Thursday, December 18, 2008

Birthday Cake for the Birthday Boy

So we have a friend named Wilman from the Domincan Republic. He's here on a college exchange program and he is very studious. It is a little astounding. I have never studied like that in my whole life. Maybe that's my problem... Anyway, he turned the big 21 so we threw him a birthday party and he asked if I could bake him a cake!


Wilman's Birthday Cake

December 13 2008
Name of cake: Wilman's Birthday Cake
Occasion: Wilman's 21st Birthday
Constituents: Many layers Dorie's devil's food cake filled and frosted with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream

This cake was a lesson in patience, egg whites, and label reading.

Wilman requested a chocolate cake with white frosting. I decided to make Dorie's devil's food cake from the Devil's Food White Out Cake, but instead of filling and frosting with the billowy marshmallow frosting in the book, I decided to pair it with swiss meringue buttercream. I thought the marshmallow frosting might be too much for our Dominican friend. And I like that swiss meringue buttercream.

The party was Saturday night, so Thursday I made the frosting. Now, Dorie's recipe is in conjunction with her perfect party cake, and is enough to fill and frost a four layer (torted) cake. Since I was planning on torting the cake I figured the same amount of frosting would be perfect.

I decided to use the leftover egg whites I had sitting pretty in the freezer. I also decided to cut the sugar in half, like I did for Julie and Noah's wedding cake. For those of you who haven't made a SMBC, you take your sugar and your egg whites and beat them over a pot of simmering water until the temp of the meringue is 160 F. After the eggs come to temperature, you pull them off the heat and beat until cool. Then you add a ton of butter and a little vanilla extract and beat like crazy until the whole mess becomes a beautiful, velvety, lovely frosting.

So my leftover egg whites must have been past their prime, because they didn't make a very big meringue nor very much frosting. I looked at it for a long while, decided it must be enough because that's what the recipe called for, packed the frosting in a tub and went to bed.

Friday after work Annmarie came over to keep me company while I baked the cakes. Dorie's recipe makes two decadent 8 inch cakes. They came together easily and without mishap, but after letting them cool I looked at them with concern as they seemed shorter than I thought they ought to be. But like the frosting, I decided it should be right and so I went on to split the layers and start stacking the cake.

Wilman's Birthday Cake

I stacked the four cake layers with thin layers of buttercream, and had just enough frosting left to do a crumb coat around the outside of the cake. Hmm. That's not enough frosting. Also, the cake looked a little short. Hmm. That's not enough cake. But it was 3 in the morning so I went to bed.

The next morning, the day of the party, I took inventory of my pantry. I was out of bittersweet chocolate and I needed two whole ounces for another round of cake. I debated on substituting more cocoa powder and butter (I found in RLB's Cake Bible a conversion), but my roommate needed to hit the grocery store too so we shuffled out of the apartment together. And then we went to the liquor store for more rum (not for the cake), and then to another grocery store for a Christmas wreath and some lunch. And then, back home.

So I started in on the next round of cake. Again, everything came together fine and quickly. The cakes baked up and didn't seem like they were much higher than the previous night's batch. I made another round of frosting with the rest of the defrosted egg whites and proceeded to stack another three layers of cake (I saved the fourth layer for a snack later in the week...and because I was worried there wasn't enough frosting). (Math break: I stacked another two layers of cake. Two.)

Wilman's Birthday Cake

And rightly so--the second batch of frosting was only enough to fill the next two layers and frost the top. Those darn old egg whites! Also, with this batch of frosting I needed to dip into my roommate's butter stash, which I figured he wouldn't mind (although I don't think I asked him). This will become important in a few paragraphs...

So I accepted my fate--that I was going to have to make a third round of swiss meringue buttercream. I was miffed, to say the least. As I separated three fresh eggs and began to beat the sugar and whites over a pan of simmering water, I thought back to Julie and Noah's wedding cake. I needed two and a half batches of the same frosting to frost all three layers of cake. So why did I need the same amount to fill and frost this cake? As I looked at the marvelous volume these egg whites were achieving, I decided there really is a shelf life to frozen egg whites.

Lesson number one.

For this last batch of frosting, all of the butter came from my roommate's stash. The frosting came together pretty quickly, and I could almost do it from memory by this point! I felt pretty cool.

Until I tasted the frosting. The salty, salty frosting.


My roommate's butter stash was salted butter.


Lesson number two.

I bet it wouldn't have been so salty tasting if I hadn't halved the sugar. But oh well. My roommate actually liked the frosting--he said it was a good sweet/salty balance. To me, it just tasted like salty butter with a hint of vanilla. I couldn't taste any sweet at all.

And then, I realised that the second batch of frosting, which was already on the cake, was 1/3 salty butter.


My roommate pointed out that the vanilla ice cream we were going to serve the cake with would probably overpower all that salty frosting and nobody would notice. I agreed, and so I finished frosting the outside of the cake with the salty frosting and topped it with chocolate shavings from the left over bittersweet chocolate.

Wilman's Birthday Cake

Joelf and Annmarie both remarked that I was quite calm in the face of this cake trauma. They were right; I was calm. I was also a little disappointed but oh well. I figured it would be a good story for The Blog.

Everybody complimented me on the cake, which I couldn't take seriously. The frosting was salty, people! However Joelf was right--the ice cream totally overpowered the saltiness so maybe that's why they thought it tasted so good.

The funny thing is, the next day as I was cleaning up, I found an abandoned piece of cake where the only thing that was eaten was the salty frosting. What shenanigans were these? Did a deer get a piece of cake?

Wilman's Birthday Cake

Happy Birthday Wilman!!


  1. Ha! I've had salty butter mishaps before! Very aggravating. But salty desserts are the new thing now (salt caramel, salt chocolate, salt on chocolate chip cookies), so you should really just say that you are cutting edge! I did not know that there was a shelf life on frozen eggs, though. Good to know! Sounds like it all worked out well in the end. :)

  2. It looks fantabulous! Very Hectoresque, stacked to a dizzy height.
    You know, it doesn't look salty from here!
    I bet Wilman thought he'd hit the jackpot having his 21st birthday at your house! You know how to have a good time!

  3. The disasters lead to good stories, don't they? My guess is that you have ultra-sensitive taste buds, and you tasted the salt more than most people. I take it that no one stood up and said, "My God woman, this is like eating a salt lick?" Probably everyone else was thinking, "Hmmm, good cake. Good frosting."

  4. Amanda, yes, that's it--I'm cutting edge! Oh well. Serves me right for dipping into my roommate's butter stash without asking and not reading labels!

    Melinda, aw thanks, we do know how to have a good time! Wilman made a bunch of CDs of his favrorite Dominican music, and he made us all get up and dance. It was really fun.

    BBC, haha! You are right, I do think I have extra sensitive salt taste buds. Too much salt burns my tongue, is that normal? I've always wondered. I did think as I was messing up the frosting, "oh this will be funny for the blog!"

  5. Salted butter frosting sounds really good to me. And that cake just looks incredible- i love how it's just layers and layers of cake piled on top each other.

  6. eatandbehappy, I think the salted butter frosting would have been better if I hadn't cut the sugar in half.