March 1, 2011

The Cake Plate!

Yes, even though The Maine House is currently blanketed with a mountain of snow, it is the beginning of March today! Spring surely cannot be too far away. We are saying good-bye to long winter nights and icy days of cold winter winds. Well.....a girl can dream can't she? It's time to look forward to green grass, lush lawns, the crocus, daffodils and tulips peaking through the garden....and that makes us think of Easter.

I adore Easter. The colors are so dreamy and pastel...light and airy with accents of spring blooms! Who could not take joy in decorating the Easter table? It is time to take out Estelle's special cake plate and prepare our recipes for Easter dinner. This eloquent plate belonged to my grandmother, Estelle!

We always traveled back to Jackson to celebrate Easter with our parents. A tradition was started by baking a "Lamb cake" as our grand finale! I made my first lamb cake with a box mix of devil's food, and piped white icing for his fluffy coat. He was adorable with a tiny cocoa face and tiny puffs of white! I also adorned him with fresh pansy's along his neckline and along one end of this eloquent plate.

 And our tradition continues as Estelle's uses this dark, moist dutch chocolate cake recipe and the seven minute frosting. Just adapt the recipe for the cake mold, rather than a layered cake. The choice is yours! Once again, our "Lamb Cake" will have his special place of honor on Grandmother's cake plate!

Estelle's Ultimate Dutch Chocolate Cake
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, plus more for pans
1/2 cup boiling water
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment; butter parchment. Dust with cocoa powder; tap out excess. Set aside. Sift cocoa powder into a medium bowl; whisk in boiling water. Set aside to cool.
Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl; set aside. Put butter into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until creamy. Gradually mix in sugar until pale and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs, a bit at a time, mixing well between each addition; mix until well blended. Mix in vanilla. Whisk milk into reserved cocoa mixture. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture to butter mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the cocoa mixture.
Divide batter evenly among prepared pans; smooth tops with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted into centers comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pans on wire racks 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks; remove parchment and re-invert. Let cool completely.
Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes to make level. Place four strips of parchment paper around perimeter of a serving plate or lazy Susan. Place the first layer on the cake plate. Spread the top of the first layer with 1 1/2 cups of frosting. Place the second layer on top and repeat process with another 1 1/2 cups of frosting. Place the remaining layer on top of the second layer, bottom side up. Spread entire cake with remaining 3 cups frosting.

Estelle's Seven Minute Vanilla Frosting
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
4 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil. Boil for 3-4 minutes or until a candy thermometer reads 242 degrees F., which is considered a firm-ball stage. Meanwhile, beat egg whites and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl until foamy. Slowly pour in hot sugar mixture; continue to beat on high for 7 minutes or until stiff peaks form. Add vanilla. Continue beating until frosting reaches desired consistency, about 2 minutes
Estelle's Ultimate Chocolate Frosting
24 ounces Nestle semisweet chocolate morsels
4 cups whipping cream
1 teaspoon light corn syrup

Place chocolate morsels and cream in a heavy saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until combined and thickened, between 20 and 25 minutes. Increase the heat to medium low; cook, stirring, 3 minutes more. Remove pan from heat.
Stir in corn syrup. Transfer frosting to a large metal bowl. Chill until cool enough to spread, about 2 hours, checking and stirring every 15 to 20 minutes. Use immediately.

"When winds are soft,
And the days are warm and clear,
Just like a gentle lamb,
Then spring is here."
- Author Unknown

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