Monday, February 15, 2010

Kirk's Birthday Cake

Earlier today I posted a blog with a promise of posting my favorite yellow cake recipe as well, so I thought I better follow through even though I just started this blog and I'm pretty sure I'm the only one that even knows that it exists right now. But I promised... in writing... so regardless of readership, I figured I ought to follow through.

My husband is a big fan of yellow butter cake. He would probably have no problem if I just used the Duncan Hines boxed cake mix when I bake for him (Which, let's all admit, is pretty darn good!), but that just seems like cheating so this is the recipe I've come to use (It might just be the love that goes into it, but I promise this is better than the box). When I need a cake for my hubs, this is the cake.

The method for making with one is a bit backwards from many cakes, but it yields a moister cake.

Yellow Butter Cake
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar (You cake use evaporated cane sugar, but it will be less sweet)
  • 1 tbs + 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into pieces
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Spray two 9-inch x 1 1/2 inch cake pans with non stick spray.
  3. In a medium bowl lightly combine the egg yolks, 1/4 cup milk, and vanilla extract.
  4. In the bowl of your electric mixer combine the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder and salt) and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds.
  5. Add the butter and remaining 3/4 cup milk. Mix on low speed just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
  6. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 2 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
  7. Gradually add the egg mixture, in 3 additions, beating about 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the egg.
  8. Divide the batter, pour into the prepared pans, and smooth the surface with a spatula. Pans will be about half full. Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in center.
  9. Place the cakes on a wire rack to cool, in their pans, for about 10 minutes. Then invert the cakes onto a greased rack. Reinvert cakes so that tops are right side up. Cool completely before frosting.

For good measure, here's a quick recipe for Chocolate Buttercream that pairs well with this cake:

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbs Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 6-8 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Add the butter, cocoa, milk, vanilla, and 3 cups of the sugar in a mixing bowl.
  2. Beat on medium speed until smooth, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Slowly add the rest of the sugar one cup at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. You may not need all of the sugar- stop when you reach a good spreading consistency.

Life doesn't get much sweeter!

Love from my kitchen,


Bavarian Creme, Baby!

My father is a Boston Creme Pie aficionado, so I grew up on a wide assortment of pastries filled with Bavarian Creme: donuts, pies, cakes, creme horns, and just about every Czech dessert in any bakery in West, Texas.

A recent obsession with Wilton fill-pans encouraged me to bake a fill-pan version of the Boston Creme Pie. Conceptually this is a perfect plan, but a problem quickly developed- creating a Bavarian creme of the correct consistency.

Problem 1: For simple eating purposes, I like a thicker Bavarian Creme:

  • 1 1/2 tbsp unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/4 cups cold water
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 c white sugar*
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 1/4 tsp vanilla (I like Penzy's double strength for this application)
  • 1 1/4 c heavy creme
  1. In a small bowl, stir together the gelatin and cold water. Set aside to soften.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and salt until smooth.
  3. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. Stir a small amount into the egg yolk mixture, then stir the egg yolk mixture into the hot milk until well blended.
  4. Whisk in the softened gelatin and vanilla.
  5. Run through a strainer, and allow to cool.
  6. When the mixture has cooled almost to room temperature, whip the heavy cream to medium stiffness and fold into it.
  7. Refrigerate in shallow bowl until ready to use.

*Normally I would advocate for evaporated cane sugar instead of white sugar, however I have not tried this recipe with anything but refined sugar. I'll let you know how it goes when I test it out with cane sugar.

Problem 2: My favorite recipe for "plain ol' eatin'" Bavarian Creme has proven not to be fill-pan friendly due to density.

Some adjustments had to be made via the fantastic process of science inquiry. After many initial mishaps, here is what I came up with:

Cake Perfect Bavarian Creme

  • 1 tbsp + 2 tsp unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/4 cups cold water
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 c white sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 1/4 tsp vanilla (preferably Penzy's double strength)
  • 1 3/4 cups heavy cream

Follow the same instructions for the bc above while adjusting the ingredients as shown above. This will yield a much lighter creme that wont weigh down the interior of a filled cake.

Now... how to incorporate this into the perfect Boston Creme Pie? Simple.

Make a batch of cake perfect bc. Bake a yellow butter cake- preferably using dump method (Need a recipe? I'll post one later or you can cheat and use the Duncan Hines mix.)- and mix up your favorite chocolate buttercream frosting. Bake your cake in a Wilton fill-pan (Now, I realize that a traditional Boston Creme Pie is actually a layer cake, but we're going for perfection not tradition here so just go with me on this!) and set aside to cool completely but do not put in the fridge or freezer. Once cool, fill with creme and frost with chocolate buttercream.

Here comes the hard part: this one is better once it has had time to sit and let the flavors meld a bit, so give it a day before slicing it.

I haven't made it back to Dallas to test it our on my dad since I perfected this one, but I'm more than sure it will wear his seal of approval when he tries it.

Life doesn't get much sweeter!

Love from my kitchen,

Baking Brings Us Together

I'm a busy woman. Because of that, when I arrive somewhere with a pastry box full of cookies or a cake I tend to field a lot of questions about how I have the time to bake. I will concede that I have a job that I am passionate about that I probably focus on too much. On top of that, I have a fulfilling personal life with my husband and dogs, so maybe the questions are warranted.

But the fact remains... the more time I spend baking, the more I can't imagine my life without it. Baking appeals to my love of scientific inquiry. The constants provide comfort- if the oven is correctly calibrated and the baking time is consistent, my cookies will ALWAYS bake to perfection- but the variables provide room for creative discovery- changing the amount of liquid in my royal icing will affect whether I will blend, flood, or pipe a design.

There is also a sense of 1950's wifey joy that comes from lifting the glass bell lid from a fluted cake stand to reveal a perfectly fashioned, homemade cake. When done while wearing an embroidered apron and bearing a self assured smile it isn't old fashioned or dowdy- it's chic!

Most important, however, is the fact that using hand-selected ingredients and my heart and hands allows me to create something that brings people together in a sweet way. Freshly baked goods have a communal way of drawing a crowd to our home. Homemade goodies transform a care package in a way that no other item can. Even sharing photos of what was made in your kitchen via social networking can inspire conversations intimate enough to encourage others to turn on their ovens and fire up the stand mixers.

My new favorite example of home-baked bonding occurred this weekend. One of the most influential ladies in my life, Mrs. Lisa Dalton, happened to see the photos of my Valentine cookie designs on facebook. As luck would have it, she was going to be in Austin for Valentine's weekend and she asked if I wouldn't mind decorating a dozen or so for her.

What a thrilling moment! Doing something I love for someone I love- of course I could find the time for this one! But wait, it gets better...

On Saturday, I drove out to Westwood High School where she was judging a dance competition to drop off some cookies and reconnect. I arrived to a very warm hug and a surprise reunion with my favorite dance instructor from high school, ladies I danced with in college, and a few former Southern Belles to boot. People I probably wouldn't have had a chance to reconnect with otherwise- all because of two dozen cookies!

Life doesn't get much sweeter!

Love from my kitchen,