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Cookbook Club: Icing on the Cake
My favorite Orange Salted Honey Cake + all of this year's Cookbook Club books!
It’s been an amazing 6+ months of this newsletter and connecting with all of you. One of my favorite parts has been sharing all of the delightful cookbooks from the many talented authors in the baking community. I hope you’ve enjoyed the recipes and interviews as much as I have. Catch the list and links to all of the 2021 Cookbook Club titles below!
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Today, I am sharing a little behind-the-scenes from one of my own cookbooks, Icing on the Cake. My first book, Layered, is all about layer cakes. My second, while still loaded with sky-high cakes, has all sorts of dessert recipes and tips on how to decorate them. From intricately braided pie crusts to marbled French macarons, these show-stopping desserts are equally fun to make as they are to eat.
Keep scrolling to find my interview and the recipe for the Orange Salted Honey Cake!
2021 Style Sweet Cookbook Club:
Baked to Order
by Ruth Mar Tam
The Farmer’s Daughter Bakes
by Kelsey Siemens
Blooms and Baking
by Amy Ho
by Bernice Baran
The Book on Pie
by Erin McDowell
by Elizabeth Van Lierde
by Lauren Ko
Baked to Perfection
by Katarina Cermelj
Life is What You Bake It
by Vallery Lomas
The Cake Book
by Rebecca Firth
Why did you decide to write this book?
Tessa Huff: I was a food stylist for a book back in late 2012 and just knew that I wanted to create my own cookbook one day. I was just about to close my bakery and move from California to Vancouver, so I started a food blog. A few years later, I published my first book, Layered.
Even while I was writing the first book, I knew there was still so much I wanted to share about cakes and decorative bakes. Writing Layered was such an incredible learning experience, and I am so grateful to have been able to use what I learned the first time around to create Icing on the Cake.
Which recipe should readers try first?
TH: I love the Lavender Blackberry Cake. The cake itself is so light and fluffy. The lavender is subtle but pairs perfectly with the tart and sweet blackberry filling.
For something a little more in-your-face delicious, I’d recommend the Chocolate Banana Pie or Coffee Cheesecake - both are so creamy and decadent! The Candy Cane Marshmallows are super fun this time of year, too.
Can you name a must-have ingredient or signature flavor that you use in your recipes often?
TH: I try to keep flavors well-rounded, but I can’t go without a good vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste.
What keeps you inspired and creative in the kitchen?
TH: Seasonal produce is a great source for inspiration. The seasons, in general, typically drive my cravings and recipe development. Vancouver has very clear seasons, and I tend to want to bake with warm spices, coffee, and caramel in the fall/winter and with citrus, florals, and berries in the spring/summer.
What were you listening to or reading at the time of writing this book?
TH: I remember listening to Lianne La Havas’ “Blood” (although her first album is still my favorite). I also listened to The Nutcracker a lot since I was finishing up the writing portion near the holidays.
Walk into a reader’s home and where can you find your book? Displayed on a coffee table, next to the bed for late-night studying, or splattered with batter in the kitchen?
TH: All of the above! I try to pack in as much useful information in my books as possible. Even if you are not available to bake in that moment, you can still pick up the book and read something to help with your overall understanding of baking or cake decorating.
While I spent a lot of time creating the photos and my book designer made the pages so beautiful, I don’t want readers to treat the book too preciously. It should definitely make its way into the kitchen - your most favorite recipes with frosting smears and splattered batter.
What is one important key to success for home bakers wanting to try new recipes?
TH: Pay attention to the temperature of your ingredients. Many of the recipes call for softened butter - this makes a huge difference when creaming butter and sugar for fluffy cakes and will keep your frosting smooth and silky.
Orange Salted Honey Cake
Salt and honey together are such a power couple. From pie, to flavoring whipped cream, to topping a slice of sourdough, I love how the salt tames the sweetness of honey while giving it an extra pop of flavor. I could eat the custard filling of this cake straight up, but it is worth it to save for the orange-scented cake and honey-sweetened buttercream.
