An epic cake

On Sunday, I set out on an adventure. Scratch that. I set out on it last Thursday watching countless YouTube and eHow videos. You see, folks– I did something that many young brides do. It’s called biting off more than chew.

But… I’m not most young brides.

I’m stubborn. I’m stubborn like my Gran– and if you know my Gran, you know that’s some serious stubborn. It’s also called “stick-to-it-tive-ness” in kinder circles– but I don’t run in those 😉

I learned lots of things from the videos and other things from trial and error. My husband also learned a few things: 1. a chef needs to eat or else she gets cranky, 2. a pep talk goes a long way, and 3. to keep thanking the chef for the tasty creation profusely so that even though on Sunday she swore she’d never make it again, she might. Maybe.

This thing took 7-8 hours total. I took a break to go to church. Brian didn’t get to taste it until 10:30pm, but he assures me that it was worth it.

I took photos along to way, so you get to share in the adventure…

The icing was Ginger Buttercream Icing. I had to peel ginger root, which really looks like something used in voodoo, and then grate it. Both of these steps required research.

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Then, the recipe called for 10 egg whites (research) and 8 sticks of butter. It’s a lot of butter…

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I, then, had to cook the egg whites and sugar to a specific temperature over a double boiler (thank you, Brian),  before about 20 minutes in the Kitchenaid mixer.

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The icing took about an hour and a half from start to finish. I was exhausted, but at that point, I only had icing. Must keep going…

There were some interesting steps for the cake batter as well. I had to core and grate 10 pears, and then squeeze them through cheesecloth…

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…toast and chop pistachios…

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…burn– I mean brown– butter…

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…and then bake it in three pans.

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And then there were the pear chips. It was a lot of work for a topping– but man, those chips were delicious!

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And several hours later, I got to show off my final product.

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I felt pretty accomplished, until we realized there were some unforeseen issues: 1. the cake is so rich and dense that one can’t eat more than a couple of bites at a time, and 2. two people cannot eat this entire cake!

Solution: share. That’s been fun 🙂

Recipe from Garden & Gun: 

Brown Sugar, Pear & Pistachio Cake with 
Ginger Buttercream Frosting and Oven-Dried Pear Chips

Ingredients (Serves 12)
CAKE:
4 sticks butter
2 lbs. (6–8) winter pears, or unripe Bosc or Bartlett pears, scrubbed clean
6 large eggs
3 cups brown sugar
3 tsp. baking soda
1½ tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
3 tsp. vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 lb. (3 cups) toasted pistachios, roughly chopped

GINGER BUTTERCREAM FROSTING: 
1 cup egg whites, about 10 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
½ tsp. kosher salt
8 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cut into 2-inch chunks
4 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
2 tbsp. powdered ginger

OVEN-DRIED PEAR CHIPS:
¾ cup pear juice (or water)
¾ cup sugar
Juice from half a lemon
3 very pretty, symmetrical winter 
(or Bosc or Bartlett) pears

Preparation
CAKE: Adjust oven rack to center. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three 8-inch round cake pans with parchment, then lightly butter and flour.

In a small lightly colored saucepan, melt butter over low heat. When it has completely liquefied, turn heat to medium to brown the butter. It will bubble, and brown bits will form on the bottom of the pan. When the sputtering stops, strain butter through cheesecloth, and set aside to cool. You should have 1½ cups.

Core the pears, leaving the peel on, and shred using the large side of a box grater or the medium-size grating attachment on a food processor. Gather shredded fruit into a triple thickness of cheesecloth or a thin cotton dish towel, and squeeze the liquid from the pears, capturing ¾ cup of pear juice (for the pear chip recipe).

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg at medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Then drizzle in brown butter and add vanilla. Add flour, and stir until just incorporated. Stir in shredded pear and pistachios gently. Divide the batter evenly among the three pans.

Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until the cakes have puffed and are lightly browned. Remove to a rack and let cool entirely before peeling away the parchment paper.

To assemble the cake, generously spread buttercream frosting between layers before stacking. Frost the sides and top once with a thin “crumb coat.” Chill cake for 30 minutes, then frost sides and top again with a thick layer. Chill well. Decorate with pear chips.

Make Ahead:
GINGER BUTTERCREAM FROSTING: Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl. Set it over a pan of barely simmering water. Whisk the mixture gently until it warms to between 145 and 150 degrees. Remove from heat. Using a mixer, beat on medium-high speed until the egg whites double in volume and turn snowy white and the bowl is completely cool, about 10–15 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and add in butter, one chunk at a time, giving each addition several seconds to incorporate. (You’ll see the meringue deflate during the first few additions.) Add in vanilla and both gingers, and continue whipping until evenly incorporated. Store in the refrigerator up to one week. Whip again before frosting.

