Pastry Affair turns three years old today. While the thought that I have been doing this for so long feels a little surreal, at the same time it feels entirely expected; I can't remember a time when I didn't sit down each evening to play around with the blog in some form or another. Even though I never quite planned on it, I found myself partaking in the unavoidable tradition of combing back through old posts. The steady stream of recipes, photographs, and words from the past year act as a personal history for me. A small record of late night cravings, hours spent behind a camera lens, and several lengthy conversations about my love for breakfast—it's all there, buried between the webpages.
The past year has been a quiet evolution. I am still growing as a blogger, though perhaps not making the large strides I did in the years before. Even so, I feel like I am finding more of myself in the photography and the words, slowly uncovering bits and pieces of my elusive voice. That voice can be so difficult to find.
Throughout the last year I gave myself three challenges. The first was to eat (and bake) vegan for a month. Though it was difficult at first, I successfully completed the challenge and discovered a huge revelation about myself in the process—I'm lactose intolerant. At the time it seemed like an ironic fate for a purveyor of butter and cream, but I have since grown to accept it. Even though the recipes I share with you do not conform to this condition, you can be assured that in my own kitchen I regularly use dairy-free ingredients. Real butter, for better or worse, hasn't found a place in my refrigerator in months.
The second challenge was to include metric measurements with the recipes whenever possible to make baking these recipes easier for those of you who live abroad. Lastly, and perhaps most ambitiously, I challenged myself to consistently develop my own recipes from scratch, to learn recipe development the hard way: through trial and error. To be quite honest, incredibly difficult moments and embarrassing errors were had in my kitchen, most of which I kept to myself. Though I have improved substantially since I began, I am still not immune to failures. Just this morning I tossed a batch of pineapple cakes, hot from the oven, straight into the trash can.
Baking never fails to keep me humble.
Truthfully, though I love the corner of the internet in which this blog rests, you continually make it something special. Through your comments, emails, and endless support, you have made these past three years possible. You have given me the inspiration to keep mixing together new ingredients, to spend time clicking away behind my camera lens, and to spend nights staying up late to share my thoughts with you. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
I have long believed that celebrations should involve cake and plenty of it. I think three years are worth celebrating, don't you? This cake went through a couple iterations before it reached this final product, but friends and family have all agreed that it is incredible.
White Chocolate Espresso Cake is on the list of my favorite cakes to date. A basic white cake batter is infused with espresso and has a lovely coffee aroma when finished baking. A white chocolate buttercream is spread around the cake; quite sweet, it is best used sparingly, but produces a complementary flavor to the cake. Topped with a sprinkling of cocoa powder and coffee beans, the cake becomes a work of art. As Janet Evanovich preaches, calories don't count during a celebration and I am inclined to agree. Eat up, my friends.
White Chocolate Espresso Cake
Yields double 9-inch layer cake (or triple layer 5-inch cake)
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups (280 grams) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup (120 grams) sour cream (or plain, non-fat yogurt)
1/3 cup (75 grams) vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups (300 grams) cake flour
2 teaspoons espresso powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (240 ml) cold or lukewarm espresso (or very strong coffee)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease 9-inch cake pans and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the sour cream, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. Gradually add in the cake flour, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix in the espresso, stirring until batter is uniform and smooth.
Divide batter between cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool to room temperature before frosting. Depending on the height of your cake pans, you may have batter leftover—perfect for cupcakes!
White Chocolate Buttercream
1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 ounces (85 grams) high quality white chocolate, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (250 grams) powdered sugar
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until smooth. Beat in the melted white chocolate and add in the vanilla extract and salt. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar. If frosting is too soft, add more powdered sugar until it reaches a spreadable consistency. Likewise, if the frosting is too stiff, add a touch of milk or cream until it reaches a spreadable consistency.
To assemble, place the bottom cake layer on a serving platter. Spread a layer of buttercream on top before placing the second layer. Run a thin layer of frosting along the edge like a crumb coating and finish off the top with another layer of buttercream. To serve, dust with cocoa powder and a few coffee beans.