From 1 Recipe Comes Multiple Cake Layers

BY HELEN S. FLETCHER, ON
COPYRIGHT, HELEN S. FLETCHER, 2017. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
ALL PHOTOS BY PASTRIES LIKE A PRO UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

Many, many years ago when I first opened my bakery, the challenge was finding recipes for cake layers that worked and could be scaled up.  It seemed like all I did was test

Then I discovered, as did everyone, “The Cake Bible” by Rose Levy Beranbaum.  It was a game changer for anyone interested in baking and cakes.  The explanations of what was going on and why in each recipe helped us understand baking better.  At that point in time (1988)  there was not a lot of information on the science of baking which made this book all the more valuable.

I found the recipes in her book for cake layers to be the recipes I was looking for.  Although I used recipes from many sources, including those I came up with, “The Cake Bible” was always my back up.

This recipe is a slight variation of her White Velvet Cake.  I have used it before in my Spirited Marble Cake.

One day, when I was thinking about blogs that particularly help people, I remembered comments from the Base Cookie blog I wrote. It seemed readers appreciated having one base recipe that could be turned into many different cookies. So this base cake layer blog came about with the help of Rose.

The recipe is one of the easiest cake layers to make  However, the technique is a bit different from the usual creaming of the butter and sugar.  In this recipe, the dry ingredients along with the butter and a portion of the liquid is combined with definite mixing times to create a very thick batter to which the remainder of the liquid is added in three additions.  It is that easy.

The one point that needs to be stressed in this cake layers recipe is the temperature of the butter.  As you will see the recipe states softened.  That can mean a lot of different temperatures.  I have seen recommendations by several prominent authors that 68°F is the ideal temperature for softened butter. However, I find that is still too cold to blend or cream well with sugar.  I got a sandy texture but not one where I would call it creamed.

The temperature of the butter I use for creaming or when calling for “softened butter” is 72°F or 73°F. At this temperature it will mix completely.  It is important in this recipe as the butter is being combined with a large amount of flour, sugar and liquid.  If you don’t have an instant read thermometer (and you should) the best I can tell you is that it will feel soft when you press it in the package but not mushy.  In no case should it be liquid.  This happens a lot when butter is microwaved to soften it but at too high a temperature.  I usually remove butter the night before if I am baking in the morning. I also keep my house around 74°F in the summer.

Flavoring for the white cake layers can be all vanilla, all almond extract, half and half or more of one than the other.  My favorite for white cake layers is mostly almond with some vanilla as you will see below.

In addition to the White Cake layers, Rose changes out the egg whites for egg yolks for her Yellow Downey Cake.  In addition, it is easy to add citrus zest, marbelize the cake and make a chocolate cake.

The Chocolate cake test was really interesting.  I made one recipe of the white cake and split the batter in half by weight.  I added cocoa to one layer and melted and cooled chocolate to the other layer.  The two cake layers couldn’t have been more different.  The one with the chocolate was much paler and had less of a chocolate taste.  It was more like a German Chocolate batter.  The cocoa layer was very dark and tasted more of chocolate.  I am including both for your reference.

In this recipe, I call for two cake layers.  However, the batter can be divided into 3 or 4 if desired. Just make sure to reduce the baking time and test with a tester.  The approximate weight of the batter is included so dividing by weight should be easy.  The reason for the approximate weight is the size of the eggs can throw off an exact weight.  Even though large eggs are recommended, even those can vary in size. The standard is 24 ounces per 12 eggs, but within those 12 eggs, the weights can vary.

Before you ask, the photo above shows only 5 layers, the citrus flavors were not included.

I have also collected buttercreams from throughout my blog for instant reference to fill whichever cake layers you make.

One last note, all of the cake layers freeze extremely well.  All of these were frozen for photography and suffered not at all in taste or appearance as you can see.

Buttercreams from Pastries Like a Pro
Raspberry Buttercream – http://pastrieslikeapro.com/2015/08/individual-wedding-cakes
Espresso Buttercream – http://pastrieslikeapro.com/2014/09/espresso-fudge-cake-2
Strawberry Buttercream – http://pastrieslikeapro.com/2014/09/strawberry-buttercream
German and American Buttercreams – http://pastrieslikeapro.com/2013/10/german-buttercream-american-buttercream
French Buttercream – http://pastrieslikeapro.com/2013/10/german-buttercream-american-buttercream
Italian Buttercream – http://pastrieslikeapro.com/2013/10/german-buttercream-american-buttercream
Chocolate Buttercream – http://pastrieslikeapro.com/2015/12/buche-de-noel
Whipped Cream Frosting – http://pastrieslikeapro.com/2015/05/fruit-basket-banana-
Cream Cheese Frosting http://pastrieslikeapro.com/2015/02/carrot-cake-cheesecake
Dobos Torte Chocolate Buttercream – http://pastrieslikeapro.com/2014/06/dobos-torte-hungarian-speciality
Spirited Chocolate Buttercream – http://pastrieslikeapro.com/2014/06/dobos-torte-hungarian-speciality

