Monday, October 26, 2009

Craft #10: Bake + Decorate a cake

I've mentioned my brother is getting married. Early last week my mom, Dominika and I were out to lunch talking wedding and they suggested I bake the wedding cake. Having never baked a 9" two-layer cake, let alone decorated one, I was excited to accept the challenge. {By the way, when my brother found out he was a little disappointed; he had was really looking forward to the fun (and boy is it ever!) of cake tastings. Good thing I don't like to see my little-bro upset.}

Eric and Dominika had invited us to dinner on Friday; the perfect opportunity for cake tasting #1. I asked what flavor they would like to try and my sister-in-law candidate suggested raspberry. I googled raspberry and almond layer cakes (Who doesn't like almond right?!) and started perusing. It took some time, but I finally landed on a recipe that worked for me [i.e. - didn't require 12 egg whites or 2 lbs of butter].

Classic White Layer Cake with Butter Frosting and Raspberry Almond Filling
{Source: Cook's Illustrated via this link}

Classic White Cake:
Nonstick cooking spray
2 1/4 cups cake flour (9 ounces), plus more for dusting the pans
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites (3/4 cup), at room temperature
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened but still cool

Butter Frosting:
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened but still cool
4 cups confectioners' sugar (1 pound)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon whole milk
Pinch table salt

Raspberry-Almond Filling:
1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds (2 1/2 ounces), toasted and chopped coarse
1/3 cup raspberry jam (seedless)

For the Cake: Set oven rack in middle position. (If oven is too small to cook both layers on a single rack, set racks in upper-middle and lower-middle positions.) Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds. Spray the paper rounds, dust the pans with flour, and invert pans and rap sharply to remove excess flour.

Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended.

Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.

Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer. Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans; using rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from the oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation.) Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes.

Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto wire racks. Reinvert onto additional wire racks. Let cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours.

For the Frosting: Beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, milk, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed until sugar is moistened. Increase speed to medium-high (high if using handheld mixer); beat, stopping twice to scrape down bowl, until creamy and fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes. Avoid over beating, or frosting will be too soft to pipe.

For the Filling: Before assembling cake, set aside 3/4 cup of the frosting for decoration. Spread small dab of frosting in center of cake plate to anchor cake, and set down one cake layer. Combine 1/2 cup of remaining frosting with almonds in small bowl and spread over first layer. Carefully spread jam on top, then cover with second cake layer. Spread frosting over top and sides of assembled cake. Pipe reserved frosting around perimeter of cake at the base and the top. Cut the cake into slices and serve.

{almond layer topped with seedless raspberry jam}{topped with second cake layer}{crumb coat + second frosting... should have thinned the icing some}{decorative piping on top of cake + raspberries}{the last piece of cake}

For my very first attempt, I was pretty impressed with myself. The cake itself? I liked it. I thought it was moist and flavorful. My mom and Rich, however, both thought it was a bit dry. So I'll try to remedy that next time. I would probably omit the almond layer next time; paired with the raspberry jam it tasted a too much like PB&J. {Oh! And I learned Dominka does not care for almond... so I would omit it for that reason too.} The flavor for their second tasting has already been selected: lemon + poppy seed. Yum!!

About dinner: My brother and Dominika are such wonderful hosts!! We were greeted with drinks and didn't mind (and if they did, they sure didn't let on) that I had invited our parents over for the cake tasting. Once a drink was empty the offered more of the same (+ other fun options like Polish Wodka or tea in addition to beer, wine or water)! Once our parents left they worked together in the kitchen putting the final touches on dinner. Eric chopped the veggies and dressed the salad while Dominika topped the pork with a sour cream sauce and plated the rice. Eric even added a sprinkle of his favorite Polish salt on top of each rice pilaf before we sat down together. In a word: YUM!! Dinner was spectacular! I am not a big fan of pork roasts, chops, etc... but I think I just don't know how to prepare them, because this was outstanding! Thanks you two for such a terrific dinner and lovely time; I can't wait for a repeat performance!


Anonymous said...

Your distaste for pork certainly couldn't be because your mother was a bad cook,could it? I would rather have pork than beef any day. I LOVE pork...m

Nicole said...

Nope... that's not it. But have you tried her stuff? It's soooo good!!

Jen, a priorfatgirl said...

oy vey, your baking a wedding cake? Seriously, Nicole, you are my idol! I can't wait to see all the pictures!