Thursday, April 1, 2010

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Whipped Ganache Icing

This is a really great, basic cake recipe that I've used several times. It's technically a yellow cake, but uses a slightly different composition and technique than the average yellow cake, and has an amazing flavor. Like most homemade cakes, it has a denser crumb than from-the-box versions. It's not at all dry - very moist, in fact, but the texture is more substantial. I much prefer homemade cake texture, but I know there are many people who enjoy the super-fluffy box variety, so I thought it best to offer this disclaimer!

I've used a few different icings for this cake in the past. I've done a richer, fudgy icing, which works quite well. I've also used my go-to chocolate buttercream, which is a fantastic icing, but I find almost not deep enough in flavor to pair perfectly with this cake. This time I went with something completely different. In essence, it's a traditional ganache (whipping cream combined with semi-sweet chocolate), but this version is allowed to just set, and then whipped until deceptively fluffy, yet still rich and mildly-sweet. I thought it fit the cake nicely.

Another note: This recipe, which I'm giving in it's original version, calls for 8-inch cake pans. I use 9-inch, and find that I prefer thicker cake layers with this recipe, to keep them moist and fluffy. So I often scale the recipe up by 1/3, in order to use three 9-inch pans and still keep the preferable texture. It's your call, and will depend on the size of pans you prefer to use, but I'd highly recommend scaling up the batter if you use 9-inch.

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake

4 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract (please, for the love of all that is good and holy, do NOT use imitation)
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, divided
3 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter three 8-inch cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper, and butter the paper.

Whisk eggs and egg hooks in medium bowl with vanilla and 1/4 cup of the buttermilk, until well-blended.

In large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and remaining buttermilk, and blend together on low speed. Increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about two minutes.

Add the egg mixture in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing just until incorporated. Divide the batter between the pans.

Bake for 28-32 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 1o minutes, then turn out onto wire racks and cool completely.

Whipped Ganache Icing

2 cups heavy cream
16 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl and pour the hot cream over it. Cover the bowl with foil and allow to stand 5 minutes. Whisk the mixture until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool and slightly firm, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat at medium speed until fluffy and mousse-like and forming medium-stiff peaks.

Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies

Have I mentioned that I love Dorie Greenspan? Well, I do. Her book, Baking: From My Home to Yours is my favorite baking guide, and I've never been let down by any of her recipes.

This lovely cookie is no exception! Soft, not-overly-sweet cookies with a deep caramel flavor, held together by creamy dulce de leche.

One note I'd make is that while this recipe calls for store-bought dulce de leche, it's fairly simple to make your own, which basically involves cooking down either a milk/sugar/vanilla mixture or a can of sweetened, condensed milk. I prefer homemade dulce de leche for most uses, but the canned version is surprisingly good, works quite well in these cookies, and is obviously a time-saver. Totally up to you!

Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies
(Dorie Greenspan - "Dulce de Leche Duos)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup store-bought dulce de leche, plus more for filling (I ended up using about 1 1/2 cans)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

Beat the butter at medium speed until soft. Add 3/4 cup dulce de leche and both sugars and continue to beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition. Reduce speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until just blended.

Spoon the dough onto the baking sheet by heaping teaspoonful, two inches apart.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Cookies should be honey brown, and still soft. Allow to sit on the baking sheets for a few minutes after removing from the oven; then transfer to cooling racks.

When cookies have cooled, match them into pairs of similar sizes. Spread one cookie from each pair with remaining dulce de leche, and sandwich with the other.