Chocolate Stout Cake with Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting

Chocolate Stout Cake via Sweetapolita

This was kind of an unexpected post, actually, so you may notice that there is only one photo of this cake, which isn’t how it usually goes around here. Since it has been so dark and gloomy outside for the past few days, I just couldn’t hold out any longer for nice natural light to take photos (or to eat the cake!), so I took a quick photo and decided to share this recipe with you anyway, because I have a feeling you, like me, have a thing for cake. Yep, I’m catching on quick.

Before I chat about it though, I want to share the winner of the Taste of Home Baking book that I talked about here (along with those rich and chocolatey dipped brownies!).

The winner of the giveaway is…

Sarah {Songbird Sweets}: “…my favorite dessert is definitely chocolate peanut butter cupcakes…i just cant seem to resist them:-)”

Congratulations, Sarah! I will be in touch with you via email!

So, back to this decadent Chocolate Stout Cake with Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting…it will be a short and sweet post, but wow, guys, I loved this cake. I’ve been seeing Chocolate Stout Cakes here and there on other blogs, and I’ve always been intrigued, but never tried it. Since International Stout Day is fast approaching, I figured I better get a move on. Okay, no, I just read that tonight, but that would have been impressive, no? This is a rich, dense and moist cake made with, among other things, dark beer or stout, such as Guinness. The beer really just heightens of the chocolate-ness that’s going on and adds moisture to the cake, but I won’t lie–the dinstinct Guinness flavour is definitely present, however unexpectedly appropriate. It just all works (and trust me, you don’t need to be a beer drinker!). It did, however, lure my husband into trying it, and he was quite amazed. Just promise me you won’t tell him there’s sour cream in it? Don’t ask.

I decided to fill and frost it with my new(ish) favourite sweet frosting, the Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting, rather than the popular chocolate frosting variety, simply because I love contrast in both taste and visual. Since this frosting (as you may recall) tastes like vanilla bean ice cream, all together this cake is kind of like a Guinness Ice Cream Float, and, although I’ve never had one, I’m pretty sure that’s not a bad thing.

Before I leave you with the recipe, I wanted to give you a save-the-date of sorts, for a fabulous giveaway I’ll be posting about next week. As part of the giveaway prize, Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts (where it all began for me!) will be saving 2 spots in the upcoming 2-evening Holiday Truffles & Bonbons class on November 24th & 25th from 6:30pm-9:30pm for a winner and a friend to attend! I’m so excited for the future winner of this prize, truly. Anyone will be able to enter, however you would need to be available those evenings and able to attend the Toronto class. There will be more even more chocolate goodness added to the prize from Barry Callebaut (you know, those folks who produce all of the premium chocolate products I love to use in my recipes, including the extra dark cocoa powder I use in all of my chocolate cake, including this one!), so stay tuned for details.

I’ll be back with another recipe shortly, friends!

Chocolate Stout Layer Cake with Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting         {click to print}

Yield: One 9-inch round two-layer cake–12-16 servings.

Cake Layers

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups (12 fluid ounces) stout or dark beer (I used Guinness)

1 1/2 cups (340 grams/12 ounces/3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1  cup sifted (115 grams/4 ounces) King Arthur Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa (I use Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Dark)

3 cups (360 grams/12.5 ounces) all-purpose flour

3 cups (600 grams/20.5 ounces) granulated sugar

2 1/4 teaspoons (12 grams/11.25 mL) baking powder

1 teaspoon (8 grams) salt

3 large eggs, at room temperature

2/3 cup ( 165 mL) sour cream, at room temperature

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch round pans (2″ deep), line bottoms with parchment paper circles, then grease circles, dust with flour and tap out excess. Set aside.

2. Place the stout and butter in a large, heavy saucepan and heat on medium heat until the butter melts, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat, and whisk in the sifted cocoa powder until smooth. Pour into a large heatproof measuring cup or bowl and let cool.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (flat beater), mix the eggs and sour cream on medium speed (I use #4 on KitchenAid) until well combined, about 3 minutes.

5. Add the cooled cocoa mixture, and mix on medium speed (I use #4 on KitchenAid)  until combined, about 1 minute.

6. Add the dry ingredients slowly and combine on low-speed (I use #2 on KitchenAid) until blended, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of bowl, and then mix for another minute.

7. Divide batter into prepared pans evenly. If possible, weigh the pans and batter with a kitchen scale for accuracy and even layers. If you do, each pan of batter should weigh ~1 kg/2.2 lbs. Place cake pans on middle oven rack side-by-side, but about 2″ apart and bake until toothpick inserted into centre comes clean, about 35 minutes.

8. Let cakes cool on wire racks for ~10 minutes, loosen edges with knife or small palette knife, then gently remove from pans to cool completely.

*Chocolate Stout Cake recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting

Note: This is the same frosting recipe I often use, but I have modified the quantity to yield enough to fill and frost this cake.

Ingredients

1 pound (454 grams/2 cups/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes

3 3/4 cups sifted (600 grams/1 lb + 5 ounces) confectioners’ sugar (icing, powdered)

4 tablespoons (60 mL) milk

1 vanilla bean, scraped

2 teaspoons (10 mL) pure vanilla extract — I use Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract

pinch of salt

Method

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed (I use “4″ on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.

2. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy, and fluffy.

3. Best used right away (for ideal spreading consistency reasons).

4. You can eliminate the vanilla bean and use 4 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract.

*Adapted from Donna Hay 

Good luck & enjoy!



Related posts:

An Epic Tale of Vanilla Cake {and my 1st Blogiversary}

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

Update (June 2012)! You can find a video tutorial for this frosting technique here.

It’s true–it’s been one year since I started this blog. When I think back about how it all came to be, I recall waking up one day last summer and realizing that my poor husband was never going to survive a lifetime of listening to my frequent baking tales, no matter how hard he tried–it was that simple, at first. I wish I was kidding, but, truly, this poor man has put in some serious time listening to my occasionally wordy-yet-passionate descriptions and raves about baked goods! I also felt that something was missing from my creative life, so, I figured I better share all of my baking love in some other way. When the idea of a baking blog entered my mind, I knew it would be a perfect outlet to express myself, but honestly, I had no idea if anyone would actually read it, and I didn’t realize what an amazing outlet and lifeline it would become for me. This blog is so much a part of me now, that I don’t know what I would become without it, so thank you all so much for your visits, sincere comments, and enthusiasm–it astounds me daily, and it means more to me than you could ever know. You can read my first post (kind of embarrassing) here. Yikes–okay, okay, go easy on me!

