This is a cake for those who care enough to fuss.
Even better, it's a cake for those who want the object of their fussing to think that countless hours, hand cramps and a certain head-over-heels giddiness went into making such a Valentine's Day dessert. The truth -- shhhh -- is that it's not so difficult.
Ross Sveback of Afton created this cake, which he calls Shades of Love. Turning a simple layer cake into a showstopper is a natural outcome of his blog, "Elevating the Everyday" at www.RossSveback.com. He describes himself as a lifestyle expert and this cake clearly lends some style to a Valentine's meal, but also to any spring gathering where you want to make a splash.
Still, as with so many "aspirational" recipes, we wondered: Is this possible to make without the aid of a pâtissierie degree or fancy equipment? No question, it helps to know your way around the kitchen, and you do need an electric stand mixer. But the "wow" factor is based in a careful use of food coloring and the ability to squeeze frosting through a plastic bag. In other words, you can do this.
Before breaking an egg, though, read the recipe several times and map out a timeline. Here's why: The first step of the frosting needs to chill in the refrigerator overnight. Butter and cream cheese should be at room temperature. The cake layers are most easily frosted if they're chilled. The cake also benefits from a few hours in the refrigerator or a cool garage or porch before serving. So don't start the cake on Feb. 14.
Sveback's cake was inspired by the shaded or ombre (or gradation) colors from fashion trends. His frosting, however, comes straight from Grandma. It's a bit unusual, starting with mixing a simple syrup into beaten eggs and whites, chilling this until it separates, then discarding the foam. Sveback says his grandmother said this step, and using shortening, are the keys to a particularly silken buttercream.
Grandma knew what she was talking about. The frosting is creamy enough to be piped easily using only the proper tip and a plastic sandwich bag, which isn't always the case with stiffer mixtures.
Sveback, of course, uses a pastry bag, but we've explored several ways in which the home baker with basic kitchen supplies can replicate this look (see below).
Bottom line: This cake is well within reach of home bakers who want to dazzle their darlings on Valentine's Day. Just be prepared for those darlings to reach back.
Kim Ode • 612-673-7185