Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake

Guess what? Rayna Takes the Cake officially turns 2 years old today! If you want to see some really, um, interesting food photography (these, this, or those) and read more about my life after freshman year in high school you can head on back to the beginnings. It’s crazy to think that I’ve already had RTTC for 2 entire years, because when you are in high school, that’s practically an eternity. I’ve had so much fun baking and taking pictures and sharing recipes with you guys and I can’t wait to continue for many years to come!

_D320276I’m still in Canada and I’m just loving it. The people that I’ve met here are so amazing that I don’t want to even think about leaving! I’ll be back in the states on Sunday though, but I won’t be in the kitchen baking. Instead, I’ll be doing more music programs, but this time in New York City, which should be a blast. Not to mention that one of my great friends is joining me. I think I did a pretty good job planning out my summer, don’t you think?

_D320284In order to celebrate RTTC turning 2 years old, I knew I needed to make something spectacular. While I could have made something more culinar-ily (that is clearly a word) complex, layer cakes just have a special meaning that shouts celebration. I’ve made some layer cakes in the past, and clearly RTTC turning 2 called for another one. After making one of Sweetapolita’s incredible cakes for my brother’s birthday last year, I knew exactly where to go to find a delicious layer cake that would fit the bill for such an amazing occasion.

_D320289 2You start out with a simple vanilla bean cake recipe, and the amazing black dots of true vanilla bean are what bring it all together, and something that vanilla extract can’t exactly replace. Then, I made a latte Swiss meringue buttercream, using espresso powder and some cinnamon. I was especially proud because this was my first SMBC, and now I understand why it’s so popular. I’ll never need copious amounts of powdered sugar again! I filled one layer and the outside with SMBC, but then I took some Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter (so incredible) and heated it with some soymilk because why not. Finally, I just melted some chocolate (I probably should have made a ganache, though) and spread it on top to literally top it off. While I would recommend making this for a crowd, but I understand if you want it all to yourself. 🙂 Enjoy!

Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake

Ingredients

For the Cake:
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks)(341 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2-2/3 cups (540 g) granulated sugar
  • 9 (275 g) egg whites, at room temperature
  • 4-1/2 cups (570 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons (22 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (6 g) salt
  • 2 cups (480 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean, split & scraped
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
For the Buttercream:
  • 6 large egg whites (180 g)
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks)(340 g) unsalted butter, softened but cool, cut into cubes
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean, split & scraped or 1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) instant espresso powder (or to taste) dissolved into 1 teaspoon (5 ml) boiling water
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.5 g) cinnamon (or to taste)
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter three 8″ x 2″ round cake pans, line with parchment rounds, butter paper and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until lighter in color and slightly increased in volume, about 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the egg whites gradually, mixing until fully incorporated.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Mix vanilla extract and vanilla paste (or contents of vanilla bean) into buttermilk. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated or finish by hand gently.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. If possible, weigh the batter in each cake pan on a digital kitchen scale to ensure even layers. Smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake for about 30 minutes, rotating once after 20 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick or skewer comes clean. Try not to over-bake.
  5. Let pans cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.
For the Buttercream:
  1. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 160°F, or if you don’t have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
  2. With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes or so). *Don’t begin adding butter until the bottom of the bowl feels neutral, and not warm.
  3. Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth). *If mixture is too runny, refrigerate for about 15 minutes and continue mixing with paddle attachment until it comes together. Add espresso mixture, vanilla, cinnamon and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.
Assembly of the Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake:
  1. Place cooled cake layer on cake pedestal, or cake board, face-up. Spread 1 cup of buttercream on top using a small offset palette knife, leaving narrow border along outside edge.
  2. Gently place 2nd cake layer on top, and be sure to center it with bottom layer. Apply another 1 cup of buttercream and spread as you did the first layer.
  3. Gently place final cake layer on top, face-down (so the clean bottom side is facing up). Apply a final layer of buttercream.
  4. Fill a pastry bag fitted with decorative tip (I used Ateco #887), and pipe desired designs on cake to trim and decorate. Sprinkle sliced cake servings with cinnamon, and garnish with espresso beans (optional).

A perfect replacement addition to your morning cup of java. 🙂

-Rayna 🙂

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Vanilla Bean Pound Cake

I hope everyone is having a good week so far, and staying out of this ridiculously hot and humid weather we are having. This weather makes for not the most pleasant time at gymnastics, but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. Today we worked a lot on beam dismounts, which is probably my favorite thing about beam. These past 2 years I’ve competed a cartwheel-back tuck dismount off of the beam, but now that I’m working towards being a level 9, I clearly have to upgrade. So today I did a back tuck with a full twist, which was awesome! That is a weak level 9 dismount, but a level 9 dismount all the same. I’ve been working round-offs too, so hopefully I’ll be able to connect the two.

Music-wise, nothing new has been happening around here. My teacher is gone for the summer, although I will be taking lessons with a good family friend of ours. The last lesson I had with my teacher before she left to visit her family was spent fingering the music, but even spending a full hour on the music wasn’t long enough, because I still wasn’t able to get the second and third movements of the Handel viola concerto fingered. Since I’m at home training for gymnastics all summer, it’s really important for me to get ahead because during the school year the time that I have available to practice is very little.

However, this is a post about a vanilla bean pound cake from Smitten Kitchen. I’ve made other pound cakes before, but I thought that I should go back to the basics and make a plain, simple, vanilla bean pound cake. I actually ended up making these into mini-muffins because I wanted them to bake quickly, and they turned out simply adorable. I can tell you that every person in my US History class loved them, and were eating them handfuls at a time. I’ll take that as a compliment! 🙂

Vanilla Bean Pound Cake

Makes 2 9×5 Loafs, or 1 10′ bundt.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound vanilla sugar (recipe link here)
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 pound (9 large) eggs
  • 1 pound (4 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and prepare the baking dish of your choosing.
  2. In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Add in the eggs one by one until fully incorporated. Add in the vanilla extract. Add in the flour until just combined. You don’t want rubber cakes!
  3. Bake for and hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Enjoy!

So simple, so delicious. What’s not to love?

-Rayna 🙂

(I forgot to take picture of this one, sorry!)