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

As I looked back on the recipes I’ve shared over the past year, I came to realize that I may have a slight thing for vanilla cake. And, well, seeing as I counted a total of 30 cakes in my recipe index so far, well, I may need to accept that my cake addiction may be an actual condition for which I may want to seek medical attention. Call me a hopeless romantic, if you will (or maybe just a girl who really loves cake), but I figure if you’re going to love something, you better love it with every fiber of your being. That being said, I realize it must be a bit overwhelming to visit my recipe index and find so many vanilla cake options, so I’ve given a little description of each below to help those who were curious about what differentiates them. So many of them are similar, but the recipes are varied slightly, by ingredients and method. I’m forever epicurious and can’t help but attempt any yummy-looking vanilla cake recipe in search of the the perfect vanilla cake.

For my taste, perfect is a light, moist, and borderline cake mixish (gasp) vanilla butter cake that I use for both buttercream covered and fondant covered cakes. I recently came across a recipe that was as close to this as I’d ever seen (that being said, I still love the others!). This was an amazing discovery for me, because since I’ve been baking scratch cakes, I tend to prefer serving chocolate cake–mostly because of its fabulous ability to stay moist and fresh for days. But, in my heart I’m a vanilla cake with pastel vanilla frosting and sprinkles girl. I just am.

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

So, I’ve been making the fabulous Fluffy Vanilla Cake recipe now for weeks, and I make it every chance I get. I love it. It changed my life! I loved seeing your enthusiasm for this cake, and I’ve received more emails about making that cake than anything else I’ve made–so many of you are enjoying vanilla cake success and bliss, but I noticed that some of you are having some issues with the batter “curdling,” once you add the liquid, which then likely caused your cakes to sink in the middle and be more dense. I know how frustrating cake fails can be, so I really wanted to try to make that better so you too could enjoy this incredible cake.

The points of difference in this recipe versus a typical vanilla butter cake, from what I can see, would be the large number of egg whites and the reverse creaming method, created and encouraged by famed baker Rose Levy Beranbaum and her book (one of my all-time favourites) The Cake Bible. The thing is, with so many egg whites and a cup of milk, if there’s even a tad too much liquid, the batter becomes unstable. There is a version of this cake in Rose’s book called White Velvet Butter Cake, which is almost exactly the same, but calls for more cake flour, less egg white, and less sugar. Both of these recipes using the reverse creaming method, although the directions are slightly different. I found that the White Velvet Butter Cake is perfectly stable, easy to make, and delicious. I would say that it may be just a bit less light and fluffy, but incredible.

So, long story short, I’ve modified the Fluffy White Cake recipe we’ve been using, to have just a bit less egg milk and egg white, in hopes that it will be more reliable to make, and the results tasted and looked great to me. Depending on how you measure your ingredients, it’s easy to have too much liquid, so I definitely recommend weighing your egg whites, to be sure. Well, for me it’s so important to weigh all of the ingredients to ensure a successful cake–I find too much or too little flour, in particular, can throw an entire cake’s texture off, which is too bad because it’s easy to have that happen if you don’t weigh it, but then think it’s the recipe’s fault, so to speak. Lastly, when I make this cake, I use Rose’s exact reverse creaming method from her book, although the method was a bit different (very slight) on the original Baking Bites recipe. You can try both methods and see what works for you, if you’re really determined. Confused yet?

That being said, here are the images of me making the fluffy vanilla cake recipe in hope that it answers some of the questions you’ve been asking about making the batter:

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

So, the first step is mixing the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment for 30 seconds…

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

Then you add the butter and the remaining milk (1/4 cup is added to the egg whites and vanilla to be added next), and mix on low speed just until the ingredients are moistened. Then mix on medium speed (I use #4 on my Kitchen Aid) for exactly 90 seconds–this is really important, so that you don’t overmix the batter. Rose (the creator of this reverse creaming method) explains this is “to aerate and develop the cake’s structure.”

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

This is how my batter looks after the 90 seconds of mixing on medium speed.

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

Next I add gradually add the milk mixture (1/4 cup milk that’s been gently mixed with the vanilla and egg whites) starting with 1/3, and mix on medium for 20 seconds–no more, no less.

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

Here it is after 2 of the 3 additions of the egg white mixture have been added and each mixed for 20 seconds. It shouldn’t look curdled, but nice and smooth.

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

Finally, here it is after the final third of the liquid mixture has been added. Again, it should be smooth, but not curdled. If it’s curdled, in my experience that means there’s too much liquid, and the cake will sink in the middle when you bake it.

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

And, finally here are the cakes baked and cooling, and this method really works for me, so I really hope it helps you along in some way! I should also mention that using the two 9-inch pans or two 8-inch pans tends to yield the best result for this recipe, and, typically, I find it’s best to stick to the cake pan size that any recipe recommends. It’s not to say you can’t play around with cake pan sizes/shapes, but, especially when you make a certain cake recipe for the first time, it’s likely the best way to get an accurate result.

As I mentioned, my vanilla cake recipe list is growing, and it must be a bit confusing to know which one is what you’re looking for, so I’ve done my best to include a quick description of each one:

Classic Vanilla Butter Cake: One of the first vanilla cakes I made for the blog. It’s a traditional vanilla cake using whole eggs and whipped egg whites and cake flour to lighten batter: moist, delicious, slightly dense. Straight-forward method and tastes great.

Fluffy Vanilla Cake with Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting (the one we just made): The lightest, fluffiest vanilla cake, and one of my favourites. Uses only egg whites (not yolks) and cake flour for light crumb and reverse creaming method. Can be unstable if too much liquid is added.

Love, Cake & Sprinkles: A delicious vanilla bean cake made with buttermilk, egg whites, and all-purpose flour using the traditional butter cake method of creaming, adding eggs, and alternating dry & wet ingredients. It has gorgeous flavour, is very moist, but not as light and fluffy as above. I love this cake.

My Baker’s Crush: BAKED (and The Whiteout Cake): A delicious butter cake from the famous BAKED bakery in NYC. Some ingredients are butter and shortening, cake flour and all-purpose flour, ice cold water, and egg whites. It’s made by creaming fats, alternating wet & dry, and folding in whipped egg whties. It’s heavier than the Fluffy Vanilla Cake, but delicious and unique.

Rainbow Doodle Birthday Cake: This vanilla cake recipe was originally from Whisk Kid, and I find it perfect for the rainbow cake. It’s also very close to Rose’s White Velvet Butter Cake in that it has egg whites, cake flour, butter, but it is made with the tradtional creaming method. It’s light and stable.

