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My Best Friend’s Wedding

My Best Friend's Wedding

Never in my wildest thoughts would I have imagined forming such a strong relationship with somebody met online. Yet, over the past two and a half years, Lisa has become just that: my bestfriend. I would have done (almost) anything, even singing badly at the corner bar to pay for my fare. No way I was going to miss that. They had decided to cater their own wedding and we quickly started exchanging emails about the how’s and what’s of the project. She mentionned getting her wedding cake from a bakery she liked and my first thought was "Yeah! I get to be in the wedding instead of baking for it!". My second thought was "Geez! I could save them so much money if I did it myself!" It would be my wedding gift and yes, that’s how it all got started.

Since I was baking for a close friend, at her house, right there in the middle of 6 other women preparing all the food, I expected something to go wrong. And it did….to a small extent since nobody saw it, but it was staring me in the face everytime I was working on the layers. Hence my constant "spatulating"….to say that the cakes got enough "massage" time is an understatement. I remember Lisa’s friend Kim stopping her work to stare at me with that look of "OMG, you’re patience is without limit, you are kind of loopy though". Yes, I was loopy (wouldn’t you be after a few nights with a 5am bed time?) and yes, I have endless patience.

It all started just fine really. We had trouble finding the right pan size but that is nothing that can’t be fixed so instead of doing a 12 inch – 9inch – 6 inch tiered cake. We bought one 12 inch pan for the bottom, I used one of Lisa’s 8 inch square for the middle and trimmed another 8 inch into a 6 inch for the top. I started at 4pm on thursday and I turned the oven off at 2am…10 hours of oven time. Yeehaaww! While the cakes were baking, I was doing other things like the fillings, the buttercream, getting the next batches ready, making sure they would all stack to the same height, etc…. I made all the buttercream I needed that same night to free some room in the kitchen for Friday’s savory preps. Kelly, Lisa and I marveled how gorgeously silky and soft it was, pure white…I just wanted to kiss it!

By 10am the next day, I just wanted to kill it…well, not all of it….It got really humid and rainy that night and one batch of buttercream (and I am not talking 2 cups here…think industrial quantities!!!) was breaking, terribly, but I doctored it and moved on. Murphy’s Law: out of time, out of room and as I went to apply it to the middle tier, it broke on the cake…not as bad as in the mixing bowl and everybody was saying it looked fine….but if you have been in charge of a project you cared for deeply, you will understand why all the imperfections of that middle tier just kept staring me in the face (and it’s not like I don’t know my way with Mrs. Buttercream!), I had no option but to keep going. I proceeding with the decorations with a pinch in my heart…I hated it. It was not until I took it to the reception hall and started putting the ribbon and flowers around it that I got excited again. W. was there helping out and when he saw it coming together, he got all tiery eyed. I let out a big sigh of relief. Lisa had seen the baking and building but I was keeping the final decorations out of her sight, for the real moment of surprise later. I think it worked, she said it did. Except for the ribbon that started to bubble because of the humidity in the walk-in refrigerator where the cake was waiting next to a small water leak. Murphy’s Law….again!

Before I proceed with a little explanation of the picture below, let me recap the tiers for you and run down a fun list:
– bottom tier: carrot cake with cream cheese frosting
– middle tier: pumpkin cake with butterscoth filling
– top tier: dark chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream
– the whole cake was covered with the same buttercream.
– ten hours of oven time, 7 pounds of butter, 11 pounds of sugar, 43 eggs, 16 cups of grated carrots, 3 batches of carrot cake, 3 batches of pumpkin cake, 5 batches of chocolate cake (2 of those were used to make chocolate cupcakes), 2 batches of cream cheese filling, 2 batches of butterscoth filling.
– Sleep on the plane back home: priceless….

Sorry if the quality of the pictures is touch and go but I borrowed from three different people what I needed to illustrate the "making of" the cake. No set ups…almost real life feed. I had brought minimal equipment and lenses and left my flash gear at home (doh!). I did have to doctor the cake picture by brushing off a garbage can that was right behind it, one arm and a couple of wires. Hopefully you get a good feel of how interesting those 5 days were at Casa Lisa!!


Once the layers are cut, the buttercream is applied in between each, then the cake is stacked and waiting for a little coating.

