Although I do love the word ‘naked cake’, I think working with buttercream is tremendous fun. Besides all possible decorating fun, buttercream also does a surprisingly amount of hard work in the flavor department. It seems like all the dough, filling and topping melt together in a very pleasant way.
Even though that all sounds very airy, it took me a lot of trial and error before I succesfully made buttercream. In the name of project wedding cake I made and tried different kinds of buttercream (I know, a very special detox program in case you have a big party to look forward to ;)). A very helpful guide was recently published by Food52 and I can only recommend reading this if you’re interesting. If you’re not really up for reading more, I have found us a perfect recipe!
My favorite buttercream turns out to be Italian (or meringue) buttercream. This type of buttercream is made on a basis of egg whites whipped stiff with hot sugar syrup. When the meringue is ready, you gradually add pieces of butter. This way the bulk of your cream is coming from eggs, not from sugar, which makes a less sweet butter cream than for example an all-American buttercream that I have made in the past. The consistency is wonderfully creamy when you have just whipped it, which makes it really easy to cover and pipe a cake. After you put your cake in the fridge this cream does firm up beautifully as well, which is a big plus as it makes it less likely that you will damage or dent your cake.
Due to the emulsion of the egg whites and butter, the process of making Italian Buttercream is a lot like making mayonnaise. Whenever during the process the mixture tends to crumble, you can fix this by either cooling the bowl in an icebath or melting a small portion in the microwave. In case your buttercream doesn’t seem to firm up: just keep mixing it. Helpful clues are to not double portions but rather take the time to make each portion individually (otherwise it might take hours to firm up), and to use a standing mixer (or have someone help you in the process). In case of trouble, I have found this blog post to be very helpful, if not soothing.
And in case you have made your buttercream, why not cover it in sprinkles?:)
On a more practical note: a cake covered in sprinkles or fondant will be much easier to transport than a cake that is solely covered in buttercream. This beauty traveled all the way from Frankfurt to Amsterdam (!) and still looked unaffected.
Italian Buttercream Sprinkle Cake
- Italian Buttercream
- 4 large egg whites (around 50 grams each)
- 3 pinches of salt
- 79 grams of water
- 340 grams of granulated sugar
- 20 grams of vanilla essence
- 453 grams of unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- optionally: half a lemon to clean your bowl and mixer with
- needed: a food thermometer
- Chocolate Cake Recipe (divided over two baking forms of 20 cm):
- 126 grams of unsweetened cacao
- 472 grams of boiled water
- 6 eggs
- 30 grams of Vanilla Extract
- 470 grams of flour
- 600 grams of sugar
- 30 grams of baking powder
- 10 grams of salt
- 454 grams of softened butter
- For the filling: 5 tablespoons of Dulce de Leche or alternatively a marmelade you like.
- 300 grams of sprinkles (the type that feels hard and doesn't melt easily, also sold as 'nonpareil')
- this makes a large cake that easily slices into 30 slices as it is really thick.
- Prepare your cakes and Dulce the Leche (or alternative filling) preferrably the day before you want to assemble the cake. If your cake layers are to warm, the buttercream might slide off or even melt. My advice is to wrap the cake layers and even freeze them and essemble it all together while they are still frozen.
- Making the Cakes
- Mix the cacao powder together with the boiling water and mix. Place the butter and sugar with half of the cacao mixture in a bowl and mix thoroughly (again, be aware of splattering). Add the flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla extract and mix again. Add the eggs and mix for around 5 minutes. This cake batter is a little more runny than the yellow cake, which also means that it has a longer baking time.
- Cover your cake forms with butter, baking paper (bottom) and sprinkle it all with a little flour (excess tapped off).
- Divide the batter over the two cake forms and bake on a low heat in the oven, on around 150 degrees Celsius for around 50 minutes until a pin comes out dry. The low baking temperature makes sure that the cake rises evenly and you won't have to slize off the top.
- This will result in two cakes that are rather flat (with the advantage that you don't have to slice them horizontally).
- Let the cakes cool and remove them carefully from their cake forms.
- Wrap each cake in two layers of clingfilm, making sure that no air can come in. Now the cake layers are ready to be frozen.
- My tip is to leave the cakes frozen until the last moment of essembling, as it will be much easier to cover them in buttercream when they're frozen hard (or at least still cold).
- Making the Buttercream
- Before you start off, you want to be well-prepared. There are a couple of steps and even though it will become easy after making this once, it will take you some effort the first time around. You will be handling hot sugar syrup, so just be sure that you have everything ready.
- The egg whites need to be whipped into a fluffy mixture, which is only possible when you are using sparkling clean appliances (residues of fat will prevent your egg whites from whipping up properly). As a safety measure you can wipe both the mixer paddle and bowl with a sliced lemon to remove any traces of fat.
- Start off with boiling the water and sugar in a separate pan. The desired temperature of this mixture is 114 degrees Celsius, which is really surprisingly hot.
- While this takes a little, whip the egg whites and salt in a sparkling clean mixer bowl until they're barely holding up and are having bigger bubbles.
- Once the sugar syrup reaches the temperature of 114 degrees Celsius, add this to the egg whites, while continuing to whip (this is where either a standmixer or an extra pair of hands is really desired).
- The egg whites will become shiny and much firmer and fluffier. Keep beeting until no more steam is coming off it.
- Then slowly add the cubes of butter while the mixer continues to turn. Once you have a consistency that somehow resembles very stiff mayonnaise, you can add the vanilla essence.
- Your buttercream is ready!
- Now for the essembly, cover and smooth your cake with the buttercream (Youtube tutorials do come in handy here) and while the buttercream is still on room temperature, gently press the sprinkles against it with your hand. Some tutorials show how they roll the cake in a bowl with sprinkles but I'm a little too uncool for that and was afraid it would all fall apart.
- Have fun!
Italian Buttercream Sprinkle Cake – Tuks Kitchen
PS a little sneak peek at how this cake looked after 5 hours (!) of driving and a first bite