Spring is sorta here (despite that weird snowstorm we had a few weeks ago), and it seems that everybody is ready to play! After spending the winter inside, holed up at home in front of Netflix and ordering far too much takeout, I am making up for lost time. In the last few weeks I...
... enjoyed a bowl of poached eggs and butter fried English muffin croutons at a really cute Egg Shop with one of my blogging besties, Alana! She was in town for a super secret fun project that I'm very excited about! We rode the subway together and I showed her the Nutella bar at Eataly. She left us a box of her homemade furikake snax which Erlend and I promptly got into a fight over because it's so good and he was eating too much of it.
... feasted all the fried chicken at a restaurant of a former Top Chef chef with my friends Cale and Kyle! (The fried chicken was just okay though).
... grabbed a fancy dinner with Erlend and his parents at Cafe Altro Paradiso! I drank a lot of prosecco and have no regrets. I also ate a lot of delicious, buttery pasta and lived my best self (despite the rather horrifying number on my bathroom scale).
... made my own dim sum at Tuome with my new friends Matt and all my new friends! It turns out I am not very much of a siu mai folder, but it doesn't make the dumplings any less delicious.
... finally hung out and traded stories with Rachel, the awesome boss lady behind tahini/halva magic land, Seed + Mill! She gave me a giant box of halva samples and I died of deliciousness.
... ate my very first cronut! Even though I am several years behind the hype, I still had to pre-order it three weeks in advance and make a 40-minute detour on my commute to go pick them up. The flavor was blackberry brown sugar toffee!
And this weekend, I am blowing half a paycheck to dine at Eleven Madison Park! I'll report back, I promise.
With all the happenings, I am finding it very hard to find time to bake... with the exception of this cake! A few weeks ago, my friends at Vermont Creamery sent me a case of all their best ingredients, including tubs of my favorite vanilla bean crème fraîche. One of my favorite frostings of all time is this chocolate crème fraîche frosting — it's incredibly deep and silky, more akin to a ganache than traditional chocolate frosting. The last time I used it on a cake was in 2014, when I paired it with a chocolate cake for my mom's birthday. This time around, I wanted to pair it with a classic yellow one. It was delicious and I would do it again.
Some baker's notes:
- For the yellow cake recipe, I used Sarah Kieffer's recipe from The Vanilla Bean Baking Book. To make this cake, Sarah uses the reverse creaming method. Unlike the standard creaming method where sugar and fat are beaten together to create air in the batter, the reverse creaming method calls for all the fat to be added to the dry ingredients at the start. Doing so creates a more delicate and tender crumb, as opposed to a lighter one. You can read more about the science over at The Cake Blog and this awesome post by Joe Pastry.
- If you're a close reader of my blog, you'll know that I've used this crème fraîche frosting before. It's one of my all time faves — it's deep and decadent, more similar to a chocolate ganache than a fluffy frosting. At first, it's super liquidy, but will solidify as it comes to room temperature. As it cools, there's a perfect point somewhere where the chocolate is still lukewarm and will be just perfect for spreading smooth surfaces. But if you wait too long, it can solidify fairly quickly and be too difficult to spread. If this happens, just pop it in the microwave for 5 to 10 second intervals until the mixture warms up again. And yes, in a pinch, you can use sour cream instead of crème fraîche for a slightly tangier flavor.
- I decorated the cake with these crunchy pearls (toasted rice cereal dipped in chocolate!) that Valrhona kindly sent me. I'm completely obsessed! They come in four flavors — dark chocolate, milk chocolate caramel, dulcey white chocolate (which I have a love affair with), and white chocolate. All are delicious and are totally worth seeking out to add an extra special crunch to your cake. I have totally been eating them by the handful by myself in a dark corner, pretending that calories don't exist. Ehem.
Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Crème Fraîche Frosting
(cake adapted from The Vanilla Bean Baking Book, frosting by yours truly)
For the Yellow Cake:
(makes one 6-inch, three layer cake)
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup (6 ounces) sour cream, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) buttermilk, at room temperature
- 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups (10.5 ounces) granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks // 8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces
For the Chocolate Crème Fraîche Frosting:
(makes enough for one 6-inch, three layer cake)
- 12 ounces bittersweet (at least 60% cacao) chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup (1 stick // 4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons (1 fluid ounce) light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) crème fraîche, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) half-and-half, at room temperature
For the Yellow Cake:
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 (F). Prepare three 6-inch cake pans by spraying generously with cooking spray and lining the bottom of each pan with one parchment paper circle; spray the parchment paper as well.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 large eggs, 2 large egg yolks, 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract, 3/4 cup sour cream, and 1/4 cup buttermilk. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Mix on low speed for about 30 seconds or so until combined. Keep the mixer on its slowest setting and add 1 cup unsalted butter cubes a piece at a time, beating until the mixture resembles coarse sand. With the mixer still on its lowest setting, slowly add half the wet ingredients (from the 2nd step). Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Turn back the mixer to its slowest setting and add the rest of the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat for another 20 seconds — at this point, the batter may still look a little bumpy, but that's okay! Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and mix the batter a few more time.
- Divide the batter between the prepared tops and use an offset spatula to smooth the tops. Tap the pans gently on the counter 2 times each to help smoothen out the batter some more and get rid of any bubbles. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the cakes are golden brown and pull slightly away from the sides of the pan. A wooden skewer inserted into the center of each cake should come out clean.
- Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, turn the cakes out onto the rack, remove the parchment paper, and let cool completely before frosting.
For the Chocolate Crème Fraîche Frosting:
- Combine 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, 1/2 cup unsalted butter, and 2 tablespoons light corn syrup in a double boiler or a heatproof bowl sitting on top of a pan with simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water in the pan!). Melt the ingredients completely, using a heatproof rubber spatula to stir occasionally to release heat and fully combine the ingredients.
- Once the chocolate and butter have fully melted, remove from heat. Whisk the mixture gently to release more heat, before whisking in 1/2 cup crème fraîche and 1/4 cup half-and-half. Continue whisking until both the crème fraîche and half-and-half are fully integrated and the frosting is a uniform dark chocolate color. Set the frosting aside for 15 minutes to cool some more, giving the frosting a gentle whisk or two every 5 minutes to allow heat to escape. After 15 minutes, use the frosting. At first, it will seem too liquidy, but the frosting will quickly cool as it is spread throughout the cake. Work quickly to frost the cake before the frosting cools completely — it will harden as it cools.