“I swim in the sky; I float; my body is full of flowers, flowers with fingers giving me acute, acute caresses, sparks, jewels, quivers of joy, dizziness, such dizziness.” - Anais Nin
Well, it looks like butter and brioche is a finalist in the ‘Best Baking and Sweets’ category for the 2016 Saveur Blog Awards! It feels so strange to say that. It’s been two relatively short years since I first started blogging. And I honestly did not expect this at all. These kind of dream-like ecstasies do not occur often enough. But when they do, the feeling is yet to be rivalled.
I received the email from Saveur (with probably the best subject line ever…‘Congratulations: You’re a SAVEUR Blog Awards Finalist’) a few weeks prior to the announcement and I honestly couldn't believe it…I had to check myself and gather my thoughts a few times before I accepted it. And then I read it, and re-read, and read it through again. And could not contain my excitement. It feels so incredibly surreal to be nominated among some of the best.
It’s funny how things can take you by complete surprise, yet be so crystal and convincingly clear. Like certain things were meant to happen. A kind of manifestation. I can look back and see that everything that occurred in the past was for this present, and aligned in exact, perfect order.
The growth of the blog has not been a chronological one, but a journey spurred by dimension. Esoteric, uneven, never static. Parts, sums and moments - made up and combined into a constellation, called this life. I’m totally grateful to have created this space, and made a new world to thrive, and flourish. A world that’s far from the ordinary, and far from suffocation.
It was really hard to keep the news quiet. This swelling of happiness and enthusiasm, soon to overflow. A quickened rising of blood, so dizzied and flared. So, I channelled all the energy and made a celebratory cake for the occasion. A Golden Butter Cake with Pink Sea Salt Caramel and Honeycomb. It’s a delicious intoxication - three thick layers of rich butter cake are coated in a pink himalayan sea salted caramel buttercream and topped with a thick layer of dark chocolate drizzle and adorned by shards of honeycomb. It’s such a pretty cake, both in appearance and taste.
The Saveurnomination really means a great deal and I thank everybody that took the time to vote for me as a finalist. This cake’s for you. And I really wish I could share a slice of it all with you all! I’ve included the link hereso you can have a browse at the other incredibly talented bloggers that were shortlisted as finalists. It’s an honour to be included among them. And here, and in my sidebar, you can vote for your personal favourite.
Golden Butter Cake with Pink Sea Salt Caramel and Honeycomb
For the cake:
230 grams (8.1 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, 400 grams (14.1 ounces) granulated sugar, 380 grams (13.4 ounces) cake flour, sifted, 3 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, 3 large eggs, at room temperature, 3 large egg whites at room temperature, 1 tablespoon vanilla bean extract, 310 grams (11 fluid ounces) whole milk, at room temperature
Pre-heat the oven to 180 C (350 F). Grease and line 3 x 15 cm (6 inch) cake pans with parchment paper. Set them aside.
Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment. Cream, on medium speed, until light and fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed.
Meanwhile, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl until the ingredients are evenly combined. Set the bowl aside.
In a medium sized mixing jug, lightly whisk together the whole eggs and egg whites until evenly combined.
Set the mixer speed to medium-low. Pour the eggs into the beating butter mixture, a little bit at a time, until well combined. Beat in the vanilla bean extract. Pause mixing to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl then set the mixer speed back to medium and beat the mixture until evenly combined.
Pour in a third of the milk into the beating mixture, beat to just combine then add in a third of the dry flour ingredients. Continue alternating additions until all of the milk and dry ingredients have been used. Make sure to finishing by adding the last third of the flour. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until well combined, 2 to 3 minutes.
Divide the cake batter between the prepared cake pans then use a rubber spatula to smooth out the tops. Bake, for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cakes are golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in their pans for 15 minutes, before turning out and onto a wire rack to let cool completely. Once cool, level off any domed tops with a large serrated knife or cake leveller then set the cakes aside for assembly.
