Cakes

Pink Champagne Cake

The Madonna Inn's famous Pink Champagne Cake
The Madonna Inn’s famous Pink Champagne Cake

If you have ever driven US Route 101 in California near San Luis Obispo there is a kitschy land mark that has welcomed cattlemen, cowboys, cowgirls, brides, honeymooners and road travelers since 1958. Ladies and Gentlemen I am referring to  The Madonna Inn, I cannot remember my first time there but I can tell you I was little, maybe four or five. The pink walls, pink patterned carpets, oversized floral bouquets, huge crystal goblets, Swiss milkmaid waitress uniforms, pink sugar for ice tea or coffee, copper toped tables, copper salt and pepper shakers and then the Copper Café’s famous Bakery. With over eight types of cakes and the same number of pies this bakery has grown tremendously not only in kitsch but in the hearts of many who have eaten sweets from this step back in time bakery. Some of the newest additions are chocolates, cookies, cupcakes and other sweet treats.

My daughter enjoying every second.
The famous copper top tables, salt and pepper shakers and pink sugar. My daughter enjoys every second of it.

However, there is one cake the Madonna Inn is famous for creating  and that is, the Madonna Inn Pink Champagne Cake. Three-lovely and feather light white cake layers all snuggled in-between a whipped almond flavored Bavarian cream and fresh made whip cream. The outside of the cake is iced with a  whip cream icing and tiny hot-pink colored white chocolate crumbles are pressed into that amazing whip cream. Then the ultimate cake topper or crown is stacked mile high, curls and curls of that same hot-pink colored white chocolate then those thick ribbon like curls have  a soft dusting of powder sugar on top. The finished cake resembles a beautifully decorated French hat box with billowing satin pink bow.

The famous hot-pink white chocolate curls.
The famous hot-pink white chocolate curls.

I could eat this cake all the time, yes it is rich, yes it is sweet and yes it is full of sugar, fat, cream and chocolate! It is worth every extra pound I have put on my body by eating it over my 39 years on this planet. I love this cake, I cannot express it any other way than just that, its a little girls dream cake always has been to me and it will always remain that way. When you take your road trip to the famous Madonna Inn spend time there, do not rush your visit. Go have a bite to eat at the Copper Café or sit down at Alex Madonna’s Gold Rush Steak House and enjoy a cattleman’s dinner among the 1960’s style pink tucked leather booths. Billowing all around you are the pink silk flowers, twinkle lights, Tiffany style chandeliers and if you can find her there is the little doll perched high over your head swinging away in her tree swing, the soft sounds of music floating in from the Silver Bar Cocktail & Lounge and maybe on a good night you will see Lady Madonna herself, Mrs. Phyllis Madonna. Ask her to come over and tell you her story about why her loving husband Alex Madonna built this Americana landmark.

Alex Madonna's Gold Rush Steak House
Alex Madonna’s Gold Rush Steak House

I was just there a few days ago picking up my lovely 8” round cake (for a steal at $35.00) and I asked the young lady helping me, “is that fresh whip cream that’s used on the out side of the cake and in-between the layers?” Her response “Yes, on the outside and only one of the layers the rest are whipped almond flavored Bavarian cream.” Then I asked, “do you color the chocolate here, is it a powder color or a liquid?” She replied “I’m sorry I can not tell you.” Can you tell me if you make the curls and crumbles here?” “Yes, we do. “ “Can you tell me if it’s an egg white cake like a chiffon?” With a pause and a slight head turn she stated- “quite possibly”. That was it, I had the basic information now to drive home and get this sorted out.

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To date I believe I have introduced well over 150 people to this cake, my husband and my three children have been the best sports whenever we hit the road to travel north. They know that the car is going to pull over so I can have a walk back in time with my memories and create new ones with them. My daughter flutters in all the pink and glitter, my sons they like the downstairs men’s room. Why? The men’s bathroom is famous; maybe a bit more than the cake, it has a motion-censored waterfall instead of a urinal and when my youngest son was about three-year-old that was the best experience he could ever have at using the big boy potty. On average I loose my youngest son to that waterfall at least four times during our meal. I can promise you stopping at the Madonna Inn will brighten your day, you will have the biggest smile on your face and a good giggle too. Go get some cake, go look around, count how many colors of goblets there are, walk the gardens, sneak a peek at the waterfall and please tell Phyllis hello from me.

