Italian Meringue (Mousse) Frosting

This is my favorite frosting because it is so versatile, not too sweet and though intimidating to make at the start, it is a skill quickly mastered!

This recipe is based on Rose Beranbaum’s Mousseline frosting in The Cake Bible. It is a large batch Italian Meringue. I love to make this frosting because it freezes well, and has a delicious creamy flavor. This variation on her original came about when I was trying to develop a recipe that would taste good served cold. My plan was to use butter and shortening, hoping that it would stay softer when chilled. I added 2 cups of butter (of the 2 1/2 called for in the recipe) and went to get the half cup of shortening. While I was fetching the shortening, I left the frosting mixing.  When I came back it was a beautiful consistency ready to use for frosting.  I took a quick taste and liked the lighter texture and feel better than with the extra half cup of butter. The rest of the modifications from the original are in the method. I also leave out the alcohol she suggests. Small shortcuts that add up to a great time (and stress) savings. A couple of times I’ve even used frozen butter for the first two sticks to speed the cooling time. Use the recipe and follow the detailed steps below.

Start with room temperature egg whites and butter and have your sugar, cream of tartar and water ready.  You’ll also need a glass measuring cup, a heavy pot, stand mixer and good candy thermometer.

  1. Have everything you need ready; egg whites measured and all other ingredients out.  Make sure things are at the right temperature.
  2. After you put your egg whites in the mixing bowl, make sure to rinse out the measuring cup and grease it with Pam.
  3. Start heating your sugar syrup over high heat.  Place your candy thermometer and stir constantly until sugar has dissolved.  Once dissolved you may stop stirring.
  4. Beat your egg whites at high speed until foamy, then add the cream of tartar.
  5. When they reach soft peaks, add your sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
  6. Prepare your butter by cutting it into tablespoon sized pieces. Have it ready to use for step 8.
  7. When the sugar syrup reaches 248, pour it into the measuring cup.  Stop the mixer and immediately pour a small amount into the prepared egg whites.  Mix and add the rest of the syrup while the beaters are spinning.  Beat until cool (about 1/2 hour).
  8. Add the butter to the egg white mixture one at a time until they are incorporated.  You will need to lower the mixer speed from time to time so that nothing splashes out. It will look thinner and curdled before it mixes up to a beautiful mousse like consistency.
  9. Keep beating until it reaches that beautiful consistency. Add vanilla (about 1-2 Tablespoons).  Use immediately or refrigerate for up to a week.  This freezes up to 6 months.

Making a Texas Layer Cake

If I had to pick my most favorite cake, it would be a toss up between my mom’s Texas Sheet cake and her carrot cake. When my birthday rolls around, I let her choose!  It is just too hard for me to decide between the two.

Most people are familiar with the Texas Sheet cake. Every baker around has a subtle variation of this classic. I’ve tried several recipes and surprise (!) my favorite is still my Mom’s.  Though delicious, it isn’t a cake to win a beauty contest. I decided to change that by offering a layer cake version of my childhood favorite.

The trick to making a Texas Layer cake is PATIENCE! You need to be slow or this will be a VERY ugly cake. Trust me, I’m a very impatient person and have learned this from experience. Fortunately, my family is always happy to eat any mistake cakes that come their way.

 

  • First, use the traditional Texas Sheet cake recipe, following the directions for the layer cake version. Allow to cool in the pans. This keeps the moisture in the cake.
  • To have the proper frosting to cake ratio, you’ll want to split one of your layers into two. Invert the first cake onto your serving plate and use a serrated knife to slice the cake into two layers. *This is easier if you work with a very cool cake. I like to place my cake in the freezer to cool before turning it out and splitting.
  • Make the filling. Use 1/2 recipe of the Texas Sheet cake frosting. Allow this frosting to cool slightly. Gently spread 1/2 of the frosting onto your first layer. Top with the un-split layer. Then, spread with the remaining frosting and finish by topping with the other split layer. Chill in the fridge while you make the outer frosting.
  • Now it is time to make the cake beautiful. For this cake I used fudge frosting, but you may use any frosting you like! Make your frosting, crumb coat and decorate the cake. Voila: a delicious Texas Layer cake ready to enter a beauty contest!

Boden’s Under the Sea Cake

I had the opportunity to make a really FUN cake for a 3 year-old boy this week! Boden loves all things under the sea, including octopuses, turtles, sharks, whales, starfish, turtles and more. Tara (from Terra Rosa in Ithaca, NY) designed a beautiful party invitation that I used for inspiration.

Boden loves chocolate, so the cake is chocolate with chocolate mousse filling. The base cake is frosted with chocolate fudge frosting, while the top cake is finished using vanilla mousse frosting. All the sea creatures are made from fondant.

To make your own version of this cake (or a similar theme cake), I’ve included step-by-step instructions below. If you are a novice, make sure you have 2 days to spend working on all the steps. With more experience, you can expect this cake to take you about 6 hours (baking the cake, making the frostings and fillings, and decorating). Note: The directions to make the cake are below the picture montage.

