking better, sort of, and Butternut Squash Butter & Caramel Mousse Cake with Gingerbread Génoise and Ginger Spice Glaze (pg.192)

I have something to admit: I don’t care much for cake.  I am, and have always been, a much bigger fan of the things cake carries.  It’s a vessel for buttercream, mousses, ganache, compotes, and curds.  On it’s own, I don’t so much care.  Probably because one needs to consume an awful lot of plain cake before the sugar bloat takes hold and you no longer have the will to live.

There are a few cakes I have found that I do not dislike.  The Classic Génoise is not one of them.  Sure it’s basic; eggs, sugar, flour is all you need.  But I don’t know, there is something about the texture and the slightly sweet eggy flavour I’m not fond of.  The first time I made a Génoise, I was so horrified by how, visually, it reminded me of the dimpled upper-thigh of a 50 year old woman, that I threw it out and made it a second time.  Horrified again (this time I actually tasted it), I chucked it and chose a different recipe.  I didn’t make it again until school, when I realized I’d made it right both times.

This cake requires a Gingerbread Génoise.  The added spices gave me hope.  Usually a genoise is soaked in a flavoured light syrup.  This is why it is so versatile; you always make the same cake, then soak it in whatever suits your needs, and suddenly the texture of the cake is fixed too — dry and sticky to moist and velvety.  The Gingerbread Génoise is not soaked, though I wanted to drench it in Green Ginger infused Fortified Wine.

I did, however, make it gluten-free.  I didn’t want to feel bad about eating this cake.  Unfortunately, this happened:uhoh

Hm.  Well.  I’ve made gluten-free Génoise before and this freaked me out.  This is not what a Génoise should look like.  Unfortunately, I didn’t photograph the cake upon removal from the pan, when all the candied ginger adhered to the base, despite being heavily buttered and floured.

The first thing to do is chop up a butternut squash and throw it in a pot with some butter, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and star anise.  Cook this until completely soft.  I mashed it, but did not purée or run through a tamis because I was too lazy.  I would if I were doing this for money, not giving it away to my friends.

Cool cake in freezer.  When it is almost frozen, level it.  Place it in a frame, I used an 8” round pastry ring, which I used to cut the cake to size.  Spread with butternut squash butter.  Freeze.

As the cake cooled in the freezer, I made the caramel mousse.  Not hard.

Migoya’s Caramel Mousse

74g sugar

24g butter

58g Cream

1 egg

3g gelatine — powder, 3.4g gold leaf

200g cream, whipped soft peaks, chilled.

  • Cook sugar to a deep amber
  • Deglaze with butter, then add cream
  • Whip eggs on high until fully fluffed, pour in caramel (à la Italian Meringue)
  • Add bloomed gelatine while caramel is still warm and whip until 21 degrees C
  • Fold caramel mixture into cream (I do the cream to soft peaks so I can whip mixtures in, reducing the chance of the mousse collapsing)

Pipe or spread mousse over squash butter.  The ideal way of doing this is to pipe the mixture around the ring, then use a small offset spatula to pull the mousse up the sides, then fill the ring just below the rim with mousse and level, then clean the edge with your thumb and forefinger.  Spreading the mousse up the sides prevents air pockets in your montage.

My calculations were slightly off (I’ve adjusted the recipe here for you, don’t fret), and I was just shy of what the ring would take, so inevitably the glaze was too thick.  Thankfully, the glaze was super tasty.

 Migoya’s Ginger Spice Glaze

Fresh ginger

120g cream

Cinnamon Stick, 2 cloves, nutmeg, toasted

103g sugar

20g molasses

2g salt

10g water

7g cornstarch

2.5g gelatine (powder, 3.5g gold leaf)

Infuse cream with toasted spices and ginger by bringing to a boil, steeping 20 minutes, then straining.  Heat again, add sugar, molasses, salt.  Whisk water and cornstarch into a slurry, add to cream and bring to a full boil.  Let cool, with saran over the surface, until 35 degrees C either at room temp or stirring over ice.  When cake is frozen, glaze, freeze again, then remove the ring with a hot towel or hand torch.

The only thing I will say is that while I reduced the gelatine as I was using the powdered variety rather then fancy gold leaf (powder blooms at 225, leaf at 200, so powder sets stiffer), I didn’t reduce it enough so the glaze was a bit…chewy.

This was a cake that was not shown in the book.  Migoya kindly published on three of the “lost cake” photos, including this one, which would normally have been decorated with white chocolate covered puffed rice.  I don’t have such frivolous things.  I stole some candied ginger and orange caramel corn I make at work and threw on a cinnamon stick and vanilla bean.  It is not a handsome cake.  I’ll put more thought into the next one.

Here I plated it with that Ginger Caramel I’m in love with myself for making, some caramel corn, and licorice ice cream.

Licorice Ice Cream

350g milk

350g cream

350g natural Panda licorice

1 drop anise oil

50g sugar

Bring licorice, milk, and cream to a boil, then simmer until the licorice has mostly broken down and the liquid is a beige colour.  Strain.  Stir in anise oil and sugar.  Mature in the fridge over night with saran on the surface to prevent a skin.  The next day, the base should be thick enough to churn without egg yolk.  Yay simple ice cream!

Note: the people I work with said “tastes like a pumpkin pie!” Um…this cake cost me $50 in ingredients alone.  I do not appreciate that it just tastes like pumpkin pie.  And it tastes wayyyy better then a pumpkin pie. Pfft.