I was so honored to be a part of Amanda’s blessing way this week. It gave me an opportunity to reminisce about the past, root myself to the present, and look forward to the future. We were asked to bring something edible to share that reminded us of a strong female figure in our lives, so that we could nourish those around us with the communal strength of motherhood and womanhood. I come from strong southern roots, and I wanted to honor the baking prowess of the amazing aunts who taught me the fine art of kitchen alchemy.
A well-made cake is impressive as hell, and this cake is no slouch. It’s a lovely special-occasion cake, precisely because it looks FAR more complicated and fancy than it actually is. Everyone requested the recipe (and seconds!), so I wanted to share.
This recipe calls for your basic white cake, doubled so you wind up with two round cakes. Then you cut those two cakes in half and assemble an amazing four layer cake with cream cheese frosting and gooey raspberry preserves in the center. A white cake is a common southern cake that usually calls for cake flour (for a lighter crumb) and egg white whipped separately until stiff before folded into the batter. A yellow cake, by comparison, would use the entire egg, added to your creamed butter just before adding your dry goods. The egg yolk results in a yellow batter, and thus a yellow cake.
One of the secrets to successful baking is understanding the difference between whipping and creaming. Whipping uses a whisk and blends and aerates. Creaming uses the flat, petal-shaped paddle attachment and causes friction in order to aerate stubborn fat molecules. The process of creaming your butter and sugar together violently throws the sugar and fat against the side of the bowl, forcing the sugar to cut tiny holes in the fat molecules and incorporate air. The butter will noticeably lighten and increase in volume. This key is crucial to most of your cookies, cakes, and breads, or any recipe that calls for creaming your butter and sugar together.
Almond and Raspberry White Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
2 cups cake flour or AP flour
1 TBS baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
12 TBS (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated or cane sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup milk
5 egg whites
3/4 cup unsweetened raspberry preserves, melted
1 1/4 cups sliced almonds, lightly toasted and cooled (optional)
Cream cheese frosting
16 oz cream cheese, softened
8 TBS (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare two, 9-inch round cake pans: liberally butter and flour, or line with parchment. I butter my parchment for extra insurance.
- Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Sift and set aside. Cream the butter on medium speed in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the sugar gradually and cream until well combined, then add in the vanilla and almond extracts. Reduce the speed to low and add sifted flour mixture in 3 separate batches, alternating with the milk, blending just until combined.
- Beat the egg whites on high in a clean, large bowl (make sure your beaters are clean and dry, as well), until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the cake batter just until Incorporated. Divide batter between the two prepared pans and smooth the tops with a spatula.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer to cooling racks for 10 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the pan sides to loosen the cakes, then invert onto racks and let them completely cool.
- For the Frosting: Sift the powdered sugar and set aside. Beat the softened cream cheese and butter together on medium until smooth. Reduce your speed to low and slowly add the confectioners' sugar in batches, making sure it’s smooth again before adding the the vanilla and almond extracts. Beat until incorporated.
- Make a mark with a sharp knife around each cake as a guide to help you cut each cake in half horizontally. Using a serrated (or bread) knife longer than the cake itself, cut the cakes in half.
- Start with one bottom layer on a plate and frost with 1/2 cup of frosting. Add 1/4 cup of the melted preserves on top and spread, avoiding the outer half inch of the cake. Repeat with another 2 layers of cake, and top with your last cake layer, cut side down.
- Frost the top and sides with your remaining frosting. If using, press the toasted almond slivers onto the sides.
- Store covered and refrigerated for up to a day, but bring to room temperature before serving.