Thursday, June 27, 2013

We The People

The 4th of July has always been one of my favorite holidays.  I spend weeks dreaming up treats to celebrate the birth of our nation.  I can't deny that living in a house that was built in 1794,  not too long after the end of the revolution, brings a deeper connection to all things 1776.

During my weeks of confectionary contemplation, the words "We the People" and it's commensurate ornate script against yellowed parchment from the Constitution's preamble kept appearing before my eyes.  I'd be lying if I didn't admit that after a few days, the 12 year old boy in me corrupted the phrase to "We the Peephole."

That's as good a sign as any to get off my duff and start baking in earnest.

I wish you all a glorious 4th of July celebration!

NOTE:  If you'd like to see a quick video on some of the elements of this cakes, click HERE. You'll notice I make a field of blue with stars on the upper outside of the cake using a ramekin to create a damn and then trim remaining red and white layers to fit inside the void. Some of you intrepid bakers commented that the interior cake was reminiscent of the Puerto Rican flag so I changed it up in the video.  


This cake takes a few techniques from a few of my books and mashes them up into one cake. The first you'll work on is the joconde decor sides.  In February 2010, I shared this technique with you for the first time.  Since then, it's become a popular baking subject online for adventurous bakers and I know that includes you.  I'll refer you to that original post for the directions with this one change:  use sliced almonds with the skins still attached instead of traditional almond flour, which is made from blanched almonds with the skins off.  The skins provide a lovely flecked color, not disimilar to aged parchment.  It's also quite a bit easier to find sliced almonds than it is blanched almond powder.  Click HERE for the technique and recipe.  You can add 1 tablespoon cocoa and a few drops of black food coloring to dye the tuile piping paste.

In order to get the words to look just right, I did a Google Image search for "We the People."  I pasted the image into Preview and flipped the image so that it appeared backwards and placed that underneath my parchment to use as a piping guide.

For the cake

1 1/2 pounds unsalted butter, room temperature  (6 sticks)
6 cups sugar
9 cups flour
3 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons vanilla
15 eggs
red and blue food coloring

(this is a very large batch.  If you don't have a large enough mixer, simply cut it in half and make it twice).

•Preheat oven to 325º.

•Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

•Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl between each addition.  Add the vanilla.

•In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients for at least 45 seconds.

•Add the flour and buttermilk in alternating additions, mix on medium speed until smooth.

•Line a quarter sheet pan (9" x 13") with parchment paper.  Spray with non-stick spray.  Spread about 3 cups of batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake until just set but not fully baked, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Allow to cool.  This will be the layer from which you stamp out the stars.

•Prepare four 9" cake rounds by lining with parchment and spraying with non-stick cooking spray.  Spread 1 1/2 cups of plain batter evenly into each of the prepared pans.  Bake until the cake just springs back, 15 to 20 minutes.  Carefully release the cakes from the pans onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.  Clean the pans and line with parchment and spray with non-stick spray again.

•Place 6 cups from the remaining plain batter into a large bowl and add about 6 drops of red food (add more if you want a deeper red).  Place 1 1/2 cups of red batter into each of the four prepared pans and bake until the cake just springs back, about 15 to 20 minutes.

•Stir about 4 to 5 drops of deep blue food coloring into the remaining batter.  Prepare a 6" cake round by lining the bottom with parchment and spraying with non-stick spray.  Spread half the blue batter into the 6" cake pan.

•Using a small star cookie cutter (mine's about 1 1/2 inches tall), stamp out stars from the quarter sheet pan of plain, barely baked, cake.  Nestle the stars firmly into the batter.

Stars stuck into the batter. If you'd like the stars to form a ring on the outside of the vertical stripes, Place a 4" ramekin on the inside of the cake pan to create a tube.  Trim the remaining red and white cake layers to fit inside the 4" hole created by the ramekin.  
•Pipe the remaining blue batter in between and over the stars.  Smooth out with a small offset spatula.

•Bake the blue/star batter cake for 45 minutes to an hour or until the middle of the cake springs back when gently poked.  Allow to cool completely.  Release from the pan and carefully level the top of the cake with a serrated knife.

For the filling

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 (8 ounces) packages of Philadelphia cream cheese, at room temperature
4 cups of confectioner's sugar
1 tablespoon egg white powder (optional)

•Place all the ingredients into a stand mixer fit with the paddle attachment and mix until smooth.

To assemble

Place a plain round of cake onto a cardboard cake round.  Spread a very thin layer of filling on top of the cake, just enough to create and adhesive.  You should be able to see the cake underneath the filling.

•Continue by placing a red layer on top of the plain and spreading a small amount of filling on top of that.  Continue until you have 6 alternating layers or red and white layers.  Freeze until set, about 1 hour.

•Measure the height of your blue, star filled layer,  I make a line on a sharp knife with a Sharpie to mark the height of the blue layer.  Cut a 6"round from the center of your red and white layers, cutting as deeply as the mark on your knife.  Carefully pull out the center 6" layers and replace them with the blue layer.  Press firmly.

•Spread another very thin layer of filling on top of the cake and place the remaining plain layer on top.  Spread another thin layer of filling and top with the last red layer.

•Using the remaining filling, spread an even layer along the sides and top of the cake.  Measure the height of the cake and carefully trim the joconde sides.  Carefully press the joconde sides onto the cake.   Place the cake in the freezer to set, about 2 hours.

•Break up the remaining pieces of joconde sides and place on a parchment lined sheet pan.  Place in a 200 degree oven for 20 minutes to dry out the cake.  Allow to cool and pulverize in a food processor until you get a fine powder.  Sprinkle the cake powder on top of the finished cake.