Obviously you guys, this is not something I make everyday. My roommate and friend Billy's 30th birthday was on March 7th and he requested I make him a beautiful layer cake. This is how the conversation went:
B: I want you to make me a layer cake. With some kind of fruit filling.
J: Okay.... can you elaborate more? What kind of cake? Frosting? What kind of fruit?
B: I don't care, just make it good. And if you make raspberry filling, I don't want seeds.
Yup, that was our conversation. Luckily I have a very creative mind and a willingness to mess up someone's 30th birthday wish. Good thing it wasn't messed up because the birthday boy was VERY impressed with my cake. There it is, down below.
I have extolled the virtues of America's Test Kitchen time and time again. And there is a reason for that; their recipes never fail. If you follow directions, they won't fail. These people get paid to repeat and repeat and repeat all of the recipes so that they are perfect when they get to you. The only thing I changed about these recipes for Old Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake and this Classic White Cake was to cut them both in half (oh and a few tweaks to make my life easier that you will see compared to the original recipe). I decided to have a chocolate and vanilla layer each so this was the only way to do it. To make this easier for you, here are my directions the way I revised it.
6 T. unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. + 2 T. unbleached all-purpose flour
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/8 c. cocoa powder
¼ c. hot water
3/4 c. + 2 T. sugar
3/4 t. baking soda
½ - 1 t. kosher salt
½ c. buttermilk
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one 9-inch-round by 2-inch-high cake pan with softened butter; dust pans with flour and knock out excess. Combine chocolate, cocoa powder, and hot water in a microwave safe bowl. Melt the chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds and stir. Repeat that step with 10 second intervals in the microwave until the chocolate is almost melted. There might be a piece or two left but just stir it and the residual heat will melt it for you. Add 2 T. sugar to chocolate mixture and stir until thick and glossy, 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Combine buttermilk and vanilla in small bowl. In a large bowl, whisk eggs and yolks on medium-low speed with your hand mixer until combined, about 10 seconds. Add remaining ¾ c. sugar, increase speed to high, and whisk until fluffy and lightened in color, 2 to 3 minutes. Add cooled chocolate mixture to egg/sugar mixture and mix on medium speed until thoroughly incorporated, 30 to 45 seconds, pausing to scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time, mixing about 10 seconds after each addition. Add about one-third of flour mixture followed by half of buttermilk mixture, mixing until incorporated after each addition (about 15 seconds). Repeat using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining buttermilk mixture (batter may appear separated). Scrape down sides of bowl and add remaining flour mixture; mix at medium-low speed until batter is thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Fold batter once or twice with rubber spatula to incorporate any remaining flour.
3. Bake cake until toothpick inserted into center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes, then invert onto wire rack. Cool cakes to room temperature before frosting, 45 to 60 minutes.
Classic White Cake
1 1/8 c. cake flour
½ c. whole milk, room temp
3 egg whites, room temp
1 t. vanilla
3/4 c. + 2 T. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 – 1 t. kosher salt
6 T. unsalted butter, softened
1. Set oven rack in middle position. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray one 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray and dust with flour to coat; tap out excess.
2. Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended.
3. Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and with a hand mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs.
4. Add all but 1/4 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides. Mix at medium speed 20 seconds longer.
5. Pour batter in cake pan; using a rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes.
6. Let cake rest in pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto wire racks. Let cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours.
So yeah, the cakes were easy enough. Follow the directions! Make sure they cool well before doing anything else.
Here is the recipe I used for the Seedless Raspberry Filling. The only thing I changed was leaving out the liqueur. I just didn't feel like buying an unnecessary ingredient. This turned out wonderful and was just tart enough to combine well with the sweet cake and frosting.
(Here is it is in its unexcited decoration glory.)
And for the frosting, I used this recipe for Classic Buttercream Frosting. I used 3 c. of confectioner's sugar which is usually more than I would but I wanted the frosting to be thick and perfect.
As for decorating, I had a rotating cake stand and an angled spatula to help me out. It's really not that hard. I just placed one cake on a 12" round with a little dab of frosting to help it stay where it's supposed to. I piped some frosting all the way around the first cake so that there was a barrier to hold the filling in. I poured the filling in and it was like a perfect amount. I topped this with the next cake and started to frost all around. I basically wanted to make sure the sides were covered so I paid extra attention to that and then worked my way up. I am not a huge frosting fan and either is Billy, so were on the same page here. There was just enough frosting to get your fix without going into a sugar coma. I even got one of those "fancy" plastic containers to hold the cake so it wouldn't dry out. I really need one of these in my life.
Here is a delicious piece I cut from it and trust me, this cake did not last long. Even with 3 people.
Up next, Penne with Roasted Asparagus and Balsamic Butter. Yummmm!