Thursday, April 28, 2011

Classic Birthday Cake

The classic birthday cake consisting of yellow cake and chocolate icing is a favorite of almost anyone I've ever met.  It's a traditional combination and you really can't go wrong.....except that you can.  Anyone who has ever tried to make a homemade yellow cake knows just how dry and bland this type of cake can turn out.  And to me there's not much worse than dry cake.  Yuck.

I found this comparison of yellow cake recipes on The Way the Cookie Crumbles, and decided to go with the "fluffy/moist" cake from Cooks Illustrated.  So incredibly glad I did because it turned out great.

I also used The Way the Cookie Crumbles' comparison of chocolate icings.  While I loved this icing, I'm still in search of that perfect, rich, fudge-like frosting.  While this one was very good, it was more of a mousse type frosting.  I guess that's just a good excuse to get back in the kitchen for round 2 :)

**This recipe is for a two layer cake....I made the recipe plus a half and made 4 smaller layers...just didn't want anyone to get confused...

Fluffy Yellow Cake

Makes two 9-inch round cakes
2½ cups cake flour
1¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon table salt
1¾ cups sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup buttermilk, at room temp
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks plus 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
*Start up tip:  I hardly ever have my milk and eggs at room temp when I need to start baking.  Simply place these ingredients in a bowl of warm water to bring them to room temp faster

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (*Recipe calls for 350 degrees for 20 min, but I baked mine at about 330 degrees for a bit longer because I was worried about them baking too fast and drying out.)  Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.  Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1½ cups sugar together in large bowl. In medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and yolks.
Egg mixture
In bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. With machine running, gradually add remaining ¼ cup sugar; continue to beat until stiff peaks just form, 30 to 60 seconds (whites should hold peak but mixture should appear moist). Transfer to bowl and set aside.
Add flour mixture to now-empty mixing bowl fitted with whisk attachment. With mixer running at low speed, gradually pour in butter mixture and mix until almost incorporated (a few streaks of dry flour will remain), about 15 seconds. Stop mixer and scrape whisk and sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium-low speed and beat until smooth and fully incorporated, 10 to 15 seconds.

Using rubber spatula, stir ⅓ of whites into batter to lighten, then add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans. Lightly tap pans against counter 2 or 3 times to dislodge any large air bubbles.
Bake until cake layers begin to pull away from sides of pans and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 20-22 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen cakes from sides of pan with small knife, then invert onto greased wire rack. Cool completely on rack, about 1½ hours.
Layers cooling....I used a leveler to lop off the top portion of one layer

Martha Stewart's Chocolate Frosting
14 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
9 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups (12 ounces) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
6 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
Melt the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Set aside to cool until just barely warm.
I cheated and used chocolate chips, and then melted everything in the microwave :)

In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Gradually mix in confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Beat in melted and cooled chocolate and then sour cream. (*I used about half the sour cream the recipe called for....that much sour cream in a frosting just didn't sounds appetizing) Continue beating until mixture is smooth and well blended. 
Big bowl of frosting ready to go...



What's your favorite type of cake?  Any favorites you always request for your birthday every year?

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