I just finished making a cake. I've been in the mood to bake for a few days so I decided to go with that feeling after visiting Cafe Lalo last night in NYC and having a rather uninspired lemon (where?) coconut (dry) cake (dry and tasteless).
Now I have to make a confession: my grocery store has been carrying an organic boxed mix that I thought I'd try. Interestingly the box mix calls for milk, oil and eggs. I don't think I've ever seen a mix that calls for milk before. Because I like seriously dark chocolate I added about a tablespoon of cocoa powder. I haven't tasted the cake yet, but we'll see how it is. (I did decide, however, that this box mix was no easier than a lot of the recipes I use and I probably won't buy it again unless it's the best I've ever tasted.)
However! For the filling I decided on basically a chocolate pudding with semi-sweet chocolate melted in. Gives a nice consistency, thickens it up and makes it richer. Somewhere between a ganache and a mousse. I poked small holes (chopstick) all over the bottom layer to let some of it ooze into it.
I ALWAYS make chocolate cake with chocolate icing and I thought - ok, how about a nice vanilla buttercream?
Now, I grew up with butter, milk, confectioners sugar frosting and while I love the sound of the 'real' buttercream frosting I learned about on here, I don't have a candy thermometer. I also don't enjoy cooking 'precise' things as much as I do things I can play with. The search was on for a recipe.
Unfortunately I also discovered that I only had two and two thirds sticks of butter (not the four called for in most of the buttercream recipes I saw) and limited amounts of confectioners sugar if I ultimately wanted to fall back on my childhood recipe.
Then I found what was described as a "southern custard frosting" recipe with which I knew I could play. This is step for step my process (some changes made to original recipe because of limited ingredients in one or more categories):
4 Tbls of flour
1 1/2 cups of milk
Mix in just a tad of the milk to form a paste then slowly add in the rest of the milk and whisk constantly over medium heat until boiling and thick. Take off the heat and add in 3/4 cup of granulated sugar (1/4 at a time) until melted. Place in a shallow pan with ice water stirring occasionally to cool to room temp.
2 2/3 sticks of butter, softened (next time I'll try it with 3, I used unsalted)
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
With mixer on medium, whip butter a bit and then slowly add in sugar and salt until well combined. Next whip in the completely cooled custard mix until light and fluffy. Finally add 2 tsps of vanilla.
I was so happy with this I could spit. It is light and not too rich or sweet - just right for a rich chocolate cake with chocolatey filling. Also the perfect spreading consistency - very refined and smooth, like the stuff I get at an excellent bakery. It doesn't have any of the gritty feelings or oversweetness that even the best stuff I grew up with can have.
This makes a lot of frosting. You could easily half this recipe for a two layer cake if you were using something else for the middle layer(s). I like a lot of frosting so I used it all. It's light enough that I don't think it will overpower.
Now, I'll have to report back once we dig into the whole cake (lord knows I've eaten enough of the frosting now).