You may have tried and true, favorite cake recipes. But once you get the hang of the cake and the fillings, you can mix and match to make dynamic flavor combinations that are uniquely yours and suited to your mood or special event.
Two important criteria to consider when choosing a cake filling are the length of time the cake will be out of the refrigerator before serving and how the filling will pair with the flavor of the cake.
A cake that is to be on display for more than two hours, especially if it is going to be outside, should not have a pastry cream, curd, or whipped cream filling. These fillings are not shelf stable and also can cause the cake to lose its shape if the fillings become too warm. The ideal fillings for a wedding or special occasion cake that is to be on display are Italian and Swiss meringue buttercreams because both are stable and can sit at room temperature for several hours. Use pasteurized egg whites when making the buttercream if the cake will be on display for more than four hours.
Pairing different cake and filling flavors is yet another way to stretch your creativity and is based entirely on your own preferences. Explore new pairings with flavor combinations you might not have tried before. The following are a few guidelines and suggestions to help you get started:
More acidic fruit flavors, such as passion fruit and lemon, tend to pair best with a mild cake flavor, such as vanilla. Deep, strong flavors, such as mocha and caramel, hold their own beautifully when paired with rich, chocolate cake. While carrot cake is traditionally filled with cream cheese frosting, try adding additional flavors to the frosting, such as orange zest or grated fresh ginger.
Chocolate ganache is an elegant filling on its own, but the flavor can be dramatically changed by the addition of extracts, brewed espresso, or fruit purées. Steep the cream with flavorful ingredients before mixing the ganache, like chopped peanuts, coffee beans, whole spices.
Cheesecake batter of any flavor can be baked into layers approximately 1-inch thick and used as a substitute for a buttercream filling. Simply alternate layers of cake and cheesecake for a unique and delicious flavor and texture combination.
Try alternating different flavors of fillings throughout a cake in order to create an attractive cross section once the cake is sliced. For example, using three types of curds, such as lemon, raspberry, and blueberry, to fill a light vanilla or citrus cake will create a very impressive flavor and color combination.
Using Fresh Fruit in Fillings
Fresh, ripe fruit is the perfect expression of summer. Fresh berries are an excellent accompaniment to a citrus curd and work best with whipped cream and buttercream fillings because they do not contain as much water as other fruits, such as peaches. To successfully use sliced, moist fruit like peaches, allow both sides of the slices to dry on pieces of paper towel so that they are not too wet. The water in fruit and the fat in buttercream and whipped cream do not mix well. If the fruit is too wet, the cake layers might slide off of each other.
Use fruit that is ripe and in season for the maximum flavor. Avoid frozen fruit because they contain excess water and are more likely to damage the other fillings in your cake. If frozen fruit is all that is available, prepare a cooked fruit filling, such as one you might use for a pie, so that the excess water does not leach out of the fruit onto the other fillings. A classic example is whipped cream paired with a cooked cherry filling in a black forest cake.
Sweetened Whipped Cream
Whipped cream is quite bland on its own, but easily can be improved with the addition of sugar (granulated or confectioners’) and a flavoring, such as vanilla, espresso, and chocolate. To give the cream a sophisticated appearance, flavor it with vanilla paste that will dot the white cream with flecks of black vanilla seeds. Vanilla paste can be purchased online or at gourmet food stores. Use sweetened whipped cream to pipe onto a cake so that the decorations taste as delicious as the cake itself.
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