Tickled Pink: Rose Levy Beranbaum's White Butter Cake with Raspberry Buttercream

When our friends Jim and Colleen generously offered to host a dinner party at their home to celebrate the retirement of one of Jim's colleagues, Tom and I were happy to lend a hand. Tom helped with wine selection and meat grilling and I handled desserts. I decided early on that I had to make salted caramel brownies because Jim's office participated in the Brownie Tasteoff of 2011 and I knew that they were fans. I also wanted to make a sheet cake and thought it would be nice to have something fruity -- so I decided on a white butter cake with raspberry buttercream.

The last time I made a sheet cake I turned to Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible, and I did the same this time. I baked a single half sheet layer of her white cake (made from egg whites, milk, vanilla, cake flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and softened butter; the method is exactly the same as for her yellow cakes, except that you use egg whites instead of egg yolks) and then cut it in half so that I would have two layers that were each 12 inches by 9 inches.

Beranbaum's "classic" buttercream is an Italian buttercream made in the standard fashion with hot sugar syrup; her "neoclassic" buttercream uses a hot mixture of sugar and corn syrup. The neoclassic recipe has the advantage of not requiring a candy thermometer because when the sugar and corn syrup comes to a full boil, it will be at the perfect temperature -- exactly 238 degrees. You beat egg yolks until light; add a mixture of sugar and corn syrup that has been brought to a roiling boil; beat until cool; and gradually add softened butter. To make raspberry buttercream, you simply incorporate raspberry puree at the end.

You make the raspberry puree from frozen raspberries. You thaw the berries in a strainer, pressing out the juice; boil the juice until reduced to 25% of its original volume; puree the drained fruit and put the puree through a sieve or food mill to remove all of the seeds; and then combine the strained puree with the concentrated juice, lemon juice, and sugar. Because this technique concentrates the fruit juices but doesn't cook the fruit at all, the puree is intensely flavored. Adding the raspberry puree into the buttercream created a pleasantly pink frosting. And a delicious one. Beranbaum describes her raspberry buttercream as having "the purest raspberry flavor of any frosting I have ever experienced," and I would have to agree.
I made the cake less than 24 hours before serving so I decided not to moisten the cake layers with sugar syrup before assembling. The buttercream was silky but held its shape well when piped. I thought the cake was beautiful although I'll admit that I didn't give any thought beforehand to the fact that the pink frosting might been seen as an odd choice for a man's retirement party.

I loved this cake. The cake was very fine textured and delicate; I thought it was better than the yellow cake. But my favorite part was definitely the frosting. I could eat a tub of it with a spoon. It was so smooth and silky and bursting with clear, luscious raspberry flavor. I think this pink cake would befit any celebration.

Recipes: "Base Formula for White Butter Cake," "Neoclassic Buttercream (Classic Raspberry Variation)," and "Raspberry Puree and Sauce" from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum.

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