Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

May 28, 2009 at 10:36 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, layer cakes, sweet things | 69 Comments

vanilla buttermilk cake with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream

Did you see the birthday cake I made a few weeks ago for my friend’s little tiger?  Well, I promised recipes, so now I am here to deliver.  Tiger’s mum, my friend C, wanted a basic vanilla-on-vanilla– something that both the kids and the other mums at the party would like– so I began my quest for the right cake and frosting. 

I have baked several fantastic cakes from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alicia Huntsman and Peter Wynne, and I really trust the recipes in the book.  I’ve seen the authors’ Vanilla Buttermilk Cake make appearances on countless other blogs, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.  This yellow cake is nice and moist, and has a great crumb that doesn’t fall apart when you level the layers or when you slice it up.  It’s definitely a multi-purpose vanilla cake– just as good for something simple and homey as it is for something dressed-up and fancy.

C had asked for a buttercream frosting, and since I wanted something snow white, I knew it had to be either Swiss or Italian meringue-based.  In the battle between the two, I generally side with the Swiss, only because no futzing with sugar syrups is required.  The recipe below is pretty standard…I like its particular proportions because it’s not too sweet, and it’s really easy to work with.  A basic Swiss meringue buttercream is the perfect canvas for making flavored frostings, if you are so inclined.  Switch up the extracts, add melted chocolate, add coconut flakes…I could go on.

Tiger’s birthday cake was a big triple layer 10-incher, so I scaled up the recipes below.  I overshot a bit, and wound up with enough extra batter and buttercream to make a two layer 6-inch cake for myself (oops, how’d that happen?!?).  I didn’t have quite enough leftover buttercream to fill the layers of my little cake, so I used lemon curd and some smooshed up raspberries in the middle.

vanilla buttermilk cake with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake- makes an 8-inch layer cake
adapted from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alicia Huntsman and Peter Wynne

4 whole large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 t vanilla extract
1 1/4 c buttermilk
3 c cake flour
2 c sugar
4 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
8 oz unsalted butter, room temperature

-Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter or spray the bottom and sides of three 8-inch cake pans.  Line with parchment rounds and grease.

-Place the eggs and the yolks in a medium bowl.  Add the vanilla and 1/4 cup of buttermilk.  Whisk well and set aside.

-Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a mixer; whisk to blend.  Add the remaining 1 cup of buttermilk and the butter to the dry ingredients and with the mixer on low speed, blend together.  Raise the mixer to medium speed and beat until light fluffy (about 2 minutes).

-Add the egg mixture in three additions, scrapping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Don’t overmix. 

-Divide the batter among the three pans.  Bake the cake layers for 28-32 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the cake layers cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Turn out the cakes onto a wire rack and remove the paper from the bottoms.  Cool completely before filling and frosting.

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream- makes about 6 cups
adapted from Martha Stewart

Note: Unless you like to go really heavy on the stuff, this is most likely more than you will need to fill and frost an 8-inch cake.  I always like to be on the safe side with buttercream, however, because finding you are stuck without quite enough is incredibly annoying.  Extra buttercream can be stored for a couple weeks and used to frost a half-batch of cupcakes.

1 c egg whites (from about 6 large eggs)
1 1/2 c sugar
pinch of salt
1 lb 4 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 t vanilla extract (or seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean)
squeeze of lemon juice

-Combine the egg whites, sugar and pinch of salt in a large metal bowl (I usually do this right in my stand mixer bowl).  Put the bowl over a pot of simmering water (double boiler-style), and whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved.  The mixture will feel hot to the touch.

-Transfer the hot mixture to your stand mixer and whip on high speed until it turns white and about doubles in size.  This will take about six minutes.  Beat in the vanilla and the lemon juice.

-Add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time, on medium speed, mixing after each addition.  Raise the speed and beat until smooth; this may take up to ten minutes.  The mixture may appear curdled along the way; this is normal.  Just keep beating and the mixture will become smooth again.

-Buttercream will keep, covered air-tight and refrigerated, for up to two weeks.  Bring to room temperature, then beat on low speed before using.

The Cake Slice: Mile-High Devil’s Food Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream

May 20, 2009 at 4:19 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, the cake slice | 34 Comments

mile-high devil's food cake

I liked this.  *sigh*  I liked this very much…but I’ve gone on before about my feelings for devil’s food cake.

