Monday, February 14, 2005

In Search of the Holy Grail - White Cake from scratch

The past couple of weeks I have been on a quest. I have added cakes to my catering service, including wedding cakes. I have baked a white cake in the past but have never been fully satisfied with the result. Sometimes the cake is dry, other times it is flavorless, and even sometimes it has the taste and consistency of corn bread. Ugh!

So I went to my favorite place on the web eGullet and began a search. Wow! I didn't know there could be so much discussion about cake! I finally did find a thread talking about white cake and it's use in wedding cakes. There were about five different recommended cakes and I decided to try them all. One interesting fact was that the most popular was found in a simple, yet proven, cookbook from 30+ years ago.

So I spent the better part of two Saturdays baking white cakes. There were recipes from famous cookbook authors, one from the King Arthur website (which is fun on its' own), a couple of recipes that had been re-worked by the offering chef, and then the simple 30 year old cookbook recipe. We tried them all. The King Arthur cake was second runner up. It was the white chiffon cake. I learned you can cook a chiffon cake without an angel food cake pan! The cake had an excellent flavor and would be great in a small wedding cake. However, the size cake I am doing is large and I felt that the weight of the other layers would crush the bottom layer, so I continued on trying other recipes.

Finally I turned to the 30 year old recipe. It is found in a Betty Crocker cookbook. This will do my sister's heart good. She and Betty go way back! In my old cookbook it is known as the Silver White Cake. The recipe on eGullet refers to it as Rich White Cake. The only change I made was to increase the vanilla by another teaspoon and adding a teaspoon of almond extract. I did this because the bride is asking for a completely white cake. No fruit fillings or any other flavors. So by adding the small amount of almond extract i was hoping to add a little dimension. I also increased the salt from one half teaspoon to a full teaspoon.

Well I found the Holy Grail. It is from Betty. How did I know the cookbook from my early childhood and teen years would result in the best cake? A couple of others at eGullet found the same to be true. So, if you have a wedding cake to do just look up Betty, she's got the perfect recipe.

I didn't bring the recipe with me. Look for an update. I'll post it here later.


Silver White Cake

Betty Crocker Silver White Cake (with a few changes)

2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup unslated butter (softened)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp almond extract
4 large egg whites

Mix together dry ingredients. Mix in butter. Pour in milk, water, and extracts. Beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. Add egg whites to mix and beat for 2 minutes. Pour into two eight inch round pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes or until done.