Category: Cake

A Cake for Thursday

November 19, 2012

You may have noticed that I have been awfully quiet about Thanksgiving this year.  I’m feeling a little misty about it to tell you the truth.  For the last five years or so, Randy and I hosted Thanksgiving in our black house with a red door in Seattle.  We had large gatherings and small intimate dinners.  Most of the meal was the same from year to year with a few curveball side dishes to make things interesting.  Before those five years, my parents hosted every year in my memory with the exception of one trip to New York City and one trip to visit me in college.

This year, we no longer live in the same city as my family does.  When it came down to whether or not we would visit Seattle for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I didn’t hesitate to say Thanksgiving.  Because my mom is recovering from hip surgery, she will not be hosting.  It falls to family friends, with whom we have shared every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner (with the exceptions noted above) since I was two years old, to host this year.  So I am not hosting, my mom is not hosting, and I will not really be cooking much.  My mom was given a couple of assignments which I will either be helping her with or cooking myself, depending on how she is feeling.  But it’s not the same.  I’m not making the bread that I have made every year for twelve years.  The excitement I usually feel at this time of year is missing.  I think it is partly that the sun and mild temperatures make it hard for me to believe it is November, let alone turkey day.

Wah wah, poor me.  I am grateful that my boys have the whole week off from school so we can spend a little extra time in my hometown.  I am grateful to a dear friend who is going to put us up and another who is going to host a get-together for me.  I am grateful to our family friends who are stepping in to host in this year of odd circumstances.  I am grateful that I get to celebrate the birthdays of my mom, Graham, my niece, and my sister-in-law in one fell swoop.  Wait – grateful?  No, I am thankful.  For this and so much more.

This cake will not have a place on our Thanksgiving table.  But if you are hosting and you haven’t already decided on dessert, you might want to consider this amazing treat.  I first made this cake years ago and I think the recipe came from Sunset.  My mom dictated it to me over the phone – she didn’t direct me to a web site or send it to me via email, so that will give you an idea of how long ago.  The note paper I scribbled it onto slipped behind other recipes in my notebook and I completely forgot about it until I was trying to decide on a dessert to make for special friends.  This just popped into my head.  It is the perfect fall cake and I think it would be terrific after Thanksgiving dinner.

This is a simple jelly roll cake.  The cake itself is pumpkin and it is filled with vanilla ice cream.  I made it back when I was a pretty novice baker and it turned out perfectly, so don’t let the shape of it scare you.  In my more novice days, I bought a quality vanilla ice cream to fill the cake and a quality caramel sauce to drizzle over top.  Now that I am more experienced, I made the ice cream to fill it and a salted caramel sauce to drizzle over top.  Either way, what you have is a beautiful fragrant slice of fall that can be made in advance and brought out to a chorus of praise.  And thanks.  I wish you all the very best – whether you are making a big dinner, attending one, or Thursday is just another day.

One Year Ago:  Squash Hummus and Homemade Flatbread, Butternut Squash Soup with Ginger
Two Years Ago:  Three Cheese Mini Macs, Orecchiete with Creamy Leeks, Vegetarian Gravy, Burnt Sugar Bundt Cake
Three Years Ago:  Maple Roasted Delicata Squash, Naan, Peanut Curry with Sweet Potato and Collard Greens
Four Years Ago:  Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, Giant Chocolate Toffee Cookies, Brussels Sprouts Hash with Caramelized Shallots

Pumpkin Roll Cake
Adapted from Sunset (I think)
Makes 1 large roll, serving about 8-10

As I mentioned, you can certainly make this with store-bought ice cream and caramel sauce.  Use the best you can find.  My roll was more flat this time, my guests actually thought their slices were large biscotti, but I have gotten it to look more rounded in the past.  Patience helps as does ice cream that is soft but not too soft.

¾ cup flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. table salt
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
Powdered sugar

1 quart vanilla ice cream (recipe follows)
Salted caramel sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 375ºF.  Grease a jelly roll pan, then line the pan with parchment paper.  Grease the paper.

Mix flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl.  Beat eggs on high speed for 5 minutes, or until very thick.  Gradually beat in the sugar.  Using low speed, mix in the pumpkin, followed by the flour mixture.

Spread batter into prepared pan and smooth it well.  Bake for about 15 minutes, until the center of the cake springs back when touched.

