Fall Leaves and New Love
“Bowl-o-Rama” Bowling Ball – Chocolate cake, chocolate & vanilla buttercreams
Pumpkins, cinnamon, vibrant leaves, and my favorite red rain boots – there is everything to love about fall. Along with the drizzling rain and the brisk, crisp chill sweeping into Seattle comes school, but also fresh starts and new love. A love in the form of Swiss Buttercream.
The photos in today’s post are a few paid orders from the summer. Because time was an issue and setting up photos was not a priority, they are not my most beautiful shots, but I’m still happy to share them with you. And the one thing they all have in common? They are frosted with a silky, light swiss buttercream that I am head over heels for. It makes me swoon. It’s sweet and velvety and also a dream to work with. I’ve never frosted a cake so smooth.
Buttercream has always been elusive for me. I’d tried making a classic buttercream once, but something went wrong between heating the sugar and whisking the eggs and I ended up with a big mess. That seemed to scare me from buttercream ever since, and I just stuck to powdered sugar frostings. Not anymore! I made… wait for it… six batches of buttercream in the past two weeks. Which sounds like a lot, and then I did the math and realized that I baked 13 cakes this summer, including 7 paid orders!
“Bowl-o-Rama” Bowling Ball Cake & “Strike!” Bowling Pin Cake
Baking paid orders is so different than baking for fun. For one thing, it’s a lot more stressful. Failure when I’m baking for fun or experience is merely disappointing, and frequently entertaining. Failure when I’m charging somebody for it makes my insides curdle faster than my first buttercream. I worry about taste, appearance, and getting the order right – after all, it’s a purchase.
It’s hard to say if I truly enjoy paid orders. On the one hand, I am creating cakes I would have never made on my own. I cut out interesting shapes, learn new techniques for decorating, and even try new frosting recipes. For the same reason that I love being a Daring Baker, I like the challenge each paid order presents and the new ingredients, tools, and skills I acquire. And the feeling when I know the client has gotten exactly what he or she wanted, is amazing. When the client arrived to pick up this bowling cake, she saw the pin first and gasped. It’s genuinely thrilling, and it makes me want to do nothing but make customers happy.
On the flip side, I stress like Robert Irvine on Dinner: Impossible. I always wake up before 8:30 that day, to make sure I have enough time to work and start over if necessary. If the cake is drier than expected or something doesn’t go according to plan, even though I know how to fix it, it’s difficult not to feel anxious. When I don’t like the final result, my hands actually shake as I transfer the cake to a platter and my stomach tightens uncomfortably until the moment I feel certain the client is satisfied. Somehow, when my whole body relaxes and I begin to gather the dishes, it feels like the whole morning was worth it. It’s not about the money, but something so much more important than that.
Vanilla “Dream” themed cupcakes with vanilla buttercream, fondant stars & moons, and blue sanding sugar
Monday was my first day of school. This year I’m taking some fascinating classes and will be participating in a fantastic internship. It’s been a long week, and a busy one. My school doesn’t offer a cooking class and my teachers haven’t hesitated to assign homework even in the first few days. The result? I haven’t had the opportunity to spend as much time in the kitchen as I’d like.
It’s jarring to be suddenly thrown back into the world of lectures, lengthy homework assignments, and commitment. While I would never sacrifice my responsibilities for my hobbies, all of you know I would also never stop blogging no matter how busy I got. While I might need to put paid orders on hold, baking and blogging is my passion.
SAT prep classes, college applications, and warm autumn flavors… I welcome fall with open arms, sharpened pencils, and a satisfied stomach.
Pink Fairy cake for a special 3-year-old girl’s birthday
While I am smitten with Martha’s Swiss Buttercream, my dad finds it a bit too sweet. I tried two other swiss buttercreams in an attempt to find an even better one, but the first was too buttery and the second even sweeter. Please feel free to share your favorite swiss buttercream recipes with me, and if you are a true buttercream master, please give me tips on making classic buttercream! Someday when I am brave enough to try it again, I’ll be more prepared than last time.
Martha’s Swiss Buttercream
From Martha Stewart
Makes about 4.5 cups
1 1/4 cups sugar
5 large egg whites
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
1 tsp vanilla extract
Place egg whites and sugar in the heat-proof bowl of an electric mixer. Set over a pan of simmering water and whisk until sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot. [I rub the mixture between my fingers and it should feel completely smooth.]
Move the bowl from the pan to the mixer and, using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until the whites have cooled to room temperature and formed stiff peaks (about 10 minutes.)
Add the butter one piece at a time, beating until just incorporated between additions. [If the buttercream curdles simply keep beating and it will come together, do not panic!] Add vanilla and beat until just combined.
Beat with the paddle attachment on the lowest speed to eliminate air pockets and smooth the buttercream. If you’re going to use it soon, cover and store in a cool environment until needed. If not, you can refrigerate buttercream (tightly wrapped) for up to 3 days. When ready to use, bring to room temperature and then beat on low speed with the paddle attachment until smooth.
Printer Friendly Version – Martha’s Swiss Buttercream