My best friend Cookie called me up a week ago and told me her mom's birthday was coming up, and that she wanted a big party. Mrs. Tran was inviting 20 guests and Cookie said she would cater the dinner. Her sister offered to do the appetizers, then Mrs. Tran asked Cookie if I would make her a birthday cake. I was touched she wanted me to do her cake, and happily agreed. Then Cookie told me when her party was--the day before the wedding cake tasting--and I kind of panicked. Then Cookie told me what her mother's request was, and again, a little panicking. She wanted a four layer rum raisin cake--heavy on the rum--with a buttercream frosting. Ok, I thought, no problem. I can figure something out.
February 19, 2011
Name of Cake: Rum! and stuff
Occasion: Mrs. Tran's Birthday
Constituents: two 9 in genoise cakes, split and syruped with rum syrup, filled with vanilla-rum raisin pastry cream, and frosted with Swiss Meringue Buttercream
A search around the internet for a rum raisin cake yields all these dense, bundt style cakes with lots of heavy spices. I knew that was NOT was Mrs. Tran was looking for, so I made something up.
I decided to go with genoise, as it needs a liberal syruping anyways and hence would be a good rummy cake. Also, it would be light which would keep the four layer cake from being overwhelming. I remembered the St. Honore Trifle which had two split genoise layers--done.
I decided to fill the cake with vanilla bean pastry cream, because there is no one on Earth who doesn't love that. I wasn't sure where the rummed raisins were going to go--in the cake? In the pastry cream? Both? I was afraid the raisins would fall to the bottom of the cakes so decided to put them in the pastry cream.
When it came to buttercream, I decided the Swiss Meringue buttercream is a classic and more importantly, simple buttercream that would mellow out all the rummy components. Plus, I needed a batch for the cake tasting, so I could make it once and use it twice. (I actually ended up making it thrice and using all of it.)
The Monday before the party, I soaked a bunch of raisins in a combination of rum, vanilla rum, and a couple of used vanilla pods.
This is what they looked like Saturday morning:
Thursday, I set to work making the pastry cream. I decided on Dorie's recipe in Baking From My Home to Yours as it looked easy as well as rich and delicious. The recipe made 2 cups, I decided I'd need 3 cups to fill three layers. I also decided Cookie would like the extra cup to herself as she is in love with pastry cream, so I doubled the recipe. In doubling the recipe I needed a DOZEN egg yolks, but due to the egg yolk conspiracy I actually needed FOURTEEN egg yolks (I converted the recipe to grams...can't help it). FOURTEEN. EGG YOLKS. That is A LOT.
Making pastry cream after 18 months of RHC is easy peasy. Five million egg yolks and sugar are whisked together in a saucepan. Milk and a vanilla bean are brought to a boil in another pan, and slowly stirred into the yolks. Then, while madly whisking away, the mixture is cooked until it thickens. Once thick and lovely, it is strained into a bowl, a piece of plastic wrap is pressed against the surface, and shoved into the refrigerator to cool.
Friday after work I made the two genoise layers. I don't think they rose as high as previous genoise has, but they were still pretty good and I split them in half for the syruping. I had made a rum syrup a few days ago--you can see it in the jar in the top right corner of the photo.
After syruping, each cake layer was wrapped up and set aside to soak. I then made a batch of Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMBC). For some reason, I chose to make a single batch, 4 cups, to frost the outsides of the cake and to frost another 6 in cake for the upcoming tasting. In hindsight, I should have at least doubled the recipe, but hindsight is always 20/20 as they say.
The next morning, the Saturday of the party, I pulled out all components and got ready to assemble.
The SMBC was stiff and cold, but after an hour I decided it was ready to go. I rebeat it in the mixer, and it fell apart and curdled for a while. I wasn't sure it was going to pick itself back up but eventually the buttercream did come back together, nice and creamy. But it didn't look like it would be enough to amply frost the cake. It wasn't, so I hurredly made another batch. Luckily, I had five thousand egg whites leftover from making a double batch of pastry cream as well as lemon curd hanging out in the refrigerator.
The second batch of buttercream came together well and as I tried to frost the cake I realised the big problem was how cold my kitchen was. My kitchen doesn't have any heat source besides the oven, and it was a cold morning. So I turned to the room I could heat up the quickest--my bathroom. I cranked up the heat and made a makeshift table out of a stool and a board, and brought the cake, the frosting, and my offset spatulas in there. After a minute or two the buttercream began to soften to a normal spreading consistency and I could finally get a passable frosting job done.
Then I decided to do something with all the extra super plump, super rummy raisins.
Mrs. Tran was reported as saying her birthday cake was "a dream come true" and that it was "exactly what she wanted." Apparently it was well received--not too sweet, nice and rummy, creamy and delicious.