Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pink Ombre Cake With Italian Meringue Buttercream

Last weekend we threw a bridal shower for my dearest friend Kez. It was probably the most awesome shower of the century. Except for a few brain farts on my part, but that's only to be expected.

First of all, I was in charge of the RSVPs. This was a dumb idea. You know why? Well, we had a place set for the future mother and sister-in-law. When it got to be time to eat, everyone is like, "Well, aren't those two coming?"

And I said, "Well, Mom said they were coming."

"What what what?" said Mom, "I did not say that. I have nothing to do with the RSVPs."

"But but but." said I, "You told me Kez's mom said they were coming to stay with them... and help with their... garden..." I trailed off.

Suddenly it hits me, It had been a dream. I had dreamed about the RSVPs.

I have such crazy vivid dreams lately. They're always just realistic enough that I can't separate them from real life when I wake up. Like the dream I had where we had this awesome little ensemble going on for church (that part was real) and during the strings only verse, which just breaks your heart with beauty, I accidentally played the accordion. WHAT WAS I THINKING??? Luckily, I don't even have an accordion. I play trumpet (I know, I don't seem boisterous and loud enough to be a trumpeter, but I AM).

Anways, other than the RSVP thing, it was all pretty smooth for the most part. Especially the cake. LOOK AT HOW SMOOTH IT IS.

And it's covered in peonies. Everything was covered in peonies. I LOVE PEONIES.

Anywho, this cake was basically the highlight of my life.

When I got home I showed Dad pictures of it.

"Dad, isn't this the absolute coolest thing you've ever seen in your life??"

"I don't know. I guess I've probably seen cooler things before. But it's pretty cool."

Boys. Sheesh.

So... this is my FAVORITE cake recipe from my FAVORITE cookbook topped with my new FAVORITE frosting from the same FAVORITE cookbook. I was afraid the buttercream was going to taste too meringuey or marshmallowy, but it didn't at all once the butter was added. It's really rich, smooth, and easy to frost, and it's whiter than the my other favorite buttercream which is cool.
Pink Ombre Cake With Italian Meringue Buttercream
Cake: From Baking by James Peterson (which I can't recommend enough)
1 1/2 cups butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups plus 6 tablespoons sugar
6 eggs, separated
1 1/3 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups cake flour
3 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
pinch of cream of tartar

First of all, you're going to need two batches of this if you want to make four big layers like I did. I couldn't fit it all in my stand mixer though, so I had to do each batch separately. 
Preheat oven to 350º. Grease two 9 inch cake pans and line with parchment paper.
Beat the butter and 1 1/2 cups of the sugar. Continue whisking about 5 minutes. Add egg yolks one at a time until mixture is smooth. Whisk in the milk and vanilla. Then sift in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Do not overwork. Add about seven drops of red food coloring and two drops of yellow food coloring to the batter.
In a separate bowl beat the egg whites and cream of tartar (you can do this ahead of time before you get the mixing bowl dirty and set it aside if you want, but the bowl MUST be clean). Beat for about two minutes, until soft peaks form, then beat in the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar for about 2 minutes, until medium peaks form. Fold half of the egg whites into half of the batter and spread into one of the cake pans. Add about 7 more drops of red and two more drops of yellow to the remaining batter. Fold in the rest of the egg whites and spread into cake pan. Bake for about 30 minutes. Do not overbake, but get it out of the oven as soon as a toothpick comes out clean (a few crumbs attached are okay). When you make your next two layers, start with about 30 drops of red and 6 drops of yellow. The for the final layer I just gave it a big squirt because I was afraid it wasn't going to be dark enough.

Italian Meringue Buttercream:
This is also from Baking by James Peterson and you will also need two batches of this

1 1/2 + 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
A bowl of ice water or a candy thermometer
2 tablespoons corn syrup (I just always add corn syrup to cooking sugar just in case so it doesn't crystallize)
6 egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups cold butter, cut into cubes

Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup water, and corn syrup in a sauce pan and set over high heat. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and  beat for about 1 more minute. If the syrup isn't done yet just turn it to low. Cook the sugar until it reaches 238ºF. If you don't have a candy thermometer or if you always break/loose yours (like me) then just put a little spoonful into some ice water for about 5 seconds so you can test it. In the beginning it will just be runny and dissolve into the ice water. Then it will be thick enough for some strands to pull apart between your fingers. The golden stage is "the soft ball stage" at which point it should be a pliable little ball that's sort of the texture of chewed gum. If you're at the "hard crack stage" where it's no longer squishy at all, then you've gone too far, so add a little water and try again. Once your sugar is the correct temperature, turn the mixer on high speed and stream in the syrup between the mixer and the bowl. Continue beating for about 7 minutes or until very thick and the bottom of the bowl is just a little warm. Add in the butter a handful at a time and beat until combined. Refrigerate or freeze it for a while to let it harden and then beat it again until smooth and fluffy. I don't know why James Peterson does not tell us to do this. That's something I figured out on my own, but you really have to do it. Good luck.
As you can see, I didn't realize the frosting needed to be chilled at first so in between the layers, the frosting sort of soaked through. Who cares though. It was still amazing.

By the way, I love OVER 1000 Facebook followers. Let's make it 2000, shall we?


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