Tag Archives: swiss meringue buttercream

Pear Cake with Salted Caramel Swiss-Meringue Buttercream

I feel like this cake deserves an apology, the pictures I am about to show you of this cake are not particularly inspiring. You see, I baked it for a friend’s birthday party in early December and I was running around like a mad-woman trying desperately to finish it off before I had to be at her house. I was losing light, I was out of time, and, well, I just snapped a few pictures and hoped for the best.

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See, it doesn’t look like much. But it is. It really, truly, and absolutely is. So for the sake of this particular cake I’m asking you to just look past its outside appearance. It’s what’s on the inside that counts anyways right?

The cake is a perfectly moist, dense-yet-still-fluffy, marzipan-almond-pear cake that I covered in a salted caramel Swiss-meringue buttercream. Let’s talk for a moment about how to make Swiss-meringue buttercream even more unbelievably delicious than it already is – add homemade caramel sauce, and then toss in a teaspoon or so of sea-salt.

I can see your eyes widening. I know, I know. Homemade caramel is scary. You have to boil water and sugar and remove it from the heat at exactly the right time or risk either burnt caramel (I’ve done it, it doesn’t taste good) or a caramel that is too mild in flavour and as a result simply tastes like sugar. Both are undesirable, and both are risks you have to be willing to take because let me assure you: homemade caramel is worth it.

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You just have to be ok with watching it as it does its thing. Stand over your stove and watch it. When it starts to go amber, keep watching, count to 60 then pull it off the stove, and carefully, in small increments to avoid a bubbling overflow of boiling sugar, stir in your heavy cream. You want it rich amber. Sure you can also use a candy thermometer, but I actually never have. Maybe I have just been lucky, but I’m confident that you’ll be lucky as well.

But let me talk about the cake for a minute because they caused me a lot of stress. You see, this recipe comes from a cupcake recipe that my personal hero Sweetapolita made a few months ago. I spent days drooling over her marzipan-pear cupcakes with caramel buttercream which she topped with the most beautiful gold-gilded marzipan pear toppers. I thought about making the cupcakes, but when my friend asked me to make her birthday cake (in actuality I sent her an email in reply to her invitation in which I pretty much begged her to let me do it) I though it might turn into a wonderful cake.

And it did.

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Fair warning however: this cake is finicky. I suspect it would have been less stress-inducing if I had made cupcakes. The dough is quite soft thanks to the brilliant addition of a lot of marzipan, and a lot of pureed pear. It makes for a delicious cake, but I have never been more nervous turning out cakes than the moment I flipped these out of the pans. Both layers nearly ripped as I transferred them onto the cooling rack, and I was only able to take them off and stack them because i used two oversized spatulas to support them from underneath.

I’m generally a pretty calm person, but when I’m moving delicate cake-layers I become a stress-ball. Seriously, I hyperventilate a little.

But in the end it was good. Actually, it was really, really good. I mean when you pair marzipan, pears, and caramel with a hefty amount of butter and sugar, how on earth could it possibly be wrong?

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So make this cake. It may not look like much, but it’s flavour more than makes up for its appearance.

For the Cake – yields 1 eight inch 2 layer cake:

Very lightly adapted from Sweetapolita

1 cup + 2 teaspoons unsalted butter at room temperature cut into chunks

240 grams of marzipan

2/3 cups granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons ground almonds
1/2 cup pureed pear (about 2 large pears)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter two eight inch cake pans. Add in some flour and coat the sides of the pan tapping out the excess. Then cut two parchment circles to fit the bottom of the pans and line the bottoms. I know it seems like a lot of work but it will allow your cakes to actually release from the pan, which is key.
2. In a medium bowl sift your dry ingredients together, whisk and set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat the butter, sugar, and marzipan until light and fluffy on medium speed – around three minutes. Add the vanilla and beat to combine.
4. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the side of the bowl after each addition.
5. Add the dry ingredients, mix on low until incorporated and then beat on medium for about 3 minutes.
6. Using a spatula fold in the ground almonds and pear into the batter.
7. Divide between the two baking pans. If you want to get really obsessive you can weigh them to ensure they are even. It does ensure equally sized, evenly baked cake-layers!
8 Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake’s centre comes out clean. A warning that they will look rather soft and potentially a bit under-done, but so long as the toothpick is clean you will be fine.
9. Let cool in the pans for five minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack.

