Yay! My first failure to show you!
Right now you’re probably thinking, whaaaaaaaat?
But as pretty as it is, this is not how I intended this cake to look. So I will get into that in a bit.
P.S. I really need to invest in some cake boards that don’t look so…sloppy.
Anyway, onto the story!
If you recall, last week I made the fluffiest vanilla bean sponge cake you’ve ever seen. And if you also recall, I think I mentioned something about how I was worried it would dry up as it sat on my counter. I made three cakes so I wrapped each one in plastic wrap and hoped for the best. They stood the test!
But then I had horrible, horrible luck with my vanilla buttercream. Which sucks because I wanted to include a buttercream recipe with this entry. It was a combination of it being a humid day, not having enough icing sugar, and my not-so-brilliant idea to add some leftover marshmallow fluff to the mix. It was just so soupy and sticky. Even doing a simple crumb coat was difficult. As I moved my spatula around the perimeter trying to smooth it out I’d inadvertently pull up pieces of cake. There were tons and tons of air bubbles and I just couldn’t get it to look smooth no matter how hard I tried. A definite buttercream failure this time.
I decided that I would scrape off as much buttercream as I could and just go for a naked cake look. I scraped too far and my blueberry jam started to peak through and streak the outside. At first I was like, “Nooooooo!” but then I realized it looked kind of cool, so I stopped there before I overdid it, which I have a horrible tendency to do. Then when I added the ganache it covered practically all of those streaks. Figures.
But enough complaining! I think it turned out okay given the circumstances, don’t you? And although my multi-colored ganache isn’t how I intended it to look, it’s still pretty darn interesting. Like a silky smooth oil slick, but not in a bad way…in a yum way!
I know how easy it is to make your own jam. In fact, I intend to make a blog post about it in the future. But I wanted Maine blueberries. I grew up there, so I knew that there was just no way for me to replicate the texture and sweetness of true Maine blueberry jam all the way here on the other side of the country. It’s dense, packed with real whole blueberries, and just absolutely pops in flavor. Not to mention it’s the perfect consistency for cake layering.
I started out by cutting two of my six-inch cakes in half horizontally, making four layers of cake. I created a simple syrup by boiling 1/2 c of sugar and 1/2 c of water together until it reduced slightly, then set it aside to cool. When it was time to assemble, I brushed each cake layer with the syrup, gave it a moment to soak into the cake, then topped it with blueberry jam.
For the top layer, I flipped my last layer upside down so that the bottom of the layer was actually the top of the cake. Not only is that part of the cake flatter, but it is much easier to ice.
And as I mentioned, this is when I began to run into problems. I intended to put a nice, smooth layer of buttercream all over this thing but it was pretty clear that it just wasn’t going to happen that day. Hence, the lack of pictures demonstrating my failures! Given that the title of this blog is “Amanda Learns to Bake,” I’m kicking myself for not documenting my issues. I’ll try to remember to do that next time.
I should probably mention that I attempted to fix this buttercream in several ways. Adding more milk, going to the store for more sugar, whipping it, switching to the paddle attachment, refrigerating it–etc. So when I finally gave up and decided it was going to be a semi-naked cake, I was exhausted.
Which also happens to be why I forgot to document the fricken ganache!
I did save this ONE pic:
Let me do my best to explain what is going on here, before you never visit again.
- This picture shows my already prepared white chocolate ganache with a couple drops of gel food coloring in red and blue. I prefer Americolor gel food colors but Wilton has a great line too. I actually even have some Betty Crocker ones that I picked up at the grocery store, but the point is gel is better than liquid. Better yet, if you can get your hands on some powdered colors that would work too.
- The standard ratio for white chocolate ganache is 3:1 chocolate to cream, meaning that if you use 1.5 cups of white chocolate chips, you’ll need to add 1/2 c of cream to get it the right consistency. Similarly, if you use 120 grams of chocolate, you’ll need to use 40 grams of cream.
- Heat the cream until almost boiling and then pour it over the chocolate. After a minute or so combine them until smooth: this is white chocolate ganache.
- Gel food color can potentially seize chocolate. I never knew that meant when people mentioned it. Seize it? What? It’s when your completely smooth melted chocolate suddenly becomes thick and grainy. There is nothing you can do at that point other than throw it out. To prevent this from happening you can add a couple teaspoons of some vegetable or coconut oil before adding the color. Then you should be sweet. Americolor even has a product called Flo-Coat specifically for this purpose, but I find it easier to just use oil since I always have it on hand.
So in order to get the pretty tie-dye effect I ended up making three tiny batches of colored white chocolate ganache. That is, I used 120 grams of chocolate and 40 grams of cream. Then I added a couple of dashes of MORE cream because I thought I wanted the ganache to be runnier than normal. It worked out nicely for this effect, but it is not the effect I was going for. I guess I learned something! I divided the ganache into three tiny bowls (they appear to hold about 2-3 oz of liquid) and colored them in teal, bright purple, and a lighter purple. Then, using a spoon, I poured one spoonful of color in the center of the cake at a time, always pouring the next color on top of the other colors. In other words, I always poured the ganache in the same spot, right in the center of the cake, and allowed the ganache to spread on its own.
I was going for stripes; I got tie-dye. I ain’t even mad.
Here she is again!
This was a fun learning experience, and good example of how even when things are going wrong they can turn out so, so right. This cake was pretty damn delicious. I’m not going to lie. And it is just perfect for the changing seasons. I hope you’ll give it a try, and if so—comment!
Until next time…