Sunday, 2 June 2013

White Cake

I hosted a birthday party recently. I had it all planned to perfection - the menu, the drinks, the timings... everything. Nothing was left to chance. All the I's were dotted, all the T's were crossed. (Not that I'm a control freak or anything!) Things were progressing nicely. People were arriving, cocktails were being sipped, nibbles were being... er, nibbled. Then one of the important guests called to say he was caught in traffic. He said he thought he might be about 20 minutes late. That's the sort of news that makes my heart beat faster... not in a good way. But I tried to pull myself together and held dinner back, telling myself the meal could be kept in a holding pattern for 20 minutes without any problem. Then he called to say traffic had been diverted around an oil-spill on the road and that he was going to be a bit later than originally expected. I checked the food. It was starting to look overcooked. It wasn't the only thing looking like it had spent too much time in the kitchen - my mascara was starting to run and so were my armpits, and the stress-induced perspiration made my hair frizz. Do I have to tell you I don't handle these situations particularly well? Our guest finally arrived, over an hour late. I fixed my makeup, armpits and hair and we dined on slightly overcooked beef followed by cake. Thank goodness for cake... and wet wipes.

White Cake
Cake slightly adapted from Epicurious Frosting from Tasty Kitchen 

For the Cakes:
2 1/4 plain flour (I use Tipo "00"), plus more for dusting the pans 
1 cup full-cream milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites (3/4 cup), at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups caster sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
170g unsalted butter, softened but still cool

300ml cream, whipped (for sandwiching the cakes together)

For the Frosting:
5 tablespoons plain flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
115g unsalted butter
1 cup caster sugar (not icing sugar!)

Make the Cakes:
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. and set oven rack in middle position. Spray two 20cm round cake pans with nonstick cooking oil spray, line the bottoms with baking paper. Spray the paper with cooking oil spray, dust the pans with flour, and invert pans and rap sharply to remove excess flour.

Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into jug, and mix with fork until blended. 

Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter, continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.
Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed  for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium speed and beat 20 seconds longer. Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans, using rubber spatula, spread batter and smooth tops. 

Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes. 
Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto wire racks. Reinvert onto additional wire racks. Let cool completely before frosting.

Make the Frosting:
In a small saucepan, whisk flour into milk and heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. Cook until it is very thick - like brownie batter. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. It must be completely cool before you use it in the next step. Stir in vanilla.

While the mixture is cooling, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. You don’t want any sugar graininess left. Then add the completely cooled milk/flour/vanilla mixture and beat the living daylights out of it. If it looks separated, you haven’t beaten it enough! Beat it until it all combines and resembles whipped cream.

Assemble the Cake:
Put one cake on a cake stand or platter. Top with whipped cream and make a big beautiful sandwich by putting the second cake on top.

Dollop about 1 cup of frosting on top of the cake and spread it evenly over the top and down and around the sides, using more frosting, if needed, to cover the entire cake. 

Put the remaining frosting into a plastic piping bag and cut the tip of the bag so that you can pipe small circles of frosting around the sides of the cake. Pipe three circles in a vertical row. Use a palette knife to smear half the circle then pipe another three circles over the smear - and repeat until you have decorated the complete circumference of the cake.


  1. I am sure none of the guests noticed:) And what a pretty cake!

  2. What a story Jen!!! This cake looks wonderful :) And delicious :)

  3. Oddly enough I am the same way with a party. Lists: menus, shopping list, timing list, etc. Well, you know the drill already. Cake looks yummy - light and I bet it was a big hit.

  4. So glad your guest of honor was able to make it! It would have been a crime to miss your yummy food and this delicious cake! I love cake! This one looks like perfection.

  5. With a showstopper like this to finish the meal, I'm sure everybody left happy! This is beautiful, Jen!

  6. Yum! This cakes looks beautiful. Love your photos!

  7. Thanks Sara. If they did, they were too polite to say so.

  8. Thanks Gabrielle. It was all worth it.

  9. Thanks Patty. I have to have everything just so, otherwise I'm a hot mess.

  10. Thanks Pink Patisserie. Everything was great in the end (except my hair and makeup, that is).

  11. Thanks Little Kitchie. I plied the guests with champagne while we were waiting. Every body was very happy.

  12. Thanks Yvonne. Simple white cakes are easy to photograph, they are just so pretty.

  13. There's such an elegant, perhaps art deco charm to the way you have frosted this beautiful cake. Nice work, Jen.

  14. Ha! Aw, you poor thing. That's happened to me a few times. I get so frustrated when I time things well, the food is almost perfect, but then it gradually gets overcooked due to various delays. I don't handle dinner party stress well either - I become a red-faced stressball. Grrrr! On the plus side, your cake looks divine! I love the frosting pattern (you are the buttercream wizard!). I am sure the meal was still beautiful in every way... I think very often, we're much harsher critics of our food than anyone else is! x

  15. Thanks Angela - exactly the effect I was going for.

  16. Hey Laura. You're so right, we ARE our own worst critics. I think I was like a duck on the night (looking calm and serene on the surface, paddling like crazy underneath) - I had my game-face on.