4.11.2014

Two Years and a Gold Wedding Cake

I can hardly believe that it's been over two years since my last post--how time flies. A lot has happened since January 2012. Not long after my post two years ago, my culinary adventures continued when I moved to the bustling city of London where I obtained a master's degree in International Development at the prestigious London School of Economics. I remember a handful of people forewarning me concerning the tastelessness of British cuisine; however, they all lost credibility as I found to my surprise that the UK is full of culinary brilliance! A melting pot of ethnic backgrounds and home to so many different people from around the world, London proved to be a culinary hub where my eyes were opened to a variety of different culinary perspectives. It's a shame I never continued my unexpected culinary experiences while I was abroad. Months have come and gone since I returned to the United States. Nestled in the rocky mountains in a quiet city called Highland, I now find myself yearning to return to food, writing, recipes and sharing. So here it is--my return!

I can think of no greater blog-resurrection post than one devoted to the creation of my own wedding cake. Yes, it is true, I am now a married man. My wife, Emilia, and I met in London and were married earlier this year. Of course, my own cake had to be the best one I've ever made! This proved to be a lot more difficult as I began to run out of days and the wedding planning furnished lists upon lists of things to do. There were a few things I knew for sure, my cake had to be large and unique.

Gold Wedding Cake

The Petals

I started playing around with some ivory fondant and made a ton of rose petals. As they were drying, I decided to make an edible gold paint out of a combination of various gold shades of luster and petal dusts mixed with some almond extract. I painted the outer rims of each petal to add a touch of gold. The effect was greater than I anticipated.

My Wedding Cake Station

Rolling the Ivory Fondant

Two Petal Sizes

A Fondant Round

Making the Petal

Homemade Edible Gold Paint

Painting the Rims

One by One

Lots of Petals!

The Cake

I began the construction of the cake months in advance because I was set on making a cake no smaller than 4' tall! When I toured the reception hall I noticed a golden alcove, typically used for picture displays and I knew immediately that it was just the place for the towering cake. Emilia wanted to go with a black and ivory stripe linen for the table decor so I decided to mimic that detail in the actual cake by layering my famous chocolate spice with a new cake recipe, vanilla coconut butter cake. The taste and the combination in general worked very nicely and screamed gourmet! Because neither Emilia or I like a lot of icing, I decided to fix the layers together using a mild fruit jelly instead of layering the cake with extra sugar. The outside of the cake, however, had a sufficient amount of icing so no worries, we had it covered--literally.

Black and Ivory Layered Cake

The Gold Buttercream Icing

Emilia had previously selected black and ivory as the wedding color scheme and we decided to add gold as an accent color. After some time I decided to make a risky move and paint the entire exterior of the cake in edible gold. I purchased an airbrush machine and a lot of edible gold paint. The day before the wedding, I spent hours airbrushing the cake the correct shade of gold and fixing the handmade petals in a cascading fashion wrapping around the cake in two areas.

Gold Airbrushed Icing

Cascading Petals

Cascading Petals II

The Finished Product

Transportation was a nightmare. Two hours before the ceremony, my little brother/best man, my good friend, my dad and I transported the gargantuan cake in two pieces to the reception hall. Once we made it to the 10th floor of our reception hall I quickly situated the cake in its spot and stepped back to admire the work. It was a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind gold wedding cake. Was it worth the stress? Probably not, but I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Bride and Groom with the Cake


Gold Wedding Cake

Forking the Cake

Eating the Cake

Cake View

One Very Happy Day!

Phew, that was easy. A triumphant return to food blogging. I have recently developed a few ideas that will keep me posting so stay in touch as "The Unexpected Culinarian" takes an unexpected culinary move...


1.25.2012

Blue Wedding Cake(s)

How often do you see a blue wedding cake?  Or six of them at one wedding, for that matter?  I was tickled with excitement when approached by my sister to design the wedding cake for her Las Vegas wedding.  The only request: I want a blue wedding cake.  With complete artistic license bestowed upon me from a trusting sister, I started to think of ways to make this wedding cake into something unique, unordinary, and unforgettable!

