31 October 2010

Monster of a Chocolate Pistachio Cake

Several years ago I got the cutest witch foot cakestand. It is part of Dept. 56 Krinkles' line. But with being ill and such, this is the first year I have been able to use it. Last year the cover of Celebrate Halloween featured a gorgeous chocolate pistachio cake. As soon as I saw the picture of the cake I thought it would be perfect on the cakestand with the witches feet. This year all the stars aligned just right to make that happen!

In the magazine the recipe calls for a boxed devil's food cake mix and boxed white cake mix. I wanted to use a chocolate cake recipe that was in Gourmet some years ago and my great-grandmother's white cake recipe. The cake in Gourmet called for two 10"×2" pans and I wanted to use three 8" pans. That's an easy substitution. Our white cake recipe can be baked in 8" pans or 9" pans. This is the same recipe we use to make our famous Fresh Coconut Cake. I've done that one so many times I could almost bake this cake in my sleep. All it needed for this recipe was to add some green food colouring. I adapted Celebrate Halloween's Pistachio Filling and used their recipe for the Chocolate Ganache Icing with Kahlua.

As there are two cakes, as well as separate filling and icing, it's easier to do this one is steps. I started with the chocolate cake. As always, I gather together the ingredients.

Not sure why the Kahlua got ahead of itself and jumped into the photo! LOL. It doesn't come into play until the ganache!

Parchment, ready to be cut into circles to line the cake pans:

For the chocolate I used Ghiradelli squares.

Chocolate melting in the hot coffee:

Eggs, oil and buttermilk all mixed together:

Dry ingredients:

Cake batter ready to go in the oven:

Cakes cooling in the pans:

Turned out of pans:

And parchment removed:

Wrapped in plastic and ready to go in fridge:

Now the ingredients for the green cake layers:

Mise en place is always important, but even more so when baking something like this cake. Here we have the sifted dry ingredients, the milk and the whipped egg whites, all ready to be added to the creamed butter and sugar.

And speaking of creamed butter and sugar:

Green batter ready to be baked:

And here are the layers turned out to finish cooling:

The filling couldn't be easier! Collect the ingredients:

And whip them all together:

Last, but not least, it's time for the ganache:

Butter, cream, Kahlua and vanilla heating:

Chopped chocolate:

Hot liquid ingredients melting the chopped chocolate:

And the warm ganache ready to chill:

Time to assemble. Here we are with two of the layers:

Ganache icing applied:

Pistachios patted on the sides - the cake is ready for presentation:

After cutting:

And here's one of the five-layer slices:

It had to go on a platter to hold it!

A more reasonable two-layer slice plated on chartreuse Fiesta along with some café au lait served in one of the chartreuse Fiesta mugs from the American Museum of Natural History:

Monster of a Chocolate Pistachio Cake

Chocolate Cake
Gourmet, March 1999
3 oz semisweet chocolate
1½ cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
1¼ tsp salt
3 large eggs
¾ cup vegetable oil
1½ cups buttermilk
¾ tsp vanilla

Green Cake
This is my great-grandmother's white cake recipe with green food colouring added.
3 cups flour, sift before measuring
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2/3 cup shortening or butter
1½ cups sugar
1 cup sweet milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp green food colouring
4 egg whites, beaten until stiff

Pistachio Filling
adapted from Celebrate Halloween, Phyllis Hoffman
2 (3.4 oz) boxes pistachio instant pudding mix
2¼ cups heavy cream
1 cup sour cream
¾ cup milk
½ cup confectioner's sugar

Chocolate Ganache Icing with Kahlua
Celebrate Halloween, Phyllis Hoffman
18 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp heavy cream
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
¼ cup Kahlua
1 tsp vanilla

2 cups chopped roasted pistachios

Make chocolate cake: Preheat oven to 300°F and grease pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper or parchment and grease paper.

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon coloured (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well. Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in centre comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, one day at room temperature or three days in the refrigerator.

Make green cake: Preheat oven to 375°F and grease pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper or parchment and grease paper.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt two times and set aside. Cream shortening or butter and sugar. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk. Stir in vanilla and green food colouring. Fold egg whites gently into batter. Bake for about 25 minutes.

Cool cakes for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Invert onto rack, carefully remove waxed paper and finish cooling.

Make pistachio filling: Mix together the pudding mix, cream, sour cream, milk and confectioner's sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use. This can be made a day or two ahead.

Make chocolate ganache icing: Chop the chocolate and place in a large bowl. Mix the cream, butter, Kahlua and vanilla in a saucepan. Using MED-HI heat, bring to boil. Pour over the chocolate, whisking until the chocolate is smooth and melted. Refrigerate to cool to spreading consistency, about 30-45 minutes.

