Thursday, May 27, 2010

May 2010 Daring Bakers Challenge ~ Piece Montée

Well this was a piece alright. I thought it would be a piece of cake. But each stage although easy in theory had some issue with me!

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.


This dessert is quite popular now. I have seen some people actually have them as their wedding cakes. Cute concept… no knife needed I guess and one up from cupcakes.

But to put this little piece together was a piece of pain.

The crème patissiere was easy to do. I have done it before when I made the Cannoli for a previous DB Challenge. It is really a great crème which is not too sweet. This step was my first step. Okay, so it went pretty much without incident. Yippee!

Next I made the pastry or the Pate a Choux it is called. Strange method of making pastry in a sauce pan. Wonders never cease. This was pretty easy too.. the worse was incorporating the egg because my arms were killing me… too bad I couldn’t use a mixer…

I got my Pate a Choux in the oven and I feared I made them too big. Oh well… When they were ready I took them out of the oven and half of them were flatter then the other half. What’s up with that? I can’t explain it. Yet another step in something I thought was foolproof and it duped me. I chose not to redo but to work with it. This was two nights before this challenge was due and after doing 4 cakes this month I was tired of looking at my kitchen.

My next step was the caramel. That I thought I did well, until I tried to do a spun caramel effect. I read up on how to do it and I prepared my kitchen well. It SEEMED easy enough…just messy.. but none the less my spun sugar was just a mess in my kitchen. It was enough to serve the purpose though.

Now… lets put this bad boy Montée together. I ignored the fact that I may need a supporting structure inside. Especially since I don't think I did enough of the Pate a Choux. I chose to try glue the pieces together with the caramel glaze as the recipe states. My caramel hardened before I got the structure right. Tough luck. But I managed to put them together the best I could and used a few lollipop sticks to help support. I didn’t have any toothpicks as suggested.

I had so many plans for my Piece Montée. I was going to do some gumpaste roses and adorn them to it. Then sprinkle some dragees around the structure.( You all know I love me some dragees). I debated using the chocolate glaze the recipe suggested as well…but I just didn’t want it too complicated.

I experimented with my spun caramel. I have been wanting to do spun caramel for so long. I tried making a nest with it then assembled my Piece Montée in it. The Piece was so delicate it kept falling to pieces! Even with my so called lollipop support system and dried up caramel. It was funny. I was rushing to assemble and take some pictures…soon to find out that once the spun caramel got on the Piece Montée it starts to WILT :(

Anyway, lesson learned..and I had fun. I will make this again but maybe with coconut crème center and lemon glaze. The thing with these is that you can experiment with so many flavor combos… Raspberry crème with chocolate glaze, strawberry glaze with vanilla cream… oh my.


When life hands you wilted spun caramel, make a Piece Montée Margarita. :)


Chocolate Pastry Cream


1 1/4 cup milk, divided

2 tbsp cornstarch

3 oz semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped

6 tbsp sugar

1 egg

2 egg yolks

1 oz unsalted butter

1 tsp vanilla


Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine 3/4 cup of milk with the sugar in a saucepan, bring to boil and remove from heat.

Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.

Return the milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.

Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat.

Bring ¼ cup milk to a boil in a small pan; remove from heat, add in the chocolate and mix until smooth.

Whisk into pastry cream together with the butter and vanilla.

Pâte à Choux

Yield: about 28


¾ cup water

6 tbsp unsalted butter

¼ ts[ salt

1 tbsp sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 eggs


Pre-heat oven to 425◦F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.

Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.

As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.

It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip. Pipe choux about 1 inch apart in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high and about 1 inch wide.

Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.

Bake the choux at 425 ◦ F until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.

Lower the temperature to 350◦F and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool.

Filling the choux

When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux.

Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet.

Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

Chocolate Glaze

Melt 8 oz of chopped semi-sweet chocolate in microwave or double boiler.

Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning.

Assembly of the Piece Montée:

Dip the top of each choux in your glaze, and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet.

Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cupcakes are now my friends

Yeah, I wasn’t the biggest lover of cupcakes. Somehow decorating little cakes individually and getting them to look somewhat alike seemed to frighten me.

I think I am over it. I had to do cupcakes for my son’s class. His graduating class that is. I intended on doing some fondant graduation caps but I changed my mind when I realized I didn’t have the time. But that was good. Because it encouraged me to use buttercream and make a something pretty cool out of it.



Congrats to my son who graduated from Elementary School on the Honor Roll. Whoot Whoot!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Two Cake night…

Two kids, one weekend, two cakes. Pokémon and Zhu Zhu pets were the theme of choice.

