For my first entry, I thought I would start with the most basic and common dish I could think of, one that anyone could use any day of the week - a wedding cake! When Daisy asked me to do the honor of making only the most significant culinary object of any two lover’s special day, I must admit I doubted my ability to pull it off. Although making cakes has become a great love in my life, I have not been professionally trained in the least, and I feared crowd expectations to have a clean-cut, perfectly symmetrical pastry palace like most bridal magazine spreads Thank goodness Daisy and Keith asked me to be me, and besides requesting the flavors of ginger and amaretto, they blindly trusted my improvisational process in the kitchen…
My first step in making a cake once I have my flavor combination chosen, is research recipes on-line. I get basic ideas of ratios of flour to sugar, oil or eggs, baking soda or powder, etc, and then I just go for it knowing I will never truly be able to follow a recipe as is. I like natural, bold flavors so when one recipe asked for almond paste, I choose freshly ground almond butter instead, and when they called for a tablespoon of ginger, I added the whole piece. Here is roughly the recipe I ended up with after all of my changes and additions, although for a wedding of 120 people I multiplied everything by 4 to make enough cakes.
Ginger Almond Amaretto Cake
3 Cups unbleached Flour
1 ¾ cups unbleached Sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
¾ tsp Salt
A few shakes of cinnamon,
cayenne & nutmeg
1 ¾ cup Vanilla Almond Milk
¼ cup Amaretto (Or syrup for non-alcoholic)
2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
2/3 cup Canola Oil
2 tablespoon Almond Extract (you can do w/out this if you want)
¼ Cup Almond Butter
Lots of Ginger! (Or a little if you fear)
I recommend you doing this as well to make it easier on you. Then I added this wet mix a bit at a time into the blended dry bowl and mixed and mixed until I had a beautiful creamy batter. This is when I do most of my improvisational spicing and flavoring to taste because if you have a tasty batter, chances are your cake will follow suit. Preheat the oven at 350* and pour the batter into greased cooking pans- a big one, a few small ones to make layers- whatever-make your own choice.
You may have noticed this recipe is Vegan. This was merely a personal choice to counterbalance the very worthy amount of butter in my ginger buttercream…plus I find many vegan cake recipes to be surprisingly moist and delicious.
Ginger Buttercream Frosting
Don’t be intimidated by this process. It is a process, but SO worth it. Just make sure you have an electric handheld mixer because I learned from experience that you do not want to do this by hand power!
*Bring 1” of water to a simmer in a large, deep skillet.
*Separate 6 egg whites and add a cup of honey and a pinch of tarter (if you want or have)
*Whisk until well blended, then place this bowl into the skillet of water and begin beating- on low at first and gradually speeding up as it begins to get thicker and fluffier. I had a slow mixer, so I was literally doing this for a good 20 or 30 minutes (and 45 when I was trapped manually!) but you want to eventually get a thick, glossy texture that forms soft, curled peaks when you dip into it.
*Remove from heat but continue to beat for 3 more minutes or so until the whites have cooled off. Beat in 1 tsp of vanilla and 1/2 tsp of salt.
*In another bowl (or food processor) beat 5 sticks of room-temp butter (I’m sure you could use earth balance if you are vegan but then again..you already used 6 eggs..) until soft and creamy and add the egg-honey combo incrementally, beating each time in between until creamy and well mixed.
*This is when I added the ginger, and of course I put a lot in, but you can add and taste to your liking to make sure its not too strong for you. I wanted something a little less buttery tasting, so I played with splashes of amaretto, more honey, more ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, salt, more ginger, almond butter and nutmeg- but do what you like- trust yourself!
You can make the frosting early, even the day before, but I would recommend keeping it covered at room temp because refrigerating it obviously hardens it and I found when I brought it back down to room temp, the flavor had been altered and dulled down.
I made the cakes the day before as well so they were completely cooled and would not melt the frosting when I was ready to dress it.
No worries if an accident happens and your cake falls apart or looses some of its top or bottom! That is what frosting is for! A good thick frosting will cover any blemish and your eaters will never have to know about any crumble or caving-in crisis.
Garnish however you like. I usually choose in-season fruits and flowers. For Daisy’s cakes I chose to make flowers out of figs and candied ginger, swans out of apples (stay tuned for my next entry- how to make an apple swan!) and the same flowers that were to be used in the wedding.