Jun 14, 2010

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cake

This is my new favorite cake. I've already started trying to talk Jim into baking it for my next birthday. "No way!" he said. "That's not on the Quick and Easy list. I saw how you sweated to make this cake. No, no no!" I think he's considering it.
Not only is this cake delicious, but I love it because the strawberry mousseline buttercream turned out perfectly! My last several adventures with buttercream have been misadventures, and I could see many possibilities for disaster in both of the frostings for this cake. Two frostings! And a cake that you slice in halves, stack, fill, and frost--SO many chances for things to go wrong.
But let's start with the cake. Jim did not see me sweating over the cake, which is actually pretty easy, especially if you have frozen egg whites. It makes me feel like a real baker to be able to reach in my freezer and pull out a plastic container of egg whites.
This white cake is no ordinary white cake--it's enhanced with melted white chocolate, which gives it a lovely je ne sais quoi. I had to use up all my odds and ends of white chocolate in order to get the requisite 8 ounces.
It also makes me feel like a real baker to have odds and ends of white chocolate in my freezer. I used to have normal things like frozen pizza in my freezer. Now I have eight or ten different chocolates, assorted nuts, lots of unsalted butter, and the aforementioned egg whites. I had to buy a new freezer for the normal things.
The dry ingredients and the butter. Don't worry--I remembered to attach the beater blade to the mixer itself. The batter is quite lovely and silky.
I weighed the batter going in to each cake pan so they'd be exactly the same.
And, of course, Rose was right--there was just enough batter left to make two cupcakes. You could also have made each layer just a smidge bigger, but then you wouldn't have had the cupcakes.
With the cakes out of the oven, it was time to try my bête noire--buttercream. Strawberry mousseline buttercream, to be precise. I wanted so badly to make a perfect buttercream. The buttercream gods have not been watching over me lately. And I noticed, while reading through the instructions for the fourth or fifth time, that it wasn't wise to try this particular mousseline in humid weather. I rummaged through some junk in the basement and found an old barometer. According to it, the kitchen's humidity was 52%.
My research told me that 52% is veering toward very high humidity, so, even though it wasn't hot, I turned on the air conditioning to squeeze some of the water out of the air. I did not want the buttercream to dissolve into a puddle, the way Faithy's does!
For whatever reason, everything fell into place today.
The sugar syrup cooked to the right temperature.

The egg whites turned into meringue, and there were no missteps while adding the sugar syrup. The meringue turned the already fluffy buttercream into a mixture that was airier than air.
The final addition of strawberry butter turned it into perfection.
I can't tell you how pleased I was with myself.
Not only did the mousseline look and taste wonderful, but it also spread on the cake like a dream. (I just noticed that my nail polish matches the frosting--I didn't plan that, honestly). I was beginning to think that everything was going to go perfectly. Apparently that is a thought you should not have.
So pleased was I with the mousseline that I forgot to fret about the possibility of the cake layers falling apart as I placed them on top of each other. Cake layer #3 did just that.
Jim must not have had the heart to take a picture of the broken pieces of the cake layer before I shoved them back together, using the mousseline as glue. But you can see that this layer is not intact.
The layer-of-crumbs also prevented the cake from being an even and upright pillar, turning it more into The Leaning Tower of Cake.
Frankly, it was a good thing the chocolate frosting wasn't hard to make because all of a sudden, I was very tired, and I had to will myself into doing the final frosting round. But as soon as I started pouring on the runny, sticky stuff, I was back on my game.
I'd already given up hope that the final cake would stand tall and elegant. It was too lumpy for elegance.
Still, there's something impressive about a four-layer cake. Even though this one wasn't going to win any prizes for beauty, it wasn't laughable.
And the different colors and textures make it downright impressive when you cut into it!
If I were grading this cake as a whole, I'd definitely give it an A. If I were grading the components, I'd give the cake an A (light, moist--a delicious "plain" cake); the mousseline an A+ (lick-the-beaters delicious); the chocolate frosting a B (interesting but not as good as ganache). I'm eager to see if everyone else liked it as much as I did.


