A Tale of Five Frostings
Have you ever heard of seven-minute frosting? The name evokes a sense of ease and speediness, doesn’t it? Seven minutes must mean, well, seven minutes. It must only take seven minutes to make, right? Wrong.
Let me back up a little. A good friend and I have birthdays less than one week apart. We have been celebrating (there’s your c-word for Christmas) our birthdays together for several years now. I always make her birthday cake and the husband always makes mine. It works out pretty well. Well, my friend has to eat a gluten free diet, so it is a little more challenging to make a cake for her–I’m not saying I don’t want to do it or that I don’t enjoy doing it. I’m just saying it is a little more challenging and I am certainly not one to shy away from a challenge.
Well, this year, I had the idea to make her a cake that was one of her favorites before she had to go gluten-free. It’s this Devil’s Food White Out Cake from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking book. I thought it would be pretty easy to adapt as a gluten free cake. I found a gluten free chocolate cake recipe that got good reviews from the King Arthur Flour website. The making of the cake went off without a hitch, once we found some gluten-free dutch processed cocoa powder (We used Droste.) Like most gluten free recipes, it was easy to make. I did this the night before the party and wrapped up the cake layers for the next day.
The day of the party dawned and all was sunny. Everything looked really promising. It was 8am. I had until 12:30 to finish the cake. I thought, “I’ll just whip up that frosting, assemble the cake, and the the whole fam can go out for breakfast and enjoy our morning.”
Here’s where it all started to go wrong.
Firstly, I was enticed by the seven-minute frosting idea. The original recipe in Ms. Greenspan’s book calls for a sugar syrup boiled to a certain temperature and then whipped into stiff egg whites. It’s fussy and I have had mixed result with this method.
The seven-minute frosting recipe has the egg white warmed with sugar and then whipped to virtually the same result. I have done this method before, so I thought it would be a walk in the park. I don’t want to belabor the whole process, so I’ll just give you a quick summary here.
This one never got off the ground. In my not quite fully awake mode, I accidentally put an egg yolk into my whites and sugar mixture. This served to promptly wake me up fully. I proceeded to dump it in the sink, take off my sweater/robe, roll up my sleeves, and Get Serious.
I used a recipe from Bake! by Nick Malgieri. Love this book, but not this recipe. He has you heat the egg whites and sugar to 140 degrees. Then you whip it until it’s cool. I whipped it and it cooled, but it never firmed up. It was kinda like mostly melted ice cream. This also went down the drain, with a few bad thoughts going with it.
I turn to a recipe I have executed successfully before from an America’s Test Kitchen publication. It called for lemon juice. I did not want the frosting to be lemony, so I left it out. This recipe calls for the sugar/egg white mixture to be heated to 160 degrees. Thinking I could enlist the use of the little people, I had the elder son stir it while I got the cake layers ready. This was probably a mistake. When I checked the temperature it was 180. Oops. I wasn’t sure if this would really make a difference, so I whipped it up anyway. It was ice cream soup.
By this time, the husband arrives. He was probably lured by the rather loud exclamations coming from the kitchen area of the house. An engineer, he promptly began trying to fix it. As I was almost completely demoralized and brought to my knees by the first three attempts, I let him take over. He followed the recipe to the letter (minus the lemon juice, but adding some cream of tarter) and got this after 15 minutes of whipping.
Does this look like a fluffy marshmallow-like frosting to you? No? No. At this point, we were at an absolute loss as to what we were doing wrong. Since it was past 10am and no one had eaten any breakfast yet, we thought we had better take a break. The husband took the boys out for breakfast and I went to go take a shower to clear my head.
During my shower, I decided to go back to Dorie’s original frosting recipe. Yes, the sugar syrup is a pain, but I had used up all my patience for the seven-minute frosting. Maybe a harder technique is what I needed. I got it all together, boiled the syrup to the right temperature, added it slowly to the whipped egg whites and began beating. After five minutes or so I had this.
Pearly, white, fluffy, heavenly goodness. What a relief! I finally got the cake finished about an hour before we had to leave for the party, 3 and a half hours after I began making frosting.
The husband had finished my cake the night before and it look beautiful as well.
We ended up having a very nice Celebration. Both cakes were Delicious. (I think we can all agree that the holidays are delicious, right? When else do we make and eat a hundred different special Delicacies?)
Don’t think that I have given up on the seven-minute frosting. I do intend to conquer it, but I think I need a little distance from it first. Maybe I can add it to my list of New Year’s resolutions. Anyway, this weekend was just the beginning of our month of Celebrations and Delicious Delicacies. I know I am supposed to have something for the letter E today, but I think I’ll save it for tomorrow. I have a deadline to meet today.