Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Vanilla Cake Layers

Golden cakes that are light as a feather with a tender and delicate crumb are what these layers are all about.  With the familiar vanilla flavor everyone loves, my cakes are given a note of almond extract to complement and enhance every bite.  The recipe is a variation of the tried & true 1-2-3-4 cake, which is yet another variation of the good old-fashioned poundcake that's been around for a couple of hundred years.  I love using cake flour for my batter because the layers bake into marvelous tall cakes that are superior in texture and flavor.  To this, one adds the basics found in most cakes: sweet unsalted butter, pure cane sugar, the freshest eggs and wholesome milk.  These ingredients in the right proportions give excellent results every single time when using the creaming method.  This method is nothing more than beating the butter and sugar until very light, then adding eggs until completely emulsified to create volume, and lastly, alternating the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients just until they're incorporated. 

My recipe is meant to be baked for birthdays and be enjoyed by kids of all ages, but it's equally suitable for any special occasion which calls for a bit of cake.  The layers can be iced and filled with a number of toppings, from glazes and buttercreams to whipped creams and citrus curds.  However you enjoy my Vanilla Cake Layers make sure you mark this recipe for future use, because I think you may enjoy them just as much as I do.  Let's bake a cake!


The Vanilla Cake Layers are golden, tender & very light.

The Ingredients
  • 3 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising) {350 grams}, spooned & leveled
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder {15 ml}
  • 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt {1.25 ml}
  • 2 sticks or 16 tablespoons {230 grams} unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups {395 grams} granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons {10 ml} pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon {1.25 ml} pure almond extract
  • 1 1/4 cups {320 ml} milk, room temperature
Prepare two 8x2 inch round cake pans {20 cm x 5 cm} by either flouring & buttering the pans or by spraying them with baking spray (use those that contain flour) and then lining the bottoms with rounds of parchment or waxed paper.  Make sure you use 2 inch deep pans because 1 1/2" won't work.  This recipe makes a lot of batter & it needs that depth.

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Center the oven racks and preheat to
 350° F (177 ° C)
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When a recipe says to measure the flour by "spooning & leveling", this is how you do it.  With a spoon or a scoop add the flour into a dry measuring cup and pile it high.  With a straight edge (I use a metal icing spatula), sweep the excess flour off the measuring cup.  This is 1 measured cup.  Continue with the recipe.

Place the cake flour, salt & baking soda into a fine mesh sieve set over a large bowl.  Sift the dry ingredients carefully.
Since it is a finely milled flour, cake flour always clumps and must be sifted.  You want your cakes to be tender & light, not at all heavy & coarse.  Those few lumps that are left at the bottom of the sieve can be pushed through with your fingers or with a spatula.  Set the dry ingredients aside and keep them ready.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed for 1 minute until it's light & creamy.  Stop the machine and scrape down the bowl & paddle.

Gradually add the granulated sugar in a steady stream on medium speed and then increase the speed to medium-high.  Set your timer & cream the sugar & butter for a good 5 minutes.  You want to incorporate as much air into this mixture in order to produce a tender cake, so don't skimp on time here.  Stop & scrape down the bowl & paddle at least once during this process.   

At the end of 5 minutes, this is what you want to see.  Fluffy, creamy and ultra light.  Add the eggs one at a time on medium speed waiting for each egg to get emulsified before adding the next one.  The mixture will curdle for a few seconds when you initially add each egg, but will correct itself when you continue beating.  It's important to get the eggs fully incorporated into an emulsion or else your cake may suffer in volume while baking.  Stop & scrape down the bowl and paddle once during the addition of the eggs.
When the eggs have all been added, the batter will look like this.  Thick & creamy, yet very light and fluffy.  Scrape down the paddle and bowl.
On low speed, carefully add the vanilla extract & almond extract.  Add one third of the dry ingredients, then add half of the milk and let the mixture get smooth.  Add another third of the dry ingredients and the last of the milk.  When the mixture is smooth, add the last of the dry ingredients.  Beat this until the batter is smooth and all of the flour has been absorbed (this should take no more than about 30 seconds).  You may increase the speed to medium and beat for a few seconds to achieve this.  Don't overbeat though!

When I stop the machine and remove the beaters & bowl from the mixer, I always use a large spatula to give the batter a final stir.  Make sure you reach all the way to the bottom of the bowl and towards the center, where ingredients tend to clump.  Do this quickly.
Divide the delicious batter between the two prepared pans and smooth the tops.  Immediately pop them into the preheated 350° F (177 ° C) oven.

Bake the layers for approximately 45-50 minutes.
Carefully rotate the pans 180° halfway
through baking time for even baking.


When fully baked, the cake layers will be golden on top and will begin to pull away from the sides.
Right before I think the cakes are done and while they're still in the oven, I always lightly touch the middle of the layers.  They should feel springy and not at all wobbly.  This indicates that they're fully baked.  A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean.

Remove the layers from the oven and place the pans on cooling racks.  Let them cool for 10 minutes.

To release the layers, I always run a thin knife all around the perimeter.
Place a cooling rack over the top of the layer (I like using round cooling racks for cake layers because they're easier to maneuver than large rectangular ones) and quickly invert the pans.  Make sure you have oven mitts or pot holders when doing this.  Gently release the pans from the cakes. 

Note: most bakers like to reinvert the layers so that the top sides are facing up.  Personally I find this step unnecessary (if you're going to stencil the cakes, you want the bottoms for this purpose).  The only time I reinvert cake layers is when I notice domed or lopsided tops.  Those should be trimmed once the layers have cooled.   

Don't forget to peel off the parchment or waxed paper rounds!  Do this gently so that you don't tear the cakes.  Let them cool completely before frosting.
Vanilla Cake Layers


I'm pleased that I now have a suitable vanilla cake recipe for myself, my loved ones and for every single one of you reading the blog.  Make these layers the next time you have someone's birthday to celebrate or when the occasion calls for something sweet & delicious; think graduations, weddings, christenings, showers, church socials or a housewarming party.  Although this will serve about 10 people when used for a double layer cake, you can also use the cakes individually and stencil them with confectioner's sugar to serve more people.  Frost and decorate these beautiful cakes however you want.  All that's left, really, is to find a nice cake stand or cake plate as a finishing touch.  Sweetness guaranteed!

2 comments:

  1. Lovely vanilla layers, I will try this delectable recipe as soon as I can.
    Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wonderful! I hope you like them. The layers can even be baked in 9" pans if you want thinner layers. Enjoy!

    ReplyDelete

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