Smith Island Cake
Yellow cake recipe from Epicurious, cake recipe from Cook's Country Magazine; serves 8-10.
3 cups cake flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1.25 cups buttermilk
10 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
Place chocolate in large bowl. Heat cream, sugar and salt in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to simmer. Pour cream mixture over chocolate and whisk until smooth. Whisk in vanilla and butter until glossy. Cover and refrigerate until firm, but spreadable, about 1 hour.
In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside
Beat 1 cup butter with an electric mixer on medium-high for 3 minutes until light in color. Add the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Add eggs, one at at time, beating well between additions. Reduce mixer speed. Stir vanilla into the buttermilk. Add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternatively beginning and ending with flour. Mix just until incorporated.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8" cake pans (or more if you have them), and line them with parchment paper. Spoon about 2/3 cup of yellow cake batter into prepared pans.
Spread batter evenly in pan. Bake until edges are golden and cake springs back when touched, 10-14 minutes. Cool pans on rack for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, then invert cakes onto rack to finish cooling. Cool pan to room temperature, then wipe clean and repeat the process to make a total of eight thin cake layers.
I froze my cake layers for a couple of days and they did perfectly well. If you do want to make these ahead, be sure they are separated from each other with plastic wrap. Otherwise they may stick together.
Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Spread 1/4 cup frosting over the cake. Be sure to spread the frosting as evenly as possible, taking it to the edge of the cake.
Top this layer with another layer of cake and repeat the process until there are 8 cake layers, all with a thin layer of chocolate frosting between them.
Use the remaining frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake. Serve.
The many layers are the real show-stopper with this cake. People marvel at your skill to pull off such an intricate looking cake. Even if your cake is domed on top and does not have the smoothest frosting, you will still wow a crowd.
Furthermore, this cake tasted great. With all of those layers of cake and frosting, one would think this would be too sweet, but the layers meld together more to make each bite delicious. People who like to eat the cake and frosting separately may have problems with this cake, but everyone I know that tried it liked it.
Here's some food for thought: there are many examples of cakes that take layering to the extreme. Maybe this is some sort of convergent evolution. The other cakes that come to mind include crepe cakes (20 or so crepes with delicious fillings in between) and doberge cakes (filled with pudding). In fact, according to Wikipedia, it seems that every country has their own name and possible spin on this idea with cakes and pastries. The French mille-feuille ("thousand leaves") layers puff pastry and pastry cream with fancy chocolate stripes on top. Add some almond flavoring and it is a napoleon, named more for the city of Naples than the diminutive French emperor (not Sarkozy). Give it more Italian flair and it is mille foglie, which can have some sponge cake thrown in. From all of these, it seems that more layers means more work, which means greater to detail and a higher-end cake overall. Who knew that Smith Island, Maryland, was so worldly?