Cheers!

Champagne Cake

Light and tender white cake with a hint of champagne and almond.

Ingredients

1.    ¾ stick of softened unsalted butter
2.    1 ½ cups granulated sugar
3.    3 cups sifted cake flour (swans)
4.    1 teaspoon vanilla
5.    1 teaspoon champagne extract or almond extract
6.    1 tablespoon baking powder
7.    ½ teaspoon salt
8.    1 cup room temperature whole milk
9.    6 egg whites at room temperature

Instructions

1.    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and parchment line 2-9 inch cake pans. With an electric mixer or stand mixer on medium speed, cream butter and sugar. Mix in vanilla, champagne extract or almond extract. In a separate bowl, sift cake flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture alternately with milk until all combined. In a clean, dry bowl beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. With a rubber spatula, add a scoop of the egg whites to the cake batter and slowly fold in, add a little more egg white and fold in, continue until all the egg white is incorporated into the batter. Divide batter between pans. Tap on the counter to level.
2.    Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Test with toothpick for doneness, only tiny amounts of crumb should hold to the toothpick. Cool cakes in pans for 10 minutes then turn over onto rack for 10 minutes. Remove pans and allow to cool completely.

Notes

Assembling the Champagne Cake
1. Take one cooled cake round and place it on a serving plate or cake board, spread a ½ inch layer of the Bavarian cream all over the cake but keep the cream a ¼ inch from the edge of the cake.
2. Split the second cake layer in half horizontally and place the first layer on top of the Bavarian cream, center your cake. Add a ½ inch layer of your stabilized whip cream keeping a ¼ inch from the edge of the cake.
3. Place the second cut layer on top of the whip cream and now spread a ½ inch layer of the Bavarian cram. Making sure to keep it a ¼ inch from the cake edge.
4. Place you last cake layer on top of the Bavarian cream, push the cake layers down slightly to level then smooth a good layer of the whip cream all over the cake and press the hot-pink chocolate crumbles into the sides and top of the cake.
5. For other decoration, you can add the Bavarian cream to a pastry bag with a star tip nozzle and decorate the top and bottom of the cake base. Keep cake refrigerated.

Whip Cream Icing

This is a stabilized whip cream icing. It is necessary so the whip cream does not slide off your cake.

Ingredients

1.    2 cups very cold whipping cream
2.    3 tablespoons sifted powder sugar
3.    1 teaspoon clear vanilla or almond extract
4.    1 teaspoon gelatin
5.    1 ½ tablespoons cold water
6.    1 ½ tablespoons boiling water

Instructions

1.    To prepare the gelatin, get a small bowl and add the cold water to it, sprinkle the powder gelatin over the water and let it sit for 5 minutes. Add the boiling water to the gelatin mixture and stir to dissolve. Set aside.
2.    Whip Cream; place your cold whip cream, powder sugar and flavor in a mixing bowl use a hand mixer or stand mixer on medium high speed for 1 minute, slowly add the liquid gelatin to the cream and then mix until stiff peaks form- be careful, if you mix it too long you will have butter. Keep in fridge until ready to ice cake.

Notes

1.    If you choose to color your whip cream, make sure to add your coloring to the cold whipping cream before you start to mix it.

