It's January. It's cold. It's the perfect time of year to hole up in your cozy apartment and just make things, food things. It's the time of year when braising, baking and roasting are the perfect methods of cooking, since it is really too cold to go out and do anything. Might as well lurk around with a myriad of cooking magazines, books and websites, plotting the next culinary foray.
This weekend I had planned my culinary entertainment around two very important and very new additions to my kitchen arsenal. First, the lovely red Le Creuset 5 1/2 quart dutch oven I received for Christmas. That fiery red siren has been calling my name since it's arrival in December, but I had yet to properly utilize it. Second, the absolutely lovely glass cake dome given to me by my friend Becca as a hostess gift. I've been prowling around in search of such a vessel for a while, until this baby just landed, literally, on my doorstep. When I saw the package outside my door, I was afraid I had sleep-ordered something off the internet.
Anyway, something had to be done to fill these two items with delectable foods. Little did I know that a winter snowstorm would leave me cozy and captive for all of Saturday! Perfect conditions for a baking, stewing bonanza.
I'll go ahead and tell you that the dutch oven was used for a Cassoulet, but I'm not blogging that one til later, since it has so many damn ingredients and I'm just not up for it at the moment. So instead I will tell you all about the lovely cake that I enthroned in the dome! Enthroned in the dome, enthroned in the dome, enthroned in the dome... say that one ten times fast.
I used a recipe from Cooks Illustrated for the cake itself. Have I mentioned how much I love Cook's Illustrated? My mother gave me a subscription, and I fell for it, hard. I think it's the side by side comparison of appliances that truly speaks to me...and the step-by-step illustrated directions for dummies. For the icing I improvised on recipe from the Kitchen-Aid booklet that came with my stand mixer. Sometimes the best recipes are found in random places, like the instruction manual of an appliance or the back of a box. If you are dying to use a specific ingredient, I recommend looking on the maker's website or the back of the package for a recipe that is totally based around it.
Here is a truly delicious, moist and totally perfected cake recipe:
Rich and Tender Yellow Cake
Makes two 9-inch cakes. Published March 1, 1999 in Cook's Illustrated.
To quickly bring the eggs and milk to room temperature (65°F), submerge them in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes after mixing them together. Adding the butter pieces to the mixing bowl one at a time prevents the dry ingredients from flying up and out of the bowl.
|4||large eggs , room temperature|
|1/2||cup whole milk , room temperature|
|2||teaspoons vanilla extract|
|2 1/4||cups sifted cake flour (or if you only have all purpose, subtract 2 tbsp from each sifted cup)
|1 1/2||cups granulated sugar|
|2||teaspoons baking powder|
|3/4||teaspoon table salt|
|1/2||pound unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened, each stick cut into 8 pieces|
1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease two 9-by-1 1/2-inch cake pans with vegetable shortening and cover pan bottoms with rounds of parchment paper or wax paper. Grease parchment rounds, dust cake pans with flour, and tap out excess.
2. Beat eggs, milk, and vanilla with fork in small bowl; measure out 1 cup of this mixture and set aside. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment; mix on lowest speed to blend, about 30 seconds. With mixer still running at lowest speed, add butter one piece at a time; mix until butter and flour begin to clump together and look sandy and pebbly, with pieces about the size of peas, 30 to 40 seconds after all butter is added. Add reserved 1 cup of egg mixture and mix at lowest speed until incorporated, 5 to 10 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high (setting 6 on KitchenAid) and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add remaining egg mixture (about 1/2 cup) in slow steady stream, about 30 seconds. Stop mixer and thoroughly scrape sides and bottom of bowl. Beat on medium-high until thoroughly combined and batter looks slightly curdled, about 15 seconds longer. (To mix using hand mixer, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in large bowl. Add butter pieces and cut into the flour mixture with a pastry blender. Add reserved 1 cup of egg mixture; beat with hand mixer at lowest speed until incorporated, 20 to 30 seconds. Increase speed to high, add remaining egg mixture, and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Stop mixer and thoroughly scrape sides and bottom of bowl. Beat at high speed 15 seconds longer.)
3. Divide batter equally between prepared cake pans; spread to sides of pan and smooth with rubber spatula. Bake until cake tops are light golden and skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. (Cakes may mound slightly but will level when cooled.) Cool on rack 10 minutes. Run a knife around pan perimeter to loosen. Invert cake onto large plate, peel off parchment, and re-invert onto lightly greased rack. Cool completely before icing.
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup cream or evap. milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 splash almond extract, if you like
1/4 tsp salt
4 cups powdered sugar, divided
low-fat milk, if necessary
Place butter in mixer bowl. Attach bowl and flat beater to mixer. Turn to Speed 4 (see what I mean, I love how this recipe has the exact speeds, since it is made by KA!) and beat about 1 minute, or until creamy. Stop and scrape bowl. Add cream, vanilla, almond, salt and 1 cup powdered sugar. Turn to Stir Speed and mix about 30 seconds. Stop and scrape bowl. Stick your finger in and lick it. Turn to Speed 2 and mix about 1 1/2 minutes, or until well blended. Stop and scrape bowl.
Turn to stir speed. Gradually add remaining 3 cups powdered sugar and mix until blended. Stop and scrap bowl if necessary. Add milk, 1 tsp at a time, if necessary (I did). Turn to Speed 4 and beat about 1 minute or until smooth.
This makes enough for a two layer cake. Oh yeah, and I sprinkled PECANS all over the top!! Yum!
Make this for people you want to like you. After they eat it, they won't care what you said about their mother anymore. They'll like you. It's THAT kind of cake.