Tartine Baking Project: #72 Fromage Blanc Bavarian

I planned out this journey pretty meticulously – that seems a bit of an oxymoron, but it’s fitting.  Most things were planned out with a deliberate sense of seasons and occasions, but there were some recipes that just happened.  You’d think I would save the best for last, you know, something I was really looking forward to make – nope.  When I had five recipes left, and plotted them out, this fromage blanc just fell in line at the end.  I think since it was a cake, I figured a cake would be fun to end with, even though I didn’t clearly know what this cake was all about.

The biggest hurdle I had was finding fromage blanc.  I invited some friends over for a potluck to partake in the spoils of the last recipe with me, and to celebrate the finale.  After some preliminary hunting around, I knew it was going to be a challenge finding the stuff and I instantly regretted saving such an unfamiliar dessert for the last one!  I made the génoise cake base the day before the party, knowing I should have made the entire cake the night before because it needed to chill in the refrigerator for a long time.  But, I had a plan and would be whipping it all together early Friday morning, which would mean a whole day in the fridge!  Had a plan, is important to emphasize right there.

Conversation with a woman who works at the grocery store:

Me: Hi, I’m looking for fromage blanc.  (pointing to the expansive international cheese display) I didn’t find it over there, and I was wondering if you knew where I may find it.

Worker lady: Well, I don’t even know what it is you just said.  I don’t speak French.

Me:  Uh…

Worker Lady: What does that mean?

Me:  Well, technically it means white cheese, but –

Worker lady:  Oh!  Well then, we have a lot of white cheese.

Me: Oh…well, that’s the name of it.  It’s similar to ricotta.

Worker lady:  Now I know what that one is.  It’s over by the milk.  Maybe whatever-that-was-that-you-said is there too?  Good luck?

Me: Thanks.

As we were talking I Googled fromage blanc, and the first thing that comes up was a recipe from Emeril Lagasse.  I stood eying the ricotta I begrudgingly put in my cart because I didn’t want to use it!  The recipe was called FROMAGE BLANC bavarian, and I couldn’t just substitute ricotta when I knew there was a way to make the cheese I needed.  I didn’t have time to research other recipes, so I went with the one from Emeril (bam!) and started figuring out the timeline if I could have the cake ready by the party.  It was going to be a crunch, but it was possible if everything went according to schedule.

Making the fromage blanc was surprisingly easy, and makes me want to experiment with other kinds of cheeses!  My only understanding of how this stuff should turn out was from what I gleaned from the Internet.  I think it was was supposed to be similar to the consistency of sour cream, but maybe it should’ve been slightly thicker?  I don’t know, it tasted like a yogurty cheese, and I went with it.  I got it in the fridge by the last minute I needed to make sure it was in there for the minimum suggested time of four hours.  As soon as I shut the door a wave of relief and celebration rushed over me.  That’s it.  That’s the last recipe right there.  The concerns of the outcome were out the window.  Well, out the window, but lingering like some Eddie Haskell kind of annoying neighbor kid ready to pounce with some annoying exchange as the time came to serve the cake.

Our house was filled with friends here to celebrate, including a gaggle of kiddos running around excited for the empty cake stand to be filled.  The time came to retrieve the cake from the fridge, and I warned the kids, following me around with forks and open mouths, that this may not be the kind of cake they really love.  I hurriedly sliced a medley of stone fruits for the top of the cake, and cut my finger off.  Just kidding.  But I did forget to lightly sauté them just a bit.  I am the worst at taking things slow when a crowd is around!  I rush and I take bad photos!  AND, I forget to really eat anything at a potluck filled with delicious food!!!  I grabbed a few bites, but as everyone left the hunger set it.

The moment I placed the fruit, one side started falling.  I snapped a few photos then put it back in the fridge for twenty minutes or so.  Surprisingly, I didn’t really freak out.  It was definitely not the most beautiful thing I’ve ever made, but that’s alright.  The cake was eaten, and people seemed to like it.  That’s all any baker can ask for, really.  So yes, that’s all!  C’est tout!

Last week was the weepy and sentimental part of completing this project, now this week is really all about the celebration!  I’m just so happy!  I meant to have a toast with everyone, thanking them all for their support and hungry bellies over the past year!  In my excitement of the party, I forgot!  So if anyone wants to come over and drink champagne while we watch the season premiere of Parks and Recreation, just let me know!

I’ve got one more Tartine cookbook to give away!  Head over to the gallery of the entire project, and then leave a comment what you think the most appetizing recipe is!  All comments need to be left by this Thursday September 20th, and the winner will be announced here on Friday September 21st.