Back when I cooked up Southern Coconut Cake, I found that I could bake half of an 8-inch cake recipe in a quarter sheet pan.  Here, I did just a third of the recipe in the same sized pan.  The slightly thinner layers made it more “kilometer-high” than “mile-high,” but trust me, I was quite satisfied with the altitude of this moist cake.  And the brown sugar buttercream?  Well, it is quite a luxury (and one best appreciated at room temperature).  It definitely takes this cake from childhood favorite to grown-up delight.

mile-high devil's food cake

Here’s a printable link to the recipe, courtesy of  Gigi Cakes.  Better yet, get your hands on a copy of Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alicia Huntsman and Peter Wynne.  This is now the eighth (actually ninth, but more on that later) cake I’ve made from the book, and I can’t recommend it highly enough!  Cruise through the list of The Cake Slice Bakers to check out all of our mile-high cakes this month.

Great Big Birthday Cake!

May 7, 2009 at 4:33 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, layer cakes, sweet things | 20 Comments

tiger's first birthday cake!

I spent most of this rainy afternoon decorating a birthday cake for a friend’s little guy.  A fun project, but glad it’s behind me.  Doing something like this just seems so much harder at home than at the bakery…not enough space, not enough bowls and, most importantly, no one to wash the dishes for me!  

It’s a simple vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream, but I’ll post recipes when I assemble a small cake I plan to make with the leftovers.  The tiger face was made with white chocolate, and was by far the part that made me most anxious!

Tuesdays with Dorie: Tiramisu Cake

May 5, 2009 at 3:21 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 48 Comments

tiramisu cake

Tiramisu may mean “pick-me-up,” but to me it’s more like “give-me-some,” so I had a smile on my face and a fork in my hand when I saw that Megan of My Baking Adventures chose Tiramisu Cake as this week’s TWD recipe.  I’ve made plenty of tiramisu at home– in fact, my version of it is the very first recipe that appeared on this little blog (although I don’t think anyone actually read it!).  This one’s a bit different, though…a re-interpretation of the classic dessert into a layer cake. 

Rather than ladyfingers, a yellow cake acts as the sponge for an espresso-liqueur syrup (Myer’s rum, in my case).  I like my tiramisu full of coffee and full of booze, and while this cake did have great flavor, I do think the layers could have been a bit more saturated with the syrup.  (If it looks fully soaked in the top photo that’s only because, when I put the cake away the night before, I brushed the exposed sides with a little extra syrup to keep them from drying out.)  I’ll try and figure that out if I make it again (which I probably will)…maybe poking the layers with a skewer before brushing on the syrup, or pouring the syrup into a pie plate and quickly dunking the layers would work? 

The frosting, part mascarpone and part whipped cream, was silky smooth and light as a feather.  Truly delicious, and easy to work with, too.  That smile on my face is still there, just thinking about it.

tiramisu cake

For the recipe, see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, or read My Baking Adventures.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll!

The Cake Slice: Chai Cake with Honey-Ginger Cream

April 20, 2009 at 2:23 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, the cake slice | 32 Comments

chai cake with honey-ginger cream

Oh my gosh– I made this cake weeks ago, but my heart still skips a beat looking at these pictures.  It’s not from sugar shock, either…it’s from love…true love!  Really, this cake will make you (and by “you” I mean me) forget that silly obsession with those achingly sweet iced chai latte thingies from Starbucks.    

I am so glad that The Cake Slice group voted to make this cake.  I’ve had my eye on it since I got my copy of  Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes, and the only disappointing thing about it was that I only made half a recipe!  The cake itself is made with chai tea-infused milk.  The flavor is delicate, and reminded me more of a well-balanced spice cake than of tea.

And the frosting…oh, the gloriously thick, honey-sweetened cream cheese frosting, dripping it’s way down the side of the cake.  Does it get much better?   Add a little Bollywood-inspired sparkle on top, and I think not.

chai cake with honey-ginger cream

Look for a printable link to the recipe, courtesy of  Gigi Cakes.  Better yet, get your hands on a copy of Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alicia Huntsman and Peter Wynne.  Don’t forget to cruise through the list of The Cake Slice Bakers– I guarantee that I’m not the only one who loved this cake!

The Cake Slice: Triple Lemon Chiffon Cake

March 20, 2009 at 3:12 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, the cake slice | 44 Comments

triple lemon chiffon cake

What’s three times as good as a lemon chiffon cake?  A Triple Lemon Chiffon Cake, of course!  The Cake Slice group chose to go for a lemon trifecta this month– three layers of lemon chiffon, filled with rich lemon curd and frosted with lemony whipped cream.

