It’s Complicated….


As the More is More Mom®, I am all about……more themed parties! While we are still in summer Outdoor Movie Night mode, I was thrilled to invite my Book Club girlfriends over for movie fun. There was no question; we had to watch It’s Complicated with the amazingly versatile Meryl Streep, the charming and talented (and rather portly) Alec Baldwin and the genuine and hysterical Steve Martin. Brilliant!

 

A party with a theme practically throws itself. In the movie, Meryl owns a smart and trendy bakery, so naturally a dessert buffet was in order. My menu was particularly inspired by two scenes; one where she makes Alec Baldwin a luscious and beautiful chocolate cake, and the other when she takes Steve Martin to her bakery after hours and teaches him how to make chocolate croissants. Are you hungry yet?

 

The It’s Complicated Menu (a diabetic’s nightmare):

  • Buttercream and Berry Topped Vanilla Cake
  • Chocolate Ganache Cake
  • Chocolate Covered Strawberries
  • Chocolate Croissants

 

Buttercream and Berry Topped Vanilla Cake:

This cake is so pretty! I know it’s still cake, but something about fruit just feels like it might be a healthier option. Just don’t think about the Buttercream frosting.

You will need two round cake pans. If you use 7-8” pans, the cake will be thick enough to cut in half horizontally, providing four layers. I was working with 9” pans, so I had just two layers.

Cake:

Pre- heat oven to 350°

Grease the bottom of each cake pan.

Line the bottoms with parchment or wax paper, cut to fit. Grease over the paper and sprinkle lightly with flour.

In a large mixing bowl, combine:

 

2 ½ cups of flour

1/3 cup cornstarch

3 tsp baking powder

1 ½ tsp salt

Add:

 

2/3 cup vegetable oil

½ cup milk

1 ½ tsp vanilla (as always, imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery)

1 ¼ cups of water (add an additional ½ cup of water if necessary so the batter is smooth, not too sticky and dough-y)

Mix until smooth

In a medium bowl, combine:

 

4 egg whites

¼ tsp cream of tartar

Beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks are formed

Gradually add;

1 ¾ cups of sugar

Beat at a high speed until stiff peaks are formed

Add the egg mixture into the batter

Pour the batter evenly into the two prepared pans.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until you insert a toothpick and it comes out clean

Cool for 10 minutes

Remove the cakes from the pans and cool completely, removing the wax paper.

Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

NOTE: I would highly recommend not assembling this cake until you are a few hours away from serving. I learned that from my incessant need to be organized and prepared. I discovered that, sometimes, patience is actually a virtue.

Buttercream Frosting:

In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer, beat;

1 ½ cups of butter

Gradually add;

4 ½ cups of powdered sugar (I know it seems like an insane amount, but you’re going to add even more!)

Add;

4 ½ Tbsp milk

3 tsp vanilla (pure…)

Gradually add more powdered sugar, up to 4 additional cups.

Add more milk, a splash at a time, if necessary to make a nice and creamy consistency.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

 

Berries:

 

4 cups fresh, sliced strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries

½ – 1 cup of raspberry jam

To assemble:

If your cake is thick enough to be divided, using a serrated knife, cut the layers in half horizontally. Otherwise we’ll just be working with two layers.

 

On a platter, place on cake layer

Spread generously with Buttercream frosting, but not quite to the edge of the cake

Top with a ¼ cup of jam

Arrange 1 cup of berries on top of the jam

Repeat with remaining layers

Serve to your fruit loving friends!

Chocolate Ganache Cake:

What could be more decadent?

Again, if you have three 7-8” cake pans, use them. I was working with two 9” pans which was really quite fine.

 

Cake:

Pre- heat oven to 350°

Grease the bottom of each cake pan.

Line the bottoms with parchment or wax paper, cut to fit. Grease over the paper and sprinkle lightly with flour.

Whisk together;

¾ cup boiling water

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp instant espresso powder (found in the coffee aisle)

 

In a medium bowl, sift together;

 2 cups all purpose flour

1 ¼ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

In a large mixing bowl, beat together;

 

2 sticks of butter, softened to room temperature

2 cups of brown sugar, packed

Beat until nice and fluffy

Add;

4 large eggs, one at a time

 

Add;

Flour mixture and cocoa mixture in small batches until all blended together.

Pour batter into prepared pans, divided evenly.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until a tooth pick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Cool for about 30 minutes

Remove cakes from pans, placing on wire racks until completely cool. Be sure to remove the wax paper.

