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    All-Purpose Birthday Cake

    Source of Recipe

    Cook's Illustrated, May 1995

    List of Ingredients

    • -- Classic White Cake --
    • 2 Tbsp vegetable shortening
    • 2 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour (heaping), for flouring the pans
    • 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
    • 3/4 cup large egg whites (about 6), at room temperature
    • 2 tsp almond extract
    • 2-1/4 cups cake flour
    • 1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
    • 4 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 12 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
    • .
    • -- Butter Frosting --
    • 1/2 lb. unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
    • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
    • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
    • 1 Tbsp whole milk
    • Pinch salt
    • .
    • -- Raspberry-Almond Filling --
    • 1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds (2-1/2 ounces), toasted and chopped coarse
    • 1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam


    1. For the cake:
      Set oven rack in middle position. (If oven is too small to cook both layers on a single rack, set racks in upper-middle and lower-middle positions.) Heat oven to 350 F. Coat bottom and sides of two 9-inch x 1-1/2-inch or 2-inch round cake pans with 1 tablespoon shortening each. Sprinkle one heaping tablespoon of all-purpose flour into each pan; roll pans in all directions to coat. Invert pans and rap sharply to remove excess flour.

    2. Pour milk, egg whites and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended. Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery ingredients remaining. Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1-1/2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer.

    3. Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans; using rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from the oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation.) Bake until cake needle or toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes. Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto greased cake racks. Reinvert onto additional greased racks. Let cool completely, about 1-1/2 hours.

    4. For the frosting:
      Beat butter, confectioners' sugar, vanilla, milk and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed until sugar is moistened. Increase speed to medium (high, if using handheld mixer); beat, stopping twice to scrape down bowl, until creamy and fluffy, about 1-1/2 minutes. Avoid overbeating, or frosting will be too soft to pipe.

    5. For the filling (and assembly):
      Before assembling cake, set aside 3/4 cup of the frosting for decoration. Spread small dab of frosting in center of cake plate to anchor cake, and set down one cake layer. Combine 1/2 cup of remaining frosting with almonds in small bowl and spread over first layer. Carefully spread jam on top, then cover with second cake layer. Spread frosting over top and sides of the assembled cake. Pipe reserved frosting around perimeter of cake.

      Serves 12



      If you have forgotten to bring the milk and egg white mixture to room temperature, set the bottom of the glass measure containing it in a sink of hot water and stir until the mixture feels cool rather than cold, around 75 degrees.

      Cake layers can be wrapped and stored for one day; frosting can be covered with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for several hours. Once assembled, the cake should be covered with an inverted bowl or cake cover and refrigerated. Under its coat of frosting, it will remain fresh for two to three days. Bring it to room temperature before serving.

      There is enough frosting to pipe a border around the base and top of the cake. If you want to decorate the cake more elaborately, you should make one-and-a-half times the frosting recipe. You may also substitute lemon curd for the raspberry jam in the filling.




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