Saturday, August 24, 2013

Mortarboard Cake

What have I been doing that I haven't posted in a month?? I've been graduating! I finished up my Master's degree in August, with all the wrap-up and transitions that go along with it. But in the end I had a fabulous party to celebrate with friends and family (a few very notable exceptions were sadly not in attendance) and I made these cakes to mark the occasion. The design was really easy (which I needed because it had to be large enough to serve 60 people!) but super adorable and festive.

I used the browned-butter cake layers that I made for Will's birthday, and quadrupled the recipe. I browned all the butter (3 pounds) at once, but it still took over 45 minutes to brown the butter on medium low. And that was the only step I could combine; I had to make each recipe separately (ie: the same thing 4 times) otherwise my mixer would overflow.

One-and-one-half times of an 8 or 9" cake recipe will make 10" layers, but I baked each batch in my 2 10-in pans for 32 minutes each. This made thinner layers, which worked just as well for this application.

My party was on Saturday and I prepared the cakes on Wednesday, then froze the layers that evening.

These were a lot of cake layers!

Then I frosted with a double batch of milk chocolate buttercream.
Refrigerated chocolate cookie dough rolled out into a sheet and baked on
parchment makes an easy mortarboard for my graduation cap cake.

Two three-layer 10" round cakes.

Ganache goes on over the buttercream.
Glazed with bittersweet

The mortarboard cookie needed some structural support to keep from sagging;
I constructed a platform from thin tagboard.
And decorated with a package of chocolate cookie dough, rolled flat and trimmed to a square. A dollop of ganache held the tassel in place, and gold sprinkles made the caps particularly festive.  

The finished cakes, and the relieved graduate.

To make two 10" cakes each with four layers, I mixed the recipe below four times, and divided each between two 10" cake pans for slightly thin layers.

Browned Butter Cake Layers
by Tom Douglas as found in Food and Wine magazine

3 sticks unsalted butter (12 ounces), plus more for greasing the pans

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped (I used 1 tsp clear vanilla instead)
3 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust the pans with flour, tapping out the excess.
In a medium saucepan, melt the 3 sticks of butter. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until foamy, about 5 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the milk solids turn brown and the butter smells nutty, about 4 minutes longer. (Note, it took closer to 20 minutes for me.) Scrape the melted butter and browned bits into a large heatproof bowl. Set the bowl in an ice water bath until the butter begins to set around the edge, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the 2  1/4 cups of all-purpose flour with the baking powder and salt.

Remove the bowl from the ice water and scrape up the hardened butter. Transfer the butter to the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle and beat until creamy. Add the sugar and vanilla seeds and beat at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks followed by the whole eggs. Beat in the dry ingredients and milk in 3 alternating additions, scraping down the side and bottom of the bowl as necessary.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pans and bake in the center of the oven for about 40 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until the cakes are golden and a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans for 20 minutes, then invert them onto a rack to let them cool completely. Peel off the parchment paper.

Chocolate ButtercreamFrom The Cake Bible2 pounds milk chocolate
1 pound bittersweet chocolate (I use Lindt 70%)
24 ounces unsalted butter, softened

Melt chocolate, then stir until smooth and room temperature. Beat butter until smooth. Beat chocolate into butter until smooth.

Bittersweet Ganache Glaze
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used Lindt 85%)
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
1 tablespoon dark rum

Chop chocolate. Heat cream to simmer, and pour over chopped chocolate. Allow to rest a few minutes, then stir until smooth. Stir in liqueur. Allow to cool slightly, then pour over cake spreading till smooth but don't try to work it too much or it will streak and clump.