My favorite birthday cake is Vienna Torte–a recipe from my grandmother. It’s a chiffon cake with a custard frosting. My mom always made it for my birthday, and I started making it after Ted and I were married.
I never have trouble making a great chiffon cake, but it’s always a challenge to achieve the right texture for the custard frosting. Grandma’s Vienna Torte frosting recipe tells me to cool the custard and then to “add powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla.” That’s what Mom did and that’s what I’ve done every time I made the cake. A few times, it has turned out perfectly; most of the time, the custard is runny instead of fluffy. It firms up in the refrigerator and tastes fine, but its unpredictable consistency is frustrating.
This year, I decided to see if Google had any ideas related to custard frostings. I searched “frosting recipes with custard and butter and powdered sugar” and–surprise!–found several. They weren’t exactly like Grandma’s, but I found four that required cooking a custard, letting it cool, and then combining it with butter and powdered sugar. Each of the online recipes, however, directed me to first whip the butter; then to whip it with the powdered sugar; and then to add the custard to the butter/powdered sugar mixture and whip it. I have always done the opposite: added the other ingredients to the custard.
Using Grandma’s recipe and following the online whipping directions produced a perfect custard frosting! Maybe that’s what Grandma did all along and she just didn’t write it down for herself and/or future generations. After all these years, I can finally make stress-free Vienna Torte for my birthday.
I have to go now so I can do my happy dance.