Vanilla Bean Bundt Cake with Vanilla Bean Glaze: A very vanilla traditional bundt cake that bakes up beautifully, but has a heavier texture than vanilla layer cake.

Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake: This is another version of an egg-white vanilla butter cake, that I really love. It uses the creaming method and some key ingredients are buttermilk, egg whites, and all-purpose flour. It’s not the lightest, but tastes incredible and is very stable.

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Instant Fudge Frosting This recipe comes from the book Sky High, and it’s a gorgeous vanilla butter cake made with buttermilk and whole eggs. It’s also a very straight-forward cake to bake and it tastes great. It has a golden finish due to the whole eggs.

I hope this helps! Here’s the modified cake recipe that I find to be a little more consistent in results:

*Notes: If you have made the Fluffy Vanilla Cake prior to my modifying it, and had success, you can keep the recipe the same as it was, which was 1 cup of milk and 6 egg whites (the recipe I use).

Fluffy Vanilla Cake {modified}          {click to print}

Yield: One 2-layer, 8-inch round cake or 9-inch round cake

*Very fluffy and light, but can be a bit more challenging if even a fraction too much liquid is added.

Ingredients

5 large egg whites (5 ounces/150 grams) at room temperature

3/4 cup whole milk (180 mL/6 liquid ounces), at room temperature

2 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (12.5 mL) — I use Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract

2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour (10 ounces/285 grams–weighed after sifting)

1 3/4 cups sugar (12 ounces/350 grams)

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder (19.5 grams)

3/4 teaspoon salt (5 grams)

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (6 ounces/170 grams), at room temperature and cut into cubes

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease, line with parchment, and flour two round 8-inch pans.

2. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the egg whites, 1/4 cup of milk, and the vanilla. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients together on low speed (I use the “stir” setting on my mixer) for 30 seconds.

4. Add the butter and remaining 1/2 cup of milk, and mix on low speed until just moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for 90 seconds.

5. Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg mixture in 3 separate batches; beat on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition.

6. Divide the batter in two, spreading it evenly with a small offset palette knife. If you have a kitchen scale, weigh to ensure 2 even layers.

7. Bake 25-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes clean when inserted into the center. Be so careful to not overbake. Check cake at 20 minutes, but not before, and once you feel it’s almost ready, set the timer for 2 minute intervals. Let cool on racks for 10 minutes before loosening the sides with a small metal spatula, and invert onto greased wire racks. Gently turn cakes back up, so the tops are up and cool completely.

8. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature for up to 2 days, refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 2 months. Best eaten the same day as baked.

*Slightly adapted from Classic White Cake recipe on Baking Bites

Frost with the Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting for the ultimate vanilla cake experience.

You may enjoy my 50 Tips for Baking Better Cakes post.

Good luck & enjoy!

Love, Rosie xo

Related posts:

Strawberry Layer Cake with Whipped Strawberry Frosting

Strawberry Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

Well, hello there! I’m here, I’m here! Life got a little crazy for the past 2 weeks–cakes and beyond (beyond and beyond), but I’m so glad to be back and focused on my personal mission to never wear a bikini again share all of my favourite cakes and baked goods with you, one by one. Strawberry cake has been on my recent would-love-to-make-again list, because, well, I just love the old-fashioned taste of strawberry cake and strawberry frosting. I did recently (my birthday) make a strawberry Swiss buttercream to top a dark chocolate cake (here), but I was still craving double strawberry cake, and, dare I say, more sugary-but-satiny frosting. Then, it happened: I was officially inspired by a jelly bean. Yep, a tiny, little, harmless jelly bean. See, a few weeks ago, while doing some “candy research” for another project, I found the discovered the yummiest jelly beans ever created, and I’m not even a “jelly bean girl.”

I bought a bunch of Jelly Belly’s “Cold Stone Ice Cream Parlor Mix,” and these little things pack some serious ice cream flavour–I actually couldn’t even believe it. I think I may need to revisit the whole I’m-not-really-into-jelly-beans thing. This particular bunch I bought is a variety of ice cream related flavour combinations, including a pink one they call “Our Strawberry Blonde.” One little wee, pink jelly bean manages to pull together the flavours of strawberry ice cream, graham cracker pie crust, strawberries, caramel, and whipped cream . . . can you imagine? So, although I didn’t incorporate graham cracker pie crust or caramel (yet), I was inspired to create a sweet strawberry cake with an overall ice cream parlour taste.

Strawberry Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

For the cake, I went with a moist strawberry butter cake, frosted with whipped strawberry frosting that, for some inexplicable reason, tastes like strawberry ice cream (remember it in vanilla form, here?). I topped it with some whipped cream swirls, and, of course, the ice cream parlour jelly beans. I should say, though, that although I’m usually a bit more of a dessert purest, the cake recipe itself does use strawberry gelatin (yep, Jell-O) to boost the colour and flavour, in addition to the real strawberry puree. Although there are bakers out there that strive and succeed to use only puree and/or strawberry pieces to flavour the cake (and those recipes do look gorgeous), for some reason, I’m personally not offended by incorporating the gelatin. I was really close to going the purest route as well, but in this situation, I find the sweet strawberry flavour really reminiscent of my childhood, and I love it: I love that it’s pink, and I love the taste. Overall, it has a really ice cream parlour feel to me, and nothing bad ever comes from an ice cream parlour, does it?

On a sidenote, I get oodles of emails asking about slicing cakes, and how I get mine to slice “so perfectly,” so here are my thoughts on that–I’m not a cake-slicing expert, but I hope it helps in some way:

Tips for Cutting the Perfect Layer-Cake Slice:

1.  All Cakes are Not Created Equal: The first issue is the type of cake you’re slicing–some varieties simply slice and serve neater than others. I find that very moist, light cakes, such as the Fluffy Vanilla Cake, tend to want to fall not so perfectly when sliced (although, we won’t hold that against it, or other cakes like that, because they are so yummy and uniquely delicious). That being said, I find that if I refrigerate those cakes for an hour or so after frosting, it does tend to set them a bit. The only issue with that, is that typically refrigeration butter cakes can dry them out a touch. Chocolate cakes I have no problem slicing neatly at room temperature, but they are particularly easy to slice when they are refrigerated for a short time as well. The great news is that oil-based chocolate cakes stay so moist, even once refrigerated, so that’s a definite win-win.

2. The Right Stuff: Slicing a cake with a sharp, long, thin knife is key for me when slicing layer cakes. I use a large glass of hot water to dip the knife into and dry cloth to wipe clean between each cut. This makes a huge difference, I find.

