Saturday, July 25, 2015

Favorite Birthday Cake

There's nothing like a delicious cake to celebrate a milestone.  My very own birthday cake this year was a white cake filled and frosted with light-as-a-feather Swiss meringue buttercream, all set on top of a collectible jadeite cake stand. I've designated this particular cake my 'favorite birthday cake' because it has all of the qualities that I like about cakes.  It's light, delicately flavored and bakes beautifully, which is just what I'm after whenever I bake a cake.  

I've told you before that I bake my own birthday cakes because I can't abide by store bought. What's more, the tradition of homemade birthday cakes has been the standard ever since I was a kid.  Mom spoiled us that way and I certainly wouldn't have it any other way.  Not now.  Not ever!

As is typical in the weeks leading to my birthday, I scour baking books in our home library in search of cakes that pique my interest, concentrating on those I haven't tried before.  I also do my online homework and see what's out there.    

Are you familiar with this cookbook, Baking Illustrated?  You should be.  In it is a perfect recipe for a white cake which employs the 'high ratio' method of cake baking.  This is simply mixing the dry ingredients first, then adding the butter until the batter is lightened, which ends with the addition of the eggs and milk. If you've never tried this baking method I highly recommend that you do. Cakes bake up light, not dense, and the finished crumb is tight, yet delicate.  It helps that the recipe includes good ingredients.  

My next post will be all about Swiss meringue buttercream.  Most of these formulas are pretty standard, as there is little one can do to change them. However, with a good combination and clear instructions, you too can make a lighter-than-air buttercream that can grace any cake or cupcake.  


After the cake layers are baked and cooled, I always wrap them well and then chill the layers thoroughly before I begin decorating.  This helps firm them up and makes it much easier to apply the crumb coat.

It's up to you if you want to use a cardboard cake round, but I like them so that I don't encounter problems moving them from the decorator's turntable to my cake stand.  These rounds also help protect the cake stand from nicks and cuts when you slice into the cake.  

Apply a small amount of icing to the cake turntable before putting the cake round.  This helps anchor the cake.  Do the same to the cake round before centering the first cake layer.

Any uneven cake layers should be leveled at this point by slicing away or trimming any bumps.

Add about 1/2 cup of icing (or more if you really like buttercream) to the top of the first layer.  Carefully place the second layer on top, making sure it's centered.  Immediately place about 1 cup of buttercream on top of the cake and begin to spread it to the edges, rotating as you go.  If you notice, the excess buttercream is teetering over the sides.  Simply drag that frosting down and begin to smooth the sides with it, rotating the cake turntable as you go.  

This is your crumb coat.

You're not after perfection here.  All you want is to seal the cake and prevent any troublesome crumbs from marring the final coating of buttercream.  Once the crumb coat has been applied, chill the cake for at least 30 minutes before continuing.

The final coating of buttercream should be applied evenly with an offset spatula.  For straight, even sides, I like to use a bench scraper held perpendicular to the surface of the decorating turntable, rotating the cake to smooth out the buttercream as I go.  I don't worry about gaps at the bottom of the cake at this point, because the final touches are done when I transfer the cake onto a cake stand.

That jadeite L.E. Smith Glass cake stand is a Martha by Mail collectible, and is among my favorite cake stands.  It was a Christmas gift from a very dear friend of mine. 

If you want to make decorative touches to your cake, it helps to have extra buttercream at the ready for this purpose.  I sometimes scale up my buttercream recipes by 50% or I double them if I know I want even more frosting.  

For this milestone birthday cake, I gave it a simple design of piped stars on top of the cake and along the bottom border.  The finishing touch was the application of French silver dragées in the middle of the piped stars.  

Voilà!  The birthday cake is done.  Other than the basic star design of the piped buttercream, I love the addition of those silver dragées because they add a bit of sparkle.

To serve my cake, I had to use some vintage Fire King jadeite.  The clean lines and thick glass of the restaurant ware pattern and the L.E. Smith Glass cake stand complement one another.  I love these pieces.

The white cake slices beautifully.  Can you see how light that crumb is?  What I like about this recipe is that it uses almond extract in the batter.  The flavor and aroma bring back so many good childhood memories for me.  Mom always included a tiny bit into her white cakes for weddings.  

You can, of course, omit the almond extract.

I hope you can understand why I call this my 'favorite birthday cake'.

White Cake on Fire King Jadeite
Any leftovers will keep for up to two days in the refrigerator.  Serve great, big wedges of this cake with a glass of milk, a cup of tea or even a made-to-order cappuccino.  It's so easy to bring out the Bialetti for some tasty espresso.

Birthday Cake on a Jadeite Cake Stand

I want to thank everyone who took a moment to send me birthday wishes, via phone, online and in person.  There's nothing like celebrating a milestone birthday knowing that one has great friends and family.  Those bonds and relationships are priceless to me.

Do try this cake soon, because I know that you and your guests are going to love every piece of it.

Enjoy!

David


8 comments:

  1. David, happy birthday! One word: Perfection. I can't stop staring at the closeups of the icing!

    Two thumbs way up!

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  2. Thanks a lot Mark. I will give a tutorial on how to make that ethereal icing. It's good!

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  3. Is it your birthday David? I hope you shared that perfect cake with folks who love you.

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  4. It was, Phil, and I did share that cake. :)

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  5. Happiest of belated birthdays to you David! Your cake looks scrumptious!

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    1. Thanks so much! That cake was very delicious. If you have the B.I. book, you have got to make it soon.

      Have a great week!

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  6. Beautiful! You have launched into your new decade with sweet style! xo

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