Sprinkle a clean kitchen towel generously with powdered sugar.  Remove the cake from the oven and carefully invert the cake out onto the towel.  Remove the parchment paper.  Roll the cake up with the towel into a cylinder.  Cool completely.

Soften your ice cream for about 20 minutes in the refrigerator.  (If using homemade, you can use it directly out of the ice cream maker.)  Unroll the cake.  Spread the ice cream over the entire surface of the cake.  Roll the cake back up without the towel.  Working quickly, wrap the cake in parchment paper and then foil and immediately place in the freezer.  You can make this cake three days ahead, allow it to soften by pulling it out of the freezer about 10 minutes before you serve it.  Serve with caramel sauce.

Vanilla Ice Cream
The Perfect Scoop
Makes about 1 quart

1 cup whole milk
A pinch of salt
¾ cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk with a paring knife, then add the bean pod to the milk. Cover, remove from heat, and infuse for one hour.

To make the ice cream, set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2l) bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a strainer over the top of the smaller bowl and pour the cream into the bowl.

In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Rewarm the milk then gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan.

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.

Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Stir over the ice until cool, add the vanilla extract, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Preferably overnight.

Remove the vanilla bean and freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Salted Caramel Sauce
Bon Appetit
Makes about 1 cup

¾ cup plus 2 tbsp. heavy cream
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
½ cup sugar
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
4 tbsp. (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
¼ tsp. kosher salt
Place cream in a small pitcher.  Scrape seeds from vanilla bean; add bean.  Set aside.
Stir sugar, corn syrup, and 2 tablespoons water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves.  Increase heat to medium-high; boil, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until deep amber color forms, 506 minutes.  Remove from heat; gradually add vanilla cream (mixture will bubble vigorously).  Whisk over medium heat until smooth and thick, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat; whisk in butter and salt.  Strain into a heatproof measuring cup.  Let cool slightly.  (Sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead.  Reheat in the microwave or in a saucepan over low heat.)


August 16, 2012

I’ve been baking a lot.  I didn’t bake for the entire month we were in France – I never even turned on the oven – so I think I am compensating.  Also, summer fruit always makes me want to bake.  I love eating it all out of hand but berries and stone fruit sure do make amazing desserts.

The only fruit better than a peach, in my book, is a nectarine.  I prefer to bake with peaches and eat nectarines over the sink.  I’ve made two peach cakes in the past couple of weeks and I’m going to share them both with you.  They are very different.  That top one comes from Cook’s Illustrated and features roasted peaches in the cake and raw peaches on top.  It is one of those “fruit held together by a bit of cake batter” cakes.  I thought it was going to be extraordinary (roasted peaches!) but it fell a little short of my expectations.  I recognize that many of you just want to bake something yummy, that you don’t need to have your socks blown off by dessert, which is why I’m sharing.  It is a great way to use delicious fruit and it looks pretty too.

The second one comes from Bon Appétit and it is not technically a peach cake.  It is Sour Cream Pound Cake with Lavender Peaches.  The looks to taste ratio for pound cakes is very out of whack, if you ask me.  This is especially true with this cake.  It is flatter than most and a very uninspiring shade of tan.  But what looks like a whole lot of nothing has the most amazing texture and buttery rich taste.  The not completely indecent amount of butter and sour cream give you terrific richness and mouth-feel, and the whole vanilla bean boosts the flavor beyond the ordinary (which is not at all ordinary) pound cake.  It would, of course, be amazing with any fresh berries but the lavender peaches are pretty spectacular.  The whipped cream flavored with lavender syrup takes it over the top.  I have lavender growing in my yard so I used fresh but you can buy culinary lavender at places like Amazon.