Ganache:

This frosting is so simple and delicious you’ll wonder why you haven’t been making it forever.

In a large saucepan, bring;

2 ¾ cups of heavy whipping cream to a simmer

Whisk in;

20 ounces of bittersweet chocolate which has been finely chopped in a food processor (so much quicker than by hand)

 

Stir until smooth

Pour the Ganache into a bowl, cover and chill for 4 hours

Stir occasionally to keep the consistency nice and spreadable

To Assemble:

Place a cake layer on a serving platter

Spread about 2/3 -3/4 cups Ganache over cake

Top with another cake

If you are adding a third layer, add frosting to the second layer and top with third layer

Once you have added your top layer (second or third depending), refrigerate for about an hour to firm up Ganache filling

 

To finish the cake, spread a thin layer of Ganache over the top and sides

Refrigerate for about 30 minutes

Spread the remaining Ganache over the top and sides as evenly as possible.

Duff from the Ace of Cakes, and Buddy the Cake Boss sure do make it look easy!

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Thankfully this can be made a day in advance. It’s the perfect recipe to satisfy my need for control and organization.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries:

Truly, the perfect combination; healthy fruit with decadent chocolate!

Wash desired number of strawberries.

In a narrow, but deep, small mixing bowl melt 1 bag of chocolate chip for about 2 minutes. Stir until smooth.

One by one, take each strawberry and dip into the chocolate

Place the strawberries on wax paper to firm up

After a while, the chocolate gets kind of thick and gooey. There may be some waste, but when that happens, melt another bag of chocolate. The most important thing is that the chocolate appear creamy and smooth.

Refrigerate in a sealed container. Remove from the fridge an hour or so before you are ready to set up your buffet.

 

Serve with champagne for a special treat.

 

Chocolate Croissants:

I had this dream that I was going to have time to tackle croissants from scratch, even though I’ve never made them before. In a rare moment of clarity, I called Panera Bread and ordered a dozen chocolate croissants. They were fabulous!

The Buffet:

Everything always tastes even better when it is beautifully displayed. I am an enormous fan of varying elevations. Visually it creates a more pleasing arrangement by adding layers and dimension, but from a practical standpoint the food items are easier to reach when offered at different heights.

 

I really felt that the Chocolate Croissants were the featured attraction, so I placed them at the highest elevation on this absolutely amazing architectural pediment. Each cake was featured on a pedestal platter in front and to the side. Cut crystal is sophisticated and beautiful, a perfect foil for the elegant strawberries.

 

Fresh flowers are always a treat. I have had a bee in my bonnet all summer to core a pineapple and use it as a vase. If I were smart enough to spend my time curing cancer, I swear I would, but since I am not, I make pineapple vases. I bought two bouquets of yellow daisies and trimmed them down to size. I stuck an empty soup can in each cavern to hold the water. I love that each bouquet of daisies made such an impressive cluster. I believe in both quality and quantity. You can feel sorry for Chuck now. For practical purposes, I opted to place my arrangement on tall pedestal candle holders meant for large pillar candles. The reason was that they had a lip and the pineapples themselves leaked a teensy, little bit.

As a general rule I am morally opposed to paper plates, but when I spotted these in a blue and green floral toile, I was taken. They felt light and summery, which was exactly the feeling I was trying to evoke. I used a small creamy urn as a utensil holder, which was a lovely compliment to my paper products.

 

For additional texture and visual interest, coupled with my desire to fill every nook and cranny, I included in my display two small urns topped with textured, green decorative balls. The green tied in nicely with my paper products and the texture played beautifully against the pineapples. Nature at it’s best! Scatter about some tea light candles and we’re ready for fun with friends.

Of course since this was movie night, I was all set up to go with my refreshment buffet of popcorn, movies theater candy and a variety of thoughtful beverages (beer, wine, champagne and….water).

While our movie might have been called It’s Complicated, and evening with wonderful friends and delicious desserts was anything but. It was…..more simple and more fantastic!

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3 Comments

Filed under More is More Mom

3 responses to “It’s Complicated….

  1. Catherine

    Loved your post today – as always! You have so many creative ideas that look fabulous when executed. Your friends are so lucky! It must have been a great party. Loved the recipes, too. Thank you!

  2. Brenda

    As one who was privileged enough to be present that evening and to partake of the delicious fare, can I just say “WOW” Vanessa!!!!!!! It was so much fun and the laughs are always therapeutic. Thanks again!!!!

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