Bavarian Cream

Ingredients

1.    6 large room temperature eggs
2.    1/2 cup granulated sugar
3.    2 cups room temperature whipping cream
4.    1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
5.    1 ½ cup whipping cream
6.    1 teaspoon good quality (2 fold if you can find it) vanilla extract
7.    1 teaspoon pure almond extract

Instructions

1.    In a mixing bowl, whip eggs and sugar until thick, about 3 minutes. You can use a hand mixer, stand mixer or whisk, keep it on medium speed. Stop and set to the side.
2.    Pour 2 cups of whipping cream into medium size saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin over cream let stand for 5 minutes. Heat the cream and gelatin over medium low heat, make sure to consistently stir the mixture while heating to just below the boiling point, turn off heat and set aside.
3.    Back to your sugar and egg mixture, begin to slowly mix the eggs and sugar mixture, pour a little bit of the hot cream into it, ¼ cup should do, mix well. Slowly add a little more of the hot cream to the eggs, you want the egg mixture to temper or warm so the eggs will not curdle. Continue to gradually add all the hot cream to the egg. Once all incorporated, set aside.
4.    In a separate bowl, whip the remaining 1 cup of whip cream until soft peaks form. Add the vanilla extract and the almond extract to the whipped cream. Gently fold whipped cream into egg mixture a little at a time until all is incorporated. Place cling wrap over bowl and put in the fridge for at least 6 hours and even overnight when possible. This will be thick, but remember this is a cake filling.

Notes

You can also fill puff pastry shells with this cream or pipe it into a small dessert bowl and top with fresh fruit.

Pink Chocolate Crumbles & Curls

Ingredients

1.    2 bags white chocolate chips
2.    hot pink food color
3.    whisk
4.    double boiler
5.    parchment paper
6.    spatula
7.    OR USE
8.    Wilton Candy Melts in hot-pink, follow the directions on the back of the package on how to melt the chocolates. When you have a smooth consistency spread the melted chocolate in an even layer on parchment paper and allow it time to cool 15-20 minutes. Once cooled break up into small pieces and keep covered until ready to use.

Instructions

1.    Double Boiler Method
2.    Heat water in the bottom portion of your double boiler, bring to a boil then turn the heat to low so the water is simmering, in the second bowl add the white chocolate chips and place that bowl over the simmering water, wait 5 minutes then slowly start stirring chocolate. When only a few lumps remain take the bowl off the hot water and continue to stir placing the bowl on a folded towel it will help keep the chocolate warm and the bowl will not slip. When the melted chocolate is smooth add a few drops of food color and mix well. Then spread out your chocolate on a piece of parchment paper and allow to cool for 15-20 then break it up into pieces.

Notes

This is the youtube link to the video that shows you how to make chocolate curls: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UA0opJ_coE

Helen’s Chocolate Cake

Helen’s Chocolate Cake

Helen's Chocolate Cake
Helen’s Chocolate Cake

Every family member, friend, chef or baker has a go to dessert recipe; a tried and true treat they can make it with their eyes closed. My Mom, Helen, discovered this chocolate cake recipe over 30 years ago in a magazine though she can’t remember the publication, possibly Sunset, Woman’s World or maybe even Gourmet she took the base ingredients and changed them to her liking. This cake has a history steeped in secrecy, adoration, gratitude, and appreciation and above all else my mother’s love. Proudly positioned in her faded yellow recipe card box sits a splattered and stained and quite faded card with the title “The Chocolate Cake” written across the top.

Over the 39 years of my life this delightful cake has made appearances at Christmases adorned with a miniature children’s carousel for birthdays it was always decorated with three candles representing the past, the present and future. It’s been featured at Graduation celebrations with a perfect icing scroll or waiting with small American flags atop for my son’s return home from his BCT (Basic Combat Training) with the U.S. Army. The cake has celebrated beginnings such as the family meal as we wished my son good luck and Godspeed to his Army post in Korea, and endings being brought to share after the passing of a loved one.

This cake with its tall and sturdy yet tender layers is perfectly complimented by a rich and feather light chocolate icing and all of this time the recipe has remained the World Champion of my family’s culinary secrets. No family member has ever had it, many have asked. Mom’s reply has always been the same “I found this gem. Go and find yours, then let’s compare.” She delivers her response in the tone of a treasure hunter. She found her own personal “X marks the spot” and she encourages others to find their own as well, not to take hers. I completely understood so I knew there was never going to be a chance in all holy heck that I would ever get my hands on that cake recipe.

