Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Double Cheeseburger Cake

Part of the reason my posts have been sparse is because I've been waiting to perfect a recipe before sharing it with you. For example, right now, I'm fine-tuning recipes for zucchini bread, peach upside-down cake, and your everyday, run-of-the-mill white bread.

But sometimes I make a one-off thing, or discover an important technique or valuable short-cut and I want to share those with you as well.

Last weekend I was invited to a BBQ and, inspired by this post over at Food Network Canada, I made a double cheeseburger cake.

The bun is your basic yellow cake (any recipe, even a package mix will do), baked in two 9-inch cake pans. The patties are two brownie mixes, baked in 8-inch pans. Yes, I used a package mix, because even America's Test Kitchen says (registration required) you can't top it. If you're going to make your brownies from scratch, I would suggest using their recipe. But then, you'd have to really love the people you're baking for because those ingredients ain't cheap.

All of the condiments are a simple buttercream icing (note: this recipe calls for salted butter) with food colouring. Since most people are only familiar with the cheapie colourings at the supermarket, you can really impress by using the higher quality gels (another Wilton product). They're really great because they're vibrant and don't throw off your icing's consistency.

In the original inspiration, the cheese was made our of coloured marshmallow. I tried this, and it was WAY too much of a headache (read: it didn't turn out). Instead, I piped out some orange icing and patted it flat with my finger dipped in some icing sugar.

Finally, I coated the top with a simple syrup (1/2 cup granulated sugar dissolved in 1/4 cup water over high heat), scattered the top with toasted slivered almonds, and brushed more syrup over to fix them down.

I served the cake by cutting slices and splitting up the top bun/patty and the bottom bun/patty. My dad joked that he wanted a top piece because it had all the veggies and he wanted to eat something healthy. :D

Teenage Mutant Ninja Burgers

What I know about men's eating habits: 1) They like meat. 2) They REALLY like bacon. So when thinking of what to make for three grown men for dinner, the turtle burger was an obvious choice.

You know what a turtle burger is. Do a Google Images search and you'll see dozens of pictures. I refuse to show you any pictures but my own since I can't track the original photos back to their owners. (Side note: This is what happened to my Darwin Day cake. It got picked up by a couple of blogs, and suddenly the photo was being hosted everywhere without proper credit. Now I put my URL in the corner of my pics (which still can be removed...*sigh*) /rant)

Anyway, there really weren't any good and thorough instructions on how to make these lovely animal abominations, so I did my own thing, taking pictures along the way, and now you can benefit from the following step-by-step instructions.

Turtle Burgers

Step 1. Prep the burgers. I suppose you could use store-bought, but it really isn't the same. They're too thin and way too greasy. For a real burger how-to, see Kenji Lopez-Alt's Burger Lab post, "The World's Best Burger for a Single Man (or Woman)". Myself, I didn't want to go that in-depth, so I settled with some lean ground beef from the supermarket. I piled the beef into 1/2 lb mountains (you could go smaller . . . I guess), liberally salted and peppered them, then tossed the beef to mix before gently shaping it into patties. (No squishy-squishy -- we're not making meatloaf here.) Next time I'll be playing with the onion and garlic powder. As great as all-meat flavour is, there's something to be said for kicking it up a notch with a spice weasel or two.

Step 2. Weave the bacon. This is a case where, the thinner the bacon, the easier your job is. I just went with the generic, but feel free to get fancy and expensive if you like. You'll need 8 slices, 4 each way. Just lay 4 down, peel back 2 of them, lay down a cross strip, then replace the 2 strips and alternate with the other 2. You don't need a degree in underwater basket weaving to get this right (though it couldn't hurt).

Step 3. Wrap up the burger. I was so caught up in the assembly (it's slightly time consuming but tons of fun), that I completely forgot the cheese, but now is the time to lay down some cheddar if it strikes your fancy. Place the burger on top of the bacon weave and wrap it up like the little bundle of joy that it is. Don't worry about weaving the ends together, this is the bottom so it won't move anyway.

Step 4. Add the appendages. For each burger, you'll need 3 hot dogs. Cut them all in half. For the feet, cut three little snips in the end for the toes, and for the tail, slice off the sides to make it pointy. Jam the hot dogs into gaps in the bacon about half way and secure them with toothpicks. If you can't find an opening, make one with a knife - the bacon is very forgiving that way. I took out some added insurance by making little foil coverings for the hot dogs. I noticed, in the pictures I saw online, that they seemed overdone to the point of burnt, and that's not good eats.

Step 5: Cook the suckers. Set the oven to 475F and place the turtles on a broiler pan or other similar baking implement. Insert a probe thermometer into one of the turtles and set the upper limit to 155F. Don't have a probe thermometer? Then you'll have to resort to some mystical, magical way of determining beef doneness. This may include cutting into one of the poor turtles and ruining its wonderful appearance. I would just get a thermometer, though -- it takes the guess-work out of cooking. Once the alarm goes off (should take around 30 minutes, give or take), check on your burgers and, if necessary, turn on the broiler for a few minutes to finish off the tops.

Step 6: Serve to a grateful table. Remove the booties and toothpicks before serving and, if you feel so inclined, give him (yes, its a boy) some mustard eyes so you get the feeling that your food is looking at you right before you bite its head off.