Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Perfect Cake

I had a really rough day yesterday. Just too many things went wrong - you know how those days are, right? So when i got home i thought to myself: "how can i salvage my day?". The solution: Put on some sweatpants, drink a glass of wine, and make a cake. Sometimes, sweets and sweats are the only thing that can make you feel better. The conclusion? Day was saved. And, SmittenKitchen really has found the perfect cake. It's just the icing I'm not completely sure about. But, if you don't mind things like sour cream, you might love the icing, plus, it really was the easiest icing i've ever made.

The truly PERFECT white cake:
It's light, fluffy, sweet, and divine in every sense of the word. This makes two 9" round cakes.

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

Firstly, if you're like me, you might be the kind of person who doesn't always read the ingredients before you start making the cake. So, when i started this cake, i realized I didn't have any buttermilk, which, despite what my husband says, can be easily made. Just use 2 cups of milk and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. According to Joy the Baker ( you just need to top the lemon juice with with skim, low fat or whole milk. Stir and let sit for two minutes. After two minutes, your milk is both acidic and curdled. So there you go.

Now on to the cake, preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment. (I used a cooking spray the buttered the parchment paper). One tip for this is to spray your pan very well, then just cut the parchment in a circle to line the bottom of the pan, that way your cake doesn't come out all wrinkled.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. Again... don't beat in your fork. It is NOT a good idea to try to get the flour off the top of the paddle attachment while it is mixing... At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just Incorporated. I made a really big mess (as usual).

(this is a picture of my cool bowl scraping attachment)

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. (I, like smittenkitchen, enjoy dropping my pan on the counter from a couple inches up and making a lot of noise - i especially like doing this while i'm on the phone so i can be as disruptive as possible) Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.

The frosting is SO easy, but it tastes a little sour-cream-y to me. So i guess it depends on if you like sour cream or not.

This recipe makes 5 cups of frosting (more than enough to frost and fill a two layer 9-inch cake).

15 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons instant espresso (optional, but can be used to pick up the flavor of average chocolate - definitely good)
2 1/4 cups sour cream, at room temperature
1/4 to 1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Note: if your sour cream isn't at room temperature the chocolate will seize up when you add it.

Combine the chocolate and espresso powder in the top of a double-boiler or in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. If you don't have a double-boiler you can always make do with a big pot and a slightly smaller pot on top, just make sure the top one doesn't fall off. Stir until the chocolate is melted. (Alternately, you can melt the chocolate in a microwave for 30 seconds, stirring well, and then heating in 15 second increments, stirring between each, until the chocolate is melted.) Remove from heat and let chocolate cool until tepid.

(see the cool new trick i learned on photoshop? thanks dad!)

Whisk together the sour cream, 1/4 cup of the corn syrup and vanilla extract until combined. Add the tepid chocolate slowly and stir quickly until the mixture is uniform. Taste for sweetness, and if needed, add additional corn syrup in one tablespoon increments until desired level of sweetness is achieved. I added about 2 tablespoons.

Let cool in the refrigerator until the frosting is a spreadable consistency. It took 20 or 30 minutes for me, and probably shouldn't take any longer than that. If the frosting becomes too thick or stiff, just leave it out until it softens again.

mmmm.... Day Saved

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