I am only showing you one tier and not all of them because it is just a matter of repeating the same steps for each layer.
Tip: To prevent your cake from forming a dome and having to level each layer, lower your oven temperature. I baked all the cakes at 340F instead of 350F and did not have to level any of them (I did however cut a small layer off for Lisa to sample!).
Tip: make sure to clean as you go and have plenty of cardboard to move your cakes around. Cut your cost like I did by recycling shipping boxes which work just as well as specialty made cake squares or rounds. I did however bought the final cake boards in the exact dimensions I needed as they are less thick and better looking for the finished product.


The cake gets a first "crumb coat", a thin layer of buttercream is applied all over then the cake gets refrigerated until the buttercream is hard. This prevents cake crumbs from mixing into your final buttercream coat. Simple 5 petal "flowers" are randomly piped on each side.

I don’t always crumb coat cakes but when it comes to wedding cakes or party cakes, I automatically do. It really traps all the crumbs from getting into your buttercream as you spread it on the cakes. Cover with a thin and relatively smooth layer but do not worry about it being even or perfect. It is going to get covered anyway.
Tip: apply large dots of buttercream to the sides and play a connect the dots game to spread the buttercream evenly as you run your spatula over the sides and top.
Tip: if you have uneven corners or edges, do not worry. Refrigerate the cake until the buttercream is hard and work with your spatula dipped in hot water and wiped dry to smooth things out.


The cake is all decorated with piped flowers then refrigerated until the buttercream gets hard so it will be easy to paint on the flowers later on. I trimmed one layer of the cake for a visual of what the final layer would look like. Also gave Lisa an idea of where on earth I was headed!!

Before piping the flowers, I ran the ribbon around the cake to mark its height and I stopped piping the flowers right above that line. Saves you time and assures you that the ribbon will stay nice and flat…usually (read above).
Lisa made me happy by choosing a very simple piping design since I had told her how much I disliked buttercream flowers and roses. I don’t dislike seeing them, I dislike making them…to each his/her own.


White pearl dust is mixed with small amount of clear vanilla extract to make a semi liquid paste, then each flower gets painted over with it to add a little shimmer to the final cake.

I used the same shimmer dust from Wilton I used to paint on the Poire D’Eve cake, but in pearl white which came out slightly lighter than silver and added the perfect accent to the cake.
Tip: use clear vanilla or another clear alcohol (type vodka) to form a paint and add more as it dries as you paint..or talk.


Each cake layer gets a trim with a purple ribbon (thinner at the top layer for optical effect), fresh mums and artificial frosted berries, twigs and leaves are applied at each corner. Finally the cake topper gets positionned on the cake and Helen lets out a deep breath.

Since the theme of the wedding was Fall Extravaganza, the hall and tables were decorated with fresh mums of the most beautiful shades and I had a lot to chose from the ones not used for the room. I accented the flowers with artificial frosted berries, twigs, etc…cut from a wreath bought at a craft store that I cut apart.Since the flowers were positioned just a couple of hours before serving I just soaked the stems in water to hydrate them well and clean them up.
Tip: if you use fresh flowers on a cake that remains at room temperature for a long time in the middle of summer, use specialty made tubes that you fill with water and stick in the cake.


Homemade wedding cake topper: the bride dragging the groom was cute but plain, so Lisa had a friend glue on the "gone fishing" trunk, the beer cans and the fishes were just positionned on the buttercream. Fresh mum and berries details on the right.

The topper was flat so I just set it on the cake with a dab of buttercream on the bottom but that was not even necessary. Depending on what topper you chose, you can secure it with buttercream or toothpicks, extra flowers, etc… Do not be afraid to get crafty and make your own if you don’t find excatly what you need, like Lisa did.


As it is customary, the top layer was set aside for Lisa and Wayne’s first anniversary. Double and tripled wrapped in their freezer. Display of macarons sent by Veronica. Love those distressed cake stands!!

So, taking the top tier off may not be the cleanest or easiest job to do but it came off without a hitch (Murphy had to much to drink and left us alone!).
Veronica from Veronica’s Test Kitchen took time out of her busy baking and selling schedule (check out her online store!!) and sent Lisa 8 dozens macarons (I think, I lost track after the 5th box) to add to the dessert table and they were all gone (except for the bridal dozen) by the end of the evening. Who would not jump on passion fruit-milk chocolate, rose buttercream and salted butter caramel?!!!


16 cups of freshly grated carrots went in the cake…See, it was healthy after all..hmmhmm. My bridesmaid bouquet.

