New Loves: Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I did it! I conquered my first cake to be consumed by someone else (other than the hubby). Last weekend was my niece’s 5th birthday party & my gift this year was a homemade cake – with all her favorite things, namely: pink, Ariel, strawberries, and blueberries… in that order. How were all those themes accomplished, you ask? Simple… the glory of the internet, a lot of learning … & VOILA!

The initial inspiration was the inside, a blueberry cake from Sweetapolita, with fresh blueberries baked right into the cake. You can see my trial run here. At first I thought I would stick to Sweetapolita’s initial design and use lemon curd for the filling, but at the last possible moment I made a course correction, as my niece’s new favorite flavor is strawberry (more for the color than anything else, I think), so I scoured the internet for an easy filling and found a lovely strawberry filling on allrecipies.com that was less complex than a fruit mousse which used items I already had on hand.

For the frosting, I has been reading in many cookbooks and blogs by dessert makers about the glories of SMB (Swiss Meringue Buttercream), and while I was a little intimidated, I took the plunge, following Sweetapolita’s recipe, a handy-dandy candy thermometer, and how-to with SweetWise’s fantastic video tutorial you can see here:

I had a couple scary moments – especially when it looked like the worst kind of curdled milk after defrosting from sitting in the fridge overnight and then an attempt to re-whip (I think the butter relaxed before the meringue, resulting in a scary mess). But I fought the urge and my mother’s promptings to start from the beginning, and took Sweetapolita’s advice to gently heat up a portion in the microwave to add back in, and miracle of miracles, it whipped together just as beautifully as the day before!

This is what I have very scientifically dubbed “Clouds of Awesome” – buttery and light, without being too sweet:

I had initially wanted to try a ruffle cake, just like Martha; however, I feared I would be pushing my luck time-wise, so I went for a lovely pastel swirl effect, that Sweetapolita has a video tutorial for – it’s really a pretty basic method for frosting a cake, only you separate the cake into three different batches of color, and try not to overwork it, so you end up with three distinct bands of color, you can see her blog with recipes here, or check out the video:

And the finishing touch, the princess of the sea, Ariel! After all the work that was going into learning the basics of cake-making, I wasn’t about to test the limits of my patience and time by trying to create a painting out of frosting like this Wilton cake. Instead I scoured my favorite source for the cute and homemade – Etsy – and found this lovely custom cake topper.

The cake was gobbled up to rave reviews – here’s a before and after of the decoration and subsequent demolition:

So, lessons learned from this cake? I LOVE Swiss Meringue Buttercream, and for me, there’s nothing more fun that letting your imagination run wild with confection- a cake that’s mostly fruit? Been there, done that 🙂 What’s next?

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