Assorted cakes

Grandmothers’ Chocolate Cake

A luscious and honest chocolate cake with chocolate frosting that is impossible to resist.

Serving: 10-12
Prep Time: 50 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 75 minutes

1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
10 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 3/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
8 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans.

  2. In a small bowl, whisk the cocoa and boiling water together, making a smooth paste. Set aside to cool. Sift the cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and baking soda together onto a sheet of waxed paper.

  3. Put the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream on medium-high speed for 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Decrease the speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. Mix in the vanilla and the cocoa paste.

  4. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans. Bake the layers for about 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to wire racks and let cool completely. Unmold them by running a knife along the inside edge of each pan and inverting them.

  5. To make the frosting: In a double boiler over simmering water, melt the chocolates and butter together. Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm.

  6. Sift the confectioners’ sugar and salt together into a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the vanilla and the milk. Whisk the milk mixture into the confectioners’ sugar. Add the melted chocolate mixture and stir until smooth. Fill and frost the cake with the frosting.

Source: Birthday Cakes: Recipes and Memories from Celebrated Bakers by Kathryn Kleinman, Text by Carolyn Miller

White Mountain Cake

This cake is a gift in itself. Choose blossoms that are in season or that have special meaning, and you’ll have a cake that can be served at a lovely birthday, shower, or elegant celebration.

Serving: 8 to 10
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 70 minutes
Total Time: 95 minutes

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 egg whites

Seven-Minute Frosting:
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
Hawthorn or other blossoms for decoration (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 10-inch tube pan; knock out the excess flour. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together onto a sheet of waxed paper; repeat two times to incorporate as much air into the mixture as possible. Alternately fold the dry ingredients into the batter with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir in the vanilla to blend.

  2. In another large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, glossy peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

  3. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top to level the batter. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and the top springs back when lightly touched. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 15 to 20 minutes before loosening from the sides and around the tube of the pan. Invert onto the rack, remove the pan and let the cake cool completely.

  4. To make the frosting: In the top of a double boiler, combine the egg whites, sugar, salt and corn syrup. Set over simmering water and beat the mixture with a hand mixer for about 7 minutes, or until soft peaks form. Remove the pan from the water and stir in the vanilla. Continue beating until the frosting is stiff enough to spread.

  5. Place the cake on a serving plate and frost by heaping spoonfuls of the frosting on the top and spreading it over the top and down the sides, making the swirls and peaks. Sprinkle the coconut over the top and sides. Decorate the edges of the plate with blossoms and place a spray of flowers in the hollow of the cake, if you like.

Source: Birthday Cakes: Recipes and Memories from Celebrated Bakers by Kathryn Kleinman, Text by Carolyn Miller
Old-Fashioned Banana Spice Cake

Do you know someone who likes a little sweetness with their spice? Make this lush, flavorful cake for their birthday!

Serving: 10-12
Prep Time: 90 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours (plus chill time of 2 - 3 hours)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed ripe banana (2 to 3 bananas)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of ground mace
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons flour
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 or 2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)

1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and lightly flour the sides and bottoms of two 8-inch round cake pans; knock out the excess flour.

  2. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl for at least 10 minutes, or until very light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, mashed bananas and vanilla. Sift the flour, baking soda, salt and spices together onto a piece of waxed paper. Stir into the banana mixture alternately with the buttermilk.

  3. Spoon into the prepared pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let cool for 10 minutes. Unmold onto the racks and let cool completely.

  4. While the cake bakes, make the filling: In a small, heavy saucepan, heat the milk until small bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Meanwhile, beat the sugar and egg yolks together in a small bowl. Beat in the flour and salt. Gradually beat in the hot milk.

  5. Return to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture beings to thicken and comes to a simmer. Lower the heat to low and continue stirring for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla. Pour into a bowl, cover with a piece of plastic wrap pressed onto the surface of the custard, let cool slightly and refrigerate.

  6. To assemble the cake: Split each cake layer in half. If the custard is too think to spread, thin it with a little cream. Spread one-third of the filling and arrange one-third of the banana slices evenly on three of the layers. Stack the layers and top with the fourth layer. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.

  7. Just before serving, make the topping: In a deep bowl, whip the cream until very soft peaks form. Beat in the sugar and vanilla. Spread the whipped cream frosting over the top of the cake, allowing some to drip down the sides.

Source: Birthday Cakes: Recipes and Memories from Celebrated Bakers by Kathryn Kleinman, Text by Carolyn Miller
Princess Cake

This lovely cake calls for care in preparation. Plan your baking and assembling steps in advance and the result is a gorgeous, delicious cake.

