WBEZ | cakes http://www.wbez.org/tags/cakes Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Holiday competition at Sofitel takes the cake http://www.wbez.org/blog/louisa-chu/2011-12-15/holiday-competition-sofitel-takes-cake-94941 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-16/cake.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-15/DSC_0768.jpg" title="" height="399" width="600"></p><p>Judging a cake competition is not as <a href="http://chicago.grubstreet.com/2011/12/check_out_the_cakes_from_cdas.html#photo=7x00013">easy</a> as it sounds. Don't get me wrong: it's one of the best jobs in the world—that and being a judge at <a href="http://baconfestchicago.com/2011goldenrashers">Baconfest</a>. But when you know how much work goes into a presentation piece, it's not just a cake walk.</p><p>Café des Architectes recently hosted a bûche de Noël—aka yule log—<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/louisa-chu/2011-11-28/week-food-events-and-limited-edition-eats-and-drinks-94364">competition</a> at the Sofitel and they invited me to judge. The event was called Holiday Rock &amp; Roll and benefitted <a href="http://www.strength.org/chicago/">Share Our Strength</a>—and I hope it will become an annual event. Fellow judges included CdA's Exec Pastry Chef Patrick Fahy; La Patisserie P Chef/Owner Peter Yuen; Lovely Bakeshop Chef/Owner Bob Hartwig; Time Out Chicago Features Editor Laura Baginski; my friend, Grub Street Chicago Editor Michael Gebert.</p><p>But everyone judged, really. Attendees tasted all the cakes and voted as the people's choice winner the bûche you see above, by Spiaggia Pastry Chef Celeste Campise.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-15/DSC_0770.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 200px;" title=""><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-15/DSC_0778.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 200px;" title=""></p><p>The slice I tasted is above left. It looks like milk chocolate, but the cake was actually a <a href="http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2009/06/caramelized-white-chocolate/">caramelized white chocolate</a>, with orange zest, and the cake soaked with Luxardo Amaretto, with a layer of mocha Italian buttercream. It was all rolled in <a href="http://www.cacao-barry.com/uken/4245">Cara Crakine</a>, crunchy cereal bits coated with caramel milk chocolate by Cacao Barry, one of the sponsors. The "bark" was shards tempered chocolate with gold dust, and pulled sugar "flames" tipped with gold leaf that flickered gently in the air.</p><p>"It was literally supposed to be a log on the fire," said Campise.</p><p>She's serving a version of it at Spiaggia for the next month or two, but with orange sponge cake, soaked in the Luxardo Amaretto, with homemade almond butter folded into chocolate with ground almonds for the crunch layer, Illy espresso Italian buttercream, coated in roasted white chocolate ganache, and orange curd.</p><p>"It's very Italian Christmas-y flavors," she said.</p><p>I asked if someone could special order her winning bûche. "I'll have to get back to you on that," she said, "It's pretty labor intensive. Plus you have to store it properly, with that pulled sugar."</p><p>How long did it take her to make the cake? "I made it and remade it eight to 10 times," she said, "Ten to 11 hours per day, for three or four days, that's all I did."</p><p>Did you know most presentation pieces are not eaten and sometimes inedible?</p><p>Hers was. "Oh yeah, it was edible," said Campise, "My mom actually took it to work."</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-15/DSC_0777.jpg" title="" height="399" width="600"></p><p>The judges' winner was Greg Mosko of North Pond, above. His was not only the cake, but a whole scene. It was a chocolate jelly roll cake, with three different kinds of mousse: 80% dark chocolate, peppermint, and salted caramel; coated with dark chocolate ganache, then sprayed with chocolate and cocoa butter for a velvet effect. There were even a few dew drops of agar.</p><p>And then there was the scene.</p><p>"There were chocolate crumbles, meringue mushrooms, white chocolate and cocoa butter spray for a snow effect," said Mosko, "More dark chocolate crumbles for a dirt effect, and toasted coconut tinted green for a moss effect. The rocks on the display were caramelized macadamia nuts dipped in tempered chocolate, dusted in cocoa powder or 10X [superfine powdered sugar]. The little macaron snails were gingerbread macarons with gingerbread buttercream filling, bodies made out of marzipan. There were chocolate marzipan leaves and a couple of little mice made from marzipan, sprayed with dark chocolate for a furry effect."</p><p>"There was also a little web of caramelized sugar with a tiny little chocolate marzipan spider," he said, "but it was on the back and really just for the judges to see."</p><p>Mosko is serving the gingerbread macarons only just for the rest of this month with his ice cream platter. The flavors? "Roasted Bosc pear, brown butter pecan, and Earl Grey, served with fried sage, pear cider reduction, and cinnamon pudding."</p><p>His bûche? "It was a one time thing only," he said, "I'm really just a production team of one. I was making little pieces starting Sunday, and finished Thursday morning, day of the competition."</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-15/DSC_0811.