I’ve always heard people say, “You are either a great chef or a great baker/pastry chef.” This rings true with me because cooking feels very natural, however baking has never been my strong suit. I can carry out the good ‘ol chocolate chip recipe, but my doughs are usually too dry and my cakes taste like cardboard. So I had an idea. Because I attend quite possibly the most creative school in the Northwest, why not create a baking independent study for myself?
I’m pulling out all of the stops. I have my basic baking ingredients, a plethora of cookbooks, a handy dandy new food processor (thanks dad), and a group of hungry college students ready to eat my creations.
I started the project off with this white cake. The cake itself is adapted from Cooks Illustrated. It is relatively uncomplicated and has a lovely almond flavor. The blackberry frosting is equally delicious, adapted from Kitchen Trial and Error. The recipe calls for blackberry puree, but I couldn’t find it in a regular grocery store. Instead, I bought canned blackberries and pureed them myself in the food processor and then strained out the seeds. It ended up working nicely. I would make the cake again, but I would use less sugar in the frosting. It was a tad too sweet for me.
However, after my roommate and I had a good laugh about the cake’s slight “lopsidedness”, we devoured two pieces of it.
- 2 1/4 cups cake flour
- 1 cup whole milk, room temperature
- 6 egg whites, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons almond extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter
Set the oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray two nine-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and dust with flour, tapping off the excess.
Whisk together the milk, egg whites, almond and vanilla extracts and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients. Add butter and mix in until it forms coarse wet crumbs. Add all of the milk mixture except 1/2 cup to the dry ingredients and mix on medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Then add the remaining milk mixture and mix for another minute.
Divide batter evenly among the two pans and smooth it out so that it is even. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for about ten minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting.
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
- 6 cups confectioners sugar (I recommend using less)
- 6 tablespoons strained blackberry puree (I used closer to 9)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Beat butter on medium speed until fluffy, about two minutes. Slowly add 1 cup of sugar and beat until smooth. Then add the wet ingredients. Add the remaining sugar, 1/2 cup at a time and mix until smooth. Once smooth, mix for another 3 minutes to make it fluffy.