Vanilla Cake with White Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Filling Covered with Dark Chocolate Ganache

Last week I showed you my first sugar flowers that I made with homemade fondant. Today, as I promised, I prepared a cake decorated with fondant and more flowers. This cake consists of vanilla base from the adorable blog Sweetapolita,  with white chocolate raspberry ganache filling and covered with dark chocolate ganache. Luscious! I’m proud to say that is the first time I made a good finish in a cake. Here it is, ready to be covered with fondant.

I covered the cake with the same homemade fondant as before, but this time I used gum paste to make the flowers. This paste is proper to make them. It is more elastic allowing shape thin petals like real ones. When I finished covering with fondant, I instantly got an idea to make some ruffles around the cake. I followed this great tutorial made by the talented Linda, of the blog Call me Cupcake. She was inspired by the amazing frilly cakes designed by Maggie Austin.

This cake is a way to wish a Happy Birthday to my lovely friends Clara, Alessandra and Biankita. 

Vanilla Cake with White Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Filling Covered with Dark Chocolate Ganache

Classic Vanilla Butter Cake
 (from Sweetapolita)

Yield: three 8-inch round cake layers
4 large eggs (separated)
3 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar, divided
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup milk (room temperature)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350°F (180° C) and place rack in center of oven. Butter and flour three – 8 inch (20 cm) round cake pans. Line bottoms of pans with parchment paper and grease and flour parchment paper.
While eggs are still cold, separate the eggs, placing the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another bowl. Cover the two bowls with plastic warp and allow the eggs to come to room temperature before using (about 30 minutes).
In a mixing bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft (about 1-2 minutes). Add 1 1/2 cups of the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla and beat until combined.
With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.
In a clean bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy.  Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. With a rubber spatula gently fold a little of the whites into the batter to lighten it, and then fold in the remaining whites until combined. Do not over-mix the batter or it will deflate.
Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared pans and smooth the tops with an offset spatula or back of a spoon. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Place a wire rack on top of the cake pan and invert, lifting off the pan gently. Once the cakes of completely cooled, wrap in plastic and place the cake layers in the freezer for at least an hour (to make filling and frosting the cakes easier).

White chocolate and raspberry ganache

50 ml heavy cream
100g white chocolate
45g raspberries, coarsely chopped

Bring cream just to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, add chocolate, stand until melted (5 minutes), stir until smooth and glossy. Refrigerate until firm yet still pliable (45 minutes-1 hour) then stir until smooth. Add raspberries, stir to form a ripple effect.
Note: If fresh raspberries are unavailable, substitute defrosted frozen raspberries

Dark Chocolate Ganache

18 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups heavy cream

Bring cream just to the boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, add chocolate, stand until melted (5 minutes), stir until smooth and glossy. Refrigerate until firm yet still pliable (45 minutes-1 hour) then stir until smooth.


Chagrin Falls Farmer's Market and some Eggplant Recipes

Two weekends ago my husband and I went to Chagrin Falls, a very charm village 20 minutes from my home. This village grew around a pretty waterfall on the Chagrin River.

Besides this natural beauty, Chagrin Falls has an amazing Popcorn Shop, which sells candies and ice cream, and also a little wood gazebo on the main street. It does remind me the towns of my state in Brazil. Every small town there has a church and a gazebo in the main square.  The vintage shops are also a good option to visit too. I loved some of their vintage teacups and silver spoons.

I really enjoyed spending the morning there. But the main reason that took me to this lovely village was the farmer’s market. I’ve been thinking about to take outdoors pictures of a cozy place for a while, and that market was perfect! There were so many cute things to photograph, like flowers, apple and onion baskets, fresh corn stand and eggplants in blue baskets. I don’t know why, but there is something on these blue baskets that attract me. 

So guess what I got?  Eggplants in the blue baskets… I bought three kings of eggplants: mini, white and a purple long slender. I used the white eggplant to prepare lasagna. I combined pasta with layers of eggplant, Bolognese sauce, ricotta cheese and pecorino cheese. With the mini eggplants and the slender I made a preserve with olive oil, vinegar, garlic, olives, bay leaves and oregano. It is perfect with salads and bread.

Eggplant Lasagna
(adapted from the book Willians-Sonoma Cooking at Home)

Bolognese Sauce
(makes enough sauce for 1 lb (500g) pasta, 4-6 servings)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 oz (60g) pancetta, diced
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 large or 2 small celery stalks, diced
3/4 lb (375 gr) ground minced beef
1/2 cup (4 fl oz/125ml) dry white wine
1 1/2 cups (12 fl oz/360 ml) milk
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 can (15 oz/470 g) plum Roma tomatoes, finely chopped, with juice

In a large frying pan over medium heat, warm the oil, butter, and pancetta, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta renders some of its fat, about 3 minutes. Add the onion, carrot, and some celery and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the beef, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, breaking up the meat    with the back of the wooden spoon, just until the meat is no longer pink, 3-5 minutes; do not allow to brown or harden.

