Buttercream and Red Velvet

I thought I would talk about cake. And by cake I mean the buttercream I frosted it with, because in comparison, the cake was rather simple. Or at least, involved far less beating.
So, buttercream without a mixer. I hope you’ve been working out. Or know a few stressed-out people. (Creaming butter can be surprisingly calming) If neither...good luck.

It turns out the buttercream was a “German” buttercream - I should find out if this is a general term, but it did look familiar; the bakery also used a custard base for their buttercream. This should have been about when I thought better of this, but I forgot the part about “doing this by hand would be ridiculous”. It was. Just a little.
Worth it? I think it was. Good exercise, too.
In my worry about curdling the custard (as I did with my last two puddings - grainy butterscotch is not really that appealing) it got a bit lumpy instead, but that is what sieves are for! So in the end, it was fine. Once it cooled, it needed to be beaten again, and there the fun really started.

When I first tried to add the cream cheese (or rather, a tablespoon of it), it got lumpy. What helped was creaming the cream cheese and then the butter separately, before adding them into the mix. It went in fairly smoothly after that. So, if you don't have a mixer, I would suggest you try that. Also, make sure your butter and cream cheese are soft, even so. It will make everything easier. It was a bit chilly (until the beatings started. Then it got toasty warm.), so I microwaved the butter (all 4 sticks at once) for 20 seconds or so, just to soften it up a bit. Our room temperature wasn't quite warm enough to get it terribly soft.
The buttercream in the original photo is a lovely white, mine never got that light, it was a nice pale yellow - as you beat the butter and air gets in it, it gets lighter in colour. So obviously it would get lighter in colour (and fluffier) if you used a mixer.

Did I mention that this is easier with a mixer?

No photos of all of this, though if you would like, I can take a photo of a stick of butter and put it in - it got a bit messy, between the beating the mixture and scraping of the bowl, I managed to cover myself quite nicely in butter and sugar. Not a good moment to pick up a camera, and I didn’t think to stop and wash my hands. Somehow I imagine that interrupting this process would have been a bad idea. Even getting some help, it needed some working up to.

So, about the cake. In comparison to the buttercream, it didn’t really seem that bad. Other than the whole “let the mixer run for 10 minutes” part. Which again, compared to the buttercream...pff. Maybe again, not quite as fluffy as it should have been. But still, pretty fluffy. Quite acceptable, I thought. So imagine, what it would be like with a real mixer involved...and also imagine, we still have some of the wine I used...(Drink it, you say? Why would I do that, when there is a cake I could put it in?). Now also imagine, that shortly after this, I ordered a mixer. Though you don’t actually need to imagine that, it really happened. It should be arriving sometime next week. I think the first thing I will make will be buttercream.

Red velvet, as I found out here, actually referred to the fact that “red” (brown) sugar was used, and velvet referred to the texture - and since the idea of many bottles of food colouring was a bit scary, I decided to go with this cake instead. Why even make a red velvet cake? I had heard it was the favourite of the birthday girl. 
It was also her 21st birthday, so red wine seemed fitting enough. Something I learned about this sort of cake is that my usual method of just poking a sharp knife in was not the best plan. You see, this caused the center not just to deflate, but it actually fell in on itself a little. Now I know. Most of the cakes I have made can stand such abuse, this one obviously couldn’t. Perhaps in the future I should invest in some toothpicks.

I added the white chocolate shavings, without grating off too much of myself in the process. Even with generous application I still have about half of them in the fridge. (Between the extra wine, desire for buttercream-testing a new mixer and this, I think you might start seeing where all of this leads...just to be able to add photos, of course).
Sprinkling them on top was easy enough, figuring out how to use the parchment method to get the stuck to the sides took a bit of experimentation. I recommend doing this either on a clean surface or with wax or parchment paper underneath. That way you can scrape up what didn’t stick and use it again on your next try. What I found worked decently was putting a tablespoon or so of the chocolate shavings on a piece of parchment, and starting at the bottom of the cake moving the parchment up along the side of the cake at an angle, to slowly stick lines of the chocolate to the sides. I suppose you could try getting really fancy and alternating dark and white chocolate, if you wanted (Or perhaps random colours of sprinkles). I am not that skilled. Also, I did not think of it until just now. So perhaps, on the next cake, where it doesn’t matter as much because it’s not someones birthday cake that I am about to ruin...
The texture they added though was quite something. Or, that was my opinion. Everyone else seemed pretty happy, so I assume it was acceptable at the very least.
Was it worth the effort? I thought so. Sure, a mixer can produce better results, and I will certainly use this when I have one. But making this by hand was certainly an adventure.

Since the recipe is well-described I would suggest you just follow the link and go from there. My only real modification was that as I could not get my hands on vanilla beans, I left those out and added extra vanilla extract in place of it. Though as vanilla extract will evaporate out of the pudding if you add it too early, add it in right at the end. Which will save you  a step of boiling the milk and cooling it, then boiling again. You can just boil the milk and get on with the rest. And add the vanilla to the custard right before you put it in a dish to let it cool.
Then take a nice rest, drink some tea, and gather your friends. It’s almost time to start the buttercream.


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