Yield: one 9-inch double-layer cake
Equipment: two 9 x 2-inch round cake pans
This is the cake recipe we use for our almost famous Amy’s Bread “Pink Cake,” a moist vanilla-flavored butter cake inspired by a recipe from one of our favorite baking colleagues, Carole Walter, in her book Great Cakes. The delicate flavor and texture of this cake is a perfect match for a heavy, intensely sweet frosting such as a classic confectioner’s sugar buttercream—to which we add 1 or 2 drops of rose food coloring to give it a pale pink tint. It’s also delicious with chocolate frosting, but bittersweet chocolate tends to overpower the delicate vanilla flavor.
At the bakery, we use a more subtle, creamy Milk Chocolate Buttercream Frosting that comes directly from The Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum, so we can’t include that recipe in our frosting chapter. The retail staff and the bakers in the pastry kitchen are always hoping for broken layers or cupcakes because they love to eat this cake without any frosting at all, to savor the sweet warm flavors of butter and vanilla. Try it plain with sliced fresh strawberries or peaches for a sublime summer dessert.
- Unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted 3 cups
- Baking powder 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon
- Kosher salt 3/4 teaspoon
- Milk 1 1/4 cups + 3 tablespoons
- Vanilla extract 2 teaspoons
- Unsalted butter, slightly softened 1 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons
- Sugar 2 3/4 cups + 2 teaspoons
- Eggs 5 large
- Sweet Pink Buttercream Frosting
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease the cake pans. Line the bottoms with rounds of baking parchment then dust them lightly with fl our. Shake out the excess. Or use Baker’s Joy baking spray that contains both oil and flour, so you don’t have to flour the pan. With Baker’s Joy, put the parchment liner in after you spray the pan.
- In a large bowl, combine the fl our, baking powder, and salt and whisk them gently for even distribution. In a separate bowl combine the milk and vanilla.
- Using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until it is light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs gradually, mixing well after each addition, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl often.
- Lower the mixing speed to medium-low and add the flour mixture to the butter in 3 parts, alternating with 2 parts of the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix just until it is evenly incorporated. This is a thick, fluffy batter, resembling whipped cream. There should not be any lumps or dry pockets of flour remaining. If the batter has a curdled appearance it has not been mixed enough. Increase the speed to medium and mix for another minute or until it is thick and fluffy.
- Divide the batter equally between the 2 prepared cake pans. Weighing the batter into the pans is the most accurate way to do this. This ensures that both layers are uniform in size, and finish baking at the same time. You’ll have approximately 930 g/32.8 oz. of batter per pan. The pans should be about ⅔ full. Smooth the batter so it fills the pans evenly. Place the pans on the center rack in the preheated oven. Bake them for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake is almost ready to pull away from the side of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs. Rotate the layers carefully from front to back after 20 minutes, for even baking.
- Cool the pans on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert them onto a wire rack that has been sprayed with cooking spray and lift off the pans. To prevent cracking, carefully right each layer so the top side is up and the parchment-lined bottom is down. Cool them on the rack completely. Before frosting, be sure to remove the parchment from the bottom of each layer. While the layers are cooling, prepare the frosting. To assemble the cake:
- Place one layer, top side down, on a flat serving plate. Cut several 4-inch-wide strips of parchment or waxed paper to slide under the edge of the layer, to keep the plate clean. Using a thin metal spatula, spread the top of this cake round with a ½-inch thick layer of frosting, leaving a ¼-inch unfrosted border around the edge. Place the second layer top side up on the first, aligning the layers evenly. Spread a generous layer of frosting around the sides of the cake, rotating the plate as you work so you’re not reaching around the cake to frost the other side. Try not to let any loose crumbs get caught in the frosting. Let the frosting extend about ¼ inch above the top of the cake.
- Starting in the center of the cake, cover the top with a generous layer of frosting, taking it all the way to the edge and merging it with the frosting on the sides. Try to use a forward-moving, circular motion, not a back-and forth motion to avoid lifting the top skin of the cake. Rotate the plate as necessary. Use the spatula or a spoon to make decorative swirls. Slide the pieces of paper out from under the edge of the cake and discard them. Store the cake at room temperature, preferably under a cake dome, for up to 3 days.