July 10, 2014

A Birthday Cake - Cookies & Cream Rosette Cake With Classic Vanilla Buttercream

T
his year will be marked in our memories for many reasons, including the fact that we had an uncomfortably hot summer and that was followed by monsoon where it hardly rained all June, and July doesn’t seem very promising so far. What we will surely remember is that 2014was the year when our daughter turned 18 and that she left for college to stay away from home for the first time.
She still has a couple of weeks before she has to leave for college, and rather than dwell on that, I shall move onto happier thoughts like she turned 18 last weekend. It wasn’t quite like the birthday of past years because most of her friends have moved away to college, and the remaining few are in the process of doing so, like her. So we had a quiet day but enjoyable day at home.




When our daughter was younger, we used to order her birthday cakes from a local bakery that makes the tastiest birthday cakes I’ve had. They don’t do over the top cakes with fondant decorations and fancy themes, just the good old fashioned kind of buttery cakes which didn’t stretch beyond shapes of cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, or maybe a Pink Panther! The cakes would be covered with buttercream and piped decorations with a “Happy Birthday” spelt out in swirling and pretty alphabets. The birthday girl would pick out the shape and flavours she wanted which were invariably chocolate or vanilla.

Then somewhere around the time she turned9 or 10, I started becoming  a little adventurous and started baking her birthday cake at home and it’s become a tradition now. Of course, it has helped that I have been steadily improving with my skills as a “layered-birthday-cake- with-buttercream” maker even though my piping/ decoration skills are pretty basic.
I learnt the hard way that it was better not to surprise the birthday girl with the cake, at least in terms of flavour. Of course, I must admit that I used to have a tendency to go a bit overboard with my birthday cake ideas and executions initially. I would end up spending a lot of effort on them given my then very basic skills with multiple layer cakes and decorating, drive myself and my husband up the wall only to find the cake or the frosting wouldn’t turn out quite the way I wanted them to. I would then have to find ways and means to make adjustments so everything turned out right. I would also have the rest of the birthday party cooking to do too.



 

So somewhere a couple of years in to birthday cake making, I wised up and figured the way to go was to bake simple cakes that took the least effort, but had the best taste and texture,  and the maximum “wow” factor. To keep an element of surprise in the whole birthday cake baking thing, I always ask my daughter what sort of cake she wants. I’d then find a recipe that would accommodate those wishes and tweak them to suit my needs. The birthday girl would have no idea what her cake would look like and the final unveiling would invariably elicit reactions that were music to my ears.
This year was pretty much the same. The birthday girl’s demand was pretty simple and what she wanted was a cake with buttercream! Those of you who are veterans at making frosted cakes, or even at eating them every now and then without giving it a second thought must be wondering what’ the big deal is about buttercream on cake. It just so happens that I don’ make buttercream very often, just like maybe just twice a year so a home-made cake with buttercream on it is a bit of a rare treat for our daughter. I personally dislike the stuff, and to be honest, a lot of butter and sugar is something you don’t want to see too often especially when you are on the wrong side of forty!
So the birthday girl demanded a cake frosted with buttercream, and it was her 18th birthday so I wanted to bake something special and bit different my my usual cakes, but also stay well within my decorating skills. I had decided that this birthday we would not go down the chocolate-y road for a change, so that pretty much left me to choose between vanilla and butterscotch which are the birthday girl’s two favouritest flavours!



 
After much thought about the cake (a two layer cake as I have two same size cake tins and wouldn’t have to slice through one cake and have it fall apart on me) and searching around, I picked this cake. It can’t get much better than a one bowl cake (no creaming till soft and fluffy, looking for ingredients I don’t have, and just the bowl, a spoon or two, and the beaters to wash!) with another favourite of the daughter’s – Oreo cookies.

Just in case the thought of a one-bowl cake doesn’t seem right for a birthday cake, let me assure that this one turned so good that my daughter and her bunch of teenage friends thought it was so good that I was getting compliments on my cake days after they ate it. It wasn’t just attractive look from the piped roses on the top and the Oreo speckled cake on the inside, but how good the cake tasted. If you don’t like Oreos ( I don’t, and cannot understand what it is that people love about them), you will hardly taste them in the cake but they do something good for it.

Be warned that this is American style buttercream, it is very sweet and not really my thing at all. I chose to use this because it’s easy to make, kids seem to like it and it has no eggs in it. I always use salted butter for this buttercream because I feel it cuts through the sweetness abit. Make sure that the butter is not very salty or it will come through in the buttercream and taste weird). So if you’d prefer a less sweet buttercream, please use your own regular recipe for it.
 


 
You might notice that my cake has an "unfinished" look when viewd from the side. Ideally the whole cake, top and sides, should have been covered with rosettes. However, when I started working on the sides, for some reason, the rosettes I piped along the side just wouldn’t stay there but kept sliding down. I was almost in tears seeing a vision of my beautiful cake turning out to be a colossal disaster. It might have been the humid heat of a monsoon morning that just wasn’t right for buttercream.
I ended up leaving the sides plain and just piped a layer of stars along the bottom of the edge of the cake and decided to call it a day as far as cake decorating went. My daughter and her friends and everyone else who saw the cake thought it looked good and tasted even better, so that’s all that mattered in the end.


Cookies & Cream Rosette Cake With Classic Vanilla Buttercream
(Cake adapted from Betty Crocker)
 

Ingredients:
 

For the Cake:

2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup sugar*
3/4 cup yogurt
100gm butter, soft at room temperature
1/2 cup water
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
15 to 16 vanilla cream filled chocolate sandwich cookies, coarsely chopped** 

For the Classic Vanilla Buttercream:

300gm butter (soft at room temperature)
 3 tsp vanilla extract
5 to 6 cups of icing sugar
3 to 4 tbsp milk
 

Method:

*You can use 1 1/2 cups sugar for a sweeter cake. I cut the sugar down by 1/4 cup because the frosting I was using for the cake was really sweet.
**I used Oreos, but you can use any brand of vanilla cream filled cookies you like. Chop them up into small pieces the size of large chocolate chips. Hold each cookie down along the edges so that the top most part of the sandwich cookie doesn’t slide off when you cut through. Use a s sharp knife and cut straight down through the cookies. This way they will cut up mostly into neat pieces. Pick only the pieces and don’t add the crumbs to the batter if you want a clean looking cake dotted with chocolate bits.

Make the cakes first. Put all the ingredients for the cake, except the chopped Oreo cookies, in a bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat at low speed for about 30 seconds while scraping the batter from the sides frequently. Then beat on high speed for about 2 minutes, scraping down the batter from the sides occasionally.
Turn off the mixer and fold in the chopped cookies. Divide the batter equally between two 7” or 8” round cake tins lined which are with parchment paper at the bottom and the sides have been well greased. Smooth the top lightly.

 
Bake at 180C (350F) for about 30 minutes or till the cakes are a golden brown and a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Then carefully take the cakes out, peel off the parchment from the bottom and let them cool down completely.
Now make the Vanilla Buttercream. Put the soft butter in a large bowl, and using an electric mixer, whip the butter so it becomes lighter in colour and fluffy (for about a couple of minutes).
Now add about 3 cups of the icing sugar, and keep beating until it is well incorporated. Add another 2 cups of icing sugar and beat till incorporated. Now add 2 tbsp of milk and the vanilla extract and beat well. Add as much of the remaining icing sugar as needed and beat well to get the consistency needed to pipe the buttercream. You can adjust the thickness of the buttercream by adjusting the amount of milk or icing sugar till you’re satisfied with the way your buttercream consistency.

 
Refrigerate the buttercream till you need it. If necessary, beat the buttercream to fluff it up before decorating the cake. This recipe will make enough buttercream to frost this cake. You might have some left over. 
To put together and decorate the cake, start with the cooled cakes. Once the cakes have cooled, make sure the tops are level. Otherwise level them by trimming off the dome, if necessary. My caked didn’t dome much so I left them as they were.
Place one cake on your plate, bottom facing upwards, and pipe/ fill with enough buttercream to form a sandwich layer. Place the second cake, bottom facing downwards over this slowly so the edges of both cakes are matched at the edges. If the buttercream seems to be softening, refrigerate the cake for some time before proceeding.
Now cover the top and sides of the sandwiched cake with a “crumb coat” which is a thin layer of buttercream that covers the cake completely and seals the crumbs. Then fill a disposable piping bag fitted with an open star nozzle/ tip (a bigger one) with the buttercream. The recommended nozzle/ icing tip size is Wilton’s 1M tip which is also what I used, but I’m sure any large open star icing nozzle/ tip should work.
Pipe rosettes (see this video to learn how that’ done) along the sides and the top of the cake. The rosettes are easy enough to pipe but they need a little practise. I ended up scraping my first three attempts off the cake before I got mine right! I started by piping my rosettes on the top of the cake, from the edge to the centre.
Cover the cake with rosettes, filling in the gaps in between the rosettes with buttercream as well. Refrigerate the cake until ready to serve. This cake should serve about 12 depending on the size of your slices and how much your guests like the cake.
 

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