Monday, August 2, 2010

The Experiment Continues

Does anyone out there seriously think that this blog is all about Sjogren's syndrome?

You do? Silly person.

Nah. Actually it''s about me being me. Who is also a silly person, by the way.

This silly person is looking forward to a project this week. A major project. I've offered to make another wedding cake. You may recall that last December, I concocted a blue and white snowflake wedding cake.

Contrary to rumors circulating around northern Washington state, no, there were no attempted homicides involved in the fact that SOMEONE stuck their thumb into the previously flawless blue fondant frosting. Just an hour before the wedding. I don't expect any similar incidents in my upcoming wedding cake adventure. At least, there had better not be any similar incidents.

You know who you are. I'll be watching you.

So. This couple requested a marble cake, filled with a chocolate hazelnut ganache and iced with a buttercream frosting. I've probably gained ten pounds specifically related to the research and development phase of this particular project.

Tonight, Greg and Terese joined John and I for some further frosting and filling refinements. What good friends, eh? Friends who are willing to risk expanding their waistlines for the greater good....they're a seriously dedicated couple in this endeavor. I appreciate their selfless participation, I really do.

Here's today's effort. Disregard the crumbs in the frosting, please. And, um, the air bubbles in the icing. And the uneven edges. Remember, people: this is a work in progress.

I had previously tested a cake recipe which made the grade - it was a scrumptious from-scratch sour cream white cake, perfectly moist and substantial. It's also easily adaptable to make the chocolate batter which will transfer a white cake into a marble cake.

I had also previously made a test batch of a standard decorator buttercream frosting, with which I wasn't happy. It was far too sweet, used a white vegetable shortening, and had a grainy texture. Bleah. So in the quest for a better icing, I spent some time reading information by various wedding cake masters, and discovered a type of icing which is apparently the gold standard for wedding cakes - the Swiss meringue buttercream.

Who knew? Certainly not me. But it's been fun educating myself in it's finer points.

Man. This stuff is wickedly good. And here's why: this silky smooth creamy icing is mostly butter. It's a fairly complicated process to turn out the perfect batch (now I know what a bain marie is. Gee. And I used to call it a pan of simmering water...), but seems worth every bit of effort. You can read one version of this recipe here, but there's oodles of them out there, each just a bit different in the ratios of sweet/salty/buttery ingredients.You can read more about the star qualities found in Swiss, American, and Italian buttercreams here.

Today's buttercream experiment yielded a glossy smooth batch of icing, but one that still requires a bit of tweaking. 

My recipe called for unsalted butter, but since all I had on hand was salted butter, it's what I used. And my panel of tasting experts agreed - using unsalted butter would improve the flavor. 

Duly noted. 

After pouring ourselves another cup of coffee, we moved on to the hazelnut chocolate ganache evaluation. Again, my expert tasters made an excellent suggestion - the ganache needed a boost in the hazelnut taste. Hm, I wondered. How could I do that...........then remembered that I had a bottle of Frangelico, a hazelnut flavored liqueur, somewhere in the back of our liquor cabinet. 

We experimented with drizzling the liqueur over our cake slices and agreed that it would definitely be a great addition. I plan to brush the Frangelico over the tops of the unfrosted cake surfaces before spreading on the ganache. I also plan to apply considerably less Frangelico per square inch than SOME PEOPLE on the taste panel used. It's a cake, people, not an adult beverage. Mercy. 

So the research and development at Julia's house will continue this week. I'll keep y'all posted. 


Laura said...

Fun and tasty! Are there actual hazelnut components in the ganache, and if so, are you toasting them in advance? *curious*

Julia Oleinik said...

Hi Laura,

I'm making a classic bittersweet ganache (heavy cream and chopped chocolate) and flavoring it with Frangelico. We experimented with toasted hazelnuts but my R and D committee vetoed them!