Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Cranberry Cake with White Chocolate Italian Meringue Buttercream

Here it is Christmas time again...the time flies so quickly anymore.  Christmas used to feel so far away when I was a child now it just comes so fast, it almost takes me by surprise.  I make a cake each year for our Christmas eve celebration with family and close friends.  It all started when my Mom wanted to have a little cake so we could sing happy birthday to Jesus.  And here it has become a tradition and my cakes keep getting bigger and better.

Here is this years 'Jesus' cake.  It is a beautiful white cake filled with a spiced cranberry jelly and covered with a white chocolate buttercream then decorated with sugared cranberries.  It was quite a process.

First you made 2 cake layers and then put them in the freezer so you could slice them in half.  While the cake was freezing, you made the cranberry filling.  It had cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves in it ...the house smelled wonderful as it was on the stove top...it made it smell like Christmas.  The filling then needed to chill in the fridge overnight.  
So off to bed I went...on to day 2.

The buttercream was made first thing in the morning, then I sliced the cake layers and assembled the cake.  The cranberries were sugared and the cake frosted and then decorated.
I think it looks like a holiday!  I hope it tastes as wonderful as it looks! I will post a picture of a slice after we cut into it.

Merry Christmas To All!
Be Sweet

Christmas White Chocolate Cranberry Layer Cake
source:  Pineapple and Coconut


For the Cake
3⅓ c cake flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract or seeds from one vanilla bean
6 large egg whites
1 cup milk, room temperature (full fat NOT low or non fat)
For the filling
3 cups fresh cranberries
⅔ granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground allspice
⅛ tsp ground cloves
1 cup cranberry jelly or preserves (I used canned jellied cranberries)
¼ c cranberry juice
For the buttercream
6 large egg whites, room temperature
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
½ c water
¼ tsp sea salt
8 ounces white chocolate, melted
1 ½ lbs butter, cut into pieces, slightly cooler than room temperature
For the sparkling cranberries
3 cups fresh cranberries
1 c water
½ c cranberry juice
1 ½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup organic sugar( larger granule sugar than regular sugar)
1 cup super fine sugar


For the Cake
Preheat the oven to 350 Deg F. Grease the bottom of two 9” cake pans with butter and line with parchment paper circles on the bottom only. Grease with butter again and lightly flour, tapping out any extra.
In a medium bowl sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside
Ina bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter on medium until light and fluffy. Add in the sugar and beat again for 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides when necessary. Add in the egg whites in thirds, beating well between each addition. Add in the flour mixture alternating with the milk, ending with flour until it is barely incorporated. Add in the vanilla and mix on medium about 20 more seconds. Scrape down the sides and divide the mixture evenly amongst the cake pans. Bake for 30-35 min, rotating pans a about 20 minutes into baking, and test for doneness with a toothpick. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then invert onto a cooling rack to cool for another hour. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until the cakes are very firm.

For the filling
In a saucepan combine 2 cups of the cranberries along with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a simmer and remove from the heat as soon as most of the cranberries have popped open. Add in the remaining cranberries and transfer the filling to an airtight container. Chill completely. The filling can be made several days ahead of time. Bring to room temperature before cake assembly

For the buttercream
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and have the whisk attachment in place. In a high sided sauce pan combine the sugar, salt and water and place over medium-high head. Clip on a candy thermometer and stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved. Stop stirring and bring the mixture to a boil. Once it gets to about 220 degrees turn the mixer on high to whip the egg whites to a stiff peak. Keep the mixer running but drop it to medium speed, and watch the temperature on the sugar mixture. Once it reaches 245 deg F remove the pan from the stove and carefully pour the syrup into the egg whites. Once its all in, bring the speed back up to high and whip for 5-7 minutes, or until the bowl feels cool to the touch. In the meantime heat the white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl until its melted. Let cool slightly. Once the mixer bowl is cool to the touch, add in the butter one tablespoon at a time, stopping to scrape down the sides when needed. Once all the butter is in and its fully incorporated, whip on high until the buttercream is light and fluffy. Add in the melted white chocolate and mix on medium until well combined. If frosting cake same day, leave the buttercream at room temperature. If not, transfer to an airtight container and keep refrigerated until ready to use. Bring the buttercream fully to room temperature and then mix on low to get it back to the right consistency.

For the sugared cranberries
Rinse the fresh cranberries and pick out any mushy ones. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Combine the sugar, water, and cranberry juice in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Don’t bring to a boil. Once almost at a simmer remove from the heat and add the cranberries. Pour into an airtight container and immediately refrigerate at least 4 hours if not, overnight. The longer the better the chance of the sugar sticking
Once they are ready, drain the cranberries reserving the simple syrup, and toss the cranberries with the organic or larger grained sugar. Let dry for an hour and then toss again in a smaller grained sugar and let dry completely. These can be made up to two days ahead of time

For Cake assembly
Take the frozen cakes and let thaw slightly. Cut each cake in half so you have 4 equal cake rounds. Place one with cut side up on a cake plate or stand .Lightly brush the top of the cake with reserved simple syrup from the sugared cranberries. Spread on a thin layer of buttercream, about ⅔ c, and top with some of the cranberry filling. If you want to pipe a ring around the cake edges to keep the filling from spilling out the sides, use a pastry bag with a small, ¼ “ round pastry tip and pipe a circle around the edges. Repeat with remaining layers ending with the last layer on top, bottom side up. Brush the last layer with the cranberry simple syrup.
Spread on a thin coat of the buttercream icing to seal in the crumbs. Chill until it is set. Once chilled, finish frosting with the rest of the buttercream, smoothing as best as you can. Top with the sugared cranberries and place them around the bottom of the cake. Chill again until ready to serve. Cut the cake when cold with a hot, sharp knife. Serve the cake at room temperature.

This is a great tutorial for Italian Meringue Buttercream!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Not so "Whoopie" Pies: Baked Sunday Mornings

Brown Sugar Oatmeal Whoopie Pies with Maple Marshmallow Filling

I must have done something wrong, because these whoopie pies had a really funny taste to them...not a delicious oatmeal cookie taste at all.  My marshmallow filling was really hard to work with and quite goopy.  
I guess I struck out on this one!  Not my favorite 'Baked' goodie.
Oh well...better luck next time *sigh*
  Next up for the Baked group is an Italian cookie, Brutti Ma Buoni...
sounds like it is more up my alley!  We shall see!

Until then...
Be Sweet

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Double Chocolate French Macarons: ABC

I simply love macarons.  I am getting better each time I make them....but still have not perfected them.  I am a stubborn old gal, so I am not giving up!  The ABC bakers had a macaron challenge last month.  We are baking from Scientifically Sweet a blog by Christina Marsigiliese.  I tried this recipe about a few weeks ago and it was a total fail...my macarons had no feet!  I have never made a macaron that did not have feet!  So I gave it another shot I got feet, but they were just a little flat.  Oh well, like I said, I will persist.  I will give it another shot another day.

All in all, flat...with feet or without they are all soooo delicious. 

The recipe for these macarons is here

Until next time
Be sweet