Thanks to Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson this discussion was lengthy and productive. In tomorrow’s post, I’m going to review Vintage Cakes in detail to give you and overview of the entire book. And why you should definitely go out, but it, and start baking away.
But today, I thought I would give you a specific example of why this cookbook should be on your shelves. No, it should be open on your countertop.
This cake give you an education in baking techniques. I was about to say “new” techniques but this book is Vintage Cakes. This dish is actually called a Blitz Torte and reflects a sturdy history of torte development and baking.
There are two reasons to bake this cake. First, each layer has “two” parts: a bottom of regular cake batter topped with a lovely meringue. Those two layers are “glued” together with an incredible honey custard. The whole wonder is topped with fresh berries. And, we had some leftover custard so we put it on the top layer as base for berries there.
The cake itself is a tender brown sugar treat. The meringue is baked until it is firm, but not crunchy dry. The honey custard is a miracle. It’s lovely here. But I can imagine making it separately and using in a multitude of ways. This custard would be a perfect on pound cake or with strawberry shortcake. It hurts to say this, but whipped cream can be replaced. This custard is the replacement.
We made this cake for that dinner party. We got the “oooh” and “aaah” response we expected. I expected to have left overs to take home the next day for breakfast. I was completely disappointed in that hope. Silly me. Never, never underestimate the power of honey
Berry Crème Fraîche Cake
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
For the honey custard:
- ¾ cup whole milk
- 2egg yolks
- ⅓ cup ( 4 ounces) honey
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted
For the cake:
- 1 cup (4 ounces) sifted cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ ( 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup (3 ¾ ounces) firmly packed brown sugar
- 4egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons whole milk
For the meringue topping:
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 4 egg whites
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup toasted and coarsely chopped hazelnuts
- 2 teaspoons Turbinado sugar
First, make the honey custard. Heat the milk over low heat in a small saucepan until hot but not boiling. Meanwhile, thoroughly whisk together in a small bowl the egg yolks, honey, and salt, and then whisk in the cornstarch. Slowly whisk one third of the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Pour this mixture back into the saucepan with the hot milk and gently cook over medium-low heat, whisking steadily, until the mixture begins to thicken and has been bubbling for roughly 1 minute. You will need to stop whisking for a moment to check if it is bubbling. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl and whisk in the butter until melted.
Place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard and refrigerate at least until cool, about 1 hour, or keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
To make the cake, center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350⁰F.
In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt and then whisk the ingredients by hand to ensure they are well mixed.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed until smooth. Add the egg yolks two at time. blending well between additions. Combine the milk and the vanilla in a separate cup. On low speed, stir in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. After each addition, mix until just barely blended and stop and scrape the bowl.
Divide the thick batter between the prepared pans (there will be approximately 7+ ounces per pan) and spread it evenly out to the edges of the pans. The batter will just barely cover the bottom of each pan. Set the pans aside while you prepare the meringue topping.
To make the meringue topping, put the egg whites and salt into the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on low speed until frothy. Gradually increase the speed to medium-high, whipping until the whites forms soft peaks. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the granulated sugar in a steady stream. Raise the mixer speed again to medium-high peaks. Fold in the vanilla. Spread even amounts of the meringue on top of the cake batter (approximately 5 ounces per pan) and sprinkle with the hazelnuts and Turbinado sugar.
Place the cakes in the middle of the oven and bake until the tops are lightly browned and the cakes have shrunk just slightly away from the sides of the pan, 30 to 35 minutes. Removed the cakes to cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes before removing them from the pans.
To assemble the cake, place one of the cake layers, meringue side up, onto a cake plate. Don’t be nervous about the peaks and valleys of the meringue; this is part of the allure of the cake. Spread the honey cream onto the cake. Place the second layer on top, meringue side up. Serve promptly or refrigerate until ready to serve. This cake is great served with fresh berries either on the side, in the middle, on the top, or all of the above.
If you choose to sandwich this cake with jam [instead of the honey custard] it can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature. If filled with the honey cream, it needs to be kept in an airtight refrigerated container. Either way, the cake is best the day it is made but keeps for up to 2 days.
Source: Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson
Photo Credits: Canon T2i, 18-55mm lens at F/5.0, 1/60 second at ISO 1250 [no flash]
“Can you weigh that, please?” Suzen asked me.
We were making a cake. I had the cup already filled with brown sugar. There were two ways to think about her request: pain in the ass or a wise measure.
Since it was my wife asking me, it was a wise measure. And it was. I had too much sugar in the cup of “tightly packed” brown sugar because I pack really tight. I have incredibly strong thumbs from years of messaging her feet. That may be too intimate for you, but it is a fact of life.
More and more cookbooks provide quantities of ingredients both by volume and by weight. I know, it is a effortto drag out your scale and measure each of the dry ingredients. But, you did buy that scale, right? You did intend to do this, right?
You need to weigh. Especially flour.
Why? From the same manufacturer, the same brand of flour from two bags can differ in weight by volume depending on it was sifted, how the bag has settled on the shelf, the humidity, ..
There is, in fact, no standard for how much a cup of flour should weight. The USDA says a cup of flour is 125 grams [or 137 or other numbers because different people quote the USDA differently] Just to clear that point up, I went to the USDA site but could not find the number And, prominent bakers have their own numbers. Peter Reinhart says 127 grams, but Rose Levy Beranbaum says 157.
If you work in ounces, not grams, then on the web you’ll see quotes ranging from 3.5 to 5 ounces per cup of flour. It’s a mess.
So, I did an experiment this morning. I measured out a cup of flour, 4 different ways. Yes, how you put the flour in the cup makes a difference. Here’s what I found:
Scoop and Shake
I used a big scoop to overfill the cup, then held it to eye level and physically shook the cup until it was level [level “over” the top and not “under”]. The result: 145 grams.
Scoop and Shake
I filled with the scoop and then leveled the top of the cup with the rounded edge, not a straight knife edge, of the scoop. The result: 135 grams.
Dip and Level
I ran the cup measure — a metal cup for measuring dry ingredients, of course — down into the flour and then lifted it out and leveled it off with a knife. The result: 137 grams.
Hard Dip and Level
I ran the cup through the flour and pressed it hard into the side of the flour container compacting the flour, then scraped it level with the knife. The result:160 grams.
So, the range here, from low to high, is 25 grams or just about one ounce of flour. If this was a recipe calling for, say, 6 ounces of flour, it would add up to a considerable difference, one that must affect the outcome of the recipe.
What to do? First, look for recipes that do have ingredient quantities measured in grams. Use those gram values. Second, if the recipe calls for a volume measurement, pick your number for how many grams in a cup and weigh it out. Suzen and I settle on 140 grams of flour per cup.
What about sugar? Granulated sugar will not compact as much as flour. Running the same experiment on granulated sugar, I found a range of only 15 grams, or ½ ounce, between the different measurement techniques. What to do? Again, use the gram measurement if it is available in the recipe or use the figure of 210 grams per cup.
What about brown sugar? This is a debacle. We’ve given up on buying brown sugar far ahead of time. If what we have is dried out, we toss it. None of the techniques to “restore” dried out brown sugar work for us. For example, if you microwave and then attempt to crumble, you get a gooey texture that could be used for tires. So, we buy fresh. We use fresh. When cooking, use the gram weight if possible. If the recipe says “tightly packed” do not act like a superhero. Be reasonable.
Again the age of the sugar, how it was made, and the moisture content will affect your weight. You best solution is fresh out of the box. At the store, lift the box and squeeze. If you encounter hard resistance, move to the next box.