Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hail the Conquering Hero

I hate to prematurely toot my own horn, because this cake has yet to be cut into and eaten, but this photo at least proves that a cake I made and frosted existed in a perfect form. Once it was iced, I admit I started to get a little paranoid about inadvertently destroying it. I thought, "What if the roses have bugs in them that come out of the petals during the night and devour the cake?" Then when I was carrying it out the door of my apartment, down the steps, opening the garage (yikes) and placing it in the passenger seat, I imagined dropping it flat on its beautiful face.

The cake is currently safe and sound in my parents' fridge (in anticipation of my sister Allison's going away party tonight), that is until my sister Emily wakes up and runs her little fingers through the icing. She's probably doing it right now! She did. She licked it. Supposedly, you can't tell. Now if she could only resist taking another taste for the next eight hours--it's impossible. Once Allison wakes up, she'll try it. And then once my mom gets home from work, she's going to lick it too. These people have no control! The cake will probably be gone by the time the party starts! Because the cake is that good.
I made the same batter recipe as last time because it was just that splendid--just barely flavored with almond and orange, barely barely sweet. A couple days ago, I caved and bought Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. This time, for the frosting, I followed the directions exactly. I read the recipes in advance and purchased two dozen eggs in order to have enough for the batter and the frosting. I heated the egg whites in a double boiler, using a candy thermometer to exactly 160 degrees and to the point at which the sugar had completely dissolved. I transferred the egg-sugar mixture to the KitchenAid and mixed until it doubled in size and fluffed out. The sugar gave the whipped egg whites a glistening sheen. It became sticky and gooey, sort of like a marshmallow. Adding the butter, tablespoon at a time, the frosting went from goo to cream. Soft, smooth, not-too-sweet. Completely glorious.

Those of you who aren't fond of cakes--you haven't had this cake. Martha Stewart and her team of chefs are genius. I was having a borderline spiritual experience in the kitchen last night, whipping butter, egg whites and sugar into submission. It was like the clouds parted and angels burst out in the Hallelujah chorus. The cake held the frosting, nothing broke, melted or crumbled to pieces. Swirls of spackle held the layers together, enticing onlookers. This cake wants to be licked, cut apart and enjoyed. It wants to be eaten.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting: from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook
4 egg whites
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla (I also added almond extract)

Bring a pot of water to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. In a separate heat-proof bowl combine egg whites and sugar. Place heat-proof bowl in the simmering water. Begin whisking and do so continuously until the sugar has dissolved. Using a thermometer, whisk until the egg mixture reaches 160 degrees. Remove from heat. Using the whisk attachment (still obsessed with my KitchenAid), beat the egg whites until they are stiff but not dry and let cool while you're mixing (takes about 6 minutes according to Martha's directions).

Switch to the padder attachment on the mixer. Mix in the butter a couple tablespoons at a time until the frosting is creamy and smooth. Martha directs that if the butter separates from the whites, kick up the mixer speed until it unifies. Before finishing, turn the mixer on the lowest speed to remove air bubbles. Before icing the cake, mix with a spatula to remove more air bubbles. Expect the frosting process to make quite a mess--this means you've done a good job.

1 comment:

Jess said...

YUM. I am a sucker for cake, but this one truly looks delicious. I would also be nervous about bugs, haha!