Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Birthday cake!

I haven't posted in a while- I haven't not been cooking, but I haven't cooked many new things worth sharing. Until Monday.

Yesterday we had a craft night at a friend's place, and since her birthday is next week, we decided to surprise her with a small birthday celebration. As you can imagine, I nominated myself to bake her a cake.

This is the Dolley Madison cake, from Cokie Roberts' book Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation and featured on marthastewart.com (and I believe also her tv show a few weeks ago). It's basically a white cake with caramel icing. When I think caramel, I think coffee (more so than chocolate and coffee, another combination I love). And when I think coffee, I think of this particular friend.

The cake itself is similar to your standard white cake. If you've never made a white cake, here are some tips:
get a stand mixer.
get a second bowl for your stand mixer.

To start, you beat 8 egg whites until they're stiff. Then, if you have all the supplies you need, you'd simply set that bowl aside, grab a clean one, and cream 1 cup of butter and 2.5cups of sugar together. What I have to do in these situations is transfer the egg whites to another bowl, wash the mixer bowl, dry the bowl, and then cream the butter and sugar. It's not really that big a deal, but the eggs kind of drooped before I got back to them. Now, I'm not an expert, so I can't tell you exactly why this happened (and therefore tell you how to avoid it), but I think it was either that they eggs sat for too long before I got back to them, or I didn't beat them quite long enough.

Anyway, cream the butter and sugar. Add in 1cup of milk slowly, while the mixer's going. Then sift 3 cups of flour with 3/4cup cornstarch (I have never used cornstarch in a cake!) and add it slowly to the butter/milk concoction. Finally, fold in the egg whites- be gentle. Then add 2.5 teaspoons of vanilla- which I forgot to do until I'd already filled two cake pans, oops.

Divide the batter evenly among 4 8inch round cake pans- or, in my case, try to get about 1/4 of the batter into each of two pans, bake those, then bake the rest once they're cool. Bake at 350oF for 30-35 minutes.

While they're cooling, make the caramel icing. YUM. I made myself a little sick on this, so watch out.

Set a medium saucepan of water to simmer. In a heat-proof bowl, combine 3 cups of brown sugar, 1 cup of light cream (I used 3/4 cup of whipping cream and 1/4 cup 1% milk) and 2 T of butter. Whisk (I used cold butter, it didn't really specify, and then just let it melt). Put this bowl over the simmering water, and cook for 20 minutes.

My changes to this: there were a lot of comments on the website that no one's caramel icing solidified very much, and remained a drippy mess even the next day. I simmered mine for about 40 minutes. It made a mess while putting it on the cake, but it solidified nicely, although the next day the leftover icing I put in tupperware was rather grainy. I'm terrible at caramel, though.

The recipe says the sugar/cream mixture will thicken; I'm not so sure. I mostly stopped after 40 minutes in my double-boiler because it was after midnight and I was tired. I let it cool about 20 minutes (not long enough, though- you want it room temp, and the saucepan the caramel was in was still too hot to place directly on my counter), and then start assembling.

To assemble: place a layer of the cake on the plate. You'll notice I have a blob of stuff there- I usually try to use some of the frosting as a glue, especially when the cake's going to go in the car. So, glue the bottom layer down. Put 4 strips of parchment just barely under the cake, around the perimeter of the plate, to catch all the drips. Then pour 1/2cup of icing over that, spread it around if it doesn't do it itself, add another layer, repeat. etc.

It's also a good idea, when making a cake, and especially when making a new kind of cake, to save some of the batter for a cupcake or two. then you can eat it without cutting into someone else's birthday cake.

In the next couple of months I'll post more birthday cakes. My birthday's in a little over a month, my mom's is in 3.5 weeks, and my boyfriend's is at the end of June. I'll most likely have a cake for each of those (although I may skip my own birthday cake, we're going to an out-of-state wedding the next day), so I'll try to pick some interesting ones worth sharing.

I had some other stuff to post, but I don't have the photos yet. One recipe will address the problem of all the yolks left over in this recipe- if you paid attention, you'll have noticed we used 8 whites, but the yolks are never mentioned. We'll get to that.

I also added a photo to the previous post, although there was only one- I thought I'd taken quite a few more than that.

1 comment:

Curly Sue said...

May I just add that this thing was absolutely tasty! A fine piece of yumminess--as always! Thanks so much for such a lovely b-day surprise!