There are three things I thoroughly enjoy about baking a cake: 1) the science of mixing frosting colors, 2) scraping buttercream out of the bowl (and into my mouth), and 3) the thrill of gifting someone with the end result.
The Office put together a mid-week baby shower luncheon for a work colleague, and my contribution was slated to be owl-themed cupcakes. 24 of them, to be exact. The plan of attack was to design and make little sugar-frosted owl cookies to stick them on top of the cupcakes.
I had about a months’ notice. So one would think that I’d find time to plan ahead and put a solid idea together. Unfortunately, 24 hours prior to the event, I still hadn’t a clue what these little owls were going to look like. And I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with the lack of remaining time required to execute 24 cupcakes. So I asked if I could do a sheet cake instead.
With permission granted, I enlisted the assistance of another work colleague, and together, we spent some time sifting through Google images of “Carter’s Treetop Nursery Theme.” The resulting options for the sheet cake: turtles, owls, squirrels and foxes.
So I drew up a baby block, added a tree and decided to go with the turtle and the owl (Mr. Squirrel and Mr. Fox required too many colors and other intricate detail… and the whole idea was to do less work…)
Without going into the fiasco of how this cake came to be (due to poor planning on my part), I share with you… the end result. I’m not entirely happy about how “sloppy” the cake was put together, or how the traveling lid scraped off the top of the four edges in transit, but in the end mamma-to-be seemed pleased. So I should be, too.
P.S. Special thanks to Mr. RGBistro, who made a second batch of buttercream at 9:00 AM while I had to work. Also, thanks for meticulously cleaning the 8 or 9 teeny tiny piping tips and putting them away instead of “accidentally” throwing them in the trash. (Even though two days later, you’re still sporting green, black and orange fingertips.) And lastly, thanks for cleaning up after me not once, but twice. I owe you big.
Second P.S. A HUGE thank-you to Gail at @THEtoughcookie for giving me the “make your owl look cartoony” tip. It worked!
Below, we share with you the chcolate buttercream that went into the cake. What’s your favorite frosting?
- Use the smallest saucepan you have to make the syrup; otherwise, the bottom of your candy thermometer won’t reach the syrup to measure its temperature.
- If you have a scale, use it to measure your dry ingredients.
- Use espresso in place of water to create syrup.
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
~ Frosts 1 Double-Layer 8” Square or Round Cake ~
- 113 g (4 oz.) fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no unsweetened)
- 3 sticks (1 ½ cups) unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons water
- 151 g (¾ cup) sugar
- 3 large egg whites
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
~ Preparation ~
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
- Chop chocolate. In a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, melt in chocolate, stirring until smooth, and let cool. Cut butter into pieces and soften to cool room temperature.
- In a 1 ½ quart heavy saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil syrup, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 248˚F.
- While syrup is boiling, in a bowl with an electric mixer, beat whites with a pinch of salt until foamy and beat in cream of tartar. Beat whites until they just hold stiff peaks and beat in hot syrup in a stream (try to avoid pouring onto beaters and side of bowl). Beat mixture at medium speed until completely cool, 5 to 10 minutes. Beat in butter, 1 piece at a time, beating until mixture is thickened and smooth. (Buttercream will at first appear very thin and at some point look like it is breaking, but, as more butter is beaten in, it will thicken and become glossy and smooth.) Beat in cocoa powder, melted chocolate, and a pinch of salt, beating until smooth. (Buttercream may be made 2 days ahead and chilled in an airtight container. Bring Buttercream to room temperature and beat before using.) (If Buttercream is too cold when beaten it will not be glossy and smooth.)
Nutrition content per batch: 3,686 calories, 208g carbs, 17g protein, 319g fat, 0g fiber
Cost per serving: $9.16
Source: Gourmet (December 2007)