Add the wine to the pan, raise the heat to medium, and simmer until the wine evaporates, 2-3 minutes. Add 3/4 cup (6 fl oz/180 ml) of the milk and the nutmeg and simmer until the milk is absorbed.

Add the tomatoes and season with salt. Bring to a simmer, cover partially , and adjust the heat to very low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick, mellow, and tasty, about 4 hours, adding a little water if needed to keep the sauce from sticking. During the final 45 minutes, stir in the remaining 3/4 cup milk in 3 additions, allowing the sauce to absorb the milk before adding more. Taste and adjust the seasoning before serving.

2 eggplants
1/2 lb (250g) lasagna pasta
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups pecorino cheese

Combine the pasta with layers of eggplant (sliced, oiled, and baked at 400F/200C until golden), Bolognese Sauce, ricotta cheese,  and pecorino cheese. Baked at 375F/190C for 45-55 minutes.

Eggplant in Olive Oil

Mini Eggplants
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons oregano
2 bay leaves

In large bowl, slice the eggplants. Place in colander, sprinkle with salt and layer between paper towels. After 2 hours wash and dry the eggplants. Slice the bell peppers. Oiled the eggplants and bell peppers. Let the peppers on top of eggplant. Drizzle with a little oil to avoid sticking to the bottom, cover with foil and and bake at 400F/200C until golden. After 40 minutes, remove the foil and let it wilt a bit to dry the water that forms. After 20 minutes, turn off the oven and set aside the eggplant. In a small saucepan, pour olive oil, oregano, bay leaf and vinegar. Let it boil for few minutes until the vinegar smell decrease (about 3 minutes). Mix crushed garlic with sat to the eggplant already cold.


My First Sugar Flowers

When I was thinking to start this blog, my lovely friends helped me to choose the name Lulu’s Sweet Secrets. I was mainly inspired and motivate by my friends Layla and Carol. They are cake designers passionate about their work and I was fascinated about their beautiful art. Some of my first posts I ventured to make recipes using marshmallow fondant. Carol suggested me this recipe from Le Cordon Bleu that she used before in one of her cakes. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the result that I was expecting and, for some reason that I can’t explain, I didn’t try it again. Maybe it’s because I was so excited to prepare different dishes and learn other techniques that I forgot to give it another chance.

But this week I was looking at my cake board on Pinterest and I noted that I’ve been collecting a lot of cake photos over these months. Most of them are beautifully decorated. As I love decorated cakes, I realized that I should give a second chance for the fondant. I decided to use the same recipe as before, but after reading this amazing post by Sommer from A Spicy Perspective, I could see what my mistake was. Marshmallow fondant needs a lot of shortening to work well. I follow her instructions and now I got a beautiful one. I was so happy! As a flower lover, I started making some modest little roses.

The fondant soft texture and its sweet smell give such a pleasure to model infinity forms. Work with it was an amazing experience. I modeled petal by petal for hours and I didn’t see the time passing. It made me remembered when I was a child and how I enjoy to play with dough. What a mixture of sweet memories and dreams! I think I'm addicted to it now. For the next week I will try to make these sugary flowers with a delicious cake for your delight my dear readers. 

Marshmallow Fondant

10 oz mini marshmallows

1/4 cup water

2 lbs of powdered sugar

2/3 cup shortening

Drizzle the water over the marshmallows and microwave 1 minute and 25 seconds. Transfer to a mixing bowl, and add 1 bag (2 lbs) of powdered sugar and 2 tbs shortening. With the paddle attachment, mix about 2 minutes. Finish on the table, use more powdered sugar if necessary. Wrap in plastic wrap or bag, and store at least 2 hours or overnight before using. Always knead fondant before using.

For a detailed recipe go to A Spicy Perspective post.


Champagne Grape Cake

Since I made my last tart, I’ve been thinking about another recipe using champagne grapes. I was fascinated with their flavor and I should try now a sweet recipe. So, searching on the internet, I came across this grape cake from the book Patricia Wells at Home in Provence that I found on Moveable Feasts blog.

My husband and I really loved this cake. The champagne grapes tasted like raisins, but more juicy. This recipe also uses half butter and half olive oil, which gave to the cake a pleasant and moist texture. For a pretty finish, dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar and you will have a nice cake for your coffee or tea time.

