It’s now, at long last, June and our herbs have survived a winter of deep snows and deeper cold. Our mint beckons. How to use it?
Frosting, of course. Here the mint flavor comes, not primarily from our garden, but from liquor and extract. But your spring mint leaves can still be used to adorn the top of the cake when you are frosted, smoothed, and contemplating a knife to get the first slice.
If you have a cake, chocolate or otherwise, demanding an exceptional frosting, then consider this: a deeply rich buttercream flavored with crème de menthe and peppermint extract.
This recipe, from the team at Baked, is classically tuned and scaled. Yes, the second ingredient is flour. Flour for frosting? Fear not, for it all works to generate an impeccable frosting. As the frosting comes together, the consistency will, as always, depend on the temperature and water levels in the butter that is the foundation ingredient. If your frosting texture is spot on, then you are fine to frost away. If initially the frosting is too soft or too firm, then the instructions below will guide you elegantly.
Crème de Menthe Buttercream
Yield: enough for a standard 2-layer cake
- 2 ¼ cups sugar
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 ¼ cups milk
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 4 ½ sticks unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
- 2 tablespoons crème de menthe
- 2 ¼ teaspoons peppermint extract
In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cram and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and had thickened, about 20 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter; mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.
Add the crème de menthe and peppermint extract and mix until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put it in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then mix again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water, then mix again.
Source: Baked [New Frontiers in Baking] by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
At Cooking by the Book, we do a lot of baking. Whether it is a corporate client or a private party, dessert is on every menu. Often a cake is requested. If the party is for a birthday or anniversary, you can be sure that a cake will be on the table.
I thought it might be fun to show you a cake “literally” in progress. Have you ever seen a perfectly frosted cake and told yourself that you could not do it. That you cannot imagine how it is done. How it can come out so perfectly.
Well, here’s the secret. The intermediate steps are messy and demand patience. The final product will smashingly pretty but along the way, there can be a bit of a mess. And touch up work is routine.
Look at the cake above. A couple of minutes ago, warm and flowing chocolate ganache was poured on top. Yes, poured. Gravity is your friend. There is no way you should attempt to “apply” ganache to a cake. Pour it on, let it flow. Then keep letting it flow. You see at the top of the cake how there are a couple of bare spots? Tempted to smooth it out right now? I mean, RIGHT NOW. No, wait. Gravity is your friend.
Don’t believe me? Look at the next picture.
See, it’s better. Couple more minutes, slow flow, but the gaps are filling in naturally. Not perfect yet. But better. Now you can unleash the artist in you. Get that flat spatula that has been waving in your hand and go, not to the cake, but to the sink. Run it under hot water. It’s a hot spatula that will let you sculpt with grace. Make a mistake? Go wash the spatual clean, heat it up again and just go carefully. You do have time here to “perfect” your surface. You’ll have a mistake or two. Frosting a cake successfully is a lot like a yoga class. You have to breathe, move smoothly, have patience and wait for the rewards.
But wait, you say. That bottom is going to get ruffled when the paper is pulled away. It’ll crack, it’ll be disrupted, the beauty will be lost. Next picture, please.
See, you can simply “adorn” the bottom with chocolate shavings and any problems are quite simply hidden.
Oh, the first three cakes above are round and this last one is square? You noticed? Well, our pastry maven Charmaine has made lots of cakes, more than you will in your lifetime. On this particular day, she made both the round one and the square one. By letting the ganache set a bit and by edging with a sharp knife and steady hand, she was able to free up that round cake with minimal damage. A little hot spatula work and it was perfect.
The square cake, on the other hand, needed a little body work. She shaved chocolate and applied it before the ganache had hardened. The result is clearly a chocolate masterpiece.
The moral here is nothing you did not know. Chocolate is messy and your cake will not be looking perfect every second along the way. Just enjoy the experience, take your time, and lick your spatula.