Italian Cream Cake + Swiss Meringue Buttercream
For a very long time my mom has had the Martha Stewart Weddings book. As kids, my sisters and I drew all over the 18 by 24 inch pages with colored markers, adding our own touch to Martha's words and pictures. It was not until very recently that I discovered the magical qualities of this book, through the Italian Cream Cake recipe on page 348. Since first making this recipe as a test for cupcakes for a friend's wedding, I have yet to find a better cake recipe. It is bubbly, fluffy, melty, kind of like champagne actually.
This past Christmas I was at a thrift store near my house when I spotted the Weddings book for a mere $2! I bought it thinking I would give it to my mom as a Christmas present to replace the cookbook we wrecked as kids. When I was wrapping presents I got to the book, planning on writing a note on the inside cover I opened it up and saw "Martha Stewart" written in polite cursive. I had found a signed copy of Weddings?! I looked up what her signature looked like and sure enough that was it! I happily wrapped the present without signing it, thinking about how excited my mom was going to be when she opened it. A few days after I went around telling all my friends how I had found a signed Martha Stewart cookbook at a thrift store for $2.
Before our road trip to see my mom in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I unpacked the car and found the other copy of Weddings in the trunk. I brought the book inside and flipped through it. No marker drawings, pristine pages. Wait, was this the original book or the thrift store find? Oh shit, it dawned on me that I wrapped the original book instead of the found one. I guess my mom's copy was signed by Martha and I didn't even know it. I really had to laugh at myself about that. I ended up gifting my mom the original book, telling her the funny story. She told me she wouldn't have wanted the new copy any way because it was special to her, drawings and all. Awwwww, I've got a cool mom.
So on from the nice story, and to the recipe. This recipe requires a few steps, appearing difficult but if done with a few tricks and tips, are simple to master. The cake is frosted with a Swiss meringue buttercream. Swiss meringue is kind of like nothing I've ever tried, it's pretty magical. If you aren't a fan of super sweet American buttercream you should most definitely take a crack at Swiss meringue buttercream. Once again, it seems complicated but it's not so bad when you break it down. Since the beginning of my Swiss meringue days I have been using recipes from sweetapolita.com. If you get stuck or confused and need a more in depth look at the process, see her post -http://sweetapolita.com/2011/04/swiss-meringue-buttercream-demystified/.
Italian Cream Cake - adapted from Martha Stewart Weddings
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
5 eggs, separated
2 sticks butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
Preheat oven to 350. Butter and line two 9 inch or 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper. Whip egg whites, slowly adding 1/2 cup sugar. Stop whipping when eggs and sugar have reached a meringue-like consistency. Transfer whipped egg whites to separate bowl. In same mixer bowl, add the rest of the sugar and the butter. Whip together till light and fluffy (this will take a few minutes). Add egg yolks in one by one, whipping once again till light and fluffy. Combine baking soda with buttermilk and stir. Combine salt and flour. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk, ending with the buttermilk. Gently fold in egg whites. Pour batter in to prepared pans and back for 25 to 30 minutes.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream - adapted from Sweetapolita
5 egg whites
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks butter, room temperature, cut in to chunks
1 tablespoon vanilla
pinch of salt
Set up a stand mixer with very clean whisk attachment. In a very clean stand mixer bowl, add sugar and egg whites. Add 1 inch of water to a small sauce pan and bring water to a simmer on the stove. Place mixer bowl on top of sauce pan, stirring constantly. When the egg whites are warm to the touch and the sugar has dissolved, remove bowl from sauce pan and start whisking with stand mixer. Whisk until egg whites and sugar are glossy and the bottom of the mixing bowl is neither hot nor cold. Slowly begin adding a chunk of butter at a time. Only add another piece of butter when the previous chunk has been incorporated. This whole process takes around 10 minutes, so be patient. If the mixture curdles and loses its satiny quality, just keep mixing, it will come back together. Add vanilla and salt at the end. You can use right away or freeze. If frozen, let thaw at room temperature and then rewhip before using.