3. Method to the Madness: I believe that the method you use to slice your cakes is really important. I press the tip of the knife gently into the centre of the cake once I’ve placed it where the slice will be cut, then slowly begin to slice the cake with the knife’s tip cutting the cake just slightly before the rest of the knife, so that it is the first part of the knife to hit the bottom of the slice/cake plate. I use one relatively clean cut, but never a sawing motion. Once the entire knife has reached the bottom of the slice and is touching the cake board/plate, I slowly remove the knife straight out towards me, never letting the bottom of the knife lift from bottom of slice. To remove the slice from the plate, I like to slide the flat side of the knife under the cut slice, so it is supporting the entire piece, and gently remove it so it is resting on the knife. Then I usually lay it flat on a plate to serve. For photos I do often place the slice upright, which works for many cakes–you can judge the likeliness of that once you pull out the first slice, and go from there.

4. Size Matters: This may go without saying, but you’ll find that the taller your cake, the more difficult slicing the perfect slice can be, but it’s definitely not impossible. You’ll likely notice that two-layer cake will cut much cleaner than a 4, 5, or 6+ layer cake. Even a 3-layer cake can give you trouble if it’s too fragile or if you’re not using the right knife or method. If you follow steps 1-3, though, you will likely find that you can make it work.

5. Let Them Eat Cake: Just remember that my efforts to achieve super-neat slices of cake is mostly because I want to photograph a cake in its loveliest possible moment. When I serve cake at home, it’s not always neat and tidy because I insist on serving it as fresh and soft as possible. If it means a yummer-but-messy cake, I recommend just doing whatever it takes to get the cake to your guest in its freshest, tastiest form–even if it is a little messy. If you follow the above steps, really, it shouldn’t be sloppy, but some just may be cleaner cut than others.

I hope this helps!

Strawberry Layer Cake with Whipped Strawberry Frosting

Yield: One 3-layer, 8-inch round cake

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 1-3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 (85 g) package strawberry flavored gelatin (such as Jell-O)
  • 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 eggs (room temperature)
  • 3 cups (300 g) sifted cake & pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (5 g) salt
  • 1 cup (240 ml) whole milk, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) strawberry puree made from frozen strawberries (puree itself should be closer to room temp, not frozen or icy)
  • For the Frosting:
  • 3 sticks + 2 tablespoons (375 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 4 cups sifted (500 g) confectioners' sugar (icing, powdered), sifted
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) milk
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon (7.5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) strawberry puree made from frozen strawberries (if you want the frosting seed-free, you can put the puree through a sieve before adding to frosting)

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. If you're making your own strawberry puree, remove frozen strawberries (about 2 handfuls) from freezer and place in a single layer in a flat dish to thaw slightly. Place into food processor and puree the strawberries until smooth. Stir to ensure it is nice and smooth and not icy. Measure out 1/4 cup for cake and 3 tablespoons for frosting, and freeze the remaining puree for another use.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter, line with parchment, and flour three round 8-inch pans, tapping out the excess. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the milk, strawberry puree, and the vanilla. Set aside. Sift and whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl, and set aside.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar, gelatin, and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the eggs, one by one, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with spatula.
  6. Add the wet & dry ingredients to the creamed mixture by alternating--beginning and ending with dry ingredients and mixing just enough after each addition to incorporate, but not over-mix.
  7. Divide the batter in three, spreading it evenly with a small offset palette knife. If you have a kitchen scale, weigh each pan filled with batter, to ensure 3 even layers. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes clean when inserted into the center. Be so careful to not over-bake. Check cakes at 20 minutes, but not before, and once you feel it's almost ready, set the timer for 2 minute intervals. Let cool on racks for 10 minutes before loosening the sides with a small metal spatula, and invert onto greased wire racks. Gently turn cakes back up, so the tops are up and cool completely.
  8. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature for up to 2 days, refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 2 months. Best eaten day one.
  9. For the Frosting:
  10. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed (I use "4" on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  11. Add remaining ingredients, except strawberry puree, and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy and fluffy. Add strawberry puree (can be cool, but not frozen or icy) and mix until incorporated.
  12. Assembly of the Strawberry Layer Cake with Whipped Strawberry Frosting:
  13. Place a cake layer face-up on cake plate or 8" round thin cake board. Place 1 cup of frosting on top, and spread evenly with a small offset palette knife.
  14. Repeat until you come to final layer and place final layer, face-down. Place a generous scoop of frosting on top, spreading evenly with a small offset palette knife and working your way down the sides until you have a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake. Use a bench scraper to achieve very smooth sides. Chill until set, about 30 minutes.
  15. Remove from refrigerator and cover with a final layer of frosting. Finish with any decorations of choice, or frosting borders.

Notes

*I used stabilized whipped cream (1 cup whipping cream whipped with 1/4 tsp unflavoured gelatin) and Jelly Belly's "Our Strawberry Blonde" jelly beans (combines the flavour strawberry ice cream, graham cracker pie crust, strawberries, caramel, and whipped cream...um, yummy!)

**A little tip to help make evenly spaced whipped cream (or other decoration) touches: Take a cake pan the same size and shape as your cake, trace onto a piece of parchment paper and cut it out. Fold it in 1/2, then again, and once more for 8 servings. Unfold, and gently place onto top of chilled cake, and using a toothpick make a little mark in the center of each "slice," where the whipped cream will go. Remove paper and keep for next time. Pipe your whipped cream over of each mark.

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[cake layer recipe adapted from allrecipes.com]

Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

Sweet & Salty: Salted Caramel Chocolate Fudge Cake

Sweet & Salty Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

 

I’m starting to notice that I have become a wee bit of a chocolate enthusiast these days: dark chocolate, extra-dark chocolate, and sometimes even-more-than-one-kind-at-a-time chocolate. I know that sounds like a stating of the obvious, but, in the big scheme of things, that’s a new thing for me. I have always been a vanilla, or even white-of-any-kind dessert girl, and would never think to eat chocolate anything, if there was a vanilla, or the like, option. A cake girl, though, well that I’ve been since birth, so, of course, vanilla cake with vanilla icing was always on the top of my list.

But I remember things like white cheesecake (never chocolate), carrot cake, lemon & poppy seed cake, apple cake with fresh whipped cream, crepes, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, strawberry pie, sugar cookies, shortbread, bread pudding, cruller and even white powdered donuts (I know, I know . . . but I was a kid, and it’s an obligatory Canadian thing to have a favourite donut or two) etc., were all alone up there on my dessert-love list. (I suppose being among a dozen others isn’t exactly “alone,” but looking back, I suspect they were all lonely without their future friend “chocolate.”)

