Funny thing about cake. Baking a cake is easy. Really. Frosting the cake may be a challenge, but once you have the gear, you can bake cakes pretty much whenever you want. All you need are a few cake pans and a mixer (if you don’t have a stand mixer, baking cakes is a good excuse to get one). Ingredients? If you have the basics like sugar, flour, baking powder, butter and eggs you can bake a cake. Easy.
Once you get the basics down, you can mix and match flavors, fillings and frostings to your heart’s delight. And the delight of others. “And I baked a cake”, is something people like to hear. Baking cakes, assuming you share them, is a good way to make friends and influence people. Such is the power of cake. And cakes serve a crowd, so they are a good excuse to have people over. (If you are gluten-free just eat the frosting and have an extra drink 😉 )
So what’s the catch? Well, it takes some time and planning to bake a cake, and frosting cakes is either something you love or hate to do. Carolyn likes baking and frosting cakes, so we are in luck. And one of the bonuses of summer grilling and smoking is that I am often out of the kitchen so Carolyn has plenty of space to bake without any
bumbling interference from me. Carolyn even has time to experiment. That is usually good news for us.
For this cake, our youngest son wanted “a cake that tasted like a hot fudge sundae”. So Carolyn combined a King Arthur Flour recipe for “Elegant White Cake” with a filling of chocolate ganache and a basic vanilla buttercream frosting. This cake is indeed white in color (no egg yolks), has a very fine texture (cake flour, not AP) and has the added bonus of almond extract that imparts a welcome marzipan-ish note. Real. Good. Cake. Elegant? Sure.
And the “elegant” cake worked very, very well with the chocolate ganache and buttercream. In fact, one of the treats was dipping the cake trimmings into the ganache and frosting (until Carolyn kicked us out of the kitchen so she could frost the cake). It may seem like a simple combination, but vanilla, dark chocolate and the touch of marzipan kept us coming back again and again. This cake disappeared quickly. Good thing it is so easy to bake another…
(Cake adapted from King Arthur Flour)
Notes Before You Start:
- The cake recipe makes enough batter for 3 8-inch rounds, 2 9-inch rounds or a 9×13 single layer cake. This recipe is for the 3 8-inch rounds. If baking 9-inch rounds, increase cooking time to 25-30 minutes. If baking the 9×13 cake, cook for about 35 minutes.
- If you don’t want to fill with chocolate ganache, just use the buttercream.
What You Get: Fine-grained white cake with a touch of almond flavor and then a big kick of chocolate. What else do you need?
What You Need: Cake pans and a stand mixer. You don’t have to use a mixer, but most modern recipes assume you will.
How Long? A couple of hours from start to finish, with 30-40 minutes of active time. Nothing here is hard, you just need patience and a bit of planning.
(Makes a layer cake of 3 8-inch rounds)
- 8 tablespoons (4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup (3 1/4 oz.) vegetable shortening
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 oz.) superfine or granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 5 large egg whites
- 2 3/4 cups (11 oz.) cake flour
- 1 cup (8 oz.) whole milk
- 5 1/3 tablespoons (2 5/8 oz.) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (2 oz.) vegetable shortening
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 4 to 5 cups (1 to 1 1/4 pounds) confectioners’ sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup (2 or 2 3/4 oz.) milk or cream
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 pound good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
- Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease, flour and/or line with parchment 3 8-inch cake pans.
- In the large bowl of your mixer, cream together the butter, shortening, baking powder, sugar, salt, vanilla and almond extract until fluffy and light, 4-5 minutes. Add the egg whites to the mixture one at a time, beating well after adding each egg white.
- Stir one-third of the flour into the creamed mixture, then half the milk, another third of the flour, the remaining milk and the rest of the flour. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl and mix until all the flour is incorporated.
- Pour the batter into the cake pans and bake for 23-26 minutes (or until a tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean). Remove the cakes from the oven and cool on a rack.
- When the cake is cool, trim the cake of rough edges and flatten the top if needed (save the trimmings for snacks). Line the edges of a cake stand (if you have one, otherwise use a plate) with strips of parchment. Place one of the cake layers on the stand. Spread half of the ganache on top of the cake and spread to the edges. Place the second cake on top and add the rest of the ganache. Then add the top layer and frost the sides and top of the cake with the buttercream. Remove the parchment paper from under the cake. Slice and serve.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, shortening and salt until fluffy. Add half of the confectioners’ sugar and beat until well blended. Add the vanilla and half the milk and beat until fluffy.
- Continue mixing in the sugar and milk, alternating each ingredient, until they ate completely incorporated and the frosting is light and fluffy.
- Place a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the cream and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, add the chocolate and swirl until the cream covers the chocolate. Let stand for 5 minutes.
- Slowly whisk the mixture until smooth then transfer into a clean bowl. Let cool, stirring frequently.
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