I didn't make this for Christmas exactly, but it was for the Christmas get-together of a group of women who have been friends for over 40 years. (As I typed the last sentence, I wondered if I was exaggerating, but it really has been that long). They always look forward to my desserts because they know they'll get something new. and this was no exception.
My friends were coming on Monday evening. Since Monday is a long babysitting day, and my lovely granddaughter Lily considers naps to be an assault on her pursuit of fun, I knew that most of the work would have to be done on Sunday. After being assured by several Alpha Bakers that I could make the buttercream ahead of time, that's what I did. First, the smooth white chocolate custard base.
The custard becomes very yellow after the eggs are added.
But then smooths to a rich ivory color after the butter is added. It still has more of a yellowish tinge than the icing in TBB's picture does (and isn't that a stunning photograph?), but it's good enough. And into the refrigerator it went for an overnight stay. At least I didn't have to worry about using an ice water bath to speed up the cooling process.
Monday morning I made the cake while Jim put Lily down for her "morning nap." The cake must have been a cinch to make because it was in the pans before Jim came down to take pictures.
To make up for not taking any process pictures, he took plenty of pictures of the candy canes. I'm sure you're impressed that I used Bob's Original Candy Canes. (You probably think candy canes have been around forever, but it's only been since 1953, when Bob invented a machine that curved boring straight peppermint sticks into canes. The year before, he had come up with the idea of wrapping his peppermint sticks with cellophane, so it appears that Bob does have some basis for claiming that his candy canes are the original ones.)
Well, I figured that it would take a while for the buttercream to return to the right consistency, but I thought it would resemble a custard more than a giant hunk of butter. As I tried to penetrate the giant hunk with a whisk, I thought maybe I should come up with a Plan B, but I couldn't think of one.
Eventually, about the time of Morning Nap #2, it softened enough for me to fill the cake with buttercream and Bob's busted candy canes.
Fortunately, this nap turned out to be over an hour so I had enough time to work on the cake. My frosted cakes always have the look of being done by some earnest person who tries hard but just doesn't have a flair for cake decorating (not surprisingly since that's just the person who does them). I remembered Woody's advice, when we were baking the Chocolate Cuddle Cake, to treat the frosting like cement. I also remembered that this advice was not particularly helpful. But there was no Woody in my kitchen too rescue me, so I had to just soldier on.
Not perfection, but good enough to impress my guests. You can see that I didn't split the layers in half to make a four-layer cake, which would have really been impressive, but I knew there was no way that Lily was going to nap long enough for me to accomplish that feat, so two layers would have to do.
The cake is just as advertised: "soft and tender with a velvety crumb." If you ever need a white cake, you should look no further than this recipe. The peppermint extract was a nice, festive Christmas touch, but I think it would be even better flavored with plain old vanilla. Same with the crushed peppermint--it looks like a party, but it's something you'd probably make only once a year. Unminted, though, this cake could do anything. I'm thinking it would make the perfect base for a coconut cake, or filled with raspberry jam. Or if you ever want a birthday cake that's not chocolate, and I suppose that's possible, this would be the one to turn to.
I hope your holidays were as festive as this cake!