Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cake shavings.

Cake shavings.

If you have ever tried to make a layer cake look beautiful, you know what they are.

Your cake comes out of the oven, and it has a dome.  It happens.  It happens all the time.

But if you want a gorgeous, even, congruent cake, the domes have to go.  So, you shave them.  You  shave them off until the tops are even.  I sometimes pull out a level, but only if I am really hungry.

People ask me quite often how I am able to stay small when I bake, and my reason is that I enjoy the tactile and aesthetic experience of cake-baking.  It is all about shapes and colors, and really, very much like doing hair.  But something takes over in that moment when I shave the top off of a cake.  Caramelized sugar, butter, flour and eggs combine in some otherworldly taste adventure.  No one is around (as I have usually kicked everyone out of my kitchen), and I gingerly pick up the strips that have just fallen at the swipe of my knife.  I place one in my mouth and chew, eyes instantaneously rolling into the back of my head. Cake shavings are ever so delicate, with the slightest crunch- they are the treat for the cake-baker.  As someone who is obsessed with being thin, I tell myself that it is important to try the cake I have just baked, in the case that I have forgotten something important.  Perhaps I need to try it with some of the frosting?

Perhaps this cake isn't even at all.  Where is my level?

Cake shavings.  Yum.

I made two of these cakes this week, as really- I think they are the best cakes I have ever made.

This is a (big breath) Strawberry-Filled White Butter Cake with a Graham Cracker Crust and Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting.

Two, big, thick layers of vanilla-scented white cake with a graham cracker crust baked right into it, filled with macerated strawberries and lemony cream cheese frosting.  I topped it with more berries and graham cracker crumbs, and it was perhaps...

the best cake I have ever tasted.

I made it for my husbands work meeting, and I was lucky enough to have a slice or two left over.

Absolute heaven.  Really.

Oh dear.  I made a smaller one yesterday for my friend, Robin.  I packed hers with a bit more lemon, and she adored it.

A recipe?  Of course...

Strawberry-Filled White Butter Cake, w/a Graham Cracker Crust and Lemony Cream Cheese Frosting

Graham Cracker Crust

1.25 cups of graham crackers
.25 c sugar
1 stick salted butter, melted

Mix the 3 ingredients together.  Place parchment paper on the bottom of two 8" or 9" pans.  Divide the crumb mixture between the two pans, and press until firm and all stuck together.  Set to the side.

White Butter Cake (adapted slightly from Joy of Baking)

Heat oven to 350.

Separate 4 eggs (it is easier to do when they are cold).  Let them come to room temperature.

Cream together...

2 sticks softened butter
1.5 cups sugar

...until light and fluffy.  About 5-7 minutes, scraping down the bowl a few times.  In the mean time, sift together...

3.5 c cake flour
4 t baking powder
.25 t kosher salt

To your butter mixture, add your egg yolks, one at a time until they are incorporated well.  Stir in...

2 t vanilla extract
1 t almond extract

If using a stand mixer, remove the paddle attachment, and put on the whisk attachment.  Remove the butter concoction, and set to the side.  Pull out a second bowl (you do have two, right?), and put in the room temperature egg whites.  Whisk on high until foamy, and then sprinkle on...

.5 t cream of tartar

Continue to whisk until you have soft peaks, and then gradually sprinkle in...

.5 c sugar

Whisk until you have very stiff peaks.  Pull off your bowl and whisk, and put back on your butter mixture and paddle attachment.  Alternating with...

1 cup whole milk

...add your dry ingredients, BEGINNING and ENDING with the dry.  Scrape down the bowl between additions.  Fold in a third of the egg whites to the mixture, to lighten it.  Fold in the remaining egg whites, fully incorporating them, but don't over-mix.

Divide into your prepared pans.  You will have about 2 cupcakes' worth of batter left over.  Toss it.  Or forget about salmonella, and try some.  Delicious.  I mean, disgusting.

How could you??

Bake for @ 30 minutes, probably a bit more.  Touch the side of the pans barely (very gently), and if it doesn't jiggle, pull it out to check with a tooth pick.  If it's clean, let the pans cool on a rack for 10 minutes.  Take a paring knife and run it along the inside of the pans.  Turn out the cakes.  You will lose some graham crackers, but it will be OK.  I promise.  Let cool completely before frosting.

Lemony Cream Cheese Frosting

.5 package cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened  
1 pound confectioner's sugar (sifted)
1 t vanilla
zest of 1 lemon
1 T lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon's juice)

Cream together the butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Add the sifted powdered sugar and zest, and blend until smooth.  Stir in the extract and juice, just until combined.

Chop up approximately 1 cup of strawberries, and add to that about 1 T lemon juice and 1 T sugar.  

To assemble the cake, place the first layer on a plate.  Frost with a thick layer of frosting, leaving a well in the center.  Place .5 strawberry mixture into the well.  Top with the second cake layer.  Frost the cake completely, and just before serving, put the remaining strawberries on top.  Coat the outside of the cake in graham cracker crumbs for texture and aesthetics.

Eat.  Cry.  Repeat.

And I am told by an old friend, that if you shave a cake very carefully, you will leave behind all of the calories.

Have a beauty of a day!

Rachel Bee


  1. Made this...was delicious...however, not even half as gorgeous as yours...I need a lesson.

  2. We must have the same tastebuds or similar. I want to make a strawberry cake with a vanilla cheesecake in middle....u know to cut the taste of the strawberry a little. To 'pretty' the cake I wanted to encrust the sides with graham cracker crust.