There’s a bakery in Chattanooga that shall remain unnamed….but if you live in Chattanooga, you’re probably going to know what I’m talking about. It’s located in Hixson, and they make the most delicious cakes….white cakes with almond flavored buttercream. The trendy thing now, of course, is cupcakes with eight inches of frosting (that I cannot eat without discarding at least half of that frosting) that come in all sorts of flavors, colors, etc. You won’t find that at this bakery. Their cupcakes come in white or chocolate, with white or chocolate frosting…and you can’t go wrong. Everything I have ever eaten from there has been amazing, and it’s truly a Chattanooga institution.
Anyway, when my sister-in-law got married on New Years Eve, my mother-in-law asked me if I wanted to make the cake, which, of course, I did. My sister-in-law wanted a white almond-flavored cake with almond buttercream frosting….the specialty of the aforementioned (unnamed) bakery. I did a little research, and the recipe that follows is what I came up with.
First….for the cake, I tried a few different recipes and finally settled on an adaptation of the white butter cake recipe found in this book, The Whimsical Bakehouse by Kaye and Alice Hansen.
Ingredients (Cake only)
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temp) 2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt 3 1/3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/4 cup milk almond extract
3/4 cup egg whites* 1/2 cup sugar
*Rather than cracking a bunch of eggs then having to figure out what to do with the yolks, I use pasteurized eggs whites (found in the refrigerated section, next to the egg substitute). One carton is just enough for the cake and the icing.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray or grease a 10 x 3 cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Cream the butter, sugar, and salt at high speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Whatever your concept of creaming butter and sugar is, there’s a good chance you aren’t doing it long enough. I let it go for at least 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. While these ingredients are going in the mixer, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and cream of tartar. Add 2 teaspoons of almond extract to the milk. Alternately add the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl from time to time. When everything has been incorporated, taste the batter. If you are like me, it is likely that you will decide you need more almond extract…..I like a very almondy cake. Once it is flavored to your liking, scrape the batter into another large bowl, unless you have a second bowl for your mixer, and wash your bowl thoroughly.
Pour the egg whites into the mixer bowl and beat with the whisk attachment until foamy, then add the 1/2 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Scoop about 1/3 of the stiff egg whites into the cake batter and fold in to lighten the mixture, then fold in the rest. Spread into the prepared pan and bake for about 45-50 minutes or until a cake tester/toothpick comes out clean, then cool thoroughly on a rack.
Now for the icing….there’s a recipe in The Whimsical Bakehouse for an Italian Meringue Buttercream that I used to love, but the last time I made it, it ended up coating the cake like I’d just spread a bunch of softened butter on it. Around Christmas, I made this recipe for eggnog cupcakes with spiced rum frosting from the blog Baker’s Royale, and I loved the Swiss meringue buttercream that she used in her recipe…so I adapted it slightly for this recipe. Delicious. Now, let me warn you….there is a ton of butter in this recipe. But (a) you are not going to eat this whole cake; and (b) I seriously doubt this is going to become a staple recipe for you. Overly rich cake is a sometimes food! The texture of this icing is not to be believed.
5 egg whites (if you are using the pasteurized whites, just use the rest of the carton)
1 1/2 cups sugar 4 sticks butter, softened and diced
1/4 teaspoon salt almond extract
Combine the egg whites and sugar in a bowl and place over simmering water. Whisk frequently until the mixture reaches 150 degrees, then transfer to the mixer and beat with the whisk attachment at medium-high speed (about 8) until the egg whites form medium-soft peaks (the recipe says 10-12 minutes, but it usually only takes me about 8 minutes, so watch them closely. Drop the butter in a piece at a time and beat until incorporated before adding the next piece. Once all of the butter has been incorporated, add a couple of teaspoons of extract and beat for another minute or two until it is fluffy, then taste and adjust flavoring if desired.
Now, you will need to split the cake in half. Maybe you have a fancy cake saw….I have an el cheapo cake saw (see it in the background?) that is more like a cheese slicer. I used a serrated knife to cut this cake in half. Place the bottom half on a cake round (if you don’t have rounds, cut one from a piece of cardboard and wrap it it foil), securing the bottom with a dollop of icing.
Spread a good amount of icing on top of the bottom layer then top with the second layer. Scoop a large amount of icing on top of the cake and begin spreading it outward and down the sides. It is much easier to put on a ton of icing and take it off if it’s too much than to add more if you don’t start with enough; this method will keep tons of crumbs from getting drawn up to the surface. If you turn the cake as you ice it, it will be easier to ice; a turntable will make this easier but I didn’t feel like getting mine out.
This is an amazing cake. Philip is one of the few people that I know who doesn’t really care for the cakes from the bakery I mentioned in the first paragraph, and he really likes this one. The icing is not heavy at all….it is light and fluffy and just perfect. Make this for someone you love!