For the Frosting:
1 cup Sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt (start with a pinch an add more to taste)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1.5 cups of unsalted butter at room temperature.
4 large eggs whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Combine the water and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a small pot over medium heat, and stir consistently as it comes to a boil. Once boiling, leave it except to occasionally brush down the sides with a silicon pastry brush. Cook until the caramel is a dark amber, swirling the pot occasionally. Remove from the heat and slowly add cream, whisking as you go, and taking a break if it starts to look like it will bubble over. Add salt to taste, and then set aside.
2. Beat the butter in a stand-mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until pale- and fluffy. This takes about 4 minutes on a medium setting. Remove from the mixer bowl, and clean the bowl thoroughly. I like to rub it down with some vinegar as if there is any trace of grease the meringue will not whip up properly.
3. Transfer your egg whites and remaining sugar into the mixer bowl. Set the bowl over gently simmering water and whisk until the eggs come to 160 degrees F on a candy thermometer.
4. With the whisk attachment on, whip the egg whites and sugar until glossy and stiff peaks form, this takes about 3-5 minutes on high speed.
5. When the bottom of the bowl is no longer warm to touch, start adding in the butter one cup at a time whisking well after each addition. It may look like it has separated. If this happens, kick up the speed on your mixer and beat until it comes together – it will. I promise.
6. When all the butter has been added whisk in the cooled caramel.

To Assemble:
1. Carefully transfer one of the cake layers onto a turntable. Plop about 3/4 of a cup of frosting on-top and smooth around until fairly even.
2. Carefully place the second layer on top of the first one. Frost the entire thing in a thin layer. This is your crumb coat. Then place into the fridge for about 30 minutes.
3. Pull back out and cover in a thicker layer, using a bench scraper to even out the sides.
Devour. No seriously. DEVOUR.

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Sweet Potato Cake

This is the best cake I have ever made.

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Seriously.

I know I say it every post, but seriously, this cake is a bit of a miracle. I mean there’s a lot going on.

The cake is sweet-potato, with a generous amount of cinnamon and ground ginger, and finely chopped crystallized ginger.

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The filling is toasted marshmallow. Yes. Toasted marshmallow. I don’t think I need to elaborate any further.

The frosting? Brown-sugar-cinnamon Swiss Meringue Buttercream. The amazing thing is that swapping brown sugar in for the white sugar usually used in SMB makes a massive difference in the flavour. It adds a certain sense of warmth, and the addition of cinnamon just takes it to the next level.

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To finish it all off, there are the candied pecans. Sprinkled over the top of the cake, they add a crunch and nuttiness that just finishes the whole thing off.

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As I said, there’s a lot going on in this cake and the miracle is that all the different elements don’t just work together, they literally sing.

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Yes, I went there. I referred to food as singing. But it’s appropriate. Think of the flavours as different harmonies, and when they come together it’s pretty amazing.

Ok, I took it too far. I’ll stop with the bad analogies.

Now.

So I served four desserts at Thanksgiving, and this is the one that was finished off first. This cake earned me more compliments than anything else I made. The cake itself is light, moist, sweet, lightly-spiced, and unique. The toasted marshmallow filling is reminiscent of campfires, and the mildness compliments the cake’s complexity. And the frosting… Well it’s Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Lightly, floaty, not too sweet, with a depth and complexity that comes from the use of brown-sugar and the addition of cinnamon which ties it to the rest of the cake. The pecans just take the entire thing over the top, from outstanding to life changing.

As I said, this was the best cake I’ve ever made.

This cake takes a while. I baked it on Tuesday and froze it wrapped tightly in two layers of plastic wrap. I made the frosting on Wednesday, and made the filling and completed the assembly on Thursday (Thanksgiving day) morning.

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And yes, you have to split the cake layers. Yes, it’s terrifying, but as you can tell from the picture above I didn’t do a perfect job and I still pulled off an awesome cake. So don’t stress it too much. Frosting can cover up all kinds of mistakes.

But it was worth it. Absolutely, 100% worth it.

Once again, I made no changes to Sweetapolita’s outstanding recipe, so the next time you need a show-stopping cake to make, make this one.

There will be miraculous music, I promise.

I lied when I said I was done with bad analogies. I’m sorry. Ok, that’s a lie too.

Just make the cake, it’s a really, really good idea.

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