Two Years Ago:  Lavender and Honey Tea Cakes, Polenta Baked with Corn, Tomatoes, and Basil
Three Years Ago:  Cold Melon Soup with Cucumber Chile Ice (fantastic on a hot day), Heirloom Tomato Salad with Burrata (ditto)
Four Years Ago:  Farro with Green Beans and Corn

Sour Cream Pound Cake wtih Lavender Peaches
Bon Appétit
Serves 8

¾ plus 1 tbsp. all purpose flour
¼ cup cornstarch
¾ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. fine sea salt
¾ cup sugar
10 tbsp. (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 large egg
1 large egg white
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup sour cream

Lavender syrup and peaches
1½ cups sugar
3 tbsp. dried lavender blossoms
4 medium firm but ripe peaches, pitted, cut into ¾-inch wedges
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Make the cake:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325ºF.  Butter 8½x4½x2¾-inch metal loaf pan.  Dust pan with flour; tap out excess.  Sift ¾ cup plus 1 tbsp. flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. Combine sugar and butter in large bowl; scrape in seeds from vanilla bean (reserve bean for lavender syrup).  Using electric mixer, beat sugar mixture until fluffy.  Add egg, egg white, and vanilla extract; beat until mixture is pale and thick, about 2 minutes.  Beat in sour cream.  Add flour mixture; beat just until blended.  Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.  Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes clean, 56 to 58 minutes.  Turn cake out, then turn top side up.  Cool completely.  (Can be made up to 1 day ahead.  Wrap in foil and store at room temperature.)

Make lavender syrup and peaches:
Combine 2¼ cups water, sugar, lavender, and reserved vanilla bean in saucepan.  Boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat; cover and let steep 10 minutes.  Strain syrup into medium bowl; discard lavender.  Pour 2 tbsp. lavender syrup into small bowl; reserve for whipped cream.  Cover and chill.  Return remaining syrup to same saucepan; add peaches and lemon juice and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer, about 5 minutes.  Transfer peaches to bow.  Boil syrup in pan until reduced to 1 cup, 12 to 14 minutes.  Pour over peaches.  Chill uncovered 2 hours.

Beat cream and 2 tbsp. reserved syrup in medium bowl to soft peaks.  Slice cake.  Serve with peaches, syrup, and cream.

Summer Peach Cake
Cook’s Illustrated
Serves 8-10

2½ pounds peaches, pitted and cut into ½-inch thick wedges
5 tbsp. peach schnapps
4 tsp. lemon juice
6 tbsp. plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1¼ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
½ cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
¼ cup sour cream
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. plus 1/8 tsp. almond extract
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs, crushed fine

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425ºF.  Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with vegetable oil spray.  Gently toss 24 peach wedges with 2 tbsp. peach schnapps, 2 tsp. lemon juice, and 1 tbsp. granulated sugar in  bowl; set aside.

Cut remaining peach wedges crosswise into thirds.  Gently toss chunks with remaining 3 tbsp. schnapps, remaining 2 tsp. lemon juice, and 2 tbsp. granulated sugar in bowl.  Spread peach chunks in single layer on prepared sheet and bake until exuded juices begin to thicken and caramelize at edges of sheet, 20 to 25 minutes.  Transfer sheet to wire rack and let peaches cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350ºF.

Spray 9-inch springform pan with vegetable oil spray.  Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in bowl.  Whisk brown sugar, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, and eggs together in second bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds.  Slowly whisk i butter until combined.  Add sour cream, vanilla, and ¼ tsp. almond extract; whisk until combined.  Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined.

Transfer half of batter to prepared pan; using offset spatula, spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth surfgace.  Sprinkle crust bread crumbs evenly over cooled peach chunks and gently toss to coat.  Arrange peach chunks on batter in evenly layer, gently pressing peaches into batter.  Gently spread remaining batter over peach chunks and smooth top.  Arrange reserved peach wedges, slightly overlapped, in ring over surface of cake, placing smaller wedges in center.  Stir together remaining 3 tbsp. granulated sugar and remaining 1/8 tsp. almond extract in small bowl until sugar is moistened.  Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over top of cake.

Bake until center of cake is set and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes.  Transfer pan to wire rack; cool 5 minutes.  Run paring knife around sides of cake to loosen.  Remove cake from pan and let cool completely, 2 to 3 hours.  Cut into wedges and serve.

Memories of Blackberries

August 7, 2012

When I was nine years old, we moved from one house in a Seattle suburb to another.  The suburb was the same but everything else was very different.  Our first house was on a cul-de-sac where almost every house had kids around my age.  We walked to school through the woods, rode our bikes in endless loops around our street, fed carrots carefully to the mean pony who was stabled next door to the house next door, climbed trees, and played in sandboxes.  The new house was on a street so steep that it was years before I would be able to ride my bike up it.  There were five houses, only one of which had kids, and those kids were weird.  There was the lake at the bottom of the street but not pony and no climbable trees.  I had to take the bus to school.  It was a hard move.

