Monday, March 12, 2012

White Mountain Frosting

This exceptionally good frosting has a soft, marshmallow-like consistency. It keeps well for many days without runny or becoming grainy. It’s easy and inexpensive to make. Because it’s such a strong, pure white color, the contrast with a dark chocolate cake is dramatic and attractive. This makes enough to frost the center, top, and sides of a 9-in. layer cake.
White Mountain Frosting:

2 egg whites
¾ c. granulated sugar
⅓ c. light corn syrup
2 tbsp. cold water
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract (see Note)
Place all ingredients except vanilla extract into a double boiler over rapidly boiling water (see Further Note). Holding the double boiler steady with one hand, beat on high with electric mixer until frosting holds stiff peaks, about 5 min. Remove from heat, folding in vanilla. Cool before frosting cakes, being sure to brush away all loose cake crumbs before starting. 
The following instructions are for newbies to icing a layer cake! Place a generous piece of parchment paper between the cake and the plate or cake stand on which it will be served. Heap about a third of the frosting in the center of the bottom layer, working from the center toward ½-in. from the outer edges with your frosting spreader. Carefully place top layer onto bottom layer, pressing lightly with your palms to extend the frosting right to the edges. 
Working from the bottom up, use approximately half the remaining frosting to ice the sides, making pretty swirls as you work. Use the remaining frosting for the top, ensuring you work right to the edges. No licking the frosting bowl or spreader, yet! You’ll need every little bit of frosting that remains. 
Now for the challenging part. With a thin, flat metal spatula supporting the bottom of the cake, carefully draw away the parchment paper. If cake shifts position, re-center it on the plate. Touch up any small holes on the sides with bits of frosting remaining in the bowl. Wipe the edge of the cake plate clean with a damp paper towel. You now have a perfectly iced cake. 
The simplest way to give this cake a touch of pizzaz is to gently shake a heaping teaspoon of chocolate baking crumbs through a small sieve - use just enough to dust the top of the cake. To my mind, this still didn’t look fancy enough, so I made a small amount of Fabulous Chocolate Glaze (recipe to follow, below), cooling and pouring it into a squeeze bottle. I then ran a shallow ribbon of glaze around the top edge of the cake - just enough so that the drips would fall attractively, and not so much that they’d mess the plate. 
The finishing touch? Birthday candles, and plenty of ’em! Our daughter-in-law Patty turns hmmff-hmmff-wha-years-old (odd, a hand just clapped over my mouth, leaving me unable to speak!) two days after Milla turns two, so I used a lot of candles.
I’ve made only one cake with more candles, and that was for my late mother-in-law’s 96th birthday. I carried it to the retirement lodge where she was living and set it alight before offering the assembled multitude a piece. Instead of cake, what they got was a piece of the action: The heat of the candles set off the smoke alarm. Every old person in the joint was wheelchaired, walkered, stretchered, and otherwise evacuated (including me - utterly clueless that my cake had triggered the crisis). 
Moments later, a horde of yellow-suited fire fighters bearing axes ran into the building, only to emerge asking: “Whose birthday cake was that?” 
Note: A pure white icing such as this demands white vanilla extract! I keep a small bottle on hand for exactly such uses. You’ll find white vanilla in some grocery stores, as well as in specialty food stores.

Further Note: Make your own double boiler by placing a metal bowl over a pot of boiling water.

Combine all ingredients except vanilla over boiling water 

Frosting quickly lightens ...
... And thickens to hold stiff peaks

Frost base of cake; add second layer

Press down lightly, so frosting oozes toward cake's edge

Frost sides with an upward, swirling motion

Parchment paper protects the cake plate during the process

Use the remaining frosting on top

Pull away the paper; expect the cake to shift on its base

Our cake now needs some remedial touch-ups

A little straightening ... a little re-icing ... 
Our cake is looking better

Sieve or shake chocolate
baking crumbs over frosting
Do this as evenly as you can:
Don't fuss if it's not "perfect" 

Using squeeze bottle, apply Fabulous Chocolate Glaze 
around top edge, allowing it to drip down sides

The completed cake ... candles disguise the imperfections
Take a big breath and BLOW! 
The Main Event: Two-fisted eating. Happy Birthday!

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