I don’t think that chiffon cake itself has a tremendous amount of flavor, but it has an amazing spongy, moist texture that makes me want to take huge bites!  This one one of the most successful chiffons I’ve made…nice and tall, with no shrinkage.  When making chiffons, the cake pans are often ungreased so the batter can really climb up the sides, and the baked cakes are left to cool completely in the pans.  I’ve learned to (gingerly!) run a thin knife around the edges of the pans about five to ten minutes after the cakes have come out of the oven.  This helps the cakes to not tear away from the sides as they cool, which I think can cause them to lose some oomph.

Lemon curd must be one of the tastiest things of all time.  Even though I made a six-inch cake (half a recipe), I did a full recipe of the curd…intentional leftovers that were then sandwiched between cookies and used as a dip for fresh strawberries.  The frosting is just a simple whipped cream with a portion of the curd folded in.  Jodie rightly notes that almost every recipe we’ve made from this book (Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes) has used a whipped cream frosting.  It’s a little tricky to work with, and you can see in my photos that even though I took care not to whip it too much, by the time I had smoothly frosted the cake, it looked overworked.  Oh well, it happens…at least I didn’t turn it to butter!  I realized that while I was freaking out about getting the frosting on as quickly as possible, I had not given a single thought to how I’d decorate this cake, so I just went with a squiggle of curd and some pastel sprinkles.  OK, it wasn’t my finest decorating effort, but let me assure you that the cake really did taste great!

triple lemon chiffon cake

Here’s a printable link to the recipe, courtesy of  Gigi Cakes.  Better yet, get your hands on a copy of Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alicia Huntsman and Peter Wynne.  Don’t forget to cruise through the list of The Cake Slice Bakers to check out all of our lemon cakes this month.

The Cake Slice: Southern Coconut Cake

February 20, 2009 at 2:39 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, the cake slice | 42 Comments

southern coconut cake

I am a coconut cake fanatic.  I love it in all its forms…filled with pastry cream or lemon curd, iced with cream cheese frosting or buttercream.  Any which way you slice it, I’ll take a piece!  Coconut cupcakes are scrummy too…I made some here awhile back.  So, naturally I was excited when Southern Coconut Cake won The Cake Slice group vote this month (although I know it only came from behind to beat out a chocolate-peanut butter cake because of the current salmonella scare, but so what).

There are no yolks in this cake, so the crumb is snow-white fluff.  I really like that the recipe incorporates coconut milk into the batter.  I punched up the coconut flavor a bit more by using a combination of vanilla and coconut extracts (rather than straight vanilla), and by folding a handful of finely grated unsweetened coconut (the desiccated stuff from the health food store) into the batter at the end.  I made half a recipe, but rather than baking it in three 6-inch pans, like I usually do, I spread the batter into a quarter sheet pan (measuring something like 9″ x 13″).  I then cut it into three strips, which I stacked into a rectangular cake… for some reason, I was obsessed with having a slice that looked like Pepperidge Farm.

The finished cake is not frosted with a traditional cream cheese frosting, but with a super light cream cheese buttercream, made with an Italian meringue.  Wow, is it good…and it’s something that I never would have thought to do.  The book that this recipe comes from, Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes, has so many cool ideas– I’m really glad to have it.  I made a two-thirds recipe of buttercream, so I could have leftovers to frost my Valentine’s cupcakes

Not only does this cake taste great, but it’s also soooo pretty.  I want it for my wedding cake.  Oh, darn…I’m already married!  But there’s actually something else I can celebrate with a yummy coconut cake– a whisk and a spoon turns two today!  I can hardly believe it (especially when I go back and look at those early posts–ha!), and if it weren’t for all of you who read and leave such encouraging comments, I may not have kept at it for so long.  Thank you for making blogging so wonderfully fun and fulfilling!!

Here’s a printable link to the recipe.  Better yet, get your hands on a copy of Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alicia Huntsman and Peter Wynne.  Cruise through the list of The Cake Slice Bakers to check out all of our coconut cakes this month.

The Cake Slice: Banana Cake with Praline Filling and White Chocolate Ganache

January 20, 2009 at 7:30 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, the cake slice | 40 Comments

banana cake with praline filling and white chocolate ganache

Ack–I didn’t realize that this post and the TWD one would fall on the same day!  So in addition to having to crank out two posts on Monday night, I have also been subsisting on an all-cake diet for the past week!

