Our first Baked Sunday Morning assignment for 2012 was an ambitious one. But I have to say, I had a lot of fun with it, and Larry did a lot of the work for the final cake assembly.
There are a lot of steps to put this cake together, but for the most part, none are overly time consuming (with the exception of the cake itself). I started a couple of days ahead by making the candied rosemary and cranberries – as simple as dipping them in sugar syrup and then granulated sugar. The next day I made meringue mushrooms – I admit, those were a little more intimidating, but they ended up being really easy. I mostly followed the instructions in the book, but Alice Medrich has a helpful video up on Chow that I used to help with technique. I also followed her advice and added my cocoa powder to the mushrooms pre-baking, rather than post.
Larry took on the tedious task of assembling the mushrooms. We had decided to use melted dark chocolate as the glue (instead of the suggested melted white chocolate), because I like the look of the dark chocolate as the gills of the mushroom. Larry carved out little holes in the mushroom tops and adjusted the stems to fit before carefully gluing them together. He did a fantastic job – the mushrooms looked completely realistic.
Next up was the buttercream. It’s a lovely, light French buttercream base, that is then split up to become a malt buttercream for the filling (including malt powder and crushed Whoppers), and a chocolate buttercream for the outside of the cake. It’s pretty easy to make and work with, and is one of my favorite buttercream recipes. The buttercream goes into the refrigerator to chill while the cake gets made.
And here’s where the recipe gets a bit more complicated. The stump consists of four strips of thin cake (made on two sheet pans and cut in half long-ways) that are filled with the malt buttercream and rolled together in concentric circles. The cake itself has a lot of steps, including separating a dozen eggs and a lot of folding different ingredients at different points of time in the recipe. It was by far the most time consuming part of the recipe but the cakes cooked up fine and looked great.
Final assembly is fairly quick but mine was a little messy. I started to roll the cake up with the buttercream but it’s a bit of a dense cake so it broke in spots. I quickly found that the trick was to use the parchment underneath the cake to keep a tight, unbroken roll. I saved out a small slice of cake for the tree stump.
Once the roll was complete and set on end, Larry carved out a little slot for the tree stump I had rolled up, and we set to get it glued in to the tree a well as we could. We ended up using a ramekin to help prop it up until the frosting set up. Frosting the rest of the cake was easy – just rustic vertical strokes made to look like tree bark, and the cake is ready to go into the refrigerator to set.
The final bit of work is frosting and cake plate clean-up, and placement of the candied cranberries and rosemary around the cake. We used a bit of chocolate buttercream we had set aside as a glue to hold the mushrooms on to the plate. I loved the final look of the cake – like it just came out of the forest, kind of rustic. In the end, I used five sticks of butter and 20 eggs. Whew.
Our cake traveled three doors down to Assana’s house for our traditional Christmas with her, Dan and Chris. We had a big pot of chili, cocktails, cornbread, a great salad, cheese, crackers, charcuterie…. and lots of wine. And then the cake. It’s a good cake, great buttercream but the actual cake is on the dense side. I thought it was a great way to end 2011/begin 2012 for Baked Sunday Mornings! To get the recipe and see the other entries from this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings head on over to Baked Sunday Mornings.
- Stump de Noël & Meringue Mushrooms (Baked Explorations, p. 144)