May 14, 2014
Why hello there, strangers!
I’m sorry to have been gone for so long. The last few months have become a blur of birthdays and milestones, winding down at my internship and whirling around some new gig ideas. That, and I’ve moved again, so all my baking projects have been temporarily hijacked by painting, and painting, and more painting. But I made a heck of a lot of cakes between late March and now, and I wanted to tell you about them so that you might go make them too!
Also, please forgive the fact that basically all the photos from this post were taken by my phone. I swear that the next post will be classier than this one.
In March, it was my friend Sam’s birthday and a large group of us were going out, so I decided to make a showstopper of a chocolate cake. I used the chocolate cupcake recipe from Sweetapolita, doubled the recipe, and divided the batter into three 8-inch round cake pans. I frosted it with my caramel buttercream frosting and—just for kicks—topped it with whipped cream and drizzled on some homemade caramel sauce. It was insanely decadent and delicious, and easily served 20 of us, with leftovers.
Then, in early April, it was my friend Thomas’s birthday, and our last chance to celebrate with him for a while, as he was moving to Saskatchewan! Now, Thomas loves beer and is especially fond of Ontario’s own Mill Street Brewery, so I knew I wanted to make him a cake incorporating one of their brews. Adding beer to a cake might seem a bit odd, but my friend Aisha’s baked us a number of chocolate stout cakes over the years and they have all been fantastic. So I chose this Chocolate Stout Cake recipe and swapped in Mill Street’s Cobblestone Stout. Instead of using the suggested frosting, I made a basic cream cheese buttercream, but despite my best efforts, little lumps of cream cheese wouldn’t whip into smooth nothingness, forcing me to do what any sane (see: insane) baker would do, and push all the frosting through a mesh sieve. You know—normal.
This cake is also how I learned the hard way that you really ought to fully frost cakes that you intend to take on public transit. As someone who feels that cake itself is so much tastier than frosting, I tend to leave my cakes a touch on the naked side. But having a fully-frosted cake does really help keep seal the layers together, and unless you want to end up—as I did—one block from your destination and a top tier sliding down the side of your cake, I highly recommend you frost your cake to the max. (At the time, I panicked, having forgotten that my friends are the people who’ve undergone hands-free cake eating competitions to handle my previous cake wrecks.)
For my own birthday in mid-April, I had an extra layer of chocolate cake kicking around in the freezer from one the previous two recipes. I decided to set it in the middle of two banana cake layers (link is the same as for the caramel frosting above), toss in some candied walnuts, and frost the whole thing with caramel Swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC). It really should be caramel-coloured on the outside, but in a moment of absurd pickiness, I decided that I wanted the cake to be white, so I frosted the outside in vanilla SMBC. Unless you are a crazy person with unlimited free time on your hands, I do not recommend this particular course of action.
A few words about the frosting: I’ve started using SMBC as my go-to frosting because it’s smooth as a dream, but also it’s way less sweet than conventional buttercream. Before you add any flavour extracts to it, SMBC tastes essentially like … pure butter (or, in other words, heaven). I love it because it’s not cloyingly sweet, but it is quite a bit fussier to prepare, and without a stand mixer (or handy dandy kitchen slave) I doubt I’d have the patience for it. If you’re interested in learning about how to make it, and how to avoid some common pitfalls, terrific tutorials can be found here and here.
And then in the realm of almost-but-not-quite cake, I made the most massive pavlova known to mankind. It was for my father’s birthday, which happened to fall on the first night of Passover this year, thus nixing the potential to make a normal cake. For those of you not yet in the know, a pavlova is dessert made from a meringue base, which is smothered in cream or curd, and then topped off with fresh fruit. This one had to make enough to feed 20+ people so I took this recipe and multiplied it by about 700. Actually, I think I just doubled it, and in doing so, I maxed out my stand mixer’s bowl capacity. Each meringue layer was the size of a full baking sheet!
I topped it with homemade rhubarb curd, and some berries (courtesy of Argentina as there won’t be any round these parts for another zillion months), drizzled caramel sauce on top, and voila! Also, all of this had to be made in to-go format, since I can’t drive and was quickly becoming Chief Global Authority on Dessert Schlepping Via Public Transportation. In the end, I caught a last-minute lift with with my dad, which was a blessing as it was raining out and rain is a meringue’s worst enemy.
And last but certainly not least, I made a wedding cake at the end of April for some friends of my family! It was terrifying and exciting and a surprisingly enormous learning curve from just making regular party cakes. Dowels! Turntables! Royal icing chrysanthemums! Simple syrup! The cake was a vanilla- and almond-flavoured cake with raspberry filling and vanilla buttercream. I tried six different vanilla cake recipes before I decided that I’d better just create my own. SIX. It is by the grace of the gods alone that Alan and I didn’t become completely enormous during the recipe testing phase. I’ll be posting the recipe in the next post, so stay tuned!
And that’s a wrap, folks. Sorry to have gone so long without saying hello! If you’re ever wondering what I’m up to between posts, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Other than the vanilla cake recipe, is there anything you’d like to see up here? Any questions about cake you’d like me to answer? Hit me up in the comments section below!
Until next time!