Sunday, October 11, 2009
Chocolate Meringue Birthday Cake
Making cakes for close friends is tough for me, because I want to make the perfect thing, a cake that she will love, even if she never knew she wanted it in the first place. The flavors and the facade have to mirror that person's unique qualities. It usually takes me several brainstorming sessions to come up with a complete idea: cake, filling, frosting, and decoration. Last week I went through this process for my wonderful friend Meghan, who is generosity and beauty personified. She deserves only good things. Meghan's love of baking makes her even more endearing, and it also made her birthday cake a little more challenging.
In the end, I chose a moist, deeply chocolate cake. It was filled with alternating layers of salted caramel buttercream (a fabulous idea from Leena! at Leena Eats ) and vanilla bean buttercream.
I followed Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe for (terrifying) Caramel Silk Meringue Buttercream, a recipe that requires no less than 4 saucepans. It was a bit of a nightmare to make, much more difficult than my standard Swiss meringue buttercream. At several points in the process, I thought that I had permanently f'ed up the whole batch; that I'd let the caramel brown too far , that I had curdled the eggs in the creme anglaise, that I'd added the sugar syrup to the egg whites too quickly. Miraculously, I avoided all of those pitfalls and ended up with a really delicious frosting. True to its name, it was smooth as silk, but also firm enough to stand in its place. I added a bit of salt directly into the the sugar as it cooked into amber, and another bit after the butter was fully incorporated into the frosting. It was just barely noticeable, but brought the entire cake up a notch. It's truly remarkable what a little seasoning can do for a dish!
The sides of the cake were studded with chocolate meringues. Aside from looking really crazy, the little round confections finished off the cake with a crisp and chewy texture. The whole thing came together so well. Meghan was pleased, so I was too. After all, that was the ultimate goal.