Monday, August 30, 2010

Financiers... and a Give Away!

Last week was a tease. A brief moment of the promise of fall, and as I do every year, I started to get ahead of myself. While I didn't go so far as to pull the sweaters from hibernation, I did start to dream of dutch ovens and pressure cookers and all the hearty soup, stew and stocks that would soon be coming.

And of course, the beautiful week is followed up by the seventh or ninth or seventy ninth heatwave of the year, and so my dreams were set aside for a few more weeks. But since my oven is perpetually on, I thought I'd share a perfect in between season sweet, and hold a contest for the perfect baking molds for them, courtesy of the lovely people at!

Financiers are just the most lovely of cakes. They are loaded with rich brown butter, and lightened by the addition of powdered sugar. Hearty, soft and delicate they also can pack in a lot of flavor, pretty much anything you choose. Inspired by a flavor combination I fell in love with on a trip to Belieze, these treats are bursting with coconut and bathed in a delicious banana chocolate ganache. These cakes are endlessly versatile. They can be baked in one large round or in adorable individual molds. The best part yet... extra batter can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, making freshly baked dessert available to you at a moments notice.

And to make these beautiful babies just as adorable as they can be, I'm giving away two silicone baking mold sheets from To enter, leave a comment under this post about your own autumn inspired culinary fantasies by 5pm Friday, September 3, 2010 and I'll pick a winner, and announce them on Tuesday, September 7th.


For the Financiers:
(Inspired by a recipe by Sherry Yard)

8 oz or 2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 cup coconut flour (Bob's Red Mill is one brand)
3/4 cup cake flour
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
8 egg whites at room temperature
1/2 tsp natural coconut extract
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium high, and cook it until the milk solids start to brown. Watch it carefully to prevent it from burning. Like caramel, its really easy to go from brown deliciousness, to burnt as you blink. Its also best to use a lighter colored pot for this, so you can see the transformation. Set the butter aside to cool for at least a half hour. If the butter is too hot it will ruin the cakes, so definitely let it sit but don't refrigerate it either. It needs to stay liquid.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the pans you're using by spraying with pan spray, or butter and flour them. Silicone pans shouldn't need more than a quick spray.

To amp up the flavor of the coconut flour, add it to a pan on the stove and toast it over high heat, stirring constantly to keep it toasting evenly and avoid burning it. It just takes a few moments to turn a warm toasted color. Let this cool. Sift the cooled coconut flour, cake flour and sugar and salt into the bowl of a standing mixer, and mix with the paddle attachment to combine. Combine the egg whites and extracts. Add this all at once to the flour mix and set to medium speed, mixing for 3 minutes.

Add the cooled butter all at once, scrapping down all those delicious brown bits, and mix for another 3 minutes. To make it easy to put into the individual sized pans, I transfer the mix to a pastry bag (plastic bag with the end cut off works just fine too) and fill the sections about 3/4 of the way up. Bake at 350 until just barely golden and set to to the touch... or the top bounces back when you touch the center of the cakes. I know you want times, and I'm sorry that I can't provide them... every oven is different, pan size, type etc can all add or subtract from timing, so the best indicator to start to watch them is your nose. When you start to smell that delicious coconut flavor, its time to keep a close eye. You'll be a better baker for it. Trust me.

When done, move them to a cooling rack, and unmold as soon as you can safely touch them.

The sauce:

4 oz heavy cream
4 oz best quality chocolate
1 large banana
1/8 tsp salt

Turn oven to 375. Poke banana a few times with the tip of a knife. Place it in the center of the oven and roast it until black...about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. If your bananas are very ripe, you can skip this step.

Heat cream in a small sauce pan till boiling. Pour boiling cream over chocolate and let this sit for 5 minutes. Then whisk this until the cream and chocolate combines fully, into a shiny chocolate mixture. Put the banana and salt into the bowl of the food processor... process until smooth, then add the chocolate and process until fully combined and smooth.