These were smaller cakes and I had to control myself not to overdue them. I had envisioned what I wanted but wasn’t quite sure how…

Pokémon was easy. Except that I planned on adding Ash, the trainer to the cake by doing a chocolate transfer. Well, I was out of black oil color to dye the chocolate and as you may, or may not know…you can’t use regular food coloring dye or the chocolate will seize. Despite this….I pushed on saying that I will figure out what to do when I cross that road. Then I decided to deviate from my normal routine of mixing the colors as I need them which allows the chocolate already laid to temper. I decided to premix my colors and have them laid out and ready…that lead to the discovery that piping bags don’t like the microwave…as now I have green dye on my feet…explosion central! Anyway, the tempered chocolate did not lay to well on Ash’s picture…and ended up looking like a mess and a million. Okay…not that bad but he didn’t need to go on the cake looking like that. My son was happy as he warned me not to put him on the cake in the first place.

Ash less Pokémon cake… for Daniel…whose favorite Pokémon is Snorlax. I think I like him too..

Happy Birthday Daniel..




and of course…. Stephanie… Happy Birthday!!!

Her choice…Zhu Zhu Pets.. Who knew a hamster can be a girls best friend!??!!


Jilly is the girly girl of the Zhu Zhu Pets. Apparently.

She love to dress up in her crown and veil… she has the softest pink fur and a little cherry symbol on her back.

I have learned a lot about the Zhu Zhu family. I was also quite pleased as to how this cake came out. Jilly was made from rice krispies…much like the poke ball in the Pokémon cake above. Jilly is resting on purple fondant, although it looks less purple in this picture…but she is also surrounded by edible pink and purple glitter.

I was thrilled I managed to push out a hamster cake perfect for a little girl.

Go Jilly!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mums for Mom.

Happy Mothers Day!!! I love love love Chrysanthemums. Hence the Chrysantheumum on the top of the cake of my logo. So when I received an order for a Mother’s Day cake I choose a Chrysantheumum to adorn the cake.

Doing a gumpaste Mum was very challenging…but I knew I wanted it to have a fantasy look as well. A bit abstract….

Every Mom is not perfect. Every mom is a bit abstract. We should be.


Imperfections and all…yet so beautiful.

I love this cake.


Happy Mothers Day.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Eh…What’s so special about a Buggati anyway?

I guess this one is special because it is my son’s birthday cake. This was his request. It didn’t matter that I had never attempted to do a car cake before. It didn’t matter to him that I told him I don’t think I can do it. He simply responded “Yes, you can mommie.”

I didn’t get nervous about this cake because it was for my son. It wasn’t for someone else’s child. When I attempt to make something for the first time for someone else I dream about it… Seriously.

If this cake was for someone else, I probably would have done it over. And I am positive that everything I learned not to do with this one would have made the next one so much better.


As you can guess I am not too happy with my Buggati car. But…in my defense, it was my first car :). I have heard how difficult car cakes can be.

I could pout and mumble and say I will never never never do this again(which I did)…but I will do it again. Maybe next time I won’t do a car that is as detailed as a Buggati…maybe I will do a Honda, a Beetle or a Lightening McQueen car. Something a bit more simple so that I can get better in time. But really, am I simple like that? I always have to take it further…

Eh….What’s so special about a Buggati anyway? I have my answer…my son. He loved his Buggati in the dessert. “Mommie! Did you know that Little Wayne has a music video with a Buggati in the dessert? … and then breaks out in song, “I can transform you, I can transform you…!”

I learn something new everyday.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bitter Sweet Daffodils


My Mother in Law has received the opportunity of a lifetime. An opportunity that she has worked very hard for. Not only is she graduating with her second Master’s Degree this month, but she has a new out of state job offer that is phenomenal ~ just like her.

As selfish as I feel, because I don’t want her to leave us I know none of us can clip her wings. I cry writing this…because I can’t explain how my heart can be happy for her yet sad because she is leaving us.

My Mother in Law’s strength and perseverance is amazing. She has inspired me to push on no matter what. Her life stories are amazing and I can see how they have molded her in to the strong woman she is today.

Beverley, I am wishing you all the best. As much as I want to hug you and not let you go. As much as I want my children to not go a day without seeing you I am hopeful that the lessons you instilled in me and Hubby will be instilled in them.

When you asked me to do your Birthday cake I was happy. I wanted this cake to represent how beautiful you are to us. You have been there for me since the day I moved here. I appreciate and love you and want all the best for you. Thanks for the inspiration, the support and the love.

Bitter Sweet Daffodils…