Dulce de Leche Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I know my last post was all about how I didn’t love Swiss Meringue Buttercream, but I’ve had a change of heart.  Actually, I just tried again, and this time it was great.

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After my last post, Sara from Matchbox Kitchen, left me an awesome comment with some tips for trying again.  It wasn’t an issue of recipe, more of technique. When Matchbox Kitchen tells you SMBC is awesome, you try it again.  So I did and this time, I used her tips.

I’m happy to say, it turned out awesome.

I sort of think dulce de leche had a lot to do with it, but either way, it turned out great.

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So new confession: Swiss Meringue Buttercream is pretty tasty (especially when dulce de leche is mixed into it).

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It’s still very buttery but this time, I think the dulce de leche masked some of the butter taste and it was great.   Here’s the recipe, that incorporated some of Sara’s comments regarding technique…

Dulce de Leche Swiss Meringue Buttercream

3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 sticks of butter, softened
1/4 cup dulce de leche*

Whisk together egg whites and sugar in your stand mixer bowl.  Place over a pot of boiling water (make sure water isn’t touching the bowl), stir it every so often until the egg whites become hot and you can no longer feel the sugar granules.

Transfer to the mixer and whip until they’ve formed stiff peaks.

Remove the whisk attachment and change to the paddle attachment for your mixer.  Add vanilla. Then start to beat in butter.  Once the butter is nearly incorporated, add in the dulce de leche.  Beat until it’s smooth.  Then it’s ready to frost.

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I put mine in the fridge for about 5-10 minutes to firm up a bit before frosting, but the texture and flavor was a million times better this time.  This will make enough frosting to frost and fill a 6 inch cake or just frost the outside of a 9 inch cake.

*To make dulce de leche, boil a can of sweetened condensed milk for about 3 hours.  Make sure the can is completely submerged in water (if not, it might explode).  You can also probably find it in most latin grocery stores as different names (dulce de leche, cajeta, arequipe, etc).

I used this Dulce de Leche Swiss Meringue Buttercream to frost a banana cake with chocolate and dulce de leche filling.  It was a hit.

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I took this dessert to the desert

This cake traveled with me from Oakland to the Palm Springs area.  It barely survived the long drive and the heat, but it made it.   It didn’t look as pretty as this when I served it, but it got eaten up.

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This cake is definitely on my list of cakes to make again.  It was delicious, and the buttercream is way easier to make than excepted (probably because you don’t have to sift powdered sugar, which is always a pain).

I guess I’m a fan of swiss meringue buttercream after all.

What’s your favorite way to frost a cake?

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Confession: I Don’t Love Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I’m making my friends wedding cake(s) for her September wedding, and I’m incredibly excited.  I love weddings and I love cakes.  Combining the two is pretty much almost as exciting as pies in jars.

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I’m also extremely concerned that I’ll somehow mess it up.  I want her cakes to be tasty and beautiful, because it’s her special day.  That means I’m practicing like it’s nobody’s business.

In my cake making craze, I wanted to try out a new frosting.  I had read that Swiss Meringue Buttercream is great for getting smooth edges, so yesterday, I decided to give it a try.

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Everyone talks about swiss meringue buttercream with descriptors like: luxurious, satiny, rich, decadent.

To me, it tasted like straight up butter with some sugar in it.

I added some strawberry jam to mine to try to add some flavor to it, which improved it, but I’m still not a fan.  I might try it again with other flavorings but plain… never again.

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Now that I’ve trash talked it, in case you want to try, here’s the recipe I used.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1/2 cup white sugar
2 egg whites
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup strawberry jam (optional)

Whisk together egg whites and sugar in your stand mixer bowl.  Place over a pot of boiling water (make sure water isn’t touching the bowl), stir it every so often until the egg whites become hot and you can no longer feel the sugar granules.

Transfer to the mixer and whip until they’ve formed peaks.

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Add vanilla. Then start to beat in butter.  At this point, it might look curdled, don’t worry.  Keep whipping.  It can take up to 10 minutes to get fluffy.   Once it’s the right consistency (pretty silky, I must say), you can feel free to beat in jam or just smooth it on a cake.

