Sunday, March 2, 2014

Vanilla Cake with Buttercream Icing...and R

I start this blog post with a statement I never ever thought I would be writing...or saying...or thinking. This week I wrote my first computer program (in R)!! That's right, the girl who used to tell people that her husband did "computer stuff" has written code that actually works, although I'm not really convinced it does anything important. And even more inconceivable is the fact that I LIKED IT. That's right! I liked staring at my computer screen trying not to destroy the computer for the 5 hours it took me to write about 10 lines of code (give me a break people, I'm a beginner). So as to not bore you much more with my nerdiness (and if you want to hear more about that, just ask my brother. He loves to make fun of his nerd sister!), I will keep this short.  I am taking a class in bioinformatics this semester, which deals with methods to organize and analyze the massive amounts of data that come out of genetic studies, and it was our first assignment.  We'll see how the rest of the semester goes.    

Oh, and I also did a pretty good job decorating a really yummy cake!  More on that after the break!

I decided to take a Wilton cake decorating course at Michael's last month, which is what really started all of this.  I had finished the first of the series a long time ago, and while I planned to do all 4 courses right in a row, well, you know, life happens.  So I finally got back to it.  This particular class focused on making flowers from royal icing, and that is what you are seeing on the cake.  If this is something that interests you, I would suggest checking out the Wilton classes.  They are offered here at Michaels and Jo Ann Fabric.  I'm not sure about anywhere else, but there may be more places.

As part of the class, we have to do a final cake.  I got this idea from the Wilton website, and the directions can be found here.  I ended up making more flowers than it called for, otherwise, it would have been pretty sparse. I also skipped the basket weave because I didn't want to make that much buttercream, and I really don't like the way it looks.  I finished my cake with a shell bottom border and a reverse shell top border.  Because I really didn't have a specific occasion for this cake, I decided to just celebrate the now with Happy Tuesday!

This cake also gave me the opportunity to try out a new vanilla cake recipe.  I have not had great luck in the past, and my husband won't eat chocolate (or strawberry or many other types) of cake, so if I don't want to throw out half the cake I have to make vanilla for something we are going to keep at home.  

So I went on the hunt for a vanilla cake recipe and found this one from Cupcake Project, which I modified slightly and doubled.  It turned out amazingly well.  The cake was moist but still held its shape together.  I iced the cake with a standard buttercream icing.  Everyone who tried the cake had very good comments!  I think this is going to be my standard vanilla cake recipe from here on out.  

So, all in all, I had a pretty productive week!  Bring on next week!

Vanilla Cake Recipe
Recipe adapted from Cupcake Project
Makes enough for a 3 or 4 layer cake

For the Vanilla Cake
2 cups granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
3 1/2 cups cake flour, not self-rising
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream (full-fat)
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 Tbs vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup vanilla almond milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare your cake pans by greasing and flouring the pans.  

In a medium size bowl, combine the sugar and seeds from the vanilla bean.  Use a spoon to break up any large clumps of vanilla beans.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the vanilla bean and sugar mixture and mix until combined.  Add the butter and mix on low speed until the mixture has a fine crumb texture (about 3 minutes).

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until incorporated.  Then add the sour cream, oil and vanilla extract.  Mix until just combined.  Slowly add the almond milk and mix on low speed until incorporated.  

Divide the batter evenly between your cake pans.  Bake for 18-21 minutes (for four layers, may be longer for 3 layers), until a tester inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean. The cakes should not be golden brown.  Remove cakes from pans immediately and cool on cooling racks.  

For the Buttercream Frosting
**The following is a double recipe since I needed icing for decorating.  Cutting the recipe in half should yield enough frosting for normal icing of the cake.

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
8 cups powdered sugar
4 tsp vanilla extract
4 Tbs heavy cream
2 Tbs vanilla almond milk (you can substitute additional heavy cream, half & half, or milk)

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the butter on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy.  Add the powdered sugar, a few cups at a time, mixing on low speed until incorporated and then increasing the mixer speed.  Add in the vanilla extract, mixing well to combine.  Add in the heavy cream, and mix on medium-high speed until icing is light and fluffy.  Whether you need the additional almond milk (or substitutes) will depend on your desired icing consistency.  Add additional liquid about 1/2 Tbs at a time until your icing reaches desired consistency.  


After the cakes have cooled completely, trim cakes to make each a flat layer (if this is important to you).  I normally don't do this, but needed a flat cake for decorating.  Ice and stack the cake layers.  Apply a crumb coat to the cake and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Add a thicker layer of buttercream to the cake and smooth, if desired.  Your cake is now ready for decorating (or eating)!

No comments:

Post a Comment