Salted Honey Custard
1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
1 cup (240 ml) + 1 tablespoon milk
¼ cup (50 g) granulated sugar, divided
¼ cup honey
3 tablespoons + 1½ teaspoons cornstarch
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ to ¾ teaspoon salt, or to taste
Place the butter in heat-safe bowl. Set a fine-mesh sieve over the top of the bowl and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and 2 tablespoons of sugar over medium heat. Bring it slowly to a simmer then remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining sugar, honey, and cornstarch in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk the egg yolks into the honey mixture until smooth.
Temper the hot milk into the egg mixture by whisking in a small amount of milk into the egg mixture to slowly raise the temperature of the eggs before transferring everything back to the saucepan. Place the saucepan back on the stove and cook over medium-low heat. Continuously stirring, heat the custard until it thickens and slow, large bubbles start to pop on the surface. Whisk continuously for one minute then remove from the heat.
Pour the pastry cream through the mesh sieve into the bowl with the butter. Add the vanilla and salt. Stir until smooth and cover with a piece of plastic wrap pressed directly to the surface of the pastry cream. Refrigerate until cool and thick, at least 2 hours or overnight.
Orange Butter Cake
2 ¼ cups (295 g) cake flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking power
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup (80 ml) fresh orange juice
⅔ cup (160 ml) buttermilk
¾ cup (170 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fine orange zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease, flour, and line the bottoms of three 6-inch cake pans with parchment and set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In a separate bowl, stir together the buttermilk and orange juice. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, rub the sugar and orange zest together in a small bowl between your fingertips until fragrant. Add the sugar mixture to the butter and mix on medium-high until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
Turn the mixer to medium-low and add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time. Mix until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the orange juice mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix on medium for no more than 30 seconds after the last streaks of the flour mixture are combined.
Evenly divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 23 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Let them cool on a wire rack for 10 to 20 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans. Once the cakes have completely cooled, discard the parchment and level the tops of the cakes as needed.
2 cups (450 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 large egg whites
⅔ cup (160 ml) honey
⅔ cup (135 g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Place the egg whites, honey, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Gently whisk them by hand until just combined. Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and bring to a simmer. Place the mixer bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double-boiler. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Whisking intermittently, heat the egg mixture until it reaches 160°F (70°C) on a candy thermometer. Carefully fit the mixer bowl back onto the stand mixer.
With the whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the mixture holds medium-stiff peaks and the outside of the bowl returns to room temperature.
Turn the mixer down to low and add in the vanilla and butter, a couple tablespoons at a time. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment.
Turn the mixer to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth, 2 to 5 minutes.
Whisk the honey custard to loosen and smooth. Place one layer of cake on a cake board or serving plate. Fill a piping bag fitted with a plain, round tip with the honey buttercream. Pipe a ring around the outer top edge of the cake to create a dam. Fill the ring with half of the honey custard and smooth with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Top with the middle layer of cake and repeat. Place the last layer of cake on top. Crumb coat the cake with the honey buttercream and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Smoothly frost the cake with a thin layer of buttercream. Fill a piping bag fitted with a petal tip (Wilton #104) with buttercream. Place the cake on a rotating cake stand. Gently touch the tip to the cake, narrow end facing down, about 1-inch (2.5 cm) from the bottom of the cake. Begin piping continuous swags of buttercream around the bottom of the cake. The bottom of each swag should graze the cake board or serving dish. Continue around the cake, slightly overlapping each row, until the sides are completely covered.
For the top of the cake, hold the piping bag at a 45-degree angle to the top of the cake, facing away from your body. Keeping the narrow end of the tip pointing away from the center of the cake, gently squeeze the piping bag as you move it out away from your body and back in. Continue piping concentric circles of petals around the top of the cake clockwise (or counter clockwise if you are left handed), spinning the cake stand as you go. As you approach the center, tint the buttercream a soft peach color, or color of your choice, to create a gentle ombre effect. Overlap the rows of petals and increase the angle of the piping bag until you reach the center. Store loosely covered with plastic wrap or in a cake box in the refrigerator until 30 minutes before serving.
Store leftovers covered with plastic wrap or in a cake box in the refrigerator for about 3 days.