Happy Birthday to my blog!
It's been a great year! I started my blog, my home bakery, I taught a 4-week baking course at Williams, and most importantly, I've done a lot of baking! This weekend, I'm participating in the Northern Berkshire Food Festival in North Adams, so if you're in the area, stop by!
If you've been following my blog at all, you'll recognize the almond cake in this recipe. I used it for my birthday cake this year with brown butter frosting, and with chocolate raspberry ganache and chocolate frosting for a client. It's extremely versatile, and a great addition to your repertoire! And this frosting may be my new favorite. It's not as heavy as some buttercreams can be. It's light and fluffy, with a beautiful pink hue and raspberry taste. You may not want to make it without a stand mixer; there's probably a good 20-25 minutes of beating with the stand mixer. But if you need any more reasons to get a stand mixer, swiss meringue buttercream is it. No heavy, dense, sugary mouthfuls here, this frosting is more reminiscent of a smooth, high quality ice cream with a more subtle sense of sweetness. You'll see this frosting again soon, I'm sure of it.
And now, to celebrate my blog's birthday, I'm off to make a cake of course! A chocolate butterfly cake for my niece's 4th birthday tomorrow. Happy baking!
p.s. Stop by my Zucchero Dolce facebook page for more pictures, or to become a fan.
Almond Cake (adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum)
1 1/3 cups sour cream, separated
2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/3 cups cake flour, sifted
2/3 cups finely ground almonds, toasted and preferably unblanched
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 sticks butter (12 ounces), room temperature
Preheat oven to 350F. Spray 3 9" round cake pans with baking spray, line with parchment paper, and spray again.
In a medium bowl, stir together the eggs, 1/3 cup of the sour cream, and the extracts. Set aside. Don't worry, it won't be smooth or pretty.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the dry ingredients - mix for 30 seconds. Add the butter and the remaining 1 cup of sour cream, and mix on low until combined. Mix on medium for 2 minutes to aerate batter. Add the egg and sour cream mixture in 3 additions, beating 20 seconds after each addition.
Split the batter between the cake pans, and smooth with a rubber spatula. Bake for 30-40 minutes until a toothpick just comes out clean.
Let the cakes cook in their pans for about 10 minutes, then turn on to cooling rack. Cool completely, then wrap in plastic wrap and chill until ready to frost.
Chocolate Raspberry Ganache Filling
5 ounces semisweet chocolate
5 tablespoons (2.5 ounces) butter
Scant 1/2 cup raspberry puree*
*To make the raspberry puree, defrost about 2 or 2 1/2 cups of frozen raspberries (you can use the microwave if you're in a hurry), and puree in the blender or food processor.
Melt together the chocolate and butter (I use the microwave, heating on 30 second intervals, and stirring fully between heating). Stir in the raspberry puree.
Raspberry Buttercream (Swiss Meringue) Frosting
6 egg whites
1 7/8 cup sugar
3 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter, softened, cut into smallish pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
Place the egg whites and sugar in a mixer bowl, and place the bowl on top of a pan of simmering water. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 150F-160F. It's definitely easier with the thermometer. If you don't have one, it should take about 5-10 minutes, the mixture should be hot to the touch, and you shouldn't feel any sugar crystals, they should all be dissolved.
Remove from the heat, and attach the bowl to your stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Beat on high until the mixture is completely cool, and the egg white have reached firm-stiff peaks. I've read that this should take about 10 minutes, but it's taken me much much longer sometimes, so don't give up hope, keep beating. Theoretically you can do this with a hand mixer too, but it will take even longer.
Switch to the paddle attachment on the mixer, and add the butter a few pieces at a time while beating on low-medium speed. When all the butter has been added, increase to medium-high speed and beat a few more minutes. Add the vanilla and beat another 30 seconds. The frosting should be fluffy and not runny at all. Add the raspberry jam, and beat just until combined.
Did Your Buttercream Break?
If your frosting curdles, do not despair, and whatever you do, do not throw it away! It's fixable. Whenever my buttercream "breaks," it's because the bowl gets too cold. If that's the reason, just warm up the bowl (hold over a hot burner or steam or melt a few tablespoons in the microwave and add back to the curdled mess), and whip some more. Magical chemistry ensues, and your buttercream will be beautiful and fluffy again soon. If the bowl becomes too warm, the buttercream can also break; in this case, you'll need to chill it, bringing it back to room temperature (or slightly above).
Assembling the Cake
2-3 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds (toast at 300F for 5-8 minutes)
Semisweet Chocolate, Shaved
Raspberries, lightly coated with sugar
Be sure the cake is completely cool before frosting. I always chill my cakes to be safe, you don't want cake layers melting frosting and sliding every which way.
Place one cake layer on a serving plate or a cake board, and spread the chocolate raspberry ganache on top, leaving roughly a 1/4" border on the outer edges (the weight of the second layer will make the ganache spread to the edge). Top with the second cake layer, and chill if you have time (not long, even a half hour would be good if your kitchen is warm; you can assemble the whole thing at once if it's not too hot out). Cover the entire cake with the raspberry buttercream frosting.
Pipe more frosting around the top and bottom edges of the cake if desired. Scatter the toasted slivered almonds on top, and to with raspberries. Serve at room temperature. Enjoy!