Saturday, 14 June 2014

Strawberry Cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

It is the oddest thing, suddenly having no work to be doing, or avoid doing.  I have to admit, I am a most contrary person.  When I have work, there will be so many things I will be lamenting about not having time to do.  Things like playing the games I was given for Christmas or reading the books I have a tendency to buy whenever I got the chance to go shopping.  I can finally break out the sewing machine I got for my birthday (September) and make the skirts I want to do.  You should see the stack of things I have put on my coffee table now that it is not hidden beneath the printer and mountains of paperwork.  All these things I now have the free time to do.  And I have no motivation to do any of them.  I am terrible like that.  I am not great at starting things.  Once I start, I can get sucked in but starting is the real problem.  I am almost two weeks into my holiday and not much has been achieved thus far.

Well, okay, I lie.  I am not completely work free, since in 6 weeks time I am getting married!  And there is so much stuff to get done for that, a big part of which is plan and make the wedding cake!

So that's where this bake comes in.  It is all part of the planning!  Planning which involves finding a good strawberry cake recipe for one of the tiers since we are not going traditional and having fruit cake, but rather have opted to have three different flavours, one for each tier.  It shall be a Neapolitan cake!  So we shall have chocolate, vanilla and strawberry cake.  Now, finding good vanilla and chocolate cake recipes is not too hard.  But strawberry has proved tricky.  Hence why I decided to try out a new one as my first bake of the summer.  However, I also decided to try out something else with this cake and that was Swiss meringue buttercream!

This was a nice bake.  So much less stressful than the last one.  No spillages or temporarily breaking the oven this time!  I was really pleased with the way the cake pieces turned out.  I was terrified that they were going to be gummy like the last time I baked with strawberryBut no, they came out lovely and light.  Even though I realised that I completely forgot to add milk!  I only noticed when it came to this write-up.  Oops.  Oh well.  I was also pleased with how well they rose!  I'm glad I opted to reduce the recipe so I only made two layers.  Three would have created a monster cake!

And the buttercream!  It worked!  I was dreading it turning to soup.  I'm pretty sure it was Swiss meringue buttercream that I had tried to make way back when I attempted the disastrous Doboz Torte and that is what happened.  But I had read around the subject and the trick is to add the butter a little at a time.  Also, expect it to turn soupy at first but keep whisking and it will eventually firm up again.  Which it did.  It came out really well!  Though I must admit, I did an awful thing and used Stork, which is not real butter (though it's not margarine either since it's not legal to sell margarine in the UK.  QI says so!).  Of course, I always use Stork in my buttercream and have never had any complaints before.  There were none with this one either, though it was a little bland in my opinion.  So next time I'll try butter.  I jut honestly did not feel like going out in the rain to the shop to get some this time around.

Possibly the only thing I am slightly disappointed with is the look of the cake.  Namely, the frosting around the sides.  I have seen lots of lovely pictures of 'naked' cakes, which are going for that rustic, almost vintage look with hardly any icing on them.  They just have the thinnest layer to make them look oh so pretty.  I wanted to replicate that.  I don't think I quite pulled it off this time.  It looks more messy than rustic.  Better luck next time.

And the final, most important result is the taste!  It went down well.  The fiancé personally thought that the cake and buttercream on their own were good but not amazing but with the fresh strawberries it was amazing!  His mother and sister both really enjoyed it and did not share that opinion.  His mum also said it would make a lovely wedding cake and I hadn't even said that's what I was experimenting for.  So maybe this one is a keeper?  Perhaps I should consider putting strawberries between the layers of each tier for the wedding cake?  Definitely something to consider I think. 

Recipe - makes 1x 20cm/8inch square cake

Cake - adapted from Smitten Kitchen 
  • 370g/13oz plain flour
  • 60g/2oz cornflour
  • 400g/14oz caster sugar
  • 3.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 225g/8oz butter
  • Approximately 350g/12oz strawberries
  • 5 egg whites
  • A couple of drops of red food gel (optional)
Swiss Meringue Buttercream with Strawberries - adapted from Made by Mary
  • 2 egg whites
  • 50g/1.5oz granulated sugar
  • 175g/6oz butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
  • 400g/14oz strawberries 
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and grease and line two 20cm/8inch square cake pans.
  2. Sift the plain flour and cornflour together into a large bowl, add the sugar, baking powder and salt and give everything a good mix.  
  3. Purée the strawberries and add them and the butter to the dry ingredients and beat until light and fluffy.
  4. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites with the food gel (if using).
  5. Add the egg whites a little at a time to the batter, beating after each edition until just incorporated.
  6. Divide the mixture between the pans.
  7. Bake for at least 35 minutes but cakes may take as long as 50 minutes.  Cakes should be risen, springy to the touch and a skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean.
  8. Allow to rest in the pans for about 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.  Cool completely before frosting.
  9. To make the buttercream, start by mixing the egg whites with the granulated sugar in a stainless steel (or in my case, aluminium) bowl.
  10. Place the bowl over a saucepan of slightly bubbling water and whisk by hand for about 10 minutes to dissolve the sugar.
  11. Remove from the pan and then whisk the meringue with a hand mixer on a medium speed until it forms stiff, glossy peaks.
  12. When the base of the bowl feels cool, reduce the mixer's speed to its lowest setting and start adding the butter a little at a time.  Make sure the butter is completely beaten in before adding the next piece.  Do not panic if the buttercream starts turning sloppy.  This is completely normal and if you keep whisking it will firm up again.
  13. Beat in the vanilla extract and icing sugar.
  14. Remove a little over 1/3 of the buttercream and set aside.
  15. Wash, dry and cut the strawberries into quarters and add just over half to the remaining buttercream and fold in.
  16. To assemble, place one cake onto a serving plate.  (If you want, place strips of greaseproof paper under the cake to prevent buttercream ending up on it when you frost it which can be pulled out when you're done.)
  17. Cover the top of the cake with the strawberry filled buttercream, spreading it out so it is even and reaches the edges.
  18. Place the second cake on top and smooth the buttercream filling at the sides.
  19. Use the buttercream you put aside to decorate the outside of the cake.  First create a smooth, slightly thick covering of buttercream on the top of the cake.
  20. Then use the leftovers to lightly cover the rest of the cake.
  21. Top the cake with the remaining quartered strawberries.

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