June 28, 2013

Vanilla Layer Cake with Fresh Berries

4-3-2-1 cake

 I originally posted this recipe when my daughter requested that I make this cake for her 6th birthday in June 2012. This was also before I made the very difficult decision to remove all non-vegan dishes from my site. After two years of being a dedicated vegan, I recently began incorporating fish, chicken, and even a bit of dairy and eggs into my diet. In celebration of what I deem to be positive changes in my diet and the upcoming 4th of July holiday, I want to share this recipe with you once again.

I realize that this may come as a shock to many of my devout vegan followers. I have not posted in over a month because it has been difficult to form the words to express this decision. Well... not so difficult to form the words as I have written over 3000 rambling words for all of the reasons I brought specific foods back into my diet, but the editing is the hard part. I will be sharing all of my reasons with you very soon, but in the mean time please continue to follow The Conscious Kitchen as my fundamental beliefs of healthy eating have not changed. I still believe strongly in a diet made up mostly of the foods that nurture our bodies. Our diets should be heavily weighted towards eating fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains, cooking at home, and minimizing processed foods. I have never ceased preparing moderate quantities of foods such as poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs for my family. I have recently embraced this more moderate approach to clean cooking and lifestyle that I have successfully tested on my family, and it is agreeing with me. As such, I will be re-posting old requested favorites from the poultry, fish, and dessert categories in the next couple of weeks.


From June 2012

Not all of the food that I make is healthy. I have a family to cook for and I try not to live in a warped world expecting everyone to abide by my own restrictions. I believe that if you deprive your kids of sugar and other unnecessary foods, they will only rebel and want them even more. There is the additional factor that they will more than likely indulge in sweets and processed foods when they are at their friend's homes and develop unhealthy eating habits as a result. I know that I cannot expect my children to give up certain foods so I try to teach them about the ingredients instead. If you arm them with the knowledge of the affects they have on your body and the importance of moderation, they might make better choices on their own. When it comes to serious junk food like nacho cheese corn chips or day glow candy, I don't say no but try to present a better offer like chocolate chips cookies that we can make together instead.

My daughter asked me to make her a vanilla cake with fresh strawberries for her 6th birthday party. This was not an unfair request from a child who knows that her mother was once a pastry chef. I am ashamed to admit that I have made a birthday cake for my kids only once before. She loves strawberry shortcake and wanted her cake to be a variation of one. I wanted it to be as fuss free as possible. The result fit the bill and could only have been improved by being served with a fresh strawberry sauce and my not over baking the cakes.

I started with a variation of a classic 1-2-3-4 cake; 1 cup of milk, 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of flour, and 4 eggs. It is a tender and moist yellow cake with a golden buttery crust that is about as easy as a cake can be to make that does not start with a mix from a box. To assemble it, I made a very simple vanilla buttercream frosting and filled the center with fresh sliced strawberries. The key to making a cake like this, or anything you cook, taste good is to use the best quality ingredients that are available to you. 

No frosting required. This is a great cake to make for a simple dessert or tea. Serve it with fresh seasonal fruit, a drizzle of raw honey, and freshly whipped cream or plain yogurt. Personally, I prefer it this way.

1-2-3-4 Cake

Recipe makes 2  9 inch round cakes, 3  8 inch round cakes, or 1  9 x 13 inch rectangular cake.

Adapted from Classic Home Desserts (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1994) by Richard Sax

For all of the ingredients, please use only those that are organic or pesticide free.

3 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon aluminum free baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted sweet butter, softened
2 cups sugar  (I used organic sugar which is a bit grainier and a natural color)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 egg, room temperature
2 1/4 cups buttermilk or mixture of plain yogurt and milk
12-24 strawberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup raspberries
  vanilla buttercream frosting
  strawberry sauce

Take the butter, eggs, and buttermilk out of the refrigerator for at least an hour to give them time to soften and come to room temperature before commencing with the recipe.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Line the bottom of the pan or pans with parchment paper. Do this by laying the paper in the pan and creasing it into the sides and corners to mark the shape. Remove the paper from the pan and use scissors to cut it to fit.

Measure the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Sift these dry ingredients through a strainer or with a sifter. Set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar together until it is creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the vanilla.

Set the mixer to a low speed and add the eggs one at time allowing them to fully incorporate after each addition.

Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately, starting and ending with the flour.

Divide the batter into the prepared pan or pans. If using more than one pan, I like to weigh them to be certain that they are even.

Bake on the center rack of the oven until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Cool completely.

If you are preparing a layer cake, it is best to trim the edges and top of the cakes with a serrated knife before assembling. It does not have to be perfect but taking the crisp edges off will make a better finished product.

Put the bottom layer of cake on a plate or board. Use an offset spatula to apply a thin layer of the frosting to the sides and top of the the cake. Smooth it to cover the crumb completely then add a little more to the top. Use the offset spatula to further smooth and even the frosting.

Lay the berries evenly over the top of the frosting without overlapping, but not leaving much space between them. The number of strawberries will depend on the size of the cake and if you choose to use raspberries and blueberries as well. Carefully spread an additional thin layer of frosting over the berries.

Put the other trimmed layer of cake on top of the filling. Continue with the top layer as you did with the bottom putting additional frosting to fill any gaps between the two cakes.

Refrigerate for about 20 minutes so the frosting can set.

Spread additional frosting over the top and sides of the cake covering any previously missed spots. Smooth to desired appearance.

Remaining frosting can be piped decoratively (round tip for dots, star tip for shell, or leaf tip for leaves) around the edges of the cake if you wish.

Pile the remaining strawberries onto the top of the cake allowing them to fall as they will. Carefully do the same with the blueberries and raspberries so they do not roll right off.

If making a day in advance, store in the refrigerator. Allow at least 2-3 hours to come to room temperature before serving.

Serve with Strawberry Sauce for if desired.


Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

This is a very simple frosting to make. The vanilla can be replaced with lemon or orange juice to change the flavor. Using a good quality organic butter will make the frosting taste infinitely better.

1 cup (2 sticks) sweet unsalted butter, softened
3 cups confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Add the vanilla and whipping cream. Beat for another 30 seconds.

Strawberry Sauce
2 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) strawberries
1/3-1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon or orange zest
1-2 teaspoons lemon or orange juice

Put all of the ingredients into a blender and puree. For a more delicate sauce strain through a sieve. Taste to adjust the flavor.

Categories: Cakes & Pies, Desserts, Spring & Summer

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