diamonds and white velvet cake

In honor of my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary I made this cake I called “Diamonds and White Velvet.” Its base is a butter cake recipe adapted from The Cake Bible (1988) topped with a Quick Butter Cream Frosting and handfuls of coarse sugar patted all over for a sparkly effect! My sister wrote to the Queen and the Governor General of Canada, and both sent congratulatory messages.

We had quite an eclectic celebration menu. Everybody brought something! To start,  I made roasted garlic crostini and Dad made Jamaican shrimp fritters. Ardis made pork and egg, a Chinese family-style dish that’s a favorite. Dexter made caesars, a drink made with clamato and vodka.  Meng brought fish with vegetables in a spicy red sauce, and savory green beans, both Chinese. I also roasted a chicken with garlic and potatoes, made broccoli with orzo,  and sauteed spinach in lemon juice and onions. For dessert, we had this cake and rum-spiked fruit salad with mulled apple cider cocktails.

White Velvet Butter Cake (adapted from The Cake Bible)

Ingredients
4 1/2 egg whites (4 oz.)
1 cup milk
2 1/4 tsp. vanilla
3 cups sifted cake flour (3/4 cup all purpose flour+2 tablespoons cornstarch = 1
cup cake flour)
1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
Quick butter cream frosting
4 oz coarse sugar

Preparation
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease two 9×2 inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper then grease again and flour. Set aside.

In a medium bowl lightly combine the egg whites, milk and vanilla. Set aside. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk lightly and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add one-third of the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture. Beat until just combined. Add half the egg mixture and beat until just moistened. Scrape down the sides. Add half the remaining flour and beat until just combined. Add the remaining egg mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until just combined. There should be faint streaks of flour in the batter. Scrape down the sides.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surface with a spatula. The pans will be half full. Shift the pans back and forth on the counter top to release any air in the batter. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. The cakes should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven.

Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto greased wire racks. Remove the parchment paper. To prevent splitting, re-invert so that the top is up and cool completely before wrapping air tight for frosting. Frost with vanilla butter cream.

Decorate the frosted cake with coarse sugar. One-half cup (4 oz) will be just enough to decorate 2 frosted nine-inch layers. Place the cake on a wire cooling rack over a rimmed baking tray and pat handfuls of sugar all over the frosting. Re-use any sugar that falls through the rack onto the baking tray.

Quick Vanilla Butter Cream Frosting

Ingredients
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream or milk, if needed.

Preparation
In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.

Add vanilla and cream/milk and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

This is not too sweet. The frosting changed from yellow to white in the first three minutes. It was beautiful!

Here’s the recipe for the mulled apple cider cocktails:

Mulled Apple Cider Cocktails (by Alex Guarnaschelli in Food Network magazine)

1 quart apple cider (I used apple juice)
3 cinnamon sticks
1 knob fresh ginger, smashed
3 whole cloves
pinch of nutmeg
1 firm red apple (e.g. Rome, Fuji, or Gala), cut into small cubes
1 firm green apple (e.g. Granny Smith), cut into small cubes
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup sugar (can leave out sugar if using ginger ale, I think)
1x750ml bottle dry cava or other dry sparkling wine (can substitute ginger ale)

Preparation
Stir the cider, cinnamon sticks, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg in a pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool, then strain.

In a large bowl, toss the apples, lemon juice, and sugar. Add to the cider and refrigerate until chilled. When ready to serve the cocktails, fill champagne flutes about halfway with the cider mixture and top with the cava. Stir and serve.

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