Sunday, January 24, 2010

Buttermilk Sponge Cake with Cranberry-Raspberry Preserves and White Chocolate Frosting

*Sweet Melissa Sundays will be up later: it has been made, but not photographed!

My birthday is January 5th, and I don’t want to grumble too much about something I cannot change, but it’s really not the ideal time of year to have a birthday. I mean, the holidays are completely over and everyone is tired of celebrating and spending money and eating decadent food – by the 5th you ready to get back to a normal (and probably even healthier and more practical than the rest of the year) routine. I’ve always thought it would be lovely to have a birthday later in the year, you know, to break up the presents and monotony of everyday life, have an excuse to take a long weekend. When I was younger I thought summer would be nice, but then last year I noticed there are no office holidays between Presidents’ Day and Memorial Day, so maybe sometime in that window. We went out to a nice dinner and I had to have cake, of course, which came a few days later when we had more time and fewer desserts in the house.

Josh volunteered to make me a birthday cake and naturally I couldn’t turn down an offer to have someone else make baked goods for me! I’m sure I don’t acknowledge this as often as I should, so now is a good time to: Josh is extremely helpful in the kitchen. He doesn’t take on a lot of projects himself, but he is always willing to chop vegetables or grate cheese or any other task delegated to him – not to mention step in and save me when I’ve gotten in over my head. I didn’t let him off easy with the birthday cake and chose a multi-component layer cake, which even had homemade fruit filling.

The cake I selected was Buttermilk Sponge Cake with Cranberry-Raspberry Preserves and White Chocolate Frosting from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes. It has all the qualities I look for in a birthday cake (light, fluffy cake, fruit filling, and butter cream frosting), but slightly different twist: cranberries in the filling and white chocolate in the frosting. I don’t enjoy copious amounts of white chocolate, just on occasion, but this was an excellent use for it and it sweetened the buttery icing beautifully. The slightly tangy cranberry-raspberry preserves also turned out great (though I think they would have been even better with fresh cranberries, not dried – next time) and were the perfect antidote to the sweet icing. The only problem with this cake? It did not stay fresh very long and, even with just a half recipe, we did not consume it before it turned slightly moldy, which was only about three days. I rated it a 9 for Deliciousness and a 1 for Effort – since I didn’t really do much, giving it an EDR of 9!

Josh made a half-recipe in two six-inch cake pans, but I am including measurements for a full cake.

Buttermilk Sponge Cake with Cranberry-Raspberry Preserves and White Chocolate Frosting from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes (Printable Recipe)

2 ½ cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
9 egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottoms of the three ungreased 9-inch round cake pans with a round of parchment or waxed paper. Do not grease.

Sift together the flour, 1 cup of the sugar, and the baking soda. Set aside.

In a large clean mixer bowl, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until frothy with an electric mixer on high speed. Slowly add the remaining 1 cup sugar and continue whipping until soft peaks form.

In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla until well blended. Spoon one-fourth of the whipped egg whites on top of the buttermilk mixture, then sift a third of the dry ingredients on top. Fold gently until just a few streaks remain. Repeat two more times, then add the remaining egg whites and fold in gently. Divide the batter among the 3 prepared cake pans.

Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until a cake tester or wooden toothpick stuck into the center of each layer comes out clean. Transfer to wire racks and let the cakes cool completely in their pans for at least one hour, before turning out. Run a blunt knife over the rim of the pan. Carefully peel off the paper liners.

To assemble the cake, put one layer, flat side up, onto a cake stand or serving plate. Spread half the Cranberry-Raspberry Preserves over the cake, leaving a 1/4-inch margin around the edges. Top with the second layer; cover with the remaining preserves. Finally, put the third layer in place and frost the sides and top of the cake with the White Chocolate Frosting.

Cranberry-Raspberry Preserves
3 cups fresh raspberries or 12 ounces frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed completely, with juices reserved
1 cup dried cranberries
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup orange juice, preferably fresh-squeezed
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 one-inch piece of vanilla bean

Put all of the ingredients except the vanilla bean into a heavy nonreactive saucepan, preferably enameled cast iron. Split the piece of vanilla bean lengthwise without cutting all the way through. With the tip of a small knife, scrape the tiny vanilla seeds into the saucepan. Toss in the bean pod, too.

Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat slightly and continue to boil until the preserves visibly thicken, 15 to 20 minutes. To check for thickness, place a spoonful on a glass or china saucer and place in the freezer to cool for a few minutes. If it is ready, it will leave a clear path when you drag a finger through it and will not run. If necessary, boil several minutes longer and then retest.

Remove and discard the vanilla bean pod. Let the preserves cool completely, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use. They will keep well for up to two weeks.

White Chocolate Frosting
3 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
3 egg whites
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

Melt the white chocolate in a microwave oven on low power for 20 to 30 seconds, until the chocolate is soft and shiny; it will not look melted until you stir it. Set aside to cool. (You don’t want the warm chocolate to melt the butter.)

In a small heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and water to make a thick paste. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to cook over medium-low heat without stirring, washing any sugar crystals down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush, until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage, 238 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

Put the egg whites into a large mixer bowl, set the mixer at medium speed, and beat for about 30 seconds. Gradually pour in the sugar syrup in a thin stream, being careful not to pour it onto the beaters. Raise the mixer speed to medium-high and whip until the meringue has cooled to body temperature, which will take several minutes.

Gradually beat in the butter a few tablespoons at a time, then add the melted white chocolate and beat until the frosting is smooth and fluffy.


JoAnn Freda said...

Bravo Josh! The cake looks spectacular. I hear you about January birthdays, I've always wished you and your brother had birthdays in a more party friendly month and felt a little sorry for you that your birthday comes so close on the heels of Christmas.

JoAnn Freda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Happy Very Belated Birthday Margot! The cake looks fabulous! I'm super impressed. =)
My niece's birthday is Jan 7 and I tend to forget it what with the holidays but she forgives me thank goodness. So I can totally understand where you're coming from and I'm sure my niece does too! =(

Anonymous said...

Happy belated birthday! My birthday is in June, and I've always thought that was good timing.

The cake looks perfect! The white chocolate frosting sounds especially interesting. How weird that it got moldy so quickly though. I'm not sure that my husband would make a layer cake, but he is always willing to chop, stir, grate, and load the dishwasher, which I really appreciate!

Susan said...

Wow! That cake looks and sounds fabulous! And, Happy Belated Birthday Margot!

Unknown said...

I can definitely see what you're saying about having a birthday early in January - definitely not an ideal time. Hope you enjoyed this year's though!

I am so impressed with the cake Josh made - it's gorgeous!! Shane made me one a few years ago and it was delicious, but it came from a box :) I wish I had more occasions to make layer cakes because I really want to buy that book.

Ras Yeti said...

1/5 sounds pretty good to me... my birthday is 12/26!

Hey Josh, that cake looks mighty should bake one for me!

Nancy/n.o.e said...

Josh - the secret weapon in your kitchen! He's been holding out on us. That is the prettiest cake ever, and I love your description of it (and thanks for the recipe too). My mom's birthday is Christmas Eve and I always thought that was tough but at least everyone is in a festive mood. I can see how Jan 5 is less desireable.

Leslie said...

I liked Josh before (from back when he was still Mr. Penpen), but now I heart him. A guy who will willingly chopd vegetables, grate cheese AND make you a spectacular cake for your birthday is the ideal kitchen assistant. Belated HB, by the way!

Hanaâ said...

Happy belated bday, Margot. How sweet to have Josh make you a bday cake. It looks beautiful. Very decadent. I'm surprised it turned moldy that quick. I'm assuming it was refrigerated.

My friend has a January birthday too (and kinda hates it too). I made him his fav cake: Boston Cream Pie (from Tish Boyle's "The Cake Book"). This year (he turned 50), he refused to celebrate it with anything more than a cake until summer, at which point he'll be throwing a big party :o) Talk about a rebel, ha ha!

Btw, what kind of pudding did you end up making? I was a little confused when I read your comment on my blog. Sorry!