How to Make This Cake

  1. Prepare your cakes
    This cake used a half sheet pan for the base, and a 9″ round for the top. Plan to make about 2 1/2 recipes of your favorite chocolate cake. Bake cakes and cool completely. If you plan to split the cakes, it is best to chill them in the refrigerator or allow to cool overnight.
  2. Frosting
    Prepare chocolate mousse frosting and vanilla mousse frosting.
  3. Split, fill and crumb coat
    Split the cakes and fill with the chocolate mousse frosting. Place your half sheet cake on the base you plan to use, and place your 9″ round cake on a cardboard round that is the same size as the 9″ round cake. Crumb coat each cake.
  4. Frosting
    Now, prepare your chocolate fudge frosting using your favorite chocolate frosting recipe. The dark canvas makes things pop! Frost your base cake. Then use your vanilla mousse to frost your top cake on the cardboard round. I used a small spatula to make the waves. To make the sandy island, I used brownulated sugar. Simply pour the desired amount on the top of the cake for your island. Put the top cake in the refrigerator, so that it is easier to place it on the bottom cake when ready.
  5. Stack
    It is time to stack the cakes. Get out 8 straws or dowels. Place them in the base cake, in the area that the top cake will rest on, and cut to the appropriate size. Place the 9″ round on the half sheet cake. Pipe, using a #32 star tip, around the bottom edge.
  6. Sculpt
    Begin to sculpt your sea creatures. I used the invitation (photo above) as my inspiration, and my list of things that Boden loves that his Mom had given me. Have a collection of fondant, clay tools, edible markers, a big roulepat mat, and a small rolling pin. Using a large number cookie cutter, cut out the number for the age.
  7. Decorate
    Place sea creatures where desired on the cake. Then use a #18 tip to pipe a small border around the bottom edge. Use #18 to make stars around the top edge. For the writing, use a #16 star tip for the base lettering and a #5 round tip for the top border. Finish the cake by making an umbrella in a color matching the number. Cut a circle, then slice halfway through to wrap it around. Tape a popsicle stick in the center and place the umbrella in the cake.

Elizabeth’s Roses

My daughter, Elizabeth Rose turned 10 this month. She had attended my sculpting class and was very excited to try her hand at decorating her own cake this year.

We decided on a 10 layer cake for this sweet ten year old. Topped with her design of roses, we enjoyed alternating layers of chocolate cake, peanut butter mousse, and vanilla cake.  She spent a couple of weeks making each rose. Every time I had a cake to make, she would get out a different color of fondant and start sculpting! We had planned to use 10 of her roses, but ultimately used all 15 that she made.

The cake was delicious! She was so proud of her design.  She and her brother are already thinking ahead and planning what THEY can make for their half birthday party with their grandparents this spring.

Tootsie Roll Roses

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to teach a couple of cake classes to a group of local middle school students.  The program was a series of classes titled “Just Desserts.”  As a former middle school Math teacher, I was really excited to teach cake decorating to a group of interested 5-8 graders.

Our first class was all about the cake; leveling, filling, frosting and piping borders.  The class culminated with the best part EATING our efforts!  For the 2nd class, I decided to focus on sculpting.  I brought in all my fondant and taught the kids how to make roses! They created some incredibly beautiful flowers with the fondant.  In our first class, we had a discussion about box mix brownies, cakes and cookies and decided to do a big taste test as part of the 2nd class.  Each participant sampled healthy brownies, scratch brownies and box mix, along with 4 different types of milk.  We enjoyed comparing our thoughts about the brownies and sharing our guesses about which type of milk we thought each little taste was.  But, it was after all this that the real fun began.  Time to sculpt with Tootsie rolls!

I explained the basics – warm the candy just slightly in the microwave, and then sculpt whatever your imagination can come up with!  They made frogs, flowers, presents, roses, animals and more.  The colored candy disappeared VERY fast, leaving lots of brown for me to play with at home.  Look below the pictures to see my directions for a Tootsie Roll rose.  It is fun, easy and cheap.  A neat thing about sculpting with candy is that it is accessible to anyone with an imagination and a convenience store!  Grab some candy and try your hand at it.


Directions for making roses:

  1. Buy your candy. Choose all brown, or the assorted colors package. You’ll need 1-3 pieces for a rose. You’ll also want a rolling pin and a  roulepat mat or parchment to work on.
  2. Microwave one piece of candy at a time for about 3-8 seconds (time will depend on your microwave) and work the candy until it has the consistency of soft clay.
  3. Make a ball.
  4. Shape your ball into a cone; this will be the center of your flower.
  5. Roll out your candy very thin to make petals. You’ll want something to cut your petals out with (the bottom of a decorating tip works nicely) and cut out one or two petals. Use your hands to make them thinner and warm so that they can attach to your center.
  6. Continue to add petals until you have a nice bud.
  7. Add another layer of petals, continuing to roll and cut out your candy. You might need to microwave one or two times during this process.
  8. After your third set of petals, you’ll have a completed rose.
  9. If you have other cutters and colors available, make other flowers or anything your imagination dreams up! Have fun.