Layer cakes conjure images of towering red velvet or chocolate. The art of scratch cooking seems to have gone by the wayside as we celebrate our special occasions with a slab cake from the grocery store. But there is something about a layer cake that makes a person smile at a birthday, retirement or wedding. Make one for your next special occasion.
Be sure to properly prepare your cake pans. First, butter and dust with flour, then shake out the excess. I also line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper for easier removal of baked cake.
If the layers are not uniform after baking, trim them. For a four layer cake, bake two cakes and cut each in half horizontally.
You can bake cake layers in advance and triple wrap in plastic and freeze for use weeks later.
Lemon or orange curd keeps especially well in the fridge for a week or longer. Some frostings keep well, especially cream cheese frosting. Most finished cakes will keep well in a fridge for at least a day.
Before frosting a cake, place strips of waxed paper under it to keep the cake plate clean. Remove after decorating.
Apply a crumb coat, a thin layer of icing, to keep the crumbs from spoiling the final icing layer. Let dry for half an hour before applying a decorative layer of icing.
I like to ice the sides first and then the top. Avoid stiff icing because it is difficult to apply. Thin by adding water a few drops at a time and whipping.
Hummingbird Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- 3 c. all-purpose flour 750 mL
- 2 c. granulated sugar 500 mL
- 1/2 tsp. salt 3 mL
- 2 tsp. baking soda 10 mL
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon 5 mL
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 1/4 c. oil 310 mL
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 8 mL
- 1 8 oz. can crushed pineapple, well drained 250 mL
- 1 c. chopped pecans 250 mL
- 2 c. chopped firm ripe bananas 500 mL
- 16 oz. cream cheese, softened 450 g
- 1 c. butter, room temperature 250 mL
- 2 lb. confectioner’s sugar 900 g
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract 10 mL
- chopped pecans for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Sift flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and cinnamon together into mixing bowl several times. Add eggs and oil to the dry ingredients. Stir with wooden spoon until ingredients are moistened. Stir in vanilla, pineapple and one cup pecans (250 mL). Stir in bananas.
Spoon batter into three well greased and floured nine-inch (23 cm) round cake pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn onto cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting.
Cream cheese frosting:
Combine cream cheese and butter, cream until smooth. Add confectioner’s sugar, beating with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla.
Use the cream cheese frosting as the filling between each layer and then frost sides. Garnish with chopped pecans. Adapted from Bon Appétit.
Triple Lemon Layer Cake
- 2 1/3 c. cake flour 550 mL
- 2 3/4 tsp. baking powder 13 mL
- 1/4 tsp. salt 1 mL
- 1 3/4 c. sugar 430 mL
- 2 tbsp. grated lemon zest 30 mL
- 3/4 c. unsalted butter, room temperature 180 mL
- 1 c. whole milk, room temperature 250 mL
- 5 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar 1 mL
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened 45 mL
- 1 c. sugar 250 mL
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2/3 c. fresh lemon juice 160 mL
- 1 tsp. grated lemon zest 5 mL
- 1 c. unsalted butter, softened 250 mL
- 2 tbsp. grated lemon zest 30 mL
- 3 1/2 c. sifted confectioner’s sugar 875 mL
- 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice 45 mL
Make the lemon curd first so it can chill. Beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in eggs and yolks. Beat one minute more, then stir in lemon juice. The mixture will look curdled.
Cook in a double boiler until thickened.
Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest. Press plastic wrap on surface of the lemon curd to prevent a skin from forming and chill thoroughly.
Make cake by preheating oven to 350 F (180 C) and place a rack in the middle of oven. Butter and flour two eight-inch (20 cm) round cake pans. Sift cake flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Pulse one-quarter of the sugar with lemon zest in food processor.
In large bowl, beat butter and lemon sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add remaining sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in one-quarter of the milk just until blended. On low speed, add flour mixture alternately with milk in three batches, scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Beat until blended.
In another bowl, beat egg whites with electric mixer until whites are foamy and add cream of tartar. Continue to beat until the whites form stiff peaks.
Add one-quarter of the whites to batter and gently fold in with a rubber spatula. Continue to fold in the whites one-quarter at a time, being careful not to deflate the mixture.
Divide batter equally between prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the centres comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in pans 10 minutes. Loosen edges of cake along sides of pan and invert onto a rack. Flip right side up and let cool completely.
Carefully remove cake from pans and cut horizontally, using a serrated knife.
Place one layer on serving plate, cut side up and spread a generous one-third cup of lemon curd (160 mL) filling on it. Add each layer in the same manner until the final layer is placed and do not top with filling.
In a medium bowl, beat butter and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Add confectioner’s sugar in batches until light and fluffy. Add lemon juice and beat for one minute.
A few hours ahead of eating, spread thin layer of frosting on cake. Chill 30 minutes. Spread remaining frosting over the top and sides of cake. Scatter with bits of lemon zest and silver dragees or garnish as you like. Adapted from Fine Cooking.
Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.