Serves: Makes 8 to 10 servings
- 1 recipe Dark Chocolate Ganache, prepared at least 8 hours ahead, covered, and stored at room temperature
- 1½ sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened (65° to 68°F)
- ¾ cup (5¼ ounces) sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups (7 ounces) sifted cake flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup (3 ounces) sour cream, at room temperature
Procedures:This buttery, vanilla-scented cake is a variation on pound cake, with a little extra leavener added to lighten the crumb. Although nearly any frosting pairs well with this celebration favorite, it is especially luscious filled and frosted with silken chocolate ganache for the two-toned birthday cake most of us remember from childhood. For a special party or tea, make the mini cupcakes variation at the end of the recipe (shown at left), then top them with swirls of Cream Cheese Frosting and finish them with pretty Sugared Flowers and/or touches of gold leaf.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and position an oven rack in the center. Lightly coat the pan with melted butter, oil, or high-heat canola-oil spray and fit it with a round of parchment paper.
Cream the butter with the sugar: Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of the stand mixer and beat on medium until very light-almost white-in color, 4 to 5 minutes. You can also use a hand mixer and a medium bowl, although you may need to beat the mixture a little longer to achieve the same results. Scrape down the bowl with the spatula.
Add the eggs: Beat the eggs and vanilla in the small bowl to blend. With the mixer on medium, add the eggs to the butter mixture about 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each addition to completely blend in before adding the next. About halfway through, turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl, then resume adding the eggs. Scrape down the bowl again.
Add the dry and wet ingredients alternately: With the fine-mesh strainer, sift the cake flour, baking soda, and salt into the medium bowl and whisk together. With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the flour mixture and the sour cream alternately, beginning with one-third of the flour mixture and half the sour cream; repeat, then finish with flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl and finish blending the batter by hand, if necessary.
Bake the cake: Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Unmold the cake: Run the thin and flexible knife or spatula around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Place the cardboard on top of the pan, hold both together, and flip over. Remove the pan, leaving the parchment on the cake. Flip again onto a second cake cardboard (or a plate) so the cake is right side up. Level the cake, if necessary. Using a serrated knife, slice the cake horizontally into two layers.
Assemble and frost the cake: Place the cake cardboard (or plate) on your work surface. Flip the top layer of cake over and place it, cut side up, on the cardboard-this will be the bottom of the cake. With the icing spatula, spread 1 cup of ganache evenly over the surface of the cake, all the way to the edge. Flip the bottom layer and slide it, cut side down, into place on top of the ganache. Peel off the parchment paper. Voilà-a crumb-free surface for frosting. Spread a very thin layer of the frosting, known as a crumb coat, over the cake. Chill for 15 minutes, just to set the crumb coat. Use the remaining ganache to frost the top and side of the cake. Use a spoon to create swirls all over the top by gently pressing the tip of the spoon, rounded edge down, into the frosting in a back-and-forth motion.
To serve: slice the cake with a thin and sharp knife.
Storing: The cake can be stored at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigeratorf r up to 4 days. Be sure to remove it from the refrigerator at least 1 hour before serving toal ow the cake and frosting to soften to the perfect eating consistency. Once cut, there is nonee to wrap the whole cake with plastic; simply press a piece of plastic wrap firmly againstthe ut surfaces to keep the cake fresh.
To make Classic White Layer Cake: Same delicious flavor, but with a soft white crumb that is especially appropriate for baby showers, weddings, and tea cakes. Follow the recipe, but substitute 4 large egg whites for the 3 whole eggs.
To make Yellow or White Cupcakes: Bake the yellow or white batter in a standardsize muffin tin lined with paper cupcake liners, filling each cup to ¼ inch from the top of the liner. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. You'll need just ½ recipe of the ganache to frost the cupcakes. Makes about 12 cupcakes.
Mini Yellow or White Cupcakes: Bake the yellow or white batter in a mini-muffin tin lined with mini-cupcake liners, filling each cup with 1 tablespoon of batter to ¼ inch from the top of the liner. Bake for 11 to 14 minutes, until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Makes about 50 mini cupcakes.