For his birthday (which was on the 21st), the Pie requested a vanilla cake. Conveniently for me this is also the type of cake requested by Chel and Invis for their wedding cake, which I will be making next May. No time like the present to begin perfecting a recipe.
Vanilla cake is also traditionally known as “white cake”, which forms the base for millions of different kinds of cakes. This one, however, I wanted to make sure that vanilla was what you got out of the whole thing, not just some bland cake designed to set off a fancy frosting.
You may not know this, but vanilla extract is made by soaking cut vanilla beans (which come from orchids) in a strong dark spirit, such as rum or bourbon. I figured, what the hey, might as well try it myself. I got two vanilla beans from Belbin’s and poured about a tablespoon of Screech into the little tube. You’re supposed to leave it for a few months, but I only had a week. So that’s what I did.
I was also careful to scrape out all the vanilla bean seeds to enhance the flavour.
The batter for this cake was inspired by the Whiteout Cake in Lewis and Poliafito’s Baked. When I go to Manhattan to visit my brother, I want to see their bakery. Anyway, I changed the icing, added jam, and of course used extra vanilla, both my own special Screech blend and regular pure extract.
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Butter three 8″ round cake pans, line them with parchment circles (which I make using my personal kitchen compass), and then butter the parchment as well.
Dust the pans with flour and knock out the excess. I definitely did something wrong in this step, because my cakes STUCK. But I’ll get to that later.
Separate three eggs and bring the whites to room temperature. I set mine in the sun for a few minutes. Use the yolks the next day in a tasty omelette. We did.
Sift together in a bowl 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Set this aside for a spell.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup vegetable shortening on medium speed until they’re creamy.
This will take about 3 to 4 minutes.
Add in 1 3/4 cups sugar and 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract.
Beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Scrape down the bowl and add one whole egg, then beat until just combined.
Turn the mixer to low and add your flour mixture as well as 1 1/2 cups ice water. Add the flour in three separate additions, alternating with the water, and starting and ending with the flour. Scrape down the bowl and mix on low speed for another minute or so.
In a separate bowl, whisk together your 3 egg whites with 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar until you reach the soft peak stage.
Gently fold the egg whites into the rest of your batter.
Distribute the batter amongst the three pans and smooth the tops.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, rotating halfway through, until you can insert a toothpick in the middle of the cake and it comes out clean.
Invert onto racks and let cool completely before frosting (you can remove the parchment when they’re cool). You will notice how I lost a few of my cake edges. But I guess that’s what icing is for — to fill the gaps.
In a bowl, plop in 2 250g packages of cream cheese, preferably at room temperature. Add in 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, as well as 3/4 cup heavy cream (whipping cream) and 3/4 cup icing sugar.
Beat with a hand mixer until mostly smooth.
In a double boiler or a heat-proof bowl set above a pot of barely simmering water, melt 12 oz white chocolate.
Add the melted chocolate to the cream cheese mixture and beat the crap out of it until it’s smooth.
THE CRUMB COAT
Set the first layer of your cake on your serving plate and slather the top with a generous layer of icing (don’t worry, you’re not going to run out). Add several dollops of jam.
We love our Auntie Crae’s.
Plop on the second layer and repeat the above steps. Plop on the third layer, and now you can begin your crumb coat.
We do a crumb coat so that you can get all the messiness out of the way beforehand. Cover the entire cake with a thin layer of icing. Don’t worry if crumbs or jam gets into the icing. This is your priming coat in any case.
Pop it into the fridge for at least fifteen minutes for the icing to set.
Bring it out and slather it with more icing. You see how that sealant coat keeps the cake’s interior from interfering with the exterior.
Decorate to your whimsy and serve. I used dragées and white sprinkles for this effect.
Keep leftovers covered in the refrigerator. It has a slight lean because I didn’t bother to level the layers before attaching them, but the Pie liked it well enough.