A Filipino New Year's Eve banquet is a happy mix of good food, optimism, and superstition. Many among my kin regard polka dots as auspicious because it evokes the image of coinage, and therefore prosperity. A table of plenty is also a must because it portends a year of contentment.
Taking polka dots and decadence as a theme, I decided to serve a redux of Patrick's birthday cake for our pre-New Year's Eve dinner:
This time around, instead of a génoise I picked Rose Levy Beranbaum's White Chocolate Whisper Cake from the Cake Bible. A last-minute epiphany for 2007, it is without exception the best white buttercake I have ever tasted. White chocolate gives it a firm but melting mouthfeel as well as provides a sweet and mild vanilla perfume. Lemon is a particularly suitable flavour to accompany it, but I do not think that it would have been impoverished by being served on its own.
Of course, the crisp and tart freshness of lemon is most welcome. The bright yellow curd alludes to the return of sunny days - months away from now. Oh, Spring! Ah, Summer!
I had the pleasant opportunity of being able to make two different lemon curd recipes for this cake (loads of free time, it seemed, the last couple weeks of December).
Martha Stewart's lemon curd is bright yellow, firm and deeply citrus which made it, well, perfect for flavouring the Swiss meringue buttecream. Dorie Greenspan's lemon cream is light, lemony and makes for a lilting filling.
The two curds were mixed together to create just the right consistency of curd that will form rounded domes when piped - a too stiff curd would have made tails when the piping tip is lifted.
Wishing everyone a bright 2008!
On the subject of Swiss meringue buttercream, the nemesis of many Daring Bakers for last month's challenge, I found a great instructional video from Dyannbakes. She reassures her viewers that curdling buttercream will come together into a silky mass with more beating.
Incidentally, Dyann also made a bûche de Noël last month. Her website is a treasure trove of baking advice. I separate eggs the way she instructs - and it is fool-proof. If it were not for her, I would not be using parchment cornets.
To pipe dots and domes, use a parchment cornet filled with curd. Snip only a small bit at the tip, hold the cornet about ¼" or less above the surface at 90°and apply a steady pressure until the tip is slightly buried in the extruded curd. Stop and pull away. If the curd is the right consistency, any formed peaks or tails will dissolve into the body of the dome. Otherwise, thin the curd with drops of lemon juice or pat the peak down with moistened fingers.