Assemble the cake: Divide the pistachio filling into fourths. Place a layer of chocolate cake on your cakestand. Spread ¼ of the pistachio filling on top. Add a layer of green cake and spread with ¼ of the pistachio filling. Repeat with remaining layers of cake, omitting the filling on top of the top layer. Spread ganache evenly over the sides and top of cake. Press pistachios onto the sides of the cake, going about ¾ of the way up from the bottom.

1. The chocolate cake layers were baked on Thursday. Then I wrapped them well in plastic and kept them in the refrigerator until today (Sunday). I started assembling the cake while the cake layers were still cold and that worked very well.
2. I used 8"×2" cake pans. Next time I bake this cake, I think I will use 9" pans so the cake won't be quite so tall. It will probably make it a little easier to cut and to store.
3. Next time I think I will also bake the green layers ahead of time, wrap and store them in the refrigerator, too, until it is time for assembly.
4. I stirred the ganache after it had been chilling around 30 minutes because it was still too soft in the middle of the bowl and was getting too firm around the outside edges.

Have a frightfully enchanted evening!

Bookmark and Share

Happy Halloween

One of the little things I collect are vintage Halloween postcards. The ones I love the best are from the 1920s and 30s, and feature pumpkins, gourds, etc. in some kind of anthropomorphic form and often they are riding in vehicles. For quite a few years I have enjoyed scanning the old cards and then editing them digitally to be a card for the current holiday. Yea Photoshop! I like keeping the same greeting that was originally on the card, but often the text needs to be redone. And of course, I like to add the year.

Wishing all of you a spooky holiday!
namasté and happy hauntings,
Bookmark and Share

30 October 2010

Pink Saturday ~ Chihuly Pinks 2

Pink Saturday is hosted by Beverly at How Sweet the Sound. She loves pink and graciously invited the rest of us to play along. Check out her blog to see who all else is enjoying this week's pink party.

Last week I posted a couple of photos from Dale Chihuly's 2004 exhibit at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. My Mom and I had a wonderful visit there. This week's Pink Saturday contribution includes some more shots from that same exhibit.

Both of these pictures feature orbs - hanging and floating. Some of the orbs are over 18" in diameter, perhaps even two feet.

Hanging in a palm tree:

Floating in a pond:

I love the reflections of the ones in the ponds. And the ones in the trees look like giant Christmas tree ornaments. Check out Chihuly's work if you get the chance. You will marvel at the beauty.

Happy Pink Saturday!

Bookmark and Share

29 October 2010

Decorating for Halloween

I love Halloween. It is one of my favourite holidays. And I love to decorate for Halloween. We probably have as many Halloween decorations as we do Christmas decorations. Outside we usually set up a graveyard along the front walkway.

We also decorate inside. While you might not think it from walking up to the front door, I tend to like magical fun decorations more than ghoulish, frightening ones. Here's the dining room table with a spider web tablecloth that came from the now defunct Martha By Mail catalogue. It's set with Fiesta Happy Pumpkin and coordinating persimmon pieces for the not-so-spooky centrepiece.

Various witch themed decorations are all about.

The tree and stand also came from the old Martha By Mail. I've had fun collecting some Halloween ornaments. This year there are some new ones to add. And there's a Happy Pumpkin salt shaker sitting in the tree.

My new Fiesta ornaments with Halloween decals:

In the foyer by the front door is a bizarre Victorian hall tree that I just adore. This piece of furniture goes with nothing else in our art deco house, but the whimsy of it makes me smile every time I see it. It usually collects a few Halloween decorations, too. The pumpkin is vintage papier mâche from the 1930s.

Decorations go up at the farm, also. On the front porch of the log house I put a set of old shelves by the front door. They hold the Witch Jars.

The Witch Jars are incredibly fun to make. Collect interesting jars, interesting things to go in them and let your imagination go wild.

On the table in the entry hall Happy Halloween Candy Jars welcome guests.

And candles are always a good idea.

Sewing themed Jack-O-Lanterns for my Mom and me.

One of my favourite things to get out for Halloween is Esmerelda. Esmerelda is a motion-activated witch who's about 4' tall. Whenever anyone comes within a few feet of her, her eyes flash and she says, "Trick or Treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat". The little kids love her and my postman has finally gotten used to her.

Another of my favourites is somewhat old - from the 1960s. My Mom was a member of the Fad-of-the-Month Club. Every month a box arrived with some craft item to make. Often the item was geared to whatever holiday was being celebrated that month. One year October's fad was this little witch broom. It's about a foot tall and hangs. Mom used it for years as a decoration, but as I had gotten to "help" put it together, when I moved into my first apartment, she gave it to me. That was 1976 and she's been happily living with me ever since.

So my friends in blogland remember for Sunday:

namasté and happy haunting,
Bookmark and Share