This year for my birthday, I decided to form a bike gang with friends and bike and picnic around Vancouver’s beautiful beaches and parks. The weather was cooperating to the fullest: summer sunshine, hello!
But first, let me talk about cake. In my head I thought it was perfectly reasonable to bake 3 cakes (2 of them would be layer cakes, of course). So I set about making the first cake, a bundt. Easy, right? Well, let’s just say that midway I realized that my Naughty Senator cake from the book All Cakes Considered would not be peppermint and chocolate but lemon and chocolate as I was out of peppermint extract. So I made do with lemon extract & lemon zest. Not as exciting but delicious, regardless. You can get the recipe and read more about this bundt over at Poppytalk. One thing I did learn: it does pay to sift flour. Actually, I made my own cake flour which is 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and enough all-purpose to equal one cup. I sifted that mother not once but three times and the end result was a bundt cake that was much more balloon-like than bundt. It’s impressive and it’s also easy & frosting-free to shove into a bike pannier and eat at a picnic.
After all that sifting, I decided that it would be crazy for me to make 3 cakes…especially since I’m only in possession of one 8 inch cake pan. Think about it: 2 layer cakes + 1 cake pan would equal 6 trips to the oven!! Insanity. Time to buy another couple cake pans I think. So instead of making the labour-intensive Sweet & Salty cake from the Baked cookbook (home of my favorite clumpin’ granola), I went with the monochromatic White Out cake (also from Baked). It looked pretty and I had some fancy white chocolate in the freezer leftover from Christmas.
Now, the thing is, I’m not super keen on vanilla cakes with white chocolate frosting, but I figured to go with aesthetics over taste which would keep me from snacking on leftover cake. The vanilla cake turned out surprisingly well and I think it would be fabulous with a vanilla whipped cream and fresh summer berries. However, I wasn’t too keen on the frosting – it was so sweet, even after I reduced the sugar by almost a whole cup. Yet it did have a super smooth texture, was easy to spread and had excellent stability (it sat on the counter all day on a warm spring day) – and because the frosting recipe calls for flour which seems a bit unusual, I decided that it definitely has potential (for white chocolate lovers & tweakable for those who aren’t).
the whiteout cake
(adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking)
For the cake:
2 1/2 c cake flour
3/4 c all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 t baking soda
3/4 t salt
1 c unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 c sugar
1 T vanilla extract
1 1/2 c ice cold water
3 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 t cream of tartar
For the frosting:
8 oz white chocolate, chopped
1/2 c sugar
1/3 c flour
1 1/2 c milk
1/3 c heavy cream
1 c butter, softened
1/4 c powdered sugar
1 t vanilla extract
white nonpareils for decoration
Bake the cake:
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Butter and flour your cake pan(s), knocking out excess flour and set aside.
2. Sift the flours, baking powder, soda and salt together in a large bowl. In another bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in the vanilla and egg and mix until combined. Add in the flour mixture alternating with the ice water in 3 separate additions, ending with the flour until just mixed. Scrape down the bowl as necessary.
3. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form and gently fold into the cake batter.
4. Divide batter into the cake pans and bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool the cake on a wire rack for 15 minutes and then invert the cake to remove from pans. Let cool completely.
Make the frosting:
1. Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler (or microwave) and set aside to cool.
2. In a heavy-bottomed pot, whisk the sugar and flour together. Slowly whisk in the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens (about 25 minutes). It should be as thick as condensed milk.
3. Transfer the milk mixture into a large bowl of an electric mixer and beat on high until the mixture is cool. Reduce speed and add in butter, mixing throughly until it’s light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla and white chocolate until combined. If the mixture is too soft, add in some powdered sugar to help stiffen. Put in the refrigerator to help firm up and then beat again until it reaches the ideal consistency.
Assemble the cake:
1. Slice off the rounded tops of the cake with a large serrated knife making sure that you have 3 even layers.
2. Tear 4 two inch strips of parchment paper and lay them across your cake plate to form a box about the size of the cake. Place the first layer onto the platter over the parchment strips. Adjust the parchment if necessary so that you have a tight border of paper around the cake.
3. Add about a cup or so of frosting and spread it on top of the 1st layer. Repeat with remaining layers, except for the top layer – keep that baby icing free for the moment. Add a crumb coating to help keep the cake pretty. A crumb coat is just a thin layer of frosting layered over the entire side of the cake to help keep the crumbs at bay. Once that is done, place in the fridge to firm up everything for 15 minutes. Frost the sides and top with the remaining frosting and gently wiggle out the paper strips. Sprinkle with a few white nonpareils for decoration.