Classic Cake Day: Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Black Currant Whipped Cream

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[Classic Cake Day revisits some of our favorite cakes from the first year or so, before the blog. We made this cake for Valentine’s Day 2018.]

Jordan: This cake was delicious. Kitra also broke a chair taking pictures of it.

Kitra: I forgot that a screw was loose and wanted to get this cake from all the angles because it’s. just. so. pretty.

When we were in New York to see a musical a while back (Come From Away, go see it, it’s amazing), we stopped by Kalustyan’s to browse the truly absurd amount of spices, herbs, and miscellaneous flavorings they have there.

We picked up a couple of things, but the first one to see use was the black currant juice powder, because it is truly the most remarkable color and tastes great.

Plus it’s the king of berries!

Or so they said. I buy it.

Literally. We bought it. And it was delicious—bright and fruity, and when folded into whipped cream made a delightful replacement for the heavy buttercream you might expect from a Valentine’s Day cake.

While we’d hoped it would stay hot pink in the cream, it turned into a lovely shade of purple and we’re not mad about it.

We paired it here with a vanilla buttermilk cake, which was moist and dense in the best senses of both of those words.

When we looked back to write this post, the first though both of us had was “my coworkers loved this cake,” so it’s clearly also a crowd-pleaser. Which is good, because this makes a lot of cake.

You could easily scale down the recipe and do this as a single layer cake with a thick layer of frosting and it would be a great afternoon snack… But if you make the full thing, we don’t think your coworkers will mind.

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Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Black Currant Whipped Cream

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Sky High

Notes

We recognize that black currant juice powder is kind of a niche product, so don’t feel obliged to track it down. This cake would also pair well with any fruit whipped cream made with freeze-dried berries, like the blueberry one we made over the summer. Strawberries or raspberries would be nice and festive for Valentine’s Day.

Since this is a whipped cream topping, be sure to keep the cake in the fridge once frosted.

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake

Ingredients

3 3/4 cups (450g) cake flour
2 1/2 cups (500g) sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups plus 1/3 cup buttermilk (divided)
5 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°. Butter three 8- or 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment.

Combine dry ingredients, including sugar, in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the butter and 1¼ cup buttermilk and beat on low until blended, then increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and remaining ⅓ cup buttermilk. In three additions, fold the egg mixture into the rest of the batter.

Divide batter into pans; there should be about 3 cups of batter per pan.

Bake 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out free of batter. Allow to cool fully before frosting with black currant whipped cream between each layer and on top. If desired, dust top of frosted cake with additional black currant powder.

Black Currant Whipped Cream

Ingredients

2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
black currant powder, to taste

Directions

Using an electric mixer, whip cream and sugar together until thick and fluffy. Use a rubber spatula to fold in black currant powder, tasting as you go, until the flavor is to your liking.

Classic Cake Day: Red Velvet Ghost Cake

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[Classic Cake Day revisits some of our favorite cakes from the first year or so, before the blog. We made this cake in October 2017.]

Jordan: Last year’s Halloween cake was probably going to be a cake covered entirely in candy eyes, like a sprinkle cake (but eyes).

Kitra: Which we should still do.

Agreed. But it was worth postponing because: ghost pretzels. Ghost. Pretzels. They look like the poor unfortunate souls from The Little Mermaid! You can’t not love them.

We had way too much fun making ghosts. Also just saying the word “ghosts”.

Imagine Kitra saying “ghosts” with a Minnesotan accent over and over and you’ll get the idea.

Ghoosts.

Rather than just covering any old cake in ghosts, we went for the most disturbingly blood-like of cakes: red velvet.

I’ve used Alton Brown’s recipe before, and it’s lovely. Except where it looks like the inside of our meat suits.

That was gross. I’m sorry. This cake is delicious, but be warned that between the cake, cream cheese frosting, and a solid coating of yogurt-covered pretzels, it’s VERY sweet.

And also your fingers will be a weird color for days unless you’re very careful.

Recommended order of operations for this:

  1. Make the cakes so that they can cool
  2. Make frosting
  3. Make a million tiny ghosts
  4. Start thinking of puns that combine both ghosts and cake
  5. Assemble the cake
  6. Make a really bad video
  7. Profit???

 

 

I was really insistent about the video. I also love it. In fact, I showed it to someone this month for no particular reason other than I feel it is a work of ART.

In summary, we’re not really inventing the wheel here on red velvet cake, but we are making it a lot spookier.

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Red Velvet Cake with Pretzel Ghosts

Cake from Alton Brown, ghosts inspired by Dessert Now Dinner Later

Alton Brown stubbornly insists that you use weights when baking, and while he’s correct that it’s better that way, it’s not convenient if you don’t have a baking scale. You can convert your ingredients here if you like.

Two bags of pretzels will likely give you more than you need, but it’s good to have extra so that you can discard (aka eat) the broken ones.

Cake

Ingredients

5 1/2 oz all-purpose flour
4 oz cake flour
1/2 oz cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup low-fat buttermilk, room temperature
2 T red liquid food coloring
1 T white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
10 1/2 oz brown sugar
4 oz. (1 stick, 4 T) unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350°. Line two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and coat with nonstick spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla. Set both dry and wet ingredients aside while you do the next step.

In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), use an electric mixer on low and cream butter and brown sugar about 2 minutes, until it is lighter in color. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until fully combined.

Add one third of the flour mixture and mix on medium speed mostly combined. Add half of the buttermilk mixture and mix until mostly combined. Repeat with another third of the flour, the other half of the buttermilk, and the last of the flour. Mix until the batter is fully smooth.

Divide the batter between the two prepared pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 10-15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool fully.

To Decorate

Ingredients

2 12-oz bags of yogurt-covered pretzels
2 packages of candy eyes
cream cheese frosting of your choice (we made ours up as we went, but Alton’s original recipe includes one)
food coloring (if desired)

Directions

Scoop about half a cup of frosting into a small bowl and set aside. If desired, add food coloring to the remaining frosting until it reaches your desired shade. Set the tinted frosting aside.

Using a butter knife, dab a small amount of the reserved white frosting onto the back of a candy eye and place it on a pretzel, over one of the two upper holes. This is usually easiest if you place it toward the top or bottom of the hole, so that the candy eye has as much surface area covering meeting the pretzel as possible. Eyes at the top make them more ghoulish; eyes at the bottom make them more adorable. Set ghost aside to firm up. Repeat until you run out of pretzels, eyes, or time.

Frost your cake and arrange pretzel ghosts to your liking. While a two-layer cake will neatly fit two rows of ghosts if you stagger them (think like the pattern of bricks), know that this makes the cake very hard to slice and we don’t recommend it.