Thursday, April 5, 2012

Eat Cake!

Recently, my designer friend and coworker approached me with a baking idea for a photo shoot for an ad she was designing. She says: Michal. I need you to make a 5 layer white cake with pale blue frosting and dark blue chocolate ganache dribbled off the top.

Says I: No problem. Easy as pie. Er...cake. And I set about assembling the necessary ingredients.

But OH-she remembers-It has to be in the shape of a K. It needs to be able to stand on its own.

I said: 


 Very well. 

Challenge: accepted.

Note: I'm doing this in a three-part installment because I'm long-winded and it got a bit ridonkulous.

The mission

Basic White Cake
My cake recipe is slightly modified from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott

 Step One: Coffee

We started freaking early. Like 9 a.m.
On a Saturday.

 Ingredients (Cake):
 2 3/4 cups sifted cake flour**
1 T baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 t ground nutmeg
3/4 c (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1 t grated lemon zest
3/4 cup egg whites (about 6 large)
1 cup milk

**I make my own cake flour by combining 1 3/4 cups AP flour with 1/4 cup cornstarch

Preheat oven to 350ºF
Grease 3 8" cake pans, then press a circle of wax paper in the bottom of each pan. Grease wax paper, and flour pans.

For instructions on making fitted wax paper circles, check out this entry.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg in a medium bowl, and stir to mix well.

For those of you who've never seen baking powder

Cream together butter and 1 cup of sugar with mixer on high, beating until light and well-combined.

No problem if you have cold buttah. Just cut it all up and it'll be "softened" in about ten minutes.

Go on and separate your yolks and whites for the beating.
The yolks.....probably won't want to see this.

My impression of my former manager saying (after observing me using the shells to separate eggs),"C'mon, Martha Stewart! We don't have all day!" I love that story. I try to tell it often.

Beat whites until foamy.

Caution: beating egg whites may bring on mania.

Gradually beat in remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 T at a time, until soft peaks form. Set whites aside.

If you've ever stayed up nights wondering,"Just what ARE soft peaks?" wonder no more. Here they are. You're welcome.

Aaaaaand here's what they look like on the beaters.

Add the 1 t vanilla to the 1 cup milk.

Add about a third of the flour mixture to the batter and beat well with a mixer at medium speed.

Then add about half of the milk mixture, beating well. Alternate flour and milk until all is incorporated. Beat just until smooth; overmixing will make the cake tough. Which you don't want. Unless you live in a bad neighborhood.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the egg whites, about half at a time.

Divide batter evenly between the three pans. I like to use a kitchen scale for this, because I'm slightly neurotic about cake layer sizes.

If you don't have an oven thermometer, you should. They're inexpensive and will save you lots of emotional eating over baking mishaps. Especially if you have a fabulous but ancient 70's relic of an oven like my own.

Bake at 350ºF for about 15-20 minutes, or until the layers are lightly browned and begin to pull away from the sides of the pans. The pans will suffer only minor separation anxiety.

Cool IN THE PANS on wire racks or folded kitchen towels for 10 minutes.

Carefully flip cakes onto wire racks and cool completely before attempting to frost.

And now: Lick all the things. Yes, you.

Frost with Blue Vanilla Buttercream (The Fillin')
Drizzle with Dark Blue White Chocolate Ganache 

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