In my humble opinion, layer cakes are the epitome of birthday awesomeness (I, of course, am excluding ice cream cakes of any sort, which occupy a whole other level of awesomeness). Therefore, I thought June, the month it seems everyone is born, would be the perfect month to try my hand at constructing a layered creation. I found a book of insanely great-looking triple layer cakes and it was decided the big cake unveiling would happen on June 28th, Jason's birthday. Friends were told; a party was planned; I was beyond excited.
Important things to note:
-I've only made one previous layer cake before, and that was with the help of someone with a lot of experience
-The 28th was on a Sunday, and Jason and I were going away for the weekend. When did I think I would be making this cake?
-Buttercream frosting is my arch-nemesis
Things started off relatively painlessly. I decided to bake the cake layers on Friday after work and then wrap them and refrigerate them until Sunday. They didn't turn out as even as I would have hoped, but I wasn't too worried, figuring I'd fix it with frosting (the duct tape of the cake world!). So, with cakes baked, wrapped, and refrigerated, Jason and I headed off to a nice relaxing weekend up in the Santa Ynez Valley.
We returned on Sunday later than I would've hoped, but I still had time to make the curd and the frosting, then assemble before it was time to razzle dazzle the crowds with my cake prowess. The curd came together easy enough, but whereas it's a beautiful shade of green in the cookbook, mine came out a shocking shade of yellow (shocking as in it's supposed to be green). I tasted it, though, and it was delicious, so I moved on to the frosting.
I've read before that buttercream is rather finicky. Instructions usually contain the sentence "just as you add the last of the butter, the frosting will appear to fall apart but don't give up because in another minute it will whip up beautifully". In other words, you beat beat beat, have a mild heart attack, then there's the frosting. OK, I can handle that. Or I could have if A) the instructions in the cookbook would've included one missing piece of information and B) I wouldn't have been rushed for time. My first batch of frosting failed.
I found another frosting recipe from another cake recipe, and batch number two turned out much better. By this time, friends had gathered and I was still in the kitchen, so I rushed through the assembly phase and while I wasn't pleased with my shoddy workmanship, we cut into it shortly after I finished.
The cake was delicious. Ugly, yes, but definitely delicious.
I'm a little disappointed that I didn't get to spend as much time on the cake as I would have liked. I also feel like the frosting got the better of me. You can interpret this all to mean that you will most likely be seeing a lot more layer cake postings in the near future. Which I interpret to mean that it's time to learn how to sew so I can modify all of my pants to have elastic waistbands.
Ginger Chiffon Cake with Lime Curd & Lime Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne
6 eggs, separated
1/4 cup neutral vegetable oil (such as canola, soybean, or vegetable blend)
2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
6 tbsp water
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/3 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottoms of three 8-inch round cake pans with parchment or waxed paper; do not grease.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, oil, ginger, and water; set aside.
3. Sift 1 cup of the sugar, the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large mixing bowl; whisk together gently to combine. Add the egg yolk mixture and whisk to form a smooth batter.
4. Place the egg whites in a large mixer bowl and beat on medium-high speed until frothy. Slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and the cream of tartar and continue to whip until soft, droopy peaks form. Fold one-fourth of the beaten egg whites into the batter, taking care not to deflate the mixture. Gently fold in the remaining whites. Divide the batter evenly among the three prepared pans.
5. Bake for about 18 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the layers to cool completely in the pans. To remove, run a blunt knife around the edges, invert each pan, and tap out the cake onto a wire rack. Peel off the paper.
6 egg yolks
1 tbsp cornstarch
6 tbsp sugar
6 tbsp lime juice (or key lime juice, which this was supposed to have been, if I could have found key limes)
2 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and cornstarch. Combine the sugar and lime juice in a non-reactive saucepan and whisk in the egg yolk mixture. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat, whisking gently the entire time. Allow to boil for 1 minute.
2. Pour through a mesh strainer into a heatproof bowl and whisk in the butter until it is completely melted. Let cool slightly, then cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold, at least one hour.
Lime Buttercream Frosting:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1. In a small non-reactive saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to boil without stirring, occasionally washing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush, until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage (238 degrees F on a candy thermometer). Immediately remove from heat.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs briefly on medium speed. Slowly add the hot syrup in a thin stream, careful not to hit the beaters (so the hot syrup won't splatter). When all the syrup has been added, raise the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is very fluffy and cooled to body temperature. This can take 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually add the softened butter 2 t0 3 tablespoons at a time, beating well between additions. As you're adding the last few tablespoons of butter, the frosting will appear to break, then suddenly come together like whipped butter. Beat in the lime juice, and the frosting is ready for use.
Place one cake layer on a cake stand or serving plate and spread half of the curd over the top, leaving a 1/4-inch margin around the edges. Repeat with another cake layer and the remaining curd. Place the top layer on and frost all over with the buttercream.