Base White CakeIngredients for From 1 recipe comes 6 Cake Layers
4 large egg whites (128 grams or 4 1/2 ounces)
1 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour (300 grams or 10 1/2 ounces)
1 1/2 cups sugar (300 grams or 10 1/2 ounces)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (170 grams or 6 ounces)

*The flavoring can be 2 teaspoons almond extract, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, half vanilla and half almond extracts as you please.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 9×2 inch round cake pans with parchment.
Spray center only of each parchment.

In a bowl, lightly combine the egg whites, 1/4 cup milk, almond extract and vanilla.  Set aside.Liquids for From 1 Recipe Comes 6 Different Cake Layers

Liquids whisked for From 1 Recipe comes 6 Different Cakes

In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend.Dry ingredients mixed for From 1 Recipe Comes 6 Different Cake Layers Add the butter and remaining 3/4 cup milk. Butter and milk added for From 1 Recipe Comes 6 Different Cake LayersMix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.Cake mixing for From 1 Recipe Comes 6 Different Cake Layers Increase to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. The batter will be thick and luxurious. Batter mixed for From 1 Recipes comes 6 Different Cake LayersGradually add the egg mixture in thirds, beating about 30 seconds each time.First liquid in for From 1 Recipe comes 6 Different Cake Lalyers

Finished batter weighs about 1110 grams or 38 1/2 ounces.Finished batter for From 1 Recipe Comes 6 Different Cake Layers

Divide the dough between the two prepared pans (555 grams or 19 1/3 ounces each).

Bake for 18 to 22 minutes until a tester comes out clean.White cake for From 1 Recipe Comes 6 Different Cake Layers

VARIATIONS OF BASE CAKE LAYERS

Yellow Cake
Substitute 3 egg yolks for the egg whites. All the rest remains the same.Yellow Cake for From 1 Recipe Comes 6 Different Cake Layers

Marble Cake
Divide the white batter in half. Add 3 ounces of melted chocolate to one half of the batter. For how to photos, see Spirited Marble Cake.Marble cake layer for From 1 Recipe Comes 6 Different Cake Layers

Chocolate Cake – There are two versions of this because I was happy with both and each has their own application.

Chocolate Cake with Cocoa – This is the darkest and most intense of the two chocolate cakes. It tastes the most chocolatey. I used 60 grams (2 ounces) of dutched cocoa and 240 grams (8 1/2 ounces) of cake flour in place of all flour. Place in the mixing bowl with the remainder of the dry ingredients. All the rest remains the same.

Bake for 24 to 26 minutes.Chocolate cake layer with cocoa for From 1 Recipe comes 6 Different Layers

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate – This cake is lightly flavored with chocolate and emulates a German Chocolate Layer.

For this cake, you whisk in 6 ounces (170 grams) of melted bittersweet or semisweet chocolate into the finished batter. The chocolate can be melted in a bowl over hot, but not boiling water or microwaved at half power for about 2 1/2 minutes. Stir and, if not melted, microwave briefly at half power in 15 second bursts.

This cake, for some reason, has a very, very thin meringued layer on top.  Simply brush off the loose peices and frost it.

The layers for this cake will weigh about 1200 grams (42 ounces) total or 600 grams (21 ounces per layer.

Bake for 24 to 26 minutes.Chocolate cake with chocolate for From 1 Recipe Comes 6 Different Cake Layers

CITRUS FLAVORED LAYERS

Lemon Cake – Add the zest of 3 large or 4 medium lemons to the batter of the yellow cake using all vanilla in the batter. Add it with the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl.   All the rest remains the same.

Orange Cake – Add the zest (orange part only, do not use the white pith below) of large navel oranges to the white batter using all almond extract. Add it with the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl. All the rest remains the same.

Juice oranges will not provide enough zest because of their thin skin.

Citrus Cake – Use the zest of 1 navel orange, 1 lemon and 2 limes. Add them to the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl. All the rest remains the same.

Bake these layers for 18 to 22 minutes until the center springs back when lightly touched or a tester comes out clean.Cake layers cut in half for From 1 Recipe Comes 6 Different Cake Layers

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Pastry has not only been my profession, but my passion. If there is anything in particular you would like to see or any questions about baking or pastry, please let me know. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss a post.

