Friday, March 5, 2010

Polka Dot Cake

I can whip up an ordinary plain cake quite easily, but making a celebration cake, one with buttercream frosting and piping decoration appropriate for the occasion is quite another thing for me. Let just say that with my limited knowledge when it comes to decorating a cake, I could never take on a task of making a wedding cake. The stress just thinking about it would surely raise my blood pressure to the point of needing medical attention.

However, having said that, on very rare occasions I will make a birthday cake. My daughter celebrated a birthday last week and I decided that rather than order a cake from a bakery, I would bake a cake for her. Andrea requested a chocolate cake so that part was easy enough. After flipping through the Cake Bible and Heavenly Cakes both by Rose Levy Beranbaum I decided on the Perfect All-American Chocolate Butter Cake from the Cake Bible. I was sure that I had two 9” x 1-1/2” cake pans lying around in my “not often used storage place” but they weren’t there. I must have thrown them out some time ago, probably because they were old and rusted. I had one newer pan that came in a set (why would they not have included two pans? who uses just one 9” x 1-1/2” round cake pan?) but that wasn’t going to help me any and I wasn’t about to go out to purchase one. I had recently purchased a 9” x 3” round cake pan and, although I am sure this would affect the height of the finished cake, I decided that I would use this pan and cut the cake in half myself. The cake was easy to assemble and I could tell that it would be rich and chocolaty. I poured it into the pan and wrapped the pan with a homemade cake strip from the instructions on Virginia Taylors’ blog and set the cake in the oven. It took about 45 minutes to bake in the one pan but by the time it was almost done the kitchen smelled intensely of chocolate.

The last two times I made the Neoclassical buttercream I used the KitchenAid mixer and even though I had been very careful to keep the syrup away from the beaters, the sugar syrup landed on the beaters and hardened on the beaters as well as the sides of the bowl as I was mixing it into the beaten eggs. I was afraid that not enough of the syrup had been incorporated into the eggs so I boiled a bit more of the corn syrup and sugar to make up for the hardened sugar. I am sure I upset the balance of the ingredients by doing this but in the end it seem to have turned out alright, except that it left my confidence frazzled as to whether I could ever whip up a really good frosting.

I was determined to give this buttercream one more try, only this time I would use a hand held mixer instead. I began with the eggs, beating them until they were light and fluffy, and when the sugar syrup boiled I poured it into the oiled measuring cup and held my breath. If only I had used a hand held mixer the first two times I would not have been so stressed this time.
This time the sugar syrup mixed beautifully into the eggs and I was very happy that none clumped onto the beaters. Now I just had to keep beating until the mixture was totally cooled. This seemed to take an awfully long time. I opened up the kitchen window to let the cold air in to help the process along, but it still took a long time. When it was finally coolish I began beating in the softened butter, and this process seemed to go off without a hitch. I thought a coffee flavoured buttercream would be nice with the chocolate cake so I added instant espresso granules mixed with a bit of water as per Rose's recipe. I was all out of coffee flavoured liqueur so I added a bit of brandy instead. For the first time I had a really nice buttercream ready to frost the cake.

I plainly frosted the cake with all the buttercream leaving none aside for piping decoration. I am not very good at piping so I decided to decorate it in some other manner. All I knew at this point was that I would use a chocolate plate and write on it - Happy Birthday Andrea - and place it on the cake as I had seen bakeries do. That part was easy enough; I melted semi-sweet chocolate and with an off set spatula smeared the back of a baking sheet lined with foil as evenly and thinly as I could with the melted chocolate.

Once the chocolate was hard again I cut a rectangle with a sharp knife. I wrote Happy Birthday Andrea as best I could (not as easy as with a pen) with royal icing and placed it on the cake. Still the cake looked plain and it really did need to be jazzed up a bit. I had an awful lot of chocolate left so I decided that I would cut two sizes of circles using a melon baller for the larger circles and a decorating tip’s round end for the smaller circles. When I cut out enough chocolate circles I randomly placed them on the cake. As adornment this easy decoration did the trick and my daughter was very happy with her birthday cake.

The cake with the coffee buttercream was delicious, very chocolaty and dense.


Melinda said...

I think you did a brilliant job making and decorating Andrea's cake.
It looks both delicious and festive!
Happy Birthday to your daughter!

I never seem to have the right size pan. I just don't know how that could be, because I could open up a bakery with all the pans I own...and yet, I still will find I don't have the right pan needed when it comes time to bake!

doughadear said...

Thank you Melinda, you are very kind.

I really try to resist buying new pans, although there is a particular bundt pan (the one Marie baked the Whipping Cream Cake in) that I really want and it's just a matter of time before it becomes a part of my panagerie.

Melinda said...

I love the panagerie word! It is the perfect word description for my closet of pans.
Since my daughter has moved out, I store all my pans in her old cupboard space. Louisa says she has been replaced by a Bundt pan store!

doughadear said...

I won't lie, I was quite pleased with the word myself. It just came to me as I was writing back to you.

evil cake lady said...

panagerie is a great word! i love the chocolate dots, what a great idea. i can't pipe to save my life either, so doing something like this is right up my alley. congratulations on a successful buttercream! waiting for everything to cool does take a long time, even with the windows open. that's when the kitchenaid does come in handy. beautiful birthday cake and happy birthday to your daughter!

doughadear said...

Thank you Jennifer. Sometimes ideas that evolve while you're working on something turn out better than a well worked out plan that in the end doesn't work at all. The chocolate circles came to me while the chocolate was cooling.

faithy, the baker said...

I think your cake looks great! I love polka dots anything so i think your cake look not only yummy (i'm a chocoholic!) and also very pretty! I'm sure your daughter is very happy with her cake. :)

doughadear said...

Thank you. My daughter was very happy with her cake.

Jenn said...

I love polka dots. Your cake looks very elegant and cute at the same time. Very creative way to decorate and I think you did a good job.

doughadear said...

Thank you.