Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Party Cake

This light, sweet cake suits any celebration, but I especially like to make it during strawberry season. You can use all-purpose flour, if you like, but using cake flour ensures a soft texture and delicate crumb.

2¼ cups cake flour
1 Tbs baking powder
½ tsp kosher salt
1¼ cups buttermilk (or whole milk)
4 large egg whites
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
1 pint (or more) strawberries
1 pint (or more) heavy cream
confectioners' sugar, to taste

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans. Cut circles from parchment paper to fit. Place in the cake pans and butter.

3. In a mixing bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. In another mixing bowl, whisk togehter the buttermilk and egg whites.

5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until the sugar dissolves and the butter becomes pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

6. With the mixer still running, add one-third of the dry ingredients. When these have been incorporated, add one-half of the wet ingredients, again mixing until incorporated. Repeat, alternating between dry ingredients and wet ingredients, until all have been added. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat for 2 additional minutes to ensure that the batter is smooth and well aerated.

7. Divide the batter evenly between the twio pans. Shake them gently from side to side to spread out the batter. Bake until a knife inserted in the center of each layer comes out clean, about 30–35 minutes. Transfer the pans to a rack and let cool.

8. If the sides of the cooled layers haven't already pulled away from the pans, release them by running a knife around the outside edges of the layers. To unmold, invert the layers onto platters. Remove the parchment liners.

9. Trim and slice the strawberries, reserving a few whole berries for decoration. Whip the heavy cream, adding confectioners' sugar as you go to taste. Frost one of the layers with about half of the whipped cream. Top with the sliced berries. Place the second layer on top of the berries. Use the remaining whipped cream to frost the rest of the cake. Decorate the top with the reserved whole berries.

• I measure the parchment circles by placing the pan on top of the parchment paper and marking its outline with a pencil. Then I cut with a scissors just inside the pencil line. Close is good enough; better a little small than a little large.

• Although I think this cake tastes best with strawberries, you can easily substitute any kind of fresh, sweet berry—such as raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries.

• You can make the layers a day in advance and store them at room temperature covered in plastic wrap.

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