Blue Wedding Cakes

Whenever I'm asked to design a cake, I typically base the original designs off of (1) the wedding dress, (2) the wedding ring, and (3) the wedding flowers/colors.  I was stuck with traditional wedding cake ideas streaming through my mind, but it wasn't until I started to look beyond the typical cake that the ideas started to form into something I knew would be perfect for my sister.  Firstly, I decided it would be more meaningful to make six cakes--each representing a member of her imminently meshed family.  Further delving into this avenue, I figured it would be appropriate to make the six cakes extremely different--utilizing different ingredients, decorations, and techniques--again representing not only six different individuals, but six people who are extremely different from one another.

The shape of wedding cakes are hardly ever experimented with; and for that reason, I was determined to think of a shape for the wedding cake that I had never seen before.  I chose to make each cake 6-inches wide and 8-inches tall.  After searching on the internet for days, I found the perfect glass pedestals (with differing heights) to further accentuate the column-like feel.  I purchased a variety of blue decorating materials and embellishments along with a lot of blue fondant, blue food color gels, and blue decorating dusts--without any definite design plan fully formed.  With all the materials in front of me, I was able to create the designs as I worked--which is usually what works best with me.

Using a steady hand to decorate

After a lot of patience and meticulous work, the six cakes were complete and the only thing left to worry about was the six hour trip down to the strip!  The following are the final designs I came up with:


For the first design, I made blue fondant tiles, cut freehandedly.  I used icing to fasten the tiles to the cake and then additional icing to add a blue icing grout.  For some added bling, I used royal icing to attach edible sugar sapphires where the grout lines intersected.


For the second design, I mimicked the design of the bride's wedding dress using blue fondant ripples.  This seemed to be everyone's favorite design.  It really was stunning and actually turned out to be the cake the bride and groom chose to cut.


The third cake was completely covered in blue edible sparkles.  I mean, it was a Vegas wedding, right?  I was a little apprehensive about doing an entire cake coated in glitter, but the end product was undeniably spectacular.


The bride's wedding bouquet was a beautiful collection of blue roses.  To tie in this element in cake number four, I recreated blue roses using the fondant and used them to embellish the top of a fondant pleated cake.


For the fifth cake, I dyed coconut roasted the flakes to allow the color to set in.  The dying process actually took some time, but once I got the flakes to the right shade, it was easy to coat the cake and admire the end product.  It actually looked like blue hydrangeas from a distance.


For the last cake, I made a circular lattice design using the extra blue fondant and filled in all of the empty space with blue dragees.  Each dragee was individually placed, so yes, it took quite a bit of time to make, but I was so happy with how it looked in the end, the time was well worth it.  Everyone thought this cake was a candle it was so detailed.

Needless to say, the cake(s) was(were) a success and most importantly, the bride and groom were so pleased with the design and taste.  The cake was a double chocolate fudge recipe with an addition of my secret spices that enhance the flavor and my personal buttercream recipe.  It was delicious!

Blue Wedding Cake Bite

Posing with my Blue Wedding Cakes

9.06.2011

Perfect Baking Digital Kitchen Scale


If you asked four people to measure one cup of flour, you would end up with four different weights.  Measuring by weight over volume gives you an accurate measurement every time resulting in a more consistent end product. It eliminates the need for multiple measuring instruments and is the standard in professional baking.

As a classically-trained artisan baker and pastry chef, I have designed a one-of-a-kind kitchen scale that fits the needs of every household and professional baker.

The Perfect Baking scale eliminates the need to convert fractions to decimals or approximate by thirds. This scale has all the fractions you will ever need to achieve perfect baking and surpasses every other scale on the market today.

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Four High Precision Sensors
Contemporary Stainless Steel Platform with Anti-fingerprint
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Capacity 11 lbs or 5 kg
Units: g/fl. oz./lb. oz./ml
Power: 2xCR2032 (included)
Dimensions: 8x8x.5 inches
Tare Function
Low Battery and Overload Indicator
Unique Fraction Display Includes:
1/8, 1/4, 1/3, 3/8, 1/2, 5/8, 2/3, 3/4, 7/8

Perfect Baking

Life has been incredibly busy since graduating from Le Cordon Bleu!  Aside from the instructional baking show--which I cannot wait for you all to see--I established a new business PERFECT BAKING.  We've launched our new website so come take a look!

