I'm still pretty crappy at getting the buttercream to look right on the cake, and not having the right equipment (offset spatula, cake comb) didn't help the matter. But the taste of the buttercream was by far the best thing about this cake.
I've never liked the kind of buttercream that you make with powdered sugar--it is just too damn sweet and makes me feel like I'm going to go into diabetic shock. And frankly, it freaks me out to see a recipe with a whole pound of powdered sugar in it.
One of the best things I have learned in my pastry class is that there is a buttercream that I can love--French buttercream. There is only 1 C of granulated sugar in the recipe which makes a buttercream that is far more palatable to me, and it also has a great texture with none of the chalkiness that can come from powdered sugar. The technique sounds like a pain in the ass when you first hear it, but it really is pretty simple--beat up some egg yolks until they are thick and light. While the mixer is beating away, heat up the sugar with 2 oz water and make a syrup that reaches the soft ball stage (240 degrees). Then with your mixer still running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl (so it doesn't splatter or make little hard droplets in your buttercream). The heat of the sugar cooks the yolks so they are safe to eat. You can add your melted chocolate and peppermint extract now. Then you leave the mixer running and beating the hell out of the stuff until it is pretty cool. Then blop in pieces of room temperature butter until it is all combined.
The frosting is silky smooth with just the right amount of sweetness and richness. Brian tasted it and his whole face lit up--it is that good--and both of us had to resist sitting down and eating it with a spoon.
Chocolate Mint Buttercream
adapted from Recipezaar
enough to frost and fill a 3 layer cake
8 oz granulated sugar
2 oz water
4 egg yolks
10 oz butter, softened
1/2 t peppermint extract (switch to 3/4 t vanilla if you want plain chocolate buttercream)
3 oz good quality bittersweet chocolate, melted over a double boiler and cooled slightly
- Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil while stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Continue to boil until the syrup reaches a temperature of 240 degrees F.
- While the syrup is boiling, beat the yolks with a wire whip or the whip attachment of a mixer until they are thick and light in color.
- As soon as the syrup reaches 240 F, pour it very slowly in a thin stream down the side of the mixing bowl into the beaten yolks while whipping constantly.
- Beat in the peppermint extract and melted chocolate.
- Continue to beat until the mixture is completely cool and the mixture is very thick and light.
- Whip in the butter a lump at a time. Add it as fast as it can be absorbed by the mixture.
- If the icing is too soft, refrigerate it until it is firm enough to spread.