From Dish Nicole:
I have never claimed to be much of a baker, but I certainly do try. I also realize that some of the best recipes in the world have taken several attempts to perfect. My recent baking endeavor has proven to be a true labor of love as it took me several attempts to get everything to work together in perfect harmony. I was determined to prove to myself that not only could I make a cake that tastes amazing, but I wanted it to be equally as beautiful because it was for my dear friend, Dish Danielle’s, 30th birthday. I was given some valuable advice along the way from some very experienced cake makers which I will now share with you.
Ingredients for Aunt Em’s Vanilla cake:
1-3/4 cups plain cake flour, sifted
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into 16 pieces
To start, adjust your oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9” round cake pans and cover the bottoms with parchment paper or waxed paper. Grease the parchment rounds and dust the pans with flour, tapping out the excess. Once you have prepared all of that you should beat the eggs, milk, and vanilla with a fork in a small bowl; measure out 1 cup of this mixture and set aside. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Beat the mixture at the lowest speed to blend, about 30 seconds.
With the mixer still running at the lowest speed, add the butter, one piece at a time; mix until the butter and flour begin to clump together and look like small pebbles the size of peas, 30 to 40 seconds after all the butter is added. Add the reserved 1 cup egg mixture and mix at the lowest speed until incorporated, 5 to 10 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the remaining egg mixture (about 1/2 cup) in a slow, steady stream, taking about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat at medium-high speed until thoroughly combined.
Next up you will need to divide the batter equally between the prepared cake pans, spreading all the way to the sides of the pans and smooth with a rubber spatula. Bake until the cake tops are light gold and a toothpick or thin skewer inserted in the centers comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes (added an additional 5 minutes).
Set the cake pans aside to cool and on to the lemon filling.
The lemon filling is probably the easiest part of the cake but once you set it on the stove you have to watch it like a hawk. It heats up quickly and burns easily. I learned this the hard way. The lemon filling recipe can also be found in The Fannie Farmer Cookbook in the filling and frosting section.
Lemon filling ingredients:
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup lemon juice
Grated rind of two lemons
1 tablespoons butter
Mix all the ingredients together in a heavy-bottomed pan.
Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until thick and smooth. Cool before spreading between layers.
Now we are ready to make what I found the most challenging part of the cake, the frosting. I took a stab at making a 7 minute frosting that was recommended but I found that it came out to granular so I ended up making an adapted version that was given to me by my boyfriend’s mother. Here is what you will need:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 teaspoons cold water
1 teaspoon corn syrup
Having patience is key, so start by mixing sugar, cream of tartar, salt, egg whites, water and corn syrup in a double boiler over simmering water (I used a sauce pan over another sauce pan). Beat steadily over low heat with electric beater until the frosting stands in peaks, about 5-7 minutes, no more. Remove from heat and continue to beat until cool and thick enough to spread. Add the vanilla before spreading.
I have to say, the cake was amazing and Danielle loved it. I already have a request for another friend’s birthday. Mission accomplished.