“I have yet to attend a party where the chef has sewn together a string of delicious steaks into a golf club or fedora I have never seen (and hope to never see) a baby rattle composed of salmon fillers. But cake abuse has no limits” writes Matt Lewis in the introduction to cakes in his wonderful book Baked Explorations. It’s true isn’t it. The form over function in the world of cakes is very strange. If you want a red race car make it out of cardboard, or styrophoam. Why make it out of cake? Cake that will, inevitably once all the parts are assembled, be dried out and boring. If no one wants to eat it whats the point?
Which is why I make a big effort to make cakes that are wonderful, delicious, and if I do it properly, something beautiful too. I, like Matt Lewis, am a cake pusher.
I making love cake. I like making simple cakes with a dusting of icing sugar, I like making pound cakes with a lemon glaze on top, and sometimes, I like making elaborate pretty cakes, because it’s a little challenging but mostly because I like proving that a cake can be both delicious and pretty. I’m stubborn like that.
I made such a cake this weekend for my amasing friend Kate’s birthday. It was a dark chocolate cake that has espresso instead of milk in the batter so it’s not overly sweet, which lends itself beautifully to frostings. I did it up with a salted caramel buttercream and I’m not going to lie friends, I’m pretty pleased.
Salted Caramel Buttercream
1 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp Sugar
1/2 cup Cream
9 Egg Whites
1 tbsp Vanilla Extract
1.5 lb Unsalted Butter, soft
Dark Chocolate Cake
1 1/2 cup butter, room temp
3 cup sugar
2 Egg Whites
1 1/2 cup Dutched Cocoa Powder
4 cups All Purpose Flour
1tbsp Baking Powder
1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
1tbsp Vanilla Extract
2 2/3cup Hot Strong Coffee
Combine 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a pot. Cook on medium heat until sugar is disolved. Remove spoon and Bring heat up to high. It will start to thicken a little.
Then It will start to brown slightly. It will turn quickly so keep a close eye on it.
Then it will get a pretty auburn colour. And then your in business
Now, act fast. Take it off the heat, pour in the cream and stir. It will bubble up like crazy, don’t panic, but be careful. I don’t have any pictures of this part because it was bubbling and I was stirring.
Pour that into a heat safe container and let cool.
Get a small pot with an inch or two of water on the stove and bring it to a simmer. I usually use the caramel pot because it’s easier to clean after it’s had boiling water in it.
Put the egg whites, salt, and remaining sugar into the the bowl for your mixer and whisk vigorously over the pot.
Kepp whisking until its quite frothy and it’s hot to touch.
Take off the heat, and attach bowl to your mixer. Whisk on high until stiff peaks form.
Slowly add in the butter, tablespoon by tablespoon until it’s all combined. If you notice yours doesn’t thicken up nicely and is beginning to look split slow down the mixer and add in a big piece of butter, that should thicken it up nicely.
Slowly add in the caramel and there you have your caramel buttercream.
Make Chocolate Cake
Preheat oven to 350F
Butter, flour, and line with parchment 4 cake pans, 2x 8 inch round, and 2x 5inch.
Cream butter and sugar until it’s very fluffy, about 5 minutes
Add in the eggs and whites and beat again until light, about 3 minutes
Alternate in dry ingredients starting and finishing with dry. It will look like a big hot mess
Don’t panic. Just whisk it for about 15 seconds until it starts to look smooth. Don’t do this for very long, and a few lumps are absolutly okay. See how much nicer this looks?
Pour into your prepared pans and bake until an inserted skewer comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool.
Trim off the top of the cakes with a serrated knife to flatten them out. Put a dollop of icing on the cake stand and then put down the first layer of cake. Spread liberally with icing. Sprinkle with salt.
Repeat with remaining layers
Ice the outside loosely.
Smooth it out and refridgerate for at least an hour. The ice again to cover the crumbs and the dark cake inside. This always takes me a while, and if I’m really struggling then I put it back in the fridge, let it set up again and then use my inverted spatula on the cold frosting. Sometimes I find this easier. If your icing looks a little split at any point just put it back into your mixer and it will come back in seconds.
Then do whatever you want with your decordations. Tie a ribbon on it, dot it with pocka dots, which is what I did here. I just put some frosting in a piping bag, pressed it against the cake and dabbed the icing on. It was very easy. I also did a line of dots, done the exact same way, along the line between the layers because it was a little messy there. And then I put flowers on top because I like flowers. Et Voila! Pretty and delicious cake!