Friday was Tom's birthday. The original plan was to take the whole weekend off, pack up the car and drive down the Florida coast, looking for one of those adorable places that have a beach cottage right on the beach and stay there soaking up the rays, enjoying the water (before the oil gets here), eating lots of seafood and basically be lazy - The birthday boy told me he rather plan a simple BBQ at the house with friends and family.
So much for my power of persuasion.
When we started to plan the menu for the BBQ, I asked him what he wanted for his birthday cake. He jumped up and shouted "your coconut cake! Oh, wait, no how about the Zuppa Inglesa?... no, no, wait... maybe the Tres Leche cake."
The boy, was CONFUSE. Time to save him me some time, because when Marie posted the cake for the month of June and the Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake fell on the Saturday of the BBQ, I did not waste time in telling him that THIS WAS HIS BIRTHDAY CAKE for him and his 20+ guest, period.
He knew by this time I was drowning in the details of this "simple" party, so he totally agreed and we went with it.
To better grasp the craziness of this past weekend, a bit of background story on me.
I'm super organized (a bit on the compulsive side - as Tom would tell you, in a totally "Monica Geller of Friends" adorable way) We love giving parties, and having friends over. I tend to get a bit over organized during the planning stages, mainly because I want to end up enjoying my time with the guest and not be running around the kitchen trying to finish dishes and totally miss the party altogether. So, I write list and plan out the whole thing, from the menu, to the food shopping list, the activities, what I need to do in which day. I tend to choose recipes that I can cook well in advance and then take 5-10 minutes to finish on the day of the party. I plan a step by step on the day of the party, making sure that each is done in the right time frame and cooked in the oven at the right time, sometimes I go as far as posting an "Oven schedule" - I know, I know, I bit over the top - But, this gives me time to relax, have everything in order and be ready when the first guest arrives. Trust me, this over organization mode has served me well.
But, sometimes all that planning does not account for the universe to play dirty.
And that universe decided that it was "ON"... and I was the intended target.
I started the cake on Friday afternoon and my first indication that it was going to be a bumpy ride throughout this recipe, happen when I was prepping the baking pans. I coated the pans, fit my parchment and then as I was pulling my cake strip to circle the pans, I realized that I only have ONE CIRCLE STRIP. Not two (as a normal baking person should have) but ONE! There was a bit of swearing around the kitchen. I had to call Tom, who was in a supermarket run to tell him he had to stop and get more cake strip. Try explaining a cake strip to a non-baker. Its not easy. My boyfriend assure me that he would find them and bring them in.
Then, one hour passed and no Tom and no cake strips. I started to get antsy. My ingredients were all out and well pass the room temperature stage, my oven was well over the pre-heated mark, it was hot and ready and I needed to get this going, since I did not want to be baking until late at night. It was time for plan "B".
Enter's Google and the following search request "Homemade cake strip". And because the Internet is THE BEST THING EVER! I found a tip here
So, once that was done, I started the cake batter, which was pretty simple. White chocolate is melted. Room temperature eggs whites (which I had frozen from previous recipes) were mixed in with some of the milk and the vanilla. Then the dry ingredients of flour, sugar and five and half teaspoons of baking powder (which gave me a quick "uh? that much?" moment) and salt were taken to a spin in the KA for the required 30 second spin. Incorporate the butter and some of the left over milk, mix it up and then add the egg white mixture in 3 parts, finishing it off with the creamy melted white chocolate.
You will end up with a silky, creamy texture batter. One that you cannot stop licking from the spatula (which, I TOTALLY DID NOT DO THAT).
And then I realized that I needed to have the 2 cupcake step prepare and totally missed before hand. After the cake strip fiasco, I decided to sacrifice a bit of the batter and get it in the oven. I used the weight scale to get the batter evenly divided between my two pans and into the oven they went. Set my timer to 40 minutes and decided that the buttercream could wait a day.
At the 30 minute mark, I checked the cakes and when I moved them, the batter was still pretty raw, since they were still watery in the middle. WHAT? There was no way the cake was going to finish cooking in the next 10 minutes. But, I quickly closed the oven door and started to pace in front of it. Waiting, and waiting. When the timer when off, the cakes were no longer watering, but when I tested them, the cake tester was wet with batter. I decided to give them another 5 minutes. Checked them again and by this time they were pulling from the side of the pan - a no no. So I took them out to cool for the required 10 minutes. When I went to flip them out of the cake pans, I notice that one of them had sunk in the middle, not by much but it had.