But we did have blackberries.  Incredible amazing huge blackberries.  Blackberries are everywhere in the Northwest.  The bush that is a terrible nuisance for 11 months of the year (so big! so many thorns! so hard to get rid of!) is suddenly everyone’s best friend come August.  If you drive along any quiet roads in the late summer, you will see people with pails, picking and eating.

The bush near our house was giant, stretching the length of our car and probably seven feet high.  I don’t think anyone had every picked those berries because they were the largest I had ever seen.  I have an extremely faint scar on my right wrist from that bush, so eager was I to get at the sweet deep purple berries, that I practically threw myself in there.

Blackberries mean August to me and I was thrilled to see huge ones, like those I remember, at my farmers’ market last week.  I had just ripped out a page with a Blackberry Buttermilk Cake from Bon Appétit and it seemed like the best thing to do with them.  If you would like to see a photo of how the cake was supposed to look, click over here.  I got a little carried away with the blackberry placement on the bottom of the pan.  How could less be better than more?  It turns out that more makes everything more jammy and rather than restrained pretty cake I got gooey jammy kind-of-a-mess.  Flipping it over was dangerous and stained my already stained favorite oven mitt.  But once I tasted it, I was glad to have overdone the blackberries.  The cake is very calm, a nothing fancy buttermilk cake.  So having a bit of chaos piled on top of it seemed just not right, if not perfect.

One Year Ago:  Raspberry Cake with Marsala (given the choice between the two, I’d make this raspberry cake over the blackberry one)
Two Years Ago:  Rice Noodles with Marinated Tofu and Shiitake Mushrooms
Three Years Ago:  3 Different Cheeseballs
Four Years Ago:  Pasta with Cauliflower, Peppers, and Walnut Pesto

Blackberry Buttermilk Cake
Bon Appétit
Makes one 9 or 10-inch cake

You can use either a 9 or 10-inch springform pan for this cake.  I like using a 9-inch for a taller cake.

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan and parchment
2 1/3 cups cake flour (sifted, then measured) plus more for pan
2 ½ cups (10 ounces) fresh blackberries
¼ cup plus 1 1/3 cups sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
Powdered sugar (for dusting)

Position a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter pan; line bottom with a round of parchment paper. Butter parchment. Dust with flour; tap out excess. Arrange berries in a single layer in bottom of pan; sprinkle evenly with ¼ cup sugar.Sift 2 1/3 cups flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a medium bowl; set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat ¾ cup butter and remaining 1 1/3 cups sugar in a large bowl at medium-high speed, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and zest. Reduce speed to low; beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating just until incorporated. Pour batter over berries in pan; smooth top.Bake until cake is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour 25 minutes. Let cool in pan set on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then run a thin, sharp knife around edge of pan to loosen. Remove pan sides. Invert cake onto rack and remove pan bottom; peel off parchment. Dust top generously with powdered sugar and let cool completely.

Maple Blueberry Tea Cake

April 24, 2012

Some people think that white flour and white sugar are evil.  I don’t feel that way.  I’ve been making treats for years (and years and years) with both of those snowy ingredients and I feel just fine about them.  In this post, I talked about how I feel like balance – in food but really in anything – is key.  If you’ve been eating lots of white flour and white sugar lately, maybe you should eat some kale.

Or maybe you should eat this cake.  It has half whole wheat flour and is sweetened with maple syrup.  Now to some people, that may sound like health food.  Don’t worry, it is still cake.  If you are used to never having sweets, this might be a mind-blowing after dinner treat.  If you, say, eat Easter candy after dinner, this might be more of a very subtle and lovely brunch cake.  Either way, I like it for its coffee-with-milk coloring, its subtle sweetness, and the burst of (frozen!) berries.

I followed my own advice and doubled the recipe for two cakes.  Do you do this?  Any time I make a pound cake, quick bread, or loaf cake of any kind, I double it.  No extra effort and that second one, unfrosted or unglazed, will last for 1-2 months in your freezer.  So you are never without cake!  Don’t tell me you only have one loaf pan.  Make a huge investment of $10-$20 and buy another one.  They stack together so they don’t take up any extra room.  I’m telling you – do it.  You can thank me later.  Or send me a cake.

