Yes, it’s my wonderful, perfect, wise, hockey-playing, art-making, bff, Mo. And she had a birthday (ok, it was several months ago but we operate in a different space-time continuum here in the blogging world). I wanted to make a cake as extraordinary as she is and it was a success because she loved it and, well, just look at the magnificent thing:
I, however, was more critical. Mostly I didn’t like the texture of the cake itself. With absolutely no butter in it, it was springy and spongy and angel-food-like. And there’s something that really bothers me about angel food cake and frosting together. Not only conceptually (that is, why bother making the healthiest of cakes if you’re just going to smear buttercream all over it?) but also because I just don’t like the two textures together. Buttercream needs a buttery cake as its foundation, doesn’t it? Or could it be that I just don’t like angel food cake? There, I said it.
The recipe is from the Batter chapter and Ruhlman tells us that batter is “flour made fluid.” It is equal parts flour and liquid (by weight) and whereas we work a dough pretty hard in order to develop the glutens in the flour, for batters we do the opposite. The flour is folded in carefully because over-worked glutens give you tragedies like tough pancakes. You can make batters do many different things by changing the order of when ingredients are added. Eggs, for instance; for pancakes they’re just mixed in with the liquids. For cakes, you can mix the eggs with the sugar and then fold in the flour, or you can whip the eggs separately to trap air and lend structure, or you can cream the butter and sugar and then beat in eggs to get a pound-cake-like texture. Why you would ever leave out the butter is a mystery to me but Ruhlman just doesn’t like his cakes that way and it’s his book, so…
If you are new to the world of homemade cake-making, I might start with something more simple before tackling this one. The cake itself will require you to whip and incorporate egg whites, and the frosting includes making a syrup with an accurate thermometer (truthfully, it is one of the more complicated buttercreams I’ve made). At the end you’re rewarded with the glaze, which is just butter and chocolate melted together which you then get to pour over the cake and make artistic drips over the sides.
(I found the paragraph-long sidebar on how to make a parchment round completely hysterical. Somehow Ruhlman elevates it to a level of complexity on par with making an origami Baroque cathedral. I think a protractor and a miter saw are involved. And you know how I do this? I trace a circle around my cake pan and cut it out. And I live a full and happy life.)
Classic Layer Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Icing and Chocolate Glaze is on page 167 of Ruhlman’s Twenty and right here.