So I decided to make a cake for my friend to cheer her up.
And I’m glad for the opportunity, because I’ve been sitting on a couple of fantastic recipes for a while now. I have a new cake recipe that I really want to try, as well as a new glazing technique that looks just amazing!
The cake recipe that I have been waiting to try out is by Margaret Braun, and is loaded with sour cream to give it a lovely soft crumb; I’ve heard many people raving about how great it is. The recipe is for 2 x 10-inch cake tins, but I don’t have any of those, so I’m going to put it into 3 x 9 inch cake pans and hope for the best – I don’t like to fiddle with the recipe the first time I make something, otherwise you’ll never know if it’s your adjustments, or the recipe that worked (or not, as the case may be!).
I’m going to layer the cakes with the lemon curd I made earlier in the week, and then top it off with a lemon buttercream. I’m going to adapt the classic Wilton crusting buttercream, as I’m hoping to smooth it out by hand once it has crusted. I’m not sure if I have the right equipment to do it, but let’s see what happens!
Finally, I’m going to finish the cake with a mirror glaze, and hopefully a spider web glaze. I’m hoping that if I do it right, it will look kinda like the inside of a lemon. If it doesn’t work well, I will just end up with a smear of white, so it shouldn’t look awful anyway 🙂
Ok, so let’s get started!
Following the recipe I have for Margaret Braun’s butter cake, I sifted my dry ingredients, and beat the butter and sugar in my stand mixer.
Once the butter and sugar have become pale a fluffy, after about 5 minutes, the eggs are added, one at a time. Make sure that you incorporate fully before adding the next egg, as you don’t want to curdle your batter.
As I am making the lemon version of this cake, I added in some lemon zest and lemon juice, along with my vanilla extract.
Finally, mixing in the dry ingredients and the sour cream. It’s always easiest to alternate these, starting with about a third of the dry mix, then half the cream, and so on. Considering how great this cake is supposed to be, it was a very easy batter to make!
My oven isn’t large enough to get 2 9-inch pans side by side, so I had to split the cakes over 3 levels. I knew this was going to play havoc with the cooking times of my already adapted recipe, but I thought I could make it work! Instead of buttering and flouring my pans, I lined the bases and used some baking spray – I’m all for the easy option!
Unfortunately, mistakes were made. Despite testing one of my cakes and thinking the skewer was completely clean, when I turned it out, it was still completely raw inside, and the whole thing collapsed. Yikes! Luckily, I only wasted one cake, and the others turned out ok. It took about 45-50 minutes to bake the 9-inch cakes. A top tip is to follow the recipe and leave the cakes to cool in their pans 😉 – they were dangerously floppy when I turned them out after 20 minutes!
Another time I might just get some 10-inch pans. In the 3 smaller pans, the cakes weren’t deep enough to split, but were quite thick for a single layer.
Luckily, I got 2 good cakes out of the batter!
Margaret Braun’s Butter Cake Recipe
625g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 ts baking soda
1 tsp salt
454g unsalted butter, softened
900g caster sugar, plus 100g for sprinkling
6 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 4 lemons (for lemon cake)
Juice of 1 lemon (for lemon cake)
2 cups sour cream (~475ml)
Preheat oven to 165c degrees.
Butter and flour two 10-inch round cake pans.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a mixer cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Stir in the vanilla.
Add the lemon zest and juice.
Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture, alternating with the sour cream.
Scrape batter into prepared cake pans.
Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of the sugar on top of the batter.
Bake until set, when a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean (about 1 hour).
Let the cakes cool in their pans, and then invert them onto a rack.
Now on to the buttercream!
I beat the butter for several minutes until it was pale and fluffy, and then added in the vegetable shortening and beat for a couple more minutes until everything was nicely combined.
In the UK it is not easy to get your hands on Crisco, but I highly recommend you get yourself a tub; Crisco is very common in American recipes, and useful for many thing, not least my Texas-style kolache! If you cannot get Crisco, or don’t want to use it, you can use Trex in its place, but only add half the weight.
I am hoping to make a crusting buttercream using the classic Wilton recipe, swapping out the milk for lemon juice, and including some lemon essence to get a nice subtle lemony flavour.
