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Individual Opulence

Recently there has been quite a demand for individual “Wedding Cakes” or “Cakelettes” as I call them. These are two-tier cakes decorated to the nines – the same way a full-size wedding cake would be.

While the Cakelettes are definitely labor intensive I love the idea of every guest receiving their very own cake at an event. It is a touch that goes a long way and keeps the celebration going even after the guests return home with their sweet treat in tow.

Here are some Cakelettes that we have done recently. Just as with a regular sized cake, a mini cake is like a blank canvas – the design options are endless!

The Ruffle Cakelette is beautiful on its on or with some added gilding as seen below

Pastry Pumps: Indie Rock

Here at Urban Sweets we have a huge love of music and are definitely inspired to work hard when we are jamming to good tunes.  So I figured why not share some of our playlists. They keep us going all day long, I’m sure they will do the same for you too!

This month is Indie Rock:

Cage the Elephant – Shake Me Down    (Buy on iTunes)

Foster the People – Pumped Up Kicks    (Buy on iTunes)

Rocky Votolato – White Daisy Passing    (Buy on iTunes)

Dirty Heads – Stand Tall    (Buy on iTunes)

Isaac Simons – Strange Place    (Buy on iTunes)

Coconut Records – Westcoast    (Buy on iTunes)

Ben Kweller – Sundress    (Buy on iTunes)

The Shins – Caring is Creepy    (Buy on iTunes)

The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots    (Buy on iTunes)

Nada Surf – Blankest Year    (Buy on iTunes)

Fountains of Wayne – Sink to the Bottom    (Buy on iTunes)

The Classic Crime – The Coldest Heart    (Buy on iTunes)

Just Another Day at the Office

I just came across this article I wrote at the very beginning of my career as a pastry chef. It is so nice to look back on one of my first experiences in the food industry. Pretty amazing to know that years later, the challenges remain the same.

4:30 AM should not belong to the waking. Although technically morning, there is nothing about this hour that welcomes consciousness. But as a baker, I am already awake, bathed and starting my day an hour and half before my local Starbucks opens.

I work at a high–end cupcake store where seventeen varieties of cupcakes are made each day in addition to special orders. I was once asked if my work ever gets boring, since I seem to do the same thing every day. The answer is no — in this industry the unexpected happens daily, and I must be prepared for whatever is thrown my way.

Typically, I open the store. I unlock the back door and slip inside the dark storeroom. I turn on all the kitchen lights, change into my uniform, wash my hands, turn on the ovens and review the day’s specials and the private orders. At this point, another baker will arrive and we spend the next four hours cranking out cupcakes. So, on what seemed to be a fairly average morning, I was opening up the kitchen when I received a call from my fellow morning baker — she was sick and was not coming to work. I hung up on her immediately (having no time to scold her on the late call) since I knew I had to begin working full force if I wanted a chance at getting the cupcakes out on time. The company I work for believes in using home-sized Kitchen Aid mixers, thereby producing small quantities of cupcakes throughout the day to preserve freshness. This is a fantastic way to produce quality items, but is not especially efficient when trying to rush orders. The gravity of the situation hit me: no one else was coming in for the next four hours, I could not double the recipes due to the size of the mixers and I was already twenty minutes behind! I needed a plan.

There were a total of seven mixers, four for making cupcakes and three for making frosting. The only way to meet the deadline was to use all seven mixers simultaneously. I quickly began making two batches of vanilla, two batches of chocolate, one batch of red velvet and two batches of the day’s specials. I work with the same recipes every day and have a good feel for how long each part of the process takes, so while one batch was mixing, I’d melt butter in the microwave and measure out the milk for the next batch. I played games in my head to keep everything straight; what stage I was at with each mixer, which ingredients had yet to go in, how long each mixer had been beating and at what speed. I sang melodies to help me keep track of the numbers; how many of cups of sugar, how much flour, how many eggs. The thrum of seven mixers running full blast set the rhythm to my tune. Between verses I’d dash into the next room and line the pans with baking cups. Then, another hurtle arrived — one of the ovens was down. I had to recalculate everything. How many cupcakes could I fit into a single oven? What were the different bake times for the different mixes? What were the different temperatures they had to be baked at? What would be the most efficient order for the batches to go into the oven? My scuttling and singing continued until I solved the puzzle by settling on a baking line-up that would get the cupcakes baked as fast as possible. Before I knew it, small fluffy cupcakes were beginning to fill the countertops and my heart rate slowly began to return to normal.

I’m happy to report that all the cupcakes came out beautifully that day, and all of my batches were baked and ready before the staff arrived. Do I find my job boring? Anything but. Efficiency and focus are a baker’s only armor against life’s unpredictability, and a few seconds of careful thinking can be the difference between success and disaster. Even in the pre-Starbucks dawn of 4:30 AM.

Dulce De Leche: All you need is a pot!

While in Argentina, I was talking to a local about dessert and asked them how to make Dulce De Leche. They said there are two methods:

1) put a can of condensed milk in a pot of boiling water for 45 minutes

2) put a can of condensed milk in a fire for half an hour

While both of these methods sounded enticing, I decided to do more research once I returned home. And now having spent some time making Dulce de Leche I am so happy I did not try either method! Firstly because I have no way of making a roaring fire to put the can in and secondly, because with either method the can would have burst under the heat and the pressure!

So here are my suggestions for making home-made Dulce de Leche:

All you need is a can of sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk!) and a sauce pan.

1) Take the paper wrapper off of the can and use a can opener to poke 3 holes in the top of the can

2) place the can of condensed milk in the sauce pan and fill the pan with water up to 1/4 inch below the rim of the can

3) Bring the water to a boil and then lower it to a simmer – Keep the water simmering for the next 4 hours (If you want thick, spreadable Dulce de Leche). The can will rattle in the pot as air bubbles release in the water. This is normal.

4) Some of the milk might come out of the holes which is absolutely fine

5) Keep adding water to the saucepan to keep it at 1/4″ below the rim of the can (I did this ever hour)

6) After 4 hours remove the can from the water using tongs and allow to fully cool

7) Once cool, open the can with a can opener and Viola! you have Dulce de Leche

Note: If you want to make a thinner Dulce de Leche to drizzle over desserts, simmer for only 3 hours and when you open the can, mix it well (there will be a watery layer on top of the thick caramel).

¡buen provecho

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