As per usual, rather than complete the assignment of the day (pies! this shouldn’t be hard!) I am jumping ahead in the Modern Baker Challenge. I have been looking ahead at the Cakes chapter with excitement and trepidation. Excitement because–well, do I have explain? CAKE! Trepidation because, who is going to eat all this sugary output?
I had a flash of inspiration when preparing for an upcoming family get-together over the 4th of July weekend. A captive audience in a town of under 3000 in rural Vermont combined with the need to use up 2 cups of delicious Jersey cream from the Berkshires led to Nick Malgieri’s Whipped Cream Layer Cake (with Whipped Cream Caramel Frosting).
This cake is made by folding whipped cream into the batter, a method which instantly caught my interest for its departure from the usual butter and milk combination. (In fact, the whipped cream fills the role of both). You have the pleasure of making something unique without having to hunt down bizarre ingredients or successfully accomplish some complicated tour-de-force in the kitchen. And it’s incredibly easy, especially if you ignore Malgieri’s instructions to whip 1 1/2c of cream by hand and use your hand mixer.
Slightly more nervewracking was making the caramel concentrate for the frosting. (First you make what you might think of as a “flavor base” of caramel mixed with a half a cup of cream; once cool you whip this together with even more heavy cream). I always worry when making caramel thanks to an attempt making flan in high school which resulted in me splattering myself with burnt hot sugar. (Really, it wasn’t that bad, maybe a few tiny welts on my left hand, but the memory is vivid). Even without the threat of self-injury, it’s really easy to burn your caramel as it continues to darken even after you’ve turned off the flame.
Once you make the caramel, you heat the cream and add it to the burnt sugar. While the cream warmed, I ran the sides of the caramel pot under cold water to cool things down and stop the cooking as I was afraid I’d let the whole hot mess go too far. I think it may have helped, and even better, adding the cream to the liquid sugar was surprisingly undramatic. (Nick warns you to beware, as adding hot cream to hot caramel may cause a rapid foaming up of molten hot caramel over the sides of your pot! Flashbacks!). I did have to stir a bit to get things mixed, since the caramel was cooler than it might otherwise have been, but it all worked out.
Lest you think I am able to perform magic feats of keeping a frosted cake in perfect condition (and unmelted) on a 2 hour drive to Vermont, I’ll admit that I carried the baked cake up in the buff and held the caramel base in a small pyrex bowl in the cooler. Two days later I mixed in two cups of cream into the caramel bases, whipped it up and frosted the cake.
As you can see, my sous-chef was happy to help frost the cake and was very excited to help me carry the finished work to the table.
Despite being baked on a Friday night and being served on a Sunday, the cake was perfectly fresh, light, and moist. Its subtle vanilla flavor melded well with the golden caramel flavored icing, and with 12 at the table, it soon enough disappeared.