Not much to add there except that all the flowers and bouquets were exquisite and perfectly arranged for a Fall wedding.

I turned the cake pictures into black and white ones with a color focal point to minimize the glare from the flashes as about 20 people were taking the same pictures at the same time.

A Buttercream Weekend – In Need Of Fruit!

Honey And Lavender Opera

Update 1: for a first account of the weekend, read John’s post here.

Update 2: Sorry for the confusion but this was not the wedding cake, I was just dipping into the archives to illustrate the buttercream.

As you can see I am using a little trip in the archives to sum up the last 5 days spent at Lisa’s for her wedding. There was a lot of buttercream indeed, a little over 6 pounds of it actually for her wedding cake. I am still at her house and won’t be back until later tonight but I will run some funny-interesting numbers for you later in the week. The food was beyond good, the people and friends I met were absolutely fantastic and even though there were quite a few nights that led to a 5am bed time, when we finally sat down this afternoon there was a huge smile on everybody’s face a couple of miles long. I have so many stories and memories that it is all a big happy blur in my head right now and as soon as I download and go through all the pictures tomorrow, I will make sure to give you an idea of what an incredible trip it was.

I thought that a little trip into Opera land with a previous Daring Bakers challenge that I loved will give you a tasty tease of more creamy pictures to come…not to mention that the legs in the picture above look nothing like mine after prepping and dancing all night long (was it the vodka or the shoes…who knows?!!). I missed B. and the pupps and now that the festivities are over, my body tired and my heart filled, I am seriously craving a little detox. I know exactly what to make on Tuesday morning to fix this: Apricot And Lavender Panna Cottas! I froze a bunch of apricots over the summer but I guess good quality preserved ones can do in a pinch.

Lavender and Apricot Panna Cotta

Why I am still awake you might ask? Overdrive…pure and simple and so happy about it at the same time!! The topper? Meeting John and R. who came from Pittsburg to be at Lisa’s party and spending 5 awesome days with Kelly who flew back to San Diego Sunday afternoon. More on all of this later…

Cracked Pepper, Mint and Strawberry Macarons – And Tartelette Goes To Japan

Cracked Pepper and Strawberry Macarons-Copyright©Tartelette 2008 Update: I am not going to Japan…I just went there virtually through a magazine article. Sorry for the confusion.

Long title I know….for the macaron story stay right here and scroll down to see how I got to Japan without leaving my couch!

When Chris was preparing her weekend trip here she mentioned that she wanted me to teach her how to make macarons. You know me and the little sweet suckers, I already have the spatula in my hand before you can twist my arm. I also had about 2 cups worth of already separated egg whites (long story, does not involve the puppy), so I decided to get a head start and try to re-create one of my favorite restaurant desserts in a macaron form.

I have always been surprised that the small town my parents live in is surrounded by a handful of amazing small restaurants. Great creativity, impeccable service, freshest of freshest ingredients. There was one in particular that was highly recommended for special occasions because of its amazing location and "nouvelle cuisine" menu (mind you that was 20 years ago). My father decided to take us there one special day in the summer and I can’t begin to describe how we were all looking forward to it after all the hype we had heard from friends and family. The setting was indeed gorgeous, and very "sunday best" but also very inviting. It’s funny the details I remember about that meal, even today.

The menu was creative and all the dishes described perfectly so that all our senses awaken…ah the wait was going to be tough. In my selective memory bank I can’t recall the appetizer part, surely because there was nothing that surprised us there. The waiter arrived with our silver dome covered plates..oh the anticipation was killing me …or was it my stomach growling? One after the other he lifted the domes to reveal the chef’s creations. All 6 hungry jaws fell to the table…all at once. Think about a big painting canvas with 3 little dots and a smudge…for 6 supposedly different paintings. We all tried hard but there were no more than 3 bites to each plate. I think it is a family trait but rather than being upset and uptight about it, we started cracking jokes about it until my grandfather started making up what our desserts could turn out to be.

Oh no! If there is one thing I will get upset about it is dessert, (surprise, surprise), and the thought of my promised Strawberry parfait on a cracked pepper and mint meringue disk also turning into 3 bites, 3 dots and a smudge, was making me a little fidgety on my seat. Desserts finally arrived and to our surprise we were served full portions no "nouveau-schmoozeau" version of sweet endings. Ah! Why didn’t they say the chef really had a sweet tooth?! Knowing my family we would have started there!!

