Whether a special occasion is coming up or a sweet tooth simply needs to be satisfied, a moist and flavorful layer cake fits the bill perfectly, and we have your thermal tips for success from start to finish.
Chocolate cake is always a favorite, but sometimes you want a dessert that isn’t quite as rich. For a cake recipe sure to please, we turned to “The Cake Diva” herself—Rose Levy Beranbaum. This layer cake from Rose’s book, Heavenly Cakes, combines a light and delicate white cake with silky strawberry mousseline buttercream filling, and is finished with fudgy, dark chocolate frosting. This cake represents only three of over one hundred foolproof recipes in the book.
Thermal Tip: Warming Eggs
To quickly bring whole shell eggs to room temperature, let them sit in a bowl of warm 110°F (43°C) water for about 5 minutes.
Recipe: Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cake
—8 ounces high-quality white chocolate (containing cocoa butter), chopped
—6.3 ounces (6 large) egg whites, at room temperature (about 70°F [21°C])
—11.3 ounces (1-1/3 cups) milk, at room temperature (about 70°F [21°C])
—1 tablespoon vanilla extract
—14 ounces (4 cups) sifted cake flour
—10.6 ounces (1-1/2 cups) superfine sugar
—5-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
—1 teaspoon salt
—6 ounces (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter (65-75°F [18-24°C])
Bringing the ingredients to the proper temperature before mixing is important to obtain a smooth, homogeneously-mixed batter. An instant-read thermometer like a ThermoPop® is the perfect tool to spot-check the temperature of softening butter, melting chocolate, warming egg whites, and for checking the baked cake’s doneness.
• Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and lined with parchment rounds.
• Adjust a baking rack to the lower third of the oven, and preheat to 350°F (177°C)
• Place chopped white chocolate in a small mixing bowl over a hot water bath and heat until almost melted. Remove from the heat when just a few chunks of chocolate are left and stir with a spatula to melt completely. Do not allow chocolate to exceed 105°F (41°C), then let cool to about 90°F (32°C). Set aside.
• In a medium bowl, whisk the room temperature egg whites, 1/3 cup of milk and the vanilla until just combined.
• Mix the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for 30 seconds to combine. Add the 65-75°F (18-24°C) butter to the dry ingredients, and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat for 1-1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
• On medium-low speed, gradually add the egg mixture to the batter in three stages, beating on medium speed for 20 seconds and scraping down the bowl between each addition.
• Add the melted white chocolate and beat to incorporate it—about 10 seconds.
• Divide the batter equally between the two cake pans.
• Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown, the cakes spring back when lightly pressed, and the internal temperature reaches 190-200°F (88-93°C).
• Allow the cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a small metal spatula against the sides of the cake pans to release the cakes. Invert the cake layers and place on wire rack, right side up, to cool completely.
• After the cakes have cooled completely (the cakes must be completely cool to the touch before wrapping. If wrapped while still warm, condensation will collect, resulting in a soggy cake), wrap well with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm.
Cake layers are easiest to work with when chilled because the butter will firm up, making the layer more stable. Refrigerate for two hours or overnight. If storing the cakes for longer than one day, wrap twice and freeze. When ready to use, refrigerate frozen cake layers until thawed to about 36-40°F (2-4°C) and proceed with cake assembly.
When added to cake batter, the cocoa butter, milk solids, and lecithin in white chocolate contribute a higher rise, more velvety texture, and more moisture, resulting in a longer shelf life. —Rose Levy Beranbaum, Heavenly Cakes, pg. 450
—10 ounces (2-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, 65°F (18°C)
—3.2 ounces (3 large) egg whites, room temperature, 65-75°F (18-24°C)
—4.6 ounces (2/3 cup) granulated sugar, divided
—1.5 ounces (3 tablespoons) water
—1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
—6.7 ounces plus 5 ounces ( 2/3 cup plus 1/2 cup) high-quality strawberry jam, or strawberry butter, divided
—1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• Pour room temperature egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
• Add water to into a small, heavy saucepan and stir in all but 3 tablespoons of sugar to combine—it should be the consistency of wet sand. If desired, add a small amount (1/4 tsp. is enough) of lemon juice to prevent crystallizing (For more information on cooking sugar, check out our Caramel Apple Perfection post). Place over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is bubbling. Reduce heat to low, or remove from the heat if using an electric range.
• Whisk the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. With the mixer off, add the cream of tartar. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form when the whisk attachment is raised. Gradually beat in the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar until stiff peaks form.
• Increase the heat under the sugar syrup and continue to cook until it reaches 248-250°F (120-121°C) (spot-check the temperature with a ThermoPop). Immediately remove the sugar from the heat and while whipping the egg whites on medium speed, begin pouring the sugar syrup into the egg whites in a thin, steady stream in between the tines of the whisk attachment and the side of the bowl. If the sugar syrup hits the tines it will be spun to the side of the bowl rather than whisked into the whites.
Once all of the hot sugar has been added to the egg whites, allow the meringue to continue whipping on medium speed for 5-10 minutes until cool.
• While on medium-low speed add softened butter one piece at a time, incorporating fully after each addition, until all has been added. As the butter mixes in, the meringue will fall and look slightly curdled. Don’t worry—you haven’t done anything wrong, just keep going. Continue whipping on medium speed until the mixture becomes homogenous and fluffy.
If the mixture is too cool, you can hold a bowl of hot water below the mixing bowl while whipping. The hot water will soften the butter and help it whip together nicely.
• Add the strawberry jam and vanilla and beat until uniformly mixed. The mousseline can be used immediately or chilled to be used at a later date. Warm the cold mousseline to room temperature and re-whip before using to fill the cake.
Dark Chocolate Frosting
—3.5 ounces fine-quality unsweetened or 99% cacao chocolate, chopped
—3 ounces 60-62% dark chocolate, chopped
—1.7 ounces (3-1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, 65-75°F (18-24°C)
—11.6 ounces (8 fluid ounces) light corn syrup
—2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• Heat chocolates and butter in a bowl over a hot water bath until almost completely melted. When only very small bits of chocolate and butter remain, remove from the heat and stir with a silicone spatula until completely melted.
• Stir in the corn syrup until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla and combine. This fudgy frosting keeps for 3 days at room temperature, 3 weeks refrigerated, and 6 months frozen.
• With a long serrated knife, trim the domes off the tops of the cake layers, and split each cake layer in half.
• Spread a small amount of mousseline onto a 9-inch cardboard round, and “glue” on a cake layer.
Pro Tip: Simple Syrup
Make simple syrup by combining 8 ounces of water and 8 ounces of granulated sugar in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil then cool to room temperature. Apply this sugar syrup to each cake layer with a pastry brush before filling to ensure a moist cake.
• Spread 1/3 of the remaining strawberry jam evenly onto the cake layer, then top evenly with 1/3 of the strawberry mousseline. You can spread the mousseline with a spoon, spatula, palette knife, or pipe with a pastry bag.
• Top with another cake layer, moisten with simple syrup, and fill with jam and mousseline as with preceding cake layer. Finish using the bottom layer of one of the cakes for the top—it will be the most flat end even. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well-chilled (about an hour or up to overnight).
• Place chilled cake onto a cake turntable and ice with dark chocolate frosting using a palette knife. Garnish as desired and serve. Our is garnished with edible gold leaf and fresh strawberries.
Careful attention to temperature control is an important key to success from start to finish when baking cakes and preparing their accompaniments. Rose’s detailed instructions and the reliable accuracy from the ThermoPop will make this project one that is within your grasp. Give this beauty a try for your next special occasion!