Chocolate Hazelnut Buttercream

Frosting, sauces and garnishes

Yield: about 2 ½ cups buttercream
Recipe: 119/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 170

    For New Year’s Eve I offered to bring a dessert for our hosts since they were taking care of everything else. I wanted to make a beautiful-looking cake that would be tasty as well, and this is the chocolate hazelnut* buttercream required for the recipe. This is a more involved buttercream that requires more steps than simply whipping eggs with sugar and butter, but I enjoyed making it and the flavour was delicious. I did find however that it was too salty*, so I would recommend using ¼ teaspoon of salt instead. This may have something to do with the fact that I used whisky instead of the sweeter Frangelico liqueur or brandy though, so if using those you may want to start with ¼ teaspoon, taste it and add more salt if necessary.

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz (90 g) semisweet chocolate
  • 2 oz (60 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 5 egg yolks
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons Frangelico or brandy *
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt *

Directions:

  1. In a glass or metal bowl, melt together the semisweet and bittersweet chocolate over a pot of barely simmering water, stirring until melted. Set aside. Note: If using a substitute for bittersweet chocolate, add the sugar and/or cocoa powder in this bowl.
  2. Using a hand or stand mixer ideally, mix the egg yolks with ¼ cup of sugar until they are pale and have doubled in volume, about 3 minutes.
  3. In a small saucepot, bring the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, water and lemon juice to a boil over high heat, and cook uncovered, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pot with water, until it reaches a temperature of 238°F (114°C).
  4. While beating at slow speed, carefully pour the hot sugar down the side of the bowl with the yolks. Once all of the sugar has been added, increase the speed to high and beat until cool, about 6 minutes.
  5. Beat in the melted chocolate, then beat in the butter a few pieces at a time.
  6. Beat in the Frangelico or brandy *, the vanilla and the salt.
  7. Use the buttercream at room temperature. It can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated. If doing so, just pull it out of the refrigerator to warm it up to room temperature and beat until it is smooth and spreadable.

* Notes:

  • I did not have bittersweet chocolate so used instead unsweetened chocolate. Semisweet chocolate could also be used as a substitute, provided that you add the appropriate amount of sugar and/or cocoa powder to compensate.
  • Frangelico is a hazelnut liqueur. Since I possessed neither Frangelico nor brandy, I used whisky instead. I do think it enhanced the flavor of the buttercream without being too much, but just keep in mind that if you do not use Frangelico it is no longer a chocolate hazelnut buttercream, but just a brandy- or whisky-flavored chocolate buttercream. Still tasty, but not quite the same I imagine.
  • I used the suggested ½ teaspoon of salt but the buttercream was too salty. Not so salty as to make it inedible, but almost. I would decrease this amount to ¼ teaspoon. I do however wonder if the choice of alcohol would affect the saltiness of the buttercream. Please keep this in mind when adding the salt at the very last step of making the buttercream.

Valerie

Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Curd and Buttercream Frosting

Cakes and Cupcakes

Yield: one 8-inch, three-layer round cake
Recipe: 46/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 146

DSC_4052

DSC_4033

    As one might remember, my last attempt at making a triple-layer lemon cake with lemon curd and swiss lemon buttercream was not very successful. Actually, pretty much everything went wrong when I did those recipes. However, I had vowed to redo the recipe to prove to myself that I could do it. Fortunately, there was a recipe in the book for the same cake but for a smaller version (the other one was made to me a wedding cake!). As such, I did this smaller cake which has the same components and the same ingredients. I was very pleased with how this one turned out. I learned from my mistakes for the lemon curd and buttercream and everything went as flawlessly as possible. I was very happy with the end result, I must admit. As with the first lemon cake, this one was excellent. Very lemony, moist and rich, but at the same time not overwhelmingly rich. This is a classic dessert for sure. If you are ever in need of a scrumptious lemon cake, definitely try this recipe!! 

Ingredients for lemon cake:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1  1/2 cups sugar
  • 1  tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons cake and pastry flour *
  • 1  tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1   1/4 cups buttermilk,  at room temperature
  • 4 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1  teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for assembly:

Directions:

  1. Prepare the lemon curd before baking the cake.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Sprinkle the sides of the pans with sugar and tap out any excess.
  3. With a stand or hand mixer, beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg whites and vanilla extract.
  5. In a third bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  6. Alternatively add the flour and buttermilk mixtures to the butter mixture in small additions, starting with the flour and mixing well after each addition.
  7. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and spread with a spatula to level. Bake the cakes for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cakes for 20 minutes in the pan and then turn them out of the pan to cool down completely.
  8. While the cakes are cooling down, prepare the lemon buttercream.
  9. For assembly of the cake, first peel off the parchment paper from the bottom of the cakes. Spoon a cup of buttercream into a pipping bag fitted with a plain round tip.
  10. Pipe a ring of buttercream on the top outside edge of one of the cakes.
  11. Spoon a 1/2 cup of the lemon curd into the centre of the cake and spread it evenly. Place the second 8-inch cake layer on top of the curd and buttercream.
  12. Repeat steps 10 and 11. Top with the third cake layer.
  13. Spread the top and outsides of the cake with the swiss buttercream, using an angled spatula to make it as level and smooth as possible. Add decorations as you wish. Chill the cake for at least 2 hours to set the buttercream.