Champagne Grape Cake
(from here)

Butter and flour for preparing the cake pan
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup (135 g) sugar
4 tablespoons (2 ounces; 60 g) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup (6 cl) extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup (8 cl) whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (200 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
A pinch of sea salt
Grated zest (yellow peel) of 1 lemon
Grated zest (orange peel) of 1 orange
10 ounces (300 g) small, fresh purple grapes (see above for varieties)
Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C; gas mark 4/5).
Generously butter and flour the springform pan, tapping out any excess flour. Set aside.
 In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and lemon-colored, about 3 minutes. Add the butter, oil, milk, and vanilla extract, and mix until blended.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add the lemon zest and orange zest, and toss to coat the zest with flour. Spoon the mixture into the bowl of batter and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix once more. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquids.
Stir about 3/4 of the grapes into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth out the top with a spatula. Place the pan in the center of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then sprinkle the top of the cake with remaining grapes. Bake until the top is a deep golden brown and the cake feels quite firm when pressed with a fingertip, about 40 minutes more, for a total baking time of 55 minutes. Remove to rack to cool. After 10 minutes, run a knife along the sides of the pan. Release and remove the side of the springform pan, leaving the cake on the pan base. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar just before serving. Serve at room temperature, cut into thin wedges.


Cherry Tomato and Champagne Grape Tart

Today I will talk about my photographic discoveries and, of course, about a delicious recipe. Since I started this blog I have been received wonderful comments about my photos. I would like to thank my dear readers for all the support. I’m just an enthusiast that is in love with this art and all those sweet words motivate me even more.

Since I got my dSLR camera I've been practicing every day a lot. I’m using most of my time to learn about exposure and composition. I’m reading the book Plate to Pixel from Hélène Dujardin and this is helping me to improve my skills. Her award-winning blog, Tartelette, was the first food blog that I started to follow. I’m a huge fan of her work. If you just begin to photograph food, you should take a look in her book. It’s precious. I’m still understand how my camera works and I learned that photography it’s all about the light. As I use natural light, taking pictures at different times of the day, and also different places of my apartment, makes me realize how these important choices influence the final result.

I used to take pictures on the dining table, which is beside my dinner room window.  After I tried all the possible places I found that the best spot is closer to my bedroom window, and the best time is at the Golden Hours before sunset. At these hours, the light touches slightly the food.

Now, about the recipe, I prepared a cherry tomato and champagne grape tart  from the wonderful Food52. This site has an amazing recipe collection. When I saw this tart, I thought it would be a good and beautiful recipe to photograph. And I was right… The colors of the ingredients are so vivid. Unfortunately, September brings raining and cloudy days to Cleveland. Yesterday, I was worried about to take pictures under this gray condition, but I’m glad that my new favorite spot helped me to get good photos.

I really enjoyed making this tart. I’ve never prepared tart dough using a food processor. I was impressed with how easy and quick it was. Another unusual thing for me was the champagne grapes. I was fascinated with its flavor after baking. So juice and sweet, so good! I loved the combination between tomatoes, grape, rosemary from the crust and the soft pecorino cheese. Everything worked wonderfully well.

Cherry Tomato and Champagne Grape Tart
(from Food52

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon olive oil (plus a bit more for brushing)
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons shredded parmesan
Ice water (3-4 tbs - it will depend)
1 ½ Cherry tomatoes (gold and red)
½ Champagne grapes
2 ounces fresh pecorino - the soft kind not the hard aged stuff
a pinch of salt or two

Cut up the butter and put it in the freezer. Measure out your flour, parmesan, rosemary and put them in the food processor. When the butter is VERY cold, add it into the processor and pulse until the mixture looks like a coarse meal. Start adding ice water a tablespoon at a time and pulse until the dough just comes together. Remove it from the processor and pat it into a disk, wrap it in plastic and put it in the fridge for half an hour.
Wash your tomatos and grapes, and cut the tomatoes in half. Line a 9" tart pan with removeable bottom with parchment. Heat the oven to 375.
Get the tart dough out and roll it out on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick. Lay it over the pan and let it settle into place, gently press it into the pan edges. You can roll your rolling pin across the pan to cut the dough. You will have extra - wrap that back up and save it, you'll think of something to make with it! Dock the dough with a fork and blind bake it for 10 minutes.
Remove the crust and arrange the tomatoes cut side down - you can do it in an orderly fashion if you like - I didn't. I wanted mine to look more like a tomato mosh pit. Leave some space between the tomatoes - then sprinkle those cute little grapes around to fill the spaces. Lightly brush tomatoes and crust edges with olive oil, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and back into the oven for 25 more minutes. Break the pecorino into small hunks and arrange them around in the tart, and into the oven again for 10 more minutes. Let the tart cool before serving. 


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