This Banana Cake with Praline Filling and White Chocolate Ganache happens to be the latest installment of The Cake Slice.  I guess the title kinda tells it all, right?  You start with a white cake, softly flavored with banana purée.  The tall layers are stacked with a white chocolate ganache frosting that has sugared pecans folded through.  Then the cake gets frosted with the remainder of the ganache, and decorated with the rest of the pecans.  I halved the original recipe to make a six-inch layer cake.  Normally, I get six servings from a six-incher, but this cake was so toweringly high that I was able to get eight!

I will admit that I did not make the sugared pecans according to the recipe’s directions, which call for deep frying.  I didn’t want to use up half a bottle of oil to fry off a few nuts, so I dry-toasted them in a skillet instead.  Then I added a pat of butter, a couple spoonfuls of brown sugar and a sprinkle of salt, and cooked the nuts until the sugar and butter made a glaze.  I use this technique to make crunchy candied nuts for snacks and salads all the time, and it works really well.

As someone who is not terribly fond of white chocolate, it surprises me to say that I thought the ganache frosting/filling was the star of the show!  The banana cake definitely has the texture of a white cake, rather than something more banana bready, and the flavor is gentle, too.  It goes so well with the frosting, which is made by mixing ganache into softly whipped unsweetend cream.  The whipped cream really mellows out and tones down the tooth-achy sweetness of the white chocolate, and the resulting frosting is soft, light and decadent.  I will definitely be using this recipe again, as it’s super-good and much less rich than a traditional whipped ganache frosting (which I have described here and here). 

 banana cake with praline filling and white chocolate ganache

All-in-all, this was a delicious cake…and one I’m really glad I made!  Here’s a printable link to the recipe (better yet, get your hands on a copy of Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alicia Huntsman and Peter Wynne), and cruise through the list of The Cake Slice Bakers to check out all of our banana cakes this month.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Berry Surprise Cake

January 20, 2009 at 1:14 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, tuesdays with dorie | 32 Comments

berry surprise cake

Surprise!  I love a surprise…the good kind only, of course, and Dorie’s Berry Surprise Cake certainly falls into that category.  Mary Ann of  Meet Me in the Kitchen chose it for TWD this week.

A single layer of genoise sponge is cut in two horizontally, hollowed and filled (bread-bowl style) with a lightly-sweetened cream cheese and fresh berry mixture, then craftily reassembled.  Whipped cream frosting hides what’s going on inside (hence the surprise).  At Fairway, blackberries were not only the best looking, but also the cheapest, so I went with those and used cassis to flavor my soaking syrup.  When berry season rolls around, I’ll be trying out raspberries as well.

berry surprise cake

From the outside it is pretty unassuming, right?  Trust me, it is really delicious…not too sweet, and I love the way genoise kind of takes everything in.  We especially liked this cake after a day or two, when it became almost trifle-like.

For the recipe, read Meet Me in the Kitchen or see Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.  Don’t forget to check out the TWD Blogroll.

The Cake Slice: Chocolate Hazelnut Nutcracker Cake

December 20, 2008 at 1:31 am | Posted in cakes & tortes, groups, layer cakes, sweet things, the cake slice | 26 Comments

chocolate hazelnut nutcracker cake

Gosh–hasn’t December gone by so fast?!?  It’s already time for the third installment of The Cake Slice!  This go-round, the group cooked up a very festive Chocolate Hazelnut Nutcracker Cake from the book Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alicia Huntsman and Peter Wynne. 

You’ll need to fish out your nutcracker to make this one– the batter has plenty of  hazelnuts, ground fine.  It also contains an unusual ingredient…graham cracker crumbs.  I’m wondering if these are there for subtle flavor, or if they really just act as an extender for the nut meal.  The cake is filled and frosted with vanilla whipped cream (a.k.a crème chantilly, if you want to get all fancy-like).

chocolate hazelnut nutcracker cake

While this cake was certainly good, R and I both though it was missing something.  The flavor was predominately hazelnut, and I think, for a cake with the word “chocolate” in its name, it needed to taste of chocolate, too (just a very small piece is grated into the batter).  If I get around to making it again, I think I’ll fill the layers with a dark chocolate ganache, and just leave the chantilly for the outside.  The rum soaking syrup, though, is a must!  Visit Gigi and Katie for the recipe (or get your hands on a copy of Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes), and cruise through the list of The Cake Slice Bakers to check out all of our nutcracker cakes!

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