And there it was, all for me…a subtle and light pink frozen strawberry parfait, set on a fragile and crackly disk of meringue spiced up with fresh chopped mint had freshly cracked black pepper. We still got home hungry but I have been recreating those flavors under various forms and techniques and in different plated desserts and pastry ever since that day. Obsessed? Yes, maybe, but only if it’s good…and the combination is just outstanding! I am a big fan of cracked pepper with fruit and sweets, after all it’s not as crazier as balsamic vinegar with strawberries and it really enliven traditional flavors and scents.

For the macarons I simply added some freshly chopped mint and freshly cracked pepper to the shell, and added freshly pureed strawberries to buttercream, as well as a touch of mint extract. The result? Just like I remembered! The mint and strawberry are definitely the first flavors to hit your tongue and then the cracked pepper comes and tickle it at the least expected moment! Happy, happy! Thank you Chris for playing my assistant while shooting these, and adding that one little pepper ball to the mac set up.

Cracked Pepper And Strawberry Macarons-Copyright©Tartelette 2008 Cracked Pepper, Mint And Strawberry Macarons:

Macarons Help available here (click)

For the Shells: (makes about 20-30 depending on size)

3 egg whites (I like to use 1-2 day old egg whites)
50 gr. granulated sugar
200 gr. powdered sugar
110 gr. almonds
2 tsp. chopped mint
3/4 tsp freshly cracked pepper

For the whites: the day before (24hrs), separate your eggs and store the whites at room temperature in a covered container. If you want to use 48hrs (or more) egg whites, you can store them in the fridge. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry and your macarons won’t work. Combine the almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Pass through a sieve. Add them to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that flows like magma or a thick ribbon. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 300F. Let the macarons sit out for an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool. If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. Don’t let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy. Pipe or spoon some buttercream on one shell and sandwich with another one. One tip I read is that if you use fresh whites, zap them up in the microwave on medium high for 20 seconds to mimic the aging process.

Strawberry Mousseline Buttercream:
Half a recipe of vanilla mousseline buttercream to which you add 1/2 cup pureed strawberries and 1/2 tsp mint extract.

Cracked Pepper and Strawberry Macarons-Copyright©Tartelette 2008 Allright…so what was that about my trip to Japan? Well, a couple of months ago, one of the editors' of the Japanese magazine Joshi Camera contacted me to see if I was interested in being interviewed and featured in their July issue. I think I about snorted my coffee, checked under the computer and decided that well since it was Christmas in my brain already, "Yes! Of course!"

You would have asked me last year if I knew Joshi Camera, a magazine dedicated to women digital photographers, I would have said no, but the fact that they featured talents like Beatrice or Sabra in previous editions made me all the more appreciative and thrilled. I hope I answered their questions without making a "derriere" out of myself! The magazine is filled with gorgeous photographs (not all food related), positive energy, and quality. And yes Mom, I did ask for another copy for you…

They did go for 2 of my favorites: the Swirly Macarons and the Frozen Rhubarb And Banana Charlottes.Thank you Naomi and dang! why didn’t I take Japanese in school to be able to read the entire issue which you can order here. I hope you don’t think I am being pedantic by telling you about it but as I said, it is Christmas in my brain lately and I also know I am here and there because of your support.

Prize Winning Shortbread Cookies – A Giveaway

Before you think that this "book thing" is knocking me silly on zee head that I should post "just" about shortbread cookies, I want to tell you about the little gadget that makes cookies a lot more fun….and your chance to WIN IT !!!

One of my little pleasures is to read French blogs, for the recipes as much as keeping in touch with food trends there and more importantly what is the cool slang to use these days. One late (late) night I was reading away I stumbled on a post (can’t remember where, sorry) about this ubber cool toy: the Brigitte-Keks, to imprint on Petit Beurre like cookies.

Allright I have lost you…all that French, English and German in one. Petit Beurre are the simplest most traditional all butter cookie you will find in France. The Brigitte -Keks is one smart cutter that not only will cut to almost the exact shape as a Petit Beurre but will also imprint words like these: WIN ME !!

So there I was….wishing away I could get my hands on one of those. A couple of days later, I was reading Autour De Ma Table where Cathy was organizing a group order to the manufacturer since they are not everywhere. Light Bulb! Call mom, put my name in the order and ask mom to write up the check in the proper Euro amount and tell her I will pay her back 10 times over in kisses, that was a joke because the gadget is really not expensive. Then it just dawned on me that one of you guys might also want to have fun with one of these, so I called mom again and she was happy to help as it meant that I shall pay her back 20 times over now!

