I’m taking advantage of some free time to get caught up on some posts, while Mei is occupied with her dinner and Emily sleeps, and first up is the world’s best vanilla cake!
This is simply put, the ONLY vanilla cake that we are ever going to make again. I’m done looking for inspirations and different ideas to intensify the flavors. Who do we have to thank for this wonderful recipe? The folks over at Baked: New Frontiers in Baking! I have been wanting an occasion to bake this cake, a very interesting concept – a white-out cake, where the cake layers are white and the frosting is also white, and Errin’s birthday just days after Emily’s birth seemed just the occasion to do so!
It took a whole day to bake this cake since I kept having to stop and feed Emily, who was eating every two hours those days and I also had Mei who needed me at times combined with bathroom breaks and making sure that I continued to eat and take care of all those little pesky daily chores that crop up – so the process took much longer than it would have if I had been able to just put the batter together and bake it all up, but trust me, it was worth the blood, sweat and tears!
We took a trip to a nearby village to go shopping and get groceries at the farmers market, and managed to get Auntie Errin a couple of birthday gifts while we were at it, determined to make it as nice of a birthday as we could, for all being bone-tired and being her only “family” around on this birthday. I think we did a pretty good job!
It wound up taking a full day to bake the cake, and a second day to make the white chocolate frosting for between the layers and a third day to wrap up presents, make the angel frosting for the exterior of the cake and assemble this beauty. Then it turns out I didn’t have any candles! Well, this was possibly the most trying cake-baking experience ever, but it was really worth it! The taste of the cake and both frostings was just out of this world!
Not to mention that the white chocolate frosting for the layers is made on the stove and then whipped into submission, and it is the most successful recipe that comes the closest to a buttercream, that I have been able to make since my KitchenAid mixer died last year – so this was a really big deal for me! The white chocolate frosting recipe certainly makes enough that one could frost the exterior with it as well but I really wanted to make the angel frosting, which is an old-meringue-like frosting that goes on pretty soft and sets up harder, like a meringue but it is still very wispy and lovely. I chose to put rainbow non-pareils on the cake and some gold dust, flavoring the angel frosting with a touch of raspberry extract and dying it a fairly light shade of pink, and it really made for a lovely cake! I tried to apply the rainbow sprinkles up the side where it would look like it was heavy at the base and fade as it rose up the side, which is a hard technique to master (apparently) and while it looked pretty, I know I could have done better. We will certainly be making this cake again, so I’m not worried and boy do I have plans for the next one!
This cake simply wont last long around the house and I would love to make the layers a bit thinner next time and doubling the amount of layers from three to six, it would make a stunning cake for any deserving birthday boy or girl!
In the meantime, please enjoy our photos! I included photos of Mei helping Auntie Errin open her birthday presents. She couldn’t be bothered to put down her juice while she was helping out, but they got it open soon enough!
Ingredients for Vanilla Cake (makes three 8-inch cake layers): adopted from “Baked! New Frontiers in Baking”
- 2-1/2 C cake flour
- 3/4 C all purpose flour
- 1 TBS baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 stick of unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 C vegetable shortening
- 1-3/4 C sugar
- 1 TBS vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 1-1/2 C ice water
- 3 large egg whites
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
Pre-heat the oven to 325F. Butter three 8-inch cake pans, lining the bottom of each with buttered parchment paper and dusting each pan with flour, knocking out the excess.
First, sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl then set aside.
Beat the butter and shortening until creamy, about 3-4 minutes then add the sugar and vanilla and beat the mixture until fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
Add the whole egg and beat until combined, then turn the mixer to low and add the flour to the mixture, alternating with ice water in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix for a few seconds once completely combined.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the whites and tartar until soft peaks form then gently fold it into the batter. Divide the batter among the three pans and smooth the batter into each evenly. Bake for 40-45 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for ten minutes in the pan, then loosen with a dull knife and cool for at least twenty minutes or until room temperature.
Ingredients for the White Chocolate Frosting:
- 6 oz white chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1-1/2 C sugar
- 1/3 C all purpose flour
- 1-1/2 C milk
- 1/3 C heavy cream
- 1-1/2 C (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
- 1 tsp vanilla
Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate and set aside.
In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together, adding the cream and milk and cook over medium heat – whisking occasionally until the mixture comes to a boil and thickened, about twenty minutes.
Transfer the mixture to a mixer bowl with a paddle. Beat on high until the mixture has cooled then reduce to low and add the butter, mixing until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.
Add the vanilla and chocolate to the mixture until it is thoroughly combined. If it is too soft, chill for at least a half hour then beat again until the proper consistency is obtained. If it is too firm, set over simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is right.
Ingredients for Angel Feather Icing:
- 2 egg whites
- 3/4 C sugar
- 1/3 C corn syrup
- 2 TBS water
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla (or other flavor. I used 1/2 tsp vanilla and a 1/2 tsp of raspberry)
Put all the ingredients except for the vanilla into the top of a double boiler with fast boiling water below.
Start beating the mixture immediately (over the double boiler) with an electric mixer until you get stiff peaks.
Remove from the heat, add the flavoring and keep beating until it is thick enough to spread easily.
Once the cake layers have cooled, level them if necessary – using a cake leveler or a long, serrated knife. Place one cake layer on a plate and spread 1/4 of the white chocolate frosting on top of it. Dont forget to peel away the parchment paper!
Place another cake layer (without it’s parchment paper) on top of that and spread with another fourth of the white chocolate icing. Place the last cake layer, upside down on top of that, removing the parchment paper and covering the top and sides of the entire cake with a thin crumb coat of the white chocolate frosting.
Place the entire cake in the refrigerator for at least one hour, allowing the crumb coat to set while you make the angel feather icing. Once you have the angel feather icing made, cover the entire cake with the icing using an offset cake spatula, working quickly, as the icing will set fairly quickly and the wisps of icing will smear and look crackly once it begins to set.
Decorate the top of the cake as desired, I chose to sprinkle gold dust and rainbow sprinkles on top and piped a bit of the leftover white chocolate icing along the edges of the top and at the base of the cake. Be as creative as you like! Allow the cake to set in the fridge for at least an hour before serving and store the cake in the refrigerator between servings, pressing a piece of parchment to the exposed slices of cake to keep it moist.