Jim: "The cake itself is delicious. I love the contrast between the sweet, fluffy mousseline and the layer of plain preserves."
Ben: "This cake is awesome!"
Karen: "It's so pretty. I think it's one of the best you've made. Can I have seconds?"


faithy, the baker said...

Looks so good! And your write up made me regret not baking this. I was all prepared to bake this on Sunday..and even bought strawberries to make strawberry butter..but i miscalculated my time..:( Now i feel so sad not baking this..

Matthew said...

Wow, great job Marie! The cake looks wonderful--I love the photo of the slice at the top, and the over head shot at the end.

Anonymous said...

It is SO encouraging to read your reports of cake making Marie, because I, like you, am always nervous of making frostings of any kind, especially if a thermometer is involved! I can imaging your relief when this turned out so well! I feel I can attempt this one, I hope it will turn out as good as yours, lovely! Jeannette.

Mendy said...


Well done! Looks great.

Very funny about the second freezer. It gives a thrill to see baking stuff in the freezer and have a baking project going on. It makes one feel quite "the baker."

Monica said...

This was Tom's birthday cake... and oh boy did it gave me a run for my money... (more on that on the blog). But the end results were spectacular.

And like you, oddly enough the buttercream was the least of my problems!

Great post (as always)... and the photos remind me how yummy the cake is.

Marie said...

It's time for you to get into gear for one of your midnight bake-a-thons! I loved this cake.

The overhead shot made it look a little more attractive. Jim is learning to photograph my cakes' best sides.

Encouraging is what I aim for. When Rose asked me to do this blog, I said I would but only if she'd understand that I am a rank amateur in cake baking, and she said she wanted her book to appeal to people like me. (It does).

I'll have to wait until the day when I have leftover tubs of homemade frosting in the freezer to really feel like a baker.

I hope Tom appreciated the work! (It is yummy, isn't it?)

doughadear said...

I'm alway anxious when I have to make buttercream as I've had some misshaps, but when it turns out perfectly as yours did it sure does put you in a good mood. This cake really does look special and would make an exceptional birthday cake (next year).:)

Katya said...

looks beautiful. my mousseline usually comes out one way or another, but it tends to be dense rather than fluffy--too much butter for my taste, maybe? I did make about 4 batches of it this week for different reasons, though, so maybe it's just overkill.

Katya said...

I also loved this cake, though, it was just classic bakery cake in the best way, big squashy messy and sweet.

Hanaâ said...

Your cake turned out beautiful! Love the color contrasts. It would make for a great birthday cake, indeed. A couple years ago I made Rose’s white choc butter cake from TCB with a strawberry mousse filling for my birthday. I covered the outside with homemade marzipan. That was delicious. The white chocolate really made a difference in texture and flavor. So, when I ran out of time this weekend to make this week’s cake (with thawed out egg whites sitting in the fridge – omelets anyone?), I sought relief in the fact that I had already made a similar cake before.
Next week’s (cheese)cake has coconut in it, which I’m allergic to, so I might do a rewind and make the yellow butter cupcakes covered with the choc frosting from this week’s strawberry cake, simply because I’m intrigued by how this frosting is made :o)

PS: Marie, when are we baking together? I think that would be lots of fun!! :o)

Vicki said...

Leftover chocolate in the freezer?
Qu'est-ce que c'est "leftover chocolate"?

Impressive cake, Marie!

Jenn said...

Your cake is very beautiful Marie. I love the last photo - with the swirls of chocolate frosting on the top. Picture perfect!

evil cake lady said...

I had the same experience with a cake layer falling apart, a crooked cake, needing to push through to make the chocolate frosting, and then forgetting all about how tired I was as I began to frost. How funny! I should skip writing my blog post and just tell everyone to read yours :)
Beautiful cake Marie! I love your antique weather station.

Melinda said...

