One of my favorite things to do when I go to my parents house in Detroit (other than eating coney island hot dogs) is going to my favorite used bookstore, John K King Used & Rare Books.
When you walk in the door, you can smell nothing but old musty books. I love it! It’s an old warehouse with about 5 floors of books covering every subject you can think of. This is my mecca for vintage cookbooks. I went through a phase of buying cookbooks from the 50s and 60s for the overly saturated pictures. I would cut them out and hang them in my kitchen. I eventually moved on to buying books for interesting recipes in the hopes of baking them all one day. Now that I’ve started a blog, I can!
Unfortunately, I’ve left the books at my parents house, and haven’t had a chance to go back to get them. Luckily I’ve discovered Julie Richardson’s Vintage Cakes cookbook. There are a lot of great classic recipes. A few months ago I tried her Kentucky Bourbon Cake recipe, which was fantastic! This time, I thought I’d try the Black & White Cake. Instead of making a ganache for the filling, I decided to use buttercream instead. I wasn’t in the mood for anything too chocolaty. The recipe was great! The cake was moist with a nice crumb, and the buttercream was silky and buttery.
I have to warn you, the buttercream is not for the faint of heart. It’s a true buttercream in the sense that you have to be ok with putting 4 sticks of butter into a mixing bowl with meringue and then spreading it on a cake. I decided to be ok with it, so my son and I sat down and savored our slices for dessert. The next day I took it to the office spreading my caloric love and ran and extra two miles!
Black & White Cake
For the cake
- ¾ cup lightly packed Guittard Cocoa Rouge or 3 ounces premium unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa
- ⅔ cup hot coffee (rewarmed from the leftover morning brew works fine)
- ½ cup full-fat sour cream
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter , at room temperature
- 1¼ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 2 egg yolks , at room temperature
- 2 eggs , at room temperature
For the buttercream
- 6 egg whites
- 1¼ cups sugar
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small cubes
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
Make the cake
Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa and the hot coffee. Blend in the sour cream and vanilla, and set aside.
In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt, then whisk the mixture by hand to ensure that the ingredients are well mixed.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. As you make the batter, stop the mixer frequently and scrape the paddle and the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Blend in the egg yolks and the eggs one at a time, adding the next one as soon as the previous one has disappeared into the batter. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the cocoa mixture in two parts, beginning and ending with the flour. After each addition, mix until just barely blended and stop and scrape the bowl. Stop the mixer before the last of the flour has been incorporated and complete the blending by hand with a rubber spatula to ensure you do not overbeat the batter.
Divide the thick batter evenly between the two prepared pans (there will be approximately 1 pound 4 ounces per pan) and smooth the tops. Tap the pans on the counter to eliminate any air bubbles. Bake in the middle of the oven until the centers spring back when lightly touched and small cracks have formed on the surface, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Flip the cakes out of the pans, leaving on the parchment paper until you assemble the cake. Let them continue to cool on the rack, top sides up, until they reach room temperature.
Make the buttercream
Using a hand whisk, whisk together the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the clean bowl of a stand mixer. Place the bowl over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water. The egg white mixture will be gloppy and thick, but as the mixture begins to warm up, it will become more fluid. Continue to gently whisk the mixture until it is very hot to the touch (130°F on a candy thermometer).
Move the bowl to the stand mixer and, using the whisk attachment, whip the whites on medium-high speed until they have tripled in volume and are thick and glossy and hold stiff peaks (like meringue), 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the mixer down to medium-low speed until the mixing bowl is just cool to the touch, 1 to 2 minutes. Kick the mixer back up to medium-high speed and add the butter one piece at a time, adding the next piece just as the previous one has been incorporated. Stop the mixer every so often to scrape down the escaping buttercream from the sides of the bowl. At some point, the buttercream will take on a curdled appearance; don’t worry, this is normal. Just keep on mixing until it comes together. Once all the butter is incorporated and the frosting is fluffy and creamy, blend in the vanilla and salt until fully combined.
Assemble the cake
Lay one of the cakes top side up on a serving plate. Using a metal spatula, frost the top with ½ cup of buttercream, spreading it to just shy of the cake’s edge. Align the second cake, top side up, and apply a thin layer of buttercream all over the cake to create a “crumb coat.” Place the cake in the refrigerator until the frosting is firm, about 10 minutes. Take it out and finish the cake by frosting it with the remaining buttercream. Store the cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Adapted from Julia Richardson, Vintage Cakes