Thank you, readers, for sending me your requests for recipes. I have received several for homemade white cake. As I have mentioned before, if you are a novice at cake baking, mixes are often the best way to become acquainted with the basic principles and standards for delightful and pleasing cakes. Once you have picked all the low hanging fruit with store cake mixes and are ready to move up the ladder to cakes from scratch, it is important to know that accurate measuring is one of your best friends.
We hear much about sifting flour and whether it is necessary. Today's flours can be successfully used without sifting. But for the most accurate measurement from baking to baking, and for the light and most delicate cakes, your results will be surer if you sift. I have made two otherwise identical cakes, one sifted and the other not. The sifted one was definitely lighter.
All-purpose and cake flours are available. It is best to use the type of flour for which the recipe has been developed. You may also elect to use half cake flour and half all-purpose flour if want to experiment with a cake recipe.
White cake is always a class act at celebrations, picnics, funeral luncheons and any family meal. Like newly fallen snow, it easily drifts into our comfort zone of pleasing and flavorsome. It was the first homemade cake I made and the two recipes I include come from Gladys Rust of Underwood.
I wanted to surprise my parents with a white homemade cake for their 20th wedding anniversary. I went so far as to purchase a cute little bridal couple, sitting on a Victorian sofa kissing, which crowned this cake. (If I had my choice I would have preferred a Hepplewhite settee with shield-shaped back and egg-and-dart enrichment around the back and legs; however, Maid of Scandinavia had only one choice in this plastic model!)
I had the good fortune of having a personal baking lesson from Gladys which was most valuable. She introduced me to the conventional cake where sugar and shortening are creamed together first. Eggs are then added, beaten or unbeaten according to the recipe, and the liquid and flour mixtures are added alternately. In the same afternoon, she also introduced me to the one-bowl method, where all ingredients are mixed together in one bowl. Here, the batter is usually thinner than conventional batters.
Gladys stressed the importance of getting the right mixing time and speed. If you beat a cake mix like you are stirring wallpaper paste, I can assure you it will not be light. With the cake baking I have done, I have learned that touch and speed play an important in the getting the results light and fluffy. There are cakes I prefer to mix by hand because I feel the mixer to too rough.
It is also important to scrape the beater frequently with a rubber spatula, as shortening may cling to the blades resulting in the batter not being thoroughly mixed. When we have measured carefully, then we also want to mix carefully. Baking is an art, and much of the art comes from allowing enough time to pay attention to every detail. Many cakes are flops because the baker is in a hurry.
Some days you are content to fit in and be a friendly force, deflecting all praise and admiration. This is especially true for those of Norwegian descent - after all, we must not draw praise! But if you wish from time to time to have a day of praise, learn to make cakes that are high, light and luscious. Men will bow and women will be envious, especially if you use that classic cake rack that you received for your bridal shower back in 1963. Please note that the conversation has stops and laughter hushes. But that is only because their taste buds have realized that this baker is no slouch.
These are two recipes for tasty white cake that I made under the direction of Rust in her kitchen - which, by the way, featured a corner booth! Bless Gladys' heart - she knew I had a sincere interest in baking, and she shared some of her finest secrets as a home economics teacher would with a 12-year-old. It was an afternoon that began a lifetime of charm for homemade white cake.
You may select to frost either of these cakes in a number of ways. I do recall my first cake was done with powdered sugar frosting. They are also wonderful with fresh fruit and a dollop of real whipped cream.
Deluxe white cake
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
5 egg whites
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup white shortening
1 cup ice water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Grease and flour bottoms of two 8-inch layer pans. Sift flour with 1 cup sugar, baking powder and salt into large mixing bowl. Measure egg whites into small mixing bowl. Beat with mixer at high speed until foamy. Gradually add 1/4 cup sugar and light corn syrup; continue beating until very stiff peaks form but egg whites have not lost their shiny appearance.
To sifted ingredients, add shortening, ice water and vanilla extract. Blend thoroughly 1 minute at low speed. Add beaten egg whites. Beat 1 minute at medium speed, or until egg whites are thoroughly blended into batter. Pour batter into pans and tap them gently on counter top to settle batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and springs back when lightly touched in center. Cool 15 minutes on rack before removing from pans.
Snow white cake
2 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup milk
4 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Two 8-inch layers
Grease and flour bottoms of two 8-inch layer pans. Sift flour with sugar, baking powder and salt into large mixing bowl. Add shortening and milk. Blend well at lowest speed of mixer. Beat 1 1/2 minutes at low speed. Add egg whites and vanilla extract; continue beating 1 1/2 minutes at low speed. Pour batter into pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and springs back when lightly touched in center. Cool on rack for minutes before removing from pan.