When we think of cake we think of the classics. There’s plain or vanilla cake, there’s chocolate, there’s spice cakes, there’s carrot cake, there’s even red velvet cake but why stop there. Once you find a good cake recipe why not flavor it with whatever tickles your fancy? Well I am doing just that. To start however I need to back up and tell you, if you have been baking cakes from scratch, most likely you’re doing it all wrong. I know, I know… that’s a bold statement but I have learned a few secrets and it as totally changed my cake baking experience!
So to tell this story correctly it begins with purchasing a Joule. This is a immersion circulator (which has also totally changed how I cook). Joule is made my a company called Chefsteps. They have a website devoted to making great food and it’s packed full of amazing recipes. There are even a large amount that have nothing to do with the Joule. Seeing this I subscribed for their premium membership. In it they had a cake master class. Being that we eat cake every night and my husband is quite the cake connoisseur, I was intrigued. I went through all their material and learned so much that I was doing all wrong! Best of all I also learned about a secret ingredient!
So starting with the cake here’s what you didn’t know you needed to know:
- To achieve the right texture start with “cake flour” this is a more refined flour allowing for more of those tiny bubble that you want that create great texture.
- Use the “magic” ingredient Glycerol Monostearate. This can be found in lots of places with todays resources but I got mine at Modernistpantry.com (This will not only help keep your cake moist but gives it that springy spongey texture that great cakes have. It’s also what all professional bakeries use in their cake batters.)
Now here’s where I was forever changed:
- Use the lowest speed on your mixer. ALWAYS
- Start with mixing your wet ingredients. With this super low speed you get everything well homogenized but your don’t add a ton of air and you won’t over mix.
- Have all your dry ingredients mixed together in their own bowl. Once the wet ingredients are homogenized start adding the dry ingredients with the largest spoon you have (a serving spoon works great) and scoop the dry and dump into the wet with the mixer running on it’s lowest setting. Doing this will allow you to fully incorporate the dry without over mixing. Don’t wait to add the next spoonful but don’t be in a rush either.
- Finally this cake uses milk that’s added at the very end. This needs to be warmed up as it helps everything come together and helps activate the baking soda.
We’re not done yet with changing the way to bake a cake! Next it’s actually baking it. Did you know cake is done when the center comes to 205ºF? I didn’t? By cooking to a specific temperature I have been able to completely avoid over backing or drying out my cakes! You can still do the toothpick test but I have found 205ºF to be perfect.
Lastly it’s all about how you ice it. Using an icing that no one wants to eat can be a total bummer when you serve your delicious cake. Whipped cream frostings tend to be the biggest hits with crowds but it doesn’t hold up well to heat, freezing, and can be too soft to do any fun decorating with. American buttercream tends to be too waxy and way too sweet. My solution? Italian Buttercream. It starts with making a meringue and then adding butter to it. A big part of this icing is melting the sugar and then adding it to the egg whites. This is done both to create a super smooth frosting as well as slightly cook the egg whites. It takes a little practice but once you nail it this frosting is amazing.
In it’s soft state the frosting is light and airy. Put the cake in the fridge and it becomes solid. This is a benefit because cakes are easiest to slice when cold and firm. However, after slicing your servings cover them with plastic wrap and let them come to room temperature and no-one is the wiser that it was ever cold and hard. Not sold yet? This frosting also freezes amazingly! To make my cake last of just the two of us I freeze a little more than half of it in containers that are large enough to hold two servings. I simply pull the individual container out of the freezer the morning we’ll want it, leave it on the counter, and by dinner time it’s the perfect temperature. Better yet, if you have leftover icing after decorating your cake you can simply bag it in a ziplock and freeze. Then the next time you do your cake again let it sit out on the counter either overnight or most of the day until it’s at room temperature and it’s as good as new!
Once I got a hang of the recipe and technique I found on Chefsteps.com I made it my own by switching up the flavors. Since I purchased a giant box of peaches I decided to make a peach cake. Playing with the flavors shouldn’t scare you. Find what flavor you like most and make it your own as well.
A pro tip: To make the peaches workable for this recipe I first quartered them and removed their pits, I then bagged them in the weights I knew I would need for this recipe. Finally I froze them. When I went to make this cake I let them fully thaw which made them bait mushy and juicy. This in turn made them much easier to work with for what I was needing.