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 200px;" title=""><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-15/DSC_0793.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 200px;" title=""></p><p>Fahy hosted and presented a cake, but did not compete. His was a vanilla roulade with salted, caramelized hazelnuts, dark chocolate mousse, finished with brown sugar butterscotch, chocolate branches—all sprayed velvety white with cocoa butter—and pulled sugar ribbons.</p><p>He'll be serving slices of an eggnog bûche on Christmas Eve and Day only, with poached cranberries, nutmeg, bittersweet chocolate, and eggnog ice cream</p><p>"It will be a much thicker slice," he said, "If I'm sitting down for dessert, I want a good hefty portion."</p><p>What was the inspiration for his striking design?</p><p>"I don't have a fireplace now but at my mother's in Wisconsin, she does," he said, "The inspiration was a stack of snow-covered logs. I wanted it to look like a little pile of firewood, but with a a clean, nice, modern look."</p><p>"She's also got a pine tree and that's where the pine cone thing comes from."</p><p>The pine cone thing being his new ice cream flavor on the menu, served with warm cider beignets, apple chips, and cider caramel.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-15/DSC_0763.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 200px;" title=""><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-15/DSC_0766.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 200px;" title=""></p><p>The wildest design was created by Michelle and Vinny Garcia, punk rock chef/owners of Bleeding Heart Bakery.</p><p>The exterior was covered with snaky coils of fondant, and the cake, smoked Earl Grey with candied plum and whipped cream filling, finished with ganache.</p><p>It's available by special order but at the bakeries they have traditional yule log cakes in chocolate, hazelnut, and peppermint.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-15/DSC_0756.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 200px;" title=""><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-15/DSC_0755.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 200px;" title=""></p><p>Amanda Rockman of The Bristol did a play on words with a Black Forest Cake. You know, yule log, forest, Black Forest Cake.</p><p>"I brandied my own cherries from <a href="http://seedlingfruit.com/index.html">Seedling</a> for two-and-a-half weeks," she said, "and it was a chocolate sponge with vanilla simple syrup, milk chocolate praline <a href="http://www.cacao-barry.com/uken/173">feuilletine</a>, brandied cherry gelée, white chocolate mousse, dark chocolate glaze, gold leaf, chocolate plaquettes, and gilded maraschino cherries."</p><p>Rockman is not serving it at the restaurant. " But if someone wanted to special order I'm willing to have a conversation," she said, "Who am I to say they can't have it?"</p><p>"But they'd have to order it this weekend."</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-15/DSC_0780.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 200px;" title=""><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-15/DSC_0782.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 200px;" title=""></p><p>You know how in cake competition shows they always make it seem like someone's going to drop their cake? Yes, it happened, to Elissa Narow of Vie and Perennial Virant.</p><p>But first, her bûche: chocolate sponge cake, dark chocolate mousse, Venuzuelan chocolate, the rare <a href="http://www.cacao-barry.com/uken/76">Plantation Alto El Sol </a>ganache, milk chocolate sesame crunch layer, chocolate glaze, strands of pulled sugar, and meringue mushrooms sprinkled with sesame seeds.</p><p>This was the first time I'd had the Alto El Sol. "I recalled this one chocolate I'd tasted a couple of years ago that I loved so I asked for it," she said, "It had undertones of banana flavor. I wasn't thinking of peppermint or seasonal."</p><p>Her bûche is available by special order.</p><p>And the tragic moment?</p><p>"I made the buche at Vie," she said, "I set it on a tile I purchased. I'd been working on it a couple of days—a couple of long days. I transported everyting down to PV. I was walking through the kitchen and then just crashed down on my knees."</p><p>"The whole thing went crashing down."</p><p>"It was 10:30 the night before the competition. I knew we weren't going to be serving that, thank goodness, because there were tile fragments in it. I was upset for 10 minutes and then I thought it was pretty funny."</p><p>You are a pro Chef Narow, a hardcore pro.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-15/DSC_0772.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 200px;" title=""><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-15/DSC_0774.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 200px;" title=""></p><p>And last but not least, Jove Hubbard of David Burke's Primehouse served a cake with unusual flavors: fennel, lemon, and pine nuts.</p><p>"It was an opportunity to do something different," he said, "Usually for competition, flavors have to be super traditional."</p><p>"It was pretty cool that Patrick put it out there to be modern and different."</p><p>"So I was thinking pine trees. A yule log would probably be a pine tree."</p><p>"It was a chocolate dacquoise, a crunchy layer made with pine nuts—feuilletine, streusel, fennel pollen, and praliné—fennel and lemon curd, candied fennel, salted pine nut mousse, and Peruvian chocolate mousse."