When I opened my bakery and café, I received a priceless gift. It was a fresh recipe card, void of batter splatter and cocoa dust. My Mom’s handwriting revealed the few ingredients, oven temperature and the steps to follow to make The Chocolate Cake. This was truly one of the simplest recipes I had ever seen and one of the most loving gifts I had ever received. Now it was mine (head tilted back cackling away calling out, “Mine, mine, mine!”) I now had the ability to share a bit of my mom with my customers and reveled as they devoured her chocolate cake!

You are joining me on my new adventure, you are now on my maiden voyage as a food writer, recipe developer, food photographer, published recipe author and above else a storyteller. In good faith and in celebration of my Mom I asked if I could share her recipe with all of you. Could I please reveal the ultra secret, long ago and far away magazine find my mother has carried with her and the memories of my family members, friends, ex-boyfriends (sorry husband) and former customers? Mom said I was allowed to publish this saying, “ Show them that you care that you will go to all lengths to uncover stories, recipes and memories, help them create an amazing cake that wows everyone.”

Enjoy this cake. Serve it with three things, laughs, people and stories. Or take it up a notch and wash it down with merlot, coffee or cold milk. Thank you for being here, thank you for taking this curious adventure with me. I cannot wait to see where we are headed next!

Oh, here is a side note, when I received that recipe card the first time my exact statement was this “ Mom! What in the hell? This cake is vegan? I’ve been eating a vegan cake all my life? My Mom’s statement “What’s a vegan?” I love you Mom.

Cheers!

 Helen’s Chocolate Cake

What you will need:

2- 9” round cake pans buttered or non-stick sprayed, parchment lined and cocoa dusted. Oven preheated to 350.

Ingredients

2 tbsp. instant coffee

3 cups all purpose flour sifted

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup sifted Hershey’s cocoa powder

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 cup oil canola, vegetable, safflower (do NOT use olive oil or coconut oil)

2 cups room temperature water

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

4 tbsp. Heinz white vinegar

 

In a large bowl sift the flour then sift the cocoa powder, granulated sugar, baking soda, instant coffee and salt. Mix well with a whisk and set aside.

In a medium size bowl measure out oil, water and vanilla, in a separate smaller bowl measure out the white vinegar and set aside.

Add the oil, water and vanilla into the dry ingredients; mix well with your whisk until no dry ingredients remain. Once the batter is smooth add the vinegar and mix to incorporate. Pour evenly into the two prepared pans and place in your hot oven. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, testing the center of the cake for doneness with a wooden skewer. The skewer should have very little crumb clinging to it. Remover the cake pans and place on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Turn over cake pans on cooling racks and let sit for 10 more minutes, remove the pans and carefully peal away the parchment paper, allow to cool completely.

Wrap cake in waxed paper, parchment or plastic wrap with a 2-4 vent hole pricks in the plastic wrap (the cake needs to breath) and leave out room temperature over night. In the morning make the icing and assemble your chocolate cake.

Light and Creamy Chocolate Icing

1 cup sifted cocoa powder

4 cups sifted powder sugar

1 ½ cups softened unsalted butter or butter flavored shortening

2 tsp. vanilla extract

4 tbsp. milk, half & half, whipping cream or thick coconut milk

1 tsp. kosher salt

In a mixer with a paddle attachment mix butter or shortening on medium speed for 5 minutes, stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the vanilla and salt mix for an additional minute. Scrape the bowl down, add your sifted cocoa powder, mix on low speed for one minute then increase speed to medium high for 2 minutes. Scrape bowl down and add your sifted powder sugar, mix on low speed for 2 minutes see if the icing looks dry if it does add 1 tablespoon at a time milk, half & half, whipping cream or thick coconut milk mixing for 1 minute after each liquid addition. When it looks moist increase speed to medium and mix for five minutes stopping at the 3-minute mark to scrape down the bowl and continue. Ice your cooled cake and enjoy.