I’m gonna sit here and complain about something that pretty much everyone has to deal with, and you’re gonna listen. All set?
I can’t get the cakes I make to look like the ones in my head. In there, there’s no effort, no mess. I sweep my hands across the counter a couple of times like a weird little frosting magician, and boom: there’s a cake. The perfect cake. The inside is moist, the outside looks like it’s carved out of freaking alabaster; hell, even the lighting is perfect.
But as soon as I try to make it in real life, it all goes wrong. The last cake I tried to make looked less like a cake and a lot more like a meth lab with added sugar. And yes, maybe I tried to add some things I shouldn’t have to the icing, and maybe some of those things (preserved lemons, for those of you keeping score in this completely hypothetical example) utterly destroyed the integrity of said icing and melted it beyond recognition. The point is, in my head it looked perfect, and in real life it looks like poop.
And I’m sick of the disparity between the two.
So this week I sat down, got mad, and threw enough powdered sugar at my mixer to take a diabetic’s leg clean off. And yes, I’m aware that it’s insane to be angry at a pastry, or have…really any feelings towards a pastry, but I was in full-on Spartacus at the gates mode here. It was war time.
Maybe there were speeches made to my spatula at 1 am, but we’re gonna keep that between ourselves.
Put the milk, egg whites, and vanilla extract in a bowl and mix with a fork, just until combined. We’re not trying to make a meringue here, don’t go foaming it up like it’s a bubble bath.
Use the whisk attachment on your stand mixer to slowly whisk together the dry stuff: flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
Add the butter in with the dry stuff and beat on low with a paddle attachment for a couple minutes until combined. Again, don’t beat the crap out of it.
Set aside a ½ cup of the wet stuff, then pour the rest into the stand mixer and mix with the dry ingredients for a minute and a half on medium. Add the rest and mix for another minute.
Spray two 8-inch cake pans with non-stick and line them with parchment, then spray the parchment too and pour in the cake batter. Yes, it’s a lot of spraying, but it’s worth it not to have to scrape cake chunks out of the pan and try to re-assemble them like a fat, disgusting version of a Disney sitcom.
Stick them in the oven for about 25 minutes, and give them the toothpick to check if they’re ready. If not, bake for 5 minute intervals until the cakes are good to go.
Let the cakes cool for 5 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and let them cool to room temperature. Once they’re cool, wrap them with plastic wrap and stick ‘em in the fridge while you do the frosting. That’ll make them easier to frost, and help you avoid the whole “piecing together your cake failure at odd hours of the morning” scenario.
For the frosting, add the butter and powdered sugar into a stand mixer and mix on low until combined. Mix in the vanilla too.
Add the cream and lemon juice to a small bowl, whisk together, then add to the stand mixer and mix it in. If the frosting’s too stiff, just whisk together another teaspoon of cream with a ½ teaspoon of lemon juice, and keep repeating until you have the right consistency.
Slice off the top of one layer so you have a flat top, then frost it. Make sure you put plenty of frosting on top so you get that nice in-betweeny, creamy layer. You know what I’m talking about.
Put the other layer on top, frost it, and arrange the strawberries on top. If you do the strawberries you’re gonna have to refrigerate the cake after you’re done eating, but it’s worth it. Trust me.