I still love and appreciate all of those sweets, but chocolate has really taken on an entirely new role and appeal in my life, and I think about it–a lot. Maybe the problem was, as a kid, that I was turning to the wrong chocolate desserts, or is it perhaps an appreciation that grows with age? Hormones? Post-baby? Has this happened to anyone else?

Sweet & Salty Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

I’ve also found that straight chocolate-on-chocolate dessert just doesn’t seem to excite me as much as one would think, considering my recent love and adoration for it, but I find myself needing to pair it with other flavours to truly appreciate it. Ironically, I often find that I opt for the deepest, darkest chocolate cake paired with vanilla Swiss buttercream–I love the contrast, and a part of me will always need to incorporate vanilla into a dessert somehow or another. In this case, though, the contrast of sweet and salty and chocolate & caramel is what I’m passionate about: 3 layers of dark fudge cake filled with salted caramel Swiss buttercream and frosted with dark fudge frosting and sprinkled with more Fleur de Sel.

This cake is extremely chocolaty, with billowy salted caramel buttercream, and very fudgy frosting–so for the truest of chocolate lovers, and very decadent. The day after I made this, I made a larger version to take with me to the cottage, but I decided to make a Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream, and actually just added the actual fudge frosting to some vanilla Swiss buttercream I had made, to create an even lighter, satiny, and less fudge-like consistency and taste ( I wish I had a photo, but it was quickly enjoyed!). It was still very full in chocolate flavour, but it was the same consistency as the caramel buttercream inside. I found it was a nice variation on this super-chocolatey combination.

You could try it either way (you don’t have to actually make the fudge frosting to add to/make the chocolate Swiss buttercream, but rather just melted chocolate will do–I’ve included the recipe below), and both are delicious. The only thing I would change next time I make it with the fudge frosting is that I would make my layers of salted caramel buttercream filling much thicker, and I might even add more caramel to the buttercream for a stronger caramel flavour. As with any recipe or cake/filling combination, experimenting is key!

Sweet & Salty Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

I have to admit that when I made the Dark Chocolate Fudge Frosting for this little cake, it was the first time I made it, so I somehow used a bit less boiling water than I needed to when mixing with the cocoa powder, so the frosting in the photo doesn’t look as gloriously shiny as it did when I did it the second time and added the correct amount of water to the cocoa. It’s such a gorgeous, intensely chocolate, and full-of-sheen frosting that would be incredible on pretty much anything. I particularly love it sprinkled with the Fleur de Sel.

For those of you who aren’t big sea salt users or lovers, you may want to make an exception for this glorious and special sea salt. Fleur de Sel is a gourmet salt hand-harvested, typically in France (and translates to “flower of salt”), that, albeit pricey, adds a perfect balance of salty (yet not too salty) flavour and a flaky, moist-yet-crunchy, and sprinkle-like texture. It can be a delicious and lovely touch to both sweet and savoury dishes. To calculate and compare the cost per pound to table salt may be a painful thought, but luckily you only need the tiniest bit for impact. You can find smaller packages of it at most gourmet shops or online for under $10, and it would last you quite some time, unless you develop a serious sweet & salty addiction, but I would know nothing about that . . .

Because it seems to be best appreciated in its natural form and texture, you could use regular sea salt when the salt will be dissolved and mixed into a recipe, such as the salted caramel buttercream. You can then save the Fleur de Sel for sprinkling over top of any other yumminess you decide to sprinkle it upon!). There is definitely some debate among foodies/chefs as to if using the Fleur de Sel, dissolved or not, within the recipe will always yield the best result, so feel free to give it a whirl and decide for yourself.  I used all Fleur de Sel, even in the caramel, but next time I will save it for just sprinkling and try the rest of the recipe using a good sea salt to compare.

Here’s the recipe for all of the cake’s components, but don’t be afraid to even use them separately, and paired with your other favourite frosting/filling/cake recipes. Experiment, experiment, experiment! For this cake, you will fill with the Salted Caramel Buttercream, but there are two options for the outside frosting of this cake: 1. Dark Chocolate Fudge Frosting (as shown) OR 2. Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream. You’ll notice that the method for the caramel buttercream is a little different than our usual Swiss meringue buttercream method, because I adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart who actually whips the butter first for caramel buttercream and then adds it in slowly, as opposed to the chunks of butter. You can also simply add a cooled caramel sauce as the last step of your typical Swiss meringue buttercream recipe. I was curious to see if there was a difference, and although I can’t pinpoint the difference exactly, it was definitely a heavenly version–as fluffy as can be.

The recipe is for a 6-inch round 3-layer cake (but note that in the photo I made a 5″ round cake with 4 thin layers). It does look like a ton of work, but I promise, it’s really not so bad, and it’s worth it! Here are the recipes:

Salted Caramel Chocolate Fudge Cake          {click to print}

Yield: One 6-inch, 3-layer cake

Chocolate Fudge Cake

Yield: Three 6-inch round layers

Serves: 8+

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups (180 g/6 oz) all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups (300 g/ 10 oz) sugar

3/4 cup (90 g/3 oz) dark unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Dark)

1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL/6 g) baking soda

1 teaspoon (5 mL/4 g) baking powder

1 teaspoon (5 mL/5 g) salt

1/4 cup (60 mL/2 liquid oz) vegetable oil

3/4 cup (190 mL/6 liquid oz) buttermilk

3/4 cup (190 mL/6 liquid oz) hot brewed coffee

2 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons (10 mL) vanilla (I use Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350° F (180°C). Prepare three 6-inch round cake pans with butter, parchment paper rounds and cocoa powder. Tap out excess.

2. In bowl of electric mixer, sift all dry ingredients and add all remaining ingredients to bowl with the dry ingredients and with paddle attachment on mixer, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed (you may need the plastic splash-guard that comes with mixer) and pour into prepared pans. If possible, use a digital kitchen scale and weigh divided batter in pans for even layers. Batter will be liquidy.

3. Bake for 20 minutes and rotate pans in oven. Cakes are done when toothpick or skewer comes clean–approximately 30 minutes. Try not to over bake.

4. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes, then loosen edges with a small palette knife and gently invert onto racks until completely cool.