Preparation Timeline:

  • Marzipan: 1 day to 1 month ahead
  • Soaking Solution: 1 day to 1 month ahead
  • Vanilla Genoise Layer Cake: 1 day ahead (refrigerate) or up to 1 week ahead (freeze)
  • Pastry Cream: 1 to 3 days ahead
  • Flavored Whipped Cream: Just before assembly

Serving: 12
Prep Time: 150 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours (plus resting time)

Vanilla Genoise Layer Cake (recipe follows)
Soaking Solution (recipe follows)
1/3 cup raspberry jam
Flavored Whipped Cream (recipe follows)
1 cup Pastry Cream (recipe follows)
Marzipan, at room temperature (recipe follows), see note
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
1 fresh pink or white rose for decorating

Vanilla Genoise Layer Cake:
5 large eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour, sifted

  1. To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour one 9 x 2-inch cake pan or two 9 x 1 1/2-inch cake pans; knock out the excess flour. Line the bottom of the pan(s) with a round of parchment paper. Fill a medium saucepan half full of water and bring to a boil.

  2. Using a hand whisk, beat the eggs until blended in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Whisk in the sugar. Place the bowl over the saucepan of boiling water. (The water should be at least 2 inches below the bottom of the bowl.) To prevent the eggs from cooking, use your hand to stir the mixture constantly until it feels quite warm. The eggs should remain liquid and not become opaque or cooked. (Failing to mix constantly will result in very sweet scrambled eggs!) Immediately remove the bowl from the heat, fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and start whipping the eggs on high speed without stopping for 3 to 4 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, melt the butter and pour it into a small bowl. Add the vanilla. Place the flour in a sifter and set aside.

  4. The egg mixture is ready when the eggs have just cooled and at least tripled in volume. When you lift the whisk out of the bowl, the batter should fall of the whisk in ribbons.

  5. Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift a little less than one-fourth (a scant 1/4 cup) of the flour over the surface of the batter. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour. Repeat until all the flour is incorporated.

  6. Pour a generous cup of batter over the melted butter mixture in the small bowl. Thoroughly fold the batter into the butter. Slowly pour the butter mixture over the remaining batter in the bowl in a circular motion. (If you add the butter mixture too quickly, it will sink, reducing the volume and toughening the cake.) Gently fold together until none of the darker butter mixture is visible.

  7. Carefully pour the batter into the prepared 9 x 2-inch pan; it should be about two-thirds full. If using two 9 x 1 1/2-inch pans, pour one-third of the batter into one pan and the remaining two-thirds into the other pan. Set the cake pan(s) on a baking sheet and immediately place on the center rack in the oven. If using a 9 x 2-inch pan, bake for about 30 minutes and wait to open the oven until the cake has baked at least 25 minutes, or it may fall. If using two pans, bake for about 20 minutes and wait to open the oven until the cakes have baked at least 15 minutes. The cake is done when it just starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. (The cake will not spring back when gently pressed, and a toothpick will not come out clean when it is ready.)

  8. Remove the cakes from the oven and immediately run a metal icing spatula or knife around the inside of the pan(s) to loosen the cake. Let cool for 5 minutes, then unmold and let cool completely. The cakes may be stored, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for 1 day, or frozen for up to 1 week.

Cook’s Notes:

  • For optimum moistness, this cake is best baked in a 9 x 2-inch cake pan, then cut into 3 layers.
  • Genoise may be cut into layers as soon as it is cool. If the cake has been refrigerated, cut it as soon as you remove it from the refrigerator. If it has been frozen, let it thaw about 30 minutes, then cut. Always cut off the top layer first and place it cut side down.
  • If you precut the cake layers well before icing the cake, keep them covered with plastic wrap. Vanilla genoise dries out very quickly when left unwrapped.

3 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 pound almond paste
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 to 3 tablespoons water
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon green food coloring (traditional for the princess cake)

  1. Put the confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the flat beater. With the mixer running on medium-low speed, add the almond paste about 1 teaspoon at a time. This will take about 5 minutes. The mixture will be crumbly. Scrape down the bowl and beater. Add the corn syrup and mix on low speed until incorporated. The mixture will still be crumbly. Again scrape down the bowl and beater.

  2. In a small bowl, combine the water and food coloring. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add about half of the food coloring mixture and beat until incorporated. Continue gradually adding the food coloring until the marzipan just comes together and reaches the consistency of sugar cookie dough. It should be smooth but not crumbly or overly sticky. 3. If more color is desired, knead it in by hand after removing the marzipan from the mixer. (Remember it is easier to add a little more color at the end than to make a new batch!) Different colors have different intensities and will require different amounts.

  3. Place the marzipan on a sheet of plastic wrap and form it into a 9-inch disk about 1/2 inch thick. Wrap and refrigerate overnight before using. Store in an airtight container or covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Soaking Solution:
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon Myers’s dark rum

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the water and sugar and bring just to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and let cool. Add the rum. Let cool completely before using or refrigerating. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Pastry Cream:
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. In a heavy saucepan, warm the half-and-half over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix the cornstarch with the sugar. Using a whisk, whip in the water until smooth. Beat in the egg yolks. When the half-and-half is simmering, slowly add about half of it to the cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly to incorporate. Whisk this mixture into the simmering half-and-half and continue to whisk vigorously and constantly until the pastry cream thickens, 2 to 5 minutes.

