Best Chocolate Cake - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

I can’t believe I haven’t posted about this cake yet. I have made this cake more than any other…well, besides the old family stand-by. But this cake is SO GOOD. It has a really nice cocoa flavor, not super deep-rich chocolate, so it’s great for all palates. And the frosting is so fluffy and buttery, it just melts in your mouth. I’ve made this cake for numerous birthdays, get-togethers, and just because we want cake. It’s not super difficult, as far as cake recipes go. If you’re looking for a good, old-fashioned, super moist and chocolatey cake recipe, this is IT.

World's Best Chocolate Cake - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

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My mom gave me the recipe several years ago, in an article cut out of her local newspaper. It was literally called the “World’s Best Chocolate Cake” (I did not give it this ridiculous name). I don’t remember the specifics of the article…someone won a cake contest, or a cake connoisseur happened upon it at a dinner at a friend’s, or something along those lines. I tried to find the original article, to no avail, so I can’t tell you the real story. All I can remember is that the writer thought this cake was the best he had ever had, and I had to see for myself. It’s pretty darn good.

Best Chocolate Cake - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

World's Best Chocolate Cake - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

TIPS AND TRICKS:

There’s a few things that I’ve learned after making this cake numerous times.
flour and cocoa

For one, and this goes for most cakes I make, when sifting the dry ingredients, I use the following method: I cut two pieces of waxed paper, and set them side by side on the counter. I first sift the flour onto the first piece of paper, then put the sifter on the other paper and measure out the flour, putting it back into the sifter. Then I place the rest of the dry ingredients in the sifter with the flour and sift them all together onto the second piece of waxed paper. Then I just set that aside until I need to add it to the batter. It’s pretty easy to add it, just carefully picking up the paper at each edge, creating kind of a funnel, and slowly pour it into the mixer. Save your waxed paper for later…you can use one to sift your powdered sugar onto, and the other for my trick below.

batter

chocolate cake batter

Secondly, don’t be alarmed when the batter looks curdled after you add the water and vanilla. It will smooth back out after the addition of flour and buttermilk. No worries.

preparing to frost

Third. When preparing to frost the cake, cut up one of the pieces of waxed paper and slide them under the first layer. It takes four strips, make sure the plate is completely covered. Then when you’re frosting the cake, the frosting isn’t getting on your serving plate. When you’re done frosting, carefully slide the strips out from under the cake and voila! Clean plate.

World’s Best Chocolate Cake

The Cake:

Have all your ingredients at room temperature. Line two 9″ round cake pans with parchment paper and spray with baking spray with flour (or butter and flour the pans). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup butter
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa and salt, and set aside. Cream the butter in a bowl with an electric mixer (or use a stand mixer-my recommendation). Gradually add the sugar, and beat at medium speed for one minute, until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute after each egg. Gradually add the water and vanilla on low speed, and then beat on medium for one minute more. With the mixer on low speed, add one third of the flour mixture, and beat on low until completely combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add half of the buttermilk, beat on low, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then beat on low until completely combined again. Alternate the flour and buttermilk in this fashion, ending with the last third of flour mixture. Pour into pans, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on racks for 10 minutes, then remove from the pans and cool on rack until completely cooled.

The frosting:

1 six oz. package high quality semisweet chocolate chips, or semisweet chocolate chopped up (3/4 cup)
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 cup butter
2 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
Bowl of ice

Combine chocolate chips, whipping cream and butter in double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring constantly until smooth (I use a large mixing bowl set on top of a medium saucepan…less to clean up). Remove from heat and add powdered sugar. Set the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice, and using an electric hand mixer, beat on high speed until the frosting holds its shape, about 10 minutes. Make sure you take it out of the bowl of ice immediately, so that the bottom of the frosting doesn’t freeze.

add powdered sugar to frosting

making frosting

chocolate frosting

World's Best Chocolate Cake

Margaux says…

For my friend Billy’s birthday, I gave him the first honorary membership to the cake of the month club.  🙂  So every month, I will be baking a cake for him.  I’ll probably mix it up with cookies, pies and other desserts, but mostly cakes.

