Saturday, April 14
incredibly pink vanilla jam layer cake
Women can be bitchy. It’s a shame, really. Being the fairer of the sexes—being traditionally more compassionate, more empathetic, more warm and nurturing—you would think bitchiness would somehow be pushed aside. It’s a shame, but it happens. (Most) women hold themselves to high standards and expect the same in other women. It means we’re often prone to criticising other ladies harshly for no real reason. We’re critical of what they wear or how they behave publicly. Does it stem from envy? I dress purely for myself, but sure, I’ve had serious shoe or outfit envy from time to time.
I also like to think I blog for myself. I love sharing recipes, particularly those that have impressed the people I share the results with (shoutouts to my wonderful co-workers and family). It’s lovely to meet new people, or to hear positive things from people who have tried your recipes or those who are simply happy to read entries. I suppose I find the act of blogging somewhat therapeutic? But essentially, I am doing this for me. But oh my, I’ve had serious blogging envy this Easter.
Butter Hearts Sugar had a simple but an insanely cute idea using those hilarious yellow chickens that are everywhere at this time of year. Sprinklebakes made the most delightful bird’s nests made from royal icing. And I know it was last year, but raspberri cupcakes’ bunny macarons will live on in my memory each year until I’m old and grey. Or at the very least, until I master them myself. I’ve toted on about the cuteness of Easter, and so many clever bloggers have really taken advantage of this. My heart has ached with cute-overload. And I love you, fellow bloggers, but oh, how I have cursed your cleverness over the past few days.
So, this time last week I was wanted to make a cake for Easter Sunday. Some huge and impractical thing that I would never be able to keep at home, but would instead palm off to my small family. At first I felt the urge to make a ruffle cake, but then I realised it’s simply because I seem to live with this urge on a daily basis. I settled for this six-layer thing, which I think, is almost as pretty to look at. Whilst this cake isn’t overtly Eastery, I’m still cashing in on pastel colours.
Recipe from Sweetapolita
340 gms unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 2/3 cups granulated sugar
9 egg whites, at room temperature, lightly whisked
4 1/2 cups plain flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
300 gms good quality (or even better, homemade) raspberry jam
For the strawberry buttercream:
250 gms unsalted butter, at room temperature
700 gms pure icing sugar, sifted
2 tbsps strawberry essence (I use the Queen variety)
2 tbsps mls pouring cream
pink food colouring (I use Wilton gel)
Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly butter three 20cm round cake pans and line the base with baking paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, which should take about five minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the egg whites gradually, mixing until fully incorporated.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Mix vanilla extract and vanilla paste into the buttermilk. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed butter mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated.
Divide the batter into thirds—I do this by weighing each to ensure they’re as even as possible. Lightly colour one third with a very small amount of pink food colouring. Colour another third so it’s a deeper shade of pink, and leave the last third plain. Pour each into a prepared tin, smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake for about 30 minutes, rotating once after 20 minutes. Cakes are done with lightly golden and when a skewer inserted into the middle of each cake comes out clean.
Allow cakes to cool in their tins for ten minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
For the buttercream, beat the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on a high speed until pale and creamy. Add the cream and strawberry essence, and beat on high for a few minutes until smooth and fluffy.
Divide the mixture into thirds and, like the cake batter before it, tint two thirds with lighter and darker shades of pink, matching as close as possible to the intensity of the cakes.
When cakes are completely cooled, split each in half horizontally. Place a dark pink layer on a cake board, spread generously with raspberry jam. Repeat with last dark pink layer, two light pink layers, and two plain layers.
With a small offset palette knife, spread the whole cake with a thin layer of uncoloured buttercream to act as a crumb coat. This doesn’t have to be neat! Chill for thirty minutes.
To decorate the cake as pictured, I found it easiest to start from the surface of the cake, spreading a generous layer of uncoloured buttercream across top and down about a third of the height of the cake. Spread the light pink around the middle, and the darker pink around the base. I was so tempted to smooth out the layers and run a hot knife over the whole cake, but I kind of fell in love with its imperfections. I’m sure it would look lovely either way.
I feel like I have to say something about this beautiful cake recipe, too. Since reading about Sweetapolita’s quest for her perfect vanilla cake, I tried this recipe and whilst I baulked at the nine egg whites, I would never go back. This has now become my go-to vanilla cake recipe, and the size of the three cakes it produces really gives a layer cake the perfect height I am forever craving, without being obscenely towering. So stock up on eggs, and give this a try. It’s simple and delicious, and moist without being dense and heavy. Perfect, quite honestly.
Recommended baking soundtrack: M. Ward - A Wasteland Companion.