Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Italian cream cake with 2 fillings - lemon curd and strawberry preserves, and lemon buttercream

Here's a pic after we cut it - don't mind the ketchup & relish in the background, we had sliders ;)

For my cooking club dinner last Friday, I needed to bring a wedding cake (or at least a mini one, to feed around 10 people).  A few days beforehand, I started doing some research into cake baking tips, cake and frosting flavors, and fillings.  I didn't want to make a chocolate cake, as I had made one for this club recently.  I thought it would be nice to incorporate lemon, to give it a light & fresh taste for summer.  I eventually decided to try lemon buttercream.  I found this recipe for Italian cream cake, which seemed like it would be like a fancier version of a yellow cake, and would go with any filling or frosting.  The recipe said it would be dense yet moist, and I thought the denseness would be good since I wanted to make a few layers but I did not want to get involved with the interior support system of wedding cakes - i.e. cake rounds, dowels, etc.  For filling, I couldn't decide between lemon curd and strawberry preserves, so I decided to use both, alternating the layers.  I have made lemon curd before, but decided to buy it for this cake, as the cake, buttercream and assembly would take plenty of time.  For the preserves, the flavor I used was strawberry vanilla, which was very good, and not quite as sweet as plain strawberry.

For the cake - for me, this yielded 1-8", 1-6", and 2-4" cakes.
  • 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 2C sugar, divided
  • 1/4lb (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2C solid vegetable shortening (trans-free), at room temperature
  • 1t salt
  • 1t vanilla extract
  • 1t baking soda
  • 1C low fat buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2C cake flour
Preheat the oven to 325F. Butter and flour cake pans, then line with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in 1/2C of the sugar until the mixture thickens to a meringuelike consistency. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, cream the remaining sugar with the butter, vegetable shortening, and salt. Scrape down the sides, add the vanilla extract and mix again.  Add the egg yolks, one at a time, (stopping periodically to scrape down the sides) until the batter is thick and well blended.
Stir the baking soda into the buttermilk.
Add the flour to the butter mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour, mixing after each addition.
Use a large spatula to gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pans, filling 2/3 full, and bake until the cake has pulled away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This took about 50-55 minutes for the 8", less for the others. Cool cakes in pans for 10 minutes; remove the cakes from the pans and let cool completely.
This was adapted from a recipe on this blog, which says the original came from a Martha Stewart book.

For the lemon buttercream:
  • 6 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/2C fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2t salt
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2C plus 2T sugar
  • 3 1/2 sticks of butter – cool but not cold
  • Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2t vanilla extract
1. Add the egg yolks, lemon juice, salt, lemon zest and sugar in a double boiler and turn it on to medium heat. Whisk constantly until the mixture is thickened, light in color and hot.  The recipe said this would take 6 minutes, for me it took about 25, partially because I had trouble keeping the water at a constant simmer without it boiling.  It is important to not allow the water to come to a hard boil, or the eggs may scramble or curdle.
2. Pour the mixture into a standing mixer bowl fitted with the whisk and whip the mixture on high for about 5 minutes until it has cooled off and lightened in color to a pale yellow.
3. Once the mixture has cooled (feel the side of the bowl to make sure it’s cool) add the butter about 1/4 stick at a time, whipping until smooth, periodically stopping to scrape the sides. Then add the vanilla bean and vanilla extract and whip again.
4. If the frosting is too soft, stick it in fridge for 20 minutes or so. Then scrape it down and whip for 1 minute. For spreading the buttercream can be soft, but for decorating it needs to be more solid.
Recipe source: Eat The Love blog

To assemble the cake:
Slice the largest layer of cake (8") in half horizontally.  Put the bottom piece on a platter or cake stand and place strips of parchment paper under the edges, so you can pull them out after decorating and the platter will be clean.  Spread with lemon curd (I used an English brand called Thursday Cottage from Whole Foods).  I used about 3-4oz maybe, I didn't measure it.  

Place the top part of the cut layer on top and spread with lemon buttercream.  

Slice the second layer of cake (6") in half horizontally.  Put the bottom piece on top of the buttercream, and spread with strawberry preserves (I used strawberry vanilla from a Swiss brand called Hero).  

Place the top part of the cut layer on top and spread with lemon buttercream.   
Slice the third layer of cake (4") in half horizontally.  Put the bottom piece on top of the buttercream, and spread with lemon curd (I had intended to use lemon curd for the top but when we cut into it I realized I used more strawberry).  Place the top part of the cut layer on top and spread with lemon buttercream.  

Spread the sides of all layers with lemon buttercream.
Decorate with blueberries and cut strawberries.

I had intended to decorate the sides with basketweave buttercream but I was running low on buttercream at this point, so I just piped the edges with dots/swirls of buttercream.  I read there is a Wilton decorating tip you can buy to do the sides of the cake for a smoother, more professional look, but this was after my trip to the store so I just used an offset spatula.
If the buttercream gets too soft while you are decorating, put the piping bag in the fridge for a few minutes.
If you are piling fruit on the top layer as I did, I found it is helpful to pipe a little buttercream on the berries before placing them, so they will not roll off.

I used the second 4" cake to make a mini cake for Corey, since he was afraid I wouldn't come home with any leftovers.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Healthier Version of a Fast Food Classic

For breakfast this morning I wanted to make something easy, but different from the usual eggs or pancakes.  I decided to make a healthier version of an egg mcmuffin, which I have done before with a fried egg.  Since Corey prefers his eggs scrambled, I looked for something I could use to cook the egg in a round shape so the egg would fit on the English muffin without spilling out all over.
I found a 3.5" round cookie cutter, sprayed it and the pan with grapeseed oil spray, and let it heat in the pan over medium until it was hot.  I whisked 2 eggs with salt & pepper, poured into the cookie cutter, covered and let it cook for a few minutes until the egg was set up the sides.  Then I lifted the cookie cutter and flipped the egg.  I let it cook for another minute, topped with a slice of cheese and covered for another minute.
I used Canadian bacon which has much less fat than regular bacon, and toasted whole wheat English muffins.  Corey added ketchup to his.  We were both happy with the results.  Here's a pic-