Friday, November 27, 2009

Expat Baking Tip #4: Quick Room Temp Butter

My husband just had his birthday two days before Thanksgiving. I love when he has his birthday because it means we are now the same age. For some reason, that makes me feel less old.

I was determined to make this chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting from Smitten Kitten. If you are unfamiliar with her website, Deb's an amazing cook and photographer. You'll be hooked. I decided last minute not to make the chocolate peanut butter topping, choosing to keep my stash of good chocolate and peanut butter for other celebrations.

Making said birthday cake was fraught with near misses.

Has this ever happened to you? You are in the middle of making frosting for your husband's birthday cake and you discover that not only do you not have enough powdered sugar to frost his cake, but the 4 ounces of butter that you need is sitting in the freezer and the recipe specifically asks for room temp butter? And because you are making this cake on the sly on a Saturday morning, you have a limited amount of time to get this done?

I've never been very good about getting all my ingredients lined up in a row, at the ready. In making the peanut butter frosting, I had the cream cheese coming to room temperature. Ten ounces room temperature cream cheese. Check.

But when I measured out the powdered sugar, I realized I was two cups short. So I made my own powdered sugar from scratch. This was the first time making it, and it was a perfect substitute. Five cups powdered sugar. Check.

Next on the list was the butter, meant to be at room temp in order to be creamed with the room temp cream cheese. The problem was that the butter was still in the a very cold fridge. Four ounces room temp butter. No check.

I've read before that grating frozen or very cold butter into flour when making a pie crust or biscuits helps to distribute the butter well in lieu of using a pastry cutter. While I wasn't making a pie crust, I thought the same technique would work to quickly soften it. Armed with my trusty box grater, I went to work.

I added the room temperature cream cheese and the grated butter into my food processor.

And the test began. Would they cream together?

Yes! It worked!

After adding the five cups of powdered sugar, I glopped in 2/3 cup of peanut butter.

The result was so perfect. Just the right consistency for frosting.

I made the three tiered chocolate cake over the weekend while Paul was out of the house for a chunk of time. I quickly froze the layers before he got home so he wouldn't catch on that I was making him a cake. Plus, freezing the cake layers is supposed to keep the crumb to frosting ratio to a minimum.

Out of the freezer came the layers.

While still frozen, I frosted the first layer.

Then the second layer.

And finally the top layer.

The anti-crumb freezing of the cake didn't work as well as I hoped, but let me tell you, the cake tasted out of this world. In retrospect, I should have trimmed the cake before frosting.

But in the end, another year of life was celebrated amongst family with perhaps the most delicious cake in the world. Well, at least this side of Dushanbe.

1 comment:

cchamlin said...

great idea! very clever to think of increasing the surface area to warm it faster.. lots of these tips are good for anyone, not just expats. And especially poor students with limited kitchen resources. I made use of your white sugar = brown sugar + molasses (or as the brits here call it, black treacle) tip to make my pumpkin pies for thanksgiving!