The first cake was his actual birthday cake, and I made him one of my favorite cakes of all time.  I’ve been making this cake almost yearly since I received my “Joy of Cooking” from Aunt Suzy, probably around 2000 or 2001.  The cake is very moist and tender, and has wonderful flavor! 

I used to make a basic chocolate butter frosting for this cake, with cocoa, butter, powdered sugar and milk.  It’s also delicious with a creamy vanilla buttercream.  But this frosting is THE BEST chocolate frosting I have ever had.  It is rich and creamy, has amazing flavor and texture.  Of course, leave it to Cook’s to come up with the best.

I’ve made this frosting several times now, and it always goes off without a hitch.  However, this time I didn’t let the chocolate cool enough, so when I added it to the mixture, all the ingredients separated and turned into a brown and white mess!  This was easily fixed (but time wasting, that’s for sure!) by putting it into the refrigerator for a few hours (I did it overnight), then bringing it out and letting it get back to almost room temperature.  I then just whipped it by hand with a wooden spoon, and it turned out perfectly.

You can also make this frosting with semi-sweet chocolate, and it is even richer.

Buttermilk Layer Cake
adapted from The All New All Purpose Joy of Cooking

2 1/3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
12 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups superfine sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottoms of two 8×2″ round cake pans with parchment paper.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt onto a large piece of waxed paper or into a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually add the sugar and beat on high speed until lightened in color and texture, 2 to 4 minutes.

In another small bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla lightly. Gradually add them to the butter and sugar mixture, beating on medium high, taking about 2 minutes.

Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk in two parts, beating on low speed or stirring with a rubber spatula until smooth and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Divide the batter between the pans and spread evenly. Bake until a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30-35 minutes. Let cool in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes. Slide a thin knife around the cake to detach it from the pans. Invert the cake and peel off the paper liners, and let cool right side up on the rack. Let cool completely before frosting, but do not let them sit out for too long or they will become dry.

Milk Chocolate Frosting
from Cook’s Illustrated

20 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup dutch cocoa
1 cup powdered sugar
pinch table salt
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
8 oz. milk chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

In food processor, process butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt until smooth, scraping sides of bowl as needed, about 30 seconds. Add corn syrup and vanilla and process until just combined, 5-10 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl, then add chocolate and pulse until smooth and creamy, 10-15 minutes.

Birthday Cake!

January 22, 2011

Margaux says…

I loved my birthday cakes growing up.  I was so proud of the fact that my mom made them and decorated them herself, unlike most of the kids’ parents I knew, who bought their birthday cakes at Trefzger’s or Kroger.  In reality, my mom’s not a baker (she HATES to cook), and the cakes were boxed mixes.  But she is an artist, and would do a rendering of whatever struck my fancy that year (Lil’ Orphan Annie, Care Bears, My Little Ponies to name a few) on my choice of cake, which was usually the Pillsbury cherry-chip cake with vanilla frosting.  And it always looked perfect.  I always vowed to do the same for my kids.  Last year, it started with Desi’s first birthday, and he got a dog cake (note:  never present a butter cake on brown craft paper).  This year, he’s two, and he’s starting to get opinions about things.  In his opinion, choo-choo trains are the best things in the world, next to skateboarding.  And in my opinion, trains make much cuter cake decorations than skateboards do, so he got a train cake.

The difference between my mom and me is that I LOVE to bake, and I am not an artist…just the opposite of her.  So I drew up the plans for what I wanted the cake to look like, and my mom helped me construct it (and my aunt Gigi helped roll the fondant!).  There could have potentially been up to 32 people at the party, and I didn’t want to run out of cake (last year we almost did!), so I decided to create a two-tier cake, with a 9-inch chocolate layer cake on the bottom and a 6-inch banana layer cake on the top.  (You can halve any 9-inch recipe to make a 6-inch cake).