**This recipe makes enough to frost a 6 inch cake (and probably enough to fill as well).  For a 9 inch (3-4 layer cake, I would probably double this recipe).

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The one benefit is that it gets very solid (like a stick of butter almost… hmm wonder why?) when cold, which means you get beautiful slices.  That’s definitely the redeeming quality of this buttercream.

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For my friend’s wedding, I’m sticking to traditional American buttercream (not just because I like it better but that’s what the bride and groom tried and liked).

In case you (like me) are not a fan of Swiss Meringue Buttercream, here are some alternative to frost your cakes/cupcakes with:

  • Traditional American Buttercream: This is what we’re used to. Butter. Powdered Sugar.  Vanilla and a touch of milk.  Sickeningly sweet goodness.  Make it vanilla, make it lemon, make it almond. It’s all great.  (Example: Fall Cake)
  • Whipped Cream: Simple and delicious, not too sweet, not too heavy.  Literally just heavy whipping cream and a bit of sugar and vanilla. Probably my favorite, but doesn’t hold up well it hot weather.   (Try it on rum cake)
  • Marshmallow Frosting: Sooo tasty! Not buttery at all.  Sadly, also doesn’t hold up well while sitting out. (Example: The Best Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake)
  • Cream Cheese Frosting: I’m not the biggest fan, but I know people love it.  So why not? (Example: Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel Filling, Cream Cheese Frosting and Sea Salt Candied Walnuts <– can totally be made into a layer cake)

What’s your favorite way to frost a cake?  or are you that person who leaves all the frosting behind?

 

Easy Marshmallow Frosting

I’m going to ask you to brace yourself, because I can already tell that what I recently discovered is going to cause a whirlwind over here at Foodologie.

Marshmallow Frosting

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Why hadn’t I tried making this before? Oh I know why… it seemed too complicated and not worth my time.

Well, let me just tell you.  It’s totally worth it and not nearly as difficult or time consuming as I thought it would be.  All the recipes I read required 8-10 egg whites, too much cracking… corn syrup, um no.  But finally I found one without corn syrup that was easily to scale down and gave it a try.  Thank you, Martha Stewart, for introducing me to marshmallow frosting.

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Easy Marshmallow Frosting

from Martha Stewart

2 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 big pinch of cream of tartar*
1 pinch of salt

Place a glass bowl over a sauce pan that has about 1 inch of water in it, make sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl (aka build a double boiler).  Add egg whites, sugar, vanilla extract, cream of tartar and salt.  Mix together.  Heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves and the egg whites are warm when you touch them.

Transfer egg white mixture to a stand mixer and attach whisk attachment.  Stir on low and turn up the speed every 15 seconds or so until it’s on high speed.  Beat 5-7 minutes or until glossy, stiff peaks form.

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Frost cupcakes and serve! Refrigerate if you’re not using it right away.  This recipe will make enough to frost about 8-10 cupcakes using a lot of frosting per cupcake (as I did in this photo), or 1 small 6 inch cake.   I would probably double the recipe if you are doing a larger cake or 2 dozen cupcakes. *Note: the original recipe called for 8 egg whites, 2 cups sugar, 1/2 tsp of cream of tartar, so when I scaled it down I just did a big pinch.  If you double this recipe, use 1/4 tsp cream of tartar. marshmallfrosting

I’m seriously amazed at how delicious and easy it was to make this marshmallow frosting.  I already have a million ideas for variations on this type of frosting.   What I really loved about it is that it’s super light and NOT sickeningly sweet like other frostings I’ve had.  I almost want to say I’d add more sugar next time, but I think this would be the perfect frosting for an already sweet cake.

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So be prepared for lots of cupcakes to come!

What’s your favorite type of frosting?   I usually love chocolate ganache or just plain whipped cream, but this marshmallow frosting is going to be on the top of my list now.

P.S. Two days left to enter the Peanut Butter & Co. Dark Chocolate Dreams Giveaway!  Head over to Facebook to enter! Click the Giveaway tab! Make sure to tell your friends and get extra entries daily by tweeting about the giveaway.

