My dad's birthday falls within days of Christmas and we typically celebrate it on New Year's Day. I was happy to accept the task of making his birthday dessert this year and asked him what he'd like; he requested a white/marbled cake with raspberry filling and chocolate frosting. I wanted it to be special and delicious because I think that generally people with birthdays near major holidays get the short end of the stick when it comes to celebrations.
I must have analyzed a dozen recipes before settling on a white cake to make. Two problems seemed to plague a great number of them--the cakes turned out too dry, or too dense. White cake should be moist, light and airy, delicately flavored, and WHITE. Reviews seemed unanimously favorable regarding the Cook's Illustrated White Layer Cake, so that's what I went with, cutting down on the sugar slightly.
I learned something about this cake though. When I was assembling it everything seemed good, but the night of the party--when we cut into it--I was dismayed to find the texture on the dry and crumbly side, despite having excellent flavor. We all enjoyed it anyway, but it wasn't the transcendent white cake experience I was going for, and I'm about 99% sure that's because I stored the cake out in the cold overnight, and it was cool when we ate it. Rookie mistake. The cake loses its fine, tender crumb when chilled, as I should have known based on the recipe I followed. At room temp, or slightly warm, it's marvelous (I discovered with a leftover slice).
White (or Marble) Cake (adapted from Cook's Illustrated with some tweaks by The Way The Cookie Crumbles)
2 1/4 c. cake flour
1 c. + 2 T. whole milk at room temperature
6 large egg whites at room temperature
1 tsp. almond extract
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. + 2 T. granulated sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
12 T. unsalted butter, soft but still cool
2 heaping T. unsweetened cocoa powder if you want some marbling
Center a rack in oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 3 9" cake pans with parchment circles, then spray pans and parchment with cooking spray and dust with flour, removing the excess, or just use a butter-flavored baking spray with the flour mixed in.
Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into a 2-cup glass measure and mix with a fork until blended.
Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter, continue beating on low setting until mixture resembles moist crumbs.
Add all but 1/2 c. of the milk mixture and beat at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining milk and beat 30 seconds more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat 20 seconds longer.
Divide batter evenly between 3 pans, reserving about 1/2 c. of the batter IF you want a chocolate marble. Spread the cake batter to the edges of the pan and smooth the tops. If you want some marbling, mix the cocoa powder into the reserved batter and drizzle on top of the layers. Don't overdo it--less is more. :)
Bake the cake layers for 18-20 minutes (if you just want a normal 2-layer cake, you can use 2 pans and bake for 23-25 minutes instead). A tester should come out clean. Let the cakes rest in the pans for 3 minutes, then loosen the sides with a knife if necessary and invert on wire racks or plates to cool. Allow to cool completely before filling and frosting.
I used raspberry preserves to fill my cake, about 1/2 c. warmed slightly in the microwave to a spreadable consistency.
I frosted with the following.
Chocolate Truffle Buttercream
8 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate (NOT cocoa)
4 c. confectioners' sugar
12 T. unsalted butter, soft but cool
6-8 T. whole milk
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
Melt unsweetened chocolate in the microwave on 50% power, stirring every 30 seconds or so. Allow to cool to room temp.
In a bowl, beat cooled chocolate and butter together until smooth and glossy. Beat in salt and vanilla. Beat in confectioners' sugar a cup at a time, adding milk as needed to keep consistency smooth and spreadable. You may like more sugar for a sweeter frosting, or more milk for a smoother one. Use immediately to frost cake.
This frosting has a rich chocolate flavor and does very well piped. It's like a truffle center. I think my husband even used the word "phenomenal." :)
Linking up with Made By You Monday, of course.