I got two pieces of baking equipment for Christmas this year. You might think I have all the equipment in the world at my disposal, but I continually edit to keep it all from piling up around me. At one point, my kitchen gear took up not only my kitchen and an adjacent closet, but half the garage as well! I love all the fun pans and gadgets, but a few years ago, in an effort to make room for the car, I pleaded with my family, “no more equipment!” Then I pared back to the equipment I deemed essential for my kitchen. Much of the excess was given to baking students eager to fill their kitchens, and some was donated to charity. I could even park the car in the garage! But recently, I found myself positively wistful for some new equipment or decorating tools. So I was both surprised and elated when I received two pieces of equipment for the holidays…an Ebelskiver pan and a Giant Cupcake Pan.
The giant cupcake is a party in a pan. Huge, with a full-on wink toward the little individual versions (isn’t that the point of a cupcake?), this is definitely centerpiece material. The pan has two compartments, one for the cone-like top of the cupcake, and the other for the fluted bottom portion. Once cooled, you stack them, gluing them together with icing. Kids and adults alike go crazy for its damn-the-diet, behemoth appearance, and I have to admit, it sure is cute. The only drawback is that the top of the cake looks like a mound of frosting, which begs the question – where does the real (Rebecca, italics “real”) dome of frosting go? Because, let’s face it, frosting is at least half the reason we eat cupcakes. If you frost only the outside of the giant cupcake, there’s just not enough of the gooey stuff to be satisfying. But if you slice each piece of the cake in two and fill them with frosting, then finish the outside with a thin layer of frosting, you get a moist, 4-layer, towering, Texas-size cupcake that will satisfy everyone.
I’ve included the Classic Yellow Layer Cake recipe from the book below that is perfect for layer cakes (or even standard-size cupcakes), and it works very well in the giant cupcake pan. You’ll need to double the recipe for enough batter to fill the giant cupcake pan – and because there are a couple of pan sizes out there, take care to only fill the pan 2/3 full. Any excess batter can be used for small cupcakes or a cake on the side. The deep giant cupcake pan will take longer to bake than the shallow cake pans of the recipe, so be sure to test with a toothpick and look for visual clues instead of relying on the baking time included in the recipe.
When I saw the ebelskiver pan, it took me right back to childhood and family visits to Solvang in central California, a Disney-esque version of a Danish city, replete with, thatch-roofed buildings, pricey boutiques, and lots and lots of ebelskivers and petit fours. I’m quite sure they served other things in the city as well, but even before my pastry career began, I was focused on the sweets. Ebelskivers are small balls of light dough surrounding a center of jam. Served warm from the pan and showered with powdered sugar, they are a true delight. I’d never thought to make them at home, but suddenly I had not only a craving, but also just the pan for the job. I jumped up, made my favorite pancake batter, got out some fabulous Italian sour cherry jam (another lovely gift), and tried out the pan then and there. Yum! They were better than anything I’d ever eaten in Solvang. And it was so fun! Guess what we’re having New Year’s morning? As I make my new year’s resolutions for 2009, having fun in the kitchen is definitely near the top of the list. I hope it’s on yours as well. Keep on baking!
This is my final posting for this fall-into-winter baking blog that celebrates the world of pastry and the book The Art and Soul of Baking. The postings will be up for quite a while to come, so check back when you need a recipe, or want to read up on topics or specific postings that you’ve missed. And if you know kids who enjoy baking, or want to learn, look for another great book from myself and Sur La Table on kids baking due out next fall. It'll have some dynamite recipes and step-by-step instructions for the next generation of bakers. It’s been a pleasure sharing my love of baking with you. Keep the comments and questions coming. You can contact me at cindy (at) cindymushet (dot) com. Best wishes to everyone for a happy and treat-filled new year!More Happy New Year ideas and recipes follow after the jump
Classic Yellow Layer Cake
Serves 8 to 10
This buttery, vanilla-scented cake is a variation on pound cake, with a little extra leavener added to lighten the crumb. Although nearly any frosting pairs well with this celebration favorite, it is especially luscious filled and frosted with silken chocolate ganache for the two-toned birthday cake most of us remember from childhood. Cream cheese frosting is also a lovely dance partner to this tender, flavorful cake when you want something lighter in color, tangy in flavor, or just easy to color for some decorating fun.
Equipment: 9 by 1¾-inch Round Cake Pan, Stand Mixer Fitted with a Paddle Attachment or a Hand Mixer and a Medium Bowl, Silicone or Rubber Spatula, Small Bowl, Fine-Mesh Strainer, Medium Bowl, Whisk, Cooling Rack, Two (9-inch) Round Cake Cardboards or Tart Pan Bottoms, Thin and Flexible Knife or Spatula, Serrated Knife, Icing Spatula, Thin and Sharp Knife
- 1½ sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened (65° to 68°F)
- ¾ cup (5¼ ounces) sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups (7 ounces) sifted cake flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¹⁄³ cup (3 ounces) sour cream, at room temperature
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and position an oven rack in the center. Lightly coat the pan with melted butter, oil or high-heat canola-oil spray and dust with flour, tapping out any excess.
- Cream the butter with the sugar: Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of the stand mixer and beat on medium until very light—almost white—in color, 4 to 5 minutes. You can also use a hand mixer and a medium bowl, although you may need to beat the mixture a little longer to achieve the same results. Scrape down the bowl with the spatula.
- Add the eggs: Beat the eggs and vanilla in the small bowl to blend. With the mixer on medium, add the eggs to the butter mixture about 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each addition to completely blend in before adding the next. About halfway through, turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl, then resume adding the eggs. Scrape down the bowl again.
- Add the dry and wet ingredients alternately: With the fine-mesh strainer, sift the cake flour, baking soda, and salt into the medium bowl and whisk together. With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the flour mixture and the sour cream alternately, beginning with one-third of the flour mixture and half the sour cream; repeat, then finish with flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl and finish blending the batter by hand, if necessary.
- Bake the cake: Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Storing: The cake can be stored at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Be sure to remove it from the refrigerator at least 1 hour before serving to allow the cake and frosting to soften to the perfect eating consistency. Once cut, there is no need to wrap the whole cake with plastic; simply press a piece of plastic wrap firmly against the cut surfaces to keep the cake fresh.
Classic White Layer Cake: Same delicious flavor, but with a soft white crumb that is especially appropriate for baby showers, weddings, and tea cakes. Follow the recipe, but substitute 4 large egg whites for the 3 whole eggs.
Yellow or White Cupcakes: Bake the yellow or white batter in a standardsize muffin tin lined with paper cupcake liners, filling each cup to ¼ inch from the top of the liner. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. You’ll need just ½ recipe of the ganache to frost the cupcakes. Makes about 12 cupcakes.
Mini Yellow or White Cupcakes: Bake the yellow or white batter in a mini-muffin tin lined with mini-cupcake liners, filling each cup with 1 tablespoon of batter to ¼ inch from the top of the liner. Bake for 11 to 14 minutes, until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Makes about 50 mini cupcakes.
Tools of the Trade:
- Round Cake Boards
- Tapered Icing Spatula
- Silicone Egg Whisk
- Wilton® Giant Cupcake Cake Pan
- Nordic Ware® Nonstick Ebelskiver Pan
Recipes and Photos are reprinted with permission from Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC. The Art and Soul of Baking © copyright 2008 by Sur La Table, Inc.