I asked Miss Annie what she had a hankerin' for in the cake department for her birthday, and she allowed as how she'd always liked a vanilla cake. And so I turned, yet again, to that cake book that never lets me down, Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes. And look what I found. (and perhaps I went a little kooky with all the photos in this post, but I just loved the white against the periwinkle(ish) blue and became completely indecisive.
Vanilla Bean Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream
(makes one 8 inch, deluxe tripe layer cake)
3 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 whole vanilla bean, split lengthwise (I found a delightful Tahitian Vanilla Bean at Lonsdale Quay)
2 sticks, plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cup milk
5 egg whites
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom of 3 8" pans. Line each with a round of parchment paper and butter the paper.
Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the mixer on low speed, blend well. With the tip of a small knife, scrape out the seeds from inside the vanilla bean into the bowl. Add the butter and 1 cup of milk and mix to blend. Raise the mixer speed to medium and beat until batter is light and fluffy, about 2 mins. In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites with the vanilla extract and the remaining 1/3 cup of milk. Add this to the batter in 2 to 3 additions, scraping down the bowl well and mixing only to incorporate. Divide among your pans. If you're a big ol' control freak like some people who write blogs, you can actually weigh your pans (as long as all three pans are identical of course).
Bake for about 30 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the centre of the cake. Allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto wire racks. Remove the paper and cool completely, about an hour.
White Chocolate Buttercream
3 egg whites
4 ounces good quality white chocolate
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp
Put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer. Melt the white chocolate about halfway in a double boiler. Remove from heat , stir until smooth , and set aside to cool.
Combine the sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan. Set over medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil and cook without stirring, until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage 238 degree F on a candy thermometer.
Immediately start beating the egg whites on medium low speed. Slowly add the syrup in a thin stream, taking care not to hit the beaters. Continue to whip until the mixture is body temperature and stuff meringue has formed.
Reduced the speed to low and add the butter 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time. When the butter is incorporated, beat on medium speed until the frosting appears to curdle. Continue to whip and it will suddenly come together. And it does come together!! Like magic. Add the white chocolate and mix well.