Hi there! I hope you all enjoyed the last segment of the series, Baking Basics, and have been whipping up yummy, moist cakes left and right. Perhaps even for Valentine's Day? Now, before we get into some decorating and assembly tips and tricks, I would like to set you up with some staple recipes from my own kitchen. Believe me, if you start with a stable icing and a crumb with good structure, the sometimes-daunting decorating process will be much easier.
When it comes to vanilla cakes, you are probably imagining a light, delicate sponge with a subtle buttery vanilla flavor. Vanilla, or "white cakes," can be made a variety of ways to create different textures for different purposes. While a light chiffon cake might be heavenly soft, it may not be the best for a carved, 3D cake just as a dense pound cake may not be ideal when looking for something in the Angle Food cake family. Today, I will share my go-to Vanilla Butter Cake recipe. I have used this recipe for years at my bakery. It can withstand hours waiting at a wedding for the couple to cut their first slice, not crumble under a serrated knife when carving novelty cakes, while still being extremely moist and velvety.
VANILLA BUTTER CAKE
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 cups cake flour, sifted
- 1 Tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups milk
**Tip: save your egg white for Italian Meringue Buttercream! Recipe below.
Method: For this recipe, you will use my standard mixing method found in the Baking Basicspost. Bake at 350 degrees until the tops of your cakes/cupcakes are slightly golden brown.
What's a complete recipe box without something chocolate? As with our vanilla cake, there are dozens of delicious chocolate cakes to chose from. From rich mud cakes, to milk chocolate genoise, there is something for everyone. Here is my Classic Chocolate Cake recipe, guaranteed to satisfy most levels of chocolate-lovers.
CLASSIC CHOCOLATE CAKE
- 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 1/4 unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/4 cups milk
- 1 1/4 cups warm coffee
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, baking soda, cocoa, and salt. Set aside.
Using a stand mixer, beat together the oil and sugar with a paddle attachment until combined - about 1 minute. With the mixer on low, add the eggs one at a time. Stir in extracts. Beginning and ending with your dry mixture, alternate dry ingredients and liquids (milk and coffee) until smooth. Be sure to scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl with a spatula between batches.
Pour into prepared cake pans or cupcake lines and bake in a 350 degree oven until centers are done.
For the most versatile, silky frosting I can think of, it is definitely worth the time and effort to understand the method to making Italian Meringue Buttercream. This buttercream pairs with literally every cake flavor out there. The vanilla base is not too sweet and can be easily flavored and tinted. Did I mention how silky smooth it is? Yes, there is some sugar boiling, egg white whipping, and a bit of anxiety (at first) involved, but there is no substitute for this buttery, magical goodness. We could just stir together some butter and confectioner's sugar and call it a day (will elaborate on this later), but let's take a moment to break down the wonders of a meringue-based frosting.
ITALIAN MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 6 ounces egg whites
- 6 sticks unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
**Note: do not use egg whites from the carton
Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and place on a stovetop. Stir slightly to combine. Heat on high until the mixture comes to a boil. Using a candy thermometer (this is a must), heat until the sugar syrup reaches 238 degrees, or softball stage.
Meanwhile, place the egg whites in a bowl of a stand mixer. Be sure that the bowl and whisk are completely dry and free from any moisture and oil. With a whisk attachment, beat the egg white on high until stiff peaks form. This should take about 7 minutes. If started just after the sugar mixture is placed on the stove, both steps should be ready at about the same time.
Once the sugar syrup reached 238 degrees, remove from heat. Let the syrup rest about 30 seconds to let the bubbles settle. (Deep breath here). While the mixer is still on high, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites. Continue mixing on high until the meringue comes to room temperature. The outside of the bowl will no longer be warm to the touch.
Switch the mixer off and remove the whisk attachment. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and replace with a paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium, gradually add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time. Pour in vanilla extract. At this point, the mixture might look soupy or separated. Don’t give up! Cross your fingers, and continue to mix on medium-high until the mixture comes together. This may take up to about 3-5 minutes until all of the ingredients are at the same temperature and the buttercream becomes smooth. Use immediately, flavor, or store in an air tight container in the refrigerator.
Did you all survive? Phew. Good ;)
Okay, okay - so we might not all have that kind of time and I would certainly not want to discourage anyone from whipping up a quick home-made dessert. For a short-cut or something on the sweeter side, there is always Whipped Vanilla Buttercream to the rescue! Sometimes known as "American Buttercream" or "Cupcake Frosting," this icing will surely make you feel like a kid again. Better yet, use if for a children's party or treat.
WHIPPED VANILLA BUTTERCREAM
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
- 3.5- 4 cups powderedsugar
- 3 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
Whip butter using the paddle attachment on an electric mixer on medium speed for 8 minutes. Turn the mixer to low speed, and gradually add the remaining ingredients. Slowly increase the speed back up to medium, and beat for another 6 minutes. Notice a trend? Just keep on whipping that butter until nice and creamy!