Salted Caramel Swiss Buttercream (for filling)

Yield: ~4 cups

Ingredients

1 cup (200 g/7 oz) sugar

1/4 cup (60 mL) water

1/4 cup (60 mL) heavy cream

generous pinch of sea salt (and additional sea salt, preferably Fleur de Sel, for sprinkling), for example: Fleur de Sel De Guerande- French Sea Salt ; 6oz

1 1/2 cups (340 g/12 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 large egg whites (120 g/4 oz)

1 teaspoon (5 mL) pure vanilla extract

Method

The first step is making the salted caramel (you can also do a non-salted caramel by omitting the sea salt), to set aside to cool while you make the Swiss Buttercream. You then add the cooled caramel sauce it to the buttercream as the very last step. I haven’t tried buying ready-made gourmet caramel sauce and adding it, but I suspect it would taste nothing short of awesome.

1. Place 130 grams (5 ounces or 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons) of the sugar and the water in a medium saucepan to a boil over medium heat. Brush down the sides of the pot with a dampened pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Stop stirring and cook until caramel is dark amber, gently swirling from time to time. Remove from heat, and slowly add cream, whisking by hand until smooth. It will be splatter, so be careful. Whisk in sea salt and vanilla. Let cool.

2. Place butter in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (flat beater) and beat on medium speed (I use #4 on my mixer), until pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

3. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer clean with lemon juice, and place egg whites and remaining sugar into bowl over a pot of simmering water (not boiling–you don’t want to cook the eggs). Whisk occasionally and gently until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160° on a candy thermometer.

4. Remove the bowl from heat, and place back onto the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form (about 5-6 minutes). Once the bottom of the bowl is neutral and no longer warm to the touch, reduce speed to medium-low, and add beaten butter, one cup at a time, whisking well after each addition.

5. Switch to paddle attachment. With mixer on low speed, add cooled caramel, and beat until smooth (about 3-5 minutes).

6. Prepare to taste the most incredible buttercream you will ever encounter.

*Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Caramel Buttercream

Dark Chocolate Fudge Frosting

Yield: ~5 cups

Ingredients

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (45 g/1.5 oz) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (I use Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Dark)

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (90 mL/3 oz) boiling water

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks/341 g/12 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup (63 g/2 oz) confectioners’ (icing/powdered) sugar

pinch of salt

1 pound (454 g/16 oz) good-quality semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Method

1. Combine cocoa powder and the boiling water in a small bowl or glass measuring cup, and stir until it cocoa has dissolved.

2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (flat beater), beat the butter, the icing sugar, and salt on medium-high speed until it is pale and fluffy–about 5 minutes.

3. Reduce mixer speed to low, and add melted chocolate (cooled), beating until combined and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

4. Beat in the cocoa mixture until well incorporated.

Notes:

1. Frosting can be refrigerated for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 1 month in an airtight container.

2. Before using, bring to room temperature (usually overnight on counter does the trick), and beat on low speed until smooth.

*Dark Chocolate Fudge Frosting Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

*Alternatively, for a lighter, less dense and fluffier chocolate frosting option for this cake, you can use Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream to mask and frost the outside of this cake. The colour will be a lighter chocolate colour and much more subtle chocolate flavour (less fudgy), and it goes very well with the caramel buttercream filling. If you are opting for this buttercream in place of the Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake, then you can make it easier by making a double batch of the Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream and simply divide, then add your caramel sauce to the first half, and your melted chocolate to the second half.  

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Yield: ~5 cups

Ingredients

300 grams (10 oz) chopped semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted, and cooled

5 large, fresh egg whites (150 g/5 oz)

1 1/4 cups (250 g/9 oz) sugar

3/4 lb (3 sticks/340 g/12 oz) butter, cut into cubes and cool, but not cold

2 teaspoons (10 mL) pure vanilla extract (I use Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract)

pinch of salt

Method

1. Melt chocolate in heatproof bowl over pot of simmering water, or in a microwave-safe bowl in 25 second intervals, stirring in between until smooth. Set aside to cool (you can scrape it out into a new container to speed up cooling).

2. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease.

3. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 150°F, or if you don’t have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

4. With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes or so). *Don’t begin adding butter until the bottom of the bowl feels neutral, and not warm.

5. Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth). *If mixture is too runny, refrigerate for about 15 minutes and continue mixing with paddle attachment until it comes together.

6. Add vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.

7. Add melted chocolate and mix on medium-low speed until combined.

Assembly of the Sweet & Salty Cake

1. Trim any doming from the tops of your cake layers with a sharp, serrated knife and place first layer, face up, on your cake board, pedestal, or plate.

2. Using a small offset palette knife, spread approximately 3/4 cup of the caramel buttercream evenly on the top.

3. Repeat this 1-2 until you come to the final layer, which you will place face down on the top of the cake.

4. Place cake on a turntable (if possible), and using a small offset palette knife for the top of the cake, and medium straight palette knife for the sides, cover the cake in a thin layer of chocolate frosting (or chocolate buttercream, if using) to mask (seal in crumbs). Refrigerate for 30 minutes (or more). *This does not need to be perfect, as that will come with the top “coat” of buttercream.

5. Repeat step 4, and, for best results, use bench scraper held at 90° against the side of the cake, slowly turning the turntable and keeping your hand steady–let the turntable do the work. Clean up edges with your small offset palette knife.

6. Chill cake to set. *Bring to room temperature before serving–about 2+ hours. Never serve Swiss Meringue Buttercream until it is soft and room temperature, as cold buttercream is, well, kind of yucky!

7. Sprinkle with Fleur de Sel.

8. Place any remaining buttercream/frosting in airtight containers and refrigerate up to a week, or freeze for up to 2 months, bringing back to room temperature before rewhipping to smooth consistency.

9. Serve at room temperature, and slice with a long, thin-bladed, sharp knife. Rinse knife with hot water and dry before each new slice, for best results.

As I included in my last post (Six-Layer Dark Chocolate & Strawberry Buttercream Cake), here are a few tips for baking your best cakes, and some of my favourite baking tools:

A Few More Steps to Baking/Making Better Cakes

1. I always use a kitchen scale to weigh my ingredients. They’re small, light, and don’t have to be fancy or expensive; here is what I use: Salter 1020 Aquatronic Electronic Kitchen Scale. It’s just a great habit to get into. You wouldn’t believe the difference in what one person may scoop as a cup of flour, versus another, and weighing it to the exact gram/oz is your safest bet. Having too much flour can sure dry out a cake in a hurry, just as too little will throw it off kilter. I really believe that using a scale is one of the habits that made me a much better baker, and definitely more consistent. Trust me! I even use mine to weigh my coffee grinds for a perfect pot, my serving portions (when I’m eating clean), homemade burgers, and when dividing batches of pizza dough, etc.

