tip – basic layer cake: construction

The basic layer cake has one, straightforward method of construction with one variation.

Basic Method

  • Mix dry ingredients in one bowl (“dry mix”)
  • Cream butter and sugar in mixing bowl (“batter”)
  • Beat egg(s) and vanilla into batter
  • Alternate adding dry mix and milk to batter, beginning and ending with dry mix
  • Pan and bake according to your need
  • This cake will have a tender crumb, substantial enough to feel like you enjoyed some cake without being so heavy that you regret eating it. It’s a good everyday cake. Observe, the basic layer (spice variation):

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    recipe – basic layer cake

    I like cake, but most cake is crap.

    Store-bought cakes are usually too sweet, frosted with diabetic-coma-inducing, weird-tasting fluff. Home-baked cake from scratch tends to lack consistency, usually dense and sitting like a rock in the gut. That cake density may be directly related to using measuring cups as opposed to a scale, because I have yet to meet the baker who can measure two cups of flour and have the first cup scale out at the same weight as the second. Home-baked from a box tends to have an insubstantial texture that can’t hold real flavor. White cake from a box is the worst, since it presents an unholy combination of insubstantial texture combined with a distinct flavor of chemicals.

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    tip – whipping egg whites

    I love making Clinton Street Baking Company pancakes, but whipping egg whites is a time-consuming task. The first time around, I used room-temp egg whites in a room-temp bowl in a room-temp room. I had to brush cobwebs off my spatula before I could flip my first pancake. They are worth the wait, but until recently, they were relegated to Weekend Breakfast Only.

    Then I got to talking with one of my colleagues about all things food one day; her mother graduated with a degree in Home Economics before Home Ec was cool. I wasn’t even talking about those pancakes, and she happened to share the secret to fast whipping – an ice-cold metal bowl, no cream of tartar required. The physics makes sense – the cold bowl will slow the molecules of viscous white down enough to be able to beat air into the white quickly.

    This morning (a Sunday morning), I decided to try out cold bowl whipping. I stuck my bowl in the freezer while I started prepping ingredients, pulled out the bowl once I was ready to whip the whites – and found the whites had to wait for me instead of the reverse. Goodbye Bisquick, hello mouthfuls of engineering bliss.