Hope y'all had a great weekend and thank you to all who have served our country, including the families of our veterans.
Between our umpteenth Frozen party, playtime at the Carlsbad Lagoon and a day at dog beach, it was amazing to have some time as a family and I, for one, am feeling fully restored.
I also learned something about myself as a baker this past weekend: I am horrible at making frosting. Now, I never went to pastry school and don't know all that much about the chemistry of baking so I don't feel that badly about this unfortunate truth, but I am truly horrible at frosting. My former idea of cake topping was a stick of butter, some melted chocolate, vanilla extract and a whole lot of powdered sugar. It turns out the ingredient list was right, but my quantities and way of bringing it all together was all wrong.
I sat myself down with a few of my favorite cookbooks, my computer and a notebook and searched to find a fudgy chocolate frosting worthy of my nephew's 11th birthday cake. Caden is the younger brother to a superstar big sister and sometimes feels the effects of being in the shadow of her bright light. But, he carries his own light and a trove of his own larger-than-life talents. Caden has a nascent understanding of the stock market (at 11!), is an expert basketball player and is tremendously adept at math and science. He also happens to be ridiculously handsome and an incredibly patient, kind older cousin to my little Lulu. When I met him Caden was 4, the same age my daughter is now. And one of the first things he said to me was "You have big boobs" (I absolutely and unequivocally do NOT), so, Caden is the kind of kid I want to go out of my way for.
In order to focus on the outside, I baked 2 boxes of Betty Crocker Yellow Cake in 5 pans and took out a couple of pounds of butter and my best chocolate and got started.
After lots of melting, blending, heating, whipping and tasting (can you say "stomach ache?"), the best of the lot was from Tish Boyle's "The Cake Book" and is quite appropriately called Fudgy Chocolate Frosting.
This frosting is not ganache: it's light, chocolatey, melt-in-your-mouth delicious. My nephew was dazzled and my husband licked his fork! Some of the other attempts were overly light like whipped cream (not going to cut it on 5 full layers of cake) or super-buttery-but-not-chocolatey or curdled or too thick, but this one was, as Goldilocks would say, just right.
It seems that while frosting may be the last thing to do to a cake (unless you're decorating, which is a whole different ball game), it should not be the least effort. Certainly not the least effort when you're mixing up a boxed cake! Ironically, this frosting was less work than some of those I tried and the closest to what I was aiming for. Superb chocolate flavor, melty on the tongue and beautifully whipped in texture: perfect for a birthday cake!
Fudgy Chocolate Frosting
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 C unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 C confectioner's sugar
1 T vanilla extract
1/2 t sea salt
In a double boiler over simmering water, melt the chocolate. Then, set aside to cool.
Beat the butter at medium speed until creamy - maybe a minute. Beat in the sugar until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and blend. Turn the speed down to low and slowly pour the cooled chocolate into the butter and blend completely. Scrape down the bowl to make sure all the bits get mixed in and then whip until the frosting looks light, airy and is firm enough to spread, 2 minutes or so.
Use immediately on completely cooled cake.
I wish Caden has allowed me to take even one photo of him so I could show you the pleasure on his face while eating this delectable creation, but he is a pre-teen and has his own ideas. Therefore, I ask you to picture a handsome, mostly-Italian, sun-browned boy with dark hair and chocolate eyes smiling and taking in the birthday attention with a giant bite of cake in his mouth, smiling and firmly planted in the spotlight. Right where he belongs.