One of my favorite things about New York is how, despite the city’s enormity, you can take a corner of it and really make it your own. It also helps that each neighborhood is so different, with its own vibrant personality and scene. We’re spending August in Erlend’s parents Upper West Side/Morningside Heights neighborhood, and it’s a world apart from our old place in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
I liked BedStuy; it’s not as well-known or popular as other Brooklyn neighborhoods like Williamsburg or Park Slope, but it has its own unique history full of grit and hustle. It is where both Jay-Z and Biggie grew up, after all. But this part of town feels more like what people think of when they think of New York: the buildings are taller, the avenues are wider, and the taxi cabs more plentiful. Grit and hustle? Not so much. But there’s definitely a certain type that populates the UWS as well: pretty liberal, well-educated, and financially comfortable, but not quite as snotty and elitist as the old money on the Upper East Side.
And so this month, I’m pretending to be an official Upper West Sider: I bring reusable shopping bags to both Zabar’s and Fairway Market, admiring the babka and loading up on all sorts of stinky cheese; I ride a Citibike through Central Park in my Birks, only to stop at the Museum of Natural History to check out the giant squid and the whale. AND I’m close to Shake Shack, Levain, X’ian Famous Foods, and Absolute Bagels (which, after a full year’s worth of checking out all the bagel places in the city, are most DEFINITELY the best bagels in the city, COME AT ME).
But maybe the best part about living in this neighborhood is the fact that there’s a farmer’s market almost every day of the week just a stone’s throw away from the apartment. In BedStuy, our closest farmer’s market was in Fort Greene or Williamsburg — both were close, sure, but required a subway trip or hauling my bicycle down our walk-up. So almost every night, Erlend and I have been taking advantage, making fresh salads from the late summer greens (usually with lox from Zabar’s thrown in) and eating an incredible amount of fruit for dessert. I love it.
I’d like to tell you that I made this cake with raspberries from the farmer’s market around the corner from our apartment, but the truth is, I actually made this cake back when we were in Brooklyn and only got around to editing the photos and posting about it now. But it was so good that I’m seriously considering making it again, and I hope you do too! It’s a quick weeknight sheet cake, but made incredibly moist by the crème fraîche in the base and decadent with the white chocolate frosting and tart raspberries. Enjoy!
- The white cake base uses a ton of crème fraîche, which makes it incredibly flavorful and much moister than most white cakes I’ve had in the past. I love it. In a pinch, you can use sour cream instead of crème fraîche, but note that your cake might have a slightly tangier flavor than if you were to use crème fraîche (as sour cream is more acidic than crème fraîche). This might be beneficial anyway, since the frosting is pretty sweet!
- I made this cake and frosting on a 90 degree+ day, so my frosting was super runny and hard to work with. If you’re in a similar situation, stick the frosting in the fridge for 20 minutes or so! It stiffens it up and makes it easier to swirl and hold its shape.
- I don’t recommend serving this cake/frosting situation on its own without any tart fruit to balance it out — it’s pretty sweet! You can substitute any fruit you’d like, but I suggest something on the tart side like raspberries or blackberries.
White Chocolate and Raspberry Sheet Cake
For the Crème Fraîche Cake
- 3/4 cup (6 ounces) crème fraîche (see baker's notes for substitutions)
- 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) whole milk
- 5 large egg whites
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups (11.25 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cup (10.5 ounces) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks // 6 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1 to 2-inch cubes
For the White Chocolate and Raspberry Frosting
- 4 ounces white chocolate, roughly chopped
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks // 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- a pinch of kosher salt
- 1 cup (4 ounces) confectioner’s sugar
- 2 cups (12 ounces) fresh, ripe raspberries
For the Crème Fraîche Cake
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 (F). Prepare a 9 x 13-inch rectangular baking pan by spraying generously with cooking spray and lining the bottom and sides with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper with cooking spray and set aside.
- In a medium bowl or a large liquid measuring cup, combine 3/4 cup crème fraîche, 1/2 cup whole milk, 5 large egg whites, and 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract. Whisk to combine and set aside.
- In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Paddle on low speed until combined. With the mixer running on its slowest setting, add 3/4 cup cubed unsalted butter 1 to 2 cubes at a time, beating until the mixture resembles coarse, wet sand. With the mixer still running on low, slowly add half the wet ingredients (from the 2nd step). Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 20 seconds. Reduce the mixer speed back to its slowest setting and add the rest of the wet ingredients, before turning up the speed back to medium and beating for another 20 seconds. Be careful not to overmix! 20 seconds should be enough. After 20 seconds, turn off the mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bottom of the bowl, using the spatula to mix the batter a few more times.
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and transfer to the oven to bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a cake skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the top of the cake bounces back when gently poked. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting.
For the White Chocolate Frosting and Assembly
- Transfer 4 ounces white chocolate to a double-boiler (or make a homemade double-boiler by placing a heatproof glass bowl on top of a saucepan with 1 to 2 inches of water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water) over medium-low heat. Cook until melted, stirring constantly to prevent the chocolate from scorching. Set aside on a wire rack to cool slightly.
- In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 3/4 cup unsalted butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon light corn syrup and a pinch of kosher salt. Beat on medium speed until combined, stopping to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Turn the mixer speed back on to its slowest setting and add 1 cup confectioner's sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, continuing to beat until fully incorporated. Add the white chocolate and beat on low until combined.
- Use a spoon to scoop the frosting on top of the crème fraîche cake, using an offset spatula to make rustic swirls. If the frosting is too runny, remember the baker's notes and feel free to refrigerate for 20 minutes or so to let it stiffen up again so that it's easier to work with. Top the frosting by sprinkling 2 cups fresh raspberries on top of the white chocolate frosting. Enjoy!
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