But if you do need to rush one, make sure it’s your own.
I baked my birthday cake last week. The day before my birthday. Sure, my wife would have happily done so, but she has been equally as busy as I have, and this way I get to blame any errors on myself.
I will say up front that the presentation on this one was sub-par, but flavor wise I think I nailed it. It’s a three-layer six-inch mojito cake. Mojitos have become somewhat of a running joke with my team at work because I’ve given mint (yes, the mint that is trying to take over the world, or at least the garden) to half of them. Not just a couple of sprigs, either. In one case, several plants (she asked for it…no, really) and the other several large bundles, tied up and left hanging on a computer monitor. So, mojitos are sort of a joke because what else do you do with all that mint? My brilliant idea was to make a mojito cake. I went around and around about if it should be a mint cake with lime frosting, or lime cake with mint frosting, or some fusion of both in either the cake or the frosting. I settled on using the Classic Vanilla Butter Cake from Serious Eats and using 5 grams of mint extract with 10 grams vanilla. If I had planned farther in advance, I could have tucked some mint leaves in the sugar and infuse the flavor that way, but I didn’t plan for it, so that didn’t happen. Maybe next time. Still, the cake…wow. Definitely will be my go-to cake recipe. Even after being left uncovered at room temperature for almost a day (in a cat-proof location, of course), it was still very moist and flavorful. Now, the recipe makes a three-layer eight inch cake, and I went for a six inch. The remaining batter turned into cupcakes for work. They got baked for about 20 minutes, and came out perfect.
For the frosting, I did a lime version of ermine frosting, very similar to this Seriously Citrus Buttercream from Jenni Field’s Pastry Chef Online. Springboarding from this recipe, I used a 6:6:6:1 ratio of lime juce:sugar:butter:corn starch. In essence, the cornstarch, juice, and sugar get cooked together to make a pudding, then, once cooled to room temperature, beaten in to some whipped butter to make a buttercream frosting. I wound up using 12 oz of juice, sugar, and butter and two of corn starch. Again, wow. A very citrus flavor that mellowed a bit over night. The cupcakes got frosted at work the day of my birthday (frosting packed in a disposable pastry bag over night; by the time I made it to work, it had warmed to piping temperature), and they were a hit.
The cupcake format seemed to have just the right balance of lime and mint. The cake…well, remember how I said it was rushed? I frosted it the evening of my birthday, after we had finished dinner. I neglected to level the layers, and hadn’t
given the frosting enough time to come fully to room temperature. By the time it did, though, it was pretty melty, but I didn’t have the time to pop it in and out of the freezer to keep everything chilled and solid. So, an uneven coat of frosting, and the cake slices were lacking structural stability (since they weren’t leveled to begin with). Nothing fancy on the top, just a swirl and some mint leaves. Also, even though the slices were pretty thin, they were a little overwhelming. Maybe too much icing, and the mint in the cake was a little too retiring to take on the lime.
Next time I try this (and there will be a next time), I’ll probably go 7 grams of mint and 8 grams of vanilla to bring the mint flavor forward more, especially against the very assertive lime. I might also cut back the icing, or dilute the citrus with just a little bit of water (maybe sub out one ounce?) to make it a little less in-your-face. Like I said, though, presentation was lacking but the taste was pretty close to spot on.