Thursday, May 21, 2009

Beef Cake

I don't tend to do novelty cakes, but my mom asked me to make a cake for my little brother's graduation... I think she was thinking of a sheet cake with "Congratulations" piped across. I did this instead:
It makes a little more sense to know my brother majored in agriculture and he's working on a black angus cattle ranch. The cake turned out even better than I hoped. I achieved the look of fine-grain leather by not heating the fondant before I rolled it, a definite no-no with store -bought fondant, but my version was a little more pliable [and even pleasant to eat] ... a bonus, the cake slices looked just like well-crusted brisket.

Recipe: Beef Cake
The individual components can be made ahead and chilled until ready to use. I should have done a triple recipe to fill my cake pans better, but I was winging it at the time. I don't have a low-fat frosting recipe, although adding the pureed dry fruit makes the filling marginally better for you. In my opinion, if you want a healthier cake, just dust it with powdered sugar or cocoa powder, or a super light drizzle of glaze. Frosting is frosting... and this frosting recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen, which is an excellent resource for layer cakes. The "soil" in the picture is borrowed from a chef friend's dessert menu and I can't share it [but it was tasty!].

2 recipes Rum Cake,
--replace lemon with amaretto
--add 1/2 cup cocoa powder to dry ingredients
red food coloring as desired

Pour batter into one 9x13 and one 8x8. After they're cooled, wrap the cakes in plastic wrap, stick them in the freezer until frozen solid, cut in half to form two layers, refreeze, then cut to desired shape and assemble on cake board [or refreeze until ready to use.

Frosting and Filling:
1 recipe Buttercream frosting
1/3 cup cocoa powder
8 oz dried plums [prunes]
4 oz dried dates
2 tablespoons amaretto
red and black food coloring

Add cocoa powder during mixing. Color 1/2 the frosting with black food coloring, and set aside. In a food processor, puree plums, dates, amaretto, and food coloring until mostly smooth add remaining frosting, a dollop at a time, until well combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.

1 lb Whiskey Marshmallows [substituting rum for whiskey]
1 to 1.5 lbs powdered sugar
black food coloring to desired color [I also added a tiny bit of green]

Spray mixing bowl with oil. Microwave marshmallows until soft ~1 minute then transfer to mixing bowl. Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and beat until soft and pliable. Knead in food coloring, spray with oil, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate until ready to use.

1-2 Tablespoons rum or amaretto
Corn starch

Spread a thin layer of the black frosting underneath the cake to adhere it to the cake board. Take off the top layer and spread all of the red filling. Replace top layer [and sprinkle with a little more rum if the cake feels a bit dry]. Spread a thin layer of frosting over the top and sides of the cake. It's fine if the crumbs come through, because this will all be covered by the fondant. Let it dry at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, remove fondant from fridge (still wrapped) and let it warm to room temp.

Thoroughly dust a counter with corn starch, unwrap fondant onto counter and sprinkle top with cornstarch. Roll out to ~1/4 thick in roughly the desired cake shape (plus a good 2 inches around to cover the sides, dusting as needed to keep from sticking. Gently lift the fondant to check for stuck spots and scrape with a knife to unstick (this will stay the underside, so it doesn't have to be perfectly beautiful. Bring the cake as close as humanly possible. Roll up the fondant onto your rolling pin [I actually had to roll around my arm] and transfer it to the cake. IMPORTANT: It's nearly impossible to adjust the fondant once it's on cake, so make sure you line it up before you put it down. Fold edges over sides without stretching and cut with scissors to fit the cake form. Use a pizza cutter to trim the base, then gently smooth all edges and seams with your fingers. Use the top side of a butter knife to indent the fondant with any desired details.

At this point, the cake should not be refrigerated again until after presentation as doing otherwise will cause condensation beads (and food color runs) on the fondant.

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