Buttermilk Cake with Strawberry Hearts

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Whew – that was a mouthful!  This is the perfect cake to make for the Fourth of July or Valentine’s. .or any day (for that matter)!

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There are three soft layers of buttermilk cake, filled and topped with a decadent French buttercream, sprinkled with coconut, and topped with fresh strawberries.  Yum!

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Look at those soft gorgeous layers!!!  It doesn’t get much better than this.  Sigh.

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And a close up of those beautiful ridges, courtesy of this cake decorating comb.

If you don’t like the contrast between the golden yellow frosting and the white coconut, try this Italian Meringue Buttercream, which uses egg whites and has a whiter color.

Buttermilk Cake Adapted from The Model Bakery

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

2 3/4 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1 1/4 cups buttermilk (whole milk, if possible)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

French buttercream

1 small bag of sweetened coconut

1 package of strawberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spray three (9 inch) cake pans with nonstick spray and place parchment circles in the pan and spray again (especially around the parchment edges).

Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl really well, then set aside.

Measure the buttermilk and add the vanilla extract, stir – set aside.

Beat the butter in a Kitchenaid stand mixer with the whisk attachment for 1 minute.  Add the sugar, and beat for an additional 4 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, until each one is completely beaten into the sugar mixture.

With the mixer on low, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk mixture – beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Continue until all the flour and buttermilk has been added.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix just until combined.  Divide the batter between the three cake pans, then gently tap the cake pans on the counter to release any air bubbles from the batter.

Bake the cakes for about 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out relatively clean (a few small crumbs are fine).

Cool on a wire rack in the pans for 10 minutes.  Turn out of pans and onto a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap well – cakes will be hot!  Place cakes on a large baking sheet or cutting board and tent with foil (if using the same day – otherwise wrap well with foil), and place them in the freezer until you are ready to frost.

French Buttercream Adapted from Robicelli’s a Love Story, With Cupcakes

1 cup water

2 cups sugar

2 Tablespoons light corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Combine all the ingredients (in the order listed) into a heavy medium pot.  Stir and place on high heat, attach a reliable candy thermometer to the side of the pot (make sure the candy thermometer is not touching the bottom of the pot).

While the sugar mixture is boiling, get the eggs ready.

5 egg yolks

1 whole egg

1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 1/2 pounds of cold butter (the higher quality, the better), but into Tablespoons

Place the egg yolks and egg into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, turn on high and beat until it’s tripled in volume.  You can not overwhip – so let it beat until the sugar mixture is done!

When the sugar syrup reaches 235 degrees, turn off the mixer – add the xanthan gum and turn the mixer to medium.  Take the thermometer out of the sugar syrup and slowly pour the syrup into the mixer – avoiding the whisk (pouring in between the whisk and the bowl would be ideal).

When all the sugar syrup has been added, beat the mixture on high until cool – about 10 minutes.  Turn off the mixer and switch to the paddle attachment, and put the mixer guard on (it’s optional, but recommended).  On high, add the cold butter a couple of chunks at a time.  Continue to add chunks of butter every couple of seconds so that the temperature in the bowl continues to drop at a constant temperature – this will make sure that your frosting isn’t a soupy mess.*

When all the butter is added, continue to beat on high until all the butter has blended in and the frosting is fluffy.

*If your frosting is a soupy mess, don’t fret!  Place the bowl in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow the butter to partially solidify and then beat (about 5 minutes or so) until fluffy.

To frost, place a serving dish on top of a cake decorating turntable, and place a cake layer in the center of your serving dish.  Then add a nice dollop (or two) of frosting and spread until evenly coated (about 1/4 to 1/2 an inch thick), place another layer on top and (with a flat cookie sheet evenly press down on the layers).  Continue to add frosting and the next layer.

When all the layers are complete, coat the cake all over with a thin layer of frosting (a crumb coat).  Try not to dip your frosting spatula back into the frosting bowl (because you could introduce crumbs).  Place the cake in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

When the cake is ready, frost the cake all over as smoothly as possible.  Then using the cake comb noted above, swipe it across the top to make ridges, then coat the sides with coconut by gently pressing a handful of coconut around the sides of the cake.

Wash and dry the strawberries.  Then hull them and cut them in half.  Next cut a notch in the top of each strawberry and position on the outer rim of the cake.

Enjoy!

Refrigerate any leftovers for up to 4 days, covered.

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