You may be familiar with Warren Brown from reruns of his show Sugar Rush on the Food Network, or perhaps if you’re lucky enough to reside in D.C. you might have had the pleasure of sampling some of his creations and original recipes at one of his highly regarded CakeLove bakeries. For those of us living outside of personal shopping distance you’re in luck as Warren has recently released a gorgeous cookbook dedicated to the art of making some of his most popular CakeLove recipes.
I don’t use the term “art” loosely. These cake are involved masterpieces. Don’t be lulled into complacency by the brightly colored layout and upbeat color schemes. The pages of this book may be designed to imply simplicity and ease but in reality this cookbook is more boot camp than day camp. Ok…so the boot camp might be run by Vin Diesel’s character in The Disney movie The Pacifier, and not a four star general, but these recipes still mean business and attention to detail is key.
Fortunately, Brown gives you all of the tools to succeed including very detailed recipe instructions, step-by-step images when appropriate, and helpful tips and tricks. But in the end it’s all up to you. Thanks to jaw dropping photography and tantalizing recipe options like Stout Pound Cake with Roasted Pecans, Tres Leches Butter Cake, and Hazelnut Spice Sponge Cake your body will no doubt go into pure craving mode, and the ambition to taste one of these fanciful creations will give you all the motivation you’ll need to power through the recipe.
After examining the cookbook I decided to attempt the decidedly Summer appropriate Mojito Pound Cake. To answer your burning question, yes, it really does taste like a Mojito! Actually it tastes like a great Mojito, not one of those ghastly drinks you get from a hurried bartender because they think you’re a jerk for ordering one in the middle of a rush, but a carefully made, simple syrup, and mint muddled Mojito that makes you sit back and say, “Ahhhhh…”
In all seriousness though, I can’t believe I made this cake and I definitely couldn’t have done it without this amazingly thorough text. There’s nothing semi-homemade about these recipes. They’re all butter, flour, cream, and eggs through and through. Sure they take a little more time and effort but the quality and taste of a cake made from scratch isn’t even in the same league as your basic boxed Betty Crocker.
Mojito Pound Cake with Rum-Flavored Italian Meringue Buttercream (Based on the recipe originally published in CakeLove: How to Bake Cakes from Scratch by Warren Brown)
2 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 whole cloves (ground into a fine powder)
1/3 cup oven dried mint crumbled
2/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup half-and-half
3 tablespoons dark rum
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon molasses
1 teaspoon limoncello
1 lime outer rind removed and segmented
2 sticks room temperature unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups extra-fine granulated sugar
2 teaspoons lime zest
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
Note: The actual recipe, including notes is three pages long. Below is my condensed version.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Incorporated all of the dry ingredients into a bowl, whisk briefly, and set aside. Incorporate all of the liquid ingredients into a bowl, whisk briefly, and set aside. Measure the butter, sugar, eggs, and yolks into separate bowls and set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment) cream together the butter, sugar, and lime zest on the lowest setting for 4 to 5 minutes.
With the mixer still on the lowest speed, add the eggs one at a time followed by the yolks, fully incorporating after each addition.
Add the dry ingredient mixture, alternating with the liquid mixture in 3 to 5 additions each, beginning and ending with the dry mixture. Move swiftly through this step to avoid overworking the batter. Don’t wait for the dry or liquid mixtures to be fully incorporated before adding the next. This step should take a total of about 60 seconds.
Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl (don’t miss the clumps of ingredients hiding on the bottom of the bowl). Mix on medium speed for 15 to 20 seconds to develop the batters structure.
Prepare the cake pans. For 9-inch-round cakes, line the bottom of each pan with parchment. Note: The recipe says not to spray the pans with cooking spray, but I did. I wasn’t willing to take any chances on this cake sticking to the pan. Deposit the batter evenly into the pans and smooth out with an offset spatula, making sure the pans are two-thirds full. Bake for approximately 30 minutes. Note: My cakes took about 35 minutes.
Remove the pans from the oven and cool to room temperature on a wire rack, about 25 to 30 minutes before removing from the pan. Loosen the cake gently from the pan with a small offset spatula and invert onto a flat surface. Remove the parchment from the bottom of each cake and wrap the layers tightly in plastic. You can refrigerate the layers overnight or up to 5 days before frosting. Note: I’m very impatient and only left my layers in the fridge for 2 hours. It seemed to work fine for me!
Rum-Flavored Italian Meringue Buttercream
5 egg whites
1 1/4 cups extra-fine granulated sugar
1/4 cup cold water
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter
2 to 4 tablespoons of dark rum (to taste)
Set out the ingredients and the equipment.
Separate the egg whites into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the wire whip attachment. Measure 1 cup sugar and the water into a 1-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Gently stir with the candy thermometer to combine. Place the remaining 1/4 cup sugar into a small bowl and set aside. Cut the butter into tablespoon sized pieces and set aside in a medium bowl.
To make the sugar syrup, place the candy thermometer in the saucepan and heat the mixture over medium-high heat. Partially cover with a lid to capture the evaporating water-this helps to moisten the sides of the saucepan to prevent sugar crystals from forming.
With the mixer on high speed, begin whipping the egg whites to stiff peaks. When the peaks are stiff you have a meringue. Keep the mixer running and pour the 1/4 cup of sugar into the meringue.
Raise the heat under the sugar syrup to bring the syrup to 245 degrees, if it is not there already. When the syrup is at 245 degrees, remove the thermometer and slowly pour the syrup into the meringue.
After 1 or 2 minutes reduce the mixer speed to medium for 3 or 4 minutes, or until the meringue is cooled. Add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Increase the mixer speed to high for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the butter is fully incorporated. Finally add in the dark rum and spread onto your pound cake. Decorate as desired. Note: I used fresh mint and Turbinado sugar.