Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Butter Layer Cake

Butter Layer Cake - made April 25 & 26, 2011 from Baking by Flavor by Lisa Yockelson (book #96)

I love this book.  As the title implies, it's organized by flavor so whether you want to bake something based on chocolate, caramel, butter, peanut butter, spice, cinnamon or whatever, you need only turn to that chapter to find something that catches your eye.  More importantly, I think I have a 90% success rate with the recipes in this book and with Lisa Yockelson's recipes in general.  They're straightforward to make, not overly complicated and just come out well.  Whether you're a novice baker or a master pastry chef or in between, this book is on my top 5 list of recommended baking cookbooks.

I don't usually do a lot of layer cakes.  They look pretty and can be baked for just about any occasion.  But they're harder to portion out and put in care packages or give away to people as part of a goodie bag.  Plus you typically need all the formalities of a plate and a fork to eat a two- or three-layer cake properly.  Fortunately, I've still got ties to my old office and one of my ex-coworkers is usually willing to meet me for a baked-goods dropoff so I can continue my baking experiments without consuming (too much of) what I make.  I know this recipe looks long with the cake, the filling and the frosting but you can make the cake and filling ahead of time and frost shortly before serving so it's not too bad if you plan ahead.

Bowl of Cream Cake Filling
The filling is essentially pastry cream, similar to what we used to make at CIA, which I love and could probably eat with a spoon like pudding without the bother of putting it in a cake.  I like to use both vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste for something like this, both for the extra vanilla boost and because I like how the vanilla seeds look in the pastry cream.  As far as cream filling goes, this was okay.  It's not quite as good as the CIA pastry cream I use for Basque Cake but it was still good.  If you make it ahead of time and refrigerate it, just warm it up slightly (15-20 seconds) in the microwave to make it easier to spread between the cake layers.

As you can tell from the pictures, this isn't one of the most professional looking cakes I've ever made.  At first glance, it's hard to distinguish between the layers because the cream filling is a similar color to the yellow cake.  Even though I cleaned the knife between cuts, some of the chocolate frosting still mingled with the cake part.  Similar to the red velvet brownies, that's because I have a tendency to pull the knife up after I cut down.  I should just pull it out horizontally once I've sliced down instead of automatically going back up vertically.  Although I think there's still the problem of the frosting ending up in part of the cake on the downstroke of the knife.  Regardless, this was still a pretty yummy cake.  The cake itself was moist, the filling adds to the moistness and the chocolate frosting complemented both quite nicely.  There was just a little too much frosting (to me), hence why it's so thick on top.  If you wanted to skip the cream filling, you can just use the frosting between the layers.  There should be enough.

Butter Layer Cake
Shortening and bleached all-purpose flour for preparing the layer cake pans
2 cups unsifted bleached, all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsifted bleached cake flour
1 ¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ pound (8 tablespoons or 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
6 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons intensified vanilla extract
¾ cup milk blended with ½ cup light (table) cream

Cream Cake Filling, for assembling the baked cake layers
Buttery Chocolate Frosting for spreading on the baked cake layers

1.     Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Lightly grease two 9” round cake pans with shortening.  Line the bottom of each pan with a circle of waxed paper, grease the paper, and dust the insides with all-purpose flour.  Tap out any excess flour; set aside.
2.     Sift the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg onto a sheet of waxed paper.
3.     Cream the butter in the large bowl of a freestanding mixer on moderate speed for 2 minutes.  Add half of the granulated sugar and beat for 1 minute; add the balance of the sugar and continue beating for 1 minute longer.  Add the egg yolks and beat for 2 minutes on moderate speed, or until the mixture is creamy-textured.  Blend in the vanilla extract.
4.     On low speed, add the sifted ingredients in three additions with the milk-light cream mixture in two additions, beginning and ending with the sifted mixture.  Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl frequently with a rubber spatula to keep the batter even-textured.
5.     Spoon the batter into the layer cake pans, dividing it evenly between them.  Smooth over the batter with a rubber spatula or flexible palette knife.
6.     Bake the layers for 30 minutes or until set and a wooden pick inserted 1 inch from the center of each cake layer withdraws clean.  Each baked layer will pull away slightly from the sides of the cake pan.  Cool the cake layers in the pans on racks for 5 to 8 minutes.  Invert each layer onto another rack, peel off the waxed paper round, then invert again to cool right side up.  Cool completely.
7.     Have the cream filling and frosting at hand.  Tear off four 3-inch-wide strips of waxed paper.  Place the strips in the shape of a square around the outer 3 inches of a cake plate.  Center one cake layer on the plate (partially covering the waxed paper square; at least 1 inch of the strip should be visible.)  Spread the filling on the cake layer in an even layer, using a flexible palette knife.  Carefully place the second layer on top, then ice the entire cake in drifts of frosting.  When the frosting has set, in about 45 minutes, gently slide out and discard the waxed paper strips.
8.     Cut the cake into slices for serving.  Serve the cake very fresh; within 2 hours of filling and frosting.  The cream-filled cake is fragile and must be refrigerated after 2 hours.  Refrigerate any leftover cake.

Cream Cake Filling
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup milk
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons unsalted butter, softened

1.     Combine the heavy cream and milk in a small 1-quart saucepan (preferably enameled cast iron) and heat until warm.  Set aside.
2.     Sift the granulated sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a small (5-cup) heavy saucepan.  Whisk the sugar-cornstarch mixture well to combine it; it must be thoroughly blended if the cream is to thicken properly.  Slowly blend in the egg yolks.
3.     Place a fine-meshed sieve over the saucepan and dribble in about 1 tablespoon of the cream-milk mixture and immediately stir it in.  Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the liquid in this way to avoid shocking the egg yolks.  Add the remaining liquid in three more additions, mixing well. 
4.     Bring the filling mixture to a boil slowly, over gentle heat, stirring constantly all the while with a wooden spoon.  Do not use a whisk.  Do not beat the mixture.  As soon as the thickened cream comes to a low boil, regulate the heat so that it bubbles gently for about 1 minute and 30 seconds. 
5.     Press the cream through a fine-meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, using a rubber spatula.
6.     Slowly stir in the vanilla extract and butter.
7.     Immediately press a sheet of plastic wrap directly over the surface of the cream.  Cool.  Refrigerate the cream in an airtight container for at least 6 hours before using.  The cream can be made one day in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

Buttery Chocolate Frosting
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid
Large pinch of salt
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
4 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons unsifted confectioners’ sugar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

1.     Using an electric hand mixer, blend the butter, melted unsweetened chocolate, salt, vanilla extract, half the confectioners’ sugar and all of the milk in a large mixing bowl.  Blend in the remaining confectioners’ sugar and continue beating the frosting on moderate speed for 1 to 2 minutes, or until very smooth.  Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl once or twice with a rubber spatula to keep the frosting even-textured.  Raise the speed to high and beat for 1 minute. Use the frosting immediately.


  1. This looks like one fantastic cake recipe and that chocolate frosting is absolutely luscious.

  2. These photos are stunning! That cake looks delish, love the butter running through it.
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