Thursday, December 1, 2011

Double Vanilla Birthday Cake (GF)

Like many other 20-somethings I know, I'm in the midst of what you might call an early adulthood crisis. I'm a few years out of college and I have a full-time job, but it's definitely not what I would call the job on the path to my dream career. In fact, I sort of just fell into doing what I do.

I've always been a dreamer and someone who thrives on creative pursuits. And while my job now is certainly not an area I imagined myself working in as a doe-eyed college student, I am definitely enjoying the fact that I have plenty of time to figure out what I really want to do.

My job can be really frustrating at times. I hate battling traffic at rush hour every morning and evening. I dislike the particular monotony of office culture- eating at scheduled times, taking 15 minute breaks in the sad, gray employee lunchroom, sitting at a desk for 8 hours- it just stunts creativity. I could go on...

What I love, however, is pretty much everyone I work with. One person who fits into this category is my co-worker, Susan. When I found out it was her birthday yesterday, I came up with this recipe for a Double Vanilla Birthday cake, which is a vanilla bean sponge cake layered with vanilla bean French buttercream and topped with a fondant flower.

PS: Vanilla beans are normally really expensive, so usually I'll use vanilla bean paste instead, but if you have a Trader Joe's near you check out their holiday baking section. The stores in Los Angeles are selling two Madagascar Vanilla Beans for FOUR DOLLARS, which is extraordinarily cheap. I've totally stocked up on them. I also shared my excitement with the cashier there, who looked pretty amused by my reaction.

For the Vanilla Bean Sponge Cake (makes two 7 or 8-inch cakes):

1/3 cup superfine sweet white rice flour
2 tbsp sorghum flour
1/4 cup, plus 1 scant tbsp potato starch
2 tbsp cup corn starch
1 3/4 teaspoon(s) baking powder
pinch xanthan gum
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
One half of a vanilla bean
1/4 tsp Salt

Butter and flour pans and line bottoms with circles of parchment paper. Set aside. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flours, starches, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, beat eggs until foamy. In the meantime, heat milk and butter together on stovetop until milk is hot and butter is melted. Turn off stove.

Add sugar to eggs and continue beating for 5-6 minutes until batter becomes creamy and fluffy. Cut vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out seeds into batter.

Add milk and melted butter and beat until combined. Add flour mixture 1/4 cup at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Once batter is fully combined, pour equal amounts into each pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees. Insert a toothpick and gently press the tops of the cakes to check when

Allow cakes to cool in pans for about 15 minutes.

For the Vanilla Bean French Buttercream:

1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 vanilla beans

Combine water and sugar in a small sauce pan and heat until temperature reaches soft ball stage- 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. While mixture is heating, add egg and egg yolks to bowl of a stand mixer and beat with whisk attachment. Once syrup reaches appropriate temperature, immediately remove from heat. With mixer running on low-medium slowly pour sugar syrup into eggs to "temper" them. Once all syrup is added, continue to mix on medium- high with whisk attachment until mixture has fully cooled. Cut up butter into small pieces. Once mixture is cooled, add butter piece by piece, mixing well after each addition. Once butter is all incorporated, switch to a paddle attachment. Add vanilla bean seeds. Mix on medium-high for about 2 minutes. Add food coloring as desired (I used AmeriColor Yellow).

Frost cake and decorate as desired.

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