21 thoughts on “From 1 Recipe Comes Multiple Cake Layers

  1. Laurie Gibbons

    Dear Helen ~ can’t tell you how much I appreciate your clear and detailed instructions, discussions and recipes. Pastries Like A Pro is without question the best baking blog I’ve found and is always my “go to” resource. Thanks too for including the helpful photos!

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Dear Laurie, Thank you so much for your kind note. Sharing what I have learned (and continue to learn) with others of shared interest is my joy. Encouragement from my readers like you certainly helps keep me going.

  2. Becky Woods

    Helen, as always, this is a fantastic article to learn from and save for future reference!! Wow! Love the versatility!! Thank you for sharing your great knowledge!

  3. Rockyrd

    Hi,
    I loved this post. Very interesting and such a different method of making it. I have read about that but never tried it. After seeing this, my next cake will be this one.
    Tell your husband the photo of the stacked cakes was fabulous.
    And I do love the idea of making one cake and turning it into many others.
    And that trick with spraying the parchment in the center. A bonus!
    I have a ba-zillion cookie recipes that I love but I found one that does the same thing. Make one dough and turn it into different ones. It amazed me how different they could be. By just changing a few ingredients, or coating on the outside- it altered the texture too.
    Does this mean I should get rid of all of my cake recipes? Hahaha.

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi M.J. Mike did a great job with the photos. Don’t know how I would manage those also. The cakes were frozen for the photo as the cakes are very tender and I didn’t want a pic of slouching cakes. But they were the devil to cut. A funny story about the cutting. Mike had gotten into the cakes and eaten almost all of the light chocolate and a fairly hefty slice of the dark chocolate cake. I didn’t discover it until I was ready to do the finished photos which is why this was not posted on Thursday. I had to remake the light chocolate and work around the dark for the photo of the sliced cakes. The other half of the sliced cakes has a big cut out of the dark chocolate cake. But it all worked out and that is what counts. He did like the cakes though!

      1. Rockyrd

        Well after all of his “hard” work taking those photos Mike deserved a piece. I think it would have been ok to take the photo with a slice out.

        I got to thinking after I wrote to you- have you ever tried this mixing method with other cake recipes? I have a recipe from a friend in France that is called a Weekend cake- there are other recipes around, I am sure. You melt butter and fold it in at the end, and sometimes its good and sometimes its just ok. Wonder if your mixing method would work.
        Will check out the cookies. I am sure I read it cause I don’t want to ever miss anything your write.

        1. hfletcher Post author

          Hi M.J. -Not a good idea to alter mixing instructions from other recipes. However, I do have a fix for adding butter at the end of the recipe which the French just love to do. Basically, take about a cup of mixed batter and whisk in the melted butter to form an emulsion. Return this to the main batter and fold in. Then it won’t sink to the bottom like it usually does. I came up with this in my first book because I could never get it incorporated and always had a heavy layer on the bottom, where it sunk.

          Go to http://pastrieslikeapro.com/2014/05/lemon-butter-sponge-cake/#.WZybgGVh2Rs for how to pics at the bottom of the blog. I use this method for my buttersponge – much like a Genoise.

          1. hfletcher Post author

            Thanks for taking time to let me know Becky. This one thing made such a difference to me. Hope you are trying to take care of yourself.

          2. Rockyrd

            Thanks, yes I have tried that and it does work better, but it just never does work out as well as other recipes. Maybe I just don’t like that kind of cake?

  4. Clarice

    Ms. Fletcher, could I substitute shortening and may be some water (to compensate for the water content of the butter) for a “whiter” cake? If so, how much shortening and water?

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hello Clarice – This is an area I have no knowledge of so can’t guide you. Changing one butter to shortening would alter the texture I would think.

      1. Clarice

        Thanks. I’d try that and update about the outcome. Could you please do a post on scaling recipes up or down? I always have trouble with the amount of leavening in a recipe while scaling it.

  5. marcella

    I always let cocoa powder “bloom” mixing it with a little boiling water, as Rose suggests in her “Heavenly cakes” book. The chocolate flavor gets soooo much more intense this way :)

    1. hfletcher Post author

      Hi Marcella – The cake was quite intense with the cocoa as opposed to the chocolate. As there is no water in this recipe, I would imagine you would have to reduce the milk by the amount of water but not sure if that would alter the texture or outcome.

  6. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way

    What a treasure of a post to have!! My challenge has been to keep the layers from slipping. As I frost I put several wood skewers through the layer until the frosting and filling set. This usually works pretty well. My last layer cake, Ambrosia Coconut Cake kind of leans. The filling set up well but I used up all of it and shouldn’t. Anyway, the cake was excellent but I wish the frosted sides looked better. I’m saving this post!! It’s such a great reference.

  7. Sa-eeda Daniels

    Thank you so much for this! The marble cake looks delicious!
    I think I will try that as our weekend treat!

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