Monday, May 13, 2013

Defeated By Italian Butercream

Mother's Day was our 34th anniversary.  No, I don't have any hints for you on staying married.  Other than pick well...and don't plan on a divorce if things don't work out as you thought they would.  They NEVER turn out the way you thought they would.


That being said, I decided to make Lee a cake for our anniversary. I had bought him a gift or two and ended up giving them to him earlier, and now I only had one small gift to give him.  He loves chocolate cake (but who doesn't?) so that would have to suffice.  It is a very involved cake, taking up FOUR different pages in my purchased, but unused Tea With Bea cookbook.  I planned on making that and then another gift of food from another cookbook that the kids (can they be kids when they are all over 21? ) gave me for Mother's Day.  Or, as they call a similar day in the UK, Mothering Sunday.  That did not work out as planned.

First I made the cake.  It took almost every bowl in the house.  And then I had two more things to make for the cake, the buttercream filling and the icing, but the Italian buttercream kicked my...well, it was very difficult.  I have made the Wilton buttercream many times and it always turned out perfect.  This time I wanted to make the fancier version.  I may never try it again.  On the other hand, I HATE not being able to do something I start out to do, so I may have to revisit that decision.

The Triple Chocolate Cake starts with the Chocolate Buttermilk Cake.  Then it is filled with the Italian Buttercream, which is also used for a crumb coat and chilled.  Then the Fudge Icing is poured over the chilled cake.  THEN you decorate with honeycomb candy.  I was going to make some honeycomb, but Trista brought me some from England I  decided to just crumble them up and have done with it!


Feel free to make a portion of this recipe.  Just the cake or just the buttercream or just the icing.  Or substitute a Wilton buttercream.  But if you REALLY love someone, do the whole thing and maybe you, too, will be married for 34 years! 

Triple Chocolate Cake

Before you get started, notice that you will need a BUNCH of eggs and unsalted butter.  And a BUNCH of chocolate.  Make sure you have enough.

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate bar, cut into peas sized pieces
4 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar  (the recipe called for superfine sugar, which our market does not carry)
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk


Prepare one 10 inch or two 7 inch cake pans by greasing them and then cutting parchment paper to fit into the bottom.  Gently grease that, too.  The easiest way to cut the paper is to place the pans on the paper and then draw a line around the pan.  Cut the paper and stick it to the greased bottom of the pan.  I only had 8 inch cake pans and that is what I used.


Preheat the oven to 340. 


Put the cut up chocolate and cocoa powder in a large, ceramic or glass bowl. You will be putting hot stuff in it.


Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium high heat.  Keep a close eye on it.  You don't want it to brown.  Pour it on top of the chocolate and stir until smooth.


In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and the sugar.  The superfine sugar would probably dissolve into the eggs easier than the regular granulated kind, but that is not what I had or used.  By the time it is thoroughly mixed, the chocolate should have cooled sufficiently.  I did put a small bit of the melted chocolate into the eggs and stirred.  Then I added another small bit of the melted chocolate into the eggs and stirred that in.  This helps to temper the eggs and warm them a wee bit without making scrambled eggs in your dish. Add the egg mixture to the chocolate and mix until well combined.  Set it aside.


You will need two mixing bowls and one sifter for this next part.  Place the sifter in a bowl and measure in the flour, soda and salt.  Sift it into the bowl.  Now place the sifter in ANOTHER bowl (see what I mean about the bowls?) and scoop the sifted flour into the sifter and sift again.


Add about 1/3 of the flour to the chocolate mixture and mix it in.  Add 1/2 cup of the buttermilk, mix.  Then add another half of the remaining flour to the chocolate, mix.  Add the buttermilk, mix and then the remaining flour and mix until thoroughly combined.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pans.  I used two pans because I didn't want to try to cut the 10 inch cake into layers.  It seemed easier to already have the cake in layers!

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes.  You will probably need the longer time for the larger pan.  I used the shorter time for the two pans.  Check to see if it is done with a toothpick.  If it comes out with just a few crumbs on it, it is done.  I used this time to wash pans and get the kitchen cleaned up to start on the rest of the cake.


Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes.  Then gently slide a knife around the edges and tip the cake out on a cooling rack.  Cool for one hour.  You will need it for the buttercream!  If you used the 10 inch pan, cut the cake into layers after cooling.

Chocolate Italian Buttercream

Temperature is the key to this working out.  Do not have the TV on or get distracted by talking to people or reading a book, even a cookbook for the next step, while waiting for the sugar to come to the right temperature.  Don't ask me how I know this!

2 1/2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped

1 3/4 sugar, if you found superfine, use it here
1 Tablespoon corn syrup...the recipe calls for golden syrup, not available here, so this is acceptable
1/2 cup water
6 egg whites
5 sticks unsalted can diet next week.  Cut the butter into big chunks and let it soften

If you want another flavor rather than chocolate, leave out the first ingredient and add vanilla or another flavor at the end.


Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and set aside to cool.  I don't have a double boiler, so I used a metal bowl loosely on top of a simmering sauce pan half filled with water.  Do not let the water touch the bowl with the chocolate.

Place the sugar, syrup and water in a medium sauce pan.  The first time...yes, I had to do it TWICE,  I think the pan was too big and the thermometer wasn't deep enough in the boiling sugar mixture to register the proper temperature.  The second time I used a smaller pan and got a better reading. 

The temperature seemed to stay around 225 for the longest time and then it popped up and I almost ruined the second batch.  Watch closely and remove the sugar from the heat as soon as it hits 248 degrees.

While the sugar cools, start on the egg whites. You can get everything ready, but don't start them until the sugar is cooling. It needs that time to cool down and if the sugar doesn't work the first time the whipped egg whites will sit too long while you fix the sugar syrup again.  Don't ask how I know this.

NOW you can use your Kitchen Aid mixer.  Before, everything needed to be done in such a way as to make it unnecessary.  Whipping eggs is a GEAT use for the Kitchen Aid.  Plus, you need to use a heat proof bowl for the egg whites and you will have that.  If you don't have a stand mixer, you will need someone to help you later.  Use the whisk attachment and whip the eggs into soft peaks.


I saved the yolks for breakfast the next day and just added a few extra eggs to them for a nice scramble.  Actually, Lee did, for my breakfast in bed.  Remember where I mentioned the picking the right husband?

Now the sugar syrup will have cooled sufficiently.  While the whisk is running, pour the syrup in a steady stream into the whipped eggs.  This is where you will need help if you are using a hand held mixer.  Try to keep the sugar syrup from hitting the whisk.  Continue whisking until the meringue cools slightly. 

If it is too warm, the butter will melt and it will not come together.  Then you will have to use the refrigerator trick two paragraphs down!


Add the softened butter one third at a time and let it whip until fully incorporated.  You can add the flavoring of your choice at this time.  I added the melted chocolate and kept the mixer going until it was a lovely mocha color.

Because I had to remake the sugar syrup, the eggs sat too long and the whole thing did not come together well.  Do not despair!  There is a fix.  I put the buttercream into the refrigerator for one hour and then whipped it again.  Perfect.


The instructions say it will keep for a week at room temperature.  They obviously have not met Lee.  Left over buttercream lasting a week?  Suuuure!


Place the first layer upside down on a cake stand or plate.  Use a bit of the butter cream first to hold it in place.  You DID peel off the parchment paper off the layers, right?  Put a big glop of the buttercream on top and cover it in an even layer. 


Then place the other layer right side up on top of the butter cream and spread a thin layer of buttercream on the sides and top.  Place the cake in a refrigerator and chill for an hour. 


Do not take too long of a break.  You still have work to do.  Grab a bite to eat and get started on the...

Fudge Icing

1 cup whipping cream
3 Tablespoons golden syrup or just use corn syrup, like I did
12 oz. semi sweet chocolate, chopped into pea sized pieces...see what I mean about having enough chocolate for this recipe????
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes and chilled


Place the cream and the syrup in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. 


You did wash everything during your meal break, right???


Put the chocolate into a large heat proof bowl (ditto on the washing).  As soon as the cream comes to a boil, pour it over the chocolate.  Wait for one minute.


Use a small balloon whisk and start in the middle of the bowl.  Gently whisk in small circles.  Don't stray from the middle of the bowl.  You are slowly adding the cream to the chocolate. 


Large motions and heavy stirring will break down the emulsion and you will end up with a grainy mixture.  You also don't want air into the mixture as it will make unwanted bubbles and will shorten the life of the icing.


Keep stirring with small motions and slowly stir in wider circles, incorporating the cream into the chocolate until it is fully combined.  It will look like nothing is happening and then it will turn into a  very shiny, thick mixture. 

Add the vanilla and the butter and mix until well combined.  Take a clean spoon and dip it in the mixture and taste it.  Not to make any changes.  You will just want to taste it!  Let it cool.

Clean all the bowls in the house AGAIN!

If the icing has cooled too much, you may need to warm it gently in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time.  You want it to be smooth, and a pourable consistency.

Take the cake from the refrigerator.  Cut strips of parchment paper or waxed paper and fit them under the edges.  This will help you clean up later.


Carefully pour the icing over the chilled cake, making sure the sides are covered all around. Carefully remove the waxed paper strips with the puddles of icing.  Let it cool and set slightly and the decorate with chopped honeycomb or other chopped candy bars.


Then eat a slice, accept accolades, and go into a chocolate coma to rest from your labors.

Happy Anniversary!

And don't worry.  I wasn't left out.  I got an iPad! 


  1. An iPad seems like a good gift for your obvious labor of love for Lee in making this cake. Congrats to both of you on your 34th anniversary. Now you can start planning a surprise for #35.

  2. Too much pressure. Maybe we should just plan a trip to England!