And because I was going for a record, (and the universe was laughing it's head off at this point) the un-molding fiasco took place.
The pan with the homemade cake strip came out beautifully, the sides were cooked, the top nice and brown, the cake felt heavy and able to support itself.. The one with store bought cake strip came out easily off the pan, but as soon as I covered it with ther wire rack to re-invert, it cracked! And not a small crack, but a total melt down crack... the cake was decomposing before my very eyes.
Lots and lots of swearing at this point.
I was devastated. There was not going to be enough buttercream in the world to fix this cake meldown. So, I had to think about my options. Only do one layer cake? Quit totally and serve ice cream? But, the more I thought about it, I just wanted the pretty design of having 3 strips of buttercream as the picture showed in the book - and damn if this was going to take me down. No way, no how!
Out of the freezer came out the egg whites and the rest of the ingredients. Time for round two.
This time I decided to use my 9 by 3 inch cake pan. I repeated the whole batter step again, into the oven it went. Another 40 minutes and by 9:30pm my second cake was out. This time it look much better than my first. I let it cooled and 10 minutes later I saw that the middle of the cake had sunken AGAIN!
Full blown swearing and resignation on my part. I went as far as to tell Tom, that I was going to serve the trifle as his birthday cake instead - this cake was a bust. I wrapped it and put in the refrigerator and went to bed.
Saturday, I woke up with more determination than ever that THIS CAKE WAS NOT GOING TO BEAT ME!
I decided to throw out the cake that fell apart on me and use the 3 inch and one of the 2 inch to built the cake. I said a bit of prayer and set to tackled the Strawberry Mousseline. And my clear head must of worked because the Mousseline, came together like a dream. I did not have the strawberry butter that Rose's recomend to use, but I did take her tip and used strawberry preserved and mixed in a bit of lemon juice and when I folded that into the Mousseline and tasted it, it became clear to me why Rose's book are so popular. Something as simple as butter and meringue could become extraordinary with a simple addition of strawberries. Side note: Rose had a video in how to make this and I recommend you see it, in order to have a good idea how this is going to react in the different stages of making it.
I started to assemble the cake and everything went pretty smooth. It helped A LOT to leave the cakes in the refrigerator overnight, since they were easier to cut and assemble - Since this cake has a HIGH CRUMBLE ration, I don't recomend leaving it out at room temperature, or this step can become a nightmare. Once it was assembled, the book recomends to cover it and put it aside while making the frosting. I placed it back in the refrigerator.
The Chocolate Dark Frosting was pretty easy. Melt butter, with a mixture of 99% cacao and 60% cacao dark chocolate, then add light corn syrup, vanilla extract and start pouring. And here is where it got frustrating... the book calls for you to pour some of the hot mixture on top and let it fall to the sides... then as it frosting gets hard, it will be easier to frost the side of the cake in swirls. Well let me tell you my frosting took a LONG time to get to the consistency of a frosting that you could swirl around. It keep pooling at the bottom of the cake and I had to use the spatula to bring it back up for it to come down again. This went on and on, the frosting got sticky, and temperamental until I said to myself enough! Did it look pretty? Not by a long shot, was it good?
Verdicts - From about 15 people that had a piece after we topped it with a forty-one candle and Tom made its wish.
Tom: "Oh my god! This is delicious, this has left everyone else in the dust and crawl its way to the top - after the baby lemon cheesecake, of course".
From various guest: "This is so good", "Its so creamy, and the buttercream with the strawberries is velvety", "Can I have another piece?", "I'm going to lick the plate... is that allowed?", "Is this going on the blog, because I want the recipe stat!". "Yeah, you have the right idea, let me have another piece". "You are going to give us some to take home with us right?".
I really like it too. The strawberries buttercream was crazy good. The texture of the cake was very crumbly and soft (I put it on the "handle with care" list) the flavor was a cross of sponge cake with a hint of sweetness brought on by the white chocolate. As always, it was not overly sweet, and the chocolate frosting with the combined unsweet/semi-sweet chocolate struck the perfect balance with everything else, making it a perfect combination of flavors.
Out of all the cakes that I have baked so far, I got to say this one does deserve to be on the top of the list. While it gave me a run for my money, and there was a lot of swearing and ultimatums, all it matter at the end was the birthday boy seal of approval. And we had that in spades!