Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Golden Vanilla Cake with Strawberry Filling

I feel like such a slacker with posting here on Budget Bites, but I've been spoiled as my mother-in-law has been doing most of the cooking the last month. I did finally get a chance to try a few new recipes out when I made a birthday cake for a good friend's son's birthday last week. So I'm going to share the cake and filling recipes today, and then I'll share the frosting recipe as well as my simple method for decorating birthday cakes using frosting (I've never tasted fondant and I've never used fondant, so I stick with frosting). But just to be clear, I have never taken a cake decorating class, and I don't claim to be an expert cake decorator by any stretch of the imagination. I just have a couple of tricks up my sleeve. So I hope I can give you a little bit of courage/motivation to try to make a special cake for your next special occasion instead of forking over the big bucks for a store-bought version.

Recipe #1- The cake

This recipe came from the King Arthur Flour website and is not a light and fluffy cake. It was closer to a pound cake, but it still wasn't that heavy. I think that it is the perfect texture to stand up to a wet filling such as a strawberry filling because it resists becoming soggy. I found the recipe to be really easy to combine as long as you follow the tips listed on the recipe. What tips? Well for starters, the butter and milk should be room temperature (I also allowed my eggs to reach room temperature) and the butter should be "very soft". All that "very soft" means is that if you touch the butter gently with your finger, you leave an imprint. The original recipe suggested that if you need help warming up the butter, you can place the stick of butter in warm, not hot, water for 10 minutes. I'd just suggest setting the butter out the night before you want to do your baking, and set the milk and eggs out 2-3 hours before you start baking. I did have to adjust my baking time for a little longer, but the way to guage that for yourself and your oven is to start with the lowest baking time and checking the center of the cake with a toothpick. If it's not done, bake for 5 minutes and then check again for doneness. Repeat as needed. Also, if you have questions about what the batter should look like, visit the King Arthur website as they have a picture for each step. This recipe yields about 6 cups of batter, which will allow for approximately 1-9"x13" cake, 2- 9" round cakes, 3- 8" round cakes, or 24 cupcakes.

Golden Vanilla Cake

2 cups sugar 3 1/4 cups flour 2 1/2 teaspoons bakig powder

1 teaspoon salt 3/4 cup unsalted butter, soft (I used salted butter and decreased the salt to 3/4 tsp) 1 1/4 cups milk, at room temperature 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 4 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour your choice of pan(s): one 9" x 13" pan, two 9" round cake pans, three 8" round pans, or the wells of two muffin tins (24 muffin cups). You can also line the muffin tins with papers, and spray the insides of the papers. I like to also cut a piece of parchment paper to fit inside the bottom of my cake pans so that I don't have the bottom of my cake stuck to the inside of the pan when I remove the cake. Just trace the bottom of the pan onto a piece of parchment paper and cut out inside of the line. Place in bottom of pan and spray with cooking spray.

1- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt.

2- Add the butter and beat with an electric mixer at low speed, until the mixture looks sandy.

3- Combine the milk and vanilla and add, all at once. Mix at low speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds.

4- Scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl.

5- With the mixer running at low speed, add 1 egg. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds.

6- Repeat this procedure with the second egg. Continue adding the eggs, scraping after each addition, until all 4 are added.

7- After the last egg is added, scrape the bowl once more, then beat at medium-high speed for 30 more seconds.

8- Transfer the batter to the pans of your choice. For layers, divide the batter among the pans. Smooth out the tops with an offset spatula or the back of a tablespoon.For cupcakes, scoop by heaping 1/4-cupfuls into the prepared muffin tins.

9- Bake for 40 minutes for a 9" x 13" pan; 27 minutes for 9" layers (mine took 40 minutes); 24 minutes for 8" layers, or 23 to 25 minutes for cupcakes (mine took about 30 minutes).

10- The cake is done when it's golden brown around the edges and just beginning to pull away from the edge of the pan. A toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.

11- Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a rack to cool before removing it from the pan.

Recipe #2- The filling

The request I had for the cake was to just have a normal flavor, hence why I chose the vanilla cake since not everyone is into chocolate (heaven knows why! :) But I didn't want it to be boring, so I decided a flavored filling would be good instead of the buttercream that I would normally put between layers. And since it was my first time making a cake filling, I turned to Wilton, the cake experts. This filling closely resembles jam and is not too sweet. The only change I made to this recipe is that instead of adding the sliced strawberries to the filling at the end, I pureed them in the food processor so the filling would be more smooth and the strawberries more evenly distributed. And if you end up with extra filling, it freezes well, or you could use it for the filling in crepes or a topping on pancakes/waffles or heck, you could even use it as a jam if you wanted to! This recipe makes about 2 cups of filling and can be used to make raspberry or pineapple filling as well (use 16 oz. frozen raspberries in syrup or 16 oz. can crushed pineapple in syrup in place of the frozen strawberries).

Strawberry Filling

1 pkg (16 ounces) frozen sliced strawberries , packed in sugar and thawed 1/3 cup granulated sugar 3 tablespoons cornstarch 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Drain strawberries; reserving liquid. Add enough water to liquid to equal 1 1/4 cups. In large saucepan, combine strawberry liquid, sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice; mix well. Heat and stir until mixture boils and thickens. Cool completely. Stir strawberries into the cooled mixture. Refrigerate until ready to use.

***IMPORTANT***: If using this filling between layers of cake, be sure to pipe a "wall" of frosting all the way around the edge of the "bottom" cake layer before spooning the filling onto the cake. I didn't do this the first time, and the filling got smeared with my frosting on the outside of the cake and the filling didn't look as neat and even as it did the second time around.

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