Student Cakes

May 26, 2012

Marci is a very good cake maker and has learned to apply the Italian Meringue Buttercream in thin layers.

When students come to my studio to learn to properly ice cakes or make white chocolate fondant, they are often surprised at how relatively easy it is to master certain techniques that will allow them to make wonderful cakes.

For applying Italian meringue buttercream, apply it in thin layers and make sure the buttercream is somewhat soft.  You can soften the buttercream in a few ways.   I prefer to simply put the buttercream into a microwave oven for a few seconds to soften it up.  You can dip a spatula into a container of hot water, wipe the spatula on a clean cloth and use that spatula on fresh buttercream to smooth it.  Do not use a hot spatula on chilled buttercream because you will discolor it.  Some people like using a flame as in a torch and that is a quick way to smooth buttercream when you use a bench scraper.

The amount of buttercream that you will need to put on a cake is just enough so that you can no longer see the cake.  It is not necessary to put a tremendous amount of buttercream on a cake, your customers will appreciate just enough and not too much.

The turn table is perhaps the most essential of tools for icing cake.  It is the rotation of the turn table that smooths the buttercream.   As you move the table in one direction, you will bring your spatula towards you in the opposite direction always keeping the buttercream ahead of your spatula blade.

Using a bench scraper is a good way to keep your sides straight as it is a perfect 90 degrees.  When you put your scraper against the side of the cake you can determine if your buttercream has been applied perfectly because you should not see daylight anywhere that bench scraper is held to the side of the cake.

Italian Meringue Buttercream:

The ratio is always the same..1 pound butter per 4 ounces of egg white.

Use pasteurized egg white for your cakes that are going to your customers just to be on the safe side.  Pasteurized egg whites can be found in the grocery store egg section and are sometimes called Just Whites or something like that.  You can get them in the quart size and half gallon size as you grow your business.  The half gallon size will come frozen from some dairy distributors.

8 ounces pasteurized egg whites

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup cold water to moisten the sugar to be cooked

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 pounds unsalted butter at room temperature

Place 2 cups of granulated sugar into a saucepan with 1/2 cup cold water to moisten all the granules of sugar.

Start whipping the egg whites in the bowl of a heavy duty mixer with a whip attachment.  When the egg whites reach the soft peak stage, stabilize the whites with 1/2 cup of granulated sugar.

Cook the sugar in the saucepan to 240 degrees F. and then carefully pour the hot sugar syrup over the stabilized egg whites.  You are now making a meringue.  Whip on high speed until the meringue is cooled.  Add the unsalted butter and allow to whip an additional 5-10 minutes until the whole mixture is quite smooth.

Add the vanilla extract and voila!  You have Italian meringue buttercream.  How easy is that.

For those who tell you you can’t pipe Italian meringue buttercream, they are wrong.  You can pipe with this lovely buttercream.  It takes some practice but it can be done.

My student, Samia has made a three tiered cake in her wedding cake workshop that is a combination of fondant and buttercream. The flowers were piped with Italian meringue buttercream as well as made with gumpaste. This was a mixed medium workshop!

Dan and Elizabeth

May 26, 2012

My good friend Dan Mikosz of Decadence Custom Cakes, worked in my studio for over 2 years.  In 2010, Elizabeth was born and she often came to the studio with Dan.  From the very beginning, she enjoyed watching the cake making processes.   Elizabeth was the most observant little baby.  She loved watching how everything was done.

Dan is a wonderful cake maker.  His cakes are delicious and beautiful.  We made very similar kinds of cake, vanilla chiffon for instance was a cake recipe that we both loved.  The formula found in my chef’s book, The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg is the formula that we loved most.  The base formula is as follows:

1/3 cup vegetable oil

4 whole eggs separated

1/2 cup cold water

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste

7 ounces of cake flour

7 ounces of granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powser

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare 3 8″ cake pans by spraying the bottom of the pan and lining it with an 8″ round of parchment paper.

Sift together the flour with 2 ounces of the granulated sugar, the baking powder and the salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a heavy duty mixer with a whip attachment, place the egg yolks, the cold water, the vegetable oil and the pure vanilla extract or Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste.  Mix on medium speed for about a minute.  Add the flour mixture to the yolks all at once and mix for an additional minute.  Scrape down the bowl and continue to whip for a few seconds until you are sure there are no flour lumps in this mixture.

In the bowl of another heavy duty mixer with a whip attachment, start whipping the egg whites which you will stabilize with the remainder of the granulated sugar which is 5 ounces.  Stabilize the whites after they reach the soft peak stage to assure the greatest volume.  Do not add the sugar too quickly to egg whites that you are stabilizing because the weight of the sugar can cause the whites to collapse.

Take both bowls off their mixers, and fold the whites into the yolk mixture really well.  Make sure there are no lumps of whites that are unincorporated.

The total weight of the batter will be approximately 28 ounces so pour 9 ounces of batter into each of the cake pans and bake for about 20 minutes or until just golden.

