June 22, 2010

Music Themed 80th Birthday Cake (and IMBC Recipe)

My Great Uncle was a singer and has sang in choirs his entire life.  So, for his 80th birthday with family, I made him simple, 9" round cake:  White Almond Sour Cream (WASC) filled with fresh strawberries and Strawberry Italian Meringue Buttercream (IMBC) - Delish! (recipe is below).  The outside was covered in Vanilla/Almond IMBC, hand-piped black Color Flow/ Royal icing and finished off with a red fondant bow.

This was the 1st bow I have made with fondant and I was so proud of how good it looked.  Thank you Edna (www.DesignMeACake.com) for her wonderful tutorial that you can find HERE, Learn to Make Gumpaste/Fondant Bows.

IMBC is soft like whipped cream and doesn't crust at all.  I love using the upside down method to get tall, straight sides and sharp corners with:  I also do this with ganache and regular buttercream cakes too.  Put in the fridge to get firm (IMBC is just like butter - hard when cold, soft at room temperature), remove from fridge, flip the cake over then put back in the fridge until you are ready to decorate it.

During the entire decorating process, I kept sticking the cake in the fridge for a few minutes at a time to firm up.  Added the red, fondant ribbon around the bottom, put the cake back in the fridge, piped the "Happy", put in fridge, piped "Birthday", put in fridge...repeat, repeat, repeat until all the piping was complete.  I work a bit slow and I'm still learning how to do things using cakes for family and friends as opportunities to try new techniques.  Keeping the cake cold and firm, made it easier to remove any of the decorations if I messed up too.

I'm not very good at piping and take a very long time with each and every store and have to fix each stroke with a wet brush and toothpick.  I did try to pipe out the letters and music notes a few days prior in dark chocolate, but I didn't temper it correctly, and they had swirls all over them - toss!  I then tried pipping them in Wilton Color Flow over wax paper, but they cracked as I pealed them off - fail!  Conclusion, I HAD to pipe them directly onto the cake while holding my breath through each stroke and being super careful and very slowwwww - ay yay yay!

The cake was finished off with a red, fondant bow, a fondant #80 (MMF mixed with tylose done a few days prior to allow time to dry).  The decorated cake was stored in the fridge overnight so that it would be firm and stable for the long drive to my Great Uncle's 80th Birthday dinner.  Everyone loved the cake, especially the filling and every single slice of it was gone!  That's always great to see!  Happy Birthday Uncle!

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Below is the Italian Meringue Buttercream recipe.  One batch makes about 8 cups and was plenty enough to fill and cover a 9" round cake.  One batch will fit just right in a 5Qt Kitchen Aide stand mixer.  If you need to make more than 1 batch, you will need to make it in separate batch to avoid overflowing the mixer bowl.  Included are the weighted ingredient since I prefer to weigh each rather than to measure using a digital kitchen scale.

Recipe - IMBC (Whimsical Bakehouse)
Yield: 8 Cups

1/2 Cup Water (118g)
2-1/4 Cups Granulated Sugar (500g)
1 Cup Egg Whites (approximately 6-10 eggs, 236 g)
6 Sticks Unsalted Butter (1.5 lbs or 680g), cut into 1" pieces and at room temperature
1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract (or any other flavor preferred - I like using 1/2 Vanilla and 1/2 Almond)

In a saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil.  Using a clean, pastry brush, dip it into cold water and wash down any sugar crystals that form along the sides of the saucepan while you are waiting for the mixture to boil (any sugar crystal left behind will ruin and collapse the IMBC).  If you do not have a candy thermometer, as soon as the sugar comes to a boil, set a timer to 7 minutes and continue to let it boil.  If you do have a candy thermometer, you want the sugar mixture to boil until soft ball stage, 238°F.

Around the 5 minute mark that the sugar has been heating over the stove, whip on high speed, the egg whites in a stand mixer until they become stiff.  You should bet stiff peaks within 2 minutes or when the timer goes off for the sugar mixture.  With mixer still running on high, very slowly and carefully, pour the hot sugar syrup, in a slow, thin stream, down the side of the mixing bowl and into the egg whites. This step can take a few minutes.  Continue to beat on high until the bowl is cool to the touch (about 10-20 mins).  After the mixture is cool, and with the mixer still beating on high, add the butter, 1 piece at a time.  As soon as the buttercream begins to curdle and jump around inside the bowl, don't worry, reduce the speed to low, add the flavoring extract, and continue to beat the mixture on low until the buttercream gets past the curdled stage and becomes smooth, light and fluffy (it may about 10-20 minutes for it to come together).

IMBC can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days, in the fridge for a 1 week or in the freezer for a few months.  Let it come to room temperature before beating it back up fluffy again.

Strawberry Puree for Strawberry IMBC:
1/4 Cup fresh strawberries, diced
1 Teaspoon granulated sugar
1 Cup IMBC
Ina bowl, mix the sugar around with the diced strawberries, cover it with a lid or cling wrap, and let it sit in fridge for at least an 1 hour or overnight.  Next, blend the strawberry mixture in a blender, strain out the chunky pieces and seeds, and then fold the smooth strawberry puree, in with 1 cup of IMBC.  Spread between the cake layers and top with fresh strawberries....Enjoy!


  1. It looks beautiful - and nobody would know that was your first bow - excellant.
    Everything about the cake says "sharp - neat and so fresh looking"
    The filling sounds divine.

    Maxine :)

  2. Hello. I just found your blog and love it! Thank you for all the tips!
    I want to make the IMBC and have a question...how many grams in the butter stick you use?

    1. Hi Eliana - I missed that part. It's added to the recipe. 680 grams of unsalted butter.