Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Icing a layer cake

Start with your components:
  1. Buttermilk country cake. The recipe is from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible. For the cake I made, I split the batter into two six inch layers instead of using a single larger layer that she calls for. This is ready to be pulled out of the oven in 25-30 minutes.

  2. Raspberry jam. Heat over a stove to a simmer, then strain to remove the seeds. A cup of jam yields about half a cup after straining.

  3. Milk chocolate buttercream. Also from The Cake Bible. Follow the recipe link and prepare as directed, which will make more than you need for this project. See the notes below for storage and reuse. This buttercream is so much better than anything made with icing sugar. (I can write a whole diatribe against icing sugar "buttercreams").
The picture below shows all the cake components; the chocolate is melted and waiting to cool before being whipped with butter.

Assembly is a breeze.

First, tort each cake in half, so you will have four layers in total. Take the first layer and place it on a parchment lined plate. Place two tablespoons of strained raspberry jam on the first layer:

Spread the jam, then place about a quarter cup (or a little more) of chocolate icing on top:

Repeat with the second layer. Place the third layer of cake and dollop a large amount of icing on top. When it comes to chocolate icing, I prefer a relaxed approach. Instead of applying a crumb coat, then applying more icing which is then perfectly smoothed, I like to take that dollop of chocolate from the top and pull it to the sides and then swirl the cake around to make a whimsical pattern.

After this is done, I pull the parchment from the sides. Happy birthday, Patrick!


  • What to do if instead of buttercream, you end up with melted slush. With Vancouver's hot, hot, hot August weather, I ended up with melted butter and chocolate instead of a luscious buttercream. If this happens to you, fear not, your icing is entirely salvageable. Take your Kitchen Aid bowl which is holding the melted puddle, and place it in an icebath. Stir. As soon as the buttercream solidifies on the sides of the bowl, return the bowl to the KA and resume beating. To arrive at the right consistency, you may have to repeat this process a few times. This buttercream really is best prepared in cooler weather... but it is noteworthy how this buttercream is able to withstand all that handling and the rapid temperature changes from a warm room to an icebath and back again.

  • In this hot weather, the cake was starting to become lopsided as the layers shift with each stroke of my spatula. I could have driven a skewer through the center to keep it still, but in keeping with the relaxed attitude of this cake, I just let it lean.

  • For a pretty cake - for any cake - there are three key visual elements: even icing, clean edges and a clean plate. Even icing means no cake layers peeking through on the sides. Clean edges means the angle between the icing on the top and sides is sharp (or sharp-ish for this casual cake). Tucked parchment sheets go a long way in giving you a clean plate. Below is a photo of two examples, showing a lemon curd cake and a bigger version of this chocolate swirl design. The sketches on the left are my vision of what a tiered version would look like.

  • The buttermilk cake rises very tall, so I only used three of the four layers. There will also be some spare strained jam and buttercream. To save the buttercream, freeze. To reuse, thaw at room temperature and then re-whip.

  • This post closes my summer as I head into the clerkship years of my medical schooling, which means my baking will likely become even more occasional. Much thanks to the readers of this blog who check in once a while to see what's up on Occasional Baker.

1 comment:

Shirley said...

MMM~~ interesting! Thanks for sharing!