UPDATE:  We have a winner!  I am so excited to share that the random number generator may not be so random!  The winner is #6 – Amy, with her comment:

“The fresh fruit tart with Bavarian filling has caught my eye more than once. They are all beautiful and appetizing. There’s not one that I wouldn’t enjoy.”

I just want to say I am so happy that Amy won, she has been such a kind and devoted reader throughout my entire journey – she baked along with me in the Holiday Bake-a-long that I had in December, she makes the DIY projects I share here, and is extremely supportive with “likes’ and blog comments galore!  When her number popped up, I just may have gasped.  What a fitting way to wrap things up here for a bit!


Completely Pinteresting: Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting

I friend was celebrating her birthday and I asked to bring a cake!  I have some serious go-to’s in the land of cakes – my favorite ones to make.  But, I’ve been wanting to make a new cake every time there’s been an occasion to make one lately.  Step in, Pinterest.  I started perusing pages upon pages of the gorgeous food that everyone loves to pin.  Thus far, with my Completely Pinteresting feature, I’ve shared projects I’ve made.  A great part of Pinterest for me is the food, and actually making the stuff I see and pin!  I thought I’d share this cake with you.

I went and grabbed the recipe here, and I stuck right to it.  While the caramel turned out alright, I am so in love with the caramel from the Tartine cookbook, so I’d use that in the future.  I am obsessed with cakes now!  I used 6″ rounds, stacked three high.  Even though it’s not the prettiest cake in the world, I sure do love this one!  I have another life goal to add to the pile – cake decorator extraordinaire.



Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, worthy of an 80th birthday celebration

Dan’s grandpa celebrated his 80th birthday this past weekend and requested a cake.  When asked what he liked, Dan’s grandma suggested something with cherries, and this was the first thing that came to mind.  Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte is much more exciting to say than what English speaking counterparts call this: Black Forest Cake.  And, we don’t even acknowledge the star of the show – cherries (kirsch) in our translation!  Anyhow, I’d never made such a cake, but I definitely have eaten it before.  I used this recipe from Saveur that went the traditional German route, soaking the tart cherries with Kirsch (cherry liqueur), and including a bit also into the whipped cream frosting and the cherry syrup that you brush onto each cake layer.  Instead of decorating the cake with the kirsch-soaked tart cherries, I thought it would be more beautiful to have sweet cherries, stems and all, adorning the mounds of whipped dream frosting.

Since I forgot the candles at our house, this amazing little wax birthday candle set was pulled out of the back of some closet.  Isn’t it adorable?  I didn’t even care that it crushed the chocolate curls I worked so hard on!  And, I didn’t even care that Dan’s grandpa called me Amy a few times – it’s was his birthday after all, and that cake was delicious.


Friday Favorites

Oh, Friday!  Here again, old friend!  Happy to see you so soon!

I made the cake pictured above for a dear friend’s birthday yesterday.  I used this recipe, and couldn’t have been more pleased with the outcome!  I dare say it’s the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made.  Perfect moisture and flavor.  YUM!  And I am pretty much in love with the photos.  Two cakes in a week!  I’m a cake-makin’ machine!

I’m excited to make these drinks this weekend.

This is going to be our brunch on Sunday!

These photos me want to be in California RIGHT NOW! (just for a visit!)

This strawberry picking adventure looks magical.  I want to go to there.

This treehouse is pretty darn magical too!

Oh, and I’m probably going to be wearing a scarf like this for the rest of my life.

Happy Friday!  Our friends are moving here from Seattle NEXT WEEK, and are staying with us until they find a place!  We’ll be spending a bit of the weekend getting ready (and so excited!) for their arrival!  Jack is going to have a live-in pal for a bit.  So excited!

Hope your long weekend is wonderful!


Tartine Baking Project: #52 Passion Fruit and Lime Bavarian

I’ve never had a passion fruit before.  The closest thing was my favorite LipSmackers lip gloss I had in middle school.  It made me feel exotic.  I thought passion fruit was going to be easier to track down this time of year – When I eventually found them I was thankful for the photo cards to help my identify these little guys.  I had no discerning eye when it came to picking which fruit would be best.  I avoided the shriveled up few, I’m no complete dummy.  I tried to get as many possible that rested in the middle between dark, wrinkly purple and hard, tough green.  I’m going to stand by that as proper advice to select perfect passion fruit.

