“I am a drinker with writing problems” – Brendan Behan
Random quote above that I came across and loved 🙂 Now begins the rest of my rant. Random thoughts always sets the mood!
OK – I’m back! Yes, it’s definitely been a while. For an update, since I left my full-time office job in May of this year, I’ve been taking a break and travelled a bit, starting from my friend’s wedding in Bordeaux then to Paris, Barcelona and back to Hong Kong. Next was my “reunion” with some amazing friends in Shanghai and now I’ve officially relocated back to Vancouver, BC!! It’s been a week or so and oddly enough I started as completely adjusted to the time zone to now completely jet-lagged…?!
I’ve been meaning to get back to doing some baking but the past month has been insane, with farewells and down and dirty packing. There’s this security lady at our building. She never throws away anything, even old pots and pans so we always see her “pile” increase by the week and my guy (ahem *fiancé*) always sighs, “hoarder”. WELL. During the week we had to clear out our things, we realized how much we’ve just kept everything from old movie ticket stubs and receipts of all-things-unnecessary to just weird knick-knacks like burnt out candle jars and cookie-less cookie tins that I just thought I would somehow be in dire need of someday. Well, while I dream about that fictional day, we decided to get proactive and start to dejunk. I’m proud to say we’ve managed to clear out our closets of any clothing that we did not need. Yes, that also meant those pair of skinny jeans I bought a size smaller thinking I’d fit into in a couple of months. I’ve had those for 3 years now and through our system of having the other person decide on whether or not to keep it, the verdict was to let it go.
Before I start to drift off about all the things I had to leave behind, let’s get back to topic! WELL, my mom’s birthday is tomorrow and we celebrated her birthday early tonight. So I decided what better time to get back into the kitchen then at 2:00am on a Sunday jet-lagged night to cream some butter? I opted for a basic vanilla cake from my Primose Bakery Cookbook and I chose an orange cream-cheese (light version) frosting to go with it along with some walnuts for crunch factor.
Vanilla Layer Cake (Recipe makes two 8-inch cake)
– 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
– 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
– 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour, sifted (note: since I only had all-purpose flour, I substituted with 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder + 1/4 teaspoon salt per 1 cup all-purpose flour. Just make sure to minus the amount of flour substituted (i.e. 3 3/4 teaspoons) from the original 1 1/2 cups!)
– 1 (additional) teaspoon baking powder
– 3 tablespoons cornstarch
– 4 large eggs
– 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
– 3 tablespoons 2% milk at room temperature (note: can substitute with skim milk)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (i.e. 176 degrees C). Grease and line two 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper.
2. There are TWO methods: MY METHOD = Using an electric hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until the mixture is pale and smooth (around 3-5 minutes). Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add the eggs to the creamed mixture, on at a time, mixing for a few minutes after each addition, alternating with the dry ingredients, and finally the vanilla extract and the milk. Beat well after each addition, but beware to NOT overbeat as you will take all the air out of the batter and create a denser, not-as-fluffy cake. Second method should be simpler if you have a food processor handy: Put the butter, sugar, flour, cornstarch and baking powder into a food processor and pulse for a few seconds until evenly mixed. Add the remaining ingredients gradually, processing briefly until just combined. Again, don’t be tempted to over mix!
3. Divide the mixture evenly between the pans and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until raised and golden brown. You can do the toothpick test (i.e. stick in middle and if it comes out clean then voila! it’s ready!). Remove from the oven and leave the cakes in the pans for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. Peel the parchment paper from the bases of the cakes.
4. Once cooled, you may simply sandwich the layers together with half the frosting of choice then cover the rest of the cake with it. I wanted a better evenness so I used a clean knife to cut the top of the cake to make a flat surface. The book suggests to fill buttercream frosting in between the layers and only the top of the cake then decorate with whatever you desire! Suggestions: Whipped cream, sliced strawberries and dust the top with confectioner’s sugar. I opted to frost the entire cake, add walnuts to the side to complement my orange cream-cheese frosting 🙂
Orange Cream Cheese Frosting (Recipe makes enough to frost two 8-inch layer cakes and extra to spare! Good amount to frost 15 – 20 regular cupcakes)
– 6oz cream cheese (light), at room temperature
– 4 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifts
– 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
– Grated zest of 1 orange
– Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat well until thoroughly combined and the frosting is smooth and pale – this can take several minutes with an electric hand mixer.
Note: Cream cheese frosting must be stored in the refrigerator, but it keeps well. Before re-using, allow it to come to room temperature then beat again.
Several things to note:
- I realized that cream cheese frosting is best left for cupcakes or if you like the dripping effect. But I was hoping for more of a sturdy frosting for this cake, which buttercream frosting would work better for, so something for you to keep in mind!
- ENSURE NOT TO OVERMIX! Cannot stress enough but I over-did mine’s slightly and the texture was more pound cake than light sponge cake unfortunately!
- Cream cheese frosting is best left at it’s original creamy ivory color. For some reason I decided to be creative. Also, it was gearing towards 3:00am territory and I went for orange. To go with orange. How original? Hmm…
OH! And one other thing I failed to mention earlier…since I’m currently still on my “break”, I started to look into Pastry Programs to potentially make this hobby of mine into a career. Timing really isn’t the best since you cannot take any time off the full-time courses (ranging from 4 months – 1 year in length) and I’ve my upcoming wedding to plan as well as scheduled trips back to Hong Kong in December and next March. Definitely on my to-do list next September. If anyone has any comments on pastry programs, post away!