Layer Cakes: Tips, Tricks and Recipes

I love cake. and pie.  Cakes and Pies.

Ok but really I think cakes are awesome.  I also think they’re super labor intensive so I get why people buy them instead of make them, but I really think more people should take up cake making.

This past weekend, I made three layer cakes.

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So from my experience of making three cakes in a row, I wanted to share with you a few tips and tricks to making the perfect layers cakes, along with some of my favorite cake recipes.

1. Use the right cake pans.

I used to have these fancy cake pans from Sur La Table, and I’ll be honest… they sucked.  My cakes were always uneven.  First I thought my oven temperature was just weird, but then I moved and my cakes were still crooked.  So I bought new cake pans.  I bought the cheap Wilton ones at Michael’s (I say cheap because I never walk into that store without a 40% off coupon), and my cakes are perfectly even now.  So my tip: go for aluminum cake pans!

2. Parchment paper IS your friend and always grease and flour your pans.

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Wouldn’t it suck to do all that work and have them stick to the pan?  Yes.  It’s happened to me, and it sucks.

Ever since, I will never make a cake without parchment paper.  Honestly, my least favorite part of making cakes is this step.  I feel like I’m in kindergarten cutting out parchment paper circles.  But it’s a must.  Just do it.

3.  Bake in advance and freeze.

My cakes were all for Saturday and Sunday.  I started baking on Tuesday.  A cake sitting out from Tuesday til Saturday would be dry and gross, but a cake wrapped in parchment paper, double wrapped in plastic wrap then frozen, is still great for the weekend.  The trick is to make sure the cake is completely cooled before you freeze it.  You can flash cool it on a cooling rack in the freezer, but before you wrap it up.  Just make sure it has cooled completely before you wrap it up, if not you’ll get condensation that freezes into ice.  Not cute.

4. A cake without a filling is no fun.

One of the cakes I made was lemon cake with a raspberries and cream filling.  The others were chocolate and banana cakes with peanut butter filling.   Feel free to make your fillings a day or two in advance, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

5. Leveling the cake is important

I finally broke down and bought a cake leveler.  It’s a good idea to level the cakes before you freeze them.  The leveler is basically a metal wire, it’s not super strong and probably won’t cut through a frozen cake.  You can also just use a knife…

6.  ALWAYS do a crumb coat

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A fine layer of frosting before you actually frost is essential.  It holds it all together and prevents you from getting a crumby cake.  If your crumb coat is going on a frozen cake it’s even easier because the crumb coat gets firm faster.  Once you’ve got a crumb coat, stick the cake in the freezer for a few minutes to let the coat harden before you frost.  EXTRA: Put pieces of parchment paper under the cake so you don’t have to worry about a dirty plate/dish.  You just pull out the pieces when you’re done frosting and you have a clean plate/cake circle!

7.  Use a long knife to frost

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I’m not fancy.  My cakes aren’t perfect, but I think they do the job.  I don’t have all those fancy spatulas you can buy to frost cakes.  I use the 8″ slicer knife that came in my knife block.  It’s not serrated and it’s long.  Gets the job done.  A small butter knife makes it hard to get smooth edges all around, so I recommend a long knife.

8.  Use cake circles and boxes

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To make your cakes go from homemade to slightly fancier, go to Michael’s or any cake supply store and buy cardboard cake circles and a box.  I took one of the cakes to a restaurant and the waitress was surprised to find it was homemade.  On that note, if you go to a birthday dinner at a restaurant, call ahead and make sure they don’t charge you to cut the cake.  I had heard of corkage fees but never of cake cutting fees.  Apparently it’s a thing in Hollywood.  Just saying.

Remember, no matter what your cake looks like, it should taste great.  So on that note, here are some of my favorite cake recipes:

  • Hershey’s Chocolate Cake: This is my go to chocolate cake recipe.  I follow it exactly and it never fails.
  • Epicurious Banana Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting: This recipe is great!  I make a few changes everytime, usually adding more liquid.  Today, I made a super variation of it, blog post on that coming soon!
  • Epicurious Moist Yellow Cake (I easily turn this into a lemon cake by replacing half buttermilk with lemon juice, adding some lemon zest and a pack of lemon jello instant pudding)
  • Rum Layer Cake:  This cake is probably one of the most delicious cakes I’ve ever made.  Everyone loves it.  It’s just plain tasty.

