November 28, 2012

Apple themed birthday cakes

For Violet and Millie's birthday party, we baked two cakes with apple decorations on top. Both were two tier, 8 layers total with filling between layers, frosted with swiss meringue buttercream and decorated with colored fondant cutouts.

Violet requested a lemon cake, so I made the white chocolate lemon cake from Rose's Heavenly Cakes. Two recipes total were made, each of them going into one 225mm pan and one 100mm pan to make four cakes altogether.

After these were cool, then got wrapped in plastic and frozen, which makes trimming the top and bottom crust off a lot easier in my opinion. For filling, the girls and I and I whipped up a batch of lemon curd.

Each of the two cakes of each tier size were split.

Then all four layers per tier filled, stacked, and frozen.

Then the edge crust and squished out filling was trimmed from the edges.

Millie's cakes were chocolate, baked from this recipe on Smitten Kitchen (minus the coffee, for the party guests concerned about feeding coffee to their kids). I think I remember that I only made one recipe of this to fill four pans, plus some cupcakes, which were quickly consumed.

For filling, I tried to make a whipped chocolate ganache. I first made up a ganache with 50% dark chocolate and 50% cream proportions.

After it had cooled substantially I whipped some homemade creme fraiche in the mixer, then whipped in the ganache.

It was great when it was first made, but on sitting became somewhat grainy. When filled in the cake it was good, but I'd like to figure out how to avoid that next time.

The chocolate cakes were filled and trimmed in the same manner as the lemon ones to prepare them for frosting.

Of course everyone enjoyed gobbling cake scraps mixed with extra filling!

My favorite frosting is swiss meringue buttercream. I also like italian meringue buttercream, but I think swiss is less stressfull to make, often requires less beating, and doesn't go spongy and require rebeating as quickly. I made two batches together since I wanted to flavor them differently. For each batch, I used:
  • 4 sticks butter, at 15-20C (cool room temp)
  • 200g white sugar
  • 6 egg whites (mostly left over from use of yolks for the lemon curd)
  • Flavoring

Here is the process:
Put the sugar and the egg whites in the mixer bowl and heat over a pot of simmering water. Whisk with the mixer attachment (less to get dirty), until the sugar no longer feels grainy in the whites when rubbed between your fingers, or until it reads 70C (160F).

Take the mixer bowl off the double boiler and put it in the mixer. Whip at high speed until you get nice stiff peaks and the meringue is glossy and thick. Now it needs to cool down to around 17C (62F). Most sources say it will be cool shortly after it turns into meringue, but I have not found that to be the case. So I usually let it sit on the counter for a while, or I put it in the fridge for 10 minutes.

When the meringue is at the right temperature, run the mixer at speed 3 or 4 and start chopping up the butter into ~2 Tbs chunks and tossing it in.

Once it is all in, turn the mixer up higher if you can do so without flinging liquid out of the bowl. I think the paddle does a better job at mushing the butter in than the whisk.

Probably at some point it will start to curdle. Take the temp, and if its not in the 16-20C range, either let it warm up on the counter or chill it in the fridge since the buttercream dispersion just won't form if the ingredients are not at the right temperature. If its in the right temp range, just whip it furiously until the buttercream forms.

When it curdles, just keep beating it and beating it and eventually it will come together. The whisk is better if you are struggling in this step.

When it approaches the right place, the sound of it whipping will change into a more distinct flopping sound, and it will look smooth and silky and easily coat then inside of the mixing bowl.

Here is a tutorial online with better pictures than mine.

I split the double batch into two for flavoring.

For Violet's cake I used 1tsp lemon oil for flavor, while in Millie's I used 1 Tbs of white vanilla. The cakes were frosted using my nice heavy turntable, then stacked on one another and frozen until the day of the party.

Meanwhile, we made up a half batch of marshmallow fondant and kneaded in paste colors to make up our frosting palette.

Then we cut out the decorations and froze them in plastic wrap.

On the day of the party, I took the cakes out of the freezer, piped some beads on to hide the seams, and applied the fondant decorations. In retrospect, I should have defrosted the cakes in the fridge the night before because they attracted a ton of condensation, which I wasn't expecting for October!

The cakes were enjoyed by the party guests, and we had some left over to freeze for later. I should have trimmed the bottom crust off the second layer up from the bottom in the below photo of the lemon cake...

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