Earlier this week, Dan surprised me after work with fresh vanilla beans! So exciting! He suggested that I should make a cake with them, which sounded like an excellent idea...except for one thing...I'm horrible at baking cakes.
I'm embarrassed to say that I avoid making cakes whenever possible. I do try to make them from scratch on the rare occasion that I am making one, but due to my lack of memory, and clumsiness, I would always manage to not dust the pan with flour..or forget to add water..or add too much baking soda...the list goes on and on.
This post is dedicated to the science behind the perfect cake! As I'm sure the next few posts will be, because I'm determined to get the perfect cake under my belt.
Rewinding back to the vanilla beans. I figured I'd start off simple, and just bake a vanilla bean cake. Nice and easy right?
Needless to say, I've never tasted a cake so dense until this afternoon. I was so disappointed. My first vanilla bean, ruined.
But cake is cake, no matter how thick. So I frosted it, and dug in.
Channeling Julia Child in this moment,
"Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed — eh bien, tant pis! Usually one's cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, as my ersatz eggs Florentine surely were, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile — and learn from her mistakes.!"
After doing some extensive research, I found that using vegetable shortening keeps the cake moist, but not too soft. I know what you guys are thinking...shortening? Really? Is that necessary? Well I thought the same thing...I was so close to walking right past it in the baking isle...but then I thought, for the sake of experimenting, why not?
Needless to say, I was impressed. It came out delicious. Cake tends to harden and lost moisture after being out for a while and I was excited to find that it didn't toughen. And my mouth was incredibly happy with the result.
So here is the newly improved cake which I'm 100% more excited about, (and willing to share with you guys!) I can't describe to you the relief I had when I pulled the 2 pans out of the oven to see puffy golden cake layers ready to be assembled!
I love everything from cream cheese frostings to butter creams, and everything in between, but there's something so easy and special about pouring heavy whipping cream into your mixer, letting it mix while you continue cooking, and coming back to a bowl filled with mountains of fluff. Dan's dad has a great recipe with bourbon, which works best if you're baking with chocolate. I manage to add whatever kind of whiskey or liquor that seems fitting. So today I'm experimenting and using the whipped cream base with a little bit of ice brewed slow drip coffee that I just purchased from my local coffee spot downtown, One Line Coffee.
Anyways..this coffee gives just the right amount of flavor and body to this whipped frosting. It's light and not that typical super sweet thick icing dolloped onto a lot of baked goods, (which are equally delicious, but not what I'm going for today). And there's no need for that giant glass of milk afterward because this cream takes care of it.
Happy eating everyone!
Makes one 2 layer 8 inch round cake
Vanilla Bean Cake
2 sticks of butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3 cups granulated sugar
5 eggs room temperature
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 vanilla bean
Coffee Whipped Frosting
1 quart of heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup espresso, cooled
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 vanilla bean
Preheat oven 350 degrees.
1. Dust each 8 inch round cake pans with flour and set aside.
2. In your electric mixer or with your handheld mixer, cream together the butter and shortening. Gradually add sugar, (I typically pour about a half cup at a time). Then add eggs one at a time. Make sure that each is fully incorporated before adding the next.
3. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
4. Slice vanilla bean down the center, scraping out the seeds. Mix with whole milk and buttermilk in a small bowl.
5. Slowly pour the milk mixture into the bowl with the butter and shortening combination. Then pour in flour gradually until just combined.
6. Divide between the batter between the 2 tins and bake for 30-45 minutes, or until golden brown.
7. Before frosting, let cool out of tins for at least 30 minutes.
1. Pour whipping cream into electric mixer or into bowl and use hand held mixer on high and beat for at least 10 minutes.
2. Lower to a medium speed and slowly pour in coffee until fully incorporated.
3. Sift powdered sugar into bowl and continue mixing on medium setting.
4. Take vanilla bean and slice open, scraping out seeds and add to mixture.
5. Refrigerate for an hour before frosting cake layers and serving.