Tips-y Tuesdays: How to Save a Cake

Let’s say you have great plans to make a cake and you really want to make chocolate buttercream frosting. You might take an existing recipe you know and love and mix it up a bit for chocolate frosting. Let’s say you try it a few times before finally getting it right…well, I have a few tips to help you with chocolate buttercream, particularly the Italian Meringue kind that I make. Then, I have a way of rescuing a cake that needs to be saved with some chocolate buttercream. Feel free to hop in for these ideas…

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For the Chocolate Buttercream, you can actually use my normal vanilla recipe and just add the chocolate. But, to make your life easier, I am including the directions here, too.

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Directions for Chocolate Buttercream

  • 9 egg whites (room temperature)
  • 10.5 ounces sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1.5 Tablespoons vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 sticks butter, room temperature and cut into pieces
  • 1 pound bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

Before you start making the frosting, I recommend melting the chocolate at the beginning. This way it will be nicely cooled for when you need it (you need it about room temperature).

Then, whisk the egg whites in a mixer on medium speed for a couple minutes until frothy. At the same time, heat the water and sugar together in a small saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the temperature reaches 238 degrees F. While the water and sugar are heating, continue whisking the eggs. This will take about 5 minutes.

 

Turn the mixer to low and pour the hot sugar mixture directly into the egg whites, being careful to avoid splatters. Once poured, increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whip until the bowl is no longer warm (about 8-10 minutes). Reduce the mixer speed to add the vanilla and salt. On medium speed, add the butter one piece at a time. Then increase the speed to medium-high until the mixture is smooth.

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At this time, whisk in the cooled melted chocolate.

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You can now use the buttercream to frost your cake, or refrigerate it (or freeze it).

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Trouble-shooting:

  1. My major issue was not letting the chocolate cool down enough, or using butter that was too soft. You can pop the bowl in the refrigerator and let it cool down a bit before continuing.
  2. If you mess up and the mixture begins to look beyond curdled, as in, mine turned into something that looked like milk and frosting, then…

Place the bowl back over some simmering water, like a double boiler. At the same time, use a hand mixer to whisk the frosting. Sometimes the stand mixer isn’t strong enough and the hand mixer can do a better job. You might not even need to do the double boiler trick if you did not need to put the frosting in the refrigerator. The double boiler helps warm the frosting gradually if you chilled it.

Finally, directions for a trifle…

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I made a red velvet cake (although I made it without red dye, so it won’t look like a traditional red velvet cake) but was lazy. I decided to see what would happen if I merely buttered the pan and did not include parchment paper. Well, apparently that is a horrible idea. The cakes did come out of the pans eventually, but not in one piece. So, I decided to make lemonade from my lemons, which in the baking world is making trifle from my broken cakes. I had never made a trifle before, but I definitely would be up for making one again!

I defrosted my leftover chocolate buttercream, then whipped it with the whisk attachment until it was fluffy again.

I defrosted my leftover chocolate buttercream, then whipped it with the whisk attachment until it was fluffy again.

 

Freshly made whipped cream (sweetened)

Freshly made whipped cream (sweetened)

For my layers, I started with some crumpled red velvet cake, then whipped cream (using a bit of powdered sugar in heavy cream before whisking it to peaks), then more cake, then chocolate buttercream frosting, then cake, then whipped cream.

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This trifle was fluffy and creamy. Definitely a hit! And for a bonus, my husband was shocked that this was red velvet cake because “it’s so moist!”. So another recipe winner there, too!

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