You know, I still get nervous splitting layers. It doesn't feel controlled enough. I have tried to find those bars that Rose has pictured in the Cake Bible but have had no success in finding them yet. I usually place toothpicks all around to try to keep it even but I still get a wobbled cut!
Your cake looks delicious! I love the strawberry chocolate idea. It's like an American Sundae done in cake!
My husbands birthday is soon. I think he would love this cake and it would give me a chance to try out the recipe.
The nice thing about Rose's mousseline is that once it is made up, it is pretty stable for warmer weather compared to other buttercreams.

Baking Sorceress' Apprentice said...

Your cake looks wonderful, soft and delicious. Love the subtle swirling on top. joan

Marie said...

I could just FEEL that this one was going to turn out right--I sure wish I could figure out the differences in what I do when it's right and what I do when it's not.

Four batches?! And you don't even like butter? I hope you have a lot of leftover frosting in the freezer.

I think that baking together is a terrific idea. Maybe for a quick and easy cake?

There's a clear delineation in my mind between "baking chocolate," which you don't just eat, and "eating chocolate," which you do--even though some of my baking chocolate is probably much more delicious than a candy bar. But if I start thinking I can just tuck into my baking chocolate any time I want a hit, I'm in serious trouble.

Marie said...

Thanks--I liked those swirls too. Despite the stickiness of the frosting, it was very swirl-able.

Well, that wouldn't do. I like to read your posts. Those are a lot of coincidence, however. And aren't we both Geminis?

This is my first cake-splitting occasion where I haven't used the toothpicks as guides, and the first time that one of the layers has fallen apart. Think that's cause and effect or just coincidence?
I hadn't thought of this as being such an all-American cake--I should have scheduled it for July 4 (Independence Day, you know). Instead we're doing an ice cream cake. I hope Ian appreciates this cake!

Hanaâ said...

Deal! Just let me know which Quick and Easy cakes are coming up and we'll pick on. Do we allow Woody to join in on the fun, if he's available? (I think we should) :o)

Saira said...

I love the strawberry preserves on top of the mousseline idea! I think I'll do that next time for a more intense strawberry flavor..

After seeing your blog about Jim's cake for your birthday I'm trying to get my husband to bake a cake for my birthday...and I actually asked him to make this cake...which will never happen...but I'm still hoping;) I shouldn't have to make my own birthday cake, right?!

evil cake lady said...

We are both Geminis! If I remember correctly our birthdays are just days apart. I wish I liked this cake more--however it is for all my own faults. Maybe I'll do this one over for the next free cake week.

Rose said...

marie and everyone who made the cake--they all look luscious and gorgeous!

since several mentioned about a cake layer falling apart, here's a note about how to support it so it doesn't happen. i like to use the removal bottom disc of a tart pan, preferably the non-stick gobel. slice it under the layer to be transferred and hold it above the frosted layer. allow a little of the cake to slide off the disc and onto the edge of the layer beneath. keeping the disc well above the frosting, slowly slide out the disc, allowing the layer to fall into place onto the frosted layer. most cakes need this support to prevent breaking.

Marie said...

I like the phrase "subtle swirling."

I'm a week ahead right now, so I've already done the coconut cheesecake, which is on the Q&E list, but there are at least 10 or 12 left on that list.

No I don't think you should have to bake your own birthday cake--but it took me 43 years to convince Jim to bake a cake. You can't rush into these things.

I wouldn't think that there would be such a big difference between cake flour and AP flour. Too bad!

Thanks! I'm sure you've made that suggestion several times, because now that you mention it, I remember reading it, but maybe this time it will stick.

Sil BsAs said...

Don't tell me I'm the only dork who doesn't know that egg whites freeze!!! for how long? just in a tupper?
Each time I want to try a new recipe from Rose's book I browse your great blog for assistance! Thanks so much for your help!
Cheers from Argentina

Marie said...

You're definitely not the only person (or dork) who doesn't know about being able to freeze egg whites. It's just one of many things I've learned from this book.
It is helpful to read someone else's experiences, isn't it? Especially if they've messed it up and you can see what you shouldn't do when you try the recipe.