Raspberry Mulberry Cake

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

Looks like it is going to be a gorgeous day to celebrate our country’s independence.  For me however, this is the first year I will actually be celebrating the holiday for its intended purpose.  You see, July 4th always meant something different in our family.  Sure, our celebrations included family gathering, sweltering in the hot Grand Rapids sun, and cooking various foods on a grill.  It even included fireworks.  But it also meant cake and a lot of candles and it meant celebrating a remarkable life – it meant it was time to celebrate Bushia’s birthday.  “Bushia” is the three-generations-of-Americans version of the Polish word for “grandmother”.

My bushia was born July 4th, 1918 and was one of the most wonderful, amazing, multi-faceted people I ever knew.  She lived in a time where she remembered the doctor coming to her house in a horse and buggy to deliver her siblings.  One of her brothers, who was born premature, was placed in a box with blankets on their wood stove and he lived.  Bushia only went to school until 8th grade, and later earned her high school diploma when her youngest daughter graduated high school and her eldest daughter graduated college.  She was devoted to her faith, but was never preachy about it, and prayed the rosary every day while she walked on her treadmill.  She married my grandfather, a WWII Veteran, in 1947, and they had seven children.  She used to complain at 60 years old that she would never have any grandchildren – she ended up with 18 of us. That’s 23 of us now if you include our spouses.  Not long ago, she began accumulating great-grandchildren, 10 of them, and became known as “Bushia the Great.”

Bushia 2

Bushia passed away last year; one week after making her 96th birthday; one week after the whole family gathered one last time.  The funniest part about it is that she had been ready to go for years; she often said so.  But it was last year that her age, and her complications from having cancer, seemed to finally catch up with the fast paced woman.  She was 71 years old when I was born, so I count myself lucky every single day that I had her in my life for 25 years.  She was a true spit fire, an independent, opinionated woman with great insights on life.  I miss her every day.  This July 4th will be hard, as it is our first without her, so I did what I do best – I baked a cake.

Finished Cake

I didn’t specifically make the cake for her, but I thought of her all the while I made it.  She was a great baker.  She taught my dad everything he knows, which he passed down to me.  He is now the keeper of her sacred recipe box so if I ever need a recipe, I just give him a call when before I used to call her.  Plus, one of my best memories growing up is picking mulberries from the tree in her backyard.  All of us cousins loved those things.  We never failed to come back to the house with purple-stained fingers, toes, lips, and clothes.  There are several mulberry bushes along the path that we walk our dog and every time I see them, I think of summers at Bushia’s house picking the berries.  So this week I picked some and planned to eat them in some way – I ended up making a cake, two actually.  I wanted to try out a recipe I had found for a raspberry cake which I intended to use for my brother and sister-in-law’s five-year anniversary cake later this month.  I had raspberries and mulberries, so I went for it.

Raspberry Cake

1 cup raspberries

1 tablespoon water

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided

1 tablespoons baking power

1 teaspoon salt

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

4 egg whites, lightly whisked and room temperature

1 cup whole milk, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon raspberry extract

Food coloring, red or pink, optional

As it turns out, the recipe is good, but the method is not.  Most cakes follow the pattern of beat the butter, add sugar and beat more, add eggs one at a time, add dry and wet ingredients, alternating in 3 and 2 parts.  This one was a little different, but I figured I would try it out the way the recipe was written for the raspberry cake and try the “normal” way for the mulberry cake.

I ended up making two two-layer 6 inch cakes, 4 inches tall each.  The raspberry turned out a nice shade of pink and the mulberry turned out a gorgeous purple.  So what did I do?  I torted each layer and stacked them all on top of each other because I’m crazy and apparently wanted a ridiculously tall cake.  The recipe yielded very moist, dense cake, which I like.  The raspberry wasn’t as strong as I would have liked, so I will tweak that.  Honestly, for the mulberry, it didn’t taste like the berries, it just had the extra kick of sugary sweetness, which is not a bad thing.  I would compare the texture and flavor of the cakes to red velvet, just without the hint of cocoa.  Overall, very good.  I will definitely store this one away for future use.  The way the recipe was written turned out fine, but the “normal” way with the mulberry cake fluffed up a bit more.  The raspberry cake just stopped level with the top of the cake pan.  I took pictures of the raspberry cake while I was prepping it, so I will follow those directions.

First, you’re going to want to cook the berries to release the yummy juices.  Put the berries, the small amount of sugar, and water in a sauce pan.  Stir until it starts simmering and cook about 10 – 15 minutes to release all the juices.  Take the sauce off the heat and let cool a bit.  Then, take a sieve and place it over a bowl to catch the juices.  Pour the berries into the sieve and press with a spoon to get all the juice out.  This can take some time.  A little pulp is okay, but you want to make sure you don’t have too many seeds, or in the case of the mulberries, any stems in the cake.  With the raspberry, I actually scooped about half the pulp into the cake.  I like the texture the seeds lend.