Once thoroughly stirred through, you can start to add your sifted icing sugar. In order to avoid a cloud of icing sugar, add a spoon at a time. Once the last of the sugar is incorporated, leave it to beat for another 30 seconds, then scrape down the bowl before beating briefly again. Do not leave your buttercream beating for longer than necessary – you’ll incorporate lots of air, which will make getting a smooth finish on your cake difficult.
227g unsalted butter, room temperature
227g Crisco, or 113g Trex, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp lemon extract
1 tbsp lemon juice
650g icing sugar, sifted
Beat butter until soft and pale
Add Crisco (or Trex) and beat to combine
Add flavouring and lemon juice
Slowly add the icing sugar
Beat for another 30 seconds once combined
Scrape the bowl down, and beat again for another 30 seconds.
DO NOT OVERBEAT!
Now on to the assembly!
As always, I like to level off the tops of my cakes, and take a thin slice off the bottom, to remove as much of the crispy outside of the cake as possible. Then, I attach my bottom cake to a cake board with a smear of buttercream to hold it in place.
As my cakes are quite large, I’m going to put a nice thick layer of lemon curd in between them, held in place with a small buttercream dam. Hopefully this should be enough to keep it in place until the crumb coat has hardened!
As I placed my second cake on top, I slipped and dropped it, breaking some pieces off the edge *faceplam*
Honestly, it’s hard to imagine what else could go wrong! I can’t afford to lose any more of this cake! 😀
Using the power of positive thinking, and buttercream glue, I managed to stick the jigsaw puzzle of cake pieces back onto the cake. Hopefully this should hold until I can get it covered!
Using a 10-inch cake drum to help move the cake around, and put it in the fridge for a good 30 minutes to harden up the buttercream glue before I trimmed the edges of the cake. I then gave it a quick crumb coat, before shoving back into the fridge for another 30 minutes. The last thing I need now is my cake coming apart as I put on the final coat!
With everything all holding nicely in place, I used my large icing tip to put an even layer on the entire cake before starting out the lengthy smoothing process.
It’s always worth taking your time here, whatever final finish you’re putting on your cake. A mirror glaze won’t show imperfections on the top of your cake, but it absolutely will show imperfections on the sides, so these really need to be perfect. Luckily, you can use the 9-inch cake board as a guide – I like to hold my scraper directly against this as I move the turntable.
If there are any holes in the sides of the cake, stop to patch them up with buttercream and keep smoothing, then gently pull the top edges inward where they have ridden up.
Once the cake is pretty much perfect, I like to run my metal scraper under the hot tap and get it nice and warm. After a quick wipe with a tea towel, I can use the hot dry scraper to smooth the buttercream even further. The heat will melt the buttercream slightly, helping you to get a glossy finish.
At this point it was getting late and I was running out of energy, so I put the cake in the fridge to finish in the morning. The buttercream had crusted nicely, so I was looking forward to smoothing it all out perfectly!
I got the cake out in the morning and allowed it to return to room temperature. I was against the clock to get the cake finished at this point, and the cake hadn’t dried enough from the humid fridge, so I had to skip the additional smoothing. Next cake, maybe :/
So I put the cake back in the fridge, and started to prepare the mirror glaze.
Firstly, you need to bloom your gelatine in cold water, ready to add once the syrup has boiled. I also like to weigh my condensed milk out at this point, otherwise you’ll get into a flap later!
While the gelatine is blooming, you can heat up your glucose, sugar and water in a saucepan. Once the the sugar has all melted and the syrup is approaching a boil, you can remove it from the heat and add the gelatine. Whisk throughly to make sure that it is all melted into the syrup. Add in your condensed milk and whisk to combine again.
Your hot glaze should now be poured over your chocolate callets and left to sit for a few moments to begin melting. I use this time to add my dyes. It’s useful to add some titanium oxide powder first to give the glaze an opaque base. I’m also adding yellow food colouring to match the lemon cake inside.
Once the chocolate has mostly melted, VERY gently, and at an angle to avoid introducing any more air, lower an immersion blender into the warm glaze. Blend the glaze for a good minute. Do not move the blender around while you agitate the glaze; the purpose of the blender is to help bring all the air bubbles to the surface of the glaze, so that they can be removed.