I’ve been sticking to my two recipes a week goal pretty strictly.  I realized just a few days ago that I miscounted and I am actually beyond the half point.  I’d put this very specific goal on the table – finishing this cookbook in a year.  It’s been a rough go sometimes trying to muscle through two of these recipes in a week.  Especially when there’s something that requires more of my time.  Namely, cakes.  They’re a several day commitment.  (That’s probably why I have so many cakes left to bake!)  So, I’ve made an agreement with myself to chill out a bit.   No one is shaking their head in disapproval when I just post one recipe a week, instead of the two.  No one probably even notices when that’s the case!

Without further ado, here are the many steps of this most excellent cake.  (I realize I sound like either Bill or Ted right there, and I’m okay with that.)  I started off making the chiffon cake.

Then there was the lime syrup that gets brushed onto each layer of cake.

Then, the passion fruit bavarian cream filling.  I really didn’t know what to expect cutting into them. So strange!  They look like alien eggs.  SO many alien aggs are required for just 2/3 cup of juice.  (Sidenote:  I must hand it to the Bonnie Bell company – their lip gloss is quite authentic in fragrance.)

The cake is finished off with a light whipped cream layer, then sprinkled with large chunks of shaved unsweetened coconut.  I suggest having a helper for this hard work.  After a brief talk about our differing definitions of “helping” the cake was complete.  And so amazingly delicious.

There’s no occasion for this guy, so we have this huge cake that we will be sharing with anyone who’d like a slice.  I’ll probably be flagging people down to eat this cake.  Last week I had Dan run outside to catch the garbageman with a bag of friands in hand.  So we’ve got the mailman and the garbageman.  I think I’m going to go flush paper towel down the toilet so we can get a plumber over here to enjoy this amazing cake.


Tartine Baking Project: #44 Lemon Meringue Cake

My love for lemons helped calm my fear of tackling such a huge cake project.  As terrible as this is, I went in with really low expectations, because the thought of successfully recreating this Tartine gem just seemed too lofty a goal.  Spoiler alert: The cake turned out to be so crazy delicious.

So many lemons. 

Folding egg whites into the batter.

I think I’m getting better at cutting cake into layers?  I’m afraid to make it a statement, because maybe I will jinx it and never cut an even cake layer again.

Of all the components of this cake, the caramel is most certainly the weakest one.  I don’t think I let it bubble on the stove long enough.  Rather than having a rich caramely color, my caramel was a pale, faint tan.  I’ve made this caramel before, and it’s one of my favorite things in the cookbook.  I debated dumping it and starting over again, but it did taste like something that would pass for caramel.  And, re-doing it in the midst of making all the other parts of the cake just seemed daunting.

I don’t have an immersion blender, but the food processor worked just fine.  Don’t misunderstand me though, I still want an immersion blender.

The cake layers are brushed with lemon sauce, my weird caramel, and lemon cream.

I got this torch for my birthday a few years ago because my favorite dessert in the world is crème brûlée.  I’ve never made it though, so this is the first time I used the torch. 

This is not Photoshopped at all.  This cake is just amazing.

I am so in love with this cake.  There’s a lot going on in there, and all the effort along the way pays off in the end.  It’s one of those “Once it hits your lips it’s just so good” moments.  As I predicted, it was a perfectly decadent way to watch the Oscars.


Tartine Baking Project: #41 Chocolate Soufflé Cake

I’ve mentioned this before, but when I first set out to bake everything over the year, I paid particular attention to plotting out treats for holidays and birthdays.  This particular cake screamed, “VALENTINE’S DAY!” As a Lover of Chocolate, I took the call and have been counting down to this cake for some time now.  Wouldn’t you know it?  For the second year in a row, The Flu has ruined my Valentine plans!  What a jerk!  I actually did get the cake made for Valentine’s evening, but the plan was to partake in said dessert with lady friends celebrating ‘Galentine’s Day,’ à la Leslie Knope and her gaggle of gals.  (That’s a Parks and Recreation reference, just in case you felt a bit lost there.)

This was a marathon cake that turned into a dreaded chore that I just had to finish.  The end was totally worth the means, but the joy of baking this afternoon was definitely just a book on a shelf rather than the vibe of my kitchen over the past couple of days.

The bottom of this cake is a thin layer of chocolate chiffon cake.  (Completely worth the extra step of baking a completely different cake just to get a tiny layer!)

It’s very exciting when a recipe calls for seven eggs, and I have exactly seven eggs.

I am so in love with this clear mixing bowl.  I cannot say that enough.  (And my husband and child…but I tell them all the time how much I love them.)

