With spring in full bloom, I wanted to create a cake which celebrated the new season and all of it's blossoming flowers as well as a conversation piece you could bring to your Easter brunch or family gathering this coming weekend. It's a fairly simple cake with endless possibilities when it comes to decorating. I went with a palette of pastel flowers, pink macaroons, raspberries for a little pop of color and gold bunnies to highlight the cake. You can add any variety of flowers, chocolates, berries, meringue kisses and macaroons. It's all personal preference but using an assortment of textures and sizes will add a nice touch. Get creative and have fun with it!
The cake starts with a very simple hot milk cake. It has a great vanilla flavor and tender crumb. I bake my cakes in 1/2 sheet pans, greased and lined with parchment paper. After they have cooled, I freeze them just until they are firm and then I use my template to cut the cake into my desired shape. This short amount of time in the freezer helps make it easier to cut and handle. I decided to make the cake into the shape of an Easter egg since I was at the dollar store and saw an Easter sign in the shape of an egg...SCORE! I traced the sign onto a white poster board (which I also found at the dollar store) and this is what I used as my template to cut the cake.
For the filling, I went with your traditional Swiss meringue buttercream. It's incredibly easy to make, travels well and holds up longer than whipped cream. I use this as a base for all my buttercream's. You can easily add pureed fruits to flavor the buttercream. Strawberry is among my favorite. As far as how much, I do it to taste. For this cake, I used a combination of the vanilla bean buttercream and filled in the center of the cake with strawberry buttercream.
Hot Milk Cake
Yield 2 (1/2 sheet) pans (18'x33"), greased and lined with parchment paper
8 large eggs, room temperature
4 Cups granulated sugar
4 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp vanilla bean paste
2 1/2 Cups whole milk
20 Tbsp unsalted butter
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Place milk and butter in large sauce pan and heat on medium-high until butter has melted and mixture is hot to the touch. Keep an eye on it, it can go from scalding to boil over/complete mess very quickly!
3. Place eggs and sugar inside mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Begin to whisk on high speed until mixture is pale yellow and at ribbon stage, meaning when you lift the whisk over the mixture the batter should fall slowly forming a ribbon that will hold it's shape for several seconds.
4. Next sift dry ingredients into large bowl. Turn mixer off and begin to add dry ingredients into egg mixture a little at a time, mixing in between each addition. Make sure to scrape sides of the bowl down to prevent lumps.
5. With mixer on low speed, slowly begin to add hot milk and butter mixture. Scrape sides of the bowl down and mix until smooth and evenly incorporated.
6. Divide batter between the two sheet pans. You can either do this with a scale or I use a very large ice cream scoop and evenly divide the batter among the the sheet pans.
7. Place sheet pans in preheated 325 degree oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and cake springs back when touched with fingers. Each oven is different so make sure to keep an eye on the cake to prevent the cake from drying out.
8. Let cakes cool at room temperature. Wrap cakes in plastic and freeze for 2 hours or until ready to use.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
1 1/2 Cups egg whites
1lb 2 oz granulated sugar
2lbs unsalted butter, room temperature
1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1. Place egg whites, sugar and salt in large bowl. Place over double boiler and heat mixture until it reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir occasionally with wooden smooth. Sugar should be fully dissolved and mixture will feel hot to the touch.
2. Transfer egg white mixture to stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff glossy peaks form (about 10-15 minutes) and the bottom of the mixing bowl is no longer hot but warm to the touch. If meringue is too warm it will melt the butter and you will have a broken mess on your hands.
3. Begin to add the softened butter a tablespoon at a time, adding it just as fast as it can be absorbed by the meringue. Do not add too quickly.
4. Once all the butter has been incorporated, scrape the sides of the bowl and continue mixing until buttercream is a thick whipped consistency. Sometimes it may look broken or separated, but keep mixing. It will eventually come together.
5. Add vanilla bean paste and mix to combine.
6. At this point you can decide to either use the vanilla bean buttercream as is or add any type of flavoring or pureed fruit. I used a combination of vanilla bean and fresh strawberry buttercream.
1. Remove cakes from freezer. Using a sharp knife, begin to trace your template onto the cake.
2. Place cake onto your cake board or platter. Fit your piping bag with a round tip. I use Ateco 808 but you can also use a star tip or one of your choice. Begin to pipe buttercream on bottom layer.
3. Gently place top layer of cake onto piped buttercream. Do not press down on the cake. Once again, begin to pipe your buttercream covering the entire top of the cake.
4. Begin to decorate cake with fresh flowers, berries, candies or anything else you like.
5. These types of cakes are enjoyed the day of since the sides of the cake are exposed, they are prone to dry out. I would recommend enjoying this cake within 4-6 hours of decorating or gently wrapping it with plastic wrap and refrigerating it. Make sure to let it sit out for a couple hours to allow the buttercream and cake come to room temperature if you decide to refrigerate and serve at a later time.