One of my co-workers and his wife will be adding a new addition to their family any day now. As an office, we always like to commemorate big life events with food and presents. So, this shower was given
as reason for us to have cake to honor the soon to be born Baby Boy Smith.
It has been a while since I have made a cake for work. We have gone an unprecedented 4 months without a birthday (mine does not count, as I was not making my own cake), and on the last birthday a last minute replacement cake was necessary due to a 1 AM kitchen accident… So, I really felt the need to go over and above with this cake.
The first concept I came up with was the checkerboard interior. I thought it would be awesome to make the inside of the cake visually interesting. Plus, the concept did not seem too difficult to accomplish. The checkerboard interior really just required planning and preparation. I made the cake, cut the pattern, and reassembled the layers Wednesday night. That left icing and decorating for Thursday.
Earlier in the week, a friend of mine asked for my Buttercream Frosting recipe, as he was trying to recreate a beloved cake from a local gourmet grocery store. He said that the grocery store baker said that they use an Italian Meringue Buttercream. I directed him to a blog and told him it was something I wanted to try, but had not done so yet. I mean the Swiss method has worked out so well… If it ain’t broke, why try and fix it?
Pattern transfer technique with piping gel
Really, I just had a fear of timing the egg whites and sugar syrup perfectly. Not to mention not wanting to deal with a thermometer to measure the temperature of the sugar syrup. Nonetheless, I decided to take on the Italian method so I could provide technical support to my friend. He actually made the frosting before I could make it, so I was no help at all… But, the situation did get me to try the new technique. And I am proud that I did not fail at it. It seems very similar (actually almost exactly the same) to Swiss Meringue Buttercream, but maybe a bit more buttery.
And if two new techniques were not enough for one cake, I decided to finally tackle putting fondant on a cake. For some reason, I thought the design I had in mind would be easier to execute on fondant. Kneading and rolling out the fondant was not that bad actually. I probably used too much powdered sugar, as the fondant looked a little elephant skin like over the side edge. But for a first attempt, it came out awesome.
Now, let’s talk about the taste of fondant. I have never tasted it before. Go figure, right! I mean I have worked with it in a weekend baking class, and cut letters out of it for a pumpkin cake a few years ago… But, I have never tasted the stuff. O… M… Goodness! If this stuff did not make cakes look gorgeous, I would question more why it exist. It taste like sugar and play dough. Yes, the salty, colorful dough we played with as children. And beside the awful taste (the little nibble I tasted I could not even swallow), it has a play dough smell. The whole night while working on the cake, all I could smell was play dough. Really, I may have to try the marshmallow “fondant” one more time, just to see if it is possible to achieve beauty, with a better taste and smell.
Regardless, the cake came out very well. I am happy with the design, but as the perfectionist that I am, I can
only also see the flaws, but for the sake of brevity, I will not point them all out here. Lets just say that as I work with fondant more, I will get better at using it and covering cakes.
The taste of the cake was wonderful! I used the same White Butter Cake recipe that I have used in the past. When I find a good recipe, I stick with it. I kept the cake flavor pretty neutral with vanilla extract. I did flavor the Buttercream with almond flavor. It was a nice balance and though the almond was only in the frosting, it scented the entire cake. If I would have put almond in the cake and frosting, it would have been too much.
I sent two pieces of cake home with my co-work—one for his daughter and one for his wife who will ultimately share some of the cake with Baby Boy Smith, after all the shower was in his honor.
Vanilla (& Blue) Checker Board Cake with Italian Meringue Buttercream Frosting covered in Fondant. (This marks three more items off my top 100 list!)
Checkerboard Cake Technique
I will not even try to begin to explain this one to you when there are so many great blog posts already out there. This was my main go to post for this technique.
A few notes. I used an 8-inch pan. This makes all of the measurements a little harder, but a 6-inch cake would have been too small for my office (as used in the tutorial). When using an 8-inch pan, I figured the inner circle would have a diameter of 2.5 inches, and the middle circle would be 5 inches. This would mean that the 8-inch cake, final measurement for the outer ring is actually 7.5 inches. Which makes sense because cakes condense as they cool and the sides have to be leveled out.
I have one cookie cutter that worked from the inner ring. I used the bottom of my sifter (it has a 5 inch diameter) as a pattern for the middle ring. I lightly pressed it into the cake, and then cut out along the line with a sharp, thin bladed knife. So, be inventive and measure circular object around your kitchen until you find one the right size, if you do not have an appropriate cookie cutter and did not want to try to free hand it.
Italian Meringue Buttercream
Technique and tutorial from ButterYum
Just the egg whites and sugar syrup whipping together.
I used my traditional Swiss Meringue Buttercream ingredient ratios (1:2:3) however.
The infamous curdle stage. My butter may have been too cold. Just keep whipping...
For this specific cake I used the following:
5 oz Egg Whites (by weight)
10 oz Sugar
4 TBS Water
15 oz Butter
1 tsp Almond Emulsion
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
...it will finally come together and be ready to use.
This produced just enough buttercream to crumb coat and frost the 4.5-inch tall, 8-inch diameter cake. If you would like to put buttercream in between the layers, you will need to make a larger batch.
White Butter Cake Recipe
Adapted from Joy of Baking
(I made two separate batches, obviously dying one blue)
2 large eggs, separated
1 3/4 cups (175 grams) cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar, divided (3/4 & 1/4 cup)
1 scant TBS pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour two 8-inch round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper.
2. Separate the eggs, placing the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another bowl. This is easiest to do while cold, then let the eggs come to room temperature prior to use.
3. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
4. In bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft. Add 3/4 cup of the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.
5. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.
6. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.
7. With a rubber spatula stir in 1/3 of the whites into the batter to lighten it, and then gently fold in the remaining whites until combined. Do not over mix the batter or it will deflate.
8. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and smooth the tops with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake for approximately 20 - 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
9. Cool the cakes completely before use.