Pour the chocolate cream on the plates, and place the cake on top. If you'd like to make the garnish, take another banana, slice it and dip the slices into granulated sugar. Use a kitchen torch to brule the sugar. If you don't have a torch handy, you can do this in a broiler, watching it carefully to prevent burning. Let them cool before touching them, then place on the tops of your cakes.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Setting a Scene...

I come from a long line of very crafty women. From the moment I could make a fist, someone was putting a pompom in it. I was never fortunate enough to have met my maternal grandmother, but I hear tales of her ability to recreate a dress after simply seeing it in a store.
There were pot holders weaved from nylon bands, that no sane person should ever try to lift a heavy, hot pot with, unless they want to fuse the nylon to their hands. Hook rugs, needle point, beads, and sewing in the early years. Lots of pipe cleaners, but for the life of me can't remember a single use for them.

When I moved to New York, I was sure that my city lifestyle (and SUPER small apartment) was no place for craftiness. Thought it was uncool. But always the creative type, I headed to film school. I thought I would make films. I did make films, but while I was, I was also dabbling in photography, furniture building, mosaics, candles, late night baking, pretty much anything creative I could think of. There was a need to MAKE something, no matter what it was. My husband Jay defines the periods by how they affected him... glass in his feet in the mosaic days, gaining 10 pounds when I started making pies. (ok not really, he never gains weight ever, no matter how much sugar and left over cake I feed him. Hate him.)

I had no idea at the time that I was in training... turns out that all of those skills have at some point been useful in my cake journey. I know how to build things, create things, Make things. (thanks Mom) But what I think sometimes makes my work different from the other brilliant, talented cake people, is that I see things in scenes. And another perk of this choice of career is that I get to photograph my creations. No doubt my skills have grown since that very first creation, both in cake and in photography, but I still look forward to that moment after the cake is done when I get to set the background and the lights and capture the moment. My goal is not just to make a cool cake, but to set a scene and to convey a feeling in it, just like a shot in a film should, to tell their story in images. And just like people, some cakes photograph wonderfully, look gorgeous, and others... well, lets just say they have a great personality.

In cake, and photography, its all in the details... And as in film, rather than tell you my interpretation, I'd rather hear yours.

Labels: , ,

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hundreds of rosettes...

Last week was a particularly challenging one... I'm thinking that the upcoming Mercury retrograde was just playing silly games with me. Things always turn out, but sometimes it seems hard to see the path to get there. Its often easier when cakes have a lot of premade parts.... the beginning of a week is spent making them and the end of the week is all about assembly. But this week, a car, a topiary, a monkey, and what the hell are gabba gabbas.... all were last minute type creations. Early week was a breeze, but the end was a race to the finish line.

Val was a lovely young bride, and I adored her from the moment I met her. After four months of preparations and a few last minute changes, we came upon the big day... or from my point of view big week. On Friday we delivered a bright red Ferrari for her to surprise her groom at the rehearsal dinner, and on Saturday came the big wedding cake.

While every cake is no doubt an expression of me in some way, certain cakes I just can't wait to make, knowing somehow they will be a moment or transition of sorts for me, artistically speaking. Val's wedding cake was one of them. The original design called for some hot pink rosettes that matched the brides dress, covering a ball shaped cake, and a teal blue base cake that the ball sat on top of. But in the final weeks, Val had second thoughts about the blue. We rethought the original design, took away the blue but kept her favorite part, the varied colored rosettes. And I'm so glad we did. Generally I'm a fan of the theory, first thought, best thought, but this cake ended up being so much more elegant by keeping the white an pink tones, and eliminating the more intense blue. The other version would have been wonderful too, but this cake expressed joy much louder than the other version.

What I didn't anticipate was exactly how long those rosettes would take! There must have been hundreds, and what I thought I could whip out in record time, became hours and hours of rolling gum paste. But so worth it.

I'm so thankful for all my visionary brides that challenge me every day to stay on my creative toes, and always find a way to something new.
Congratulations Val!