Heaven & Hell

I had a really weird experience with 7-minute frosting about a month ago.

I have, on my wordpress dashboard, a half-written post about how I really messed up the frosting for my mom’s birthday cake. It was so unfortunate, I couldn’t bring myself to publish the pictures. I had crafted this amazing, sumptuous vanilla cake. It was all super-yellow irish butter and whole vanilla bean goodness. The batter was a voluminous mousse of what appeared to be lighter-than-air vanilla pudding. While it baked, a heavenly vanilla scent filled my apartment.

Deciding that this cake was perfect in every way, I set about deciding on the perfect flavors to accompany such a cake. I would turn some egg yolks (I have a bowl in my freezer containing no fewer than 2 dozen yolks…more on that later) into a raspberry curd fit for the finest vanilla gelato. I’d lighten the curd with freshly whipped cream, and make a giant raspberry whipped-cream sandwich on perfect vanilla cake. I’d top it with great swoops of marshmallowy 7-minute frosting. What could be better?

Probably nothing, if that was how it had actually gone down.

Working from a new recipe for the frosting, I made a great big batch of failure. It was runny, and didn’t  hold it’s shape, or even stay on the cake. I couldn’t figure out what I’d done wrong. I tried making a second batch, once I was at my parents’ house, so I wouldn’t have far to travel if things went awry. Which is what happened.

I ended up with a big ugly pillow of unpretty. I topped it with dots of unlighted raspberry curd and swirled them around the big white pile of cake. It was all I could think of; I felt pretty defeated at that point.

It’s what’s inside that counts. That cake was bloody perfect inside. Delicious, extra yellow yellow cake mingled with the tastiest thing I’ve ever used for cake filling, and the marshmallowy goodness of even a failed 7-minute frosting was a delightful touch atop each bite. On a different day, thinking a bit straighter, I’d have simply iced the cake with more whipped cream.

My dad totally loved the frosting, even though it was the biggest blow to my self-esteem since my first attempt at french macarons (a little food blogger humor, wink! no really, there’s a sad story about these on it’s way.), so when it was time for his birthday, I decided to give it another go.

The day I had set aside to bake this cake, I separated 14 eggs and let them come to room temperature. As I watched episode, after episode of Bones that afternoon, sipping some tomato soup I’d cooked up, my mistake with those first batches of frosting dawned on me. I hadn’t used fresh eggs. See, packaged egg whites have worked fine for me when it’s come to basic meringues for the tops of lemon tarts, and they’re absolutely ideal for fat-free omelets (if you’re into that sort of thing), but there are times when actually separating your own eggs is crucial.

Angel Food cake is, I think, one of those times. And after two failed batches of 7-minute frosting; 7-minute frosting is, I think, another one of those times. When I baked that cake, I contemplated the care I had taken to make sure it was a success. I had cracked the eggs hours earlier. I made sure they were room temperature before proceeding. Was this necessary? Martha says it was, and I was not about to throw away 14 whites worth-of failure-meringue. Some things shouldn’t be left to chance.  So as with the cake, I separated my eggs for the frosting by hand.

Guess what? Perfect 7-minute frosting ensued. I left that beautiful angel food cake upside-down over night, taking it’s sweet time to cool completely. The next day, I whipped up the frosting in no more than ten minutes, and had it covering the cake in no time. In perfect swoops.

After this, let’s not talk about that other birthday cake anymore.

The cake was an angel food cake, split about a third of the way down, and filled with 7-minute frosting and diced apricots. It was topped with the same frosting and more fruit, which I had glazed with some peach-coriander jam by Kissel’s.

Raspberry Curd

2 cups raspberries, fresh or frozen (thawed, if frozen)

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup sugar

4 egg yolks.

1 stick of butter, cut into cubes

Puree the raspberries and strain out the seeds. Combine everything but the butter  in a metal (non-reactive!) bowl over some simmering water. I usually just use my stand mixer bowl.  Whisk continuously until the mixture has thickened. It could take as long as 15 minutes.  Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it. If you stopped stirring at some point, and your egg yolks got a little chunky, all of that will go away now. This second strain will also catch any raspberry seeds you didn’t get the first time.  Stir in your butter. Let this beauty cool in the fridge, with some plastic wrap set right over the curd, not stretched over the bowl. Ta da!

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