Sunday, November 2, 2008

Perfectly easy

When I get an idea to make something -- say, homemade pasta, or butternut squash soup, or brownies -- I often find myself searching Google for "easiest homemade pasta" or "perfect chocolate brownies."  

Not many recipes come along with my superlatives.  Why is that?  

This weekend I searched for the easiest/most perfect vanilla birthday cake.  No dice.  But I turned to Joy of Cooking, where many of the recipes seem to come built in with these preceding descriptors.  So easy, so perfect. 

Perfectly easy four-egg yellow cake
Adapted from Joy of Cooking

You will need: 

2 2/3 cups sifted cake flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract 
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar plus 3 tablespoons
4 large eggs, separated

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9 inch cake pans or line with parchment paper. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  In a large bowl, combine milk, vanilla, and almond extract. Add the butter and beat at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add in the 1 1/2 cups of sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Beat in four egg yolks one at a time. On a low speed, add the flour mixture into the milk mixture in three batches. 

Using clean, dry beaters, mix egg whites until soft peaks form. Add in the 3 tablespoons of sugar and beat a little more. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir in about a quarter of the egg whites into the cake batter. Once incorporated, gently fold in the rest of the egg whites. Divide the batter and spread evenly in the cake pans. Bake 25 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cake. Remove from pans to cool.  

For frosting, I made the simple butter cream recipe on the back of boxes of confectionary sugar (1 box sugar, 1 stick of butter, and 4 tablespoons of milk, beat until creamy).  I added in about a tablespoon of strawberry jello mix to make it pink and give it a slight strawberry flavor.  

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