OVEN-DRIED PEAR CHIPS: Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. Combine pear juice (or water) and sugar in a small saucepan, and cook over medium heat until sugar has dissolved. Stir in lemon juice. With a sharp knife or a mandoline, slice both sides of the pears vertically into ¹⁄8-inch-thick chips, placing each slice into the syrup as soon as it’s cut. Let slices stand for ten minutes. Remove each slice, letting the excess syrup drip back into the pot, and transfer to the baking sheet. Bake until the slices feel very dry, about 1½ hours, turning them over midway.

A full weekend

Yesterday I turned 35 years old.

That’s a little scary. As a white male living in Texas the latest life expectancy estimate for me is ~77 years old. So, I’m almost halfway there. Yikes.

This weekend has been fun and full. So much has happened in the last 3 days that I want to talk about, but there is no way to cover all of it in the depth that I want to. So tonight I’m just going to post some short summaries. I may get back to some of them later this week.

So, here’s what happened:

  • Friday night we had a happy hour for my birthday with our friends from church. It was awesome. Our friends from WDP and MDP were there, our community group was there, and it was just a great time of hanging out with people we love. We stayed for 5 hours
  • Saturday morning I awoke to my 35th birthday. My wife made biscuits and gravy from scratch, and had a great gift for me, a “southern gentleman” basket with cool grooming accessories I need/want, homemade(!) blueberry bourbon, and other goodies. It was the best way to start my day
  • Saturday from 9am-5pm we went to a Saturday seminar for our Development programs. Jeff Vanderstelt from Soma Communities in Tacoma, WA taught us all day and I was blown away. It was genuinely moving, and a life-altering day for us. When we got home we talked about what we learned for over two hours. It was an invaluable day

Cake

  • Today Lindsey made an amazing Pistachio Pear Brown Sugar Cake for me. It was simply amazing. It was complicated, with many steps and potential pitfalls. She outdid herself, it’s literally the best cake I’ve ever had. I hope she posts about it later this week
  • Today is also the 12th anniversary of the plane crash that killed 10 team members and staff from the Oklahoma State basketball team. I was a senior at OSU at the time and I can truly say that I will never forget where I was when I heard about it, or the days and weeks that followed. It is one of the formative events of my life. So, I will close out the blog by doing what I have done on this day every year since January 27th, 2001, and pause to Remember the Ten. God bless them, and the families, friends and teammates they left behind

Remember

Happy Birthday, Brian!

What. A. Day.

It all began early this morning, when I got up to make breakfast. It had to be early– we both had an all day retreat to get to and a friend to pick up on the way. The Pioneer Woman taught me to make biscuits and gravy— Brian’s favorite. While I was whipping that up, I put out Brian’s birthday basket and cedar shoe valet. I also got my phone ready to play The Beatles “Birthday” when Brian came downstairs. I was having a blast jumping from the oven to the stove to the french press to setting the table. I was giddy for him to come downstairs and enjoy the fun.

Brian's birthday basket included homemade blueberry infused bourbon, simple syrup, a shoe shine kit, a monogrammed mint julep cup, and specialty beard oil-- I thought it had a "southern gentleman" feel :)

Brian’s birthday basket included homemade blueberry infused bourbon, simple syrup, a shoe shine kit, a monogrammed mint julep cup, and specialty beard oil– I thought it had a “southern gentleman” feel 🙂

Breakfast was fun, but fast! Brian enjoyed the food and coffee (my first gravy ever!), and we laughed and chatted as we got ready to leave.

Today’s retreat was all about Gospel Fluency and living that out. It was incredible. During the morning session breaks, I would run up to Brian and word vomit everything I was connecting with and convicted of from the first session. We both planned on napping when we got home, but the conversation that started in the car as we processed what we learned kept going when we entered the house. We talked for a couple of hours– confessing and sharing and marveling. During this, we did make mint juleps with the infused bourbon in Brian’s birthday gift and sipped as we talked– yum!

This is the bourbon I infused and a peek at the process

This is the bourbon I infused and a peek at the process

Brian wouldn’t let me do any housework on his birthday, so we read our novels together until it was time to leave for the movie. We saw ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ at Alamo. It was a looooooong movie, but very good. Brian liked it more than I did, but I was also freezing cold in the theater and nodding off during the very long, slow middle of the movie. In my defense, we went to a 9:40pm showing.

It was an awesome day– the first time I’ve been able to spoil my husband on his special day. I look forward to spoiling him over and over for the rest of our lives. Today was great– and I’m sure we’ll be sharing more of what we learned about at the retreat in an upcoming post.

Happy Birthday, Brian!!! I love you!!!