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Archive for March 30th, 2008

 
Phew! Finally, my first daring baker(DB) challenge is over and completed! During one of my blog surfing last month, I came across the DB-ers and thought it was really cool to be part of a group of people who enjoys baking. Hence, began my journey as a DB-er. I was really nervous about the first challenge as I didn’t know what it’s be. When the topic came out and it was “The Perfect Party Cake”, I couldn’t ask for a better first challenge! I thought: “Great! This should be a piece of cake!” Boy! Was I wrong! Everything that could go wrong with this cake went wrong!
 
Guess it was ’cause I’ve been busy with classes, then graduation, cake orders and last week acted as tour guide as well. I purposely left this cake to the last as a good friend’s birthday is tomorrow and I decided to use him as my guinea pig! :) I wasn’t really in the mood to bake on Friday so it sorta affected my performance. In addition, I’ve frequently been reading the various comments of other fellow DB-ers on the blog hence was a bit apprehensive my cake wouldn’t turn out on my first try. I used buttermilk (lemon juice + milk, left to stand for awhile) and all-purpose flour as I’ve not seen cake flour in hobart. Everything looked like I was heading down the right track and into the oven the cake tin went. From here on, everything just went wrong. While placing the cake tin into the oven, I accidentally tipped more than half the batter into the bottom of my oven. Oh no!! I had to be at work in less than 2 hours and had to shower and time was running really low. So I hastily cleaned up and started on my second cake. While beating the batter with the mixer, my plastic cake spatula got caught on the whisk and “snap” it broke into half! Great! Just what I need! Finally, it was ready to go into the tin once again but after searching high and low, I was unable to find the base of my 8 inch cake tin. Darn! Choiceless, 9 inch it’ll have to be. Due to time and resource constraints, I didn’t split it into 2 cake tins but instead baked it all in one go. 
 
When I removed it from the oven, the cake looked alright but a bit flat. I was afraid I won’t be able to split it into more than 2 layers. After it cooled, it was still moist and with my fingers crossed, I removed it from the tin. It certainly didn’t rise too much unlike how my sponge cakes normally do. Hhhmmm….but I just might be able to split it into 3 layers. I decided on strawberries as I’m really quite broke and strawberries were probably the cheapest but most elegant fruit I’m able to afford. I was (and still am) very doubtful about the buttercream. Krys, Alan, CY and I are not big cream fans and I knew buttercream wouldn’t go down well with them. Oh well, I’ll still give it a go. Lucky for me, it didn’t curdle and the result was a smooth, velvety textured buttercream. Krystal dipped her finger in and absolutely loved it! It reminded us of the cream buns we get back home. I used to enjoy those cream stuffed buns especially when I was sick and unable to consume anything. Anyway, I had fun doing the piping. I called this  “A Basketful of Strawberries” ’cause I wanted to pipe something that looked like a basket and pile the top with strawberries. Sadly, I ran out of buttercream so had to settle for a basket with no handles.
 

Oh well, the end result was better than expected. I have to admit that I’ve gotten complacent making sponge cakes. Since most of my cake orders are sponges, it’s become routine to make them and not try them. Most of the time I just rely on feedback from customers and believe that I can’t possibly go wrong with the tastes. This time though, since it wasn’t an order, I gotta try the cake myself and decide if I like it. And yes, I do! :) I wouldn’t use it for ice cream cakes as it’s not soft and fluffy enough, and would be too hard after frozen. However, I’d try it for tiramisu and definitely would use it for future fruit base layered cakes. The cake’s really moist and was a lot easier to divide into layers as compared to sponge cakes. The use of lemon zest was amazing as it gave the cake a fresher taste. Next time, I’m gonna try rhubarb as my layers. The buttercream as expected didn’t go down too well with the others. Don’t get me wrong, it was a really good buttercream but it’s just that those of us who had were not big cream fans. Might be an asian thing (don’t quote me on this!) :) .   

All in all, I had fun with my first challenge. Although nothing went right, the end result was rewarding. At least I got paid with a good massage from the birthday boy! :)

 Cake:

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour (1 cup cake flour = 1 cup all purpose – 2 Tbs)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cups whole buttermilk
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

Buttercream:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Finishing:

  • Strawberries

Method:

Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch round (personally, I’d use an 8-inch) cake pan and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.Whisk together the buttermilk and egg whites in a medium bowl.

Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.

Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.

Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the buttermilk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.

Add the rest of the buttermilk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.

Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.

Pour batter into tin and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean.

Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

Buttercream:

Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.

The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from the heat.

Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.

Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again. You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

Assembling: 

Layer cake into three layers (I believe an 8-inch should yield 4 layers). Spread some butter cream on bottom layer then top with strawberry slices.

Repeat above steps for second and third layer. 

Decorate accordingly. 

Storing:

The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator. 

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