The second dessert I made for Thanksgiving weekend was not the cake the was supposed to be made for Second Thanksgiving. The reason for the change? The frosting! However, I was able to make a quick change to the idea and get the flavor profile across that I was hoping to.
As I mentioned in this post, I made two desserts for two different Thanksgiving dinners this year. The first one was Thanksgiving Cake from the Magnolia Bakery cookbook. It was basically a fruitcake for Thanksgiving. It’s also one of my new favorite cakes!
The second dessert I had in mind was a Caramel Cake with Caramel Meringue Buttercream. I decided to make the frosting first since time in the kitchen was limited on the day of the actual Thanksgiving Round 2. This was a meringue frosting, so it takes time. You have to cook sugar, whip egg whites, throw butter into the mix — it’s a lot of time and effort. Once it was done, I placed it in the refrigerator and went about my day. I wasn’t too concerned since the recipe said that the meringue buttercream can be kept in the fridge for one to two days.
I was getting ready to make the cake when I decided that we needed a chocolate dessert option for the table. The original cake idea would not have worked since the cake itself was not chocolate. To be honest, based on the ingredients list, I think it would have turned out to be a white cake with a caramel flavoring.
So, I thumbed through other options in the Cakes chapter and stumbled upon the cake I was going to make: Chocolate Cake with Caramel Meringue Frosting. This was perfect! I already made the meringue frosting and the chocolate cake would be a hit with this side of the family. The base cake recipe is the Super-Rich Chocolate Cake recipe earlier in the chapter. It’s a recipe I’ve made a few times before and it always comes out wonderful.
This chocolate cake was easy to make and bakes in no time at all. The addition of the instant espresso powder really makes this cake stand out from other chocolate cakes I’ve made in the past. Coffee brings out the flavor of chocolate — something I learned from Ina Garten. After the cake was cool enough to handle, I wrapped the layers in plastic wrap and let them sit on the counter overnight.
The following day is where things started to go sour.
When I was ready to start assembling and building the chocolate cake, I took the meringue frosting out of the fridge to come to room temperature. I still needed to add the caramel sauce to it, so I took that out of the fridge as well. The cookbook states that any flavoring you want to add to meringue buttercream should be added right before using.
After about 30 minutes of sitting on the counter, I decided to use my stand mixer to smooth out the buttercream. Which is another step that is recommended in the cookbook. However, as it was whipping the frosting started to separate and slowly turn the consistency of cottage cheese. Yuck!
However, I wasn’t too disappointed at first. A video I watched on YouTube said that sometimes when this happens, you just need to keep whipping it. So, I added the caramel frosting to the mixture and continued to whip for a few more minutes. I was praying it would, somehow, come back together.
Sadly, it did not. It stayed loose and cottage cheese-like. I couldn’t use it, nor would I want to. So it went in the trash.
But I still needed a frosting. So, I had no other choice but to make a traditional American Buttercream. I didn’t have the time, patience, or ingredients to try the meringue frosting again. American buttercream is simply made with room temperature butter, powdered sugar, milk, and a bit of salt. It’s a great base that can handle many different flavors. You are also able to able to control the consistency for piping, which is great if you want to decorate the cake with rosettes, or something else. So, this buttercream frosting was a perfect fail-safe for this cake. And I was able to add some of the caramel sauce to it to give it a slight color and a hint of caramel flavoring. Looking back, I probably would have added a bit more caramel sauce. Oh well, next time.
I frosted the two layer cake and let it sit in the fridge until it was time for dessert that evening. It ended up being a huge hit! I’ll admit it wasn’t the best frosting job ever, but this cake is really, really moist. Plus, I’m still practicing my frosting skills.
One of the things I was impressed with myself on for this cake was that I got my ratios down pretty good for frosting to cake. And that layer of frosting in between the cake layers was nice and even!