Layer cakes are like wow. Like double decker buses, cakes are just plain cooler with more levels.
Layer cakes are really not my strong point. Not. At. All.
Layer cakes are my nemesis.
If the middle frosting isn't squishing out all over the show, it's the cake layers that slide all over each other refusing to line up. Like when you put the wrong ends of two magnets together. Utter cake fail.
But then I see the beautiful pictures of other bakers' majestic multi-layered marvels on foodbuzz, tastespotting and foodgawker; and over time the anguish and heartache of previous cake fails is forgotten and that urge to attempt the impossible creeps in again: the irrepressible urge to make a layered cake.
So when it was my mother-in-law-to-be's birthday, the layer cake fairy once again whispered in my ear and I found myself trawling the web for choc-free layer cake recipes.
Enter Ottolenghi's Apple and Olive Oil Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting.
Even just reading the name of the cake makes you drool just a little. And once I saw these pics of the cake at From Donuts to Delirium, Saffron & Blueberry, and Eat the right stuff, it was a done deal: make this cake or die.
Baking the layers was easy enough. Dump everything in the two pans and bake side by side. No sweat. Let it cool in the tin - yip can do. Leave it overnight - so far so good.
I've made cream cheese frosting before so that wasn't an issue either. Although, may I note that this maple cream cheese frosting is seriously out of this world. Who would have thought that maple syrup would go so well with cream cheese. Oh you clever wee chickens at Ottolenghi!
I put the bottom layer on the plate. Slathered a generous dollop of frosting on top and spread it out leaving a 2 cm rim at the edge of the cake. Then with shaking hands, I slowly, carefully, delicately placed the top layer on top of the bottom layer and.......KERSPLAT! The frosting squishes out the sides and oozes down the cake. What went wrong?????
Then because the bumpy tops of the cake are together in the middle, there is a humongous cavernous gap in between the layers which I try to stuff with more icing. When that didn't work, I tried to cover it up with a layer of frosting camouflage all over the cake but I just can't get the icing to go smooth. Urgh!!!
Layer cake: 1. Me: 0.
Despite my utter lack of cake decorating nous, the cake itself was delicious. And kinda felt healthy...apples, olive oil, walnuts - heck it was basically a salad! The frosting would also go amazingly with carrot cake. A definite keeper.
In the meantime, I'm going to nurse my wounded layer cake confidence and go back to gazing longingly at other bakers' successes.
Until the next time the layer cake fairy strikes....
Tweaked from Ottolenghi - The Cookbook
2 cups (280g) flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup (120ml) olive oil
3/4 cup (160g) caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, separated
4 granny smith apples, peeled and cut into 1 cm dice
zest of 1 lemon
2 egg whites
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
100g unsalted butter
100g light brown sugar (get rid of as many lumps as you can)
100ml maple syrup (the good stuff, not the phoney maple flavoured stuff, you hear?)
250g cream cheese (NB: don't be tempted to use the low fat stuff, it always made my frosting go lumpy and oozy!)
Optional: Walnut pieces and silver cachous to decorate.
1. Preheat the oven to 170oC. Prepare two springform 20cm diameter cake tins by spraying with cooking spray and lining with baking paper.
2. Sift flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and baking soda into a bowl (or just on to a piece of baking paper).
3. Whisk olive oil, vanilla and sugar until light and fluffy. Then whisk in the egg yolks one at a time (not the egg whites!).
4. Stir in the apples, lemon zest and the flour mixture.
5. Beat the egg whites until stiff then fold into the cake batter. You'll know it's stiff when the egg white stays in the bowl even when you tip it upside down! Go on, I dare ya!
6. Pour equal amounts into your two prepared tins and baking for 45 mins or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean. Cool completely in the tins before turning out. When completely cool you can wrap the cake halves in glad wrap and leave it overnight in the refrigerator (and up to 3 days). The flavours develop better when you leave it for a day.
7. To make the frosting: beat the butter till light and fluffy then beat in cream cheese until just mixed in (be careful not to overbeat!). Beat in maple syrup and brown sugar.
8. To assemble the cake: put the bottom layer on a plate. Spread a layer of frosting on top of the bottom layer and spread out, adding enough frosting to get about a 1 cm layer of frosting. Place the second layer on top of the bottom layer. You can either just cover the top in a layer of frosting or you can cover the whole cake. I found using a pallet knife to make the whole process easier but even then it was pretty fiddly getting it smooth and you had to eat a lot of the frosting in the process to steel yourself for the task ahead. Sprinkle with silver cachous and walnut pieces to make it look purrrrty.