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos of the interior of the cakes.  As usual, I was seriously running short on time, and totally forgot to take any progress photos of the cake until the end, and then forgot to take a photo when we sliced into it.  You’ll have to take my word for it…it was delicious!  I used Rose Levy Berenbaum‘s cake recipes, which I’ve always found to be pretty much perfect.  I used a basic ganache recipe for the filling of the chocolate cake, and my favorite vanilla frosting recipe, from Cook’s Illustrated, for the exterior frosting and piping frosting.  To fill and frost the banana cake, I used the “creamy dreamy white chocolate frosting” recipe that Rose recommends for her banana cake, from the “Rose’s Heavenly Cakes” cookbook.

I love this chocolate cake for a kids’ party because it’s not overwhelmingly chocolatey, but is still rich and moist and has great flavor. As I said before, I used a basic ganache filling for the chocolate cake, and vanilla frosting, but the recipe in Rose’s book has it filled and frosted with a caramel ganache that sounds rich and delicious. I’m sure I’ll be making this cake again with the caramel ganache, and I’ll let you know how it is! The banana cake is not only delicious, but you can put the leftovers in the fridge and it still stays moist and tender because it has oil instead of butter in it.

Chocolate Layer Cake
from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum

1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa, sifted before measuring
1/2 cup (4 oz) boiling water
2 large eggs, room temperature
3 tbsp water
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tbsp cake flour, sifted before measuring
1 cup superfine sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tbsp canola or safflower oil, room temperature

Grease two 9″ round cake pans with shortening, line bottoms with parchment, then coat with baking spray and coat with flour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent evaporation and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. To speed cooling, place it in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature before proceeding.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs, the 3 tablespoons of water, and the vanilla just until lightly combined.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter, oil and cocoa mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Starting on medium-low speed, gradually add the egg mixture in two parts, beating on medium speed for 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Using a silicone spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface evenly.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a wire cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. The cake should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven.
Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pan and the cake, pressing firmly against the pan, and invert the cake onto a wire rack that has been coated lightly with nonstick cooking spray. To prevent splitting, reinvert the cake so that the top side is up. Cool completely.

Chocolate Ganache

adapted from Real Chocolate by Chantal Coady

Make several hours before using.

4 oz bittersweet chocolate (it must be good chocolate!)
4 oz (1/2 cup) heavy cream
2 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (optional)

Chop chocolate in food processor until very fine, then place in a small bowl. Scald the cream on the stove (heat over high heat until bubbles form around the edges). Whisk the cream into the chocolate a few tablespoons at a time, until all the cream is added and the mixture is smooth. Add the butter, and whisk until completely melted and smooth. (You can skip the butter for a classic ganache, but I saw this recipe in a book about chocolate and thought it sounded really good, and it turned out as good as it sounded.)

Vanilla Frosting
from Cook’s Illustrated

I had to use two recipes of this, for frosting the chocolate cake and then decorating both tiers.

2 tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
pinch table salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar

Stir the cream, vanilla, and salt together in a small bowl until the salt dissolves. Beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium high speed until smooth, 30-60 seconds. Reduce speed to medium-low, slowly add sugar, and beat until smooth, 2-5 minutes. Beat in the cream mixture. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, 4-8 minutes (the time depends on the strength of the mixer…with my KitchenAid it takes about 5 minutes or so).

Banana Refrigerator Cake
adapted from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum

2 large very ripe bananas, peeled and lightly mashed (1 cup)
1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream (I used sour cream)
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp lemon zest
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tbsp turbinado sugar
1/2 cup canola or safflower oil, room temperature
2 cups sifted cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Coat  two 6″ round cake pans (see note below) with shortening, line bottom with parchment, and spray with baking spray and coat with flour. Preheat oven to 350.

In a food processor, process the bananas and creme fraiche until smooth, stopping the processor and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla and process until combined, about 10 seconds.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater, beat the banana mixture and sugar on medium speed for about one minute. Gradually add the oil, beating until it is thoroughly incorporated.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Sift the flour mixture into the egg mixture and beat on low speed for about 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary, until the dry ingredients are completely moistened. Using a silicone spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan(s) and smooth the surface evenly. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly pressed in the center. The cake should just start to shrink away from the sides of the pan. During baking it will rise to the top of the sides of the pan and a little higher in the middle.

Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.

Creamy Dreamy White Chocolate Frosting
from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum

3 oz white chocolate containing cocoa butter, chopped
4 oz cream cheese, softened but still cool
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1/2 tbsp creme fraiche or sour cream
1/8 tsp almond extract

Heat the chocolate until almost completely melted. Use a small microwaveable bowl, stirring with a silicone spatula every 15 seconds (or use the top of a double boiler set over hot, not simmering, water, stirring often–do not let the bottom of the container touch the water). Remove the white chocolate from the heat and, with the silicone spatula, stir until fully melted. Allow it to cool until it is no longer warm to the touch but is still fluid.

In a food processor, process the cream cheese, butter, and creme fraiche for a few seconds until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides. Add the cooled melted white chocolate and pulse it in a few times until it is smoothly incorporated. Add the almond extract and pulse it in.

Constructing the Cake

Place one of the chocolate cake layers on a serving plate (I just used a cardboard cake serving round) and top with all of the chocolate ganache, spreading it out to 1/2″ from the edge. Top with the other chocolate cake layer. Frost the outsides and top of the chocolate cake with the un-dyed vanilla frosting (using about 2/3 of one recipe). Place one layer of the banana cake on top of the frosted chocolate cake. Top with about 1/2 cup of the white chocolate frosting, and then top with the second layer of cake. Place a wooden dowel (found at cake decorating stores or craft stores) down the center of the cakes in order to keep them in place.  You will probably need to cut the dowel (they’re usually 12″ long, and that is too long for this cake) so that it doesn’t stick out the top.  Frost the top and sides of the banana cake with the white chocolate frosting (it will be thin, but you’ll be adding a ton of vanilla frosting on top of it!).

Next, dye the rest of the vanilla frosting the colors you want, and decorate the cake!

Note:  The recipe for the banana cake in Rose’s book calls for it being baked in a single 9″ round cake pan, and frosted with the dreamy creamy white chocolate frosting on the top of the cake, not on the sides.  I baked it in two 6″ round cake pans in order to create my two tier cake, and it converts perfectly.

Margaux says…

My good friend Anne’s birthday was this week, and of course I had to make her a cake.  I’ve been wanting to make this cake for awhile…ever since the cookbook its in, “Rose’s Heavenly Cakes” by Rose Levy Beranbaum, was open to its page on the counter of my pastry-chef friend Misa’s kitchen.  The cookbook is gorgeous…Rose’s cakes are stunning, and the other ones I’ve made so far are delicious.  But this particular recipe intrigued me, mainly because I think it’s fun making cakes with unlikely ingredients, like one of my favorites, chocolate Guinness cake.  Because there’s a million other cakes on my “must make” list, it took me awhile to get around to it.  But Anne asked for chocolate, and this cake immediately came to mind.

The cake is rich and dense, with a unique tangy flavor from the soup.  The ganache frosting was my favorite part about it though…very decadent.  And I had to decorate it just like the photo in the book!  I know that’s very unimaginative of me, but its just too cute to pass up.

