Madeira Cake w/ Strawberry Chocolate Ganache

As part of expanding our (her) cake repetoire, Lauren and I have sort of committed to abandoning boxed cake mixes and using straight from scratch recipes. With the assistance of a cake decorating book that Rachel got for us, we took our first step in that direction last night. I don't have recipes for this entry because I don't have the book in front of me, and on top of that I didn't actually do any of the baking last night because I was busy doing the cooking (chicken salad and potato salad) and the dish washing so we didn't get in each other's way.What Lauren made was a Madeira cake filled with strawberries and chocolate ganache and covered with buttercream icing. No fondant this time around. The results were mixed. First off our biggest problem is that we aren't cooking by weight. So next on our list of ways to expand our culinary arsenal is a digital weight scale. Its way too much of a hassle to try to figure how many cups or tablespoons 310 grams of butter is, and if that number of cups/tbsp is the same for 310 grams of sugar (which it isn't).

The second problem was the icing. We added some almond extract for flavoring, but it easily overpowered the icing and made it way too sweet. Not only that but the recipe we used gave us a very dry consistency. We should have stuck with the recipe we used for the Dr. Seuss cake.

As for the Madeira cake, it was okay. Nothing too special. From what I remember of the recipe it didn't call for any lemon, vanilla or any other type of flavoring. It was simply various amounts of self rising flour, butter, sugar and eggs. So it turned out to be essentially a pound cake. Good for carving, stacking and building, but nothing to really talk about.

The ganache was fantastic. Lauren has a block of expensive chocolate that she uses for these sorts of desserts, and it never ceases to amaze me how different that stuff tastes than candy bar/milk chocolate.

The three flavors together (icing, cake, ganache) didn't really complement each other either. That was more of a result of mad science than it was a mistake. We wanted to try a few new recipes/methods and just sort of Frankensteined them together rather than plan it out and make a true presentation out of it. In fact the icing was supposed to be white, but it didn't spread very well while she was trying to cover the sides and ended up turning brownish as the ganache oozed out the sides. So Lauren fixed that.

The Lady & Sons Restaurant

I just realized I never actually posted anything about our vacation. The vacation was great, and I'll return to share some words and pictures about crabbing and fresh seafood. But I'm going to use this post to focus on Savannah, Georgia and our trip to The Lady & Sons restaurant, owned by Paula Deen of the Food Network.

We got in late on Tuesday night and walked the city. Great city. A little dark and forested for a downtown but I suppose if you live there that starts to seem normal. I was a little on edge about catching whooping cough or the bubonic plague in some kind of freak accident, but that was a testament to historic look of Savannah at night, not its hygiene.

So late Tuesday night after we checked in we decided to walk over to The Lady & Sons to get an idea of how far away it was, where the line would form and what the restaurant looked like.
The following morning I woke up at 8am with the understanding that the restaurant started taking reservations (in person only) at 8:30am. When I got there I was 10th in line, behind 3 groups of 2-4 people. I let Lauren sleep in since it seemed like a stupid idea for both of us to get dressed and stand in line for a half hour. Not only that but it would have meant an hour less sleep as she would have needed to be up by 7am to be out the door by 8. By myself I felt totally comfortable rolling over at 7:55am, washing my face, brushing my teeth and throwing on last nights clothes to go stand in line.

The only problem with that is that the information we got about the restaurant was not correct. The Lady & Sons begins taking reservations at 9:30am. So there I was standing in line for 90 minutes, hoping each half hour in line was my last. By the time front of the line had started moving the back of the line had stretched all the way down the block and must have been a good 150 people long.

We had a lunch reservation for noon. I went back to the hotel, showered up, ate breakfast and then we walked the city again while we waited for lunch to roll around. Sometime later in the morning The Lady & Sons had turned on a mist zone for anyone still standing in line. As we were waiting inside The Paula Deen Store for our reservation, I saw an unsuspecting family (since there was no line outside) walk up to the hostess' booth and ask for a table as anyone would at a normal restaurant. It was 11:30am and hostess told them the earliest they could get a table was 8:30pm. On a Wednesday. In August.

That restaurant must make a killing. As for the atmosphere, it wasn't all that high-end, but I don't think it was trying to be either. The lunch menu is just good Southern cooking. Fried chicken, meatloaf, chicken pot pie, mashed potatoes, those sorts of things. Not too much in the way of cold plates/sandwiches which is kind of disappointing when its 95 degrees outside and you're on foot. But that may just be me. Most of the foods I saw were what I'd associate with winter comfort food in Michigan.

It was a good experience and definitely something worth doing if you're in Savannah, but I'm not sure its type of lunch/dining experience that you're going to talk about for years to come. Which at around $40 (w/ tip) for two people probably shouldn't be expected.

Salley's Birthday Cake

Last week while on vacation, Lauren and her sister decided to make a fondant cake for their younger sister's birthday. I thought it was borderline insanity given that we were out of Lauren's kitchen, without any of her cake supplies and most importantly without a KitchenAid stand mixer. Bu they were determined to make it happen, so I looked up the fondant recipe, gave them a few pointers and then backed away slowly. Obviously the picture shows that it turned out just fine and here is why: the fondant recipe I was using worked, but it didn't create the most workable fondant.

  • 1 - 16oz pkg mini-marshmallows
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 6-8 cups 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • Vegetable shortening (for greasing everything that touches liquid marshmallow)

You can use about half the amount powdered sugar. The fondant is every bit as sturdy, but 10 times more pliable. Maybe you won't get 3 lbs of fondant out of this recipe (we didn't measure) but what you have will be so much easier to work with.

In other news, Lauren and I may be making a cake this weekend. Rachel dropped off an incredibly awesome and generous thank you gift to us for Sofia's Dr. Seuss cake. The gifts included a variety of cake decorating and fondant working tools. Lauren will be making a baby shower cake in September and wants to test out some ideas we've seen on Cake Boss and Food Network Challenge. On top of that we've also been contacted by an acquaintance of mine about doing a John Deere tractor wedding cake for August of 2010.

So in short order we're going to need to find some solid "from scratch" cake recipes and start fancying up the actual cake and frosting.

We'll see how that goes this weekend.