Otherwise known as Earl Grey Almond Cake with Blueberry Amaretto Filling, Iced with Browned Butter Cream
Tis the season for merriment and indulgence, I have little time between work this season so I am doing a marathon of merriment. Amongst the Christmas baking, Hannibal dinner parties “check it out on my Instagram page”, and Star Wars marathons I am doing test baking for my dear friends wedding cake. Kurtis and now Marry are amongst some of my most valued friends, Kurtis and I look through different scopes and have very different perspectives. This is what makes our friendship so awesome at least from my perspective, we inspire one another, push each other out of our comfort zones, and most importantly we learn from one another.
Here’s the point in which I leap into the land of tangents, where all things can be connected given a little patience and thought; I promise it all connects eventually. So one of the favorite pieces of artwork I have ever done was inspired by a conversation Kurtis and I had eight some odd years ago. The concept and meaning behind this artwork has evolved over the years all though it has always been loosely based on this conversation it took on new concepts as my life and in turn my thoughts did the the same. I gave this artwork to Kurtis and Marry as an engagement gift. As I was driving home for Christmas listening to Benjamin Walker’s theory of everything “a podcast that Kurtis turned me onto” the artwork took on one last meaning for me. It was an amazing experience that sent chills up my spine as I pictured the artwork in my mind while I pondered the idea I am about to share with you. I then began to think of the possible meanings it might take on for Kurtis and Marry; an overwhelmingly joyful experience to say the least. Perhaps the picture will not take on any meaning for them, after all not everyone’s mind works like mine and that is what makes our friend ship so great. Perhaps the picture will just be a weird memento of their good friend Ryan, which is just as beautiful.
Soooo…… here is the final meaning I received from the artwork. Philosopher Daniel Heller-Roazen in Benjamin Walkers Theory Of Everything podcast entitled guided by voices speaks of Pythagoras and the fifth hammer, which in la-mans terms is an analogy for the scientific and philosophical pursuit for harmony and our inability to handle the inevitable chaos in nature. Many scientists and philosophers fail and retreat when confronting chaos including Pythagoras and his self proclaimed reincarnate Kepler. I find this to be a shame and a common problem with the scientific method, science requires results and this problem is not easily solved and will not be solved until humanity reaches a point where we are not only capable of understanding the answer but ready to. How will we be ready if we retreat from the unknown? Amazing scientists such as Einstein that have braved the unknown and stayed true to the scientific method have advanced humanity with their discoveries in ways we never thought possible.
HMMMM….what a strange happenstance.
Kant in my opinion bridges the gap between scientific reasoning and creative thought. He faces the problem of the fifth hammer using the will, our perceptions are finite and limited but using reason he believes our mind can contemplate the infinite “the realm in which chaos resides”. For me this re-illustrates the need for creative thought in science as I ranted previously about in the Coconut Cream Pie recipe.
So how is all this tied together? Through my good friends Kurtis and Marry whom without I would not have made this cake, experienced one last moment with the artwork, or had the chance to share these thoughts with you. Ok I will sum this up and stop with the cerebral tantalizing; our perceptions are limited, but fortunately not enough to not be able to perceive the chaos and dis harmony in our universe. The problem is often the disharmony is infinite in nature, or at least appears to be. So how do we tackle this paradox using a method which shies away from the abstract and infinite? In my opinion using creative thought and reason the mind can contemplate these problems not necessarily solve but like I said earlier we will not be able to solve these problems until we are ready and capable of understanding them. How else can we advance humanity to a point in which we can understand them if we shy away? Understanding starts with contemplation.
On with the show!
Almond Sponge Cake
egg whites 360g
pastry flour 160g
powdered almonds 110g
earl grey tea 3g
orange zest 1 large orange
Browned Butter Swiss Butter cream
egg whites 125g
browned salted butter 100g
salted butter 355g
icing sugar 140g
ground almonds 225g
honey 1.5 tbs
lemon juice 1/4 tsp
Lets start with the Swiss butter cream. Start by softening your butter if it is really hard you can melt it slightly as long as it re solidifies before you add it to the meringue. To brown the butter heat over medium heat until you have a deep amber colour; strain the butter through a fine sieve and refrigerate until it re solidifies (it should still be soft). Place the egg whites and sugar over a double boiler and periodically whisk until the mixture reaches 138 degrees Fahrenheit. Whip on medium high speed until stiff peeks are formed. Add the softened butter a 1/4 cup at a time while whipping on high speed, waiting until it is incorporated before adding more. Cover with saran wrap and leave at room temp until needed.
For the blueberry amaretto filling place all the ingredients in a pot and bring to a simmer, cook for 45 minutes until the mixture has thickened to a jam consistency. Set aside to cool at room temp.
Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease and flower three 8” round cake pans. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Separate the whites and yolks, the yolks can be slowly added to the creamed mixture. Mix together all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Whip the egg whites and lemon juice on medium high speed, when they have reached very soft peeks slowly add the second portion of sugar while whipping, continue to whip until stiff peeks are formed. Fold 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture fallowed by 1/3 of the egg whites, continue this until everything is incorporated (do not over work the batter or it will deflate and you will end up with pound cake). Deposit the batter into the cake pan and bake for 30 minutes rotating after 15 minutes, the cakes should be evenly golden brown and a tooth pick should come out clean. Set on a cooling rack for a few hours before trimming and decorating.
I decorated the cake to look like a birch tree for my friends fall themed wedding. If you would like to decorate it the way I did you will also need to make some marzipan for the top of the cake. Mix together all of the dry ingredients, mix in the wet ingredients and knead until a smooth firm dough is formed (you may need to add a little extra icing sugar). Time to decorate the cake, start by using a bread knife to cut off the dome from each cake. Place a little dollop of icing down on your cake board place one of the circles on the board, pipe a ring of butter cream around the perimeter of the cake this will stop the filling from getting into your icing when you make your crumb coat. Spread a quarter centimeter thick layer of blueberry filling staying inside the butter cream ring. Repeat this until you have your three layer cake and then flat ice the cake with the Swiss butter cream, fallow this link to see an excellent video of Amanda Oakleaf explaining how to flat ice a cake.
To make it look like a birch tree use a spatula to feather the icing so that it looks like bark. Take a little bit of the icing and mix in some cocoa powder to make a dark brown icing; put a little icing on the end of a pointed knife and gently drag it through the icing to create varying lines, knot holes, and dots in the bark. Roll out the marzipan to be 2cm thick and cut out an 8 inch disk, place the marzipan on top and use a knife to create rings getting gradually smaller and closer together towards the center. Use food colouring (preferably powdered) to paint a slightly orange brown hue on the wood getting darker as you move towards the center of the tree.