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.
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.