The Berries

Meanwhile, mix the dry ingredients in your mixing bowl.  Then, add the softened butter and beat lightly until you have pea-sized butter chunks throughout the batter.  Do not mix until smooth.  After that, add the lightly whisked egg whites, milk, and vanilla extract in two parts, mixing between additions.  Lastly, add the berries.  Use a little bit of red or pink food coloring if the color isn’t dark enough for you.  Keep in mind that colors bake out of cakes, so always go a little darker than you think.

Mixing

Bake in two 6” round cake pans at 350 for 40-45 minutes.  Turn the cakes out on wire wracks and let cool.  Then, you can begin stacking.  I used an 8 inch cake board.  Spread a little frosting on the bottom to help “glue” the cake to the board and prevent sliding.  Then, stack away!  Put a thin layer of frosting between each cake.  I would not suggest using filling of any kind for a cake this tall.  Slippage would be inevitable.  If you make a cake half this height, be sure to pipe a tall circle of icing about a half inch inside the edge of the cake to prevent the filling from oozing out.  When the cake is stacked, place the center dowel and measure it a little below the surface of the cake.  This dowel will help keep the cake stable at this height.  Put on the crumb coat and stick it in the fridge for a few minutes.  Then, add another layer of frosting, keeping it as smooth as you can.  Now you can decorate as you see fit!

Cake Building

Cake turned out pretty girly and cute. I rather like how it turned out. My only regret is that I didn’t quite have enough frosting to get the outside totally smooth.  I wanted to save it for the roses on top.  Not bad for throwing together a cake with leftover frosting I needed to use up.

After the Cut

This one’s for you, Bushia!  I love you and miss you every day.

Bushia and Cake

Have a great weekend all!

Some More Cakes

First up are the cupcakes I did for a recent craft fair.  I did three different flavors, all filled, about 110 cupcakes.  What was I thinking!?  It was actually a lot of fun and my mom helped.  After I decorated the cakes, she packaged them, which made it go much faster!  The first was carrot cake with vanilla buttercream frosting, and vanilla buttercream filling.  The second flavor was blue velvet cake with lemon buttercream frosting, and blueberry filling.  The third flavor was chocolate chunk cake with chocolate almond buttercream frosting, and raspberry filling.  They were a hit!  I would love to do another craft fair, but have been unable to find another one in the area that accommodates bakers who operate under the Michigan Cottage Food Law.  Bummer.

Cupcakes

This is the fresh strawberry cake with strawberry filling, frosted with vanilla buttercream, and garnished with fresh strawberries.  I must say, it was a little tricky to get those suckers to stick the frosting because they were so juicy!  Luckily after I laid the slices on paper towel to soak up some of the juice, they stuck just fine.  I was asked to make it for a former co-worker.  The banner says, “Best of Luck!”.

Strawberry Cake

These are a couple of other rose cakes I’ve done.  As you can probably tell, I’m a big fan of this technique.  It’s pretty easy to do, forgiving if you goof up, and looks so pretty.  First one is a blue velvet cake with blueberry filing made for my husband’s co-worker.  Second one is Mary Todd Lincoln vanilla almond cake with Swiss meringue buttercream frosting that I made for my 25th birthday.

Rose Cakes

Last is a cake my mom hired me to do for her church.  The top half is chocolate and the bottom half is marble, both with vanilla pudding for the filling.  I cut the cake to replicate the front of the church and piped the front windows as well.

Church Cake

Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Buttercream frosting is probably the most commonly used frosting out there, mainly because it is extremely versatile and pretty simple to make.  If you start with a vanilla base, you can add extracts, melted chocolate, frozen lemonade, mashed fruit, and even maple syrup to customize the flavor to you or your client’s liking.  My most common requests have been for the classics – vanilla and chocolate.  I recently made a batch for the cake I made for my family to celebrate Father’s Day so I even have some pictures to share.  Here’s the recipe:

You will need:

3 sticks unsalted butter

2 – 2 1/2 32oz bags of powdered sugar (depending on how stiff you want it)

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

about 3/4 c of milk or heavy cream

This recipe yields about 7 cups.  Depending on how you plan to decorate, this should be plenty for a 8″ round, three layer cake.

**I recommend at the very least an electric hand mixer, if not a stand mixer.  There’s a lot of beating involved!

*** A note about the butter:  be sure it is UNsalted! If you use salted butter, it will taste different!  If all you have is salted or you bought it by accident, simply omit the addition of the 1/4 teaspoon of salt or you will have super salty frosting!

All Ingredients

First things first, lay out all of your ingredients to make sure you’ve got everything you need.  Luckily, the recipe does not have all that many to keep track of.  I also recommend leaving your butter out on the counter about a 1/2 hour before you’re going to use it to let it soften up a bit, although you can just microwave it if you forget to take it out ahead of time or it needs a little help.

