Friday, January 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Elliott Carter

Yellow Layer Cake
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
While I love to bake, in my day job I am a music librarian. I just put up a display featuring Elliott Carter, a composer who recently turned 100 years old and is still writing music! If you want to know more about him, there is a great summary of his life and work in the New York Times article about his birthday. I feel like his life is an example to all aspiring artists - although he mastered many things at a younger age, the first time he published an opera was at age 90!

At the music library, I decided that even without his presence, we could at least celebrate his birthday with cake. (Or I'd been wanting to try something from The Modern Baker, the newest cookbook by Nick Malgieri, one of my favorite bakers and baking teachers.)

I chose simple yellow cake layers. I paired them with a quick powdered sugar/butter/cocoa powder frosting, although Malgieri's Italian buttercream would have been much more decadent. The cake was lovely - dense, flavorful, and would have been lighter had I not overcooked it slightly. Guitar Hero and baking do not mix!

Making a cake from scratch is just about as simple as throwing the ingredients together necessary to use a mix, especially Malgieri's way. He experimented with separating the eggs and adding the whipped whites separately and found it made little difference, and adjusts the mixing time of other steps to aerate the dough. Any time a recipe makes something take one fewer bowl, I am not going to complain. You can tell it is not from a box the minute you slice into it and take a bite.

I'm going to put the recipe into this blog, but I think any of Malgieri's cookbooks are worth buying, so please do. They are always very well explained, and flawless. I have learned a lot over the years by watching him on Baking with Julia and Sara's Secrets.

Yellow Cake Layers

Makes two 9-inch (23-cm) round layers

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/3 cup milk or buttermilk*

1. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350 F (180 C).
2. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir well to mix.
3. Combine the butter, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat with the paddle on medium speed until lightened in color and texture, 3-4 minutes.
4. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
5. Decrease the mixer speed to the lowest and add half of the flour mixture. Stop and scrape down the bowl and beater.
6. Beat in the milk and after it is absorbed, beat in the remaining flour mixture.
7. Stop and scrape the bowl and beater. Increase the speed to medium and beat the batter continuously for 3 minutes.
8. Divide the batter equally between the 2 prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake the layers until they are well risen and deep golden, and feel firm when pressed in the center with a fingertip, 25-30 minutes.
9. Cool in the pans on racks for 5 minutes, then unmold, turn right side up again, and cool completely on racks.

Tips for serving and storing are in the cookbook. Buy it!

*I try to always use buttermilk when I can.

Categories: Cake, Chocolate


Joe Barron said...

Think of it. A woman appreciates Elliott Carter and knows how to bake a white cake. Ah, if only I were twenty years younger ...

k45ss said...

Gorgeous cake - I'd love to know how you made the chocolate covering too

Thanks for posting the recipe


Emma said...

I, too, made a homemade cake this past weekend. Yours admittedly came out better. I misread the butter box and used 4 sticks of butter instead of 2 sticks for "1 cup" butter.

Thankfully, I had the trusty kitchenaid mixer on hand to beat it to death, it would have burned out my hand mixer...

In the end, it became a pseudo-pound / yellow cake. Yours looks much better! And yes, Guitar Hero and baking don't mix!

Kitchenaid Classic Mixer Nut