27 April 2011

Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Bean Buttercream & a 97th birthday


The Birthday Girl. 







I love the look of a simple frosted cake. Just smooth sides, completely flat top, minimalist perfect. I think after seeing too many cheesy grocery store sheet cakes that just look so dated and not my style. Going to many patisseries in Paris, even though I was only there for a few days and that was 5 years ago. I still can remember exactly what I had at each one, how they looked, tasted and all the other pastries I wanted to try but there were just too many for my short visit. There is really nothing like that where I live. Its a land of prepackaged desserts, sheet cakes and everything seems to come in a plastic container. I have to drive an hour into the city to get anything remotely close, San Francisco has some amazing bakeries, but its just not the same. 

So thats why I really want to be able to frost a cake in a smooth even layer. Like super classy looking. It will be the start to me teaching my self to make pastries like the ones that fill my memories of Paris. Did anyone see 'Kings of Pastry'? Amazing movie, and what I wouldn't give to go to that pastry school in Chicago. I school dedicated to only making the spectacular desserts that I always wished I could do? Too amazing. I wish I had the money.  

And perfecting this seems to be the most difficult thing for me. It always comes out lumpy, bumpy or not even at all. I want those perfectly even smooth sides and flat top, where you think at first they covered it in fondant but no, its buttercream. So after many Youtube videos later...



This is as smooth and even as I could do. And to get this took... FOREVER. I'm happy with how it turned out and kinda love how it just fits in the palm of my hand. So hopefully after lots of practice, I will be able to do a normal sized cake. And guess how long it took me, from start to finish on this cake? 5 hours! Yes it only bakes for 35 minutes, and of course there is cooling time, but I spent like over 2 hours trying to get it smooth. Frost-smooth-chill-frost-smooth-oops not smooth-smooth-chill and so on and so on. 




97 years old. Crazy huh? She's my great great Aunt.

She asked who's cookbooks I liked best. I said Martha Stewart. She  said 'whos that'

It's funny to hear her refer to a 90 year old as 'little brother'

She said 'Oh just cut me a very little piece' She saw the piece I cut and went 'I said little!' and then in somehow disappeared from her plate...



Hello this is me! and isn't she cute??


I only had 2 ramekins for this cake recipe so I made the extra batter into a loaf cake. I love the little specks in the frosting. If I could use vanilla bean paste or proper vanilla beans all the time, instead of extract I would. The flavor is so much better, a completely noticeable amazing better, but so darn expensive. Worth it, for special occasions. 



Cake recipe
Buttercream recipe

UPDATE

Hello Lovelies

Here are the two videos that I found most helpful:  One, Two

It seems like it just takes practice and patience. Well I'm normally lacking on the patience aspect. If any of you little bakers out there have any tips on getting a smooth cake, let me know! And I will let you know if I figure out any tricks!

<3 

21 comments:

Ruth said...

This looks delicious! Perfect for the occasion!

Xiaolu said...

Aww you are so cute together! Adorable cake -- I'm definitely gonna try this for my mom's bday in the fall. She has type 2 diabetes and shouldn't eat too much cake anyway :). It looks very smooth to me btw :). I'd love to know which videos you used as I find them very helpful in terms of decoration techniques too!

Xiaolu said...

Btw you probably know this from all your research/practice already but it probably helps to have a rotating cake stand and a very large bent frosting spatula to get the frosting straight. I also feel like I see this look done often with swiss meringue buttercream. not sure if that's easier to smooth?

Bianca said...

I think the cake looks fab; far better than anything I could execute! With all so much practice you will be making Parisian desserts in no time!

Indie.Tea said...

How adorable :)
The little cake is so sweet. I usually use vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract myself. Its so much better in taste + scent.

monica said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
monica said...

I can see the vanilla seeds; the taste is perfect and it looks beautiful! Happy Birthday to the Girl!

Kory K said...

That is a cute cake! I am totally going to try to do this! And I hope your Great Aunt had a wonderful birthday! I was very inspired by you last week and on Wednesday after I got off work, got cooking on your Meyer Lemon Cake (Awesome!!!) and lemon bars & brownies. It was a fun morning! All thanks to your delicious posts, thank you!

Susan said...

I agree - this is a very cute cake for a very cute birthday girl! As a part time cake baker (I made the 3D Food Shark groom's cake at Adam and Krista's wedding in Marfa), I'll give you a hint at reducing your frosting time. Always use a 'crumb coat' when frosting a cake. This is done by putting just a smear of frosting on the cake - enough to cover the surface and hold the crumbs to the cake. Refrigerate the cake for about 10-15 minutes, then frost as normal. It is much easier to get a smooth result...

Julie Marie said...

Susan: Hello, thanks for the tip! Yeah I made another cake today, and it went a bit better. I remember that cake! Thats so funny you found my blog. All the desserts at Adam and Krista's wedding were so amazing.

Katherine Scott said...

GRACE!!

Nom Nom Sweeties said...

There is an instant purchase store on Ebay... if you look up vanilla beans. You can get a pound of vanilla beans (about 100 beans) for 20 to 30 dollars. Then, depending on how much you spend at that particular ebay store... they send you additional beans for free. You'll have to click a few of them, because I can't remember the name. I got the pound of beans and then got a 1/4 pound for free... it came together in the same package... and now I use vanilla beans in everything I bake and make.

Tabitha said...

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, your recipes! Especially this one. Thanks so much for sharing, I'm your newest follower! Tabitha @ Simplyhomecents.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Where can I find vanilla bean paste?

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maria said...

I'm baking this cake for my youngest boy, he turns two tomorrow. Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe!

Anonymous said...

I've used a rubber spatula dipped in water to smooth icing and also the crumb coat one. I've also used viva paper towels, lay on frosting and smooth, remove towel. it works mostly. I love the small cake idea, never thought to do that.

cynthia | two red bowls said...

Your cake looks so lovely and smooth to me! I love baking mini cakes but I actually find them to be frustrating to frost sometimes -- they tilt so easily! I may or may not have ruined one... or two ... after getting mad at it. (Good thing they're small.) I just found your blog recently and love it -- so glad to be a new follower!

Ice Pandora said...

Amazing looking cake c; So cute and
delicate looking! You 2 are so cute together c: Xx

Anonymous said...

I have found that freezing the layers prior to icing produce a very smooth finish but must work quickly. Very sweet cake and lovely presentation.

Maci Britt said...

This cake looks so perfect! Also, I don't know where the nearest Cost Plus World Market would be for you, maybe Napa or Santa Rosa, but they carry vanilla beans in their spice section- you get two in a little bag for $2.99! It's the best price I've found anywhere so far, and makes them slightly more accessible :)