You can imprint anything and everything, you can be silly or serious, creative or to the point. We have been having fun playing with it the other day, leaving love notes, to do lists, grocery lists…Imagine that, walking down the store aisles, munching away on your grocery list. I also added "Happy Anniversary" cookies to the loot as B. and I are celebrating 10 years together today! Woohoo! The cutter and imprint are a breeze to use after you separate the little letters apart from their grid. Maybe I should have done so with butter free hands, eh?!! So long story short…

I have one extra – brand spanking – new Brigitte-Keks cookie cutter/imprint for one lucky reader. All you have to do to take this little toy home is to leave a comment between today Friday July 11th and Sunday July 13th (and why not tell me about your favorite cookie while you are at it). You can enter from anywhere in the world, and I will ship anywhere. No rules, just a couple of requests:
– please, please, please, even if you register your comment under anonymous, leave me an initial, a pseudonym, an X…anything. It’s nicer to announce if you win!
– try not to enter twice, it makes it easier for the random drawing
– Mom: you can’t enter the drawing, I’ll make you some cookies with your name on it.

Before I forget, I have tried many versions of Petits Beurre recipes but none that came close to the original so I am giving you my next favorite cookie recipe for Shortbread Cookies. They are not like the Irish shortbread cookies you might purchase at the grocery store, but more like "sables" from Brittany. Use orage flower water for a Provencal twist!

1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder

In a stand mixer or with hand held electric mixers beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the egg yolk and beat until well incorporated. Add the vanilla extract, flour, baking powder and salt and mix until the dough just starts to come together and form a ball. Stop the mixer and gather the dough with your hands. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a least 2 hours. Flour your work area lightly and start rolling.

To roll dough easily (works with pretty much all pastry dough) : start from the center and roll away from you, then close to you, repeat, lift the dough, flour your area, rotate the dough 1/4 turn and repeat the rolling process. Make sure to sprinkle the flour you work with, not dump it on. A little goes a long way. I usually sprinkle about one teaspoon and brush it away with my fingertips and repeat as a go along. If you try to roll the dough flat in the minimum of moves possible and you keep rolling away, you will warm up the butter too much and the dough will stick and you’ll get mad and you’ll swear off making dough forever…..

So I hope this helps because your homework when the book comes out is to make dough….! Ok, that’s not true but there will be some dough to get rolled!

Anyways…Once your dough is rolled to about 1/2 inch thick, and cut squares or rectangles with a sharp knife or other shapes with the cookie cutter that you like. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Let cool on wire rack.

Cherry Blossom and Hibiscus Macarons & A Giveaway

Mcarons-Copyright©Tartelette 2008 Thank you all for your kind words after my last post, you are all amazing to give your support and wishes like you do. I am sad for his family but relieved that the pain and suffering are over for him. I am no saint but faced with the grief that his family is going through I just do what I do best, I facilitate: I run errands, I make phone calls, etc…which really is nothing so I transmitted all your thoughts to his wife who was really amazed at the food blogging community and its strong spirits.

This makes me think, and before I tell you about the macarons, that I may not be around visiting blogs much in the next couple of weeks because my aunt and uncle are coming to visit us for the first time and I will of course play that facilitator role again…I 'll be here to update and of course post the Sugar High Friday round up but I apologize for my ghostly presence elsewhere.

Now that I have this bit out of the way, let me tell you how these macarons came about. I have had the idea of using hibiscus tea leaves in macarons ever since B. brought them back from his archaeological trip to Egypt a few years ago. He brought back a giant tin of it that I keep in the freezer and make tart hibiscus iced tea in the summer. I love its deep pink color and its intoxicating scent. It’s rather hard to describe its taste but think fruity without the froo-froo, tart without being puckery and floral without being heady. Once I made the buttercream I made a very strong small cup of tea, strained the leaves out and reduce it with some sugar on the stove until I got an extract. Once cooled, I mixed it with the buttercream and it added flavor and color in one second.

