Monday, March 14, 2011

Birthday Baking with Mom

Consider yourself warned - this is not a "crunchy granola", healthy twist on an old favourite, good for your girlish figure post.

No, this is all about my mom's grand birthday meal, in particularly her birthday cake. Really, the whole meal could have just been cake, it was that awesome... but my mom not only partnered with me to make and decorate her own cake, she cooked the whole meal herself and cleaned the house to boot! Along with a Caesar salad, she decided to channel good ol' Julia (she's still working her way through MtAoFC) and make her Supremes de Volaille a Blanc (basically chicken poached in butter and finished with heavy cream, stock and port wine) as well as her Gratin Dauphinois. Then, she hopped from France over to Germany and made her infamous, to die for, just-might-kill-you Manhunter Short Ribs in the crockpot.


See? Tooootally low-cal. I actually burst out laughing at the inclusion of a Caesar salad, of all things - a little bit like adding insult to injury, no? At least I had made some nice, grain and seed sourdough bread to go along with it - but that's for another post! It's too healthy for this one :-).

What mom originally wanted to do for her birthday cake was to make a cake out of a box. I have to admit I, Miss Foodie-Baker galore, was a tad bit hurt by that proposition... I mean really, if you have a trained baker in the house, why on earth would you want to use a box mix?? Apparently, a box mix is "safer" and "more likeable" than homemade - I will admit that nowadays, with the overabundance of processed junk, salt and sugar deadening the palates of society, the taste of a packaged cake mix is comfortingly familiar (and thus well accepted). It's pretty hard to mess up the "add water, oil and eggs" instructions too, so if that's "safer", well, okay. The tradeoff you get for that "always liked", "safe" slab of cardboard is - well, essentially, cardboard. Or maybe a sponge. Either way, there's no real definitive flavour other than sugar and preservatives. Cap it off with a can of frosting and you have a wonderful sugar-induced coma coming at you.

To give her credit (and possibly laugh at her resistance to read a recipe through these days), she did want to make the frosting from scratch. However... this was the recipe she wanted to use, and she thought it would be super easy-peasy, and that I'd have no problem helping her out with that. Well, I had no problem helping her make filling, frosting and even the vanilla cake she was after, but there was no way in heck I was going to do the boiling sugar / tempering egg whites thing. Hot sugar (or oil) and I don't get along very well. Eventually, after she actually looked over that recipe, she started to come around and asked if I had a French vanilla cake recipe and a better buttercream we could make together. She wanted dark chocolate ganache in a "shadow coat" too... could I help with that? Score!! It may have been for her birthday, but it was a gift for me.

Luckily, not only did I have a killer French vanilla cake waiting in the wings, but I came across this awesome, meringue powder-based vanilla buttercream on King Arthur Flour's site and it looked perfect for our purposes. A few tweaks to the formula, some pureed raspberries cooked lightly and thickened with cornstarch and a trip to Bulk Barn later, we got down to business.

Like all good things, this baby took time. The raspberry puree has to cook and chill, the cake needed to bake and chill, the buttercream and filling needed to be made and chilled, and then you had the assembly! Level, slice, fill, crumb coat, chill. Frost, freeze. Make ganache, pour over, let set. Refrigerate until very firm. Decorate, and yes, chill. It's a two-day deal, but oh man is it worth it!! The cultured butter and buttermilk, as well as the reduction in sugar I made to the recipe and some kickass vanilla extract from Darryl and Beth, really made it special. Not a single negative comment came floating our way, and the empty plates certainly spoke for themselves! 

French Vanilla Butter Cake with Raspberry Filling Vanilla Buttercream Frosting and Bittersweet Ganache
Serves 20 - at least!
Cake
3 cups flour
¼ cup rice flour (or cornstarch)
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
¾ cup cultured unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups vanilla sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp vanilla
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
3 tbsp nonfat plain Greek-style yogurt

Vanilla-Raspberry Filling
1/3 cup granulated or super-fine sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ cup boiling water
¼ cup meringue powder
1 tbsp vanilla
4 cups sifted icing sugar
2 cups shortening, softened
2 tbsp raspberry puree or seedless raspberry jam
½ tsp lemon juice

Very Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
1/3 cup vanilla sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ cup boiling water
1/3 cup meringue powder
1 tbsp vanilla
4 cups sifted icing sugar
1 cup cultured unsalted butter, softened
1 cup shortening, softened

Ganache
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
¾ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp shortening

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease a 10" springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together butter and vanilla sugar until fluffy.
  4. Add egg yolks, honey and vanilla, beating well.
  5. In a cup or small bowl, stir together buttermilk and yogurt until smooth.
  6. Beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, alternate additions of flour and buttermilk mixtures, beating well after each one.
  7. With clean beaters, whip egg whites until soft peaks, fold into the batter.
  8. Pour into the prepared pan.
  9. Bake on the lowest rack of the oven, covering with foil halfway through, 55-60 minutes, until it tests done.
  10. Cool in the pan 1 hour, then refrigerate a minimum of 1 hour before unmoulding.
Filling
  1. Dissolve the sugar and salt in the boiling water. Cool to room temperature.
  2. Add the meringue powder and use a mixer to beat on slow speed until the powder is dissolved and the mixture is foamy.
  3. Increase the speed and beat 3-4 minutes longer.
  4. Beat in the vanilla followed by the icing sugar.
  5. Add the butter and shortening a few tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the puree and lemon juice.
  6. Chill 30 minutes before use.

Buttercream Frosting
  1. Dissolve the sugar and salt in the boiling water. Cool to room temperature.
  2. Add the meringue powder and use a mixer to beat on slow speed until the powder is dissolved and the mixture is foamy.
  3. Increase the speed and beat 3-4 minutes longer.
  4. Beat in the vanilla followed by the icing sugar.
  5. Add the butter and shortening a few tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue beating until mixture is thick, creamy and fluffy.
  6. Chill 30 minutes before use.
Ganache
  1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, melt together chocolate, cream and shortening until smooth.
  2. Remove from heat and allow to cool 10 minutes. Gently re-warm if necessary for even spreading.
Assembly

  1. Level the top of the well-chilled cake and slice horizontally into three even layers.
  2. Place bottom layer on a cake round.
  3. With an offset spatula or palette knife, spread ½ of the Vanilla-Raspberry Filling in an even layer over the bottom round and top with the second layer.
  4. Spread second layer with remaining ½ of the filling and place the final layer on top.
  5. Using some of the remaining frosting, apply a thin “crumb coat” over the entire outside of the cake.
  6. Refrigerate 1 hour.
  7. Finish covering the top and sides of cake with the remaining frosting, making it as smooth as possible.
  8. Freeze 30 minutes.
  9. Pour ganache gently onto the centre of the top of the cake and spread to form “drips” or a “shadow” effect down the sides.
  10. Allow cake to set at room temperature, then keep in the refrigerator until 30-45 minutes before serving.
 
Now for the scary stuff... look if you dare: this is just the cake!

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 835.0
Total Fat: 57.1 g
Cholesterol: 120.8 mg
Sodium: 224.2 mg
Total Carbs: 81.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.0 g
Protein: 4.5 g

Good thing it was only one day in a whole year, eh??
French Vanilla Butter Cake With Raspberry Filling Vanilla Buttercream Frosting and Bittersweet Ganache on Foodista

1 comment :

manju said...

Wow, killer cake, and gorgeous to boot! After a heaping of those ribs, tho' I wouldn't have room for cake...
; )