After making this recipe, I came away with one valuable lesson: if you want to make a multiple layer cake, make sure you have multiple cake pans. It’s just good sense, really. Because, there I was, in the kitchen, making pretty much the easiest from-scratch cake batter I had ever made, thinking that maybe it would have been wise to time myself to set some kind of record of fastest cake making ever (perhaps a little presumptuous…), and then noticed that I only have two cake pans. Two cake pans for a 10 layer cake! I was in the kitchen for a while.
This all started because it was that time of year again. My sisters birthday. And, of course, she wanted a cake bigger and badder than the one from the year before. The criteria, like always, was the same: must include chocolate but may not be a chocolate cake. Usually there are more, but she said that she was “making it easy for me this year.” Or maybe she was giving me a challenge? Still can’t figure that one out.
But I was one step ahead, because, people, I thought that I had tricked her. Because this recipe is just one of a (really tasty) yellow cake with a (really delicious) chocolate icing. Nothing fancy. Nothing crazy. Just really grand looking. I thought that I would sneak into the kitchen and get it done without telling anyone!
Turns out people knew. Right around the time when I was washing the cake pans for the 4th time, muttering about how two thick layers would have been perfectly acceptable. But then all of a sudden, it was put together. And it was brilliant. I mean, it was one impressive cake. It was just so tasty – moist and just the right amount of intense chocolate and dainty and just so pretty. Fine, I’ll say it. I’ll make it again. As soon as I get a couple more pans.
Smith Island Cake (slightly adapted from Saveur)
I should reiterate that this cake is actually quite easy to make and assemble, even if you don’t have a gazillion cake pans. Which is just fine, but makes the end results that much tastier (because all of that effort is mixed in with the cake batter). I ended up using 10 inch cake pans, which made 6 layers, and then made 1/3 of the cake batter to make two more layers. Whoa, I only made 8 layers, I just realized. Oh man, I just relived it. I’m tired again.
FOR THE CAKE:
24 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pans
3½ cups flour, plus more for pans
4 tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. kosher salt
2¼ cups sugar
2 cups milk
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
FOR THE ICING:
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped (don’t use chocolate chips)
2 cups sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. flaky sea salt, or any other type of mild salt
1. Make the cake: Heat oven to 350°. Butter and flour four 9″ cake pans; set aside. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; set dry ingredients aside. Whisk together butter, sugar, milk, vanilla, and eggs in another bowl. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients, and using a whisk, or rubber spatula stir together until just combined; let batter sit for 10 minutes.
Stir batter again until smooth, and then divide the batter in prepared pans. Because I have no idea how many cake pans you keep in your house, and what size these pans are, you basically want enough batter to come up about 1/4 inch in the pan when spread out. For my 10 inch cake pans, it was a ladle-full, which means nothing to you, but which I’m guessing is right around a cup of batter. Tilt cake pans around to let batter cover entire bottom. Bake cakes until barely browned, about 15 minutes. Mine took exactly 15 minutes – I even stopped looking when it was my 3rd batch in the oven – but make sure you keep an eye on them. They are thin cakes, and have the potential of baking quickly. Let cakes cool for 10 minutes in pans, and then invert onto wire racks to cool completely. Clean and dry pans, and grease and flour again; divide remaining batter among pans, take a deep breath, and repeat baking process.
2. Make the icing and assemble the cake: Bring both chocolates, sugar, milk, and butter to a boil in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat; cook, stirring often, until sugar dissolves, chocolate melts, and mixture is smooth and shiny, which will take about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla; let icing sit until thick enough to spread, about 30 minutes. I would stir it occasionally during those 30 minutes to speed up the cooling process. Place one cake on a cake stand and, using an offset spatula, spread with 1/4 cup icing; spread to the very edge, otherwise the ends of the cake will be dry. It’s okay if the icing drips off the cake – you’ll need to frost the sides anyway. Repeat with remaining cakes, leaving top cake un-iced. You may have to chill the cake to set the icing between cakes for about 10 minutes. Pour the remaining icing right on top and spread to the side until it drips over. Spread the icing all around the sides and the top until it is completely covered. Refrigerate until ready to eat.