Monday, January 3, 2011

Cake and Butter Cream

Have you ever cringed after paying $35 or $40 or more for a little birthday cake that you purchased from a bakery? Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the pastry chef who went to school for all those years to produce the delicate masterpiece that I will be slicing and devouring for my birthday party. But, it’s hard to spend money on something that you know is so inexpensive to make. It can’t be that hard to bake a cake, right? Not a boxed cake from Duncan Hines. I’m talking about real cake from scratch. I didn’t know where to start such an endeavor. Until this weekend.

For the first time I watched the famous foodie movie, Julie & Julia. What a GREAT film. I could totally identify with the main character, a food blogger. How did I miss this movie? The main character and I are the same age and my husband and I have had very similar conversations as the two main characters in the movie. I’ve had meltdowns in the kitchen, similar to Julie – especially after dropping a whole chicken on the floor (and a boiling pot of mashed potatoes). Finally a movie where I didn’t have to explain myself and my love of food = = these people get it. In addition to the movie, my family also gifted me a copy of Julie Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” for Christmas. Such thoughtful gifts that I can’t wait to dissect! And towards the back of my new cookbook . . . a dessert section.

I want to bake a cake. A simple cake with chocolate buttercream frosting. Julia Child, let’s try your spongecake.

Butter Spongecake (adapted from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking")


4 TBS butter (unsalted)

2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract

4 egg whites
Pinch of Salt
2 TBS granulated sugar
¾ Cup Flour (scooped, leveled, and sifted)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
You need: 9 or 10 inch round cake pan. Butter and flour the cake pan. I used softened unsalted butter to butter the pan, then lightly floured the pan and pat the extra flour out of the pan into my sink/trash.

Melt 4 Tablespoons of butter in microwave. Set aside to cool.

In a mixing bowl, beat 2/3 cup sugar and 4 egg yolks, add 2 tsp vanilla extract and continue beating for several minutes until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms ribbons.

In a separate bowl, beat 4 egg whites and pinch of salt together until soft peaks are formed; sprinkle on the 2 Tablespoons sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed. **You should have a nice white fluffy mixture

Scoop one fourth of the egg whites over the top of the egg yolk and sugar mixture. Sift on one fourth of the flour, and delicately fold until partially blended. Add another fourth of the egg whites and flour mixture . . . repeat until all eggwhites and flour have been incorporated. Then fold half of the melted butter into the mixture. When partially blended, fold in the rest of the butter but omit the milky residue at the bottom of the butter cup. **Do not overmix; the egg whites must retain as much volume as possible.
Turn into prepared cake pan, tilting pan to run batter to the rim all around. Set in the middle level of a preheated oven for 27-35 minutes. Cake is done when it has puffed, is lightly brown, and has just begun to show a faint line of shrinkage from the edge of the pan.

Remove from oven and let stand in the pan for 6-8 minutes. It will sink slightly and shrink more from the edges of the pan. Gently place the cake on a cooking rack and cool for at least an hour before frosting.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting Adapted from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking"

This is for frosting and filling a 9 inch sponge cake.

3 egg yolks
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
3 ounces (3 squares), melted semisweet baking chocolate
9 ounces (2 sticks + 1 TBS) softened, unsalted butter

Chop semi-sweet chocolate in the small pieces and melt over low heat in a saucepan until melted.

Rinse a mixing bowl in hot water, dry it, and place all the ingredients listed. Beat at a moderate speed for about 5 minutes to obtain a smooth cream. Chill until the cream is cold but still malleable, then fill and ice the cake.


  1. In honor of Chocolate pink, I see you are weighing things out. How much did it cost total?

  2. The cake cost me $2.73 and the buttercream frosting cost me $6.15. The most expensive part of the buttercream being the butter. Now if we put a price tag on my time . . . the baker comes out ahead for $35 per cake. AND . . . baking a sponge cake is harder than it looks. You would think EASY . . . but in fact quite challenging.

  3. Mandy, thanks for this recipe. I thought that it looked easy and was going to try it right now, but I saw your comment that it is actually challenging. Do you have any tips? I just graduated college in December and now have more time to spend cooking- I've got a whole list I'm working on of things I want to cook and sponge cake is on that list.