February 4, 2012

First Post: Chocolate Raspberry Birthday Cake

My first blog post!  I realized a while ago that I'd become something of a baking nerd.  I also quickly realized that not many people want to hear me relate to them my research on various types of buttercream.  So, I'm starting this blog.  Hopefully, if you read it you are also a bit of a baking nerd and find my baking research and adventures at least somewhat interesting.  I am by no means an experienced baker, so all of these projects are learning experiences.  Some of which succeed (at least mostly) and some of which...don't.  I consider this birthday cake that I made for my mother's birthday mostly a success!  Woot!

My mom requested a chocolate cake (everyone always does).  She later added that raspberries might be nice as well.  I had previously made some cupcakes decorated with chocolate plastic roses that my mom seemed to like, so I decided to make some more of those for her.

Chocolate plastic may sound less than appetizing, and it's certainly not something I would eat large quantities of.  However, it is in fact edible (as I had to reassure my mother after she found out the name included "plastic") and I've been told it tastes better than fondant (I've made a mental note to confirm this via taste test).  Also, the roses made of chocolate plastic were not as difficult as they look.  I followed the instructions at Baking Obsession, and while mine don't look nearly as good as the ones in the tutorial, they do look like roses (albeit small, slightly uneven ones).

For the cake itself, I mostly followed Sweetapolita's Six-Layer Dark Chocolate & Strawberry Buttercream Cake recipe (substituting raspberries for strawberries of course).  Since I only had two 6-inch baking pans (a situation that has since been remedied) I did four layers instead of six.

I also have found the ratio of eggs and sugar to butter in Sweetapolita's Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe to be too buttery for my taste.  In fact, I originally dismissed Swiss Meringue Buttercream for this reason.  I'm sure it didn't help that the first time I made it, I dyed the frosting yellow, which probably increased my perception of the butter.  (Side note: apparently color is extremely important for flavor.  People will often have trouble identifying a flavor if it is colored incorrectly.  So, all those artificial colors that people complain about so much actually do serve a purpose I guess.)  I eventually gave SMB another try, this time with less butter, and found it to be delicious this time.  Here's the recipe I use:

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

4 egg whites
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup (two sticks) butter
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
whatever other flavoring you want

Cube the butter and leave out at room temperature (make sure you don't leave it over the dishwasher or oven or it will get too warm).
Whisk the eggs whites and sugar together in the top part of a double broiler.  Make sure that the water in the bottom part is simmering, not boiling.  Keep whisking until a candy thermometer reads 160 degrees (Fahrenheit).  Transfer to a stand mixer with the whisk attachment installed.  Whip at a medium speed until the mixture is at room temperature (the bowl feels neutral when you touch it).
Lower the mixing speed and add the butter, one cube at a time.  Keep mixing until there is an obvious change in the consistency of the buttercream - from soupy to much more solid (you can usually hear the mixer start making different noises).  If it stays soupy for a very long time, throw the bowl in the refrigerator for ten minutes or so and retry.
Finally, add your vanilla and salt and keep mixing until they are incorporated.  If you are planning on storing your buttercream in the refrigerator, do that now.  Don't add other flavoring until you're ready to frost.

Finally, I decided to do two layers of raspberry filling instead of using buttercream in all three.  I used Cake Boss's Seedless Raspberry Filling recipe and it turned out very yummy.

To assemble the cake, I first cut off the domed top on each cake.  Then I torted each.  This was my first attempt at torting a cake, and I found it a bit difficult to cut exactly in the middle of each cake.  I'll have to see if there's a better way to do that.

I've had problems in the past with my more liquid-y fillings/curds squooshing out, so I decided to try something new.  For each raspberry filling layer, I first piped some buttercream around the edge of the cake to act as a barrier.  This worked!  No squooshing this time.

I frosted the cake with buttercream, and then covered it with the chocolate sauce from Sweetapolita's recipe.  I've used this sauce before, and had trouble with drips pooling at the bottom of the cake rather than stopping partway down (which I think looks nicer).  To try and fix this, I chilled the frosted cake for twenty minutes or so before trying the chocolate sauce.  This sort of worked.  Most of the drips stopped partway down the cake, but I also had a hard time getting a smooth top since the chocolate cooled too quickly for it to spread evenly on the top.  I'll have to keep trying this.

Finally, I added my chocolate plastic roses and some candles.  Happy birthday, mom!


  1. I think you did a really beautiful job on this cake. It just looks wonderful, and extremely tempting! I have no doubt at all that there are many, many people out here who will love to read about your buttercream "research" and all that sort of thing. I know I will! Welcome to the blogosphere of bakers! :)


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