Rachel Schifter Thebault, owner and head confectioner at Tribeca Treats has created Sweet CHIC- Stylish Treats to Dress Up for Any Occasion.Conceptually, the book is about how to take the basic recipe and accessorize it. The concept is best addressed in Sweet CHIC’s forward by fashion legend, Isaac Mizrahi who says “Style is all about inspiration. When you accessorize an outfit in the right way, it makes you feel great. The idea of a dessert book that shows you the perfect way to add designer details to classic confections is truly inspired.”
A sweet book of recipes that are cleverly broken up into fashion categories like a Devil’s Food Cake that is considered the little black dress, Caramels and Fleur de Sel Chocolate Covered Caramels as the “It” bag, Caramel Buttercream Icing as the ruffled blouse and Tempered Chocolate as the Stiletto heels. That is the outfit created when I baked Ms Thebault’s Sweet and Salty Cake. Probably one of the few but more involved sweet treats in the book.
The Sweet and Salty Cake had all the elements of a sweet treat that I love and want to eat; chocolate, caramel, and salt. I read through the book a couple times, The Basics – major Ingredients from baking soda vs. baking powder, flour (all purposed) to natural extracts etc, pretty clear. What I will fault Ms. Thebault with is no mention of what she meant by salt: table salt, kosher salt, or fine sea salt? I searched for any information on salt when it was called for in the Devil’s Food Cake recipe and after a couple re-reads still couldn’t find. If it is in the book and I didn’t find it. I apologize to the lovely Ms. Thebault if it is there and I overlooked it. I ended using kosher salt and slightly increased it.
The Sweet and Salty Cake required two days of my time because I decided to do everything from scratch. Ms Thebault does offer quicker alternatives.
Recipe 1 – Devil’s Food Cake
The Devil’s Food Cake is a simple recipe using cocoa and oil making it easy to whip up even without a mixer. Thebault explained in measuring flour for her recipes it is the “scoop and sweep method.” Take your measuring cup, scoop it full (but not packed) and then level it off. She has you sift your flour after the measure. Not how I learned, mine was spoon into the measuring cup and leveling. Guess what, her method worked. The cake layers were manageable, I could handle them without them falling apart. (which happened a lot with other cakes I made-probably not enough flour). The Devil’s Food Cake is a winner – it will be my basic chocolate cake from now on! I let the layers cool, trimmed them level and refrigerated overnight.
Footnote: Buttermilk is used in the recipe. Most grocery stores carry low fat versions so eventually I found full fat buttermilk at Whole Foods.
Recipe 2 – Chewy Caramel Candies
Chewy Caramel Candies which are a major component in making the caramel sauce which will go in the caramel buttercream icing. The recipe called for 1/3 cup honey and 1 tablespoon light corn syrup but you could use less honey and more corn syrup if that is your flavor preference.
I was diligent in watching the temperatures. The waxed paper that was suggested to line the pan ended up being difficult getting off the caramels, you might want to use her other recommended liner of parchment paper. After a couple hours, I cut the caramels – it was too soon and they went flat. By the next morning they firmed up. Give them overnight to rest. There was an option of using jarred caramel sauce but I wanted to test all the components in the sweet and salty cake recipe. The caramels where double what I needed for the caramel sauce. My plan was to use her recipe for the chocolate covered caramels with fleur de sel for the extras. I could have adjusted the recipe for the caramel sauce but opted to go for the candies.
Recipe 3 – Swiss Buttercream
The next morning I started with making the Swiss buttercream. This method had you whisk the egg whites and sugar in a mixer bowl over boiling water and eventually moves to the mixer, switching to the paddle from the whisk attachment when you add the butter. The icing turned out beautiful – not too sweet.
Recipe 4 – Caramel Sauce
Heavy cream heated to a simmer and then adding ½ of the caramels made the simple caramel sauce.
Recipe 5 – Caramel Buttercream
Drizzle in the caramel sauce into the Swiss Buttercream and mix.
Some assembly required – Sweet and Salty Cake
With all the components set, it was time to put a thin layer of icing on the cake and chill for a short bit. This method contained any crumbs that might exist on the cake and spoil the look of the icing. As it chilled, I rough chopped dark and milk chocolate covered pretzels that were put on the side of the cake after it is fully iced. I piped the balance of icing on the top rim of the cake and dusted with fleur de sel sea salt.
Recipe 6 – Basic Tempered Chocolate
I didn’t need the whole recipe because I only had ½ the caramels to cover. It was very temperature sensitive and I watched it closely. Like a pair of stiletto heels, painful at first as Ms Thebault states in the book with regular use becomes comfortable. For me, it was a pain; the narrow window between temperatures frustrated me.
Recipe 7 – Fleur de Sel Caramels
My caramels had flattened on their own but I could fold them over themselves once they hardened a bit and shape them. It was simple to dip the caramels in the tempered chocolate and top with Fleur de Sel Salt.
As a baker, I’m beyond a beginner but you don’t want to put me in an expert slot. I find baking nerve wracking. I know it is a science and you follow the instructions – there is no playing around. I push myself to bake; it is pushing my comfort zone. With that said. I like the book; I definitely liked the chocolate cake and look forward to trying other cake and cookie recipes. I had the most trouble with the confections and that I will not revisit.
As for the finished product, the cake it is getting oohs and aahs on my Facebook Page. Neighbors and friends are invited in to enjoy the fruits of my review. The Sweet and Salty Cake was a winner though it would have to be someone damn special to go through all this again to make it. I would probably use some short cuts mentioned in the book.
Sweet CHIC – Stylish Treats to Dress Up for Any Occasion by Rachel Schfiter Thebault
The book was published in 2010 so you can find it at bargain prices. My copy was a review copy.
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