Last month, Paul and I faced a huge culinary challenge: we held a surprise party for my in-laws to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary and both their 60th birthdays, which fall this year. We hosted nearly 40 family members and friends in our new house, and we catered it ourselves. My shining contribution was my first half-sheet cake- a delicious 3 layer sponge filled with chocolate and vanilla pastry cream, rum syrup, and bathed in whipped cream.
MaryAnne's Sponge Cake
You will need:
8 large eggs, separated
sugar 2/3 cup and 1/3 cup, separated
2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbs warm water
1 cup + 2 Tbs sifted all purpose flour.
1/2 cup + 1 Tbs cornstarch.
1 Tsp cream of tartar
3 9' cake pans, buttered with parchment paper.
Preheat oven to 325
Sift flour and cornstarch together and set aside.
In an electric mixer, beat yolks and 2/3 c sugar on high for 5 minutes until ribbons form. Lower speed and beat in vanilla and water. Increase speed to high for 30 seconds. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in 1/3 c sugar until stiff peaks form. Add 1/3 of the white to yolk mixture and fold in. Gently fold in remaining whites. Sprinkle flour mixture on top and gently fold in until combined.
Bake 25 minutes, cool on wire rack. When cool, trim crust.
MaryAnne's Pastry Cream
½ Gallon Milk
16 oz sugar, separated into 8 oz and 8 oz
8 egg yolks
4 whole eggs
10 to 11 oz cornstarch
4 oz butter
2 Tbs vanilla
4 oz semi sweet chocolate, melted
In a heavy pot, dissolve 8 oz sugar in the milk and bring just to a boil. In a bowl, beat egg yolks and eggs until combined. Sift remaining 8 oz of sugar and cornstarch into the eggs and whip until perfectly smooth. Temper the eggs- while whisking, slowly pour the hot milk into the eggs in a thin stream. Return the egg and milk mixture to the pot, place on the heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. When it comes to a boil and thickens, remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla until dissolved. Pour half the cream into a bowl and cover with parchment or buttered waxed paper to avoid a film forming. This is the vanilla pastry cream. Add the melted chocolate to the remaining cream, stir until combined. Place in a bowl and cover accordingly. Chill both for at least 4 hours.
Rum Simple Syrup
In a saucepan over medium- high heat, combine 4 cups sugar and 4 cups water. Let come to a boil, let cool, stir in 1 1/2 cups dark rum. Refrigerate in an airtight container. Use leftovers for cocktails.
Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting:
2 c whipping cream
1/4 to 1/2 c powdered sugar
1 Tbs vanilla
2-3 marshmallows, melted
Combine whipping cream, sugar and vanilla in an electric mixer. Melt marshmallows in the microwave and add to the cream while whipping (you can also use gelatin; this is more fun). However, lower the bowl to add the melted marshmallows, because maybe, just maybe, the marshmallows might cling to the top of the mixer attachment and wind itself around the place where you attach stuff to the mixer. And make a big mess that makes you want to throw it away and buy a new one. Maybe. Frost and pipe as desired.
To assemble: place bottom layer of cake, sprinkle generously with syrup. Spread on chocolate pastry cream. place middle layer, sprinkle with syrup, spread vanilla cream. Final layer, syrup, frost. decorate. eat.