Thursday, February 11, 2010

Valentine's Day Layer Cake

A nice way to tell someone that you care about them is to make a heart shaped cake.  Heart shaped cakes come in many different sizes to suit the occasion and number of people to be served.  Having some amount of red on the cake is tradition for Valentine's so I like to use a reddish jam in both the filling and on top of the cake.  In this cake, I used mixed berry preserves because it has less seeds than raspberry jam so I didn't need to strain it. 

Yellow Cake Layers
2-1/8 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour, measured by fluffing, scooping and leveling
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

13-1/2 tablespoons (6.5 ounces) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
1-1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla

3 large eggs, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature

2 tablespoons oil

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons whole milk, room temperature.

Cassis Buttercream
4-1/2 sticks (25 ounces) unsalted butter
1-1/2 pounds Marshmallow Fluff®
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/3 cup cassis liqueur
3 tablespoons corn syrup, or to taste

1 (10-ounce) jar mixed berry jam or preserves*

*I like to use mixed berry preserves because it has less seeds in it than raspberry, and does not need to be strained. Straining jam causes it to thin out quite a bit, so unstrained goes on in a thicker layer without dripping. Try to find jam that has fruit as the first ingredient and does not contain corn syrup. This will give you the freshest tasting jam or preserves.

For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. with a rack in the middle of the oven. Spray-grease a 10-inch heart-shaped cake pan. Line the bottoms of the pan with parchment paper, spray-grease, and then flour the pan.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Place the butter and sugar into a large mixer bowl, and beat for a full 5-7 minutes until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the bowl and then beat for a minute to blend everything. Beat in the oil.

By hand, stir in 1/3 of the flour mixture into the batter. Stir in 1/2 of the milk. Repeat until all of the flour and milk has been added (if you want the cake to be a little more sturdy and less crumbly, you can do this in the mixer, but it’s harder to get all of the milk in without the batter curdling).  The batter will be thick.

Spoon all but ½ cup of the batter into the pan and spread it evenly in the pan (use a toothpick to check the thickness at various places). Discard the extra batter.

Place the pan in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes until a tester inserted into the middle of a cake comes out absolutely clean. The cake should be nicely browned and will deflate slightly when it is completely cooked.

Cool the pan on a rack and then run a knife around the perimeter to loosen the cake. Place a piece of waxed paper over the cake and then a rigid board, cardboard or pan. Holding everything together, flip the cake over. Rap the whole assembly sharply on the counter to loosen the cake, and then remove the pan.

Remove the parchment. Place a cakeboard onto the cake, and re-invert so that the cake is now right-side up and on its cakeboard . Let the cake cool completely. Using a cake saw or a serrated knife, cut off just a little of the top of the cake to make it level, and then slice the cake in half, horizontally to create two layers.

Slide a baking sheet or an extra large spatula under the top layer and remove it from the bottom. Place it in the freezer.

For the buttercream:
It’s ultra important that the butter be at the right temperature for this recipe to work. Cut the butter into tablespoons and let it stand on a cutting board until barely soft. Using your thumb, push down on each pat to flatten it into the board (it will still be very firm, and will split when you press down on it). In 3-5 minutes the butter should be ready. If you press down on it with your thumb, it should yield readily, but should not be soft and melty. If the butter is a little firm, it can always be beaten a little bit more, but if too soft, you’ll have to refrigerate it, and start over. I always aim for a little bit harder, rather than too soft.

Now that the butter is at the proper temperature, scrape the butter into a mixing bowl and beat it until creamy (1 or 2 minutes.) Scrape down the bowl. Beat in the powdered sugar until fluffy. Add half of the Fluff, and beat on medium high until blended. Add the remaining Fluff, and continue to beat, on medium-high, for 2-5 minutes or until the frosting is fluffy and light and no longer marshmallowy.

This is what it should look like.
If the buttercream, does not form after beating for 5 minutes, place it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes, and then try and beat it again. After the buttercream forms, beat in the vanilla. Beat in the cassis 1 tablespoon at a time. If the buttercream is not sweet enough, beat in the corn syrup, to taste. Remember that the cake will be layered with jam, which is quite sweet. You might want to take some of the cake that you cut off, of the cake,  layer it with jam and buttercream and taste it, before adding any of the corn syrup.

Assembling the cake:
Spread half of the preserves over the bottom layer, leaving about 1/4 –inch around the perimeter of the cake without jam. Pipe a rim of buttercream to hold in the jam.  (Here you can see that I didn't leave an edge and pipe a border, and the jam leaked out and onto the sides).

Spoon on a  globs of  buttercream and then spread  these to form a solid layer, 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch, to taste. Be careful not to get the jam mixed up into the frosting.

Set the top layer on the cake.  Spread frosting on the sides. If any jam has gotten into the frosting or if there are a lot of crumbs, you might want to put just a very thin layer of frosting on the cake and then refrigerate it for an hour to set the crumb coat of frosting.

Spread the remaining preserves onto the top of the cake, again leaving the perimeter clean. Pipe a border of your choosing around the perimeter.

If you do not need to write anything on the cake, it looks prettiest if the top jam shows through, so a nice diagonal design, as you see in the opening photo, looks great. If you need to write on the top of the cake, again spoon on some frosting and then spread it to cover the top.  Write on the cake, and then do the final top border. To finish the cake, set it on the serving platter and pipe the bottom border (if you have a cake board that is bigger than the can, you can pipe the bottom border directly onto it.  Refrigerate until ready to about 3 hours before serving and then let it stand at room temperature.

Store the cake in a cake container, in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.