Chocolate Tomato Cake with Mystery Ganache

from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum

~~~Be sure to make the ganache plenty of time beforehand…it takes several hours to set!~~~

1 cup plus 2 tbsp sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
1 can (1 cup) Campbell’s Tomato Soup
4 large eggs, room temp (3/4 cup)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 cups plus 2 tbsp sifted cake flour
2 cups superfine sugar**
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

Coat two 9×2″ round cake pans with shortening, then line with parchment paper, then coat with baking spray, and dust with flour. (FYI-I actually just line with parchment rounds, then coat the rounds and sides of the pans with shortening, and that always works just fine). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and set oven rack in lower third of the oven.

In a medium bowl, whisk the cocoa, tomato soup, eggs and vanilla until smooth. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and half the cocoa mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Raise the speed to me3dium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Starting on medium-low speed, with the mixer off between additions, add the remaining cocoa mixture in two parts. Beat on medium speed for 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Using a silicone spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pans, being sure to press the thick and fluffy batter against the sides of the pans, and smooth the surfaces evenly.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes (check a little early…mine was done in 29 minutes), or until a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean. The cakes should start to shrink from the sides of the pans only after removal from the oven.

Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pans and the cakes, pressing firmly against the pans, and invert the cakes onto wire racks that have been coated lightly with cooking spray. Re-invert them right side up to prevent splitting. Cool completely.

Mystery Ganache

12 oz. dark chocolate, 60%-62% cacao, chopped
12 oz. (almost 1 1/2 cups) heavy cream
1/4 cup Campbell’s Tomato Soup
1 tube red tinted buttercream (it’s fine to use the Wilton tubed variety) (optional)
2 cans 4″ Pirouette Rolled Wafer Cookies, preferably Pepperidge Farms (optional)

In a food processor, process the chocolate until very fine. In a 4 cup or larger microwaveable cup with a spout (or in a medium saucepan, stirring often), whisk together the cream and tomato soup and scald it (heat it to boiling point; small bubbles will form around the periphery).

With the motor of a food processor running, pour the cream mixture through the feed tube in a steady stream. Process for a few se3conds until smooth. Scrape the ganache into a glass bowl and allow it to sit for 1 hour. Cover it with plastic wrap and allow it to cool at room temperature for several hours, or until the mixture reaches frosting consistency (I finally stuck it in the fridge for a few hours…just make sure you check it every once in awhile so it doesn’t get too thick!). The ganache keeps for 3 days at room temperature, for 3 weeks refrigerated, and for 6 months frozen.

Compose the cake:
When the cakes are completely cool, spread a little ganache on a serving plate and set the first layer on top. Slide a few wide strips of wax paper or parchment under the cake to keep the rim of the plate clean. Spread about 1 cup of the ganache over the layer. Place the second layer on top and use the remainder to frost the top and sides. With the tip of a 1 1/4″ wide metal spatula, make wavy lines through the ganache on top of the cake. Slowly slide the paper strips from under the cake. If storing the cake under a cake dome, allow the ganache to set for a minimum of 3 hours or overnight before applying the Pirouettes or the moisture from the ganache will soften them.

To surround the cake with the Pirouettes, you may first have to trim them to 4 inches (I didn’t, and I wish I would have), using a small serrated knife. Repair any broken ones using ganache and press them gently against the sides of the cake. The ganache will hold them in place. If desired, pipe little flames of red buttercream on top of each Pirouette.

**My cakes would sometimes (a lot of times, actually) be really dense at the bottom, and light at the top, and wouldn’t be as high as they should have been. I started looking into it, and learned that sugar actually varies by region; some places coarser than others. If your sugar is too coarse, it will cause the cake to fall, creating a dense, sort of custardy cake. I guess I live in a coarse sugar region. So the solve is to either process your sugar in a blender (not a food processor) for a few pulses until it’s finer (but be careful not to do too many pulses, because it will start to turn into powdered sugar), or buy superfine sugar, available at most grocery stores.

I’ve been on a hiatus from sweets for the past few weeks.  It’s been torturous.  I decided that I really need to lose the last of my pregnancy belly, and my one-to-two desserts a day is definitely not helping.  And let’s be honest…I’m not going to do sit-ups.  I barely have time to take a shower or vacuum the rug in the living room; when am I going to exercise?  I tried joining a weekly yoga class, but made it twice.  I tried to set up a weekly tennis session with a friend, and something always comes up.  So, I haven’t been baking, and it’s been a real drag!  (Or eating ice cream, or ordering dessert, or eating Oreos after lunch.  Sigh.)

