The internet is a little terrifying. I get defeated when I have what I think is an exciting and original idea and then the internet acts like a douche-b by showing me how unoriginal my idea is and how it’s been done many times before. I find people that have thought it, and done it, and shared it with the world already – and better than I could have done. I don’t know these people, they don’t live on my street, and they likely don’t even live in my state. Nonetheless, it leaves me feeling creatively deflated. It makes me long for when I was a teenager who didn’t know what Google was. My endeavors felt unique because I had no idea what the rest of the population was up to. At least I have those memories. You poor bastards that grew up with the internet…woof.
Don’t be misled by my introduction that reeks like a sad diary entry, this rose cake was in no way an idea I had on my own. I saw it on a cake blog and thought it was glorious. My existential sadness set in when my brain was saturated with so many photos, and posts, and tutorials for this cake decorating technique, that for a second I felt like it wasn’t special anymore. But it is definitively special.
The cake itself is adapted from one of the best white cake recipes I know. The cake is tender and sweet, but has a hearty crumb that makes you think there is cornmeal hiding in it. The decorative rose element is deceptively simple. A large open star pastry tip (1M, in Wilton speak) is the only special purchase I made. Roses are piped as big swirls and the gaps are filled with random curves. Be sure to do a crumb coat and chill it well. That way if you screw up any roses you can easilyy swipe them off and try again. Kids fight for the piece of cake with the frosting rose on it. With this cake everyone wins. I served this cake for Beverly’s 5th birthday party. She doesn’t know how to use a computer, so she was appropriately impressed.
2/3 cup lemon juice, from 4-5 lemons
zest of 3 lemons
1 cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch cubes
In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients except for the butter. Whisk thoroughly, then continue to whisk over a medium heat until the mixture becomes thick and begins to bubble. Take care to continue to scrape the bottom and corners of the pan to avoid clumps of curdled curd. If direct heat makes you nervous, you can cook the curd in a bowl set over simmering water. No judgment.
Once the curd bubbles, remove it from the heat and add the butter, whisking it in until it has completely melted. Cover the curd and refrigerate until cold.
Old-Fashioned White Cake Recipe (adapted from Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters):
makes enough batter for 2 8” round cakes and 2 6” round cakes
1 ½ cups buttermilk
3 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon, plus ½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 ¼ cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350F.
Prepare pans by greasing them and lining them with parchment paper.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk and vanilla and set that aside.
Using a standing-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or a large mixing bowl fitted with your baking forearm, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, and beat until well combined.
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter and egg mixture and beat until just a few streaks of flour remain. Follow with 1/3 of the buttermilk, mixing until nearly completely blended. Repeat this pattern until all ingredients are combined.
Bake 6” cakes for 18-22 minutes, and 8” cakes for 25-30 minutes, removing cakes from oven when a tester comes out clean and the cake springs back ever so slightly when touched.
Allow cakes to cool completely in pans.
Italian Buttercream Recipe:
makes enough to frost, fill, and cover with roses, an 8” layer cake and a 6” layer cake (about 9 cups)
7 egg whites
2 ¼ cups granulated sugar, divided
1 ½ pounds (6 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 2 inch pieces
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoons cream of tartar
¼ cup concentrated beet juice food dye, divided*
In a small saucepan, combine 1 ¾ cups of the sugar and ½ cup water. Simmer until syrup registers 246F on a candy thermometer. To avoid crystallizing, be sure to wash down the inner sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush in the early stages of boiling.
Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until they begin to get foamy. Gradually add the remaining ½ cup sugar. Continue to beat at a medium high speed until the meringue is thick and billowing.
As soon as the sugar syrup reaches the 246F (have your egg white whipped and ready), immediately remove it from the heat and turn the mixer back on. Quickly but steadily pour the syrup into the whipping egg whites, being careful to avoid pouring on the whisk or the sides of the bowl.
Allow the meringue to whip until cool, about an additional 8-10 minutes.
Add the vanilla extract and begin to add the butter a few pieces at a time. The buttercream may go through stages of looking curdled but continue to whip it and it will eventually become smooth.
Use immediately, refrigerate, or freeze. If you refrigerate or freeze, be sure to bring it to room temperature and rewhip before using.
*Trim and peel a few beets. Just barely cover them, in a saucepan, with water. Simmer until the beets are tender and all but about ¼ cup liquid has evaporated. Eat the beets and cool the liquid.
For the ombre effect, add about a teaspoon of the beet dye to the white buttercream – just enough to achieve a very light pink. Be careful not to over-whip the buttercream because you don’t want to incorporate too much air. Once you have crumb coated, and piped the first level of roses, add another 2 teaspoons of beet dye to the bowl of light pink buttercream.
Pipe the second row of roses. Add more dye to the bowl of buttercream to achieve the next shade, and so on.