The Cake on the Cover

A simple, elegant cake for any special occasion! This cake has a minimal amount of frosting around the sides, a cake style trend that was started by Christina Tosi, the founder of Milk Bar bakery and a James Beard Award winning chef. Similar to a crumb coat, the thin layer of frosting keeps the crumbs in place and seals in the cake’s moisture. This semi-naked cake style is now popular for weddings, baby showers, Mother’s Day, and it’s a holiday party showstopper!

When making the cake, it’s helpful but not necessary, to have baking parchment paper, an offset spatula, an electric mixer, a cooling rack, and a rotating cake stand. Have fun cake decorating with edible flowers, sprigs of greenery, gumdrops, berries, or anything else imaginable that’s safe to use on a cake.

Golden Vanilla Cake

This delicious butter-based cake works well with almost any frosting. It’s moist and has a dense crumb and a soft golden yellow color. This recipe makes three 9-inch cake layers.

6 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

7 ½ teaspoons baking powder

3 teaspoons salt

1 ½ cups butter at room temperature

3 ¾ cups sugar

6 eggs

2 cups milk

6 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Adjust two oven racks in the middle level.

Place a round of baking parchment paper in the bottom of each cake pan. Smear about one teaspoon butter to completely cover the sides of each of the pans. If you aren’t using parchment rounds, smear the bottom of each pan with butter.

In a 1-quart bowl, add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Using a whisk or fork, stir to mix well and aerate.

Using a standing electric mixer with a large bowl, add the butter and sugar and beat on low speed for 30 seconds. Gradually turn the machine to medium speed and beat for 2 minutes. Stop and scrape down the sides with a spatula. Crack one of the eggs into the butter-sugar mixture and beat again to incorporate. Continue adding the remaining eggs and beating; scrape down the sides occasionally. At this point the mixture should be light, fluffy, and almost white. This step can be mixed by hand, although is slower and requires more effort.

Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture to the bowl. Beat on low speed until just blended. Then beat at medium speed until completely smooth. Pour in half the milk and mix until blended, then beat at medium speed until perfectly smooth. Continue adding flour and milk and beating after each addition until the mixture is blended and becomes smooth.; scrape the sides after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. The batter will be thick.

Pour and spread the batter into the three prepared cake pans until each one is about half full. Use a spatula to spread the batter evenly in the pans.

To bake two cakes at once, they need to be on different racks to enhance the air flow and heat distribution in the oven. Place them off center but not too close to the sides of the preheated oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Insert a wooden skewer or toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean the cake is done. Otherwise, continue to bake for another 3 to 5 minutes and test again. The cake should pull away slightly from the sides of the pan and the skewer should come out clean. Bake the remaining cake in the same way.

Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes. Run a knife or metal spatula straight down between the cake and edge of the pan all the way around the pan. Grip the pan with a potholder or towel it it’s still hot, and give it a few jerks to release the cake. Turn the cake out onto a rack, then pick it up, and invert it so the top is up. Remove the other cake layers the same way. Let the cakes sit for an hour, or until completely cool before filling and frosting.

Quick Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

A sumptuous buttercream frosting for sealing in the cake’s moisture. Frost the cake after it has cooled to room temperature.

1 ½ cups unsalted butter at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

6 cups confectioners’ sugar

4 to 5 tablespoons milk

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and salt. Add the confectioners’ sugar and 4 tablespoons cream and beat until smooth. Using a spatula, scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl. Adjust the consistency of the frosting as needed with more confectioners’ sugar.

Tip: If you’re not using the frosting right away, keep it covered and at room temperature to prevent it from developing a dry crust.

Chocolate Ganache

6 oz chocolate, finely chopped into shards (see tips)

1/3 cup heavy cream

Place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl. In a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat, add the cream, and heat until the cream begins to steam.; remove from heat. Watch carefully or the cream may boil over.

Pour the cream over the chocolate and make sure the chocolate pieces are all under the cream. Cover the bowl with foil and set aside for 5 minutes. Remove the cover and whisk the cream and chocolate together until smooth and completely combined. If the ganache is too thick, stir in 1 tablespoon more warm cream. If the ganache is too runny, let it cool down to set or whisk in some more finely chopped chocolate.

Tips: Use a serrated knife to chop a bar of chocolate. The serrations are better for grabbing the chocolate’s smooth surface than a chef’s knife or paring knife. This is the same reason you use a serrated knife to slice a loaf of fresh bread or a ripe tomato. To make a chocolate bar less hard and easier to cut, heat it in a microwave for 10 seconds, turn it over and heat for 10 seconds longer. Slightly softer chocolate is easier to cut and there’s less risk of the knife sliding off and nicking a finger. Place the serrated knife at the corner of the block of chocolate and whittle the chocolate gradually, corking from the corners.

To use a chef’s knife, (a large 8-10 inch straight-bladed knife,) place the knife at the corner of the block of chocolate and angle the knife slightly outward. Whittle the chocolate gradually, working from the corners.