Peaches ’n’ Cream Cake
- 450 grams Cake Flour
- 635 grams Granulated Sugar
- 19 grams Fine Salt
- 15 grams Baking Soda
- 15 grams Baking Powder
- 12.1 grams Glycerol Monostearate
- 475 grams Mashed Peaches
- 375 grams Nut Oil
- 325 grams Buttermilk
- 175 grams Egg
- 35 grams Vanilla Extract
- 380 grams Milk
- Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Spray each of your desired pans (9-inch square in my case) with non-stick spray and line the bottom with parchment.
- Prepare the dry mix by whisking together the flour, sugar, 19 grams of the salt, the baking soda, baking powder, and the Glycerol Monostearate.
- Prepare the wet mix by adding the mashed peaches, oil, buttermilk, egg, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Set the mixer on low and mix until you have a homogenous liquid.
- With the mixer still running add the dry ingredients 1 large spoonful at a time. Mix only until the ingredients are fully incorporated.
- Warm the milk. With the mixer running slowly add the milk.
- Pour the mixture between your prepared pans.
- Bake the cakes until the digital thermometer reads 205ºF, about 40 minutes to 1 hour.
- When the cakes are done remove them from the oven and give them a god tap on the counter as they come out of the oven. Allow the cakes to cool completely before removing from the pans.
- 1 ½ cups Peaches
- 1 tablespoon Cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
- ½ cup Granulated Sugar
- Bring all ingredients together in a pan and bring to a boil over medium heat and stir continuously to desired thickness. Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Lay plastic wrap directly on the filling to prevent a skin from forming. Let cool to room temperature. Place in the fridge and cool over night.
Rustic Peach Italian Buttercream
- 400 grams Granulated Sugar
- 2 ⅝ fl ounces Water
- 5.25 ounces Egg White
- 1 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
- 1 ½ pounds Unsalted Butter, room temperature (Do not let it melt)
- 2 tablespoons Vanilla Extract
- Set up your stand mixer next to the stove. You will want to be able to pour your melted sugar directly from the pan to the mixer. (Since I am left handed I prefer to have my mixer on the right so that I can use my left hand to pour.)
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Cook the mixture until it reaches 248 degrees F, 5 to 10 minutes, keeping a constant eye on it.
- Meanwhile, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk just until frothy, then stop the mixer and wait for the sugar to be brought to temperature.
- As soon as the sugar syrup reaches 248ºF, turn off the heat, put the mixer on low, and immediately pour it into the egg whites in a slow steady stream. Be careful as the syrup is very hot. Try to pour the melted sugar as close to the edge of the egg whites as possible without it pouring down the side of the bowl. Some of the sugar will splatter high in the bowl and some of the sugar will harden in the pan. Don’t worry and DO NOT scrape the pan as you do not want hardened sugar crystals in the icing. Raise the speed to high and continue to whisk for 10 minutes. (I cover my mixer with a towel as tiny specks of meringue like to come flying out during this time.)
- After the ten minutes, lower the speed to medium, and start adding the butter. Using a rubber scrapper lop of a hunk of butter and add it to the meringue. Once it is fully incorporated add another piece of butter until all the butter is added. Add in the vanilla, whisk until fully incorporated.
At this point the icing is done. I put a star tip in a large disposable bag and filled it with the vanilla icing. I then piped a boarder around one cake, filled it with the peach filling, and placed the other cake on top. I then took the remaining filling and gave it a quick puree but made sure not to make it completely smooth. I then folded that into the remaining icing. Again not over working it as I wanted a rough look to it.
I frosted the cake with the peach icing and did a decorative boarder with the vanilla icing. It’s best to let this cake fully cool in the fridge overnight before cutting into it to allow both the icing and the filling to set up again. Once the cake is fully chilled I cut it into 16 portions. Each portion is two servings. I freeze nine of them and put the other seven pieces on a platter and over it with plastic wrap.
Each morning I put one piece of cake out to come to room temperature (keeping it covered). In the evening when I am plating dinner, I slice the piece of cake in half and sever it as well. You will want this cake to fully come to room temperature before serving it as the icing will take on its light fluffy texture if it’s not cold.