Tuesday, March 29, 2011

vanilla birthday cake with vanilla cream cheese filling and swiss buttercream frosting

I don't really want to talk about birthday stuff. I'm not really that person. And I'm not grumpy at all that I'm 30, so don't think of it that way. I want to say that it feels exactly like all the other birthdays, so I just genuinely don't know what all the fuss is about. And I can't sit here and create fuss when I don't actually feel it, you know?

I'm starting to think this is turning into a real Debbie Downer post.

Ehem. So. (Turn it around already) I finished quite a few things on my 29 list and I'm ok that there are some that aren't crossed off. 29 isn't the last year to do everything ever, but it was fun coming up with stuff in the hopes of challenging myself. And from that perspective, I think the list was a total success.

And since January, I've felt like 2011 was going to be a good year for me, for us, so I feel like 30 is going to be full of new beginnings and that's really what I'm more excited about.

Let's talk about the cake now, shall we? The cake is fluffy, spongy, dense -- it's just a well-rounded basic recipe and my usual default if I want white cake (whatever flavour). This is my first time colouring cake, and I thought I had added enough colour for it not to soften out during baking, but I didn't. I also didn't have time to make more than two colours (since I only have two round cake pans), so I thought to cut each cake in half and then do a sort of stripe, but one cake was thicker than the other and I couldn't cut very straight so that's the extent of my excuses on that one.

This was also the first time I'd ever made swiss buttercream. It's definitely different in process to what I've made before, but it's a lot lighter and less cloyingly sweet. It is very buttery, so if you physically think to yourself about the amount of butter in it, you'll only taste butter. I guess when it comes to buttercream you have two choices: lots of icing sugar or lots of butter. It's kind of hard to find the best of both worlds.

The cream cheese filling came about as I was going to make another batch of Irish potato candies to get rid of the cream cheese. I was just about to add the last of the icing sugar when I realized the mixture was pretty close to a really nice cream cheese icing, so I stopped adding sugar and saved it for filling instead. (I also realized I had absolutely no time to do the cake plus roll out a bunch of cream cheese potatoes.) Lesson learned: had I made each layer's filling a little thicker, I would have had more distinction between layers. Plus I wouldn't have any cream cheese frosting leftover.

As for decoration, I wanted to try piping the ruffle icing that I'd seen around the web and found a tutorial for here. Though, now I link to it just so you can do it yourself if you want to. Truthfully, I only watched the video once a month ago, so my ruffles were completely improvised. I'm glad it worked out that way because I really like my look more than the video's. Did something happen to ruffles since the last time I saw some? Because I've never thought of ruffles as stiff, prissy, and perfect. I think it looks more realistic (and pretty) to have loose, relaxed ruffles.

Despite everything, I'm really happy with how the cake turned out. I'm so glad I didn't use all of the buttercream or cream cheese because this cake is sweet and filling just as it is. Idle Husband couldn't even finish his piece (granted, I gave him a larger slice). If you make it, use your judgement as to how much of the frostings you want in there. Cake is just as delicious with a light smearing of all that creamy stuff, too. It's really up to your tastes.

adapted from here
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.

Whisk the buttermilk and egg whites together in a seperate bowl.

In a stand mixer, cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add vanilla extract.

Beat in flour mixture alternating with the liquids. Make sure to end with the egg mixture and beat a couple minutes more once everything is combined.

Tint the batter if you like. Pour into two buttered and floured (and parchment papared if you've got it) 9" cake pans (this cake will stick to the bottom -- fair warning!). Tap the pan to smooth the top and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out clean). Let sit in the pan for 5-6 minutes before attempting to remove. Cool completely before stacking and frosting.

{cream cheese filling}
adapted from here
1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
4 oz of cream cheese at room temperature
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups powdered (icing) sugar

Cream the butter and cream cheese together. Add salt, honey, and vanilla. While mixing on low, slowly and carefully add the icing sugar a bit at a time until all is incorporated. Set aside.

{swiss buttercream}
from here
makes 10 cups
10 oz egg whites (I used egg whites from a carton, so I don't know how many eggs this is)
10 oz sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 pounds unsalted butter, cut into smallish chunks, at room temperature
2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a medium sized bowl, combine egg whites, sugar, and salt. Set over a pot of water (as a double boiler) and heat the water until it's steaming and slightly simmering. It doesn't have to be boiling. Whisk until the eggs heat to 150 degrees.

Remove from heat and pour into a mixer bowl. Whisk until the egg whites have lightened and turned white. They get fluffier and lose that loose eggy look. Keep whipping so the mixture has a chance to cool down. I had no idea how cool they were supposed to get so I whipped for a while until they felt warm or about body temperature.

Turn the mixer down and start adding butter a chunk at a time. At one point, the mixture will seperate and look curdled but keep adding butter and it'll all come together again and be perfect. Don't freak out. Whip in vanilla extract to taste.

Assemble the cake with cream cheese filling and frost with the buttercream to your little heart's desire.


Lindsey @ Hot Polka Dot said...

I love all the ruffles! It looks beautiful!

Jill Colonna said...

I hope you had a wonderful birthday. Many happy returns. I ADORE your birthday cake. It looks so dreamy and light inside with the egg whites and what a frilly finish. Really stunning!

GALaxy said...

Thanks Lindsey & Jill!