I feel that since I've started this blog, I've been entirely too stingy with the recipes. So my dear readers, prepare for the most luscious cake recipe(s) you have ever tasted. I am not a scratch snob, though I do prefer a good scratch recipe over an "extended" box recipe any day (except for White Almond Sour Cream, which I will reserve for another post where I've actually used it).
The lovely thing about this cake is that it is horribly imperfect, yet it's received the best reception because of that. Some have called it a Dr. Seuss cake (without my prodding), and that is an effect I find delightful! I purposely did not take my time on the details because the book (Whimsical Bakehouse) I got the idea from stressed that it's okay to be imperfect, much like an impressionist painting. It's horrible from up close, but from afar it is fantastic (that's impressionist, right?)
The cakes are 9", 6", and 4", which are relatively small for a tiered cake, but really quite enormous for anything but weddings. The bottom and the top layer are Chocolate Fudge cake (a Toba Garrett recipe), and the middle layer is a Lemon Supreme Pound cake. The frosting and filling is buttercream. I want to stress that unsalted butter is a must. Unless you like things realllllly salty.
I also have a few tips before I get started.
1. Line the bottom of your pans with parchment paper. You would not believe what a huuuge difference this makes in releasing the cake. Also, grease them with butter. Flour is not really a necessity when greasing. Do not use Crisco unless you like crispy edges (learn from my mistakes, peeps).
2. Use GOOD pans. They make all the difference in the world. The two types of pans I typically use are Magic Line and for Springform I use Kaiser.
3. Drop the pans before putting them in the oven. I've gone into more detail in my first recipe.
4. Cool the cakes for at least 20 minutes (some say 10), and before you flip them out (or release them from the Springform), run a butter knife along the sides to release it. The bottom is taken care of with the parchment paper.
5. Wrap them in plastic and refrigerate or freeze until firm.
6. Use gel food coloring in your frosting because it doesn't water down the consistency much; but don't use Wilton - it sucks. I use Americolor or Ateco (Ateco is available at Sur La Table among other places I'm sure).
7. Buy your extracts and other specialty items (like high quality cocoa/chocolate) at a gourmet food store or specialty kitchen store like Sur La Table. Believe it or not, it is usually much cheaper than what you will find at the grocery store. I can get a 4oz bottle of high quality lemon extract for 6.95 at Sur La Table, that at the grocery store costs $5 PER OUNCE.
Now, without further adieu:
Chocolate Fudge Cake
2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed DARK brown sugar
1 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder (IMO it doesn't NEED to be Dutch processed because it is pricey, but if you want to do it right for a special occasion it does make a small difference)
2 and 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 and 1/2 tsp salt
2 and 1/4 cups buttermilk (you can substitute with milk and vinegar [1 tbsp per cup of milk] if you have an oh shit I don't have that moment, but use the real thing if you've got it)
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 and 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 oz melted semisweet fine quality chocolate (Bakers brand will do)
Heat the oven until 325 or 350. If you've got patience you will have much more even cooking results at 325.
Mix all ingredients together in a mixer on low for 30 seconds, scraping the bowl (constantly if you're anal about following recipes to the T).
Blend in the melted chocolate. I have a tip at this point. Before you preheat your oven and measure the ingredients, put the chocolate in the pan on the stove and don't turn on the burner. The heat from the oven when preheating will melt the chocolate very evenly and nicely if you've got a cheapie stove like I do.
Mix on high speed for 3 minutes. If you've got a Kitchen aid like I do (oooh I like my Gloria!), it may take less time. You will notice a consistency change in the batter, it will become fluffy. That's where you want it.
Pour into pans and smooth. Then lift the pans and drop them several times on the counter. Then stand on your head and spin around while twiddling your thumbs and singing "You've Got a Friend in Me". Just kidding, but seriously, do the pan dropping thing, it helps to alleviate air bubbles. Use this as a general rule of thumb when baking cakes.
This will make two nice sized 8" layers. For my 9" and 4" layers I used a recipe and a half and it was plenty.
Bake for 50-75 minutes depending on your oven temperature. They say that when the toothpick comes out clean it's overcooked, but I've always used this rule and my cakes are never dry.
Are you still with me? Are you ready for the Lemon Supreme cake that I find "okay", but non-chocolate lovers find fabulous? Here goes:
Lemon Supreme Pound Cake
(I usually double - but for this particular cake you wouldn't need it unless you want scraps for filling and that's another topic for another day)
1 box Lemon Supreme cake mix (Duncan Hines is the best for cake mixes)
1 box Lemon Jello
1 Cup Hot Water for the Jello
3/4 cup Vegetable oil
1 TBSP lemon extract
Dissolve the Jello in the hot water and mix the rest of the ingredients while the water is becoming one with the Jello.
Add the dissolved Jello
Yup, that's it.
Again, cooking times vary depending on oven temperature. The cake will look very crispy very quickly, but that's okay, the inside is still moist.
The BEST Buttercream frosting ever
(provided you like powdered sugar based frosting's):
2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup vegetable or hi-ration shortening (yeah, fancy words...just use solid Crisco)
1 and 1/2 tsp Lemon extract (you can actually substitute with any extract, including vanilla, but lemon really works well and gives the frosting a nice subtle touch that you do not get with vanilla)
3 lbs confectioners sugar (technically you should sift, but who the heck has time for that?)
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp water - start with just the 1/2 cup and add the tbsp if you need it.
3 TBSP meringue powder (you can find this with the Wilton Cake Deco Supplies at craft stores. It is NOT a necessity, but very helpful during the warmer months in stabilizing the frosting)
1 tsp salt
Cream the butter and Crisco (or whatever). It should be nice and creamy, not lumpy at all.
Add the extract and salt.
Add Confectioners sugar one cup at a time (but I usually cheat and add more, it depends on how much *poof* you want from the sugar and what your mixer can handle - but you definitely need an electric mixer).
When all of the sugar is added, mix in the meringue powder. Your mixture may become too dry before this point, if it does, you may add a small amount of water to help.
Add the water or milk (if you so choose) and mix for 7-8 minutes (again, Kitchen Aid's need less) until light and fluffy.
Sample for quality.
Then sample again for good measure.
And sample a third time for prosperity.
Oh heck, sample until you feel sick to your stomach so that you can resist the finished cake.
Note: Even though you can store this (freeze for up to two months) - I make this right before I'm ready to decorate because it has the best consistency at this point. If you do store it before making, make sure you mix it again in the mixer before using on the cake.
Now, if you want to decorate it like the above cake, umm, I have no advice. It was a modge podge flurry of color and I'm actually quite surprised it did not collapse. Okay, well it didn't collapse because I at least know how to support a cake, but the rest of it was just a lot of dye on my hands and coupler changes (for the frosting tips).
I know there are a few of you out there who are going to be making cakes soon and have expressed interest in getting advice from this non-expert. Please don't hesitate to email me at sugarbunz at gmail dot com. It would make me feel important :)