Can anything be more flattering, than being asked to bake? Well, it is if you are as willingly kitchen bound and obsessed as I am. The luggage cake I made for the Hunters was recommendation enough for a request to bake for the PTA lunch at one of the American schools in Doha and I didn’t need to be asked twice.
It was to be a thankyou cake, a simple, home baked style, rectangular cake and I had full reign on the flavours. There is something heady about hauling out my biggest cake tin for the job, which measures a solid 15 x 11 inches. And for this, chocolate. It had to be chocolate. I used Cucina’s Extremely Naughty Fudge Cake recipe, doubled it up for each of the two layers and doubled up the buttercream to sandwich these cocoa brown coloured slabs with.
Cake layers baked, sandwiched with chocolate buttercream, levelled and crumb coated. The naked cake needed a fine topping. I am not a fan of the shell piped edges and the flower cornered buttercreamed roses, piped lettering, eighties look. I wanted something more modern and hopefully alluring, and bearing my dodgy piping skills (it’s all in the wrist apparently, haven’t quite mastered that yet!) it had to be fairly simple, yet effective.
There is another layer to the dilemma.
The forty degree plus heat in Doha is not kind to decorated cakes. The humidity and temperature makes sugar paste go tacky and shiny. Buttercream frosting starts losing it’s shape, the lines and edges of your hitherto, perfectly piped frosting disappears into an oily mound in front of your eyes. Also, I wanted a frosting that was either white or ivory or cream on the outside, so as to contrast with the dark chocolate brown colours. An innocent exterior hiding an unexpectedly, decadent heart.
Swiss Meringue Buttercreams have long been on my to-do list and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to try them out. Plus, there was the added merit of it being an egg white base, which would be more stable while being transported to the venue, in the back of a car trying to impersonate an oven. Sweetapolita had a step-by-step, detailed, thorough post on Swiss Meringue Buttercream and I gave that one a go. I used carton egg whites, simply because fresh egg whites would have made the cost of this cake astronomical. Each stage too, took at least double the time she states on her post. There was no harm done however, because it all came together beautifully at the end (even after the totally panic inducing, curling-scrambled-egg stage). The motto when doing an SMB is to keep whisking on low speed. Just keep whisking.
Also note, that there will be at the very least, an ivory, cream tone if you use butter. A perfectly white frosting can only be achieved by using shortening. That goes sorely against the grain for me, so I stick with butter. Another feather to it’s cap, is that SMB can be made well in advance, only needing another beating before use. If your home/kitchen is cool enough, it can remain on your kitchen counter, covered, just fine overnight. I left my piped cake in the fridge as I wanted the butter to set as firm as it could thereby ensuring it would reach perfect room temperature by the time it was laid on the dessert table.
And this is an utter joy to pipe, I have never seen the like. The taste is of a fuller, richer, whipped double cream, smooth, silky and melting. Imagine the smoothness of an ice cream, without the teeth chill factor. I particularly like the fact, that there is no graininess that can sometimes be the case with buttercream. Really, once you have tasted and piped and worked with SMB you will find it very hard to go back to regular buttercream, it is that sensational.
For the final stage, I covered the cake lightly at the top, and thicker at the sides with my Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream and smoothed it. Then, after a few practice runs, I started piping roses on top of the cake. The joy of buttercream is that you can scrape the work of and start again, and that did happen a few times. I just went round swirling and filling, scraping and piping. I think utter perfection is not absolutely required here, as the eye reads it as a whole, and I am desperately glad of it. Although I had smoothed out my sides, I didn’t like the plain look of it and wanted some texture, so I just ran my wee offset palette knife along the length of the cake and I felt that it worked well with the curves of the roses. You are free to feel otherwise! A simple paper banner, attached to bamboo skewers, placed in the middle of the cake, was the last touch, along with a measured sprinkling of edible sparkle dust. For more ideas on rose piped cakes in every sort of guise imaginable, visit I am Baker. Make sure you have a few hours to spare!
All in all, I was pleased with it, and more importantly, so was my client. Even my brawny, man-man Scotsman, said it was a pretty cake. I would have loved to have had a shot of the cut cake …see the clean slice through the roses, and the deep, dark chocolate loveliness within. I felt too embarrassed to ask the client to take a picture, she was organising enough on the day, but am kicking myself for it now! I have learnt new things with this cake – a fabulous buttercream, cultivation of patience and the need to just go ahead, feel stupid and ask for photos. Not too bad. Not bad at all.