As for fillings, which per #2 is essential, get creative.  Here are some ideas I love:

  • Mix lemon curd with cream cheese and whipped cream for a quick and delicious lemon mousse filling.  Throw some fresh raspberries in the mix and it’s a perfect filling for a lemon cake.
  • Chocolate Ganache is always a winner.  Try adding orange zest or passionfruit puree to it to spice up your normal chocolate cake
  • Whipped Cream: Sometimes you just need simplicity.  Whipped cream in the middle of a fluffy cake is divine.  Try it.
  • Mix peanut butter, cream cheese, condensed milk and whipped cream for a delicious peanut butter mousse filling.  Oh. My. Goodness.  Amazing.  Just try it.

Remember these tips next time a birthday, party, holiday rolls around.  Making cakes doesn’t have to be crazy hard.  It can be super fun!

What’s your favorite cake combination?

I’m currently a huge fan of banana cake with peanut butter filling and cream cheese frosting!

Little Banana Cake with Caramel Filling

Sometimes you just don’t want a big commitment.  Saturday, I went on a 16 mile hike up the highest peak in Orange County.  That was a big commitment; there was snow at the top of the mountain.. in Orange County…

I was totally ok with that commitment.

But sometimes, dessert can be a big commitment, especially cakes.

Because of this, I think my 6 inch cake pans were a great investment, and I think this banana cake has been my greatest creation from them so far.

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I actually made this twice, so I can tell you with confidence that it’s doubly tasty.

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Little Banana Cake with Caramel Filling

adapted from Epicurious

For Cake:
1 cup + 1 tbsp flour

1 tbsp corn starch
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter
1/2 cup sugar, heaping
1 egg
1 ripe banana, mashed
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp whole milk
1/2 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla

Caramel filling:
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

Icing:
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Sift together flour, corn starch, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Add in egg, continue to beat for another minute or two.  Beat in mashed banana, milk, vinegar and vanilla.  Add in flour mixture until well combine.

Pour batter into 2 (6 inch round) cake pans (greased, floured and bottom lined with parchment paper).  Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden and cooked through (mine took 25 mins, but yours might differ based on your oven so start checking after 20 mins).  Allow to cool completely.

Make caramel filling.  Melt sugar in a sauce pan over medium heat.  Once sugar starts to melt turn flame to low.  Work out any clumps by stirring.  Once the sugar syrup is a deep amber color, remove from heat stir in butter (mixture will foam a lot but keep stirring), stream in cream as you stir, then stir in vanilla and salt.   Set aside to cool a bit.

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Level off each layer using a serrated knife.  Place your bottom layer crumb side down on a plate (put some pieces of parchment paper around the edges to get a clean frost).  Spread half the caramel in the middle of the cake.  Put second layer on top and spread with remaining caramel.  Caramel should still be warm to the touch but not pourable.  You’ll have to spread it with the wooden spoon and it will smooth out on its own (if you let it cool too much you won’t get a smooth top.  Alternatively if the caramel is too hot, it might flow over the edges, no biggie, you can cover that with icing).

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Next make frosting.  Beat half a cup of heavy cream, once it starts to form soft peaks add in sugar and vanilla.  Continue to beat until it forms firm peaks.  Frost the cake as desired.  If you plan to frost the entire thing (including the top) and decorate, double the frosting.  I only frosted the sides

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then used a piping bag with a star tip to decorate the edges to leave the caramel exposed.  Both are great, tasty options.

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If you’re ready for a big commitment (aka a full size cake), double the recipe and bake in two 8 or 9 inch cake pans.

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Either way, store this cake in the fridge until about 45 minutes before you’re ready to serve it.  Don’t come complaining to me that your caramel is too hard if you take it out of the fridge and slice it immediately.  Like all commitments, that part needs time too.

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What’s your next commitment?

Please tell me it’s this little banana cake!