Friday, April 9, 2010

I saw it and thought...I could do that...Easter Cake!

Happy Easter!  Like a good Catholic (my family is laughing at me right now), I went home and spent Easter Sunday with my family.  My mother put me in charge of the dessert, and I decided that this would be a perfect time to exercise my creative skills.  Searching (my new favorite site), I found a picture of a beautiful Easter cake.  According to Amanda's Cookin', she used something called a checkerboard baking set to make this cake.  Unlike Amanda (but probably like the rest of you) I didn't have that set, and I didn't have round cookie cutters.  So I decided to use my own ingenuity in making the cake.  It worked, but maybe next time I'll just make Betty Crocker mix out of a box...

Checkerboard Easter Cake
You'll need:
4 1/2 cups cake flour
2 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
8 large egg whites
3 cups sugar
4 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
3 different colors of food coloring
3 9-inch round non-stick cake pans of equal or similar shape

  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the cake pans and line the bottom of each with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.
  3. Whisk together the buttermilk and egg whites in another bowl.
  4. Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and mix them together until the sugar is moist. Add the butter, and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light and fully combined. 
  5. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is even, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed.  There will be A LOT of batter.
  6. Separate the batter evenly into three separate bowls. Add food coloring into each bowl and wisk thoroughly to combine, scraping at the sides. Repeat for the other two batches. I used Amanda's colors of pink, purple, and green because I thought they were the most Easter appropriate, but you can use really any colors.  Be careful with the dye, you only need a few drops!
  7. Pour the differently colored batters into three different pans.  Bake for 25-35 minutes, checking after 25, or until the cakes bounce back rather than jiggle when you touch them- a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes.  Invert and cool to room temperature right side up and peel off the paper liners

The Frosting
I decided that I liked my frosting recipe better than Amanda's.  I made two batches, one that went in between the cake layers, and one that covered the entire cake.

Inner Frosting
You'll Need:
2 sticks of butter
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa power

  1. Beat together all the ingredients except the sugar  and cocoa powder until smooth.
  2. Combine the sugar and coca powder and then add them in half cup increments, beating after each addition.  This should give you enough frosting for the layers in between the cake. You can add more of any of the ingredients to suite your particular taste or consistency requirements.
Outer Frosting
You'll Need:
2 sticks of butter
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Repeat the instructions above.  This frosting is just a basic vanilla frosting.  If you prefer chocolate, you can add cocoa power or melt 2 cups of melted semi-sweet chocolate chips.  I've also made Bailey's frosting, Oreo frosting, or almond frosting by added almost extract.  It's up to you!

To Make the Cake Look Pretty

Now you could just stack the cakes on top of each other and use the "inner" frosting for in between the layers.  But how fun is that?  I did something much more insane.

When the cakes are cool, slide a long, sharp knife across the top of the cake and cut the tops of each cake off until each cake is flat.

Flip the cakes over (VERY CAREFULLY) and cut them into concentric circles, like the picture above.  I made patterns out of paper and cut around them very carefully with a knife.  After the pieces are cut, move the circles and fill each cake with different colored circles.  Each layer needs to be a different color, otherwise it doesn't work.  Use the "inner" frosting to put frosting in between the circles to hold them together, kind of like glue.  Spread the top of one layer with frosting and then CAREFULLY (all of this needs to be done very slowly) place the next layer of top.  Repeat.

Frost the entire cake with the "outer" frosting.  So you don't rip up the cake, pour all the frosting on top and slowly work your way down.  Wet a napkin to remove excess frosting from the cake.  Because it was Easter, I topped the cake with Malt Ball Easter Eggs.  You're free to add whatever you want!

Would I make this cake again?  Maybe.  It is very labor intensive, but it looked so cool afterward that I didn't regret the work.  I think this only works if you are feeling ambitious, have lots of free time, and have a special occasion to cook for.  For an everyday cake, skip the checkerboard.  I don't really know how this relates to Grand Hotel.  Maybe because it is a fancy cake.  No one really eats in the movie, so I'm willing to call this a hotel cake.  I asked my brother to come up with a connection between German hotels and this cake.  He said, "They both crumble at the hands of the Americans?"  Possibly inappropriate.  But it works...
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