White Cake

This is the perfect recipe for a cake you want to cover with frosting and decorate. It’s easy and delicious, but the flavor of the cake stays enough in the background so you can highlight the sweet frosting on top. (See this recipe for a good buttercream frosting here.)

I used this as the base for the Cookie Monster Cake. This recipe is for a double-layer 8- or 9-inch round cake. Halve the recipe for a single-layer cake of the same diameter, though I used half in a 6-inch round cake pan and it turned out well.

I clipped this recipe years ago from the newspaper. It said it won an award at the 1997 Boulder county fair for a woman named Jan Bentley. I feel I ought to give her credit for such a delicious creation!

2 1/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
4 egg whites
1 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C degrees. Grease and flour two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Blend in shortening with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a separate bowl, mix egg whites, milk, and vanilla. Add liquids slowly to the flour mixture and mix by hand, scraping the sides of bowl, until blended. Beat with the mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Pour batter into prepared cake pans and bake 25-30 minutes until tops are golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (Don’t worry if the top is turning dark and you’re still waiting for the toothpick to come out clean, because you’ll slice off the top later.)

Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove and place on wire racks until cool completely, about 2 hours.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

This cake turned out to be a big success — a straightforward recipe with delicious results and a rich chocolate flavor. As you can see, it was designed for Easter. The top ridge of the cake caves in, creating a base for a whipped topping that looks like a nest. Lay some candy eggs on top and you’ve got much more than a flourless chocolate cake — you have an Easter Egg Nest Cake.

This was a Nigella Lawson recipe I clipped from The New York Times eight years ago. I don’t tend to have a lot of luck with her recipes, but as I suspected, the recipe’s appearance in the Times meant it was a winner. I hope you have similar results.

Yield: 1 9-inch cake

For the cake:
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
8 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted
6 large eggs: 2 whole, 4 separated
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the topping:
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted and cooled
Approximately 1 cup small candy eggs, like robin’s eggs

1. Heat oven to 350F degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper, then grease the top of the paper.

2. For the cake, stir the softened butter into the just-melted chocolate and let cool. Whisk 4 egg whites until foamy (this is best done in a stand mixer). Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar and whisk until whites hold their shape but are not too stiff. Reserve.

3. In a separate bowl, by hand, whisk 2 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks with 1/3 cup of sugar and vanilla until combined. Stir in chocolate to mix.

4. In three additions, fold whites into chocolate mixture*. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cake rises, cracks, and center is no longer wobbly.

5. Cool cake on a wire rack; the middle will sink and the sides will crack. Carefully remove cake from pan and place on serving plate.

6. For topping, whip cream with vanilla until it is firm but not stiff. Fold in melted chocolate. Fill top of cake with whipped topping, easing it out gently toward the edges. Arrange candy eggs on top.

*A tip for folding mixtures: Folding is not the same as stirring. It requires gentle and methodical mixing with a spatula. Holding the bowl on the left side, cut through the batter with the edge of the spatula from left to right, then lift upwards with the broad side of the spatula along the half of the bowl closest to you. Give the bowl 1/4 turn and repeat, doing this until the batter is slowly mixed. Doing it this way preserves the air bubbles in certain batters where the bubbles are necessary for lift.