Birthday Cake

Birthday Cake with Italian meringue buttercream

Italian meringue buttercream is what I ice and decorate all my cakes with.  It is a sturdy buttercream because a hot sugar syrup is poured into stabalized egg whites that are whipped to a stiff peak.  The hot sugar syrup is taken to a temperature of 245 degrees F and for piping purposes, I will take the temperature to about 250 degrees F.    The egg whites are stabalized with a small portion of the granulated sugar in the raw form.  When the syrup is added to the egg whites the syrup will go towards the raw sugar and temper the syrup so that the egg whites do not turn into an omelet or souffle.

You will need a heavy duty mixer and a wire whip

4 egg whites or 4 liquid ounces

1 cup granulated sugar divided into 3/4 cups for the saucepan and 1/4 cup for the egg whites

1/4 cup cold water

1 pound unsalted butter at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place 3/4 cup granulated sugar into a heavy bottom saucepan with 1/4 cup cold water which is used to moisten all the granulated sugar.  Wash any granules of sugar on the side of the saucepan before you begin to boil it. Boil the sugar in the water until it reaches a temperature of 240 degrees F.   I take the sugar to 250 degrees F if I am going to use it for piping.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a heavy duty mixer and begin to whip the whites as you begin to heat and boil the sugar in the saucepan.  Timing is somewhat important.  You don’t want the sugar to be too hot before the egg whites have whipped completely.  When the whites are at a soft peak, add the 1/4 cup granulated sugar and whip the egg whites to a stiff peak.

The buttercream is not going to be perfectly white because butter is not white.  The pure vanilla extract is not white either but if you add a small amount of confectioners sugar the buttercream will become lighter in color.  Confectioners sugar also allows gel colors to become more vivid.  If you color Italian meringue buttercream without confectioners sugar it can appear grainy and muted..adding a little confectioners sugar and voila, the colors become quite vivid.

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.