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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.


Anonymous said...

Happy belated birthday, Lili! I hope you had a wonderful birthday weekend!

Your cake is beautiful...and sounds so, so yummy! I may have to give that frosting a try sometime.

Have a wonderful day!

TG said...

What a lovely cake. Absolutely top it with strawberries. They were a great price, visually added to the presentation and there was nothing " artificial " about this ingredient, or any of the others.
Could you post the recipe and also the tips when the step went off kilter. I'd like to see the thought processes to rescue but also save myself heartache should I try it.

Lili said...

Hi Angie,
Thank you! A wonderful weekend, and a delicious cake.
You have a great day, too, Angie!

Lili said...

Hi Theresa,
Thanks! I do like how it turned out.
I didn't post a recipe on this frosting, because I wanted to work out just what it was that did go wrong, and how to make this recipe more fool-proof. I think there's a temperature thing going on with the frosting. My thoughts are that the meringue needs to cool to a specific temp and the butter needs t warm to a specific temp. One of the online "fixes" was to just keep the mixer running longer, much, much longer (like 30 minutes some people said). I was afraid I would burn out the motor on my mixer if I dd that. So after about 10 minutes of running the mixer, I decided to look for other "fixes" and one said to warm just a small amount of the frosting in the microwave, then pour into the large bowl, while mixing until smooth. This wasn't enough either. I think my kitchen and the butter were just too cold. So I put the whole bowl of frosting into the microwave for 8 seconds, then put the mixer back in, and finally it did smooth out. But I knew I was taking chances that I could ruin the whole thing. So, I will probably post the recipe for this one, as I did make some alterations (I used frozen strawberries and much more of them, plus I did add a few tablespoons of confectioner's sugar at the end, to sweeten, and I did a 3/4 recipe, and that seemed to be plenty for a 2-layer cake. The key thing about Swiss meringue buttercream, I think, is cool enough meringue and warm enough (room temp) butter when combining the two. I'll put together a post, though. I want to try this again, and use as a piped frosting.

I will say, it was worth the effort and trouble. I loved the creaminess. It made the cake taste like a high-end bakery cake.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that is a beautiful cake! I'm sure it tasted equally delicious. Sometimes it's those little extra touches, like the paper doily I sometimes put under a birthday cake that make it seem extra special- like your strawberries and chocolate curls :)

Lili said...

Hi Mary,
I should have put a doily under the cake! Totally forgot, and I do have some. Oh well!
Thank you! It was very good.
Have a great day, Mary!

Matt Macduff Family said...

I've seen a Swiss Meringue buttercream frosting done on t.v. before (I think it was America's Test kitchen?), but I've never tried it. Your cake is beautiful! Hope you had a good day. Melissa

TG said...

I wouldn't think you needed it . That's a pretty plate and picks up the colours of the cake.
I'm all for having props. I do have cake stans and some awesome plates I have inherited. Years ago a friend gifted my husband a two handled round , gold platter/serving dish.
It became the Happy Birthday Plate for the most part for steadily bringing in creations with candles and sparklers to our dining room. It's placed in front of the celebrant and we all sing Happy Birthday. Now we count decades and add on the single digits till we get to the age. We chant " Are you ten, are you twenty, etcetera" when we come to the correct age the celebrant shouts "stop"
We have a bunch of other "traditions" none of which cost money but I hope make the recipient feel special. My kids have mentioned that is one of the things they cherish about growing up. The celebrations that occurred.

Lili said...

Thank you, Melissa. I did have a good day!
The frosting was totally new to me. In the end, it turned out creamy and delicious!
have a great day!

Lili said...

Hi Theresa,
What fun-sounding family traditions! Those are the things that create memories. And making our family members feel special is what the occasions are all about -- no need to spend money to make someone feel important in your life!

have a great day, Theresa!

Anonymous said...

Lili, Your cake is BEAUTIFUL, I couldn't have done better myself (& I'm a professional cake decorator)
Yes, butter temperature was your problem. The butter must be room temperature or warmer depending on your home. So soft that it almost doesn't hold its shape.
Happy Birthday!