The cherry blossom macarons were made possible thanks to Rachael of La Fuji Mama in Japan. She posted about some she had one day while right in the mist of the cherry blossom season and mentionned that cherry blossom was an extract easily found over there. It is so difficult to translate a scent into a taste sometimes that I told her I was really curious about it. She quickly replied in awesome food blogger fashion that she would be happy to send me some and I agreed only if I swapped something in return….and here we are. I made some when Marcela was here but I could not wait to make them again and play with the shell designs. Obviously my attempts at drawing cherry blossoms are not that great but the taste was there for sure.

I know hibiscus tea can be found pretty well here in the US but I am not that sure about cherry blossom extract and I realise that I might have made some of you curious…this is why I decided to give one of the bottles Rachael sent me (I hope she won’t mind that I share the love!) to one of you. All you have to do is leave a comment between today and saturday and one bottle might be on its way to your home….anywhere in the world (or where there is a shortage of cherry blossom extract!) The bottle is small (see her post) but the flavor goes a long way, and I just can’t keep this great taste all to myself…

UPDATE 5/22/08: I am so tickled to add that Rachael wrote yesterday wanting to add a second bottle of cherry blossom extract. You read right: One person…2 bottles! Lucky you’s!!

Macarons-Copyright©Tartelette 2008 Cherry Blossom and Hibiscus Macarons:

Macarons tutorial available here, starting page 36.

For the shells:
3 egg whites (I like to use 1-2 day old egg whites)
50 gr. granulated sugar
200 gr. powdered sugar
110 gr. ground almonds
2-3 drops pink food coloring or 1 Tb powdered
For the hibiscus macarons I sprinkled some leaves on top before baking.

For the whites: the day before (24hrs), separate your eggs and store the whites at room temperature on a covered container. If you want to use 48hrs (or more) egg whites, you can store them in the fridge.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry and your macarons won’t work. Combine the ground almonds and powdered sugar in a food processor and give them a quick pulse. It will break the powdered sugar lumps and combine your almonds with it evenly. Add them to the meringue, give it a quick fold and remove some of the batter that will remain uncolored. Add the food coloring to the rest and fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that flows like magma or a thick ribbon. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 300F. Let the macarons sit out for an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool.
If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. Don’t let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy. Pipe or spoon some ganache on one shell and sandwich with another one.
If you use fresh whites, zap them up in the microwave on medium high for 20 seconds to mimic the aging process.
To draw on the macarons: color the small amount you set aside previously and add more food coloring to make a darker color. Use a toothpick that you dip into the dark color and draw on the macarons.

For the buttercream:
3 sticks butter at room temperature
5 egg whites1 cup sugar divided
1/4 cup water
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste

1-2 teaspoons cherry blossom extract

In the bowl of stand mixer, whip 5 egg whites until they have soft peaks. In the meantime, combine 1/4 cup water with 3/4 cup sugar to a boil in a heavy saucepan and bring the syrup to 250F. Slowly add the sugar syrup to the egg whites. If you use hand beaters, this is even easier and there is less hot syrup splatter on the side of your bowl and in the whisk attachment of the stand mixer. Continue to whip until the meringue is completely cooled.Slowly add the butter, one tablespoon at a time. The mass might curdle but no panic, continue to whip until it all comes together. Add the vanilla bean paste. Divide the batter in 2.

For the cherry blossom buttercream, add extract to taste.

For the hibiscus buttercream: boil 1/2 cup of water, add 1 Tb hibiscus tea leaves and 2 Tb sugar. Let steep, strain the leaves. Return to a boil until reduced to a thick syrup. Let cool, add enough to taste to the buttercream.

Macarons-Copyright©Tartelette 2008

Chocolate Mocha Cake

Choco Mocha Cake-Copyright©Tartelette 2008
Because we both work odd hours and often during the weekend, some Mondays offer the luxury of a quieter day. A day I like to spend outside or in my favorite room in the house, the guest bedroom. When we built the house, we designed the entire upper floor ourselves and B. did an amazing job at it, it really feels like a separate apartment complete with a reading/library space, office and large bathroom. We like it so much that we sometimes sleep upstairs and it does feel like a mini break. I set up a little photo studio up there and with views of the trees and the water ahead, it s very soothing for the soul and the spirit. Last Monday, we decided to shut away from the world for a little while and recharge our human batteries by taking a nap upstairs. He woke up before I did and when I opened my eyes, he was sitting at the desk, reading old books, savouring the warmth of the three o’clock sun entering the room. I went downstairs, made us a pot of coffee (we both at gigs that night) and cut a few slices of the Chocolate Mocha Cake I had made on Sunday night. I set both in front of him, sat on the bed with my book and we both smiled.

