Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Strawberry Buttercream Chocolate Layer Cake

My new friend asked me to bake a cake for her birthday.  I WAS SO EXCITED.  I love making things for people that will make them happy.  She eats gluten free by choice most of the time, and baking a gluten free layer cake is pretty daunting for a lot of people not in the know.  My training at Cake Love last summer helped me with some of the details in preparing this cake- like trimming the cake layers and icing a crumb coat.  But you do not need professional training to make this cake, I promise.  The chocolate cake is made with yogurt and honey, totally refined sugar free, low lactose and low carb.  I do apologize for this delicious strawberry buttercream icing.  There are a lot of refined-sugar and dairy free alternatives to icing out there, but for a true buttercream you need butter and powdered sugar.  Sorry friends. 

And here's my Pep Talk:
Clean your kitchen, make space to prepare everthing, allow enough time for all of the steps, and enjoy the process. Don't worry if you mess up, just fix it and no one will know. They'll be so distracted by your delicious gluten free layer cake! And if all else fails, tear up the cake and layer it in a big bowl with icing and strawberry slices to make a trifle. 

Strawberry Buttercream Chocolate Layer Cake
serves 12

Chocolate Cake for Two Layers
4 eggs
1/4 C + 2 T full fat plain yogurt
1 1/2 C honey
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 C cocoa powder
2 1/2 C blanched almond flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Strawberry Buttercream
5 medium strawberries
1 stick room temperature butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 T honey
1 lb bag powdered sugar

You will need:
Hand held mixer
Food processor (A vitamix might work for this too, but I haven't tried it)
2 9" circle cake pans
8" Parchment circles
8" cardboard circles and 12" cake box (optional and can be found at craft stores)
Offset spatula
Plastic baggie for decorating

Preheat the oven to 350
Prepare the cake pans:
Butter them and lay a parchment circle in the base of each pan
(To make the parchment circles, pull out two pieces of paper, layer them together, trace the bottom of the cake pan, cut out the circles, trimming them a little smaller so they definitely fit in the cake pans.)
Set the prepared cake pans aside and prepare the chocolate cake

Make the cake batter:
Whisk the eggs, honey, yogurt, vanilla
In a separate bowl mix the cocoa powder, blanched almond flour, baking soda and salt.  Mix very well with a whisk so all of the blanched almond flour combines with the cocoa, and most of the lumps are gone
Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients
Pour the chocolate cake batter into the two cake pans, dividing it as equally as you can
Use a spatula to spread the batter to the edge and even out the top
Bake 20-22 minutes until the top is dry and the edges have just pulled away from the pans
You can certainly cook this a little longer if the cake it still undercooked in the center, but watch it very closely as you don't want the edges to burn and become bitter and the cake too dry
Remove from the oven and let cool completely before icing- at least an hour!

Make the icing:
You can prepare the icing the day before, while the cake bakes, or even while the cake cools.  The icing is very fast and easy to make.
First wash, trim and cut the strawberries into pieces.  Place them in a food processor and process 3 times until the strawberries are cut very small.
Then slice the room temperature butter and place it in the processor with the vanilla, lemon juice and honey.  Process 3 times until everything is a mixed up- don't worry that it has separated into smaller pieces. 
Next pour in a third of the bag of powdered sugar, process and wipe down the sides.  Repeat this two  more times until the bag of sugar is empty and the icing is mixed. By the end the icing will be thick and not mix very well- you will know when it's done.
Carefully remove the blade from the processor and wipe off the icing, then place all of the icing into a large mixing bowl.  Use a hand held mixer on high speed to whisk the icing and make it a little fluffier.  Set aside until ready to ice the cake.  If you make the icing way ahead of time, you can refrigerate it, then when you're ready to use just let it come to room temperature and whisk.

Assemble the cake:
First level the cake.  This video shows how.  If the edges are a little burnt, you can carefully turn the cake on the side and trim off the edges with a serrated steak knife.  Don't worry if it's not totally smooth, you can smooth it out with the crumb coat later. 

Place the bottom layer on a plate or cardboard circle and top with a big scoop of icing.  Use the offset spatula to spread the icing out to the edges in an even layer.

Top with the next layer of cake and center the layer.  If the edges are uneven or poke out, hold the serrated knife vertically and trip around the sides so they are flat and even.  Wipe off the crumbs.

Now for the crumb coat.  This video shows how. The crumb coat is nice on a cake because it contains all of the crumbs that would normally mix into the icing.  After you ice the crumb coat, place the cake in the fridge for a few minutes to harden the layer of icing.

To ice the cake, remove the cake from the fridge and place a big, oversized scoop of icing on the top.  Spread the icing out to and then over the edges; and then spread evenly over the edges.  This video shows how.

Finally, to decorate the cake you can use a fancy piping bag.  Or, you can use a ziploc bag, fill with a scoop of icing, then snip the edge off to create a very small hole.  Squeeze the icing down with your hands, twist the top of the bag so the icing is very dense and squeeze dots of icing where desired.  I put them around the base and top of the cake and then made a big "K". 

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