</p><p>He's serving a more classic bûche flavor starting tonight, through Christmas Eve; they're closed Christmas Day.</p><p>"They're individual chocolate bûche de Noël," he said, "Coffee crémeux, Bailey's ice cream, with pecan toffee."</p><p>His competition cake? "I guess I'd be happy to make it," he said, "I hadn't really thought about it. I don't really sell cakes to go."</p><p>"I don't have the boxes."</p><p>For a look at the bûches de Noël in Paris this year, my friends at Paris by Mouth are counting down the days until Christmas with a new one every morning <a href="http://parisbymouth.com/the-2011-buches-de-noel/">here</a>.</p></p> Thu, 15 Dec 2011 20:01:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/louisa-chu/2011-12-15/holiday-competition-sofitel-takes-cake-94941 Cupcakes banned! Or, a response to the end of food at elementary-school birthday parties http://www.wbez.org/blog/mark-bazer/2011-08-31/cupcakes-banned-or-response-end-food-elementary-school-birthday-parties-9 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-August/2011-08-30/Chocolate_cupcakes.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-August/2011-08-30/Chocolate_cupcakes.jpg" style="width: 501px; height: 326px;" title=""></p><p>The cupcake is nearing its end.</p><p>I don’t mean those gourmet, boutique cupcakes that still get some people squealing like 13-year-old girls upon hearing the first notes of a song at a middle-school dance.</p><p>Those cupcakes don’t seem to be going anywhere. Except for to the Weirdest Mall in America, the eerily quiet Block 37 mall where the famous West Village, Manhattan, Magnolia Bakery is inexplicably setting up shop.</p><p>No, I’m talking about real, all-American, craptastic cupcakes.</p><p>The supermarket kind. The kind with as much frosting as cupcake. The kind that comes in packs of six or 12 or 24. The kind that tastes cheap...and delicious.</p><p>The kind that was made for in-school birthday celebrations.</p><p>And hence the reason for cupcakes’ imminent demise.</p><p>Yesterday, the e-mail came, out of the blue, into my in-box. The principal of my son’s elementary school —&nbsp;incidentally, one of the most caring and conscientious principals I’ve ever met (and I am not just saying that because my son has five more years there) —&nbsp;had some news.</p><p>NO MORE FOOD AT IN-SCHOOL BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS.</p><p>Well, he didn’t use all caps, and he did write in full sentences. But that was the way the message hit me: loud and blunt.</p><p>Instead, parents can send in birthday favors like stickers, pencils or cards when it’s their child’s birthday. You’re not allowed to put frosting on these items.</p><p>The reason for the new policy, which I’m sure you’ve already guessed, is that school officials want to focus more on wellness and nutrition and physical fitness. They apparently look upon monthly or so exercises in gluttony as thwarting those aims.</p><p>It’s hard to argue with such good intentions, especially when just this week a major study came out predicting half of all adults will be obese by 2050 and that the other half will have to sit next to them on airplanes.</p><p>But...c’mon.</p><p>We’re talking about birthdays. Birthdays involve cake. We even have a term for it: birthday cake.</p><p>And no school tradition is more endearing than Mom or Dad going on a rushed cupcake run to Jewel 10 minutes before snack time so that their child can be the hero for the day.</p><p>This smacks of another in a long line of well-meaning, probably correct societal changes that decrease our chances of head injuries and clogged arteries but diminish life’s enjoyment until those things occur.</p><p>From helmets on tricycle riders to dry college campuses, we’re increasing our chances of living longer...so we can celebrate more cake-free birthday parties.</p><p>Pretty soon, even at home birthday celebrations, we’ll just hand the birthday child a bunch of lit candles and ask him to blow them out.</p><p>None of this, let me make clear, is meant as a harangue against some imagined, so-called nanny state. It’s hard to see what’s wrong with government officials encouraging healthy eating, especially as long they never utter the words Chick-fil-A.</p><p>This is about something smaller. A lot smaller. A cupcake.</p><p>It may be too late for my son’s school, and for my son. It’s inevitable now that when he gets to college and finally feels free, he will lose all self-control and pound cupcakes until he blacks out or...has a real bad stomachache.</p><p>But if you have children, and their school still allows food at birthday parties, hang on to their freedom! Be ever on your guard! Support your local supermarket bakery’s lobbying efforts in D.C.!</p><p>And when it’s your kid’s birthday, maybe consider sending in carrot cake.</p><br> <hr><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Come see <em>The Interview Show</em> this Friday at <a href="http://www.hideoutchicago.com">The Hideout</a>, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Guests include cartoonist and <em>Big Questions</em> author Anders Nilsen, chef Ryan Poli of the soon-to-open Tavernita, stand-up comedian Cameron Esposito and, celebrating the club's 15th anniversary, the owners of The Hideout! $8.</p></p> Wed, 31 Aug 2011 09:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/mark-bazer/2011-08-31/cupcakes-banned-or-response-end-food-elementary-school-birthday-parties-9