Earl grey and strawberry cakes
Swiss meringue buttercream can be a cruel mistress. She’s temperamental, she’s sensitive and she can smell your fear.
Getting swiss meringue buttercream wrong can be a complete disaster (trust me, I have been on the receiving end of some pretty horrible separated and eggy tasting buttercream). On the other hand, getting it right is so so good.
To me, swiss meringue buttercream is the perfect cement for any layer cake. I find that it is never too sweet or overpowering. While delicious in its own right, it also has an amazing ability to simultaneously compliment yet allow any cake to shine.
While I would never presume to know everything about this delicate substance, I have picked up a few tricks and tips over the years. I hope that these assist you the next time you attempt to tame the swiss mistress.
- Mix the ingredients: It is important to mix the egg whites and sugar well when you place them into the stand mixer bowl, as well as intermittently while the mixture is heating. If you don’t, you are likely to end up with little bits of cooked egg white in your buttercream (blerrrghh).
- Temperature is key: The temperature of your butter can make or break your buttercream. If your butter is too cold, the buttercream will curdle. If it is too hot, your buttercream will be ‘soupy’ in consistency. Luckily, this is easy to fix.If your butter is too cold and the mixture has split, take a small amount of the buttercream out of the bowl, place it in a microwave proof bowl and heat it for a few seconds in the microwave. Add the melted buttercream back into the mixture and combine well. If your buttercream is ‘soupy’, place the stand mixer bowl into the refrigerator for a few minutes. Once the mixture has cooled, place the bowl back on the stand mixer and combine well.
- Patience is essential: The temperature of the egg while and sugar mixture will probably fluctuate quite a bit before reaching 70 degrees. DO NOT GET FRUSTRATED. It is crucial that the egg whites be heated to this temperature before proceeding. It will happen eventually. Trust me.
- Just keep mixing: Occasionally, swiss meringue buttercream will attempt to trick you by appearing to curdle. If your butter is at the right temperature, JUST KEEP MIXING. The buttercream will usually come back together within a few minutes.
- Your complete attention is required: If you are new to the quest of the swiss meringue buttercream, do not expect that you will be able to multi-task. When you are making swiss meringue buttercream for the first few times, it is important that you are paying attention to the temperature and the consistency of the buttercream at all times.
Now, if you are feeling a little too intimidated to attempt a layer cake covered with swiss meringue buttercream, you may find it helpful to start smaller with some earl grey and strawberry mini cakes.
While I am proud of all my recipes, I think this one is particularly exciting. The sweetness of the swiss meringue buttercream is complimented by the slight tartness of the strawberry coulis. The earl grey tea flavour cuts through the richness to make a really delicious and refreshing treat.
Makes 6 to 8 mini cakes
Earl grey mini cakes
250 millilitres of whole milk
2 French Earl Grey tea bags
260 grams of plain flour
3 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
115 grams of unsalted butter (softened)
300 grams of caster sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
3 large eggs
150 grams of fresh or frozen strawberries
1 teaspoon of caster sugar
100 millilitres of water
Squeeze of lemon juice
Swiss meringue buttercream
250 grams of caster sugar
135 grams of egg whites
370 grams of unsalted butter (softened)
Pink food colouring
Make the earl grey mini cakes
- Preheat your oven to 180C
- Grease a mini cake tin.
- Place the milk in a small saucepan with the tea bags. Heat slowly until the milk is almost boiled. Set aside for at least 30 minutes to infuse, then remove the tea bags.
- In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until smooth.
- Add the caster sugar to the butter and cream for 3 to 5 minutes or until light and fluffy.
- Slowly add the vanilla bean paste and eggs to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix until combined.
- Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk infusion until combined.
- Evenly divide the cake batter between the prepared mini cake tin.
- Bake for 20 to 22 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out of the centre of the cakes clean. Set aside to cool.
Make the strawberry coulis
- Combine the strawberry, sugar, water and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and cook over a medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, ensuring to stir occasionally. Remove from heat and leave to cool.
- Place strawberry mixture in a blender and pulse until smooth.
Make the swiss meringue buttercream
- Combine the sugar and egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Place the stand mixer bowl over a saucepan of water to create a double boiler. Ensure that the water does not touch the bottom of the stand mixer bowl.
- Heat the sugar and egg whites to 70C, stirring occasionally with a whisk.
- Once at temperature, transfer the stand mixture bowl to the stand mixer. With a whisk attachments, beat the eggs and sugar on a high speed until stiff peaks are formed.
- Change the whisk attachment to a paddle attachment. Add the butter slowly on a low speed.
Assemble the earl grey and strawberry mini cakes
- Tint the buttercream to the desired shade.
- Dollop around two tablespoons of the buttercream on each cake and smooth so that a well is created in the middle.
- Spoon the strawberry coulis into the well of each mini cake.