DSC_4038DSC_4065

Valerie

Lemon Buttercream (Version 2)

Frosting, sauces and garnishes

Yield: about 3 cups
Recipe: 44/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 147

     Lemon swiss buttercream. Oh, the difficulties I had when making this recipe the first time for the larger batch. Succinctly, it was my first time making buttercream with egg whites and the result was a very runny and lumpy mixture. Not pleasant. Fortunately, with helpful comments and suggestions from Anna and other readers, I tried this recipe again, which is simply a smaller batch. I don’t know if it is the new stand mixer, increased patience on my part or the fact that I had your tips in mind, but the result was a heavenly, fluffy, spreadable and lemony swiss buttercream. Pure delight. I am quite pleased that I was able to learn from my mistakes and get it right this time! The amount of buttercream made from this recipe is just perfect to cover the cake and add a decorative touch. 

Ingredients:

  • 1  cup sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1  1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. In a large metal bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg whites until well combined.
  2. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk by hand until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is hot, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Using a stand or hand mixer, whip the mixture until it has cooled to room temperature, about 6 minutes. Note that the egg whites will have more than doubled in size.
  4. While beating, add the butter a little at a time, and mix until homogenous.
  5. Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract and beat until the buttercream is smooth and fluffy. The frosting is best used at room temperature, but can be stored in the fridge.

Notes from Anna:

  • If you want to make the frosting in advance, you can chill to store, but bring it to room temperature and beat it to make it spreadable when needed.

Valerie

Springtime Lemon Wedding Cake With Fondant

Cakes and Cupcakes

Yield: a 6- and 9-inch 2-tier round cake
Recipe: 37/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 178

Lemon cake

   As mentioned in my two previous posts, I made a triple-layer lemon cake for my mom this mother’s day. I say triple-layer not because of the physical cake layers, but rather because the cake is composed of three different lemon elements: the lemon curd, the lemon buttercream and the lemon cake. This multi-step cake has been quite an adventure. Briefly, my lemon curd was a success but took longer than expected to make. The actual cake was simple enough to make, but I could not find a 6-inch cake pan anywhere, so sadly in the end I had to cut down a tier and only had a 9-inch round cake – ironically, I found such a pan the day after I baked the cake. The lemon buttercream, on the other hand, was a disaster. In retrospect, it is probably best to not finish baking a cake at 2 am. My brain was tired and I was not thinking as clearly as I should have.

    To follow up on the episode of the buttercream covering not only my cake, but also my table and my chair, I had placed the cake in the fridge to chill and hoped for the best. The best eventually happened. The next day, the buttercream had set reasonably well. I simply removed all the excess buttercream around the cake and the plate and transferred the cake to a new and clean serving plater. I did not buy fondant because I prefer the taste of homemade marshmallow fondant. I always make homemade marshmallow fondant, and always successfully might I add. However, in line with the other events surrounding this cake-making  process, my fondant was quite unappetizing to look at. As I covered the cake with it, I soon realized that the fondant was cracked in many places. No matter, at this stage there was no going back. I left it on and decorated the cake later. Fortunately, with the added white fondant flowers and a bit of patching up, the cake didn’t look so bad. It was definitely my least pretty cake, but I was still very happy that I managed to make something out of all that mess. I was almost embarrassed to bring it out after supper for my mother and grandmother because I had told my dad that, if I was able to repeat the recipes correctly, it would be a gorgeous-looking cake. Nonetheless, they thought it was very pretty and they definitely thought it was delicious. I have never heard so many “Mmmmm, that’s good” repeatedly for any other dessert I have made. That was a good feeling. Even I, not an avid lemon dessert eater, found the cake moist and scrumptious. I am all in all happy with the dessert, but would like to repeat at least the buttercream, if not the whole cake, to feel happy with myself and know that I can do it.

  Reading this, you are maybe thinking that I am too hard on myself and that it couldn’t have been so bad. Well, I am a perfectionist, what can I say? Aren’t many bakers? I highly suggest that you try to make this cake, but as suggested by Anna herself in the cookbook, read, re-read and read once more each of the recipes used for this cake to make sure that you have everything on hand and that you organize your time more efficiently than I. Good luck and, most importantly, have fun!

