At a restaurant, I love to peruse the menu and think about what the people at the table with me will order. It’s too bad that this isn’t a game in Vegas, because—frankly—I’m prett-y, prett-y good at it. When it comes to predicting Kevin’s order, I’m usually spot-on. And, while I’d love to claim prescience, it’s not exactly rocket science: he’s a man who knows what he likes. If there’s anything on the menu involving deep-frying, a delicious steak or molten-chocolate-ness, you can safely bet Kevin will find it, order it and love it. (At this point, I should mention that Kevin is, inexplicably, quite thin and in very good health. We don’t recommend, however, that you try this at home.)
So, when Kevin lodged a very specific request for his birthday cake—white cake with chocolate frosting—I knew better than to deviate. But, predictably, I had to gussy it up just a little bit, which led me to a vanilla bean cake with chocolate ganache frosting. I ran it by the boss, of course, and he graciously granted his consent.
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)
Good thing, too, because it was delicious. Appropriately, it was a cake that practically screamed birthday. Its festive four layers lent a towering height that demanded a crown of flickering birthday candles. And its decadent frosting all but begged the birthday boy (or the baker) to swipe a furtive finger-tip-ful for himself (or herself). And its delicate, fragrantly vanilla cake layers played perfectly against its jacket of deep, dark ganache. It was a happy birthday to Kevin, indeed.
Vanilla Bean Cake
1 cup buttermilk
1⁄2 cup whole milk
9 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 vanilla bean, scraped
4 1⁄2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
2 1⁄4 cups sugar
Preheat oven to 350.
Butter and flour two 9- inch round cake pans, tapping out excess flour; set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, milk, egg whites, and vanilla extract and beans; set aside. In another bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
In an electric mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugar and beat until combined, about 2 minutes.
Working in several batches, alternately add the flour mixture and milk mixture, ending with milk mixture. Beat after each addition until the mixture is just combined.
Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cakes are beginning to brown around the edges and a tester comes out clean.
Let cakes cool in their pans on a rack for about 5 minutes. Remove the cakes from their pans and allow to cool completely.
If the cakes are domed, slice off the domed portion to create a flat cake. Slice each cake horizontally into two even rounds. Set one of the four layers on a cake stand, slipping pieces of parchment paper between the layer and the stand. Using an offset spatula, slather the top of the cake layer with frosting. Top it with another layer and repeat with the next two layers. Finally, place the fourth (last) layer on top and heap on the remaining frosting. Smooth the frosting out over the top and down onto the sides of the cake.
Allow the cake to set for at least an hour before slicing and serving.
Chocolate Ganache frosting recipe here (note: I made 1.5 times this recipe and had a perfect amount to ice the four layers).