Baby Shower | Congrats Charlin & George!

| Baby Showers

My dear friends Charlin and George are expecting a baby girl soon, and I had the honor of catering desserts for their baby shower this past weekend! I’m thankful for the faith that my friends have in me, and also really appreciated the opportunity to practice and experiment 🙂

For this celebration, I made a two-tiered custard and strawberry cake, chocolate cupcakes, and some puff pastry treats. The cake had layers of lemon chiffon cake, crème légère (pastry cream lightened with whipped cream), and fresh slices of strawberry, with a buttercream frosting.

I then decorated with handmade gumpaste roses and leaves. I originally planned on adding whole, fresh strawberries as well, but I was a little worried about everything staying intact and in place during the drive to the baby shower.

The mini cupcakes were chocolate with a chocolate ganache center. For half the cupcakes, I used a cream cheese frosting and decorated with fondant yellow duckies and bubbles.

For the other half, I used a chocolate ganache frosting and decorated with fondant teddy bears. These were labor-intensive pieces, but it was a satisfying accomplishment for me, as I don’t usually tend to make “cutesie” decorations.

Finally, I made some puff pastry dough and created cinnamon sugar twists and quick vols-au-vent filled with lemon pastry cream and strawberry slices. While the cake and cupcakes got the attention, these puff pastry treats were my favorite to eat!

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A Wedding Croquembouche – Congrats Stephandy!

| Featured, Weddings

A croquembouche is a traditional French dessert found at celebrations such as weddings. The name of the dessert comes from the French words, croque en bouche, meaning ‘crunch in the mouth’. The dessert is basically a conical tower of profiteroles (choux pastry filled with pastry cream or crème légère), held together by caramel. A traditional base for the presentation is nougatine (caramel and sliced almonds), and decorations can include caramel, sprinkles, ganache, flowers, and more.

When my friend Stephanie saw the photo of a croquembouche we made in class, she asked if I would make one for her wedding in April. I was honored, but intimidated! After some careful planning and a little bit of practice, I’m happy to share some photos of what I hope was a generally successful attempt. My only regret is that I made this purely for decorative purposes (in part because I don’t have a commercial kitchen and in part because I had to do a red-eye drive to transport the components from NorCal to SoCal) and thus only filled the bottom two rows of cream puffs. Had I known there would be so much interest in actually eating this, and had I known that caramelized isomalt would hold up so effectively and not soften like caramelized granulated sugar often does, I might have been brave enough to fill every cream puff.

The base was the most challenging piece. After nougatine is cooked and poured, you literally have a matter of seconds or minutes to cut and shape (less when using isomalt as in my case). Once it hardens, it would have to be reheated in the oven to soften enough for molding. And unfortunately, the standard home oven is not large enough for a full sheet pan or the length of nougatine that is necessary to form the ring. Fortunately I stocked up on isomalt and almonds and got this right after a couple attempts. I also used nougatine for the decoration on top.

The flowers are a mix of hand-painted (but pre-made, store-bought) gumpaste flowers, and hand-made fondant-gumpaste roses and carnations. The color scheme for the wedding was pomegranate, citron and gold, which I think I captured in these flowers. I hope to learn how to make the wired gumpaste flowers from scratch in the near future, but given the limited time I had, these ones from Michael’s worked well.

Isomalt does caramelize but does not darken in color as much as granulated sugar does. I liked the lighter, clearer color for coating the cream puffs and gluing the pieces together, as you can worry less about drips and uniformity (just don’t eat too much of it). Isomalt is also more stable in that it absorbs less moisture and is less likely to get sticky and “melt” when sitting out. Adding a small amount of granulated sugar provides color (and control over the color). For the spun sugar, I used a greater amount of granulated sugar to get a more golden color.

This was a beast to make, but I am so glad I took on the challenge and was thrilled to share in the celebration of a beautiful young couple.

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