Friday, February 20, 2009

Purple Pansy White Vanilla Bean Cake with Strawberry Meringue Filling

For week #2 of my Wilton class, I wanted to try a new white cake recipe. I typically use the same one because it's so good, but I am really enjoying my "Cake Love" book these days and decided to give another one of Warren Brown's cakes a try, instead. This book is truly a phenomenal book for any new baker or someone learning to bake cakes or make frosting from scratch. The photos and flavor combos alone entice me and I look through this book more often than I would like to admit (I have read it cover to cover about 20 times).

My only issue is I think the cakes are a tad dry for my taste. I have, so far, tried 4 cakes all of which seemed to be lacking something. I think I am still going to try again, but alter each of them to see what happens. I am not sure if it's because I used cake flour for this white cake (which any book tells me that using it creates a light crumb) but anytime I have used cake flour the cake seems more dense and dry...not really 'light' at all. Also, what I have noticed in any cake I favor, is that they all contain one thing : Buttermilk. Something about the chemical interaction with the buttermilk and the other ingredients makes a very moist cake. So next time...I will have to try that...but for now...we are in trial stages! These are just my learning observations...

My favorite thing about this cake? The Strawberry Italian Meringue Filling. OMG. This frosting sends me through the roof. Let me tell you, this book has by far the most amazing frosting's I have EVER sunk my teeth into. If you get the Cake Love book for any reason, it would be worth it alone to get it for the frosting's. They are some what easy if you can master whipping up meringues. OK, enough plug for my fave book....of all time.

I will mention that since this cake was very 'structured', it cut rather well, and looked beautiful for its photo op. I topped it with a Vanilla Buttercream since that is easy to work with when trying to decorate. Thanks to my lovely neighbor "A" for taking pictures....she is pretty much the best neighbor on the planet. :)

White Butter Cake
Recipe derived from “Cake Love”, by Warren Brown

12 oz. (2 ½ cups ) Cake Flour
3 oz. potato starch
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ cup egg whites (about 4-5 whites)
¾ cup half and half
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¾ sticks unsalted butter (7 ½ oz)
18 oz. (2 ¼ cups) extra fine granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 8 or 9- inch round pans with waxed paper on the bottom. Or for cupcakes spray the pan with cooking spray then line 2 pans with cupcake liners. I used two 8-inch pans and made a few cupcakes but this recipe is really for two 9 inch pans.

Slowly cream the butter and sugar until it’s creamy and pale.

Sift cake flour, potato starch, baking powder, and salt together. Set Aside. These are your DRY ingredients.

Whisk together egg whites, half and half and vanilla extract together. Set aside. These are your WET ingredients.

Slice vanilla bean length wise scraping out the seeds with the back of a knife.

Put the seeds of the vanilla bean in the butter mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Then alternate adding the dry and liquid ingredients into the butter mixture, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Only mix until incorporated because you do not want to over mix the batter.
Pour batter into cake pans or cupcake liners. Fill only HALF full. Be sure to smooth out the tops of the batter because you will notice the ripples in the cooked cake if you don’t.

For two, 8 or 9- inch pans, bake 25-30 minutes, for cupcakes bake 15-20 minutes. Cake is done when you insert a cake tester or toothpick and it comes out clean.

Italian Meringue Buttercream
Recipe from “Cake Love” by Warren Brown

5 egg whites, room temperature
10 oz. (1 ¼ cup) fine granulated sugar, divided
¼ cup cold water
4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, broken into 1 tablespoon chunks

1. In a heavy bottom saucepan, add 1 cup of the sugar (save the ¼ cup of sugar for the egg white mixture) and the cold water. Stir with your candy thermometer and set up the thermometer to sit inside the saucepan so you can keep an eye on the temperature. Heat on medium heat until it reaches 245 degrees. (Just above the ‘soft ball’ stage).
a. Tip: Place the lid half way on the pot to collect the condensation so the sugar crystals don’t build up. To prevent it further, use water and a pastry brush to brush down the sides of the saucepan.
2. While the sugar syrup is heating, begin mixing your egg whites on high until you get stiff peaks. Once you get stiff peaks, add the ¼ cup of sugar while the mixer is still running.
3. Check on your syrup. It should be about 245 degrees now, if not, turn up the heat and KEEP AN EYE ON IT. You don’t want it going too far or else you will get caramel.
4. Once the syrup reaches 245 degrees, remove the thermometer. Keep the mixer running and slowly pour the hot syrup into the mixer along the side of the bowl. Be careful not to splash yourself with the hot liquid.
5. Keep the mixer running on high for 2 minutes, and then turn it down to medium speed for another 5 minutes or so until the meringue is cooled.
6. Add the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Mix until it’s fully incorporated. Add your flavorings.

Fruit Flavoring
1 10 oz. bag of frozen fruit, keep the juices (cherry, raspberry, strawberry)
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
For Strawberry: (The Cake Bible) In a colander over a bowl, thaw strawberries. Press them to force out the rest of the juices. You will probably get about ½-3/4 cup. Take the juice and boil until reduced by 75% (about a ¼ cup). In a food processor, puree strawberries. This will give you about ½ cup. Stir together the puree, syrup and lemon juice. This should give you about ¾ cup. If you want it sweetened add the sugar and stir until dissolved. (The proper proportions is 1/5 of the mixture to be sugar so for ex: if you have 1 ¼

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