Feb 22 2011

Practice Means Wanting a Bigger Slice of the Cake

I will humbly admit that I loved how my first cake came out.  If it had only looked good, perched on the blue cake stand, I might have considered it a victory.  But the fact that the frosting and cake were both what I envisioned meant that I got to cut myself an extra large slice to celebrate Arlene's birthday.

Going along with this theme of admittance, I will honestly admit that I took every precaution possible to ensure that Arlene's belated birthday cake tasted and looked as good as possible.

This meant that I christened one week in February 'buttercream week' and another week in February 'cake week'.  During buttercream week, I tested four different buttercream frostings, before crowning Billy's Bakery buttercream frosting as my preferred cake buttercream.  During cake week, I tried and delighted in Deb's 'Best Vanilla Cake' recipe.  This was the only cake recipe I tested:  I took a few 'test' bites and there was no need to keep baking!  I even bought a jar of {gross} prepared frosting, just so I could practice frosting my test cake.

Obsessive?  Perhaps.  But the results rewarded my fastidiousness.  The cake was moist with hints of vanilla, and dense enough to withstand the thick buttercream.  And the buttercream, oh the buttercream.  I couldn't be happier--I frosted and smoothed it across the cake with ease.

My First Cake

Serves 8 Hungry Guests

Vanilla Buttercream

Recipe Adapted from Billy's Bakery

1.5 cups butter

9-12 cups confectioners' sugar

3/4 cups milk

1.5 teaspoon vanilla extract

1) In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes.

2) With mixer on low speed, add 9-10 cups sugar, milk, and vanilla; mix until light and fluffy.  If you put a plastic spatula in, the frosting should slowly fall off of the spatula after a few seconds.

3) If necessary, gradually add remaining 2 cups sugar to reach desired consistency.

Yellow Cake

Recipe Adapted from Deb's Best Birthday Cake

4 cups plus 3 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

4 eggs, at room temperature

2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken (*To make buttermilk, simply squeeze 2 tablespoons of lemon into a measuring cup.  Top the lemon juice with milk, until the liquid reaches the '2 cup' line.  Let sit for 10 minutes).

1)  Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment.

2) Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a stand mixer , beat butter and sugar with the flat beater, until pale and fluffy. Beat in vanilla until just combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, making sure to scrape down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture should look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing just enough for the flour to incorporate into the batter.

3) Spread batter evenly in cake pan.  *I used a scale to ensure that each cake pan had nearly the same amount of batter.

4)  Bake until the cake looks golden and a toothpick comes out clean (30 to 40 minutes, oven-dependent). Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before running a knife around the edge of pan. Invert onto rack (discarding parchment) and then cool completely, about 1 hour.

5)  You can then frost, or wrap in plastic wrap and put the cakes in the freezer.  If you make the cakes a day ahead of time, you'll have a much easier time frosting them when they're frozen.