Anonymous said...

Oh such a beautiful cake, and I can only imagine how divine it tasted!! I know I could never bake anything so splendid. Gosh, I'm still working on my gelatin from pie filling. I tried it twice, the second time reducing the orange concentrate, increasing the gelatin one teaspoon, and heating the mixture to almost boiling then add the softened gelatin. Still it refused to gel hard, but it made great frozen ice cakes. I hope it is not the gelatin, and just that I can't make gelatin out of canned pie filling. Thought I'd mention this in case anyone thought to turn their pie filling to gelatin too. Thanks, Lili, for your help, I absolutely love the orangy addition, really balances the overly sweetness.

Have a restful, happy day!!


Lili said...

Hi frugal spinster,
Thank you! I was thinking it was a temperature thing. I will try it with much softer butter, next time. I do think it was a very delicious frosting, much more so than regular buttercream, as it wasn't so sweet. Thanks for your tips on the butter! You know, I almost emailed you on Friday, when I was working on this, to get your advice! I didn't know if you were around right then.

Have a great day!

Lili said...

Thank you!
When you make a gelatin dessert the next time, try adding a bit more of the gelatin. And allow it to chill overnight. I find my gelatin from fruit puree takes longer to set than the boxed gelatin, and I try to err on the side of too much gelatin granules, as it does help. Good luck with your continuing attempts!

Have a great day, YHF!

Anne in the kitchen said...

That is a beautiful cake, well worth the price of the fresh strawberries!
Happy Birthday!

Precious People Preschool said...

Very pretty! It looks like it taste heavenly. I used to be the family cake maker until my 13
year old niece wanted a two tier wedding cake for her birthday. I guess that s the norm for some teenagers.
I am not a pro at decorating cakes. I made red velvet cupcakes and that was the last time they asked me to make birthday cakes.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I think I'm done with trying the pie filling I'll try making gelatin out of my husband's Tang drink, just to see if there is something wrong with the gelatin.


Kris said...

Yes, you have more tenacity than I do--at least when it comes to making frosting! :) It's a beautiful cake and I bet it tasted as good as it looked.

Live and Learn said...

I have never heard of that kind of frosting and would probably never attempt it. So thanks for letting me live through your experience of making it. Beautiful and special because you used your mother's recipe for the cake.

Precious People Preschool said...

Red velvet with Justin Beiber on top of them was her second choice. They turned out really cute. Printed out Mr.Beiber on the the computer and put on each cupcake with a toothpick. The cake your made looks like it came from a bakery.

Laura said...

Happy Birthday, Lili! Your cake is absolutely beautiful and sounds like it tasted as good as it looked.

Lili said...

Thank you, Anne!

Lili said...

Hi Patti,
I love your idea to print out a picture for each cupcake and stick on with a toothpick. There are a lot of possibilities with that. It sounds like you served our role as family cake baker, well!

Lili said...

Hi Kris,
It was pretty delicious!

Lili said...

Hi live and learn,
I'd never heard of it either. I'd always done either buttercream or 7-minute type frostings. But its fun to try new things. And you're right, especially nice when I can use my mother's recipes. Maybe some day, there will be things that I have done that my children will do and remember me.

Lili said...

Thank you, Laura! We all enjoyed it very much!

EcoCatLady said...

I knew reading this post while I'm on a diet would be a bad idea. It looks absolutely delicious! I hope you had a wonderful birthday!

Karen said...

Your birthday cake looks beautiful! I must try that frosting. Happy belated birthday wishes x

Lili said...

Hi Cat,
Thank you. And yes, it was a very nice day.

Lili said...

Hi Karen,
Thank you. The frosting is very delicious. I'll be using it again (with hopefully no issues next time). Good luck to you, if you try this type of frosting!

Anonymous said...

I agree with everyone else, what a beautiful cake. I hope you had a really happy day!

Anonymous said...

it never hurts to try, I'm always happy to help

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