Happy Sunday! I'm on vacation this week so I thought, with no cake to share, I would share another part of Caking...the filling! You can let your imagination fly when it comes to what to put between your cake layers. In fact, you can mix it up from tier to tier even, using the same cake flavor and different fillings!
The cake pictured above is actually a "cake favor". These were packaged up and given as favors for those attending a baby shower. The Mom to Be chose yellow cake with lemon glaze for each guest. I have a 3 inch pan so it was easy enough to bake the mini cakes quickly and then boxed them up in favor boxes tied with ribbon. So you don't even "need" a filling if you don't want to use one!
Glazes are really easy to do. Primarily powdered sugar and milk or juice, a glaze goes together quickly and inexpensively and is almost impossible to mess up. Here is my favorite recipe for this lemon glaze that has real lemon zest in it.
LEMON ZEST GLAZE
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon zest
Just mix the ingredients all together with a fork and pour over the freshly baked cake! It makes about a cup and a half so just double or triple the recipe as needed. This will make more than enough for an 8 inch round 2 inch high cake.
Something I do every year is make jam. I just finished this batch of strawberry jam and will be making apricot jam next week. I try to keep fresh jam around for the entire year and have been known to make up new jars when I get an order for a cake with this filling. The one thing you have to be aware of is that jam is very sweet so you have to pair it with a cake that isn't so sweet. I love using my apricot jam to fill a dark chocolate cake. The more bitter dark chocolate along with the sweet apricot is a joy that has to be tasted to be believed...and once you do, you will be hooked! Here is my favorite jam recipe!
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 large lemon, zested and juiced
- 1 1/2 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
Combine the sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over very low heat for 10 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved. Add the strawberries and continue to cook over very low heat for 20 minutes, until the strawberries release some of their juices and the mixture boils slowly. Cook until a small amount of the juice gels on a very cold plate. (I keep one in the freezer.) This is at about 220 degrees on a candy thermometer. Pour carefully into 2 pint canning jars and either seal or keep refrigerated.
A note about making jam. I choose to not use pectin (a preservative) in my jams. I like the fact that my fillings are all natural. To do this, however, you must can them properly. There are a lot of canning sites online that will walk you through this process but here is an extra tip. Often you will be told to just put the jam into the jars and refrigerate it...that you don't need to "process" it. I always process mine. This means that after you put the jam into your jars you then put them into a "water bath" (heavy duty pan filled almost to the top with hot water...submerge the jars all the way or to the lips after putting the lids on) and let them boil for about 15 minutes until the cap "pops". This is when you know your jam is sealed from air and bacteria. If, for some reason, the lid doesn't pop you will want to use that jam immediately. Otherwise you can leave the unopened jars in your refrigerator for up to six months. Once you pop the seal make sure you use the jam within 3 weeks.
Lemon curd is another wonderful filling to use when incorporated into your buttercream for the filling. This is not a recipe I have been able to master so far, but I keep trying. Instead I usually purchase a particular jarred English lemon curd from my local tea shop for this filling. So don't feel badly if you don't make your own fillings fresh. I prefer to use fillings from scratch because I want to keep additives and preservatives out of my cakes but it is not always possible. Just be choosy when you do select which jams to use. Try not to use sugar free (which often has some sort of chemical sweetener in it), use seedless and read the labels to keep the artificial additives down to a minimum.
Last word on fillings. When you are getting ready to use a filling like a jam or preserves, and I'll explain the difference in a moment, you will want to make sure that you make a ring of stiff icing to act as a dam between your filling and the outside of your cake. Just mix a bit of extra powdered sugar into your buttercream and then put that into a piping bag without a tip. Go around the outside of your layer and make a complete solid ring. Then put the filling inside the ring.
So, in case you were wondering, preserves are big chunks of the fruit with very little "sauce" used. Jam is where the fruit has been crushed during the process and more "sauce" is included with the fruit into the jars. Jelly is all sauce with the fruit pieces strained from the sauce before it is placed into the jars. This turns out looking see through in the end.
I hope you will be inspired to make your own fillings but, if not, then maybe just think outside of the box when choosing fillings for your next cake project!