My love of summer is tempered by restrictions on oven usage. It seems cruel – everywhere you look there is fresh fruit just begging to be paired with cake and biscuits or baked into tarts, muffins and clafoutis. So when the heat wave broke and it rained yesterday, I promptly baked two cakes – one chocolate and one vanilla. Quick, easy and pairable with everything. (Side rant: People over-estimate the time it takes to make a cake. In fact, it usually takes me less time than cookies depending on the icing I decide to use.) This is a misleading introduction though, because, in the end, I didn’t add any fruit to the resulting cake. If summer can tease, so can I.
Chocolate Cake – I used the oil/buttermilk/coffee standard with some eggs thrown in. I’m sure this recipe will appear sometime on the blog, but there are many acceptable variations on the internet already.
Vanilla Cake – Not entirely pleased with it.
Chocolate Swiss Buttercream (adapted from Martha Stewart)
This is the perfect icing for celebration cakes – light, not too sweet, a dream to spread and pipe as long as it doesn’t get too hot. You can leave out the chocolate if you want to make a plain buttercream.
Makes about 5 cups – enough for 2 9-inch layers, even if they’re split in half. You could easily do 3 if they aren’t split.175 mL egg whites 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar Pinch of salt 1 pound of butter – softened 2 teaspoons+ vanilla 4 1/2 oz. chocolate (roughly), melted and cooled – Use something higher quality than chocolate chips please. 1. Whisk egg whites and sugar in metal bowl or bowl of a stand mixer over a double boiler until you can’t feel any sugar when you rub the mixture with your fingers. It will be warm but not boiling hot. 2. Remove from heat and beat on medium to medium-high until stiff peaked and cool to the touch. 3. Add in butter, a few tablespoons at a time, while beating on medium-high. 4. Stir in vanilla and chocolate. 5. Continue beating at medium-high, scraping the sides occasionally, until the icing is glossy and smooth. It’s difficult to overbeat this icing after adding the butter, so don’t worry, just beat it until you’re happy with it. If it doesn’t want to firm up, put it in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes, then continue beating. In short, beat this icing excessive amounts and reap the rewards.
TIP: For quick and easy piping, use a ziplock bag (or something similar) with the tip cut off. Make your cut way closer to the end than you think – in piping, smaller is almost always better (people who have been to my cookie parties will attest wholeheartedly to this I’m sure).
Things to avoid panicking about:
1. It may take longer than you think for the eggs to hit stiff peaks – keep beating at medium-high. This stage you can overbeat though so when they’re really thick but the bowl isn’t cool, beat at low speed or let them sit on the counter. Then start adding the butter, rather than beating your egg whites dry.
2. If the icing curdles while adding the butter simply keep beating, it will come together, I promise.
3. If it looks like the butter is melting or the icing is really soft, pop it in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes, then continue beating.
4. If you chill or freeze the icing (you can make this icing ahead or save the left-overs fairly easily), let it warm up on the counter and then be prepared to whip it back to proper consistency. It will likely break again, but just keep beating.
Things to panic about:
1. If you cooked the egg whites because you failed to whisk frequently or check them, start again.
2. If you utterly melt the butter into the icing because you were impatient while beating the egg whites and didn’t let them cool properly, stop adding more butter and put the mixture in the fridge for a few minutes.
3. Attempting this icing without electric beaters or a stand mixture is a ridiculous idea, you should give that one up now.