The Best Deal in Town!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Cake Improv

Sometimes you can wing it, and sometimes you really want to have a couple of dress rehearsals before the real thing. 

My daughter Kate's wedding is coming up in August and I am honored and excited that she asked me to bake her wedding cake.  I've made a few tiered wedding cakes before (how many?  let's see...more than 5 but less than 10...), but the last time I did so was several years ago, so I thought it would behoove me to try out some recipes before the actual date.

America's Test Kitchen books came to mind immediately because their recipes are exhaustively tested and reliably good -  especially important with something as potentially angst producing as planning a wedding!

In The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book, (in our Library!) I found the recipe for Yellow Wedding Cake. As it so happens, as the unofficial baker for the Sunshine Club at work, I needed to make three cakes for birthdays celebrated in January, February and March.

Rather than mixing up three separate cake batters, I decided to use just the one large wedding cake recipe, but I would vary the additions, fillings and frostings.   The recipe called for good ingredients:   6 sticks of butter, 12 eggs, check.  Not exactly diet food, but nobody said you had to eat more than one (small) piece!

According to the recipe, all three layers could be baked at one time.   You have to have 6, 9 and 12 inch pans in order to do this - everyone has a 9 inch cake pan, but you can get the 6 and12 inch pans at Michael's craft stores for a reasonable price.

The results:  they really did look - and taste - different from one another.

I have to say, everyone loved these cakes.  Maybe more than any others I've made in the past...were they better, or was everyone just really hungry?

(For the basic recipes, check America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book in our Library for Yellow Wedding Cake, Classic Buttercream, and Chocolate Frosting.)

Calling all chocoholics...

Here are the variations:  For the 12 inch cake,  I made what I called Chocolate Chip Cake,  by adding 1 cup of chocolate sprinkles (inspired by a recipe from my mother's cousin Rose) to each large layer.  This was iced with decadent ganache-style Chocolate Frosting, straight from ATK Family Baking Book with no changes:  this was a cinch, completely made in a food processor.  This would be great on any layer cake (we had it four weeks ago on my son Trip's birthday cake - chocolate on chocolate - which disappeared quickly at my house).

So cute!

For the smallest, 6 inch cake, I made a Lemon Ginger Cake.  Starting with the Classic Buttercream recipe, I took out about 2 cups to make Lemon Buttercream by adding:

2 teaspoons of grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon of lemon extract

Then I took about 3/4 of a cup of that Lemon Buttercream and added:

1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

to make the lemon/ginger filling.  On top for decoration, I used about 1/2 cup of jarred lemon curd (I know, I ran out of time!...and I do so love homemade lemon curd...) interspersed with some pretty little sugar lemon decorations from Williams Sonoma.  

Subtle flavors, not so subtle decorating...

For the 9 inch cake, I made an Almond Strawberry/Raspberry Cake.  Using all of the remaining batch of plain Classic ButtercreamI  added:

1 1/2 teaspoons of pure almond extract
1/2 cup of almond meal (from Trader Joe's - or use almonds very finely chopped in a food processor)

 to make Almond Buttercream.  

Then, I took out about 1 and 1/4 cups of that Almond Buttercream and added to it:

about 1 cup more of the almond meal

to make a more intensely almond filling.  Using the 9 inch layers, I filled them with a mix of strawberry and raspberry jam, and then topped that with the thick almond filling.  After icing the cake with the Almond Buttercream, I lavishly decorated the cake with almonds and big, whole strawberries.  Over the top?  No worries;  after all, this cake had to share the spotlight with two others.
Validation for this cake creation came from my son Trip, who is really more of a chocolate lover, (see above).   Though not overly enamored of rich foods, he tried the Almond Buttercream  and commented that it was "really rich but light at the same time", and said that he could "eat a LOT of that!"

Kate and Alex tried all the cakes, but didn't commit to any one variation - I think that may be their strategy:  they will just enjoy the experimentation process as long as it lasts.  

As will I.

Diane Whitman, MLS
Reference Librarian

No comments: