Thursday, January 25, 2024

Six Inch Cakes


my hubby's 58th birthday cake

Since I am going to become a grandma this year, I figure I need to level up my cake making game.   It's just that unless you are serving 12 people, a layer cake is just way too much for us.  After reading a blog post on Sally's Baking Addiction about making 6" cakes,  I determined this might be the solution to the problem.   

I needed to invest in a trio of 6" baking pans, so I followed Sally's suggestion of the Fat Daddio brand, and I tried to buy them locally at Swift's Hardware, which has an excellent cooking section, but they only had 1 pan in stock, and I needed 3.  So, Amazon to the rescue!    Sally's tip is that any recipe that is scaled for 12-14 cupcakes will work for 3 6" cake layers, so I opted for her chocolate cupcake recipe, except I didn't use natural cocoa, I used the cocoa powder I had.   I was halfway through the dry ingredients when I discovered I was out of baking soda!  I had forgotten when I cleaned out my pantry, I threw away the ancient box I had here which I think was here from when my son was still in college, (he graduated in 2019) but forgot to restock.  Off to the store I went!  I prepared the pans by cutting out parchment circles for the bottoms of the pans, and then I used Bake Klean ZT spray to coat the pans and then the parchment after it was placed.  It worked very well, the cakes were easy to get out of the pans. 

I knew I wanted to make ermine frosting, which is a super light buttercream that isn't too sweet.  I had made it before using a different recipe, probably the NYT one, but this time, I opted for Stella Park's version.  It is different as she has you add the sugar to the cooked milk and flour mixture, and I also like how she has troubleshooting tips, which I needed to use.   My butter was not at room temperature, so the frosting wouldn't whip right.  I followed her tip to set the mixing bowl over some hot water and that fixed it fine.  I like her approach that it's not a "fail" if this happens.  She says, "However precise a recipe may be in terms of target temperatures (for both the ingredients and the finished product), the ideal working temperature of a buttercream can vary from batch to batch, depending on environmental conditions and the time of year, as well as variations in equipment and ingredients.  So, rather than rely on a thermometer alone, evaluate the texture and consistency of the frosting. If it's heavy and dense, if it has a greasy texture, or if it seems curdled, it will need to be warmed and re-whipped. If it's too soft or loose to hang from a spoon without dropping, it will need to be cooled and re-whipped. These are routine adjustments, not a sign of failure." 

I love Stella's great cookbook BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts that she wrote with Kenji Lopez-Alt.  I need to make some recipes from that book - I bought it back in 2017 when I was doing a lot of work in Kentucky and she used to work at many Lexington area restaurants early in her career.   One I really love is the Wallace Station.  It's way out in the bluegrass horse country of Versailles (in KY, you pronounce that Ver-SELLS).  Their pimento cheese is tres bien!  I moved that cookbook from our old house in Ann Arbor to our rental house to our lake house.  It survived my great cookbook purge.  But I have yet to make anything from it, or the other sweets cookbook I have that survived the move north, the Zingerman's Bakehouse Cookbook.  I am going to have to dust these off if I am going to be the grandma that always has baked goods on hand.  

I wasn't sure how much frosting I was going to need, and I had this grand plan of making a rose cake piping on the sides with sprinkles on top.  Alas, one batch of Stella's ermine was not enough, so I made another and that wasn't enough to do all the roses I wanted so I just did some on the top.  Next time, I'd recommend tripling this recipe to make enough frosting for rose cake decor on a 6" cake.   Sally recommends you need 2.5 - 3 cups frosting for a 6 inch cake.  Stella's ermine recipe makes 2 cups.   The roses use a lot of frosting, so I'd triple it next time.  

I am looking forward to making more cakes this year.   Stay tuned! 

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