Yellow layer butter cake with guittard ganache frosting

March 10th, 2010

ATK's Yellow cake with Guittard ganache frosting by lkwm on dRc

By nature, I am an introvert, so I tend to keep a few friends close, and tend to find long distances challenging. I am working on this, though I imagine it used to be easier for people to make friends and stay in touch with one another, since historically people tended to live in one place for longer, many times being born, raised, and carrying on the next generation within the same few square miles of their own birth place. Life was also less convenient. Washing and drying clothes, growing and preparing food, and supplying one’s household with basic necessities all required some degree of working outdoors, and invited interaction with one’s neighbors. Life demanded more direct human interchanges than is often required present day, which in turn, created rich, interdependent local communities. You needed your neighbors, and they needed you, and over time, friendships were cultivated.

Flowers falling by lkwm on dRcFlowers askew ll by lkwm on dRcLooking down on flowers by lkwm on dRc

Though perhaps requiring more conscientious efforts, these sorts of relationships surely live on in the present day, going beyond more casual definitions of friendship in dedication and tolerance, and ultimately still forming the foundations of thriving modern families, communities, and cultures. Friends of this sort do special things things for one another.

Things like throwing one another baby showers, giving up whole Saturdays to help each other replace defunct 1980s water heaters, helping lay new hardwood floors over quite acceptable old hardwood floors, saving a friend from woeful design errors and painting bathrooms in the corrected shade for the friend, ordering perfectly cut custom glass shelves for a friend’s bathroom and driving them over at 11:00 p.m. on a work night so there will be a spot for towels and toiletries for an impending parental arrival the next day, helping with wiring until past midnight, and other special things like making each other homemade birthday cakes.

Guittard discsGuittard discsGuittard disks on silk by lkwm on dRc

My husband and I first met Sheila and John in 2007 when I completed my graduate internship at Sheila’s counseling practice, and since that time they have become dear friends. Life is busy, and there are times we do not see each other for several weeks at a time before one set or the other of us will forge the 30 minute drive separating our homes, and remember why we should never let such time spans pass again.

Buttered and floured by lkwm on dRcButtered and floured by lkwm on dRcButtered and floured by lkwm on dRc

The men do what Sheila and I have come to term “work exchanges. Jon will come over to our house and help Brian, my husband, with some project, such as cutting and putting up a stairwell banister, or installing accent lights throughout our kitchen, and I will cook dinner for everyone (Indian, Italian and all things dark chocolate are always favorites) and Sheila and I will watch chic flicks late into the night, with the men sometimes pausing to join us for a show, and always stopping for food.

We do the same thing at Sheila’s home. She will cook some gorgeous, elaborate meal and dessert (I have come to learn she is incapable of doing it any other way) and we will sit tending to my little boy and leafing through cookbooks and design magazines while the guys hammer away on some project talking nanotechnology or some other foreign language. I love these days.

Flowers laying by lkwm on dRc

For Jon’s birthday this year, Sheila decided we should all go out for Thai and then back to her house for dessert, so I offered to try another yellow cake recipe (which I secretly eagerly volunteered for since I had just bought new cake pans – I get excited about this sort of thing). I say “another”, because since I’ve been thinking about being a better friend over the past several months, I have started making a conscious effort to make birthday cakes more often for people. It is a small gesture, but since I love to bake, it simply fits for me to fill this role, which brings me back to my hunt for my own personal religious yellow cake recipe. I have tried at least five recipes over the past year, with many turning out dry, or too eggy, or even almost a bit like sweet cornbread – all in all, just not what I have been looking for in a classic yellow cake.

Eggs vertical by lkwm on dRcEggs vertical by lkwm on dRcEggs horizontal by lkwm on dRc

But this one turned out just right. It is moist with a tender and delicate crumb, tastes deeply of butter, is beautifully hued from the four eggs, and is not overly sweet. Just about any favorite frosting would pair nicely with this cake. I chose a chocolate cream frosting, using Guittard 61% cocoa disks, which turned out to essentially be an incredibly smooth and luscious ganache – think heavenly, moist, butter laden yellow cake covered by the insides of a decadent chocolate truffle, and that’s what you’ve got here.

Swirls by lkwm on dRcBattered up by lkwm on dRcBattered up by lkwm on dRcBattered up by lkwm on dRc

In other news, I am starting to read novels again, which I haven’t done since my son was born and since finishing the last Harry Potter book. I have begun with The Keys of the Kingdom by A.J. Cronin because my brother recommended it and because it was on the top of my book pile. I’ll let you know how it goes. My favorite quote so far:

Decisively, Monsignor Sleeth closed the gilt-edged book. “To say the least, you seem to have lost your command of souls.”
“But…” Calmly: “I don’t want to command anyone’s soul.”