One Year Ago:  Carrot Pancakes with Hummus and a Carrot Salad, Roasted Shallots
Two Years Ago:  Crostini with Goat Cheese and Leek Confit
Three Years Ago:  Gruyère Gougères, Mississippi Mud Cupcakes

Maple Blueberry Tea Cake with Maple Glaze
Cook This Now
Makes 1 8-inch loaf cake (see above)

If you are going to double the cake but plan on serving one of them.  Only make the glaze as written.  Cakes freeze best without the glaze.

For the cake
¾ cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
¾ cup plus 2 tbsp. whole wheat flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. kosher salt
2/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 large egg, lightly beaten
½ cup milk
6 tbsp. (¾ stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup fresh blueberries (I used frozen unthawed berries)

For the maple glaze
3 tbsp. maple syrup
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
Pinch kosher salt
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Lightly grease an 8-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, egg, milk, and melted butter.  Pour the maple syrup mixture into the flour mixture and fold together until just combined.  Gently fold in the blueberries.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes.

Transfer the cake to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet; cool completely.  Once cool, run the tip of a knife or an offset spatula around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake.  Place a plate over the pan.  Flip the cake onto the plate.  Tap the sides and top of the pan to help release the cake (the berries might have gotten stuck and this helps unstick them.  Remove the pan.  Turn the cake right-side up and put on a rack-lined baking sheet.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, make the glaze:  Stir together the maple syrup, butter, and salt until combined.  Stir in the sugar and cook until completely dissolved.  Pour the warm glaze over the cake, allowing the excess glaze to drip onto the baking sheet.  Slice and serve.


Birthday Cake for the Birthday Boy

February 7, 2012

By many peoples’ standards, we spoil our children.  We have a basement full of toys, bikes in the garage, an X-Box and other gaming things, and lots of movies to watch.  We go on nice vacations.  Both boys have plenty of clothes to wear and ski gear (though we rent skis and boots).  Their chores consist of bringing over their plate after dinner and cleaning up their rooms.  They get a lot of hugs and kisses and treats after dinner.

But.  We are sticklers about manners and being polite and respectful to adults and kids both older and younger.  We try to encourage awareness about how lucky they are without being morbid about it.  About once a year we go through our toys and clean out things they are not using to give to children who are less lucky.  They are old enough to understand that we can go look in a toy store but we are not going to buy anything.  (Unless they are with dad, who usually caves.)

This year Spencer is getting two birthday cakes.  This is the first year that we are having a real true party for him.  I’m not the mom who treasures throwing themed birthday parties for my kids complete with perfect invitations and favors.  I try and farm the party part out.  Seeing as Spencer is the second child, we tried to get away with just doing family for as long as possible.  There have been years where we have been in Sun Valley over his birthday (spoiled!).  But this year we are home, he turned five, and we are doing a trampoline party (spoiled!).

Spencer wants a Batman cake for the party which we will be getting from the same bakery as Graham’s cake.  Mommy doesn’t do Batman cakes.  Or she could, but it would end up looking like a gerbil cake or a blob cake which wouldn’t make him very happy.  For his “real” birthday cake, we sat down with several of my baking books and paged through options.  “I want that one!  Or wait, I want that one!  No, that one!”, is kind of how the conversation went.  I thought we were going with a lemon cake with a meringue frosting when he spied a cake in Flour that sealed the deal.  I guess to him it just looked like a birthday cake.  That may have been because there are birthday candles on the cake in the photo.  At any rate, I was glad to make a traditional cake that I knew he would like.

I feel like some of my cookbooks are kind of like the good guy friend in college who patiently listens to your love life failures, all the while secretly hoping you will actually notice him.  Flour has been sitting on my shelf for about a year now.  I made a couple ho hum things from it in the first few weeks after purchase and then moved on to brighter shinier things.  I knew it would house some good birthday cake ideas and this perfect birthday cake was in there waiting for me all this time.  Actually, not perfect, but pretty darn good.  The cakes themselves were very crummy and the frosting kind of set up too much after I put the cake in the refrigerator with the crumb coat, but the taste and the look was pretty close to perfect.  According to the birthday boy, that is.

