A few weeks ago I made a list of cakes I wanted to make, and when I showed it to my mother she chose this one for her birthday: olallieberry chocolate cake.
It was a brave cake. When I think of fruit I think of light cake. When I think of chocolate I also think of raspberries. Also, it would be the first cake I'd ever made without a lick of milk in it.
I made the buttercream a few days in advance. All would be well. It was the first time I adored--and I mean adored--the icing.
It's the eggwhites. When Kevin tasted the buttercream he said exactly what I had thought: it's light! and not at all too buttery. and I want more.
I don't know how using egg whites instead of egg yolks can be such a revolutionary thing, but it is. I don't know how two cups of butter could ever feel light, but it does. And I don't know why on earth I waited so long to try it.
But here we are. Meet my new favorite buttercream, aka Perfect Buttercream. I liked the basic recipe enough without flavor alterations that I licked it from the bowl (a lot) before I even added the ollalieberry puree. Also note that however perfect it is without additions, it is even more perfect with the puree. Tartness tempers, perhaps. And the freshness of the whole berries lifts the cake up out-of-the-ordinary and into summer sublime.
Olallieberry Chocolate CakeInspired by Stephanie's Oreo-Olallieberry Chocolate Layer Cake
For the buttercream:
Adapted from Julie Richardson's Vintage Cakes.
This buttercream will last a couple days at room temperature and up to seven days refrigerated. I'm not sure about freezing. Always re-whip before icing your cake if it's been waiting a bit of time.
Also, I left the sides bare on this one, but I would cover them next time. Even in the throes of summer, the buttercream was light enough to warrant such extravagance. If you do not ice the sides, you will have extra buttercream to use as you wish elsewhere.
6 large eggwhites
1 1/4 sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
generous 4 cups (about 12 ounces) whole ollalieberries (or blackberry or marionberry, if you must)
plus another 2 cups whole berries, uncrushed
Whisk together the eggwhites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand-mixer over a pan of simmering water. Cook until the eggwhites are very hot to the touch (about 130 degrees Fahrenheit). They will be gloppy and egg-whitey at first but will become smooth and more purely liquid/frothy as you whisk.
When ready, take the bowl off the pan and attach to your stand mixer.Whip the sweet white mix on medium-high until expanded and glossy and it holds stiff peaks (like meringue). Turn the mixer to low and stir until the bowl is just cool.
Turn the mixer back up to medium-high and add the butter cubes a bit at a time, scraping down the sides now and again. At some point the buttercream will become curdled and awful-looking. Do not despair. Keep going. This, like many things in life, is just a stage. It will all come together and smooth out with time and persistence.
When all the butter is incorporated and the buttercream is light and smooth and gorgeous, add the vanilla and salt. Then, a little at a time, whip in the berry puree. This also will prove challenging to incorporate, but just keep going, it will happen. Scrape down the sides of the bowl from time to time.
When all the puree is incorporated, rejoice! And finish your cake.
For the (chocolate, dairy-free) cake:
Adapted from David Lebovitz's recipe.
I used three pans for this, and it was fine, but I would definitely try two next time and split them in halves to make a four-tier cake instead. If you choose to do this, you might need more whole berries for the layers, and the baking time will be on the longer end of the range. Plan accordingly.
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup neutral-flavored oil
3 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup almond milk (I used a mixture of original and unsweetened, but I think the cake could handle fully original or even vanilla)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and grease three 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
Sift dry ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl and whisk to combine well.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, or by hand, beat together oil and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each.
Stir the vanilla into the almond milk. Add a third of the dry ingredients into the sugar mixture and mix on low until just combined. Add half of the milk mix and do the same. Continue with the rest of the flour and milk, alternating. Stop mixing as soon as the flour disappears.
Divide the batter evenly between cake pans and smooth the surface. Bake for 15-25 minutes, or until a skewer poked in the center comes out clean. Do not overbake.
Let cool five minutes in the pan, then run a knife around the edge to make sure it is not stuck. Turn out onto racks. Let cool completely before icing.
Level the top of each of the cake layers. If you baked two layers, not three, split them so you have four equal rounds.
Dollop a bit of buttercream on a cake board or round or plate and center the bottom of a round over it. This keeps the cake from slipping. Pipe a generous layer of buttercream onto the round (as showed) and then evenly space 1/3 of the whole berries over it, pressing the fruit into the buttercream.
Place the second layer flat bottom side up and repeat the process. Do the same with the third (and fourth, if you split two cakes).
Ice the top with buttercream (sides too, if so desired) and decorate with more berries. Enjoy!