Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The keeper cake

Well there it is:  my daughter's birthday cake.  I'm not all that artistically inclined but I am pleased as punch at how it turned out.  And so was my daughter and that is all that really matters.  Well, that and it needed to taste good, which it did.  I love the cake recipe from Cook's illustrated.  Just like a bakery cake only I know the ingredient list is infinitely shorter.  It turned out a light and fluffy, yet velvety texture that is solid enough to hold up to stacking or sculpting if that floats your boat.  You can see the body of the butterfly is made from a twinkie.  Of course I had to make those from scratch too; my daughter could never have a real twinkie unless I wanted to deal with allergy reaction for three solid days.  I used a partial batch of King Arthur's twinkie recipe and was quite satisfied with it.  One of these days I may try the cooked filling recipe they have as well.

As it happened, I made homemade corn free marshmallow fluff for the filling.  Homemade fluff is sublime, let me tell you.  I made it because I thought the cream filling recipe that came with the twinkie pan sounded right and it called for fluff.  It didn't turn out quite as I liked though and I think the fluff would have been just perfect unadulterated.  If there is a next time I will do that.  The leftover fluff didn't last too long between the two girls.  And, uh, me.  (Marshmallow fluff was a rare treat as a child.  I didn't have my first fluffernutter until college.)

So with a cake I was finally happy with, there was nothing left but to choose how to decorate it.  With some gentle direction, my daughter chose the butterfly cake instead of the giant princess castle.  I'm just not up to castles yet.  Sorry kiddo.  I had already fallen in love with the super easy vanilla bean buttercream I made for the family cake trial, so I made a double batch of that.  Not really necessary as it turns out and now I have a bowl of leftover temptation in the fridge that really needs to disappear into the freezer.  The stuff is just so darned good!  It stays soft too, doesn't get that frosting crust, even after being out in the air a great while.  Of course that means you need to be very careful if transporting the cake.  I refrigerated mine to firm up the icing while driving to the party location.

Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake
(Source: Cook’s Illustrated, March 2008 issue)

Nonstick cooking spray can be used for greasing the pans (proceed with flouring as directed). Bring all ingredients to room temperature before beginning.

Makes two 9-inch cake layers

2 ½ cups cake flour , plus extra for dusting pans
1 ¼ teaspoons starch free baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon table salt
1 ¾ cups sugar, divided
10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly
1 cup buttermilk , room temperature
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks, room temperature
3 large egg whites, room temperature

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350º. Grease two 9-Inch round cake pans  and line bottoms with parchment paper. Grease paper rounds, dust pans with flour, and knock out excess. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1 ½ cups sugar together in large bowl. In 4-cup liquid measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and yolks.

2. In clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium-high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. With machine running, gradually add remaining ¼ cup sugar; continue to beat until stiff peaks just form, 30 to 60 seconds (whites should hold peak but mixture should appear moist). Transfer to bowl and set aside.

3. Add flour mixture to now-empty mixing bowl fitted with whisk attachment. With mixer running at low speed, gradually pour in butter mixture and mix until almost incorporated (a few streaks of dry flour will remain), about 15 seconds. Stop mixer and scrape whisk and sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium-low speed and beat until smooth and fully incorporated, 10 to 15 seconds.

4. Using rubber spatula, stir 1/3 of whites into batter to lighten, then add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans. Lightly tap pans against counter 2 or 3 times to dislodge any large air bubbles.

5. Bake until cake layers begin to pull away from sides of pans and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen cakes from sides of pans with small knife, then invert onto greased wire rack and peel off parchment. Invert cakes again and cool completely on rack, about 1 ½ hours.

Here's a shot of the crumb, it really was great. This is the one for any yellow cake I will make in the future. And it lasted really well too. It tasted just as nice and moist when the last piece was eaten four days after being baked. That's pretty good in my opinion!

Easy Vanilla Bean Buttercream
Yield: 3 cups

2½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
2½ cups confectioners’ sugar (10 oz)
Pinch salt (omit if using salted butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons heavy cream

1. In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Using a paring knife, scrape seeds from vanilla bean into butter and beat mixture at medium-high speed to combine, about 15 seconds.
2. Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully incorporated, about 30 seconds; scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 20 seconds, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.
(From Cook’s Illustrated)

If you don't want to invest in the vanilla bean, and I do know they are expensive, you can increase the vanilla extract to 1 tbsp.  It looks really nice though and this is a wonderfully flavored, melt on the tongue frosting.  Oh yes, I was also very pleased with the Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Frosting that I used for the butterfly body and piping and lettering on the extra cake.

I also ended up making three batches of corn free marshmallows for the party: vanilla, strawberry and honey lemon cardamom.  The strawberry ones were amazing, like a marriage of a really good homemade jam and a marshmallow.  The standard vanilla are always great and the honey lemon, well they were in a class by themselves.  It's unexpected to get a super tart sweet hit in a marshmallow.  Like eating a lemon meringue pie condensed into marshmallow form.  I may have to post that one later.  The girls love it.  The wonderful thing is, homemade marshmallows FREEZE beautifully.  Just be sure there is enough coating on them or they may get sticky with repeated thawing.

1 comment:

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