  2. Remove from heat, add the vanilla and transfer to a glass or metal bowl. Let cool completely, stirring frequently to prevent a skin from forming on the top. Cover and refrigerate for at least 5 hours or up to 3 days.

Flavored Whipped Cream:
3 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  1. When you are ready to assemble the cake, make the whipped cream: In a deep bowl, combine all the ingredients. Using an electric mixer or a balloon whisk, beat the mixture until soft peaks form. Set aside while cutting the cake.

To Assemble the Princess Cake:

  1. Using a long serrated knife, level the top(s) of the cakes. If you used a 9 x 2-inch pan, cut the cake into three even layers; if you used two 9 x 1 1/2-inch pans, cut the thicker layer into two even layers. Place the top layer of the cake, cut side down, on a 9-inch cake cardboard. Brush it lightly with soaking solution, being careful not to oversoak it. Spread the cake with a thin layer of the raspberry jam. (You should almost be able to see through it.) Spread a 1/4-inch-thick layer of the whipped cream over the raspberry jam. Set the middle layer of the cake on the whipped cream. Brush it with soaking solution and then spread it with a 3/8-inch-thick layer of pastry cream. Place the remaining cake layer, cut side down, on the top of the pastry cream. Brush it with soaking solution.

  2. Using a metal icing spatula, coat the side of the cake with a 1/8-inch-thick coat of whipped cream. There should be just enough whipped cream to seal in all the crumbs and to prevent the marzipan from resting directly on the cake.

  3. Mound the remaining whipped cream on the top of the cake and, using a metal icing spatula, spread into a dome so that the cake almost looks like an upside-down bowl. Soften the edge where the top of the genoise ends and the dome begins by beveling it with the flat part of the spatula.

  4. Bring the marzipan to room temperature at least 1 hour before assembling the cake. Before attempting to cover a cake with marzipan for the first time, practice covering an inverted 8- or 9-inch bowl. Once you are comfortable with this technique, gather up the marzipan, knead it into a ball and reroll to cover the cake.

  5. Lightly dust the work surface with confectioners’ sugar. Place the marzipan on the surface and, using an 18-inch-wide rolling pin, roll out the marzipan as you would pie dough, into a 16-inch circle, 1/8 inch thick. Frequently dust the marzipan with plenty of confectioners’ sugar and turn the circle to make sure the marzipan is not sticking to the work surface. Using your hand, brush off the excess confectioners’ sugar. Don’t worry if a lot of confectioners’ sugar clings to the marzipan; it will be absorbed.

  6. Set the cake near the rolled out marzipan, about 6 inches away from the edge of the work surface, so that you can see and reach around the entire cake. Loosely roll the marzipan onto the rolling pin, starting at the back and rolling toward you.

  7. Lift the rolling pin with the marzipan rolled around it. Unroll the marzipan over the cake, starting at the front and unrolling toward the back, while making sure to cover the entire cake and cardboard. When finished, some marzipan should drape onto the work surface all around the cake.

  8. At this point, the dome of the cake will be smoothly covered, but there will be folds or creases on the sides. To remove the folds and creases, lift the outside edge of the marzipan with a hand on either side of a fold and, without tearing or stretching, gently pull the marzipan out and down until the fold disappears.

  9. Work your way around the cake. Once all the folds are eliminated, rub the palm of your hand around the sides of the cake to further smooth it and eliminate air pockets.

  10. With a rolling pizza cutter or small, sharp knife, carefully cut off the excess marzipan along the bottom edge of the cake cardboard. (The cardboard should not show.) Reserve for making leaves.

  11. Slide the icing spatula under the cake cardboard and tilt the cake up enough to get the palm of your other hand underneath to lift it without touching the sides. Turn the cake, checking to make sure the cake and cardboard are completely covered with the marzipan. If not, gently push the marzipan down, using the palm of your other hand.

  12. Set the cake down and sift a fine dusting of confectioners’ sugar over it. Transfer to a serving platter.

  13. Cut three elongated ovals about 3 inches long by 1 inch wide out of the remaining marzipan to make three leaf shapes. Lightly score the top of the leaves with a knife to create veins. Gently blend each leaf into a leaflike curve. Place the marzipan leaves, spaced evenly apart, on the center of the domed cake top with the steam ends touching. Gently press the stem ends into the dome to secure the leaves to the top of the cake.

  14. Cut the rose stem 2 inches below the flower. Lift the sepals so they will set over the marzipan leaves and insert the rose into the center of the dome.

  15. The finished princess cake may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, but it is best the day it is made. Remove the cake from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.