“Here’s the basic difference between Morelli and me. My first thought was always of cake. His first thought was always of sex. Don’t get me wrong. I like sex…a lot. But it’s never going to replace cake.” Janet Evanovich, Eleven on Top.
Your mission Mr. Phelps:
- Celebrate an adventurous (she has done Ultraman…twice) friend’s and English Channel swim team mate’s birthday by baking a worthy layer cake.
- Try a bold challenge that requires piping.
- Have an excuse to buy a cake turntable for decorating.
- Have an excuse to buy yet another cookbook…Layered by fellow British Columbian Tessa Huff. (I came to order the book thanks to the blogosphere. Joy the Baker recommended Layered in her cookbook roundup. I’m a huge Joy fan.)
- Find a recipe where you can drink wine while baking.
I accept the mission Mr. Phelps.
Ingredients for the Reisling cake:
- 3 1/4 cups cake flour
- 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup room temperature unsalted butter
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 6 large egg whites (I buy mine from Lucy, a neighbour with happy free run chickens)
- 1 1/2 cup sweet Riesling plus 1 glassful for sipping while you bake
Preheat the oven to 350F and grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside
In the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar and mix on medium-high until the butter is light and fluffily, 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
Turn the mixer to medium-low and gradually add the vanilla and egg whites until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the Riesling, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix on medium for no more than 30 seconds after the last streaks of flour are combined.
Evenly divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Let them cool on wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.
While the cakes are baking, make the rhubarb strawberry compote.
- 1 3/4 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
- 1 cup fresh rhubarb cut into 1/4 inch pieces
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Combine the strawberries, rhubarb, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan and cook over medium-high head, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the juices start to bubble. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool.
Make the oat crumble.
- 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
- 1/4 almonds
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons unsalted room temperature butter
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Mix the oats, almonds, brown sugar, flour, butter, honey, cinnamon and salt with a wooden spoon and sprinkle over the lined baking sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, stirring halfway through. Let it cool and crumble the mixture into smaller pieces.
You will need to make two batches of this vanilla swiss meringue buttercream:
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons egg whites
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups unsalted butter (very important that it be at room temperature or it won’t combine properly) cubed
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer. Whisk them together by hand to combine. Make a double boiler by filling a medium pot filled with water over medium-high heat. Place the mixer bowl on top of the pot. The bottom of the pot should not touch the water.
Whisk intermittently and heat the egg mixture to 160F (candy thermometer) or until it is hot to the touch. Carefully fit the mixer bowl onto the stand mixer and whip with the wire attachment on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes, until it holds medium-stiff peaks. The bowl should be back to room temperature at this point. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk attachment for the paddle.
With the mixer on low, add the cubed butter, a few tablespoons at a time then the vanilla. Once incorporated, turn up the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.
Two more quick steps and you are ready to assemble the masterpiece.
Make the rhubarb buttercream by mixing two cups of the buttercream with 1/2 cup of the cooled rhubarb compote and mix on medium with the paddle attachment in a stand-mixer until combined. Remove from mixer and set aside in a bowl.
Add a few drops of pink gel food colouring to the remaining butter cream and mix until combined.
To assemble, level the cakes by removing any domes with a serrated knife run parallel to your work surface. Choose a sturdy layer for the bottom. Place it on a cake plate or board and spread 1 cup or half of the rhubarb buttercream with an offset spatula. Sprinkle with half of the oat crumble mixture. Top the next layer of the cake and repeat with the rhubarb buttercream and crumble. Finish with the final layer.
Frost the top and sides with the pink buttercream. Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes and then add another layer of icing to the top of the cake and using a petal tip, fill a pastry bag with buttercream. Starting at the top of the cake, pipe rows of ruffle swags by keeping the narrow end of the petal tip facing upward.