Last weekend I baked up a lovely fig-filled cake for a friend’s birthday. This is the friend you may remember mentioned in previous posts, for whom I’ve been creating a file of vegan recipes to accomodate her stomach’s unhappy reception of dairy products. After reading through my list of cake flavors, she chose fig. I had a few ideas of what to do with this…upside down cake, mixing puree into a cake batter, or simply filling a delightful spiced yellow cake chockfull of sweet fig puree. As I was unable to come up with fresh figs at the farmer’s market a couple of weeks back, I opted to liven up a yellow cake and llenarlo with sweetened fig puree and frost it with my new favorite vanilla flour frosting.This towering 4 layer beauty came out wonderfully, despite my less than stellar decorating performance.
Trusting Smitten Kitchen to provide great cake bases, I doubled her “Best Birthday Cake” recipe, baking it up in 4-10″ cake pans…Actually, as I only own 2 pans, I wound up baking the cakes in two batches, which took quite a good amount of an afternoon. The cake was very sturdy, moist for a butter cake, but not quite as moist as I prefer my vanilla cakes. This could be remedied by adding a bit of oil or a few yolks, I surmise. Nevertheless, the sturdy, spicy yellow base provided the strong structure I needed to build this cake of great proportions. Once filled with the simplest yet most satisfying puree of figs and topped with vanilla frosting, the yellow cake flew off the charts in terms of flavor. It is one of those recipes where the end result tastes better than the sum of its parts. If you get nothing more from this post, just promise to make the fig puree. It is not only good on cake, but great with breakfast toast, in a steamy bowl of oatmeal, or added to yogurt or a smoothie.
Best Yellow Layer Cake
By Smitten Kitchen
Yield: Two 10-inch round, 1 1/2-inch tall cake layers
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising) I used 3 1/2 c.AP flour + 1/2 c. cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened I used margarine
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken I used soy milk plus 2T. lemon juice
Spice additions I made:
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. cloves
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans (Alternately, you can use a cooking spray, either with just butter or butter and flour to speed this process up.)
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy (about 3-5 minutes), then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.
Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.
18 sugared figs
1 T. sweet alcohol of choice (I used an orange rum)
2 c. water, divided
Chop figs into a rough dice and place in a microwavable dish. Add 1/2 c. water and alcohol and cook, covered loosely with a damp paper towel until figs soften, approximately 5 minutes. If they haven’t softened, add more water if necessary and continue to nuke until they soften. Puree and set aside to cool.
Vanilla Flour Frosting
** I recently added cocoa powder to this recipe to find the greatest chocolate frosting results!
Adapted from Dozenflours
1 c. milk (soy or rice, if going the vegan route)
1/2 c. shortening * Butter can be substituted for either or both shortening and margarine.
1/2 c. margarine
1c. sugar * Not confectioners! And no, you do not need cook this. It WILL incorporate well.
2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt
1. In small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together milk and flour. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it thickens and resembles a paste.
2. Decrease heat to low and continue cooking 2-3 minutes until it is very thick and both of your arms are aching from the stirring
3. Remove from heat and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 2 hours, or until cool.
4. Beat remaining ingredients 5 minutes until they loosen up and fluff.
5. In 4 additions, mix in the flour paste. Beat, scraping the bowl often, until frosting is a lovely uniform texture with no sign of graininess. This took me about 12 minutes.
6. At this point, the frosting should be stiff enough to spread or pipe, but if you desire more rigidity, refrigerate 10 minutes.
1/2 c. sugar
1 c. water
Combine water and sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool before use.
1. Place one cake layer rounded-side down (unless you’ve evened out the layers or baked them up perfectly..kudos to you!).
2. Using a spray bottle or pastry brush, brush cake layer with simple syrup (helps keep in moisture).
3. Pipe a border of frosting around the outside edge of this layer. Fill with a moderate amount of fig puree.
4. Carefully position the next cake layer atop the first and continue with the remaining cake layers, being certain to place the uppermost layer upside down if you wish to achieve a professional appearance. Personally, I have no problems with rustic homemade looking cakes. In fact, I think I prefer that kind!
5.Holding a large serrated knife vertically, trim around the edges of the cake to even it out. (Mine needs practice, as you can see.)
6. Crumb coat the cake for best results, then frost with remaining flour frosting. Decorate and enjoy!
- It is very difficult for a beginner to pipe details on the sides of a cake. I wish someone had let me in on this little detail before I attempted too many vines. Practice makes perfect, so I highly recommend testing your designs on the side of a bowl before you try it on a cake. Just scrape off the practice icing and spoon it back into the piping bag to reuse.
- I don’t recommend baking this up as I did in 4-10″ pans. It was uncomfortable to slice. Try using a couple of different sized pans, stacking the cakes using a cake board between the 2 shapes, to make the serving more efficient.