Recipe Source (Buttercream): The Culinary Institute of America. Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art & Craft (2nd Edition). John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken 2009 p. 417
Recipe Source (Cake): The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. The Countryman Press, Woodstock, 2003 p. 371.
The kid had a birthday recently. She turned three. I've already talked about the school cupcakes. I was super excited about that, even though they didn't come out quite the way I wanted them to. I wasn't done with birthday baking yet though. I also needed a cake for her birthday party. The party itself was not everything that a child's party should be - all of her little friends' parents were at a science fiction convention that weekend so only grown-ups were able to be there. Still, it was filled with people who love her, and she had a fantastic time so I think it's just maternal guilt talking. Next year she'll have little school friends who will come to her party. Anyway, we decided to have the party off-site for a variety of reasons. That facility didn't have a bakery, but allowed us to bring in our own cake and brought it out so we could sing happy birthday. I'm going to share with you some observations on the subject of the cake, the frosting and the challenges thereof.
1) My house is over two centuries old. When I made the cake, I thought it was level. When I frosted the cake it looked perfectly level. When they brought out the cake I realized that there was something like a 30 degree slope. This was stupid and embarrassing. Does anyone know if they make a level, like a carpenter's level, just for cakes?
2) The cake is a whole-wheat hot milk cake. I'm not sure why I chose this type of cake. I think it probably has a lot to do with the fact that I had this particular cookbook out on the counter after making some muffins and didn't feel like looking for another book. It was a tasty cake, very moist. It was also kind of chewy. I wonder if this had something to do with the fact that I didn't have pastry flour on hand and used all-purpose whole wheat flour? I also made it purple. More on that later.
3) I hate buttercream. Hate hate hate. I've had terrible results from trying to make Italian buttercreams so I decided this time around to go a different route. I used a recipe from a different source and I tried a Swiss meringue buttercream. It still turned out liquid. I cursed and swore. I considered throwing it out and buying a store-bought cake (horror.) Instead I put it into a tupperware, stuck it out into the freezing night and went out to dinner. When I got home it had set up very nicely. The next day I managed to frost the cake. Do not throw away your liquid buttercream. Do make the buttercream well enough in advance that you can give it the opportunity to set up before you frost.
4) I am very glad to have the opportunity not to bake for a while.
5) So, initially the kid wanted a purple cake. That's why the cupcakes and their frosting were purple. That's why the hot milk cake was purple. She asked that I make the frosting pink for this cake. I grabbed a thing of pink food coloring for the frosting. I put it into the buttercream. I looked. It seemed awfully yellow. I put more in. The yellow got deeper, became more golden. If you're in the SCA - yes, I did make my daughter an East Kingdom cake for her birthday. I did not mean to. She didn't mind. The food coloring was mislabeled.
People seemed to like the cake and the buttercream was the hit of the party.
Hot Milk Cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream (serves 16; approx. $0.75/serving)
1 pound white sugar
8 ounces egg whites (from about 8 eggs, but measure by weight if at all possible)
1 pound 4 ounces butter, cut into chunks
2 teaspoons almond extract
- Metal bowl
- Hand-held mixer
- Stand mixer with whisk attachment
- Instant-read digital thermometer
- Combine the sugar and the egg whites in the metal bowl.
- Fill the saucepan with water and bring to a bare simmer. Place the metal bowl over the water.
- Whisk the egg whites over the water until they reach a temperature of 165︒.
- Transfer the contents of the bowl to the bowl of your stand mixer and whisk on high speed until you achieve the desired consistency. (Or until you get sick of cursing.
- Slowly add the butter, a few chunks at a time. Add no more butter until the chunks you already added are fully incorporated.
- Add in the almond extract and the food coloring, if you're using it.
- Transfer to a re-sealable container and refrigerate until ready to use.
10 1/2 ounces white sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup 2% milk
1 tablespoon butter
6 1/4 ounces cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Stand mixer with paddle attachment
- Cooking spray
- 9" round cake pan
- Offset spatula
- Preheat your oven to 325︒.
- Combine the eggs and sugar in the stand mixer until thick. You'll know it's ready because it will fall from the paddle in a thick ribbon. Beat in the almond extract when this happens.
- Meanwhile, combine the butter and milk in the saucepan. Heat to a bare simmer.
- Add the hot milk to the egg mixture in a slow steady stream, beating constantly.
- Combine the dry ingredients.
- Fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture. Stir until just combined. If you want to color the cake as I did, fold in the food coloring after this step.
- Lube up a cake pan.
- Bake 55 minutes. The cake will be a deep color and start to pull away from the sides of the pan.
- Cool 15 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a platter.
- Frost using the offset spatula.