My friend KT is having a baby, and I volunteered to make the cake for the baby shower. We decided on a bird theme, and since she likes “anything but chocolate cake,” I chose a lemon cake with layers of lemon and raspberry curd. The cake is covered in fondant, with a gumpaste bird and flowers, and chocolate plastic nest and branches. I got the design idea from this cake by Sugar Syndicate, who have some beautiful, beautiful cakes in their portfolio. About 15 minutes before I had to leave my house to deliver it to the shower location, the cake actually looked like this, with a smaller red bird:
Once it was all put together, I couldn’t stop obsessing over how the bird was too small, proportionally, to the nest and the egg. I really didn’t have much time, but as soon as I noticed, I couldn’t stop staring at it and it started to really bother me. It’s like when someone tells you not to think about pink elephants, and you immediately have pink elephants on the brain.
Anyhow, I tried to trim the nest down, but I didn’t want to mess with it too much since I liked the overlapping twigs look. Instead, I decided to make another bird, cutting the design freehand with my trusty razor blade. Since the gumpaste couldn’t harden in such a short period of time, I glued it onto a thin sheet of chocolate plastic and cut the plastic to fit, to give it more body. In retrospect I think all of this drama was unnecessary, as it looked okay the first time, and the second bird looks sloppier, but I’ll blame sleep deprivation and too much sugar on my poor decisions and OCD tendencies!
I also had a small panic attack while I was hurriedly taking pictures before I had to drop the cake off. I went to turn the cake to the side and shoved the doily up into the “congratulations” banner, smearing the frosting and slightly tearing the banner. ETD: 5 minutes! Eek! Of course I’d already rinsed out the piping bag and tossed the colored buttercream, but fortunately I had some more white buttercream, so I quickly mixed another batch of the blue and (mostly successfully) covered the mistake. Lesson learned: don’t sacrifice the cake for the sake of a few pictures!
The sad part of this story is that I wasn’t able to be at the baby shower, since I had to work. But my friends were nice enough to grab some pictures of the cut cake for me, and I was pleased to see that it all held up and was nicely layered on the inside.
Over the weekend, I decided to make a trifle using the leftover lemon and raspberry curds. I had never actually tasted all the cake components together, since I couldn’t be at the shower, so I was curious to see how it all worked together. (Not like I could have made any changes if it was nasty. But at least I would know not to make such a gross cake for the next baby shower…assuming I got invited to any more.)
I made a white chocolate-buttermilk cake from Sherry Yard, and threw strips of cake in a bowl layered with lemon and raspberry curds, and topped it with a little whipped cream. The result was pretty awesome! (Whew.) It was actually fairly tart, which I liked, and I think (hope?) that the sweeter buttercream and fondant on the shower cake balanced out the tartness for anyone who prefers a sweeter cake.
In addition to letting me taste the fruits of my labors, the trifle was awesome because it introduced me to a great new cake recipe. Yes, the white chocolate-buttermilk cake is fabulous. I didn’t actually taste either white chocolate or buttermilk in the finished product, so I guess they must balance each other out. It’s probably one of the best white cake recipes I’ve ever tried. It stays moist, and has a nice, tender crumb and a great flavor. It’s a little fiddly but it’s worth it to find a white cake that doesn’t taste like cardboard. The recipe is under the cut!
White Chocolate-Buttermilk Cake
- 2 cups cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3 ounces white chocolate
- 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs , separated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup buttermilk
- Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F. Spray a 12 x 17" half sheet pan with pan spray and line the bottom with parchment paper. Spray the parchment.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.
- Melt the white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl at 50% power for about 2 minutes, stirring halfway through. Be careful — white chocolate burns easily. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter with 1 1/2 cups of the sugar on high speed for 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl and beaters and beat for 3 minutes more, until the mixture is light and creamy. Whisk 2 tablespoons of the whipped butter into the melted white chocolate until blended. Scrape this mixture back into the butter and beat on low speed until well blended. Add the egg yolks in 2 additions, scraping the bowl and beaters after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
- On low speed, alternating wet and dry ingredients, add the buttermilk and flour mixture in 4 additions, beginning with the buttermilk and ending with the flour. Scrape down the bowl.
- In a large, clean bowl, and with clean beaters, beat the egg whites on medium speed until they form soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, continuing to beat at medium speed. Beat until the egg whites form stiff, glossy peaks. Fold half the egg whites into the cake batter, then gently fold in the rest.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating the pans from front to back half way through, until golden brown and firm to the touch, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.