Tuesday, 31 July 2012

White Vanilla Bean Layer Cake

I watched the Olympics, designed my future bedroom and read a little. And all of a sudden, the sun began to rise. I didn't pull an all-nighter throughout the whole of my BA degree (studying throughout the year rather than cramming right before exam period surely has its benefits), yet last night somehow passed by without my realising. 

I re-watched an episode of Downton Abbey for the fourth time. It was still 7 o'clock. I barely ever experience 7 o'clock. I baked a cake. And at exactly 8 o'clock, I crashed. Boom Bam. I 'napped' until 3pm. I woke up, watched the Olympic artistic gymnastics (this, along with swimming, is my absolute absolute favourite), and was in bed by 8pm. Of course I woke up at 2.30am. Woot woot for summer holidays. Imagine this madness whilst at university.

So here's the cake I baked. I had been looking for a good white vanilla cake for weeks, if not months. (White cakes are those cakes in which no egg yolks are added).

Beauty, yes?

Ingredients for the cake:
  • 4 egg whites (150g) brought to room temperature
  • 180ml whole milk - divided and brought to room temperature
  • 2 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 285g sifted "OO" flour
  • 350g sugar
  • 1tbsp + 1tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 170g unsalted butter brought to room temperature
Method for the cake:
  1. Preheat your oven to 180 °C and grease two 6" tins. I use a non-stick baking spray rather than butter.
  2. Combine the egg whites, half of the milk (90ml), and the vanilla extract into a bowl and whisk slightly.
  3. Sift the flour and baking powder into your mixing bowl, add the sugar and salt, and pulse sightly until all is evenly dispersed.
  4. Add the butter and half of the milk (90ml), mix on a low speed until just moistened. Increase the speed to medium and beat for exactly 90 seconds.
  5. Add 1/3 of the eggy mixture and beat on a medium speed for no more than 20 seconds.
  6. Repeat step 5 twice more.
  7. Divide the batter between two cake tins. I like to weigh them to be precise. Level with an offset spatula and pop into the oven for 25-35 minutes. Mine took 30 minutes to bake, but as oven temperatures vary, be sure to check yours every 2 minutes or so after the first 20 minutes have passed.
  8. Leave cakes to rest for 5-10 minutes, and then tap out onto a wire rack to cool off completely. 
* Adapted from Sweetapolita 'Fluffy Vanilla Cake with Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting' (here) who in turn adapted the vanilla cake slightly from Baking Bites 'Classic White Cake' (here). Both of the original recipes call for more liquids (egg whites or milk) but I have reduced the amount to prevent the batter from curdling. Moreover, both recipes refer to two 9" cake tins, though I chose to use two 6" cake tins as I prefer a smaller yet higher cake.

Ingredients for the frosting:
  • 150g unsalted butter brought to room temperature
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean (scraped)*
  • 3 tbsp milk*
  • food colouring (optional)
Method for the frosting:
  1. Using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, beat the butter until perfectly pale and fluffy. This should take around 8-10 minutes.
  2. Sift the icing sugar into your mixing bowl and begin to cream the two together on a medium speed.
  3. Add the vanilla bean seeds and milk and turn the mixer onto a medium-high speed. Your frosting should have a light and smooth consistency. 
  4. Frost as you wish! I chose to divide my frosting into two. I left one part white and tinted the rest a light sky blue. Other than that, I used a Wilton 1M piping end to decorate.

* After scraping the vanilla seeds out of the pod, it may be a good idea to let the outer part soak in the milk (rather than disposing it immediately) so as to extract all the vanilla flavours. 

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