raspberry amaretto cake...a delicious disaster

My friend Caitlin is getting married in a few short weeks, so on Friday night we got together with a group of girlfriends for a bridal shower/bachelorette party.  I was enlisted to bring dessert for the party, so I asked Caitlin what kind of cake she wanted...chocolaty, fruity, any kind.  She wasn't sure exactly, but said that she thought something with berries would be good.  I decided on raspberry, then debated between a raspberry-orange flavour combo or a raspberry-almond flavour combo.  Caitlin and I picked raspberry-almond (which was handy because I already had a bottle of Disaronno Amaretto at home), so then I had to pick a cake recipe to start with.  There were a few promising choices in my Baking Illustrated book, but I ultimately chose Sponge Cake.  I haven't made it before, but it was described as being good for layer cakes, so off I went.

Caitlin was hanging out at my house and supervising the baking process as I was getting the cake ready.  The recipe calls for room-temperature eggs, so I had left mine out all afternoon.  The first disaster struck when I broke a yolk into my bowl as I was trying to separate out the egg whites.  Caitlin looked at me and said "It wasn't supposed to do that, was it?" and I just burst out laughing.  I had to dump out my bowl and start again.  So I ended up using eggs straight from the fridge, and I think it worked just fine.

The next disaster struck just as I was pouring the batter into the cake pans.  The first pan poured easily but as I poured the second one a large glop of flour landed in my pan.  I tried to gently stir it in (so I didn't deflate the egg whites), but I wasn't sure if I would end up with flour lumps in the cake.  Oh well, it was too late so I popped them in the oven and hoped for the best.  Lesson learned:  maybe I should sift the dry ingredients when it comes to cakes...

So the cakes came out of the oven, and they looked great.  I left them to cool and started on the icing: amaretto buttercream.  I've made buttercream before, but never with duck eggs.  I ran out of chicken eggs, and didn't feel like making a run to the grocery store, so I substituted in 2 duck eggs for the required 4 chicken eggs.  Things were going well; the eggs and sugar had cooked nicely and the mixture was whipping up nicely in my mixer...then I started adding the butter.  The butter was incorporating nicely, but the more I added, the more the buttercream deflated.  I decided just to keep going to see what would happen.  I whipped it on high-speed and it did thicken up a bit, but I knew it would be too thin to ice the cake, so I decided to add in some icing sugar to stiffen it up.  It worked like a charm.  It might have been slightly sweeter than the original recipe, but it worked out. 

The last problem?  I forgot to take a photo of the finished cake!  I had planned on taking a photo on Friday before I left (because by the time I finished assembling it on Thursday it was pretty dark - and I hate using the flash), but I was scrambling around trying to get everything together before I raced out the door and it totally slipped my mind.  All I can say is that it looked pretty good.  I pressed lightly toasted sliced almonds onto the sides and I put a single row of fresh raspberries around the edge on the top of the cake.  It tasted good too.

We were having dinner at Hundred Bar & Kitchen.  The wonderful staff there brought out the cake with some sparklers on it, which was great, but we all started laughing when we realized that there wasn't really a song to sing as the sparklers burned (like at birthdays).  We improvised:

happy wedding to you,
happy wedding to you,
happy wedding Caitlin & Steven
happy wedding to you

Vanilla Sponge Cake

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350F.  Prepare two 8 inch cake pans with parchment cut to fit the bottom and lightly greased.  Whisk the flours, baking powder and salt together.  Heat the butter and milk together until the butter melts.  Remove from the heat and add the vanilla.  Cover it to keep the milk-butter mixture warm.

Separate 3 of the eggs, putting the whites into the bowl of the mixer and keeping the yolks in another bowl.  Beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy, then add the 6 tablespoons of the sugar, one at a time.  Continue to beat until soft peaks form.  Transfer the whipped egg whites to a large bowl, then add the 3 reserved yolks and the two remaining whole eggs to the bowl of the mixer.  Add the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar and beat on medium-high for about 5 minutes (until the eggs are thick and pale yellow in colour).  Add the beaten eggs to the egg whites in the large bowl.  Don't stir yet.

Sift the dry ingredients over the egg mixture and gently fold the mixture together 12 times with a spatula.  Pour the milk mixture into the side of the bowl and continue gently folding the mixture together until there is no trace of flour and the egg whites and whole eggs have been combined.  Don't over-mix!

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until the cake tops are light brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with only a few crumbs on it.  After the cakes come out of the oven remove the cakes from the pan right away, peel off the parchment and allow the cakes to cool on a cooling rack.  Allow them to cool for at least an hour before assembling the cake. 

Amaretto Buttercream Frosting

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp Disaronno Amaretto
  • 1 pound unsalted butter, cut into pieces - softened, but still cool

Mix the eggs, sugar, vanilla and amaretto together in the bowl of the stand mixer and place it on top of a saucepan of simmering water.  Make sure the water doesn't touch the surface of the bowl (like a double boiler).  Continue whisking and monitor the temperature with a digital instant-read thermometer.  Heat the mixture until it is thin and foamy and the temperature is 160F.

Put the bowl onto the stand mixer and whip at medium-high speed for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is light and airy, and has cooled to room temperature.  Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter one piece at a time until the whole pound has been added.  Once all the butter has been added, increase the speed to high and whip for about 1 minute until the frosting is light, fluffy and fully combined.  You can add more amaretto to taste (but not too much, or the frosting will be too thin).

I had leftover buttercream after frosting Caitlin's cake, so I added some extra amaretto to make it a little thinner then saved it in the fridge.  Trevor and I enjoyed it as a fruit dip with some fresh strawberries.  (just take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you want to use it)

A note about assembly:

I brushed about 1 tbsp of amaretto onto the top of the bottom cake before I added a layer of buttercream, then covered the filling with fresh raspberries.  Then I brushed the bottom of the top layer with another 1 tbsp of amaretto before I stacked it up.  I frosted it with the amaretto buttercream, the covered the sides with lightly toasted almonds and placed more fresh raspberries on the top.

Keep the assembled cake in the fridge.  Take it out of the fridge and let it warm up for 30-45 minutes before you want to serve it.

Recipes adapted from Baking Illustrated.