Tuesday, June 10, 2014

We shall eat cake! Pot Luck Cake!

Mother's Day for my side of the family is a pot luck affair.  Actually most of our get together a are pot luck.  I am a firm believer in everyone lending a hand and that makes it easier on everyone.  Someone hosts but if they don't have to prepare all the food - the meal is more enjoyable for everyone.
For Mother's Day this year my folks got takeout pizza (from our favorite local place), my sis-in-law Allison brought a Portillo’s Chopped Salad.  She has a recipe for it that makes a ton but it tastes great.  Not surprisingly I volunteered dessert.  I saw a version of this cake on Pinterest and figured I would give it a go.  The original recipe called for cake from scratch.  I decided to go for my cake mix + pudding mix trick.  It was a warm weekend and crazy humid from storms, this cake and buttercream held up well. 
I will be honest I was hesitant of sinking my mixing bowl inside a pot of simmering water.  Trying to hang on to the whisk and thermometer and keep the pot from rocking off the burner, it's a miracle I got the eggs up to the right temperature.  Once they were warm enough and whipped and cooled I realized there I had made a marshmallow fluff type of goo - very cool.  I will make this one again - it was yummy and pretty.

Strawberry Buttercream Cake

For the Cake:
1 chocolate cake mix
1 box instant chocolate pudding
Ingredients required on cake mix box
For the Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
3 large, fresh egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, cut into cubes and cool, but not cold
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup (or to taste) strawberry puree OR a handful (about 1 cup, or more to taste) of fresh, washed, and dried strawberries, chopped
pinch of salt

For the Glaze:
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes


For the Cake:
Bake cakes as instructed by package directions with the addition to one box of pudding mix.
Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes then gently invert onto racks until completely cool.
For the Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
If using strawberry puree, place a handful of frozen strawberries in a food processor, and process until a smooth puree. Measure approximately 1/4 cup and set aside (you may want to add more puree to taste).
Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 160°F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes or so). *Don't begin adding butter until the bottom of the bowl feels neutral, and not warm.
Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth). *If mixture is too runny, refrigerate for about 15 minutes and continue mixing with paddle attachment until it comes together. Add vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.
Add strawberry puree to taste or the finely chopped strawberries, and blend until combined.
For the Glaze:
Place the chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir the mixture using a rubber spatula until melted and smooth.
Cut and slice cakes as desired for stacking.
Using a small offset palette knife, spread approximately 1/2 cup of buttercream evenly on the top.   Repeat this with remaining cake layers, until you come to the final layer, which you will place face-down on the top of the cake.
Place cake on a turntable (if possible), and using a small offset palette knife for the top of the cake, and medium straight palette knife for the sides, cover the cake in a thin layer of buttercream to seal in crumbs. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (or more). *This does not need to be perfect, as that will come with the top "coat" of buttercream.
Repeat the previous step and for best results, use bench scraper held at 90° against the side of the cake, slowly turning the turntable and keeping your hand steady--let the turntable do the work. Clean up edges with your small offset palette knife. Chill cake.
If glazing the cake, make the glaze and set aside for a few moments to cool a bit. Pour glaze over chilled cake, smoothing the top with a clean small offset palette knife. Chill again to set.
Bring to room temperature before serving--about 2+ hours.

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