If you are able to wait, it is even better to let the glaze set in the fridge overnight, and then scrape all the bubbles off the surface completely. You can then warm the glaze in the microwave, and gently stir it to make it liquid again. You should always take care to avoid introducing air into the glaze, as this will make the difference between a great cake and a truly flawless looking cake.
I didn’t have time to wait on this occasion, sadly.
The glaze should be used when it has cooled to 35ºc. At this temperature you should get enough flow to cover the cake beautifully, but it should be set enough to hold on to the cake and not drip straight off. While you wait for the glaze to cool, you should have just enough time to prepare the ‘spider web’ glaze.
I was going to write an entire blog post on my investigations into this magical glaze, but despite all my experimentation, with numerous recipes that looked credible and seemed to show great results, I only found one method that actually worked. Luckily enough, it’s the easiest method around, although I do feel like a total cheat. All you need is a tub of pre-made neutral glaze, which is water based and set with pectin. I bought this one:
It does feel kinda cheap to use something ready made, but when all the recipes include long list of unusual ingredients that can’t be bought from your grocery store anyway, I wonder how making a glaze that way is any more an ‘authentic’ method. That’s the way I’m justifying it to myself at least! Honestly, this makes me feel like I’ve bought a box of cake mix and am pretending to be a baker 😀 – but sometimes the ends justify the means!
Simply mix a small amount of the glaze with some titanium dioxide powder, and you’ve got yourself a perfect spider web glaze! I heat mine in the microwave to about 65ºc, just as the base glaze was reaching working temperature.
So, once both glazes are at the correct temperatures (base glaze 35ºc, web glaze 60ºc), whip your cake out of the fridge, and set it up over a baking tray or roasting dish to catch the drips. I put a small pyrex bowl inside a roasting pan, and balance my chilled cake on top.
Pour your base glaze over the cake, circling out from the centre. If your cake is mostly smooth and level, it should pour evenly down the sides. Check all around the cake to make sure you have coverage on all sides, carefully adding more to cover any bare patches.
Now for the moment of truth!
Quickly run a spatula under the hot tap, and then wipe off the water with a tea towel. Pour your spider web glaze over the warmed spatula and then quickly and carefully wipe it across the surface of the cake. And wait for the magic!
Unless you’ve made some horrible mistake, you should find that the white glaze immediately starts to separate from the base glaze, forming these web like patterns. I’m guessing that this happens because the glazes repel each other, the base glaze being fat based, and the top glaze being water based. However it works, it’s a really impressive effect. I was a bit heavy handed as I started wiping the spatula across – I’m assuming that’s why it didn’t separate well where I started.
Once the glaze has stopped moving, and the drips are gelled in place, you can remove them carefully with a knife or some scissors, and begin the terrifying process of transferring your cake onto your cake drum! It’s worth bearing in mid that you can always pipe around the bottom of the cake afterwards, as I usually do, as it’s almost impossible to move a mirror glaze cake without damaging some of the glaze when setting it down.
Finally, I striped the inside of a piping bag with a little yellow food colouring, and used some of the leftover lemon buttercream to pipe a simple border around the base of the cake. I was really pleased with how this one turned out; other than a slight gouging of the cake as I spread the top glaze, it pretty much turned out exactly as I had envisioned it.
I will definitely be trying out a lot more possibilities with this new glaze. I’m already excited for the next one!
20g Gelatine Powder
300g Liquid Glucose
200g Sweetened Condensed Milk
300g White Chocolate
Bloom the gelatine in 120g water
Bring the sugar, water, and glucose to a boil
Take it off the heat, and whisk in the gelatine
Add the condensed milk and whisk again.
Pour into a heat proof bowl filled with white chocolate callets and stir.
Gently lower in a stick blender, trying not to introduce any more air. Blend at an angle, holding still, to force air bubbles to the surface.
Scrape bubbles off the surface before using. Or preferably, leave to set, then scrape off the bubbles, and reheat to use.
Leave to cool and use at 35C.
Spider Web Glaze
100g Mirror Neutral
1 heaped tsp titanium dioxide
Food colouring (optional)
Mix ingredients and warm in the microwave to 60ºc