Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Berry Good Layer Cake

My husband's birthday was last weekend and I wanted to make him a special cake. I haven't tackled a layer cake for quite some time, so I questioned him about what flavors he wanted and researched recipes. He wanted a white cake with fresh strawberries in the filling and a whipped cream topping. I had fun looking through my cookbooks, iPhone apps and online for different recipes and came up with a light vanilla cake recipe, white chocolate buttercream and fresh strawberries for the filling and a whipped cream frosting. I referenced four different recipes to make the cake and had all my recipes and ingredients prepped and ready to go.

I started with preparing my springform pans. I used two 9" non-stick pans, but still buttered them using a pastry brush, put a circle of parchment on the bottom, buttered the parchment and then covered the inside with flour. There was no way my cake was going to stick!

The cake batter was made with cake flour and used only egg whites, which were whipped and folded into the batter to make it airy and light.
I filled my buttered and floured springform pans and they were ready to bake. I put them on cookie sheets just in case the batter seeped out (which I was happy it did not), but it still made them easy to take in and out when I was checking them. I was careful to turn them and switch racks part way through and made sure my cake tester came out clean. They were nice golden brown and I let them cool a bit before I took them out of the pans and peeled off the parchment. I also trimmed the tops off each of the cakes to make them flatter. I think I could have trimmed them a little more to make the layers even more flat and clean.

Now it was time to make the filling. I had used several egg whites for the cake and I was happy I didn't have to waste the egg yolks and used them for the white chocolate buttercream filling. I slowly cooked the egg yolks and sugar, then added in the white chocolate and cream to melt down. This mixture cooled and then I added the butter to make the buttercream. I would have liked this to be a bit more thick, but it was thick enough and tasted great.
I spread a layer of homemade strawberry preserves, a layer of the white chocolate buttercream, a layer of fresh strawberry slices, another layer of buttercream and then put another layer of strawberry preserves on the second layer that went on top of the top layer of buttercream. This is where it got a little messy.
Maybe I should have chilled it prior to adding the top layer, but I didn't think of this first and it was oozing a bit when I added the second layer. I was generous in how much filling I included, but in the end we agreed that there could have been even more. I think a lot of it soaked into the cake as well. I smoothed off the edges as much as I could and chilled the cake at this point before attempting to frost it.
For the frosting, I was concerned about using just simple whipped cream as it has so much moisture and I didn't want it to seep into the cake and be a watery mess. So I looked into making swiss meringue, but ended up finding a recipe for stabilizing whipped cream so it wouldn't do what I was worried about. This involved using unflavored gelatin that was dissolved and added into the whipped heavy cream along with some sugar and vanilla. The stabilized whipped cream was easy to make and amazingly easy to work with. I finished it off with a warm wet spatula to make a smooth glossy top. I did save some aside to pipe on top of the cake later, but that didn't work out as the gelatin did something during this time and wasn't as nice and glossy when I attempted to do this. So, I tried to smooth it out again as well as I could, but that's why it ended up looking a little messy, I mean homemade.
Since the piping on top didn't work out and I was a bit short on time before we wanted to put birthday candles in and sing, I simply smoothed it out as well as I could and added a few fresh berries to the top. Given a little more time, I would have put some shaved white chocolate on the top or sides and slice the fresh berries.
The cake was so nice and moist and had a great taste. I'd like to try using more filling next time and work with different fillings to mix up the flavors. I'd also like to work more with the decorating and get out the pastry bag to add a little more flair. However, most importantly, Sean said it certainly satisfied his request for his perfect birthday cake!

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