March 31, 2016

Vanilla Walnut Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

I’ve mentioned this before and I’ll state it again – my family has an uncanny fascination with buttercream-covered cakes.  We favor them over crisp cookies, juicy pies, and somewhat drier cakes.  If there is a lick-your-fingers-buttercream-covered cake, it will always take the coveted first prize.  And you already know about my infatuation with vanilla – yes, I’d always choose it over chocolate; that’s why, when my grandma asks which dessert to whip up when I’m in Romania, this Vanilla Walnut Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting is at the top of my list. 

This Vanilla Walnut Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting is yet another masterpiece that can only be achieved by nursing and diligently whisking the egg and sugar mixture in a bowl over a pot of simmering water, which at times can be daunting and irking.  However, I’m proud of my merry path to mastering the art of cooked cream over a double boiler because the nicely thickened silkiness you create is worth a small fortune and will make you ignore the free facial and aching bicep muscle!  

The cake is vanilla-infused, soft and pillowy, textured with toasted, fragrant walnuts and offers the perfect balance to the luxurious, velvety vanilla speckled frosting, while the glossy chocolate ganache on top brings a beautiful, rich counterpart to the whole experience.  There are lots of flavors and textures woven into this glorious cake albeit in the end it all comes down to the same humble yet mighty potent main ingredient and star of the show – you guessed it, vanilla.  And if I haven’t dished enough about my love for vanilla or this particular cake, let me make it clear: this is my favorite vanilla cake and I hope you enjoy it just as much as I do!   

Vanilla Walnut Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
By Simply Romanesco inspired by my Grandma Vicki

Makes: 24 squares

Ingredients for the Batter:

·         6 egg whites, at room temperature
·         180 grams sugar
·         1 teaspoon vanilla extract
·         120 grams all-purpose flour
·         1 teaspoon baking powder
·         Pinch of salt
·         150 grams roasted walnuts, roughly chopped

Ingredients for the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:

·         6 egg yolks, at room temperature
·         210 grams confectioners’ sugar
·         Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
·         50 ml whole milk
·         250 grams butter, at room temperature

Ingredients for the Chocolate Ganache:

·         170 grams (6 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
·         2/3 cups heavy cream
·         1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions for the Batter:

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Coat the bottom and sides of a 14 x10 x 2-inch baking pan with butter and flour.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

Separate the egg yolks (you will use the egg yolks for the buttercream frosting) and egg whites.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites using an electric hand mixer until they hold medium-firm peaks.  Add the sugar and vanilla extract and beat to incorporate.  Gradually, add the flour mixture.  Using a spatula, fold in the chopped walnuts. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan making sure the batter spreads all throughout the pan, and bake for 22-23 minutes or until a tester comes out clean and the cake is nicely golden-brown.  Cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Instructions for the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:

In a medium heat-proof bowl, beat the eggs yolks with the confectioners’ sugar for 2-3 minutes.  Add the seeds from the vanilla bean and beat to incorporate.  Slowly, pour in the milk and beat until fully incorporated.  Put the bowl on top of a pan of simmering water, making sure that the base of the bowl doesn’t come in contact with the water.  Gently and leisurely beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla and milk mixture with a whisk until it thickens and looks like a thick cream, about 30 minutes.  Set aside to cool completely, stirring occasionally. 

In a large bowl, using an electric hand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Slowly and in batches, add the vanilla cream and beat on medium-low speed, scrapping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy.  Don’t whip!   

With a knife or offset spatula, evenly spread the frosting over the cake.  

Instructions for the Chocolate Ganache:

Place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl and set aside.  Combine the heavy cream and vanilla extract in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Cook until small bubbles appear on the outside edge of the cream.  Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate chips.  Using a fork or a spoon, gently stir until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.  

Drizzle the chocolate ganache all over the cake.  Allow the ganache to harden.  Cut the cake into squares and serve.

Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)