I was worried I was going to bake this too long.  I am always under baking things, and with this cake you don’t want the cake to raise up at all.  It ended up puffing up a bit, even though I baked it for the minimal amount of time suggested.  At this point in the game, nothing was phasing me.  I honestly had a “whatever” kind of attitude, which is definitely not the norm.

At this point it suggested putting the cake in the fridge for 3 hours, or up to overnight.  We had such a rocky day and even though it was Valentine’s Day, we opted to postpone that chocolatey dessert.  We instead went through an assorted box of chocolates and realized we hate assorted boxes of chocolates because we don’t like most of the mix.  Wow.  We sound like some serious Valentine Grinches!  Really, I love this day!  I promise!

More chocolate! 

So, we are celebrating Valentine’s Day again today!  This meant more chocolate for the ganache, and a brief afternoon love day party for the three of us.

Not the prettiest cake, or even a really pretty picture of a half-way decent cake.  But, this cake is so very rich and smooth and delicious.  Remember Genuwine?  That’s exactly how I think he marketed himself in 1997.  “Rich, smooth and delicious.”

Clearly, there’s a fan of chocolate in this house other than myself. 



Recipe #17: Devil’s Food Layer Cake

As soon as I began this blog, I was excited to share it with my dear friend, Kathleen, in San Francisco.  If anyone in the world loves Tartine like I do, it’s her.  Dan and I would often go over to Kathleen and Brett’s place for dinner.  We’d all devour a loaf of Tartine bread before a meal, and would insist we’d all be happy if that was the entire meal.  When I shared the excitement about this new project of baking everything from the Tartine cookbook over the next year, Kathleen lamented that she wanted to bake something with me, but sadly, we were so far apart – the kind of sad that moves you to look up at the moon at the same time like Fievel Mousekewitz and his little mouse sister and sing...somewhere out there, beneath the pale moonlight, someone’s thinking of me…

When a trip to San Francisco arose, I gave Kathleen full reign to choose what she wanted to help bake.  ”Whatever the chocolatey cake is.”  And so, that’s the route we took, and the first thing I did when I arrived.  Well, I guess the second thing.  We hit up In-N-Out between the airport and her place.

If you were to ever make such a cake, you might be surprised thinking, “Wow.  That’s a lot of cocoa and sugar.”  But c’mon, you’re baking a chocolate cake.  Of course there’s a lot of those things. 

Sifting dry ingredients with a fine mesh sieve. 

Perfect cake batter, if I do say so myself.

At this point the cakes went into the oven.  This is probably the most daunting moment as a baker, when you’ve put a good amount of effort into something, and you know that you’ve only completed a fraction of the full task at hand.  We still needed to make caramel, chocolate ganache, cut the cakes into appropriate layers, spread the layers, let it chill in the refrigerator, bake the crumbs for the crumb coating, and then crumb coat the cake. 

I’d made the caramel before (for that amazing banana cream pie!), which should mean making it a second time would be old hat.  The act of catching up with a friend in person, though, may have hindered my attention to detail.  The lemon juice was added prematurely.  Maybe this affected the outcome?  Maybe it didn’t boil quite long enough? Regardless, it tasted delicious, but just not like it did the first time I made it.

As long as you read the directions, and have two pots, caramel is quite easy to make.  

If we really wanted our cake to look like it convincingly came out of the Tartine bakery, we would have been a little more precise when cutting the layers, and we’d trim the sides once the layers were put together.  Instead, we dangerously used the sharp knife to trim not-so-even layers, and laughed hysterically while Kathleen’s husband, Brett, took hundreds (yes, no exaggeration there) of pictures of us at work.  

Kathleen at the helm, making chocolate ganache.  Yet another very simple thing to whip up that screams, “I’m fancy!”

Between each layer of unevenly cut cake, lies caramel and ganache.  

I’d never made a crumb coating for a cake.  It makes sense, though.  Nothing goes to waste!  You trim the cake then bake the trimmed portions so they’re these delicious crunchy crumbs.  You’re supposed to put the crumbs through a sieve, but it was after ten o’clock at night and we just really wanted it to be finished so we could eat it!

While it doesn’t look exactly like the pristine cakes you find at the actual bakery, this cake tasted really good.  We all ate our slices late at night, giving our own kitchen notes and tweaks for the next time we make this cake.  A major consensus: more ganache and caramel.  We did have a lot left over, which should have been a sign at the time to slap it on the cake.  Their adorable little daughter gets a slice packed in her lunch today, Brett and Kathleen probably had some for breakfast, and now I am off to Four Barrel (where Brett works!) to go laugh with them about last night’s cake-making adventures.

The most perfect pairing.