Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fancy Cake For Practice

After making so many cookies, I got very comfortable with royal icing and the piping bags and the whole routine of it.  I was asked to make a cake (or three) for my office and realized I was way out of practice in just CAKES: my first love. So I set out to make a tester just to get back in the groove.

I chose the Joy of Cooking's basic white cake because I'm always eager to try staples that have withstood the test of time.  I was also very eager to try out a few new bits and bobs as recommended by the cake queen, Rose Levy Beranbaum.  That lady is amazing. I'm talking so meticulous and exact, I read The Cake Bible with my jaw gaping. How to open and close the oven door?? (She says GENTLY so as not to force too much of the heated air out).  In awe of her.  SO. I got to try out, 1. Evenbake Cake Strips and Baker's Joy flour spray.  I used the spray on both layers (and a parchment round on the bottom just to be safe) then the cake strip on #1 and no cake strip on #2.  Take a look:

IT WORKS! So beautifully!  Look how even and golden #1 - the cake stripped layer - is! And the other, same cooking time AND in the back of my oven which is traditionally cooler, is darker and has a round center.  I will never EVER bake without cake strips again. Wonderful!  (And the layers slipped right out of the pans with the flour spray so a win on both new experiments!)

So I was basically playing around with decorating and trying to make it fancy schmancy.  I piped the border of buttercream around the inside edge of each layer then filled with a basic strawberry filling (because I felt like it).  Did the crumb coat and smoothed all the lines, etc, etc.  When I went to pipe the decoration though? woo boy. Rough.  Buttercream is most certainly NOT as agreeable as royal icing. Sure, it tastes better but it's just ornery! Go where I want you to, buttercream!!

And, for my own amusement, when we went to cut into it, I tried a new cut technique that I saw in a cake magazine so we got rectangle cuts from a round cake. Like wedding cake pieces! I just thought they were darling (and had a hankering for some white wedding cake).  Just cut all the way across, off center (however long you want a piece) then start cutting perpendicular from that line! Kinda want to do all my round cakes this way now.  No skinny triangle edge! All even square!

The recipe was pretty good but not going in my favorites box. It was dense but not heavy and was a solid, vanilla cake. The family liked it but I'll keep looking for the perfect white cake...

The Joy of Cooking

3 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 2/3 cups sugar + 1/3 cup
8 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 375 F. Have all ingredients at room temperature.  Grease and flour two 8 x 2-inch or 9 x 2-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Whisk together first three dry ingredients thoroughly in a medium bowl.  Combine milk, vanilla and almond extract in a separate bowl or liquid measuring cup.

Beat butter in a large bowl until creamy.  Gradually add 1 2/3 cups sugar and beat until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.  On low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the milk mixture in 2 parts, beating until smooth.  Using clean beaters, beat egg whites and cream of tartar in another large bowl on medium speed until soft peaks form.  Gradually add 1/3 cup sugar, beating on high speed.  Beat until stiff but not dry.  Use a rubber spatula to fold one-quarter of the egg whites into the batter, then fold in remaining whites.  Divide the batter among the pans and spread evenly.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25-35 minutes.  Cool and remove from the pan.  Spread the cake when cool with your choice of icing.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream Icing

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 - 2 Tbsp whole milk
1 vanilla bean

In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.

Add vanilla, vanilla bean and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

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