This week I had a trip planned to visit my friend in Grand Rapids, MI, because she just had a baby.  It had recently been her birthday, so I decided to bring her a cake.  I desperately needed an excuse to bake!!  But the sad news is, I totally cheated all week on my vow to not eat sweets.  It’s true, that when you do it once, everything starts to go downhill from there.  I had brownies, cookies, my cake (I even made a mini, and we were still eating it for days), and ice cream while I was there.  So, back to the drawing board.

I got this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, one of my absolute favorite food blogs.  I will definitely make this cake again, especially since my mom is a lover of all things almond.  I think it would also be good filled and frosted with chocolate frosting, if you don’t want to mess with extra step of using raspberry.   I made this into a 6″ round cake instead, like she did at Smitten Kitchen.  Three 9″ layers is way too much cake for 3 adults and 2 kids!  All you have to do to convert is divide the recipe in half…it works out perfectly.

Almond Rasberry Layer Cake
From Smitten Kitchen

The almond cake is pretty intensely flavored, and really quite easy to make — a true “white” cake (as in, no egg yolks, just whites) whose advantages are that they’re pretty and light (and quite traditional for wedding cakes) but having the disadvantage of benefiting from a brush with a simple syrup if you won’t be eating it right away. The raspberry jam filling couldn’t be easier, and whether you cover the cake with a whipped bittersweet ganache (as we did), a Swiss buttercream or cream cheese frosting, it’s guaranteed to be the prettiest little thing to cut into.

Makes a 9-inch triple layer cake that serves 16 to 20 people

4 1/2 cups cake flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup prepared almond paste (7 ounces)
2 2/3 cups sugar
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon almond extract
10 egg whites
1 1/2 cups whole milk

For assembly:
1 cup simple syrup (to keep cake moist)(optional)
1 cup seedless raspberry preserves

Frosting ideas: Swiss Buttercream (with or without two teaspoons of almond extract for flavoring), Cream Cheese Frosting, or Whipped Bittersweet Frosting (recipe below)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch (but 9-inch will work just fine) round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Set the dry ingredients aside.

3. Place the almond paste and sugar in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in another large bowl if using a handheld mixer. Begin to cream the mixture on low speed to break up the almond paste, then increase the speed to medium for about 2 minutes, or until the paste is broken into fine particles.

4. Add the butter and almond extract and beat it well, then the egg whites, two or three at a time, beating just long enough to incoperate after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl several times to make sure it is evenly mixed.

5. Dust about a third of the dry ingredients over the batter and fold in with a large rubber spatula until just combined. Fold in about half the milk. Fold in half the remaining flour mixture, followed by the remaining milk. Finally, fold in the last of the dry ingredients just until no streaks of white remain. Use a light hand and do not overmix. Divide the batter among the three prepared cake pans.

6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in their pans on wire racks for about 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out on to wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners and let them cool completely, about one hour.

7. Assemble the cake: Place one layer flat side up on a cake stand or serving plate. Slide small strips of waxed paper under the edges to protect the plate from any messiness accumulated while decorating. Brush first layer with simple syrup, if using. Spread 1/2 cup of the raspberry preserves over the cake, leaving a 1/4 inch margin around the edges. Repeat with the second layer, brushing syrup if using and using remaining preserves. Add the third layer and brush with syrup if using.

8. Spread a thin layer frosting of your choice over the top and sides of the cake. Let frosting set in the fridge for about 20 to 30 minutes (this is your crumb coat) then spread a thicker, decorative coat over the base coat. If you have any frosting remaining, pipe a decoration of your choice.

Whipped Bittersweet Frosting

Makes about 3 cups, or enough to coat a three layer 8- or 9-inch cake. You’ll want 1 1/2 this amount if you’re using it for filling as well.

7 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1. Melt the chocolate with the cream in a double boiler or metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk to blend well. Remove from heat and let stand, whisking occasionally, until the chocolate mixture thickens to the consistency of mayonnaise. (No doubt, exactly what you want to think about when making chocolate frosting).

2. Place the butter in a large mixer bowl and with an electric mixer on medium speed, whip the butter until light and fluffy. Add the chocolate cream and whip until lighter in color and somewhat stiff, about three minutes. Do not whip too long or the frosting may begin to separate.