Friday, December 11, 2009

Snow Time

Snow is in the forecast and my children are all excited about it. For a child, snow is a magical thing. It comes from the sky, softly coating the scenery, blurring the rough edges, giving a beautiful sparkle to the horizon. And if enough comes, it also magically closes school! Plus, you can play in it for hours. Sledding, snowmen, snow forts, snowball fights and snow angels can keep children outside until their noses are red and their toes are numb.

For an adult, snow is something else altogether. Snow in the forecast means things like pipes freezing, commuting hassles, and shoveling sidewalks. Somehow with all of the grownup responsibilities, the magic leaks away, and that's a sad thing.

For everyone who passionately hates snow, I wish I could send you three things.

1) Someone to come shovel your walk and driveway for you.

2) My son, for whom snow and Christmas are inextricably tied (even though a white Christmas around here is as common as snake's eyebrows). He almost bursts with excitement when he sees the first flakes falling because that means it must be Christmas.

3) This beautiful cake. It's an ode to snow - white, pristine, beautiful. But it's also delicious. Vanilla and white chocolate combine for a fragrant, sweet flavor in every bite. Have a piece and you might not feel quite so cranky about that hose that you forgot to disconnect.

Snowdrift Vanilla Bean Cake
- adapted from Sky High, Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes

3 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
4-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 whole vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
2 sticks plus 2 Tbsp (9 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-1/3 cups milk
5 egg whites
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
White Chocolate Buttercream (recipe follows)
White chocolate curls, for garnish

1- Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F. Butter the bottoms of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line each with a round of parchment and butter the parchment.

2- In a large mixer bowl place the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, combine well.

3- With the tip of a small knife, scrape the seeds from inside the vanilla bean into the bowl. Reserve the outer pod to make vanilla sugar*. Add the butter and 1 cup of the milk and mix to blend. Raise the mixer speed to medium and beat until the batter is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

4- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with the vanilla extract and the remaining 1/3 cup milk. Add this to the batter in 2 to 3 additions, scraping down the bowl well and mixing only to incorporate. Divide the batter among the 3 prepared pans.

5- Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place the pans on wire racks to cool for 10 minutes, then invert the pans on the racks, remove the pans and the parchment paper, and cool completely, about 1 hour.

6- To assemble the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup of the White Chocolate Buttercream evenly over the layer. Repeat with the second layer, then top with the final layer. Using the remaining buttercream, frost the sides and top of the cake. Garnish with white chocolate curls.

White Chocolate Buttercream (makes about 5 cups)

3 egg whites at room temperature
4 oz. good-quality white chocolate
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 sticks (12 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 2-3 Tbsp chunks

1- Put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and set the mixer up for use with a whisk attachment. Melt the white chocolate about halfway in a double boiler over simmering water. Remove from the heat, stir until smooth, and set aside to cool.

2- In a small heavy saucepan combine the sugar and water. Set it 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 deg. F on a candy thermometer.

3- 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 a stiff meringue has formed.

4- Reduce the speed to low and add the butter 2 to 3 Tbsp at a time. When all of the butter is incorporated, beat on medium speed until the frosting appears to curdle. Continue to whip, and it will suddenly come together. At this point, add the melted white chocolate and mix well.

* To make vanilla sugar, place the scraped vanilla bean pod in a jar and cover it with sugar. Let it sit a week, and the sugar will become wonderfully fragrant. Use it for baking or as an indulgence in your tea or coffee.


LizNoVeggieGirl said...

I think snow is beautiful, but trekking through it is a nightmare - it's a love/hate relationship, haha ;)

Lovely "snow reminiscent" cake!

Jessica Nunemaker said...

Yup. Love/Hate relationship with the stuff.

This cake, on the other hand: total love!

It's my birthday the day after Christmas so I might just make my own this year (hubs always tries and they are the FLATTEST things I have ever seen). Ha ha! ;)

The Cutting Edge of Ordinary said...

Oh my! This looks like a cake that would be dangerous for me to make, cause I'm afraid I'd eat it all! Beautiful!

symphonious sweets said...

I love the snow! wish it would snow here instead of rain and Ice. Your cake is making me drool... Sky high is an awesome cake book.

Diane said...

Stunningly beautiful cake, with or without snow.

Melinda said...

I love snow. I can't help it. I feel the magic of being 5 years old all over again, when I see it.
But so does an Etch-a-Sketch.

This cake is so pretty! That Mile High book sure has some beautiful cakes in it.

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

THis cake reminds me of all the good there is in snow..snow angels, snowshoeing, catching snow flakes on your tongue...summer:D

grace said...

pure, untouched snow is beautiful, but it's nowhere near as lovely as this cake. white chocolate buttercream? be still my heart. :)

Free Samples said...

They look great, good work like always :)

Abby said...

You wrote this a few days back so I'm hoping you guys didn't get clobbered!

My mom makes a coconut cake at Christmas for the neighbors, and it always reminds me of snow, which we don't get a lot of.

But chocolate curls? Be still my heart!

Elle said...

I like your snowy cake better than the real stuff...and I hope you get less than y'all did last year. The Seattle area is not made for snowfall. Still, it's good to know that one boy will be thrilled...and Christmas is almost here, too.

Jinxy@Jinxyisms said...

My daughter's first birthday is three days before Christmas and I think this cake is perfect for her snowman themed birthday party. I can't wait to make it.

As for the real thing, I couldn't totally live without it. I live in NW Montana and it has been snowing for two days straight and I really wish it would stop. The white Christmas is going to be nice but it's too cold.

Debbie said...

I do NOT like snow but I love your cake. Looks delicious!

Homemade Heaven said...

In this part of the world, Christmas means long hot summer holidays! Snow is not something you will see at Christmas, different from you - but lots of fun having your Christmas holidays and summer vacation at the same time.
That cake will work regardless of the weather:)

CookiePie said...

That is one stunning cake - beautiful!

Barbara said...

A vanilla cake! Would you believe I love vanilla? Vanilla ice cream is my favorite and a vanilla bean cake with a cold glass of milk (even skim) is heaven on earth!

Aimée said...

I'm so happy you are going to have a white Christmas!
We love the magical aspect of snow, and this winter will be even more beautiful because it won't mean slushy grey streets, but soft drifts amidst the maples!

Wish you could send me that cake-- it really looks divine.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

The beauty of living in SD and visiting RI is that I get to enjoy the snow like a child. I plan on making snow angels with my nieces if it snows during the holidays. And that is a beautifully white Christmas cake, Lynn!

Dolce said...

Snow is still magical to me... as long as I don't have to go to Manhattan when it gets all muddy and ugly and greyish!

Katie said...

It looks gorgeous and very light and fluffy

Melanie said...

I just moved from Florida to a suburb of Cincinnati Ohio and we are expecting snow on Saturday. I think I am the category of 'not' going to like the snow. My son who is 15 yrs. old and as only seen about 2 inches in his life, is excited. I was thinking that yes, he is excited until he has to go out and shovel it.

Primary Work at Home said...

Wow looks so yummy! Thanks for sharing this one.

Becky at VintageMixer said...

What a beautiful winter cake!

eatme_delicious said...

I LOVE snow! We had some not too long ago but it quickly disappeared. :( This cake looks stunning!

♥Sugar♥Plum♥Fairy♥ said...

Reminds of fairy tales and snow white...vanilladream cake truly...loved this one truly and fantastic pics...would so love to know what cam u shoot with if possible!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

VanillaStrawberrySpringfields - I shoot with a Nikon D70 and a macro lens. Thanks for your very kind comments!