What are some nasty habits that you used to have but you’ve given up in your lifetime?
Personally I used to bite my nails, drink at least one carbonated beverage per day, and I ate whipped cream that came in a plastic tub.
Thank goodness I’ve given all of those things up! Especially that last one. I don’t think anyone would take me seriously as a chef if I still bought frozen whipped cream. I actually really love making my own whipped cream for desserts, especially creme chantilly, because it’s fresh and I can get a stellar arm workout in if I do it by hand instead of using my mixer. Plus, I can control the level of sweetness.
Fun fact: one of the most common comments I hear about my products is that people are pleasantly surprised that my baking isn’t overly sweet. I don’t like to drown my baking in sugar, and I really like my flavors and spices to speak for themselves.
A few weeks ago, my Man Candy™ asked me to make a cake for one of his colleagues’ going away party. Since I recently made that super delicious Angel Food Cake, and was chomping at the bit to make another one, I decided that would be my cake base. But I didn’t want to make the exact same cake that I made a few weeks ago, so I started brainstorming about how to switch up the flavor profile for this new cake. An easy change was to add chocolate into the flavor profile somehow, but I felt like chocolate buttercream was a bit too heavy for a summertime treat (not that it feels very summery in San Francisco right now. Or ever.) Then, a stray thought struck.
“If only I could make the whipped cream chocolatey, that would be light enough.”
Sometimes, it’s a really good thing that I listen to my brain when it gets snarky. Well of course I can make the whipped cream chocolatey, in just the same way as I make my buttercream chocolatey - simply replace some of the powdered sugar in the recipe with some cocoa powder and voila! A light, chocolatey deliciousness that lends flavor to the cake without weighing it down.
Summertime always inspires me to use fruits in excess, so I made sure to get a package of fresh strawberries with my grocery delivery. I cooked about half of the strawberries in a saucepan with a bit of sugar and some lemon juice until they broke down and created a bright red, pulpy reduction for the top of my cake.
Something to know about me is that when I’m going on a trip, I almost never think about packing until about 12 hours before my flight. You can set your watch by it. You can also bet that my mother will text me about 36 hours before my flight to ask if I’m packed. The answer is always no.
Since I was entering the 12 hours until my flight window while making this cake (and mom had already texted me to ask about my packing status), I hastily stacked the cake layers with my fresh made chocolate whipped cream, decorated it with more whipped cream and strawberries, and flung it into my refrigerator so I could actually pack a thing or two before I left for my trip in the morning. Unfortunately it was very warm in my kitchen and my whipped cream topping slid down the sides a bit, even while in the refrigerator 🤦♀️ Along with some of the strawberry topping that I messily plopped on top of the cake.
I was pretty disappointed with the way this cake looked when I gave it to my Man Candy™ for the party, but he just said that he thought it was supposed to look like that, and that it was “artsy”. I guess that’s ok then.
I left for my trip and couldn't take my mind off the cake, so I inwardly cringed and asked how the (messy) cake was received. He texted me back with, and I quote: “Everyone (including me) loved that cake. It disappeared really quickly.” (This is important to note because he doesn't really like sweets.)
He then mentioned that if there was any extra chocolate whipped cream, he was going to auction it off to his coworkers to make a quick buck or two. I guess they liked it!
However, I still didn’t love the way that cake turned out from a visual standpoint. Fortunately, I DO love baking for my family and when I mentioned that I wanted to bake something, my mother - who loved the sound of the chocolate whipped cream (I may have gushed about it a time or two) - asked if I would re-make that cake as my special treat for my nieces and nephews before I flew back to the frozen tundra otherwise known as San Francisco.
So here is my shot at redemption. My second cake this week that I decorated with chocolate whipped cream. How delicious is this?!
I took this as an opportunity to teach myself a lesson. Oftentimes, cakes are not decorated with whipped cream because the structure of the whipped cream eventually breaks down and it turns back into its original state. Kinda like Cinderella’s carriage at midnight.
However, if you must use whipped cream to decorate your cake, and you need to do it in advance, my Tip of the Week is a strategy for doing so: make stabilized whipped cream. Typically, stabilized whipped cream is the same as normal fresh made whipped cream, but with the addition of gelatin. Gelatin is a binder that turns meringue into marshmallows, cream into mousse, and whipped cream into frosting. It’s basically like hair spray. You want it to be big and fluffy for a while, but it won’t stay that way without a little help. Enter the gelatin. Or hairspray, depending on the situation.
Making stabilized whipped cream can be a bit tricky because whipped cream happens best when the heavy cream is really cold, and gelatin requires heat to be in a liquid state (it needs to be a liquid in order to whip into the cream to hold it up.) So here’s what you do: take a tablespoon or two of cream out of the refrigerator and mix it into the melted gelatin after it cools but while it’s still liquid. Then pour the gelatin/cream mixture slowly into the cream as it’s whipping and it will whip together as the gelatin re-solidifies.
And there you have it - the secret to strong whipped cream! Let's see how you use it in your decorating 🎂
Happy eating, y’all.
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