Sun 13 Dec 2009
About a year ago, I blew out a candle on a piece of white cake with pink frosting, my standard birthday fare. I made a wish. I wished that I would have the inspiration, time, and wherewithal over the coming year to figure out a way to bring my writing and cooking together into a big, lovely project. I wished for a way to begin building an audience of readers with whom I could share my love of food, cooking, and a few stories along the way. In effect, I wished for all of you.
We have just finished off another white cake with pink frosting. Why so simple, you ask? Though I like to think of myself as a reasonably seasoned baker, I never go with anything fancy or new or complicated for my own birthday. The white and pink combination is something I fell in love with when I was very small - somewhere in that post-toddler epoch that finds so many little girls swaddling themselves in billows of pink everything. I think it also has something to do with having a December birthday. Once Thanksgiving comes and goes, the default thinking behind every decorated cake seems to begin and end with wintry/Christmas things until February comes along with its shower of red and pink clashiness. Somewhere along the way, I came to prefer a cake that didn’t have anything to do with the season. To me, a stripe of pink frosting between layers of fluffy white cake just screams BIRTHDAY and nothing else. Though I have been known to take my birthday cake in a chocolate direction (the recipe for which I must share with you soon, because it’s a real charmer), more often than not I find myself coming back to my favorite pink and white number.
The cake itself is just plain perfect. Not only does it turn out beautifully every time I make it, you cannot find an easier recipe to execute. Dump, mix, dump in the eggs, mix again. I can barely justify a rundown for this one because it’s so incredibly simple. Several years ago I looked and looked for a recipe that would give me a simple white cake with a tiny, moist crumb. A few mediocre misfires lead me back to the Betty Crocker Cookbook, one of my kitchen’s secret weapons. Straightforward, comprehensive, and full of helpful tables and asides, it is an invaluable resource for understanding cooking basics. Plus, it’s ring-bound, which allows it to lie flat on your counter. If you are ever looking for a cookbook that can act as a starting place for someone new to cooking, this is it. My mom gave me a copy when I moved into my first apartment, and I refer to it at least once a week. My copy is visibly well-loved and some of the pages have acquired dribs and drabs of their recipes, not the least of which is the page facing the recipe for this cake.
Back to that wish. Tonight, my lovelies, I want to take a moment to thank you for being a part of this little blog of mine. Over the past several months I have had the wonderful privilege of sharing my recipes, photos, and ramblings with you. It has been a pleasure to read your comments, your emails, and share this wonderful journey through our kitchens together - over 7,000 kitchens to-date. I can’t begin to tell you how honored I am to be part of your virtual food milieu. Your willingness to return week after week is one of the best, most exhilarating gifts I have ever received. Thank you.
White Birthday Cake
2 ¼ cups AP flour
1 2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup vegetable shortening
1 ¼ cups milk
3 ½ t baking powder
1 t salt
1 t vanilla extract
5 large egg whites
- Mix together everything but the egg whites
- Mix in the egg whites
Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and lightly flour the bottom and sides of two 8″ round pans.
Beat all ingredients except the egg whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl as you go. Beat on high speed for two minutes, pausing twice to scrape.
Add the egg whites and beat slowly at first to incorporate, then on high speed for two more minutes. Pause once to scrape. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Before transferring the pans to the oven, hold each pan two to three inches above the counter and drop to distribute the batter and eliminate any bubbles that may have formed.
Bake on the middle rack for 28 -30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. It may or may not turn golden. If the top looks wet, it’s not done.
Cool the cakes in their pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from their pans and continue to cool for at least one hour before frosting.
This recipe also makes excellent cupcakes. Line a muffin tin with cupcake wrappers and fill them 2/3 full with batter. Check for doneness after 18 minutes; a clean toothpick is your best guide.
My Favorite (Pink) Vanilla Frosting
Yields frosting for one layer cake, one 9×13 sheet cake, or several cupcakes
I know that proper buttercream with egg whites is all the rage among home cooks these days, but I don’t care. This is my favorite frosting to make at home. It’s insanely sweet and holds up for days on the counter. If you have extra, spread it on graham crackers and fall into happy, pink oblivion. Of course, you don’t have to make it pink. It just tastes ever so much better if you do.
3 cups powdered sugar
5 T unsalted butter, softened (not melted)
2 T milk
In a large bowl, stir the butter, vanilla, a ½ cup of powdered sugar, and 1 tablespoon of milk. It should look shiny and slightly thick when everything has blended together.
Continue adding powdered sugar and beating with gusto until it is well-blended and the desired consistency (see notes). Add additional milk as needed to soften the frosting should it get too stiff from excessive sugaring. Add a few drops of your chosen food coloring and stir until fully incorporated and the color is even.