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This simple design will take your homemade cake to the next level

Recipes provided by Kellie Herrod

HOUSTON – National Cake Decorating Day must be celebrated, so we brought in a pro to share baking and decorating tips.

Kellie Herrod from The Chocolate Llama shares her secrets to creating a custom cake that looks more like a work of art.

Forget the fondant! You won't believe her incredibly quick and easy trick to making a cake look high-end. 

First, every home baker needs a strong foundation. Check out Herrod's helpful baking tips below:

BAKING TIPS:

#1. Always have all your ingredients at room temperature. 
Think about the fact that when things are cold they are constricted, not relaxed. I know there's two schools of thought on this, but I feel your batter will rise and be fluffier if your eggs, milk, butter, etc. are at room temperature.

#2. If a recipe does not call for salt, add it anyway.
Just a pinch of salt will bring out the flavors in all your baked goods.

#3. Vanilla bean paste is your best friend. 
The depth of flavor and beautiful brown speckle vanilla bean paste provides goes way beyond vanilla extract. It's less expensive than buying vanilla beans and can be purchased at HEB or on amazon. I use either Nielsen and Massey (HEB and Amazon) or Blue Cattle Truck Trading Co. (Amazon). It's not cheap friends, however, if you're baking for something or someone special, I highly recommend it. I would be lost without vanilla bean paste. 

#4. Always use the best ingredients you can afford. 
I can't stress this enough. I know good butter, chocolate, vanilla bean paste, etc. is expensive, but I urge you to get the best you can buy with the budget you have. It makes all the difference in the world.

#5. Bake without fear.
Don't stress! Read the recipe before you begin so there are no surprises.  
Get all your ingredients prepped and ready. Turn on some good music, pour a glass of wine (optional but lovely) and bake something amazing.

Now, you're ready to get in on action!
Herrod shares her vanilla bean cream cheese frosting, ganache and brown recipes and even her step-by-step guide to create the perfect cake decor; the chocolate sail.


VANILLA BEAN CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

This frosting is wonderful as it isn't too sweet (only one cup of powdered sugar) and has a wonderful silky mouth feel.

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with an electric mixer) combine the cream cheese and butter.  Beat on medium-low speed until smooth and combined (there should not be any cream cheese lumps). This should take 1-2 minutes, scraping the side of the bowl and paddle (or beaters) as needed.

2. With the mixer turned off, add the sifted powdered sugar, vanilla bean paste and salt to the cream cheese and butter mixture.  Beat on low until combined, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes.  Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

3. Use right away, or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 week. If chilled, let soften to room temperature and beat until fluffy before using.
 

GANACHE

All I can say is, yum!

  • 8 ounces bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate chips (I like to use Guittard which can be found at HEB)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter (if using salted butter, omit the salt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Place the chocolate chips and salt in a medium heatproof bowl. Combine the cream and butter in a small saucepan and heat until just under boiling (this is important! If you overheat the heavy cream you run the risk of burning the chocolate and ending up with a grainy mess). 

Pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips and salt. Let sit for 5 minutes then stir with a spatula until smooth and completely combined.  Cool the ganache at room temperature, uncovered to avoid condensation. Once cool, cover the surface of the ganache with cling wrap. This ganache can be kept at room temperature for up to two days or in the fridge for up to a week. If using from the fridge, let it come to room temp and stir.  If it is still not smooth, place it in the microwave and heat in short 10 second bursts until you have your smooth consistency. 


BROWN BUTTER:

Brown butter can absolutely transform a recipe and give your baked goods a depth you never imagined.

Brown butter can be substituted for regular butter in any recipe you have.  
It is important to remember that while making brown butter, you're essentially getting rid of the water content and cooking the fat solids until they are nutty and fabulous. 

With that in mind, just know for every 1 stick (4 oz) of butter that is browned you will need to add an additional 1 tablespoon of water or liquid to the recipe. Whatever liquid your recipe calls for, increase it by 1 tablespoon. Otherwise, use water.

Cut up your butter into small chunks and place in a saucepan. Melt butter over medium-low heat. Once melted, raise the heat to medium and simmer while stirring with a heat resistant spatula while the butter bubbles and hisses. Continue cooking and stirring, scraping up any brown bits that form in the bottom of the pan, until your butter is clear, amber in color and perfectly silent.  You want the milk solids to be dark brown but be careful, this is a fine line. They can go from beautiful brown to burned and black in a second.  Pour into a heat resistant bowl and return the butter to whatever state the recipe calls for (chilled, room temp, etc). 

Make sure to use all those beautiful brown bits. That's where most of that deep, nutty flavor comes from. 
 

CHOCOLATE SAILS

Chocolate sails are very in right now. They make a cake look high end without needing to go the fondant route. 

STEP 1. Melt compound chocolate for 1 minute.
STEP 2. Apply to parchment paper with a spoon to form feathers.
STEP 3. Let the chocolate sit in the fridge.
STEP 4. Break up the sails.
STEP 5. Apply to cake, enjoy!

For a detailed explanation of the entire process, see the full video below:

The Chocolate Llama -- National Cake Decorating Day from Ricochet Creative, LLC on Vimeo.

Don't forget to watch the full clip above for more information.
If you would like to connect with Kellie, just click here.