One Year Ago:  Macaroon Brownie Bars, White Chocolate Tiramisu, Red, White, and Green Lasagne
Two Years Ago:  Olivetta Loaf, Spicy Smoky Chili
Three Years Ago:  Roasted Orange Pepper Soup, Mushroom Enchiladas, Broccoli and Red Pepper Pie, Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Yellow Birthday Cake with Fluffy Chocolate Ganache Frosting
Makes one 8-inch layer cake (serves 8-12)

I’m giving you the (very wordy) recipe as written in the book.  A couple of tips.  The cake cools completely in the pans, presumably because it is large and thick, so be sure to grease them well and use a parchment round in the bottom of the pan.  I always refrigerate my cakes with a crumb coating for about 30-60 minutes, but I think the frosting hardened up too much during the waiting time.  So be sure to follow her advice and just frost the cake right after the crumb coating.  She recommends using non-fat buttermilk but I can never find that so I just used low fat.

1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk

Fluffy Chocolate Ganache Frosting
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. vanilla extract

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF.  Butter and flour two 8-inch round cake pans.  (DT:  Don’t forget the parchment here!)

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer), cream together the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until light and fluffy.  (This step will take 8 to 10 minutes if using a handheld mixer.)  Stop the mixer a few times  and use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle to release any clinging butter or sugar.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla just until combined.  On low speed, slowly pour the egg mixture into the butter mixture and mix just until incorporated.  Scrape the bowl and paddle again, then beat on medium speed for 20 to 30 seconds, or until the mixture is homogeneous.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  On the lowest speed, add about one-third of the flour mixture to the egg-butter mixture and mix just until barely combined.  Immediately pour in about half of the buttermilk and continue to mix on the lowest speed until the buttermilk is almost thoroughly incorporated.  Stop the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl well.  Again on the lowest speed, add about half of the remaining flour mixture and mix just until barely combined.  Add the rest of the butter milk and mix just until combined.  Be careful not to overmix.

At this point, it is best to finish the mixing by hand.  Remove the bowl from the  mixer stand and, using a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining flour mixture until the batter is just homogeneous.  As you fold, be sure to incorporate any batter clinging to the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the ops are golden brown and the cakes spring back when pressed in the middle with a fingertip.  Let cool completely in the pans on wire racks.  (The cooled cakes can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and stored  in the freezer for up to 1 week.  Thaw at room temperature, still wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.)

To make the ganache frosting:  While the cake layers are cooling, put the chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl.  In a small saucepan, scald the cream over medium-high heat (bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan, but the cream is not boiling).  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit for about 1 minute, then slowly whisk together the chocolate and cream until the chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth.  Let sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours, or until completely cool.  (Or refrigerate the ganache until cool, about 30 minutes, whisking every ten minutes.)

Fit the stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or use a handheld mixer) and beat the butter on medium-low speed for 10 to 15 seconds, or until smooth.  Add the confectioners’ sugar, salt, and vanilla and continue to beat on medium-low speed for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture is fluffy and smooth.  Stop the  mixer a few times and use a rubber spatula to scrape the bowl and paddle to release any clinging butter or sugar.  On medium speed, add the cooled ganache and beat for about 2 minutes, or until completely combined.  Stop to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Turn up the mixer speed to medium-high and beat for about 1 minute, or until the frosting lightens in color and thickens.  You should have about 4 cups.

Remove the cooled cakes from their pans.  (Be sure they are completely cool.  If they are even the slightest bit warm, the frosting will melt and you will have a mess.)  Using a long, serrated knife, trim the top of each cake to level it (the layers will have rounded a bit in the oven; the trimmed scraps make great nibbles).  Place one cake layer on a cake plate or cake pedestal (if you have a revolving cake stand, use it.)  Spoon about 1 cup of the frosting on top and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly to the edges.

Carefully place the second layer top-side down (so the even sharp edges will be on the top of the finished cake), on top.  Spoon about 1 cup of the frosting on top and spread it over the top and down the sides of the cake, smoothing the frosting as well as you can and covering the entire cake with a thin layer.  This the crumb coat which will keep any loose crumbs from migrating to the surface of the finished cake.  Spoon a heaping cup of frosting on top of the cake, an spread it evenly across the top and down the sides.  This is the finishing layer of frosting.  If desired, spoon any remaining frosting into a pastry bag fitted with a small round or star tip and pipe a decorative line along the top and/or bottom edge of the cake.

The cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

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