Directions:

1. Place the sticks of butter onto a microwave safe plate.  Pop the butter in there for 15 second intervals.  The butter is soft enough when you can press your finger into it and it leaves in indent, but it doesn’t totally implode at your touch.  If you happen to melt your butter by accident, stick in the fridge for a couple of minutes to firm up a bit.  You need it to be stiff enough to whip up.  Add the butter into your mixer and begin whipping until it is light and fluffy, about 3 – 5 minutes.

Whipping the Butter2. Once the butter has whipped up, begin adding powdered sugar.  I recommend sifting the sugar before adding it to the butter.  Most lumps will come out while you beat it, but I think it combines better with the butter when it is sifted first.  I use my Bushia’s old school sifter.  Every time I use it, I remember what an amazing woman she was.

Sifting Powdered Sugar3. After you’ve sifted about half of the first bag, add it into the mixer on LOW speed.  Some of the sugar will fly out, but the lower speed helps keep it to a minimum.  After the first addition of powdered sugar, add about a tablespoon of milk with each new addition to help the sugar and butter continue to blend together so your mixer doesn’t work too hard.  You can also use heavy cream in place of milk; I find it creates a silkier texture and a slightly richer flavor.

Adding Sugar

4. After you’ve added the first bag of sugar, start on the next one and add the vanilla extract and salt. NO salt if you’ve got SALTED butter!  This is also the time where you can add the other extracts, fruit, syrup, or melted chocolate.  I don’t recommend adding food coloring until after the desired consistency is reached because adding more sugar will dilute the color.

5. Continue adding more powdered sugar until the desired consistency is reached.  If you want frosting that will hold its shape when piped, a good rule of thumb is to stick your large offset spatula straight up in the center of the frosting without the tip touching the bottom of the bowl.  If the spatula stays put, your frosting is ready.  If not, add more sugar and keep on beating.

6. After you add the color, you’re done!  It does take quite a bit of color to get it good and saturated.  I actually ran out of green food coloring while I was making this frosting so it wasn’t quite as dark as I wanted.  Luckily, with buttercreams, the color always deepens a bit so even if you’re not sure it’s quite dark enough, it will get a little darker by the next day, even after you put it on the cake.

Final Consistency

The frosting is ready to use as is.  Keep it in an airtight container on the counter out of direct sunlight.  Has a shelf life of about a week to ten days.  You can make it ahead and freeze it or stick it in the fridge if you’re worried about it being too hot in your house.  However, just make sure it comes completely to room temperature before you use it.  DO NOT MICROWAVE!  You will melt the butter and ruin your frosting!  You must have patience; leave it out a whole day or two before you want to use it.  After it warms up, re-beat the frosting to fluff it up to the right consistency again.

Voila!  Classic Vanilla Buttercream.  It’s not super sugary (despite the huge amount of sugar, weird huh?) and it tastes 10 million times better than the stuff that comes out of the can or the store bakery.  Give it a shot!  It’s pretty much impossible to mess up.

Go on!  Get your aprons dirty!  I want to see some powdered sugar hand prints on the fronts of those things!

The Second Cake

After my wedding cake, I was approached by friends to do their wedding cake.  The groom’s mom remembered that I had done my wedding cake, so she suggested they ask me to do theirs.  I was a bit nervous, but also thrilled to be asked.  I agreed, and did it as my gift to them.  They wanted a vanilla almond cake, with almond buttercream frosting, and Bavarian cream filling.

**Just as a note, this was about a year BEFORE I became a Cottage Food Business.  Under the MCFL, I am NOT allowed to use frosting or filling that requires refrigeration to maintain food safety.  This means that I am NOT allowed to sell anyone a cake with Bavarian cream filling.  Bummer, I know, because that stuff is delicious!  So, if you are wanting Bavarian Cream filling, I unfortunately cannot do that for you.**

Disclaimer aside,  let me get back to the cake at hand.

As for sizing, they wanted a six-inch cake for them to cut (and have all to themselves) and 150 cupcakes for their guests.  So, I started hunting for recipes for Vanilla Almond cake and I found an awesome recipe. It’s called the Mary Todd Lincoln Vanilla Almond cake and it is so good you’ll jump at any opportunity to bake it.  I found the recipe after much Googling at bakethiscake.com. However, instead of using a tube pan as the recipe calls for, I made the six-inch cake and cupcakes.  It actually converted quite well to different pan sizes.  Pair this cake with almond buttercream frosting and Bavarian cream filling… OMG.  Best cake ever.  I even had people tell me at the wedding it was the best cake they had ever eaten.  Definite confidence booster.  It was official, other people besides my family and friends thought my cake was good.  Yay!

The First Cake

It was a fun, stressful, labor intensive process, but it turned out great and really showed me that I could do this as a business.  Not long after their wedding, I began the process of figuring out how I could become a business, and found the Michigan Cottage Food Law.  At times the law is tricky and annoying, but it’s the best way for me to pursue what I love to do!