Monday, October 26, 2009

Boston Dessert Week: Rainbow Cake

Welcome to Day 2 of Boston Dessert Week. Get ready. Get set. 

Ta da! We did it. Just look at our Rainbow Cake!!!

WOW,  impressive right? This cake was a major group effort - I mean, a lot of anxiety went into making this cake as perfect as possible. 

The adventure started about two months ago, when I came across some unreal pictures on this blog. I want that! was all I could think. And my friends, Jess and Erin, felt the same. It immediately became their desktop wallpaper (Erin: "I seriously don't think I can look at this every day - it's killing me!") to tease them every time they opened their computers.
So what would be a good occasion for a project of such magnitude? We pondered this for a bit, and the answer soon came clear: Jess's birthday/Boston Dessert Party!!!

I will admit, along the way I had my doubts about the feasibility of this project. I mean, it's pretty complex. And I don't even like frosting that much, so the actual eating of the cake was not my goal...But now I can say that I have made a rainbow cake, and thoroughly document the adventure. Check. Yeah, that's right, be impressed. 

As far as recommending this recipe - I can't say the cake actually tasted that awesome. The frosting is ridiculously buttery, and the cake gets overpowered. We made the coconut cake, unlike the Whisk Kid recipe, but it didn't taste very coconutty in this context. If you're going for deliciousness, this is not really the cake for you. There are many more yummy recipes out there. 
BUT wow-factor-wise, well, just look at it! Nuf said. 

Here's how it went down:
On Friday night, we made the cake. We didn't use cake flour...which retrospectively, I think was a mistake. 

There is a difference between cake flour and all-purpose flour, and it affects the ratios of your batter. We didn't use a scale to measure out our batter. We just divided it into bowls 1/4 cup at a time (so that they would be as even as possible). We used fancy food coloring, rather than your typical Easter-egg-dying variety, which I think was a good call. 

The Cake:
Southern Coconut Cake
Makes an 8-inch triple layer cake
For the cake:

  • 5 large egg whites
  • ½ cup of milk
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 3 cups of cake flour
  • 2 and 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter (8oz.) at warm room temperature
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 ½ cups of sweetened flaked coconut for garnishing cake
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Butter the bottoms of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a parchment circle and butter the circle.

Put the egg whites in a bowl and whisk slightly. Add the ½ cup of milk and the vanilla and whisk to mix thoroughly; set aside.

In a large mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, beat dry ingredients well in order to break up any lumps. Add the butter and coconut milk on low speed and beat just to combine. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy about 2 minutes.

Add the egg white mixture in 2 or 3 additions, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Divide the batter among the pans.

Because the layers are so thin, they only need to cook for about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them!

Disaster #1 occurred when we tried to get the cakes out of the pans. Because they're so thin and fragile, they totally split in half. As in, we ran a knife around the edge, tapped the bottom, lifted it up, and huge chunks of cake were stuck to the bottom of the pan! Oh no!!! (If you've ever had this happen, you know the feeling I'm talking about.)

Luckily, I had a GENIUS idea. Like seriously, one of the best ideas I've ever had. Rather than continuing to ruin our cakes as they came out of their pans, and then trying to patch them back together, we started cutting them in half before taking them out of the pans! This enabled us to get a spatula under the most fragile center of the cake, and gently lift them out one half at a time. Then the two pieces could be put back together. When you frost the cake, no one can tell the difference! 

YES! Crisis averted.

We then froze the layers overnight. 

The next day, we made the frosting. It was really really REALLY nerve-wracking. I've told you before that I really try to avoid recipes that involve melting sugar in any way. Also, if you don't have a big mixer this would be really hard. It took a long time to beat...holding a hand mixer for that long would be a major challenge...

This recipe recommends making the frosting in 2 batches, which we did. 
To fill and crumb coat:
9 egg whites
1 ¾ c sugar
4 sticks of butter, room temp
2 tsp lemon extract
To frost:
5 egg whites
1 c sugar
2 sticks butter, room temp
1 tsp lemon extract

Cook the egg whites and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved (test by rubbing some between your fingers. If it's completely smooth, it's done). Pour into another bowl (a stand mixer is preferable) and whip on high speed until room temp. Then, on a medium-slow speed, add the butter, waiting until each piece is completely

 incorporated before adding the next. After all the butter has been added, turn the mixer back to high speed and whip until it has come together, about five minutes. Add the extract, beat briefly and then use.

And a tip: if it curdles (aka, you're beating it for like 10 minutes, and it's not coming together, and then suddenly it starts looking like cottage cheese), 
1. Don't panic
2. Turn on your stove and heat the frosting over medium heat for like 20 seconds.
3. Return to the mixer and beat.
This isn't supposed to happen (meaning, ideally the frosting would come together on its own), but it happened to us both times. 

Also, you could probably half the second batch of frosting - we had a lot left over. The frosting does spread very easily. And because our layers were frozen, it set very nicely. 

But make sure that you serve the cake at room temperature, otherwise the frosting will just feel like you're eating butter. 

Our cake was a masterpiece. Very impressive-looking. So if you decide to make one yourself - good luck! Let me know how it goes!