vanilla-cardamom cake with vanilla-cardamom italian buttercream frosting

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This triple layer cake smells rich and wonderful with vanilla. Then the whole is frosted with an Italian butter cream frosting speckled with vanilla beans. An Italian butter cream uses a hot sugar syrup to sweeten the meringue. On a whim I added the initial “C” for Chitra’s birthday celebration today.

Vanilla-Cardamom Cake (adapted from Savory Simple)
10 1/2 ounces all purpose flour
3 ounces (9 tablespoons) cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cardamom
1 1/2 cups half and half (or 50% cream and 50% whole milk)
1/4 cup dark rum
1-3 tablespoons pure vanilla extract (add more or less to taste; I added 1 tablespoon)
9 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
21 ounces granulated sugar
6 large eggs, room temperature

Vanilla-Cardamom Butter Cream Frosting:
12 ounces granulated sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon corn syrup
5 egg whites
16 ounces (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
2  teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Prepare the cake
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place an oven rack in the middle position. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and mix in 1 tablespoon flour. Brush the flour mixture inside three 9 inch x 1 1/2 inch pans. Then cover bottoms with parchment rounds. Grease and flour the parchment rounds. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and cardamom in a medium bowl.

Cake Baker’s Note: Add 1-3 tablespoons vanilla extract to the half and half mixture.

In a separate small bowl, combine the half and half, brandy or rum, and vanilla.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium high speed for several minutes until light and fluffy. On low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, allowing each egg to incorporate before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer still on low speed, quickly alternate between adding the dry and liquid ingredients (ending with the dry) until just combined. Scrape down the sides well, making sure to reach the bottom of the bowl.

Distribute the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans, using a spatula to even out the tops. Tap pans lightly on the counter to dislodge any air bubbles.

Bake until the center springs back when lightly touched, approximately 25-35 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pan on wire cooling racks before unmolding.

Prepare the frosting
Add sugar, water and corn syrup to a medium sized sauce pan. Cover and turn the heat to high. Once the liquid begins to simmer and steam has developed, remove the cover (this helps prevent crystallization). Using a candy thermometer, cook the sugar to the soft boil stage, 235-240 degrees F.

While the sugar is cooking, whisk the egg whites on high in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until a soft peak has formed.

Cake Baker’s Note: Timing is delicate between getting the sugar syrup to temperature and the meringue to the soft peak stage. I start the sugar syrup then I begin the meringue. I turn the machine off when the meringue gets to the soft peak stage.

Turn the mixer speed to medium low and very slowly pour the syrup down the side of the bowl into the egg whites. Don’t pour the hot syrup directly into the meringue. If you have a pouring shield, use it.

Once the syrup is completely incorporated, turn the speed to high and allow the meringue to continue to form a stiff peak while cooling down. Mix on high until the meringue has reached room temperature. The bottom of the bowl will be cool to the touch. This can be 8-20 minutes.

Cake Baker’s Note: Because the kitchen may be hot, refrigerate the butter cubes until ready to use.

Once the meringue is at room temperature, slowly begin incorporating the soft butter on medium speed.

Cake Baker’s Note: The mixture may curdle and deflate, but don’t worry, it will come together.

Once all of the butter has been incorporated, turn the mixer speed up to high and very slowly add the vanilla paste, vanilla extract and cardamom. I knew it was “done” when the frosting was smooth and shiny.

Cake Baker’s Note: The final color of the frosting was creamy, not white, probably because the butter I was using was too soft.

Assemble the layers
Place the first layer of cake upside down on a revolving cake stand and remove the parchment paper. Placing a cardboard round below the cake is recommended as it will make transporting the cake easier after it is assembled.

Spread approximately one cup of butter cream on the cake and spread it around evenly with an offset spatula. Add more butter cream as needed to reach the desired thickness. Repeat with the second and third layer (don’t forget to remove the parchment each time). Use an offset spatula to apply a thin layer of frosting to the side and top of the cake. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set this first layer of butter cream. Cover the entire cake with a final layer of frosting.

Cake Baker’s Note: Because my kitchen is hot, I refrigerated the extra frosting. To re-use I brought it to room temperature and whipped it until it was a spreadable consistency.

Cake is best when served at room temperature. To get clean slices when cutting the cake, use a long, sharp knife. Run it under hot water, wipe it dry and immediately cut one slice in a straight down, non-sawing motion. Don’t pull the knife up, pull it straight out toward you. Then repeat the process for the other side, starting with the hot water.