For the buttercream:
300 grams (10.6 ounces) granulated sugar, 120 millilitres (4.2 fluid ounces) water, 60 grams (2.1 ounces) liquid glucose, 220 millilitres (7.8 fluid ounces) heavy cream, 275 grams (9.7 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean extract, 1 teaspoon fine pink Himalayan salt
Place the sugar, water and glucose in a medium sized heavy saucepan over medium low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar and glucose has dissolved. Brush down the sides of the saucepan with a clean pastry brush to avoid any crystallisation. Increase the heat to medium and continue to cook the sugar mixture until it becomes a dark-amber colour, about 190 - 195 C (375 - 385 F) on a candy thermometer.
Pour in the cream and carefully stir to deglaze and combine (be careful, the caramel will sputter and release a lot of heat initially). Stir until smooth then remove the saucepan from the heat and transfer the caramel into a medium bowl to cool to room temperature.
Once the caramel is at room temperature and is still a pourable consistency (if it has hardened you can warm it in the microwave for about 1 minute), place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment. Cream the butter on medium speed until it is light and fluffy, 4 minutes.
Pour the cooled caramel into the butter and beat to combine. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue mixing until very light, thick and creamy, 5 to 6 minutes. Beat in the vanilla bean extract and salt, to desired taste (I used 1 and 1/4 teaspoons). Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and set aside for assembly.
For the honeycomb:
150 grams (5.3 ounces) pure maple syrup, 270 grams (9.5 ounces) granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon baking soda, pinch of salt
Line a baking tray or deep baking dish with parchment paper. Set it aside.
Combine the maple syrup and sugar in a medium, heavy saucepan set over medium-high heat. Heat, stirring often, until the sugar has dissolved. Continue to heat the mixture, without stirring but swirling the pan occasionally, until the mixture comes to a rolling boil and turns a dark amber colour, about 5 to 7 minutes. It should read at about 150 C (300 F) on a candy thermometer.
Once the mixture is at temperature, remove the saucepan from the heat. Carefully whisk in the baking soda, until it has just combined. Immediately pour the mixture into the baking tray or dish, using the aid of a rubber spatula to help you. Do not smooth down the top of the mixture once it reaches the tray as it will deflate any air bubbles. Sprinkle the surface with a pinch of salt. Set the baking tray in a cool, dry place and let the honeycomb cool completely about 30 minutes, before breaking it apart into uneven chunks with your fingers.
For the drizzle:
200 grams (7 ounces) dark chocolate, finely chopped, 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
Place the dark chocolate and oil in a medium sized heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water set on low heat. Heat, stirring with a rubber spatula occasionally, until the chocolate is smooth and melted. Remove the bowl from the heat, and let the mixture come to room temperature, giving it an occasional stir, before using it to drizzle over the top of the cake.
When you are ready to assemble the cake, set the first cake layer cut side facing up, on a cake stand or plate. Use an offset spatula to evenly spread over a few tablespoons of the buttercream over the top. Gently press on the next cake layer, cut side facing down. Again, use the offset spatula to spread over a few tablespoons of the buttercream. Press on the final cake layer, cut side facing down. Spread a thin layer of the buttercream over the entire cake to crumb coat it then set the cake in the refrigerator so that the buttercream can completely harden, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Once the buttercream has hardened, spread a thick layer of the remaining buttercream over the cake in a smooth layer. Again, place the cake back in the refrigerator to set the buttercream, about an hour.
When the cake has completely set, pour the room temperature chocolate drizzle over the top of the cake, using a clean offset spatula to help spread it out so that it runs down the edges to form a ‘drippy’ effect. Immediately press on a few shards of the honeycomb onto the top of the cake.
Let the cake stand at room temperature or in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, before slicing and serving.
Buttercream adapted from Zumbo: Adriano Zumbo’s Fantastical Kitchen of Other-Worldly Delights, Honeycomb adapted from Food52