Monday, April 18, 2016
My birthday cake -- and a new-to-me type of frosting
This was gooooood.
Have you ever made a Swiss meringue buttercream frosting before? I'd not made this kind, so it was a brand new experience, complete with learning curve.
I baked the cake layers, a cocoa powder Devil's Food cake recipe of my mom's. I wrapped the layers in plastic wrap and kept them in the fridge until Friday. I hadn't settled on a frosting and filling for it, but raspberry jam between the layers, and a topping of a white chocolate ganache, with some fresh raspberries sure did sound yummy. But currently, I lack fresh raspberries, raspberry jam, and whipping cream needed to make ganache. I did not want to go to the store to spend $2.50 on a pint of whipping cream, $3.50 on a teensy basket of raspberries, and another $2 or so on a jar of raspberry jam -- not when raspberries will be ripe in my garden in just a few months! Call me cheap.
Friday, I went on my morning walk, and decided to brainstorm various cake fillings/frostings that I could make with what I have on hand. That's when I remembered seeing a couple of pints of frozen strawberries in the freezer. Hmmm, now there's a possibility. And the bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips could make a nice drizzle for the top of the cake. Once home, I googled strawberry cake fillings. And that's when I stumbled upon a type of cake frosting that I'd never even heard of before.
Swiss meringue buttercream. What could that be? And could I do that on a first try at home? It helps that this cake would only be consumed by my family. If it went terribly wrong, we're a pretty un-picky lot, and would eat it, anyway. What's to lose but some butter, a few egg whites and 1 of those containers of frozen strawberries?
So, I made a strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream. The thing about Swiss meringue buttercream is it's a finicky little dickens. It seems to like everything just so. Basically, it's a sweetened meringue (egg whites that have been heated in a double-boiler, along with sugar and then whipped till stiff), combined with lots of butter, then flavored. The meringue part went well. And the first part of the butter went well. It was looking good . . . that is, until it wasn't. Suddenly, it looked like cottage cheese. Not at all like the fluffy frosting I saw in photos on the web. What went wrong? I googled lots of phrases trying to find a fix. After several attempts at fixing this mess, one of the fixes worked. Had I thrown in the towel 30 minutes, or 20 minutes or even 10 minutes earlier, I never would have arrived at this delicious, creamy, strawberry frosting. Thankfully, I didn't give up. My tenacity is what gets me through a lot of tight situations. I persevere and persevere and persevere. I figure, if I have the time, I can surely find the patience to keep working at a job.
The end result with my Swiss meringue buttercream efforts was a buttery-light filling and frosting, which retains it's shape beautifully in between the cake layers and on the outside of the cake, like a firm mousse. It slices beautifully. And it's not terribly sweet. I would definitely say we enjoyed this more than traditional buttercream.
I had also been thinking about a chocolate drizzle over the strawberry frosting. I used chocolate chips, melted along with a bit of shortening, until drizzle-able. After cooling for a minute (so as not to melt the SMB frosting), I poured the chocolate over the top. I had a bit of leftover melted chocolate, which was about the perfect amount for making some chocolate curls on a flat baking sheet.
One would think the cake would be done now, right? In my mind, I kept seeing fresh strawberries on top of that cake. So, I splurged, and bought 1 pound of strawberries for $2 at Albertson's. And that was my total "outside of my home stock" purchases for this cake, $2. I splurged that $2 because I wanted this cake to be visually appealing, to me. It might not have mattered to anyone else in the family. But as it was my birthday, how I wanted it to look mattered more. You all probably know, now, that I often like things to look "pretty". I think that's just the way I'm wired.
So, that was my birthday cake for this year. I will definitely try making this kind of frosting again in the future. It was delicious. And as decorated cakes go, I also think, beautiful.