I recently received Carey Madden's new book Sensational Buttercream Decorating which features tutorials for cake designs made only with buttercream icing: no gumpaste, no fondant, no sugar sheet. Just icing, icing, icing with lots of new and innovative techniques to achieve patterns, textures, and sculpted flowers.
The book itself wouldn't have caught my eye in a bookstore (to be honest, the cover is very average/basic) but I'm so glad I didn't pass it by. Inside, the cake tutorials are modern and beautiful and the information is thoughtful and well laid out. I haven't been this excited about a baking book in a long time, it's a keeper and I love that it's 100% buttercream. Not that I have anything against decorating with fondant (as long as it's marshmallow fondant) or gumpaste flowers, but this book offers options that I've never even considered.
Her cakes are all so pretty that I was having a hard time choosing which one to make first. My boyfriend suggested I try making the birch stump as a thank you gift for his coworker who had recently helped us cut down a tree in our yard. Taking down a whole tree is a lot of work (or so I hear.. someone managed to escape taking part in this particular task) so a cake was definitely in order
The book includes recipes for various cakes, but I turned to my trusty ultra-moist one bowl chocolate cake recipe. It's my no-brainer, no-fail, much requested, go-to recipe and I figured it would allow me to focus on the decorating aspect of the cake.
While the three 6 inch layers were cooling, I whipped up a batch of swiss meringue buttercream (SMB) using Carey's recipe and unsalted Stirling butter. If you've ever made SMB before you know it can turn against you in the form of stubborn, ugly curdles which sometimes refuse to be whipped into satiny peaks. This recipe worked perfectly though, 100% perfect.The SMB gods were kind to me and it came together all silky and smooth as soon as the butter was all added. No human sacrifice necessary.
Next, the cake and icing were layered and the outside of the cake was gived a quick crumb coat of icing before the whole thing was put in the fridge to firm up before decorating.