2. You may notice that I bake “layer by layer,” so rather than baking a higher cake and slicing layers for a standard 3-layer cake, I bake 3 more shallow layers in 2″ high pans. This way, the cakes seem to come out more moist, with no “doming,” and ready to be frosted. It may seem an inconvenience at first, because you have to buy 3 cake pans in each diameter, but you get used to it quickly, and it’s so worth it. You also save the time trying to slice even layers, unless of course you are turning 3 layers into 6. But, then again, that’s worth it too!

3. Never open the oven before 20 minutes, or you could disrupt the baking process. Always wait 20 minutes, and then, if you’re baking 3 cake layers at a time, rotate the pans and then continue baking.

4. There are a few tools that I mention in almost every post, and since I’ve been receiving many emails asking more about the cake baking/decorating essentials, I thought I would take this chance to create a list of some of my favourite things in the kitchen, and things that I believe really make a difference:

Good luck & enjoy!



Related posts:

Fluffy Vanilla Cake with Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting

Fluffy Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

8640 minutes, 144 hours, 25 loads of dishes, 7 recipes, 8 pounds of butter, a few tears, a couple of happy children, and 1 relieved husband later, I have finally found it: a new favourite classic vanilla cake recipe! The perfect fluffy vanilla cake and creamy vanilla frosting–sounds simple, right? Well, yes and no. Or no and yes. Or not at all. As a matter of fact, I think I need a hug. I must confess: I baked and frosted a delightful vanilla cake last Tuesday with every intention on blogging about it that night. I think I even promised a few people it was coming, when they asked if I had the ultimate vanilla cake recipe. But then something happened. Something sort of frustrating, really. And then it happened again. And again. And again. And, while I’m being honest–again! Oh, and one more time after that. All with different vanilla cake recipes every day over the course of the past week.

After I baked, frosted, and then ate some (it’s been known to happen) of each cake, I thought I’d succeeded in finding a really light and fluffy cake, but, then upon second taste, I was a bit disappointed with them and I wasn’t inspired to share them with you for that reason. See, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been searching for the lightest, fluffiest, and yummiest white scratch cake I can find. True, I have shared several vanilla cakes with you so far over the months, and I stand behind those cakes completely–they are all classic recipes that yield moist and flavourful vanilla cakes.

The thing is, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a recipe out there that yields a fluffy vanilla cake, you know, one that is as close as can be to the boxed white cake we all love so much (yep, I said it!). You know I love to bake, and, if you’ve been visiting me here, you likely know that I bake everything I can from scratch. The truth is, though, that boxed white cake tastes so good! The bad news, is that they are filled with whiteners and chemicals that make them super white, super light, and super moist. The same thing goes for the canned frostings, but man, do they taste good. So creamy and rich, but not too thick. The good (or even great) news is that, this morning I baked one last vanilla cake. Alas, it was the best of all, and officially my new go-to vanilla cake recipe when I want something fluffy and moist. It definitely still has the homemade taste, and will never be as pure white or airy as a boxed cake, but for my taste, it’s pretty delicious. And . . . the frosting. Oh, the frosting!

Fluffy Frosting via Sweetapolita

Here’s what’s kind of interesting about both the frosting and the cake recipes, even though they aren’t adapted from the same source: What makes them particularly amazing is in the method, even though the ingredients and ratios are all very standard. The cake recipe has all of the typical ingredients in a vanilla cake: cake flour, butter, milk, egg whites, baking powder, salt, and vanilla. The difference, though, is rather than creaming the butter and sugar together and alternating the wet and dry ingredients, the dry ingredients are combined, followed by the addition of the butter and partial milk for a few moments, and finally the gradual addition of the remaining milk/vanilla/egg white mixture in 3 even batches. This method is known as the two-stage method of cake mixing. It’s considered a “high-ratio cake” due to the high ratio of sugar to flour. This type of cake also has more liquid than traditional creamed-method cake recipes, making the batter more more liquidy.

This method is found in many of the cakes in Rose Levy Beranbaum’s book entitled The Cake Bible, and it really does yield an incredibly fluffy cake. This was the first official baking book I bought after it was recommended to me by the pastry chef teaching the first baking course I took. If you like to bake, and something tells me you do, this is an absolute must. It is a huge book, filled with every cake recipe you can imagine, along with helpful background, method, and tricks. Now, I did make Rose’s White Velvet Butter Cake from that book, and it was incredible, but I then discovered a version on Baking Bites that had more egg whites and less flour, so I was curious to give that a try. In the end, I loved it the best! I adapted it only slightly by increasing the vanilla and omitting the almond extract the recipe called for. Just be careful to not overbake, or it will dry the cake out. I’m convinced that even fabulous vanilla cake recipes get a bad review for being dry because, in reality, they are over-baked. I should also mention that a recipe such as this one, that features the wonderful flavour of real vanilla, is most delicious when you use a pure vanilla extract.

The frosting I adapted from a Donna Hay recipe, and let me tell you how incredible it is. You’ve probably caught on that I do love the wonderful and not-so-sweet Swiss Meringue Buttercream, but sometimes the world (and my husband)  just needs a creamy, sweet vanilla frosting and fluffy vanilla cake. It’s also great for kids’ cakes, and for days when you want to just whip up a quick frosting/filling. Again, the ingredients are those of a very standard frosting: butter, icing sugar, milk, and vanilla (I used vanilla bean too). But . . . it’s a whipping frenzy! It’s fabulous. The first step is the whipping of the butter, and right then and there I was in love. When butter is whipped for several minutes (in this case, 8), it becomes very pale and fluffy, which is a gorgeous base for a frosting. Once the remaining ingredients are whipped up for another 6 minutes, it turns into the most incredibly light and creamy frosting I have ever seen or tasted. For some inexplicable reason, it tastes exactly like homemade vanilla ice cream so, in other words, sweet heaven.

If you have a vanilla cake recipe that you feel is the lightest and fluffiest cake out there, I’d love for you to share a link in the comments section. I’m kind of vanilla-cake-obssessed right now, and although it’s freaking me out a little, I can’t let it go quite yet . . .

