Friday, September 21, 2012

A birthday cake for miss C

This weekend we had a birthday party for my friend C at my house. The party had a quite morbid  theme, it was a memento mori party-a death party. I realize that's not the sort of theme that everybody wants for a birthday party, but if you have a particular macabre bent it's lots of fun.

I have made a few cakes from the Baked cookbook. Every single one of them has come out lovely. I wouldn't recommend a book I didn't really use or love and I can't recommend this book enough. The cakes are perfect templates for endless variations. Sometimes I use Deb's swiss buttercream instead of their frosting because it is so rich and buttery and not too sweet so that flavours other than sugar can really shine. For C's cake, I used the milk chocolate frosting, which whips up so light and fluffy and somehow so rich. It is not a recipe for anyone timid around butter or chocolate. Be bold and fearless.

If you have the Baked cookbook I used cake recipe from the whiteout cake with some slight variations and the chocolate frosting from the maltball cake. I added my own strawberry filling.

Vanilla and brown butter cake:

2 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbs baking powder
1tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 tbs vanilla
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups ice water
3 egg whites

Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring regularly until the butter begins to brown. You will see the milk solids in the bottom of the pan turn golden and then nut brown. Pay very close attention when this happens-it can turn from nut brown to charred very quickly. Remove the butter from heat when it is deep brown and fragrant. Pour the butter into a heatproof container and chill until it is solid.

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Cream together the browned butter and the shortening. Add the sugar and the vanilla and beat until fluffy. Add the egg and just combine. Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture and water in turns. Scrape the bowl to ensure everything is mixed properly.

In a clean bowl, beat the eggs until soft peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into the batter until just combined. 

Divide batter between three buttered 8 inch cake  lined with parchment (or 6 inch pans and then make a few cupcakes with any leftover batter) and bake at 325 degrees F for 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Chill or freeze cake layers, wrapped well in cling wrap.

Peppery strawberry filling:

2 cups best quality strawberry preserves or about pound of fresh or frozen strawberries, or a mix of strawberries and jam (you could use raspberries or blackberries or any fruit you wish in the same way) 
1/2 cup water
honey (optional)
juice of 1/2 lemon
black pepper to taste (be generous, you need more than you think)

Bring everything to a simmer in a medium saucepan and then lower temperature. Cook until the strawberries are soft. Add a little water if there isn't a lot of juice coming off the strawberries. Add honey if the strawberries are very tart, but I like this not too sweet. Let the strawberries cool and strain off liquid. Puree the strawberries in a blender and put the liquid and the puree in the fridge for later.

Milk chocolate frosting:
8 ounces very dark chocolate
8 ounces milk chocolate
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tbs golden syrup (or corn syrup if you wish)
1 1/2 cups butter

Heat cream and syrup over medium high heat. Pour hot cream over chocolate chips in the bowl of a mixer and mix on the lowest setting. Scrape the bowl to make sure all the chocolate is melting evenly. Let the chocolate cool to room temperature. Mix chocolate mixture on medium speed, adding butter a little at a time. The frosting will become remarkably light and silky, though still deeply, intensely chocolatey. Yum.
Do this directly before frosting the cake, do not chill the frosting.

The skull decorations were made by melting together white chocolate and a tiny bit of cream over a double-boiler until the mixture had the consistency of modelling clay. I rolled it out between two sheets of parchment and cut out shaped with a clean x-acto blade. You could go ahead and make something more cheerful if you like.

Brush strawberry syrup over each cake layer except the top one. Spread strawberry puree over the syrup. Stack the layers, finishing with layer without strawberry topping. Chill again if the cake is becoming warm, it is easier to frost a chilled cake.

Using an offset spatula, frost the cake quickly and roughly with chocolate frosting. This layer is simply to keep the crumbs sealed in and needn't look very smooth. Chill the cake for 20 minutes and then frost all over with the remaining frosting. A metal spatula dipped in very hot water and dried is useful for smoothing the final layer of frosting. Press white chocolate shapes into the frosted cake very gently. Or don't bother if you don't want to.

Keep the cake chilled until two hours before serving-the cake should sit out at least that long to come to room temperature.

Eat greedily, we won't be here forever.

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