Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Mango Kulfi Cake

Here it is – my mom’s birthday cake, which is based on my mango kulfi cupcakes but has been spruced up with the addition of saffron to the cake batter and pistachios between the layers and on top of the cake to make it taste even more like real mango kulfi.

Some of these photos are of the original cake, and some are of the corrected version that I made on Monday (the new cake has three rows of piped stars on the border as opposed to the one row of big stars on the original cake). I wish you could taste this – I am not a big dessert person but I absolutely love this cake and have to restrain myself from devouring the leftovers that are in my fridge.

Mango Kulfi Cake
(cake adapted from Cook's Illustrated, the rest is all me)
(serves 12)

For the cake:
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vodka, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups cake flour, plus 1-2 tablespoons for the pans
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground cardamom*
¼ teaspoon lightly crushed saffron threads
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
For the filling/decoration:
1/3 cup fresh green pistachios
Light green and gold luster dust (optional)
For the frosting:
4 egg whites
¾ cup sugar
3 sticks (24 tablespoons) butter, room temperature and cut into small cubes (4 per tablespoon)
¼ cup (4 tablespoons) Alphonso mango reduction***
* Freshly ground cardamom is more fragrant and flavorful than the pre-ground powder. If you use pre-ground, you may want to add an additional ¼ teaspoon.
** I made this by simmering 1 cup of Alphonso mango puree for about 25 minutes until it was reduced by ¼ of its original volume. Alphonso mango puree is available in cans in Indian grocery stores (Ratna is the best brand), and it gives this cake a distinctly Indian flavor. If you can’t find it, you can make your own mango puree from fresh mangos and then use that for the reduction, but the flavor will not be the same.
Make the cake:
Set an oven rack in the middle position. Heat the oven to 350º F. Spray the bottoms of two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray or lightly butter them. Line the bottoms with parchment rounds. Spray or butter the paper rounds and dust the pans with 1 tablespoon of flour each. Invert the pans and bang them out over the sink to remove excess flour.
Using a fork, mix the milk, egg whites, vodka, and vanilla extract in a bowl until well combined.
Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cardamom to the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl. Using your thumb and forefinger, crush the saffron threads over the bowl. Using the paddle attachment (if using a stand mixer), blend the dry ingredients at low speed for about 5 seconds. Add the butter and beat at low speed until the mixture resembles moist crumbs, about 1 ½ minutes.
Add all but ½ cup of the wet ingredients and mix at medium speed (6 on a stand mixer, or high speed with a handheld mixer) for 1 ½ minutes. Add the remaining mixture and beat for another 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for another 20 seconds.
Divide the batter between the two pans and spread it out to the walls and smooth out the tops. Bang the pans against the counter a few times to even out the batter.
Arrange the pans on the oven rack so that there is at least 3 inches of space around each pan (this allows for proper air circulation and even baking). Bake for 23-25 minutes; a toothpick should come out clean.
Let the cakes cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then invert them onto a plate and then onto a cooling rack. Let the cakes cool completely before frosting.
After the cakes are done, spread the pistachios on a baking sheet and bake them at 350º F for 3-4 minutes to lightly toast them.
When the nuts are cool, place them in a plastic bag and lightly crush them (I used the end of a rolling pin). Reserve 2 tablespoons of the crushed nuts for the top of the cake. (Optional: toss them with a small amount of green luster dust.)
Make the frosting:
Bring 2 inches of water to a boil in large pot. Reduce the heat so that the water is simmering.
Put the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Place this bowl on top of the pot of simmering water. Whisk the mixture for 1 ½ - 2 minutes – it will turn frothy and then white. (This is done to heat the egg whites and kill any bacteria that may be present and to dissolve the sugar.)
Transfer the bowl to a standing mixer. Using the whisk attachment, mix on high speed (10) until the whites are thick and glossy and the bowl is cool – this will take about 8 minutes.
Add the butter one piece at a time, waiting a few seconds between each addition. (The frosting may appear curdled when you have added about 2 sticks of butter, but ignore that and just keep adding the butter – it will get smooth again.)
Add the mango reduction and beat until fully incorporated. Reserve ½ cup of frosting in a piping bag.
Assemble the cake:
Using a serrated knife or cake trimmer, level the tops of the cakes. (This recipe produced a pretty flat cake – very little doming – so I didn’t have to cut too much off.)
Place one cake cut side down (bottom facing up) on a cake platter or serving plate. (Before doing this, put bill-sized pieces of foil or waxed paper around the edge of the plate, then put the cake on top – this will keep your serving plate clean.)
Spread ¾ cup of the frosting on the cake and spread it out evenly. Sprinkle the crushed pistachios onto the frosting.
Place the second cake, cut side down, on top of the frosted layer. Spread about ½ cup of frosting on top and spread it out in a very thin layer along the top and sides of the cake, using more if necessary. (This is called the crumb coat – it traps any crumbs that come loose from the cake so that the final layer of frosting is clean.)
Refrigerate the cake until the frosting is hard, about 30-40 minutes.
Spread the remaining frosting on the top and sides of the cake to form a smooth, even layer.
Using the reserved frosting, pipe stars onto the border of the cake. (On the first cake, I made just one row of large stars using an Ateco #825 tip. On the second cake, I made three rows of large, medium, and small stars with the #825, #21, and #17 tips.)
Sprinkle the reserved pistachios in a circle in the center of the cake. (Optional: sprinkle gold luster dust between the nuts and the border.)


Kathy said...


malini said...

I'm not too fond of sweets but this cake was an exception. It wasn't too sweet and the very different flavor and taste made me eat more than two pieces and still wanting to eat more!

Larry Espinoza said...

That looks great!

K8teebug said...

This looks so pretty!

You should go to the BMA this weekend, btw. And there's a really great Edward Hopper exhibit at the National Gallery right now too.

Anonymous said...

This cake looks fantastic and I hope to make it when my Bengali relatives visit for the holidays. I was just curious as to the purpose of egg whites in the frosting? I have never used egg in frosting before.

roopa said...

This frosting is a Swiss meringue buttercream frosting. The egg whites are gently heated to dissolve the sugar and kill any bacteria, and then they are whipped to create a meringue base for the frosting. Most people make buttercream frosting by simply mixing butter and confectioners sugar (called American buttercream), which is probably why this type of frosting is unfamiliar to you. Meringue buttercream frostings are much silkier and smoother than American buttercream and are the only kinds I use (unless I’m making cream cheese frosting).

Giddy Gastronome said...

I always appreciate cakes like this exquisite creation. People eat with their eyes first and I have already devoured this beauty just by looking and even if I was not invited! LOL!!
It is like a cake I made for one of my client's 30th birthday.


Anonymous said...

About the frosting...

Although I have never seen a meringue buttercream frosting here in the USA before, meringue frostings once were pretty common. My grandmother used nothing but homemade frostings on her cakes and when it came to her coconut cakes she always made what we call a "7 minute" frosting, which was made with egg whites and sugar and beat over a double boiler for 7 minutes. It had no butter in it, though. My grandma's family has lived in the South for about 250 years and this was handed down to her from many generations so I'm thinking the recipe originally came from England or somewhere in the British Isles.

Speaking of Southern recipes... you know how Red Velvet cake has a little cocoa but is not a true chocolate cake? Have you ever tried putting a little cocoa in this to see what it tastes like?

roopa said...

No, I've never put cocoa in this cake (nor do I want to - I don't think I'd like the combination of cardamom, chocolate, and mango), but if you ever try it out, let me know what it tastes like!

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