Before I go, I wanted to talk a little bit about transporting your baked masterpieces. I’ve had several people ask me what is the best way to get cakes and cupcakes from A to B, and so I thought it may be helpful to share what I do. As with anything, everyone has their preferences, so this is just what I do. There may be even better ways out there, but this seems to work for me:

Transporting Cakes

1. When I know I have to bring a cake somewhere, I always build the cake on a thin silver cake board (3/16″ thin boards, not the 1/4″ cake drums) the same diameter as my cake, such as PME Sugarcraft Round Cake Board – 8″. I find that the cardboard rounds, tend to get soggy and greasy, so I stick to the silver boards. When your cake is on a board, you can move it all around to and from the refrigerator during the frosting process, as well as on and off a cake pedestal or plate once you get to your destination. These are also the boards that cake tiers are built on when doing a multi-tiered cake, so that the tiers can be stacked. You can also buy these at your local baker’s supply shop, or online.

2. If my cake is only 1 tier and standard height, I will take it with me in a bakery-style cake box that I buy from my local cake supply. They are relatively inexpensive and come in many sizes and even fun bakery colours, such as pink and turquoise. Kind of fun when bringing a cake to a dinner party and small events.

2. If my cake doesn’t fit in a cake box (which is often the case with my frequent sky-high cakes), I use my Wilton Cake Caddy, which is great because then once I get to the cottage, or other destination, the cake stays fresh over the course of the weekend, since the caddy is airtight. To ensure the cake doesn’t move around in the caddy, I always use a small square of rubber grip between the bottom of the cake board and the caddy base. I couldn’t survive without these bits of rubber mesh, and I use them for everything cake-related. These are the rubber grip mats you buy for under your rugs. I buy them at our HomeSense for a good price, and then cut squares and bits as I need it. I find about 4″ squares work well for under pretty much any standard cake board.

3. To get my cakes from the cake plate to the box or caddy (or from any plate, turntable, etc.), I always use this handy tool: Wilton Cake and Cookie Lifter. Please don’t make me imagine a world without it.

4. Once my cake is safely in the box or caddy, I then clear a flat space on the car floor or trunk, with a big square of the same rubber mesh between the floor and box/caddy. If you give it a little test move with your hands, you’ll feel that it’s pretty solid. Incidentally, this is the same way I transport wedding cakes on the cake drum (thick board) – in the back of my truck on the rubber mat with a layer of the rubber mesh on top, then the cake. It’s amazing how secure this method really is. Someday, when we know each other even better, and you care to hear about some of the crazy stories I have up my sleeve, I’ll tell you all about our 6-tiered wedding cake that didn’t quite make it to our wedding in one piece. Ouch! But, yes, believe it or not, even I know that a cake is just a cake, and we lived to tell the story!

That being said, it would be ideal to get your cake, whether it’s big or small, fancy or homespun, to its destination in one piece…

Transporting Cupcakes

1. If I’m transporting more than 3 dozen, I will use designated cupcake bakery boxes and always with the insert (such as Goldas Kitchen Cupcake Insert – Standard – Holds 12 – 10 pack) and place them in the trunk in the same manner I do the cakes — with the rubber mesh under the boxes. I will tie 3 stacked cupcake boxes together using baker’s twine or string and transport them that way.

2. If I’m transporting 3 dozen or less, I use my cupcake courier Cupcake Courier 36-Cupcake Plastic Storage Container, Petal Pink, which again is great because when I get to my destination, it keeps them fresh for us while we snack on them over the course of a few days.

A Final Note About Transporting Cakes & Cupcakes: In the warmer weather, I always run the air conditioning in our vehicle as cool as we (my husband) can tolerate. If I’m transporting a smaller cake that needs refrigeration (such as a whip cream covered cake, or other delicate frosting), I usually place it on the front passenger’s side floor and have the a/c blow straight on it. If the sun is shining onto the floor, I will cover the box/caddy with a black garbage bag.

I hope this helps!

05/08/13 EDIT — I have updated this recipe for an even *better* version of the same cake, and to ensure more consistent results among readers/bakers.

Fluffy Vanilla Cake with Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting

Yield: One 2-layer, 8-inch round cake

Ingredients

    For the Fluffy Vanilla Cake:
  • 5 large egg whites (150 g), at room temperature
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 cup whole milk (237 ml), at room temperature
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons (12 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (345 g) cake flour, sifted
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (17 g) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (5 g) salt
  • 12 tablespoons (170 g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 24 even pieces
  • For the Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting:
  • 3 sticks + 2 tablespoons (375 grams) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 3 cups sifted (475 g) confectioners' sugar (icing, powdered)
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

    For the Fluffy Vanilla Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease, line with parchment, and flour two round 8-inch pans.
  2. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the egg whites, whole egg, 1/4 cup of milk, and the vanilla. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients together on low speed (I use the "stir" setting on my mixer) for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the butter one piece at a time, about every 10 seconds, ensuring it's cold (you can keep some in refrigerator while you're adding pieces). Continue to mix on low until the mixture is a fine crumbly texture. Add milk, and mix on low speed for 5 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg mixture in 3 separate batches, mixing until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. (You want to ensure that the batter is homogenous.) Fold once or twice to ensure the batter at bottom of bowl is incorporated.
  5. Divide the batter in two, spreading it evenly with a small offset palette knife. If you have a kitchen scale, weigh to ensure 2 even layers.
  6. Bake until a cake tester comes out with a few crumbs when inserted into the center, about 30 minutes. Be so careful to not over-bake. Check cake at 20 minutes, but not before, and then set the timer for 5 minute intervals. Let cool on racks for 10 minutes before loosening the sides with a small metal spatula, and invert onto greased wire racks. Gently turn cakes back up, so the tops are up and cool completely.
  7. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature for up to 2 days, refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 2 months. Best eaten the same day as baked.
  8. For the Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting:
  9. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed (I use "4" on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  10. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy and fluffy.
  11. Best used right away.
  12. You can eliminate the vanilla bean and use a total of 1-1/2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract.
  13. Assembly:
  14. Place bottom cake layer on cake plate or 8" round thin cake board and spread 1 cup of frosting on top with a small offset spatula.
  15. Gently place 2nd cake layer face down on top. Place a generous scoop of frosting on top, spreading evenly with a small offset spatula and working your way down the sides until you have a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake. Chill until set, about 30 minutes.
  16. Remove from refrigerator and apply a final "coat" of frosting.
  17. Store in a cake keeper at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in refrigerator for up to 5 days. Best eaten day 1.

Notes

[cake layer recipe adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum]

[frosting recipe adapted from Donna Hay]

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http://sweetapolita.com/2011/07/fluffy-vanilla-cake-with-whipped-vanilla-bean-frosting/

Good luck & enjoy! Now, excuse me while I go make something chocolate . . .


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