Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ann's May Cake - A Tale of Two Birthdays

I have two delightful roommates. Actually, I should say I had two delightful roommates, because one has moved out, but then another delightful roommate moved in, so I guess I still have two. These two original delightful roommates both have birthdays in May, and they clearly wanted cakes. Well, maybe one wanted a cake, and I told the other one she was getting one as well. Anyway, on with the cake!

First, we had a party for Control's birthday, which was actually later in the month, but she was leaving for Utah before we could celebrate, so we added her birthday into our end-of-the-semester/Reverse Halloween Opposite Day party. She had requested months in advance that I make her a bûche de Noël. So, despite the lack of Christmas, I set out to make this classic December cake. The cake itself is a flourless sheet cake, which I then frosted with chocolate icing and then rolled up like a jelly roll. I sliced off the end at an angle and then sort of formed some little twigs to stick on the sides. This part was all kind of free-form, but look how awesome it turned out!

Look, it looks like a real log!!! I almost didn't want to frost it because it looked so real. However, I did frost it, and added some marzipan mushrooms and powdered sugar "snow".

Painting spots on the mushrooms.

I like that I look like a ghost in this picture. Here are the lovely swirly insides:

I was quite surprised at how moist and gooey this cake tasted. I had been a little worried that the cake would be dry, or that there would be too little frosting, but it really worked out perfectly. I love a recipe that has perfect quantities - no leftover frosting, but also just the right amount on the cake. Our friend Clovis said this was the second best cake he'd ever had, after the Rigo Jansci from last month. Hooray!!!! Happy Birthday, Control!

Next we celebrated Marcue's birthday. Marcue has a deep and abiding love for strawberries (or "strawbries" as we say in our apartment), so I decided that I was making a Barefoot Contessa cake I'd had my eye on for a few years. I then informed her of this and that we were having a party for her. Luckily, she went along with my decision. The cake looked like was full of strawberry goodness, so it seemed like a perfect fit for Marcue.

The original recipe for the cake layered two 9-inch cakes with whipped cream and strawberries, but I decided to split the cakes and double the layers. This is a birthday cake, after all!

Fluffy clouds of whipped cream.

It's so pretty! The cake was a pretty simple white cake, but the addition of lemon zest seriously sent this over the top. It was so crazy good with really vibrant flavors. The citrus made the flavor of the strawberries and cream really pop, and everyone loved it, especially Marcue.

Happy Birthday, Marcue!

Bûche de Noël
From Feast: Food That Celebrates Life by Nigella Lawson

For the cake:
6 eggs, separated
3/4 C superfine sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 C unsweetend cocoa powder

For the icing:
6 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
2 C confectioners sugar
2 sticks butter, softened
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
3-5 tsp confectioners' sugar, to decorate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang at the ends and sides, and folding the parchment into the corners to help the paper stay anchored.

In a large clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until foamy and thick, then add 1/4 C of the sugar and continute whisking until the the whites are holding peaks but not dry.

In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks and remaining sugar until they are pale and thick. Add the vanilla extract and sift over the cocoa, then fold both in.

Lighten the yolk mixture with a couple of dollops of the whites, folding in gently, and then add the whites in thirds, mixing carefully to avoid losing the air.

Pour the cake into the lined pan, and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Let the cake cool a little before turning it out onto another piece of parchement paper.

To make the icing, melt the chocolate in a double boiler and let it cool. Put the confectioners' sugar into a food processor and blitz to remove any lumps, add the butter and process until smooth. Add the cooled melted chocolate and vanilla and pulse again to make a smooth icing.

Trim the edges of the cake. Spread some of the icing thinly over the cake, going right out to the edges. Roll up from the short side facing you taking care to get a tight roll from the beginning, and roll up to meet the other short end. Trim one end slightly to form an angle.

Use the cake trimmings to make branches as you wish, and then ice the cake with the remaining icing, covering the cut off ends as well. Create wood-like texture by going along the length of the log with a skewer, etching in knots. Remember to make tree rings at the ends.

Form little mushrooms with the marzipan, paint spots on with cocoa powder. Place on cake as desired. Dust with confectioners' sugar for snow.

Strawberry Country Cake
from Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten

3/4 C unsalted butter at room temperature
2 C sugar
4 extra large eggs at room temperature
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 C flour
1/4 C corn starch
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

For the filling:
1 pint heavy whipping cream
6 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9 inch cake pans.

Cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. On medium speed, add the eggs, on at a time, then the sour cream, zests and vanilla, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix well. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt and baking soda. On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine just until smooth.

Pour the batter evenly into the pans, smooth the tops with a spatula, and bake in the center of the oven for 40-45 min, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 30 min, then remove the wire racks and let cool to room temperature.

To make the filling, whip the cream by hand or in a mixer until firm; add the sugar and vanilla. Split the cakes into two layers each with a serrated knife. Place the bottom slice of cake on a serving platter, spread with a quarter of the whipped cream, and scatter on a quarter of the strawberries. Cover with the top slice of cake. Repeat, ending with a the last layer of cake. Spread remaining cream on top of cake and decorate with strawberries on top.


Elizabeth said...

Yay! So cool. Both cakes look heavenly. I wish I had some right now.

The log kinda looks like a shark before it's frosted, but I trust you that it looked like a log in person. I was reading your description before I scrolled down to see the cake and then I laughed out loud because it looked so much like a shark. Don't go in the water!!

Seriously, the final versions look spectacular. I miss Control and Marcue already.

ferskner said...

Hehehehe I can see the shark. But the texture of the unfrosted cake looked much more like wood than the frosted version. It was kind of trippy making it.

DeskSet said...

Ahhh! It was so fun to watch Ferskner make the buche de noel, but that strawbrie cake was heavenly. How did she know that was my favorite kind of cake? How?! That's the sign of a good roommate! I want some right now!

Thanks for making it, Ferskner.