Thursday, June 30, 2011

Buttermilk Cake

Buttermilk Cake - made June 24, 2011 from The Simple Art of Perfect Baking by Flo Braker (book #132)

I was in a hurry to use up buttermilk again before it expires.  Actually it was going to expire while I was in Barcelona so I had to bake with it before I left.  After I had the taste test slice, I wrapped up the rest of the cake and put it in the freezer to give away later.  The recipe says to bake this as two 8-inch round cakes but I just made it in a Bundt pan.  Easier to wrap up and give away in slices.  I actually went almost a full week without trying out a new recipe - imagine.  (I don't count the baking I did of cookie dough I had in the freezer to give away to friends since I'd already made those and tried them out.)  So I didn't plan very well with recipes to use this particular quart of buttermilk before it expires.  I hate wasting ingredients so I did a quick flip through of the baking books I had left in my baking challenge to come up with this simple butter cake.

It has a lighter texture than a pound cake or a typical Bundt cake since this wasn't meant to actually be a Bundt cake; I just made it one.  Regardless, it worked out pretty well.  Don't overbake it as part of the appeal is the moist cakey texture.  I liked the simplicity of this cake - the buttery flavor carries it and it's also another candidate to take along to those summer picnics but it's a bit more delicate than say, the Chocolate Swirl Cake, and falls apart a little more easily so don't cut it until the last minute before serving.  Actually, you should never cut cake until right before you serve it or else wrap each slice immediately in plastic wrap.  If you don't, the cut ends will dry out more easily. 

If you follow the original recipe to bake it into two 8-inch round cake pans, you can frost it but I liked it unfrosted because you can taste the goodness of the butter without any interference.  Because it's relatively plain, you can also dress it with summer berries and a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you're planning to serve to guests but choose flavors that complements it rather than competes with it.

2 ½ cups (250 grams) sifted cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 ounces (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven, 5 to 6 inches from the bottom; preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Using a paper towel, grease the bottom and sides of two 8-inch round cake pans with solid shortening. Dust generously with all-purpose flour, shake to distribute, tap out excess, and insert 8-inch rounds of parchment or waxed paper.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together; set aside.
  4. Whisk eggs together in a small bowl.
  5. Pour buttermilk into a liquid measuring cup, add vanilla and stir to combine.
  6. Place the butter in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer.
  7. With the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until it is lighter in color, clings to the sides of the bowl, and has a satiny appearance, 30-45 seconds.
  8. Maintaining the same speed, add the sugar in a steady stream. When all of the sugar is added, stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue to cream at the same speed for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the mixture is very light in color and fluffy in appearance.
  9. With the mixer still on medium speed, pour in the eggs, very cautiously at first, tablespoon by tablespoon, as if you were adding oil when making mayonnaise. If at any time the mixture appears watery or shiny, stop the flow of eggs and increase the mixer’s speed until a smooth, silken appearance returns. Then return to medium speed and resume adding eggs.
  10. Continue to cream, stopping the mixer and scraping the sides of the bowl at least once. When the mixture appears white, fluffy and increased in volume, detach the paddle and bowl from the mixer.
  11. With the aid of a metal icing spatula, lift one-fourth of the flour mixture and sprinkle it over the creamed mixture. Stir it in with a rubber spatula. Then pour in one third of the vanilla-flavored milk, stirring to blend together. Repeat this procedure, alternating dry and liquid ingredients, ending with the flour. With each addition, scrape the sides of the bowl, and continue mixing until smooth.
  12. Spoon equal amounts of batter into each pan. Spread evenly in each pan, creating a slightly raised ridge around the outside rim.
  13. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the baked surface springs back slightly when touched lightly in the center and the sides begin to contract from the pan.
  14. Pace the pans on racks and let them cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Run a small spatula around the edges and invert cakes onto a rack ,peel off the parchment liners, and reinvert right side up. Cool completely.
Storage: wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature. Cakes can also be frozen, tightly wrapped for up to 2 weeks.

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