Cutting the cake at Sheila'sHappy birthday John! by lkwm on dRcThe cake and the lady by lkwm on dRcFor later by lkwm on dRcSheila sheila sheilaLast bite by lkwm on dRc
Yellow layer butter cake
adapted from American Classics by the editor’s of Cook’s Illustrated

4 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sifted (6 3/4 ounces) plain cake flour
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons aluminum free baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted organic butter, softened, each stick cut into 8 pieces

Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9 inch cake pans with vegetable shortening (I use a natural oil spray) and cover the pan bottoms with rounds of parchment paper or wax paper. Grease the parchment rounds and dust the cake pans with flour, tapping out the excess.

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 the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on 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 sandy and pebbly, with pieces about the size of peas, 30 to 40 seconds after all the butter is added. Add reserved 1 cup of 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, about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Beat on medium-high until thoroughly combined and the batter looks slightly curdled, about 15 seconds.

Divide the batter equally between the prepared cake pans; spread to the sides of the pan and smooth with a rubber spatula. Bake until the cake tops are light gold and a toothpick or skewer comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. (Cakes may mound slightly but will level when cooled.) Cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the pan perimeters to loosen. Invert one cake onto a large plate, peel off the parchment, and reinvert onto a lightly greased rack. Repeat with the other cake. Cool completely before icing. Store iced cake in the refrigerator, but bring to room temperature before serving (bringing to room temperature took about four to five hours for my cake).

Guittard ganache frosting (Chocolate Cream Frosting)
adapted from American Classics by the editor’s of Cook’s Illustrated

16 ounces 61% or 70% Guittard bittersweet chocolate, or other bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine*
1 1/2 cups heavy organic cream
1/3 cup light corn syrup*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; pour over the chocolate. Add the corn syrup and let stand 3 minutes. Whisk gently until smooth; stir in the vanilla. Refrigerate 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes, until the mixture reaches a spreadable consistency (mine got a bit hard, so I microwaved it for a very few seconds and it was perfect. Also, if you heat cake with this frosting on it, the frosting will almost immediately turn to fudge sauce – delicious fudge sauce, but not icing anymore)

* I used 61% Guittard, but would likely go even darker next time around. This had a very smooth, rich chocolate flavor, but if you love dark chocolate, like me, you could go darker. This recipe makes a large amount of frosting and it is rich, so next time I might use 3/4 of the icing for the cake and save the rest to heat up as a sauce to serve over ice cream alongside.
* The corn syrup makes the icing smooth and spreadable, I would not substitute another ingredient.

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Posted in Dessert | 35 Comments »

35 Responses to “Yellow layer butter cake with guittard ganache frosting”

  1. Sheila Robinette says:

    Warning! The cake is very addictive. I could not stop eating the cake. I had planned to freeze half the cake and ended up eating it before the week was out, with the help of my husband Jon of course. The frosting is a dessert in itself. Do buy good chocolate; it makes a difference. The texture pairing of the moist cake and heavy chocolate is perfect without ice cream. I had one piece with ice cream and one without and actually preferred it solo. Please make this cake. Everyone deserves a little heaven on this earth. sheila

    • laura says:

      Sheila – Glad I left most of the cake at your house! You are right, it is is best on its own and the icing made with a high quality bittersweet chocolate – glad this one turned out well, you are now officially relieved from being the recipient of my experimental yellow cake recipes. (: Now I just have to recreate the legendary white cake I made for your 40th b-day, I just hope the memory has not outdone the reality!

  2. I loved reading this. Friends they are so important. Keep them close. Nice cake.

    • laura says:

      The Teacher Cooks – It is difficult to keep up with everyone these days as people come and go so often (myself included). I’m trying to get better, though as an introvert, it has and perhaps always will be challenging for me. (: Thank you.

  3. Christine says:

    That looks delicious! And the pictures with flowers around it are beautiful.

  4. blair says:

    My stomach just started rumbling at an intense speed! this sounds absolutey incredible. i must admite i am not always a big cake fan, but the idea of a butter cake…well everything is better when “butter” is in the title. amazing photos too!!

  5. This looks like a wonderfully tasty, classic cake. It was very sweet of you to make this.

    • laura says:

      Xiaolu – I really enjoy making birthday cakes – and I love that I get to give them away so I do not eat them all up myself (as would normally happen with any other dessert)!