5.24.2011

Graduation

After the cuts and burns, countless dirtied towels and aprons, flooded sinks, months of ironing that uniform, hours learning just how to tie that neckerchief, and—of course—after all the added pounds acquired during nine months of study—my time at Le Cordon Bleu is officially over. Yes, classes concluded in December, but graduation ceremony was this past weekend so my family and I made the trek back to Pasadena; and for the last time, I wore my uniform, but this time to accept my diploma.

I could never have achieved what I have without the support of the Le Cordon Bleu chef instructors and Le Cordon Bleu staff. I look to them with gratitude for their shared knowledge and mentorship. I could never have achieved what I have without the support of my family and friends. Again, I look to them with gratitude for that support and for helping share the burden of eating everything created in class and brought home to them.

I once learned in a literature course during my university days that the French are not only known for their impeccable culinary expertise. The classical techniques for cooking and baking have survived the centuries, but so have the wonderful literary works of many French writers including Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince, and Voltaire’s Candide—to name a few. There is one quote from the humanist writer and philosopher Voltaire that is particularly appropriate as I look back on my experience at Le Cordon Bleu.
“Appreciation is a wonderful thing; it makes what is excellent
in others belong to us as well” (Voltaire).
Because of the excellence of those who have come before, I feel so honored to take part in the Le Cordon Bleu heritage; and I hope, as an alumnus of the school, to show appropriate appreciation by accepting the challenge and responsibility to uphold that standard of excellence that came with the diploma we graduates earned and received this past weekend.

Since this is my final Le Cordon Bleu post, I wanted to do something really special. I have always loved to express the way I feel through music. I've been playing the piano ever since I was six-years-old and have always loved to write songs on the 88 keys. Well, since I no longer have a piano in my home, I've been "forced" to learn how to play the guitar and write for the six-stringed instrument. So, along with this graduation picture slideshow I have included the first song I have ever composed and recorded for the guitar. It's a little rough because (a) I'm not good at playing the guitar, (b) I had to play the different parts and mesh them together, and (c) I've never used the Garage Band software before; but for the first song, it will do. It is dedicated it to my family, friends, and chef instructors who have been there for me during the last year as I embarked on this new and exciting path. So please, sit back, relax, and enjoy!


3.29.2011

Want to Know How to Make French Bread?

Jonathan's French Bread
1 pound 9 1/2 ounces BREAD FLOUR
1/2 ounce SEA SALT
17 ounces WATER
3/8 ounce DRY ACTIVE YEAST
Fermentation: approximately one hour, Proofing: approximately 30 minutes
Baking: 28 minutes at 425°F


 
A special thanks to Shauna Yarbrough (it was so fun to teach you!), Cameron Robins, Cody Owens, and Hunter Sebresos

3.24.2011

Grapefruit Dessert

As I was researching fresh fruit desserts this morning, I was surprised to find that the grapefruit is highly neglected.  We grew up having grapefruit halves for breakfast all the time and now that I'm temporarily spending time at my sister's apartment I see that the breakfast tradition has passed on to the next generation.  Consequently, there are many many grapefruits here--partially thanks to the season and partially thanks to Costco bulk buying.  Having somewhat of a soft-spot for these dessert worthy fruits I spent all morning thinking of numerous ways to include grapefruit in a dessert.  The winner--for today at least--was a light and refreshing spooned dessert with such a unique flavor it almost danced in my mouth the moment I tried it.

Grapefruit Curd
Looks delicious does it not?  This is what I did.  Since grapefruit is a citrus, I decided to make a grapefruit curd.  It didn't take much sugar to off-set the tartness of the fruit.  The pale ruby color of the grapefruit juice was lost when mixed with the yolks but the curd, in the end, had a slight pinkish hue--a stark difference from the vibrant color of traditional lemon curd.  I added some ginger and extra citrus to enhance the flavor.  I also included a little bit of butter in the formula to add to the silkiness of the curd which created a very smooth mouth-feel.  I dished the curd into little glasses and allowed the curd to set in the fridge.  While the curd-filled glasses chilled, I made a Tahitian vanilla Chantilly cream (Penny and Sam brought home some pretty incredible vanilla from their honeymoon to Tahiti).  I topped the curd with the cream and garnished the dessert with some plums.  I know it seems like an odd pairing, but I must say that combination is quite divine--the plum adding a hint of tart back into the overall experience.  Well, needless to say it was a fun morning of experimentation; and now I can boast that I've created a fine dessert using none other than the underestimated grapefruit.  Contact me if you want the recipe.