Cool in the cake pan and remove..the cakes should be completely chilled before filling.

Here is a picture of Dan with Elizabeth while he is decorating a tiny anniversary cake in the studio in 2010.

Elizabeth is two months old here and she is observing the cake making process. She always loved watching the cakes being made.

Banana Cake

December 17, 2009

Three tiered wedding cake

Banana Cake with Bavarian Cream Filling and Italian meringue buttercream

The cake pictured on this page has dozens of gum paste purple hydrangeas and several stylized roses also in purple.  The Italian meringue buttercream is tinted with Regal Purple gel color.  The best way to color Italian meringue buttercream is to add a bit of sifted powdered sugar before adding the gel color.  This will make your color much more vivid.

The cake is a Banana Cake that I have tweeked to lighten it up.    Because the original recipe called for only mashed bananas being the moisture in the cake, I have added buttermilk to lighten up the end result and added banana compound which is a rich intense banana compound made in Switzerland.  I purchase Hero brand Banana Compound through Peterson Cheese Company in Auburn, WA.  This supplier carries many fine imported products and the Seattle region is fortunate to have this resource available.  Each recipe I post will explain where you might be able to find the materials used in the recipe and the best products that I have found for these recipes.

Here is the recipe that I have developed:

Banana Cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare 2 – 10 inch cake pans with pan spray and a round of parchment.

Thoroughly cream together in the bowl of a heavy duty mixer:

8 ounces unsalted butter at room temperature

1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar


1 1/2 cups mashed banana blended with 1/2 cup buttermilk

2 Tablespoons Banana Compound

Sift together:

3 cups cake flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

Add the sifted flour to the banana/butter mixture  and mix on low until just combined.  Divide between cake pans and  bake 30 minutes or until done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Bavarian Cream:

2 egg yolks

2 whole egg

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

2/3 cups sugar

2 Tablespoons all purpose flour

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

The contents of a whole vanilla bean

Put the milk and heavy cream into a 4 quart saucepan and scrape the contents of the whole vanilla bean into the milk.  Heat until the milk begins to boil.

While the milk is warming up, in the bowl of a heavy duty mixer, mix together the 2 yolks, the whole egg and the sugar and beat until they become light in color and thick.  Stop the mixer and add the 2 Tablespoons of flour and 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch and beat until the mixture becomes even thicker and lighter in color.

Pour a small amount of the hot milk over the egg mixture and blend thoroughly.  The mixture is now tempered and you can add the rest of the hot milk to the egg  mixture.  Pour the milk/egg mixture back into the saucepan and over a moderate heat, whisk until a bubble appears and the cream has become very thick.

Add 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Pour this into a shallow plastic pan and immediately place plastic wrap over the surface of the cream and refrigerate.  If you do not place plastic wrap over the pastry cream, a skin will form and the end product will not be smooth and lumpfree.

Chill thoroughly.

Whip 1 1/2 cups heavy cream to the stiff peak stage and fold into the pastry cream.  The specks of vanilla bean will be throughout the quick Bavarian cream.

Italian Meringue Buttercream: 

4 egg whites

1 cup of granulated sugar divided 3/4 cup and 1/4 cup

1/4 cup cold water

1 pound unsalted butter at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put the 3/4 cups of granulated sugar in a saucepan with 1/4 cup of cold water.  Moisten all the granules of sugar.

Put the egg whites into the bowl of a heavy duty mixer and begin to whip them on a moderate speed.

When the egg whites become frothy and white, add the 1/4 cup of granulated sugar to the egg whites in a thin stream.

Whip the whites until they form stiff peaks.  While the whites are whipping, heat the sugar and water to 240 degrees.  I use an infrared thermometer to read the temperature which is enormously helpful.

When the sugar syrup has reached 240 degrees, pour it into the bowl of the whipped egg whites in a thin stream between the whip and the side of the bowl.  Do not get the sugar syrup on the wire whip or it will make a mess and you will lose some of the syrup.

Whip until cool and add the pound of unsalted butter in chunks.  Whip and blend thoroughly and then add the vanilla extract.  If the butter is too chilled still, the buttercream will look like cottage cheese.  If you add the softenend butter to the egg whites before they have a chance to cool, then the buttercream may be too thin.  Getting it just right is a trick that takes practice but once you know how to do this, this buttercream is the buttercream for wedding cakes.

Swiss meringue buttercream is made with egg whites and sugar blended together over a hot water bath to a temperature of 140 degrees and to me, this buttercream is better for a filling or a cake that does not have to be stacked or transported anywhere in hot weather.

French meringue buttercream is the same as Italian meringue buttercream except that you use 4 liquid ounces of egg yolks instead of whites.

I hope you will try making Italian meringue buttercream. The ratio is always the same and we can scale it up and down with ease.  12 pounds of butter and 6 cups of egg whites fits in our 40 quart mixer with no problems.