I didn’t make a Yule Log this year. My hands were too full with other confections to bother with that cumbersome rolling of a fatless sponge that will crack a bit no matter how careful you are. Also, I was just too nervous about meringue mushrooms. I do miss the log terribly though, and so I decided instead to make a simple white cake with good honest buttercream.
For those who don’t know Rose Levy Beranbaum, she is the author of 11 cookbooks including the likes of The Baking Bible, The Cake Bible and The Pie and Pastry Bible-iconic, trusted tomes that thousands of hundreds if not thousands swear by. These books help both the novice as well as the advanced baker with their recipes, and here you will find a recipe for White Velvet Cake, which if you read is slightly different from the cakes you’d usually make at home. It’s the kind of cake that make you stop and reevaluate the cakes you’ve made before, and teaches you lots of new tricks.
When I say white cake, I refer to the usage of egg whites. This cake recipe however is not a fatless sponge. Dry ingredients are combined first, followed by the fat and some of the liquid, which here is the butter and a bit of milk. Finally the egg whites and remaining milk is added in and the cake is scraped into a 9-inch cake pan and baked.
Why does this cake work? Rose’s cake has a soft crumb. It is very light and fluffy despite using butter. It has all the makings of a great celebration cake, and the reason it’s so bloody good is because it uses a bit of technique. Right from the start, let me tell you that sifting is so God damn important here and I’ve gone wrong the first two times just because I like to “run a whisk through” my flour. Instead of packing in the flour or simply scooping the flour out with your measuring cup, you want to sift the cake flour on a newspaper and then transfer it to the weighing scale. Sifted, and thus aerated cake flour is much lighter than its packed weight and so, you must take care because you don’t want to end up adding too much flour as this will yield a drier cake. This also holds true for any cake you want to make-the weight of flour fluctuates quite drastically if you’re just measuring into cups and adding instead of going by its sifted weight. For this very important reason, if you’re serious about baking, I strongly urge you to invest in a kitchen scale if you don’t have one already. Bottomline-follow the recipe perfectly using my tips. I’ve made this cake so often in the past that it’s really become a fast favourite with my family, especially my dad, a hard customer to please who has always preferred the texture of the store-bought pound cake with the synthetic vanilla flavour.
Coming to the icing, since I’m going to be using 3 egg whites and don’t want to waste the yolks, I make a French buttercream icing with milk chocolate, which is the most amazing mix of custardy tempered yolks and sweet milk chocolate which really compliments the cake’s taste. It’s a win-win situation because nothing is wasted. You can also choose to pour over more melted chocolate as I have, or just leave it be.
Beranbaum White Velvet Cake With Chocolate French Buttercream
Yield 1 9-inch cake
You can also bake this cake quite easily as cupcakes. They are really quite incredible and will turn out better than most shop-bought cupcakes available right now.
For The Beranbaum White Velvet
Egg whites from 3 eggs, weight of these should be 90g
Milk 2/3 cup
Vanilla essence 1 1/2 tsp
Cake flour 1 3/4 cup, flour sifted onto a sheet of newspaper and then weighed to be 200g (make cake flour at home by replacing 2 tbsp of all-purpose flour with 2 tbsp cornflour for every cup of flour you have to use in the recipe)
Caster sugar 200g
Baking powder 2 1/2 tsp, plus 1/8 tsp
Salt 1/2 tsp
Butter 113g, slightly cooler than room temperature
French Chocolate Buttercream (yields just over 3 cups of buttercream)
Egg yolks 5
Caster sugar 2/3 cup
Vanilla essence 1 tsp
Salt 1/2 tsp
Butter 225g, soft or 1 cup, but slightly cooler than room temperature
Milk Chocolate 1 cup, chopped, then melted with Strong Coffee 2 tbsp and set aside to cool
Special equipment: You will need a candy thermometer for the sugay syrup in the buttercream
For the Beranbaum white velvet, begin by heating your oven to 180 degrees celsius and setting a rack away from the top and closer to the bottom of the oven to allow for even circulation of heat for the cake.
Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan and set this aside.
Lightly whisk together your egg whites with 3 tbsp of the milk and the vanilla. Set this aside.
In a bowl, carefully tip in the sifted flour together with the caster sugar, baking powder and salt. Using an electric hand mixer, stir everything together for just under a minute. If using a stand mixer, half of that time should be enough.
Add in the butter and all the remaining milk and on a medium-high speed, let the hand mixer go on for about 3 minutes till the moisture has been distributed evenly throughout and the whole batter begins to look smooth. If using a stand mixer, start on low speed for 30 seconds and raise the speed to medium and let everything go for 1 1/2 minutes till smooth.
Stop and scrape down the bowl. Now in two parts, add in the egg white and milk mixture and beat on medium high using a hand mixer for just under a minute before adding in the second half of the egg whites and milk. Beat again for just under a minute. If using a stand mixer, keep stirring on low speed between the additions of the egg white and milk mixture and increase the speed to medium-high for 30 seconds each time. Make sure to scrape down the bowl between additions.
Stop and scrape the cake mixture into the pan, only 2/3rds full and even the top of the cake by patting down on the cake with your hands by wetting them first, or by using a spatula.
Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes till the top has browned well. You can tell that your cake is done by doing the following tests- when a skewer is inserted into the centre of the cake, it should come out clean. When the cake is gently pressed down, it should spring back and if you set the cake down after you bring it out of the oven, put your ear to the cake and if it is making snap, crackle sounds, there’s still some more time left for the cake. Overbaking this cake (not burning) is always safer than undertaking it, which will result in a pasty or a very dense crumb.
Ten minutes out of the oven, run a knife around the cake’s edges and invert onto a cooling rack to let it cool completely. Only frost the cake when cool.
For the buttercream, cut the butter into cubes. The butter should hold their shape when cut, but still not be icy cold. At least 10 degrees lesser than room temperature.
Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and place over medium high heat. Right after you do this, add the yolks to a metal bowl with the salt and whisk until the egg yolks are no longer a startling yellow and instead look pale, but creamy.
The sugar syrup must reach soft ball stage which is one step up from thread stage. This is used when making Italian meringues, fudge candy, pralines, etc. The temperature that must be recorded at soft ball stage is 113-114 degrees celsius.
When the sugar syrup reaches this temperature, with the motor of your mixer, still running for the egg yolks and salt, very slowly and from the edge drizzle in the sugar syrup, drop by drop, then faster and in a steady trickle as you do for oil in mayo. Only increase the speed of your mixer to high once all the sugar syrup has been incorporated. Let this go on for about 10 minutes on high or until the bowl starts to feel cool to touch.
Reduce the speed and add in the butter piece by piece into the mixture beating well after each addition. Finish with the vanilla and the melted chocolate and coffee mixture and once again beat until smooth. French buttercream doesn’t like heat too much so transfer to the refrigerator until you prep the cake for frosting.
Torte the top of the cake if it has domed and equally slice the cake into two layers. Place one layer on a cake board set on top of a turntable and spread some the frosting generously on top. Repeat with the second layer and again spread the frosting on top and on the sides to compact any loose crumbs. Transfer to a refrigerator to coil the cake for 15-30 minutes at least before finishing with the final layer of cream around the cake. Use a spatula dipped in hot water and cleaned between passes to even the finishing of the cake.
For the chocolate glaze on top, heat 1/4 cup cream and 2 tbsp golden syrup or corn syrup and pour over 3/4 cup dark chocolate chopped into very small pieces or an equal amount of chocolate chips. Stir in a pinch of salt and whisk together till smooth. Place in the refrigerator 10-15 minutes before pouring over the also refrigerated cake. Let it drip down the sides and refrigerate again.