This cake is simple to assemble and the decorations are easy to make. The result: three show-stopping layers that taste as fantastic as they look.
Photography: Maya Visnyei | Food Styling: Claire Stubbs & Ashley Ouellette Toth
Winter Forest Cake
- 1 1⁄2 cups unsalted butter, softened
- 2 1⁄4 cups granulated sugar
- 1⁄2 cup liquid egg whites
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1⁄4 tsp baking powder
- 1⁄2 tsp each: baking soda and salt
- 1 1⁄2 cups buttermilk
Coconut Meringue Icing (see recipe, below) 1⁄2 cup sweetened shredded coconut Edible Birch Bark (see recipe, below) Sugared Rosemary (see recipe, below)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8-inch round cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg whites and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat into the butter mixture, alternating with buttermilk, making 3 additions of flour mixture and 2 of buttermilk. Scrape into prepared pans, smoothing tops.
Bake until a cake tester inserted in the centres comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Invert onto greased racks; peel off the parchment paper. Let cool completely.
Assembly Using serrated knife, trim the tops of the cakes to level, if necessary. Spread 1 tsp of the icing in centre of cake plate; top with 1 cake layer, cut side up.
Spread 1 1⁄4 cups of the icing over cut side; cover with second cake layer, cut side down. Spread 1 1⁄4 cups of the icing over top. Cover with the final cake layer, cut side down; spread with 1 cup of the icing.
Using an offset palette knife, spread a thin layer of the icing all over the cake. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
Using an offset palette knife, spread remaining icing all over the cake, smoothing the side and top. Press the coconut into icing on top of the cake. Gently press the Edible Birch Bark, dark chocolate side facing in, into the side of cake, overlapping pieces slightly. Garnish top of cake with Sugared Rosemary. Store at room temperature for up to 4 hours.
Makes 16 about servings.
COCONUT MERINGUE ICING
- 1 400-ml can coconut milk
- 2 1⁄3 cups granulated sugar
- 1 1⁄4 cups liquid egg whites
- 3 cups unsalted butter, softened and cubed
- 1⁄2 tsp coconut extract
Refrigerate the can of coconut milk for 2 hours to allow the cream to rise to top. Without shaking, open the can and remove 1⁄2 cup of the cream. Set aside.
In a stainless-steel bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering (not boiling) water, whisk the sugar with the egg whites until the sugar is dissolved and a candy thermometer reads 140°F. Transfer the egg mixture to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; whisk until stiff peaks form and the mixture is cooled completely, about 10 minutes.
(If only soft peaks form after 12 minutes, proceed with the recipe as directed. It will yield slightly less icing.)
Switch to the paddle attachment; beat in the butter, 1 cube at a time, until blended. Increase the speed to medium and beat until smooth. (The mixture may look curdled but will come back together.) Beat in the coconut cream and extract.
Makes about 8 cups.
- 1⁄4 cup pasteurized liquid egg whites
- 2⁄3 cup granulated sugar (approx)
- 1 bunch fresh rosemary
Place the egg whites in a large shallow bowl; spread the sugar over a large plate. Separate the rosemary into sprigs.
Working with 1 sprig at a time, coat with the egg whites; squeeze gently to remove excess liquid. Evenly coat with the sugar. Let dry on a rack or a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet for 2 hours. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days; sprinkle with more sugar, if necessary, before using.
Makes 10 to 12 sprigs.
EDIBLE BIRCH BARK
- 7 g dark chocolate, about 1⁄4 oz, chopped
- 1 1⁄2 cups white chocolate–flavoured wafers (such as Wilton Candy Melts)
Cut a sheet of parchment paper into a 20- x 15-inch rectangle; draw two 18- x 5-inch rectangles on the parchment paper. Turn over; using tape, adhere to a large plastic tray or cutting board. (Do not use metal baking sheet, as candy will set too quickly while spreading.)
In a microwaveable bowl, microwave the dark chocolate on medium, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Using a soft fine-tip pastry brush, paint swirls, lines and dots on the drawn rectangles; refrigerate until set.
Meanwhile, in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering (not boiling) water, melt the wafers. Let cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
Remove the dark chocolate from the refrigerator. Working from left to right in small batches, dollop the melted wafers onto the drawn rectangles. Using an offset palette knife, evenly spread the melted wafers across the first rectangle; using the tip of the offset palette knife, draw lines and circles through the melted wafers to allow the dark chocolate to peek through. Repeat with the second rectangle. Using a paring knife, gently score lengthwise into 2-inch pieces.
Refrigerate until set, about 10 minutes; using your hands, break into strips. Refrigerate in single layer in airtight container until ready to use.
Makes 16 pieces.
ROYAL ICING TREES (alternative decoration)
- 1 tbsp water (approx)
- 1 1⁄8 tsp meringue powder
- 7 tbsp icing sugar (approx)
- Assorted sprinkles or dragées (optional)
In a bowl, beat the water with the meringue powder until foamy, about 1 minute; beat in the icing sugar until stiff and glossy, about 2 minutes. Add more water, 1⁄4 tsp at a time, to thin, or more icing sugar, 1 tsp at a time, to thicken, if necessary, until desired consistency.
Spoon the icing into a piping bag; using scissors, cut a 1⁄4-inch hole in the tip.
Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper; arrange wooden skewers, 2 inches apart, on the prepared pans. Pipe the icing onto skewers in zigzag pattern; top with the sprinkles or a dragées (if using). Let stand for 6 to 8 hours.
Makes 8 to 10 trees.