I haven't iced a cake since my birthday, so last night when I had the desire to make a cake and then ice it I decided to run with it - despite the multitudes of other things I had to do. Also despite the fact that I've never made a cake in my current (awful) oven.
I made the cakes last night, leaving them to cool whilst I slept. The cakes weren't perfect, in fact when they came out of the oven they were pretty terrible looking. I don't know why, but there was about a 2.5cm (1") difference between the sides of the cakes. They were mega slanted. Taste wise, they're fine. Just a simple vanilla butter cake.
Normally I'd just level the cakes and be done with, but if I'd leveled these cakes I'd be leveling off half the cake. Instead I plonked them on top of it each, with the small sides lining up with the tall sides. Surprisingly, the assembled wonky layers resulted in a fairly even cake.
This is the first time I've made egg based butter-cream, I generally tend to avoid icing cakes because I don't like butter-cream made purely with butter. This butter-cream was considerably more effort than just pure butter and icing sugar but it's definitely worth the extra time. It's not that the recipe is complicated, it just takes a bit longer. It's also one of those recipes that makes you really appreciate having a stand mixer and a good whisk.
I added a bit of raspberry syrup into my butter-cream, purely because I had it on hand. You could use any flavouring you like.
Yellow cake with raspberry butter-cream
(adapted from The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri)
makes two 23cm (9") round layers
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
170g (6 ounces) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/3 cup milk
Set the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 180°C (350°F) Grease and line the bases of two 23cm (9") shallow cake tins.
Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine.
Combine the butter, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until lightened in colour and texture, 3-4 minutes.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition.
Decrease the mixer speed to the lowest and add half the flour mixture. Stop and scrape down the bowl and beater.
Beat in the milk and after it is absorbed, beat in the remaining flour.
Stop and scrape down the bowl and beater. Increase the speed to medium and beat the batter continuously for 3 minutes (I think I forgot this step!)
Divide the batter equally between the 2 pans and smooth the tops. Bake the layers until they are well risen and golden, about 25 to 30 minutes. The tops of the cakes should feel firm when pressed in the center with a finger tip.
remove pans from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Unmold cakes, turn right side up again, and cool completely on racks leaving baking paper on the bottoms.
Silky smooth butter-cream
(adapted from The Art & Soul of Baking)
Makes about 2 1/2 cups
2 large egg whites
295g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
225g (8 ounces) butter, very soft but not melted
1/2 cup raspberry syrup or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl a bowl and hand whisk to blend. Bring 1 inch of water to a gentle boil in a medium saucepan. Place the bowl over the simmering water and heat, whisking constantly so that the whites do not scramble, until the mixture reaches 71°c (160°F) on a thermometer. Be sure to remove the bowl from the heat when taking the temperature so the eggs don't over heat while you set down the whisk. If the temperature is not hot enough, rinse the thermometer under very hot water, dry and set aside, then put the whites back over the heat.
Once the correct temperature is reached, remove the mixture from the heat and whip on high speed until it has cooled to room temperature. The mixture will be light and billowing, and resembles marshmallow fluff.
On medium speed, add the soft butter a couple of tablespoons at a time. Allow each addition to blend in fully before adding the next. Halfway through, stop the mixture and scrape down the sides of the bowl using a spatula. Continue until all the butter has been added and the mixture resembles velvety mayonnaise. Gradually add the raspberry syrup or vanilla and blend well.
Don't worry if your butter cream initially looks broken, according to the recipe there is nearly always a point when it looks awful. Continue adding the butter and beating until it looks how it should.