Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, etc., etc. Been a while.
After a few weeks of work travel (and play travel) and general holiday business, I finally got back to the blog. And then my computer died. Blue screen of death after blue screen of death. Many frustrating days of troubleshooting later, I’m on my husbands computer. At least until I can figure out a different repair/replace situation for my poor little laptop.
SO. What have we missed?
Yep, that’s a gourmet cappuccino popsicle dipped in an oatmeal stout.
Our first doggie daycare overnight, followed quickly by our first bath:
Little drowned rat.
And Christmas decorating, of course!
Now I just have to do all that shopping…
Lots going on! But lets rewind quickly to Thanksgiving. I hosted this year, my second year in a row and second time ever hosting. With the kitchen remodel and one year of T-day cooking under my belt, I felt a lot more confident going into this year.
Day-of, I made the entire dinner, turkey, potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, risotto, green beans, salad and rolls. My mother-in-law, fortunately, offered to make the stuffing (which I find abhorrent).
Day before, however, I made dessert. No pies this year, though I’m not morally opposed to pie (just not a big fan of pies of the pumpkin variety). It just seemed like a great occasion to make a really involved cake. I had the full day off work and had already done the Thanksgiving shopping, cleaning and decorating. So it was a cake day. (It actually took about 5 hours from start to finish, so I still had time during the day for other prep if I had wanted it.)
Cakes, particularly layer cakes covered in buttercream icing, are SO sweet. I decided to cut the sweetness by stuffing the cake with a cranberry compote and marscarpone cream. Cranberries are quite tart on their own, so by adding just a bit of sugar (and booze!) they helped cut the sweetness of the cake.
The cake itself was an angel food cake, one of my favorites. So light. So fluffy. So fun to make. So important to prep your pans first.
Line those bad boys with parchment paper.
Next, separate your eggs. You can preserve your yolks, if you like, for another recipe. I just tossed this time, didn’t have any other dozen-yolk recipes on deck (stay tuned for a Christmas cookies post…).
I cracked the eggs into the bowl of my stand mixer and then let them sit there and warm up to room temperature. This is important. Cold eggs will not whip up as nicely as room temperature eggs.
While the eggs are warming, prepare the dry ingredients by sifting the flour and powdered sugar together into a bowl and set aside.
Once the eggs have warmed up, add the cream of tartar and salt and whip using the whisk attachment on medium or medium-high speed. I started at speed six and went up to eight as I went on. When the eggs start to get foamy, add the sugar (granulated) in 2-3 batches.
Foamy, sugary, almost done!
Continue beating on medium-high until stiff peaks form. Not sure what a stiff peak looks like? Check it out:
Is that a well-whipped egg, or are you just happy to see me?
Now. Adding a cup or so at a time, g-e-n-t-l-y fold in the flour/powdered sugar mixture. I actually re-sift my mixture into the batter for extra smoothness. Once all of the flour/sugar is incorporated, stop mixing! And divide the batter evenly between your two prepared pans.
Bake these lovelies in your preheated oven for about 45 minutes. The tops should be light brown and a toothpick or knife inserted in the center should come out clean.
Meanwhile…. while the cakes are baking, prepare the fillings and then the icing.
The cranberry filling is easy to make: put all ingredients in a saucepan and boil. Then simmer for 15-20 minutes. Then let it all cool. No problem.
I used rye whiskey. I’m not a big whiskey drinker, and this is what the hubs had on hand. I haven’t tested it, but I’d imagine lots of other whiskeys would also taste delicious in this recipe.
Now, for the cream. I added gelatin to help thicken the cream, and I liked the texture of it. The cream is similar to the cranberries. Add ingredients to mixer, mix until everything is well combined. Easy-peasy.
At this point, I loaded the cream into a ziploc bag (my current version of a pastry bag), and set it aside. And then cleaned the bowl. Again.
At long last, I made the icing. It gave me some trouble, so I don’t have many pictures of it. The icing, much like the fillings, is essentially simple to make: mix butter, extracts, milk and powdered sugar until you reach your desired consistency.
I, however, forgot that I was making icing for a delicate little cake, and made it WAY too thick the first time around. I adjusted the ingredients in this post, so it should work. But it’s best to start slow – add a bit of milk and powdered sugar to start and then thicken/thin from there.
The one thing I DID get right with the icing is the towel-over-mixer trick, which helps prevent your kitchen from being coated in powdered sugar. Patent pending. (If only!)
Now. At this point, your cakes should be done. And probably cooled. So you should be ready to assemble. Not traditionally my favorite part, but I’m getting better.
Run a knife along the edge of the pan before you flip it – and it should pop right out. Slice each cake in half (each pan = two layers).
Pipe the marscarpone cream mixture around the outside of each layer and then fill with the cranberry mixture (and more cream, yum!). As you stack the cakes, trim off any weird edges. This will help you end up with a nice, cylindrical, straight cake. That doesn’t fall over or look like it’s been hobbled.
Once all four layers are layered, apply a thin layer of frosting. Chill the cake for about an hour before frosting completely.
Crumb coats are my new favorite thing.
Look at that beauty.
I suggest storing the cake in the fridge, since it’s full of cream on cream and iced with butter and milk. It was tough around Thanksgiving, but we figured out a way to make it work.
Bring it to room temperature when you’re ready to eat. Then slice and serve!
My Dad’s slice is stored in a sealed container in the freezer until he comes to claim it at Christmas!