Monday, June 10, 2013

More cake decorating

My friend's son turned two on the weekend. For his first birthday, it was easy to pick a present -- no kid's childhood is complete without a Tupperware Shape-O toy. But I had no idea what to get him this year. So I asked, "Have you ordered a cake yet?" Baking cakes is really a labour of love. When you factor in the total amount of time involved, even if you use a low hourly wage, it's just not worth it. That's why all those store-bought cakes are so tasteless and generic. But when you enjoy what you're doing, it becomes a hobby, and then the time can be justified.

For this baking adventure, I managed to take photos at every step of the process. And so I present, Cake Making 102 (I'm going to assume you've baked a simple cake before attempting the following).

Step 1: The Frosting

I have developed my own quick frosting recipe. I drew on several different sources when "perfecting" it, including the Good Eats episode (S11E19), Honey, I Shrunk the Cake, and the Wilton cake decorating website. You should note that none of these are true buttercreams. They are not made over a double-boiler with a simple syrup. They're a cop-out, but I'm ok with that.

Without further ado, the recipe:

Quick Vanilla Buttercream

Measure out 1 lb (~ 4 cups) icing sugar, then sift it into a bowl and set aside.

Combine in the bowl of a stand mixer:
            6 oz (¾ cup)    unsalted butter
            2 oz (~ ¼ cup) vegetable shortening

Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy (~3-4 min).

Add 1 large egg and beat on medium-high until well-mixed. The mixture will become lumpy and grainy but will return to a smooth texture.

Sprinkle over ½ tsp table salt.

Slowly incorporate the sifted icing sugar, alternating between low and medium speeds. Scrape down the bowl as needed.

Mix in 1 tsp vanilla extract. Beat frosting on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until smooth and light in texture.  If colouring frosting, add food colouring at this time.

Thin with 1-2 tbsp milk to achieve correct consistency for spreading/decorating.

Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for several months. Bring back to room temperature and gently re-whip before using.

Yes, the recipe has a raw egg in it. So do a lot of foods you eat. Nanaimo bars and tiramisu come to mind immediately. If you're worried, you can buy pasteurized eggs (expensive), or you can substitute the egg with 2 tbsp whole milk, but it's not the same.

Next up: Step 2 - Assembling the cake