Vanilla Buttercream Cake with Candied Kumquats
Oh, hi there. Have you been looking for me? Has Martine kept you entertained? I have been slightly busy, um, having an unbelievably satisfying baby and all.
I promised myself that I wouldn’t bore you by posting about how I spend my days making goo-goo eyes at the baby and how incredible she is and how she eats and sleeps and snuggles and smells so much like baby powder and warm milk and laundry detergent and goodness and how lovely it is when she curls up like a kitten and falls asleep on my chest and how I don’t even care what my hair looks like (yes, I did actually care before). I swore to myself that I just would not do it.
I also swore to myself that I would not disappear into a world where all I do is bake sweet, gooey things like lemon bars and shortbread and chocolate dump-it cake and lemon poppy seed bread, but when I close my eyes all I see is sweets and sugar and flour and goodness.
My first meal back at the helm was last night and in an attempt at savory love, I made a delicious (if somewhat overly thick) three-mushroom soup inspired by a Balthazar recipe. I paired it with a very healthy green salad and a homemade balsamic-dijon vinaigrette and a warm crusty baguette. I even took pictures and wrote down the recipe as I went. However, when I wrapped up my 13-day-old bundle of goodness, put her in her strategically placed infant stroller (“pram” around these parts – I’m surrounded by Brits at the moment) and fired up the old laptop, my heart just wasn’t in it. I just really wanted to show off pictures of the baby, her name is Powers, by the way, and photographs of cookies and cakes and bars and cupcakes and other delicious, snacky things like her fingers and toes.
So instead I decided to share the most delicious and pleasing-to-make cake. I made this three days before Powers was born because our daughter, Gracie, loves kumquats and our son, Teddy, loves the English tradition of tea time….and an old-fashioned Vanilla cake with candied kumquats from our garden fit the bill to make them both very, very happy.
This cake looks like–and tastes like–sunshine and goodness and happy weekends and friends and beautiful new baby girls.
Thank you for being here today. Thank you for waiting for me.
- 3 3/4 cups (375 g) cake flour
- 2 1/2 (500 g) cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon (14 g) plus 2 3/4 teaspoons (38 g) baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) salt
- 2 1/2 sticks (285 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) plus 1/3 cup (80 ml) buttermilk
- 5 whole eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 1/2 teaspoons (12 ml) vanilla extract
- Liquid reserved from candied kumquats and orange zest
- 1 cup (200 g) sugar
- 4 large egg whites
- 26 tablespoons (370 g) unsalted butter, softened (3 sticks plus 2 tablespoons)
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon (2 ml) almond extract
- Candied Kumquats
- Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C. Line the bottom of three 8" round cake tins with a round of parchment paper and spray with Bakers Joy or another baking spray.
- Add the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt to a large mixer bowl. Using the paddle mixer, blend for 30 seconds on low. Add the butter and blend for 30 seconds. Add the 1 1/4 cup (300 ml) of the buttermilk and blend on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.
- Whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and the remaining 1/3 cup (80 ml) buttermilk until blended. Pour one-third of the egg mixture into the cake batter. Blend on low for 30 seconds. Add another third and blend for 30 seconds and then add the final third and blend for 30-60 seconds until fully mixed. Pour the batter evenly into the two cake tins.
- Bake for 26 to 28 minutes, or until the cake starts to turn a golden color and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let cake sit for 10 minutes, then place a cooling rack ON TOP of the cake pan. Turn the pan and the cooling rack upside down and lift the cake tin off of the top of the now cooked cake sitting on the cooling rack. Let cool completely, then top with a cardboard cake board, flip the cooling rack and cardboard cake board so that the cooling rack is now on top and the cake is sitting on top of the cardboard cake board. Wrap in plastic wrap WITH the cardboard cake board and freezer for at least 24 hours.
- Before frosting, remove the cake from the freezer and let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours. Using a pastry brush, brush the top of the cake with the reserved liquid from the orange zest and kumquats. Let sit for an hour before frosting the cake.
- Combine your egg whites and sugar into a large metal bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of just barely boiling water and whisk until the sugar granules dissolve. About 5 minutes.
- Pour the egg and sugar mixture into a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk for about 4 minutes until the mixture turns white and doubles in size.
- Add the vanilla and almond extracts.
- Add the butter two-tablespoons at a time and whip until the mixture is white and the consistency of room temperature cream cheese.
- Divide your icing into two even bowls. Place the bottom layer of the cake on a cake stand. Scantily cover it with frosting from bowl 1 and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Remove from refrigerator, add a large portion of what is remaining from bowl 1 to the top of the bottom layer (what will be the middle of the cake) then place the remaining cake layer on top of that one. Scantily cover that layer as well with frosting and refrigerate again. That should be the end of the icing in bowl 1. When you remove the cake from the refrigerator next you should have two layers that are very barely iced with about a 1/2" of frosting in the middle of the cake. The icing will harden in the refrigerator and will make it easier to add the decorative frosting to the exterior of the cake.
- Using all of the icing in bowl 2 frost the entire cake. When you are done you can take an offset spatula and, dipping it in warm water, use it to lightly pass over the entire cake and it will smooth the icing.
- Use the candied kumquats and orange zest to decorate as you like.
- Bake the cake at least 36 hours in advance of wanting to serve it. You need to freeze it overnight at least to give it the moist and dense texture that makes it work.
- This is my go-to vanilla cake recipe. I have not had tremendous success using it as a cupcake mix though I have certainly tried a number of times. I have made this cake at least a dozen times though including with no measuring utensils in France as a surprise wedding cake for my friends Julie and Banks. It is delicious. Easy to make and gets "wows!" from the crowd. I recommend saving this and making this the only vanilla cake you make from here out.
- Lastly: This buttercream recipe comes from smittenkitchen.com and is the easiest buttercream recipe you will find....anywhere. I have tried several and 1. this one is easier than any other recipe I have found and 2. this one is better than any other recipe I have found. So...thank you Deb!
- 2 cups (475 ml) water
- 2 cups (400 g) sugar
- 1 large handful of Kumquats
- 1 orange
- Slice the kumquats into thin circles - about the width of a nickel (or a £1 coin)
- Using a zesting tool make long strips of orange zest.
- Heat the water and sugar over high heat until it comes to a boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the kumquats and orange zest and simmer for 10-12 minutes. You want them to be sweet but not too hard.
- Drain and separate the kumquats and orange zest using a sieve over a bowl preserving the liquid for another use.