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Author Notes: This recipe was developed for a friend of mine who was a non-baker. Using a box cake mix as a base, I tweak the ingredients and ratios. But essentially it's a very easy cake to make with a wow factor. This cake’s “specialness” is in the frosting. It originated from a time when I was experimenting with the flavors of whiskeys.
Butter cream based frostings hate the heat. They will melt. Doesn’t do well at picnics. It will happily keep in the fridge for a few days. This cake is super-rich in flavor and texture. Works great for a ladies’ tea or a meeting of the Garden & Gun club or the finale of an Indian Summer barbeque. —Christina Ward
Serves about 12
- 4 egg whites (5 or 6 if small eggs)
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 2 cans evaporated milk
- 2 boxes "white cake mix" DO NOT FOLLOW ANY DIRECTIONS ON BOX
- 1/4 cup butter for pan prep
- 1/4 cup cup flour for pan prep
- 3 8 or 9 inch round cake pans
- Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Into a large bowl, mix melted butter and evaporated milk.
- In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until they just begin to “foam”. The goal is to add volume to the egg whites.
- Fold beaten egg whites into the butter and milk mixture. Mix thoroughly.
- Now add in the box cake mix. Stir until smooth.
- As the batter rests, butter and flour your pans. Yes, you have to; no you can’t use the spray stuff- this is not a low-fat recipe.
- Pour the batter into pans until about 2/3 full. Shove it in the oven.
- Have cocktail.
- Cakes should bake for about 25 to 35 minutes, but as ovens and pans vary you should check them at 20 minutes and about every five minutes after. Your cake is done when a butter knife slides in and out of the middle without leaving any gooey batter on the blade. (Hey! Don’t lick that knife- you’re going to use it later and you might cut you tongue!) Remove cake from oven and let cool in pans for about 10 minutes. Then remove the cakes from their respective pans and place onto wire racks to cool completely. HINT: If your cakes seem to be cooking crookedly, your oven is emitting heat unevenly. If your cake has a pointy little middle (like a Devo hat), the oven temperature is too hot regardless of what it is set at; reduce by 25 degrees. I the edges seem to be cooking faster than the middle; reduce temperature by 25 degrees and move cake to different rack. Most ovens have a “hot spot”- avoid it.)
- While your cake is cooling you should make your frosting.
Jack Daniels Buttercream
- 2 pounds real artery clogging butter
- 1/2 cup baker's sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons Jack Daniels
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 cups confectioner's sugar
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- Here's the tools you'll need: Small copper or heavy bottom saucepan Electric beaters or a not-too-bright helper Hand whisk Sifter Rubber Spatula Large, bread type knife
- This is not difficult, but it is putzy. So take your time and have fun. There is always the baker’s canard of reading recipes all the way through before starting…because here’s the part where I tell you that your butter should be room temperature. Which means you should have taken it out of the fridge a few hours ago. If you haven’t read through and are swearing- put the butter into a bowl and pop into the microwave for about 10 to 20 seconds. Stir thoroughly. That should give you the “room temperature” consistency you need.
- Cream the butter with electric mixer or gullible helper. Add ½ teaspoon salt. Beat until fully creamed. Add 1/3 cup Heavy Cream and beat until fully creamed. Add in 2 teaspoons of vanilla. Beat again. Add 2 cups of sifted powdered sugar. Beat until completely creamed. (Many professional bakers have Popeye arms- this is why.) Set creamed butter aside.
- Into your sauce pan pour you Jack Daniels and heat under medium flame until you can smell a “peaty” scent. Add the ½ cup of Baker’s Sugar. Stir vigorously with whisk. Keep stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Really, you need to stand over it and stir. Take it off the heat as soon as it is dissolved into syrup stage. Too much time over the heat and it will burn or caramelize. That’s bad. Keep stirring, even as you take it off the heat. You want to aerate the mixture. It’s fragile. Keep stirring it until it cools down. When Jack Daniels syrup is cooled to the touch, pour into the butter mixture. Beat some more. The end result will be a delicately whiskey colored butter cream frosting with a hint of the peaty whiskey flavor.
- HOW TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE: Cookbooks always tell you to make sure your cake is completely cooled before you frost: There’s a reason! Butter cream frosting on a warm cake will MELT.
- The first step in assembly is prepping your cakes. Use the knife to trim the rounded tops of your cakes. Flat surfaces are easier to layer and frost. Scoop out a generous spoonful of frosting into a small bowl. Use this to dip your cake scraps into and snack away; don’t tell anyone.)
- Your goal is to make the cakes as level as possible. Now take your level cakes and carefully cut them in half. (Not across; but through the circumference.) You can use your knife. An old trick is to take dental floss (unwaxed), circle it around the cake evenly, and then carefully pull the ends. Kind of like a baking garrote- you essential “strangle” the cake.
- Lay two pieces of parchment on your cake plate, abutted. Put your bottom layer on top of the parchment. (When you’re done frosting; carefully pull out the parchment and voila! Perfecto!)
- Take your big bowl of frosting and using a large tablespoon and your spatula, lay an even layer of frosting down. Not too thick, not too thin. We’ll be building up to 4 or 6 layers- depends on how far your frosting goes and how ambitious you are.
- Repeat this build/layering process until you have a tower of cakes.
- Butter cream is a heavy frosting. It works best in steps. First we apply a “crumb coat”. This is the thin coat of frosting that you use to absorb your crumbs and develop a base. Work from the bottom to the top.
- Again, working from the bottom. Apply your second coat. This one should be thicker and smoother. This is where we make it pretty. Smooth the sides first, then the top. If you don’t have a frosting blade, use a spatula.
- Place cake into fridge to “firm up” and settle. Serve to astonished friends with high-tea.