Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Birthday Cake for Non-cookers

My birthday is coming up in late April.
My Partner wants to do something for me for my birthday.
So I was thinking it would be nice to have someone make a cake for me, instead of the other way around.
...except the Partner does not cook. The simplest kitchen things that seem completely obvious and intuitive to me are completely foreign and strange to him.
The challenge, then, is to write up a recipe for cake that I can eat, that is detailed and simple enough that he doesn't have to bring me into the kitchen to help him make it...
...because once I'm in the kitchen, I'll just take over and then he won't have made me a cake for my birthday.

I have decided on a simple yellow cake, with a simple cream cheese frosting.  I was thumbing through my Fannie Farmer's cookbook this morning looking for a recipe, and there are so many fun ones. A princeton orange cake (orange velvet cake, yumm)? A jelly roll? Cottage pudding cake (a butter cake)? Maybe a type of sponge cake? Or a Marbled chocolate-butter cake?
Or go with the yellow cake (which makes 2 8" round layers), split the layers, and fill it with lemon filling and frost it with chocolate ganache? Or make a middle layer of orange chocolate mousse and chill it? Or bake it instead into one flat cake, cut it into three, stack it, and fill it with an apple filling for a tall narrow cake?
...and then I remember again who is going to be baking the cake... and I go with simple.
The original recipe had more egg yolks, white sugar, and milk. I replaced the sugar and milk with honey, the egg yolks with whole eggs, and changed some of the flour to whole wheat for more nutrition.  If I were baking the cake, I would separate the eggs and beat the whites for a fluffier cake... but I'm not.

Classic Gold Cake (for non-sugar eaters)

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup honey, agave, or maple syrup
1 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt (fine grain)

-Preheat the oven to 350*. Butter and lightly flour two 8-inch round cake pans. (to butter and flour a cake pan, coat the inside of the pan lightly but completely with butter, throw a handful of flour into the pan, and swirl it around until all the interior surfaces are coated, then dump out any leftover flour)
-In a large bowl, with a wire whisk, beat the butter and slowly add the honey and eggs and beat well. Add the vanilla. (this mixture may look curdled. That's ok.)
-In a separate bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, and salt.
-Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating until smooth. (this batter will be thicker than crepe or pancake batter. If it is too thick to easily work with, stir in no more than 1/3 cup milk)
-Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and spread it smooth with a rubber spatula.
-Bake for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick poked into the center of the cake comes out clean. ('toothpick coming out clean' means there is no clumpy dough sticking to it when you pull it back out of the cake)
-Let the cakes cool in the pans for 5 minutes before turning out onto racks.
-Cool completely before frosting and filling with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
(I can't believe I haven't put this recipe up on the blog yet!)

2 cups cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup

Beat the cream cheese and butter together until homogenous. Add the vanilla and honey or maple and beat until smooth. Generously frost and fill the completely cooled cake.
This frosting will not set up like a standard  powdered-sugar butter-frosting does.

To frost and fill a cake
(it occurs to me that not everyone grew up watching their mother do this.)
Look at your completely cooled cakes. If they are lopsided or peaked in the middle, gently slice off a bit of the top with a bread knife to make them more flat (they don't have to be perfectly flat). The trimmings can be discarded or eaten.
Place one of the cakes on the surface you want your completed cake to be on. (a very flat plate or a piece of stiff cardboard covered in tinfoil works well)
Using a cake spatula or a butter knife, spread a thick layer of filling on the top of the bottom cake. If your filling and your frosting are different, make sure the filling does not hang off the sides of the cake.
Gently place the second cake on top of the bottom cake and filling. Gently spread the frosting on the top and sides of the cake. Try not to press down, so the filling doesn't get squeezed out. Try to spread the frosting in only one direction to avoid lifting crumbs from the cake surface and making a messy-looking frosting.
To smooth the frosting, dip your butter knife or cake spatula into hot water, shake it dry, and run it lightly over the cake surface.

Ok Folks,
Is there anything in this recipe that could confuse a non-baker? Any instruction I have glossed over because it's common knowledge?
Tell me and I'll add it in!
I'll update with pictures and the tale of the cake's making after my birthday!

Edited to add a picture and a little more clarification to the recipe. -Z


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