DSC_3301

Ingredients for lemon cake:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2  1/4 cups sugar
  • 1  1/2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 cups + 3 tablespoons cake and pastry flour *
  • 1  1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk,  at room temperature
  • 6 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Ingredients for assembly:

  • 1 recipe Lemon Curd
  • 1 recipe Lemon Buttercream
  • 9-inch round cardboard cake board
  • 6-inch round cardboard cake board
  • 2 lb. (1 kg) white fondant
  • Yellow gel food coloring
  • Icing sugar, for rolling the fondant
  • Rolling pin
  • Small fondant cutter in a flower shape
  • Fondant smoother (optional)
  • Measuring tape (optional)

Directions:

  1. Prepare the lemon curd before baking the cake.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease three 9-inch and three 6-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Sprinkle the sides of the pans with sugar and tap out any excess.
  3. With a stand or hand mixer, beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg whites and vanilla extract.
  5. In a third bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  6. Alternatively add the flour and buttermilk mixtures to the butter mixture in small additions, starting with the flour and mixing well after each addition.
  7. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and spread with a spatula to level. Bake the 6-inch cakes for about 20 minutes and the 9-inch cakes for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cakes for 20 minutes in the pan and then turn them out of the pan to cool down completely.
  8. While the cakes are cooling down, prepare the lemon buttercream.
  9. For assembly of the cake, first peel off the parchment paper from the bottom of the cakes. Place a 9-inch cake layer onto a 9-inch cardboard cake board. Spoon a cup of buttercream into a pipping bag fitted with a plain round tip.
  10. Pipe a ring of buttercream on the top outside edge of the cake.
  11. Spoon a 1/2 cup of the lemon curd into the centre of the cake and spread it evenly. Place the second 9-inch cake layer on top of the curd and buttercream.
  12. Repeat steps 10 and 11. Top with the third cake layer.
  13. Spread the top and outsides of the cake with the buttercream, using an angled spatula to make it as level and smooth as possible. Chill the cake for at least 2 hours to set the buttercream.
  14. Repeat steps 9-13 for the 6-inch cake.
  15. Once the buttercream has set, it is time to cover them with fondant. Add a good amount of yellow food coloring to the prepared or homemade fondant and knead it until the fondant is a homogenous color. On a flat surface sprinkled with icing sugar, use a rolling pin to roll out the fondant into a circle of about 15 inches in diameter. Using the rolling pin, transfer the fondant on top of the 9-inch cake. Use your hands or a fondant smoother to smooth out the fondant on the cake and remove any air bubbles. Cut off the excess fondant at the bottom of the cake and tuck the fondant under the cake using a knife for a smooth finish.
  16. Repeat step 15 for the 6-inch cake by rolling the fondant to about 11 inches in diameter.
  17. Place the 6-inch cake on top of the 9-inch cake, making sure that it is centred.
  18. With another batch of white fondant, roll out the fondant until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Using the flower-shaped fondant cutter, make several small flowers and leave them on a plate to dry for 15 minutes. Place them on and around the cake as desired using the remaining lemon buttercream.

DSC_3296

Notes from Anna:

  • It is best to cover the cake with fondant and to decorate the cake the day it will be presented.
  • A fondant-covered cake is best is it can sit out at room temperature.

Valerie

Lemon Buttercream

Frosting, sauces and garnishes

Yield: about 6 cups
Recipe: 36/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 181

     I really enjoy buttercream. Used to frost cakes, cupcakes or even to separate and fill the layers in a cake, it is both sweet and rich. Nonetheless, I have only ever made vanilla or chocolate buttercream, with slight variations at times. Lemon buttercream was a first for me. More than that, it was the first time I made buttercream with egg whites as opposed to butter and icing sugar. I was so unsure about the ingredients that I double-, no triple-, checked the ingredients and instructions to make sure that it was indeed a recipe for buttercream composed of plain white sugar and egg whites. Suffice it to say I had my doubts. However, this recipe was in Anna’s cookbook, book that never fails me, so of course I knew it must be delicious and doable.

     I don’t know what happened or at what step I could have made a mistake, but even though I followed the instructions to the letter (in my opinion), it was a total disaster. In all my baking experience and baking mistakes, never had a recipe been so disastrous for me. The buttercream was as liquid as a potage. After whisking for a long time and not seeing a difference in consistency, I added, in desperation and in a last-ditch attempt to thicken the buttercream, what seems to be about 4 cups of icing sugar. Probably not the best move. The consistency did not change but the buttercream was now much sweeter. Being tired and having no other option, I decided to try anyways to pour the buttercream on the cake. As I should have expected, the buttercream covered the whole cake, then went on to cover the plate it was sitting on, the table, and part of a chair. It just would not stop. I put the buttercream-covered cake in the fridge to chill and hoped (almost prayed) that it would solidify. Such a ridiculous attempt at making buttercream with sugar and egg whites has left me no less then flabbergasted and a bit embarrassed, I must add,  as I am sure than many a baker has successfully made egg-white-based buttercream. I will no doubt repeat this recipe to try to understand what I could have done wrong. Mostly, I just need to prove to myself that I can actually do it.

Ingredients:

  • 1  1/2 cups sugar
  • 6 egg whites
  • 2  1/4 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. In a large metal bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg whites until well combined.
  2. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk by hand until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is hot, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Using a stand or hand mixer, whip the mixture until it has cooled to room temperature, about 6 minutes. Note that the egg whites will have more than doubled in size.
  4. While beating, add the butter a little at a time, and mix until homogenous.
  5. Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract and beat until the buttercream is smooth and fluffy. The frosting is best used at room temperature, but can be stored in the fridge.

Valerie