Thursday, March 19, 2009

In which I attempt to impress my coworkers (10/5)

I'm not really the decorating type. I can appreciate a well-topped cake or cookie, but put a piping bag into my hands and I turn into Clumsy Clara. It may have to do with lack of practice, since I hate cleaning out decorating tips and piping bags/frosting can get pretty messy, but it mostly is because I am fairly lacking in the art gene. This is all an attempt to justify this monstrosity I brought in to work:
Ice Cream Cake

Allow me to explain.

One of my favorite bosses at work, Richard*, got transferred to another store because that's just what the company does, shifts full-timers around every few years. I made a cake to mourn his know, to another store. I don't have photos of the inside but the cake is layers of chocolate cake with cookie dough ice cream and an Italian buttercream frosting. It's cracked because I am impatient, the cake was freaking huge and I clearly do not have a sense of aesthetics. But there you have it.

*name changed to protect identity...wait. Shit.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream Cake
adapted from Baking Bites

Note: I've made this cake several times, with various ice cream flavors. The key is making absolutely sure the ice cream layer is firm enough. The great advantage of my work is the giant walk-in freezer where I can store this guy (or any other guys) before serving time, but make sure you have enough room in your freezer! I'm not sure how I can impress upon you the horror that is a gallon of bright green mint chip soup on your counter top. It's not pretty.

Ice Cream Layer
1 gallon high-quality cookie dough ice cream

Line a 10×15-inch cake pan with plastic wrap. Lightly grease.
Soften ice cream until it is easy to scoop, then spread it into an even layer in the prepared pan.
Freeze for at least 6 hours, or until very firm. VERY FIRM.
Once it is firm, the pan can be removed and the layer can be stored in plastic wrap.

Chocolate Cake (make 2)
2 cups sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup hot water

-Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 10×15-inch cake pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper. Leave some paper overhanging the edges of the pan.
-In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
-In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, buttermilk, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Pour into flour mixture and stir until just combined.
-Pour hot water (not quite boiling) over batter and stir until smooth. Pour into prepared pan.
-Bake for about 25 minutes, until cake springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
-Let cake cool in pan for 15 minutes, then use the parchment paper to transfer cake to a wire rack to cool completely. That means all the way. Not even lukewarm. Do not remove parchment paper.

Repeat recipe to make a second cake.

Real Vanilla Bean Buttercream

Note: don't worry about the raw eggs here. Cooking the sugar and incorporating it into the egg whites at that temperature will effectively cook them to a safe level.

1 lb (2 cups) unsalted butter, softened and cut into one inch pieces
3/4 cup plus 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
5 large egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 vanilla bean

-In the bowl of a stand mixer, place egg whites, with cream of tartar and 1/4 cup sugar nearby.
-Heat 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan over medium-high until sugar is dissolved. When sugar reaches 230F on a candy thermometer, turn mixer on medium high.
-When egg whites are frothy, add cream of tartar. Gradually add the 1/4 cup sugar. When egg whites begin to form soft peaks, turn the mixer down to medium low and begin to drizzle in the boiling sugar mixture (which should be at approximately 245-250F, firm ball stage).
-When all of the hot sugar is added, turn the mixer up to medium high and beat until the bowl is no longer warm to the touch. Add the butter one lump at a time and continue beating until mixture is smooth and fluffy, approximately 12-20 minutes. It will look rather like ricotta cheese for a while - just keep beating!
-Once it is smooth, scrape vanilla bean and mix in the vanilla specks (or use 1-2 tsp vanilla extract).
-Keep at room temperature - do not refrigerate before it has been spread on a cake or cupcakes. If you need to refrigerate it then reheat it gently over a bain marie or double boiler until softened, but it should be OK in the open for a few days.

Makes enough to frost one 2 layer, 8, 9 or 10 inch cake.

2 cake layers
1 ice cream layer
1 recipe vanilla buttercream frosting

Place one cake layer on a large serving platter or cake board, using parchment paper to help move the cake without breaking it. Peel off parchment once cake is in place.
Top cake with ice cream layer and top ice cream layer with remaining cake layer.
Freeze for at least an hour, until firm and cold.
Meanwhile, make buttercream frosting.
Frost chilled cake with a thin layer of frosting and freeze until ready to serve. I tell you, frosting this cake is a bitch. I haven't figured out a good way to frost the ice cream layer, so the sides are not the prettiest. One day!

Makes 1 cake. Serves about 30.

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