Saturday, May 22, 2010

Birthday Cake and the Perfectionist Mom

Heavy title I know, but my son recently celebrated his 4th birthday with his first real party where he invited his friends. His original theme was Toy Story but the new Wilton pan was not coming out in time for his big day and because he's such a big football (soccer) fan I decided to sell him on the Football theme - football field for the cake, t-shirt cookies etc.

Birthday Football Cake
Football (Soccer) Birthday Cake

The cake base was simple, two rectangular cakes using the recipe Perfect All American Chocolate Butter Cake Recipe from the Cake Bible -  Rose Levy Beranbaum   . I have to admit that this particular chocolate cake has become THE recipe for chocolate cakes around here. Its very light with a rich chocolate taste that literally melts in your mouth.The cake itself stays moist for a week after baking and the recipe itself is very easy to assemble.

For the filling and frosting I decided to try a Swiss Meringue butter cream for the frosting as it is not as sweet as a traditional butter cream  and for frosting it holds peaks and shapes beautifully.The recipe came from Martha Stewart and it was everything it said it would be and more. The one 'hic' that I had with this was that it did not (at least with me) take the gel coloring very well and even though I added a fair amount of green it remained a light green as opposed to the dark grass green that I was looking for. Perfectionist mom was slightly disappointed (Ok a lot if you ask my hubby) even when my son was screaming look it a football field how cool :). I used the same butter cream to fill the layers and honestly apart from the color hitch that I had I was blown over by this frosting.

Last cake related hitch of the day ? I had ordered two sets of goal posts and candles for the cake, only one came in the delivery so the cake looks slightly unbalanced.

Perfectionist mom (which should be the title of this blog) was a little deflated but after remembering that cakes like this are not the norm in France I knew that I would still "look good" , the kids and parents were all pleased with the cake and most importantly of all - Alex was thrilled with his cake which was the aim :)
Perfect All American Chocolate Butter Cake by Rose Levy Beranbaum
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Serves 12
1/2cup + 3 tablespoons or 63 grams - 
Unsweetened cocoa (dutch processed)  *** I use Valhorna cocoa
1 cup or 236 grams - Boiling water
3 large eggs or 150grams (weighed without shell)
2 1/4tsp or 9 grams of vanilla
2 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons or 235 grams of sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups or 300 grams sugar
1 tablespoon or 15 grams baking powder
3/4 tsp salt or 5 grams
1 cup or 227 grams unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350F or 180 C

In a medium bowl whisk together the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Cool to room temperature.
In another bowl lightly combine the eggs, 1/4 of the cocoa mixture, and vanilla.
In a large mixing bowl combine the remaining dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30seconds to blend.
Add the butter and remaining cocoa mixture. Mix on low speed until dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if you
are using a hand held mixture) and beat for 1 1/2minutes to aerate and develop the cake structure. Scrape down the sides.
Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surface with a spatula. The pans will be about 1/2 full. Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center comes out
clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center.

Let the cakes cook in the pans on the racks for 10minutes. Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto  greased wire racks. To prevent splitting, reinvert so that the tops are up
and cool completely.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes
Makes 5 cups


5 large egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
4 sticks of butter or 453 grams unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


1. Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand
until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips)

2. Attach a bowl to the mixture fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed (if using a hand held mixer beat on
high speed, whisk until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom
of the bowl - about 10 minutes)

3.With mixture on medium- low speed (medium high if using hand held), add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing  well after each addition. Once all butter
has been added, whisk in vanilla. Switch to a paddle attachment (a hand held mixer works fine as well) and continue beating on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula, and continue beating until the frosting is completely smooth. Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.

4. (Optional) To tint buttercream, reserve some for toning down the color, if necessary. Add the gel-paste food color, a drop at a time. Blend after each addition until desired shade is achieved.


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