  6. Mom says:

    La, I am going to fix this and compare it to my old, classic standby. For some reason, I think this will win hands down, certainly with that icing. Some people prefer chocolate icing and some butter icing on a yellow cake, but after seeing this, I can’t imagine using anything else but chocolate! Beautiful photos, and a wonderful time with good friends. I had a girlfriend that brought chic flicks over, and one time while we were watching, she got a spot of super glue on my leather couch applying her fake nails. Remember that? I never got upset about this, because she was such a good friend; it still reminds me of her now, years after having moved away. Enjoy your friends!

    • laura says:

      Mom – Yes, I remember! Penny was so much fun. A buttercream frosting would be delicious with this cake – next time I will likely try it for variety, plus I think a soft vanilla flavor would compliment this cake well and let the flavors of the cake really shine through.

  7. Jill says:

    I am going to make this cake tomorrow. It reminds me so much of a cake my nanna made. One thing, am I the only one having a very time reading the extremely light print in your blog…othrwise, I love it!

    • laura says:

      Jill – Welcome! I’m not sure about the text…it should be a dark shade of grey. If anyone else is having this issue, please let me know! I hope the cake turns out wonderful for you – we loved it! Glad you found dRc!

  8. Jill says:

    Hmm, now the text just turned a much easier to read black color. I’m happy :o )

    • laura says:

      Yeah! Computers are funny – my husband handles all these sorts of quirks around here. Happy to hear it uploaded properly, finally!

  9. Joy says:

    Laura your pictures are really wonderful. I love the composition of the photos very much — with the ying yang effect of the vanilla and milk and eggs along with the first picture of the DELICIOUS cake and the placement of the flowers — duuuur this cake makes me drool and I would probably devour it in the most un-lady like manner aka bury my face in it. (Don’t judge me :( !)Very very nice my eyes are in love!

    • laura says:

      Joy – I do not judge – I am the messiest eater (and cook!), always ending up with splotches on new white clothing! Thanks so much for the photography compliments – your photography is breathtaking!

  10. Natalie says:

    I think I’m drooling over the cake stand in that top photo as much as I am over the cake! Where did you find it?

  11. Memoria says:

    I’ve been looking for a moist, yellow cake. I’ll have to give this one a try. Thanks for posting!

    • laura says:

      Thanks, Memoria – a great yellow cake recipe is harder to find than I had imagined – we really enjoyed this one – hope you do as well!

  12. grace says:

    ‘heavenly, moist, butter laden yellow cake covered by the insides of a decadent chocolate truffle…’
    SOLD! what a divine creation, and that’s all there is to it. :)

  13. Amy says:

    Laura, this cake was a perfect late-night “virtual” snack. It reminded me of the delicious cake you made for my bridal shower. Making a cake for someone really is a sweet gesture of friendship. I’m glad to hear you are reading again :)

  14. Elizabeth says:

    What a lovely blog! I love the photos through every step of this cake and I can imagine how divine the cake would be. Your friends must cherish you!

  15. Julia says:

    Oh my gosh – this cake is something! It is something I’ll be making this week!

  16. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for the great recipe! I made it yesterday, it’s really good! I used 65% cocoa, and I think I’ll try a smaller percentage next time because the frosting was RICH!!!!

    • laura says:

      Jennifer – Glad to hear the cake turned out well. I agree, the icing is RICH – like a truffle, really!! Next time I make the cake I plan to try a fluffy vanilla buttercream frosting that I think will complement the delicate texture and flavor of the cake nicely.

      - I just looked at your blog (very nice) but was unable to comment (couldn’t find “name/URL” option), but I saw that you have a chocolate buttercream frosting recipe – I will have to come back to that!

  17. Nola says:

    Just browsing for chocolate frosting recipes and found your post. Lovely photos, and mouth-watering cake. I can’t wait to try this recipe. Thanks for sharing !! I plan to read more of your recipes.

  18. Fred Mead says:

    What a fun surprise. It’s great to see that you are enjoying your cake plate. Your cakes look delicious, and you have an entertaining blog!

    Your particular plate selected by your mom comes in various sizes. If you are ever interested, I also have tiered cake plates as well as candelabra to match in my Meadart line of plates and candelabra (various colors).

    In addition to the Meadart line, view my glass sculpture on display in the BENDER gallery in Asheville, NC. Here is a link:

    All the best,
    Fred Mead


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