We had managed to shut the world away for a few hours and take a mini vacation, complete with reading, cake and coffee. Moments like these are truly a blessing, don’t you think? We are in full speed again as the week goes on and weekend draws near but all week long I knew we both thought about those couple hours stolen away from the hustle and bustle whenever we felt a moment of stress and anxiety. Spring in the South is truly a moment to be savoured and taken advantage of because it won’t be long before you feel the wrath of heat and humidity that makes you feel all sticky and slow all day long. I know, I know, with the bounty of fresh strawberries, watermelons and other produce out there right now, I could have gone a lighter route, but there is nothing like chocolate cake to enhance a feeling of comfort and well being.

The making of the cake started kind of backward, with the buttercream actually. In one of our many French tutoring Sunday mornings, Veronica and I were discussing the many different kinds and virtues of buttercream (I told her my theory that Ina Garten’s perfect camera glow comes from buttercream). I told her I was addicted to Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Mousseline Buttercream and she told me she was addicted to her egg yolk buttercream. As often, our phone conversation ended with an email swap of recipes, and I filed the buttercream recipe away…until Sunday night. I made it without a precise dessert in mind, thinking I would find something during the week to use it with, and I realised after tasting it that it’d better be sooner than later or there would not be a whole lot left given the way we were digging our spoons in it! I agree with Veronica that the addition of a good dose of vanilla bean paste really makes it taste like soft vanilla ice cream.

So I had the buttercream, I needed cake right? It was now, Sunday night past 11pm and B. had already retreated to the bedroom, so no option to use a mixer at that point. I fixed my easiest one bowl, no mixer cake recipe and proceeded to make a Swiss roll type cake. Once baked and cooled, I filled it with the buttercream flavored with coffee, covered it with a milk chocolate glaze and showered it with chocolate sprinkles. After a night’s rest in the fridge, the cake was ready for our little break at home Monday afternoon. The buttercream is not cloyingly sweet and the cake batter makes a very light spongy cake, perfect for a snack or to feel somewhat virtuous about a little coffee break!

Choco Mocha Cake-Copyright©Tartelette 2008
Chocolate Mocha Cake:
Serves 8-10 (Makes 2 medium or one long)
Printable Recipe

For the cake:

1 stick butter

2 tsp instant coffee

3/4 cup water

100 gr. chocolate

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 Tb cocoa powder

In a large saucepan set over low heat, stir together the butter, instant coffee, water, chocolate and sugar until smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool 10 minutes.

Whisk in the egg, flour, baking powder and cocoa powder until incorporated.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, lightly coat with cooking spray. Pour the chocolate cake batter in the baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes at 375F. Do not overbake or it will crack when you roll it. Check after 12-15 minutes, if it springs back when you touch it, it’s done.

Remove from the heat, cover with a towel and let cool a few minutes.

Cover with a sheet of parchment paper and unmold on the kitchen counter. Peel the bottom parchment layer that is now your top, roll the cake without filling with the parchment paper from the long side to give it some form and elasticity for when you fill it with the buttercream. Let cool completely.

Mocha Buttercream:

6 large egg yolks

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

4 sticks of butter (don’t roll your eyes, you won’t feel it:))

Butter should be soft but nor mushy (65F)

1 Tb vanilla bean paste

2 Tb instant coffee dissolved in 1 Tb hot water

In a stand mixer or with a hand held one, whip the egg yolks for a minute.

Boil water and sugar until the temperature reaches 238F on a candy thermometer.

Slowly pour the hot sugar syrup over the egg yolks on a steady stream, continue beating the yolks until pale in color and cooled. Beat in the softened butter until the buttercream is smooth a

and together. Add the vanilla bean paste and the coffee, beat a few extra seconds until incorporated.

For the ganache:

300 gr milk chocolate

3/4 cup heavy cream

Bring the cream to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Pour over the chocolate. Let stand a couple of minutes and then stir carefully until it is incorporated and smooth.

To assemble:

Unroll the cake from the parchment paper, fill with the buttercream (you won’t use it all). Reroll the cake, cut it in half (so it does not seem like a Yule log, but more like a Swiss roll). Set each half on a wire rack set over a piece of parchment paper. Cover with the ganache and douse with chocolate sprinkles. Refrigerate to set.

Choco Mocha Cake-Copyright©Tartelette 2008