Fall seems to have gone away here in MA. It's been extremely cold, the wind has blown off all the leaves, and I've even gotten my winter coat and gloves out. I haven't put away my flip flops just yet though, and the cold is a great excuse to stay in the kitchen with the oven on.
I love my kitchen. I don't like the uneven floors or the uneven ceiling or the wall paper with the kissing cows, but I love my kitchen. For me, the kitchen is where you live - where you eat, where you talk with friends and family, where you start your day, where life happens. It's the most important room of the house.
This cake was for my friend Colin's birthday: poppy seed cake with a cream cheese frosting and toasted almond filling, covered in a thick layer of chocolate frosting. I don't think the chocolate frosting and poppy seed cake pairing would be my first choice, but it was yummy, and a little different which is always nice.
Poppyseed Cake (adapted from Baking for All Occasions by Flo Braker)
Makes 1 three-layer 8" cake or 1 two-layer or 1 three-layer 9" cake. If your cake pans are 1.5" high rather than a full 2" high, be sure to do three layers.
335 grams cake flour (about 3 cups)
1 scant tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup poppy seeds
1 tablepoon vanilla bean paste (or abstract)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
18 2/3 tablespoons butter (2 sticks plus 2 2/3 tablespoons), room temperature
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup egg whites (about 5-6 egg whites from large eggs), lightly beaten, room temperature
Click here for the measurements for 1 9" x 13" sheet cake.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray cake pans with baking spray, line with parchment, and spray again.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Heat the milk until tepid; stir in vanilla bean paste and buttermilk. Cool to room temperature.
Add the poppy seeds and lemon juice, and stir.
Cream the butter on medium speed until light in color, 1-2 minutes. Add the sugar in a steady stream, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Continue to beat until fluffy and very light in color, about 3-5 minutes.
Add the egg whites, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, beating until fully incorporated after each addition. If at any time the batter appears watery or shiny or starts to curdle, beat at high speed until smooth again before adding more egg whites.
On low, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk mixture in two additions. Begin and end with the dry ingredients. Scrape down sides of bowl frequently.
Divide the batter between the prepared pans, and bake until a toothpick comes out clean. The cake should spring back when lightly touched in the center, and it should be just starting to come away from the pan, 30-40 minutes for 8" cake.
Cool in pan for about 10 minutes, then remove from pan (run a knife gently around the edge of the pan to help release), and cool upright on cooling racks.
This cake is best used within the next 24 hours; wrap tightly in plastic wrap (when cool) if not using immediately. I haven't frozen this particular cake, but I frequently freeze cakes (before I frost, and then I also freeze fully frosted leftovers), and I imagine it would freeze well for up to a month or so.
Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from Martha Stewart)
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Beat the cream cheese on medium for 1-2 minutes until smooth. Be sure to use cream cheese at room temperature.
Add butter, and cream until smooth, another 1-2 minutes.
Add powdered sugar slowly at low speed, and beat until fully combined. Add vanilla extract.
Beat frosting on medium speed until smooth and fluffy. Transfer to an airtight container, and chill until firm and spreadable. You can freeze any leftover frosting, but use a nice thick layer to fill this cake.
Chocolate Frosting (adapted from Chocolate Chocolate's Old-fashioned frosting)
Makes enough frosting for filling and frosting a three-layer 8" cake or two-layer 9" cake.
9 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid
Large pinch of Kosher salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
6-7 cups powdered sugar, sifted
3/4 cup milk, heated to tepid
Beat butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes.
Blend in the melted chocolate, salt, vanilla, and 1 cup powdered sugar.
Add in the rest of the powdered sugar in three additions, alternating with the milk in two additions (begin and end with the powdered sugar). Add more powdered sugar for heavier (this may be necessary if you want to pipe your frosting) frosting, or more milk for a creamier frosting.
Use the frosting immediately. You will probably have some extra frosting (you can probably get away with refrigerating the extra frosting for up to one day; beat again to soften, adding a tablespoon or two of milk if necessary).
*If you plan to pipe decorations with the frosting, you may want to use all 8 ounces unsweetened chocolate and add an extra 1/2 - 1 cup extra powdered sugar, especially in warm weather.
To Assemble the Cake:
Toast about 1/2 cup of slivered almonds at 300°F for 5-10 minutes until golden brown (use more or less almonds as desired).
Level each cake layer (this may not be necessary with this cake). Place 1 cake layer on a cardboard cake round or cake plate protected by strips of wax paper or parchment paper. Spread with a thick layer of cream cheese frosting, leaving a slight border at the outside edge; strew one third of the toasted almonds over the filling. Place another layer on top of the first layer. Spread with another thick layer of filling and top with half of the remaining toasted almonds. Top with remaining cake layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the chocolate frosting and the rest of the almonds.