Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Big Ol' Yellow Cake (Half Sheet)

This is a beast of a cake. It takes five cups of flour and serves up to 48 people - and that's just a single layer. The pictured cake is two layers in order to sandwich in the lemon filling. The weight alone is an accomplishment; stabilizing this over a 30+ minute car ride had my knuckles aching and me swearing. But it's worth it when it's for people you care about.

This birthday cake was a request from my awesome MIL for one of her best friend's birthday party. The concept was simple enough: big yellow sheet cake decorated in purple and yellow with a lemon filling. When the time came, I struggled to find a recipe for a half sheet (12x18) cake. People seem to be afraid of them. That, or all the grocery stores united and placed a ban on the internet to share this information because heaven's knows you can always find them there. Conspiracy?

Fortunately, I was able to find a tutorial that provided detailed instructions and an ingredient list for the yellow cake. Phew! Though the cake is a beast, it is not a beast to make. The one essential tool that you will need is a stand mixer. It produces a huge amount of batter and could break someone's arm off if they tried to hand mix. Diane's secret ingredient to create such an airy cake with so much volume is corn starch because cornstarch, used in combination with flour, can "soften" the harsh proteins of flour, making a more tender baked good. 

As for the gorgeous buttercream, if you have read any of my cake posts that use buttercream, I stuck with old faithful: Smitten Kitchen's Swiss Buttercream. I made a "wedding cake" sized portion (see Smitten's post) of frosting because of all the purple ombre of rosettes piped around the cake. For the food coloring, I used increments of Wilton Icing Coloring - Violet.

My only regret with this cake was the lemon filling. I made this cake a week after baking my second-ever wedding (stay tuned) so I was burnt out in the kitchen. Unlike the wedding cake's strawberry mousse filling, I was in no mood to play America's Test Kitchen and didn't test before making. I used this recipe for Lemon Cake Filling that I found on the Wilton forum. I don't want to give this recipe a bad review because it tasted delicious however... there was some structural struggles. 

Straight from the stove to a container, it was delightful! A perfect balance of citrus and sweet! Unfortunately, spooning it as a filling in between the layers disrupted the integrity of the form. I was panicked that when the cake was cut, the filling would ooze out. I think where it went wrong was letting the filling cool completely in the fridge. The directions say let it cool to room temperature before adding to a cake. My theory is that it was supposed to set in the actual cake - not in the fridge. The other lesson was that the next time I have to shot gun a recipe, use something that's full proof for filling like cream cheese or frosting with lemon zest. Just another opportunity to grow as a baker. 

Yellow Half Sheet Cake (12x18)
bakes 1 Layer - Serves 48 Pieces

5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup corn starch
8 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk room temperature
6 eggs
4 teaspoon vanilla
4 sticks butter (2 cups)
4 cups granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease a 12 x 18 sheet pan dust with flour.
Combine all the dry in a bowl and stir. Set aside. In a separate bowl, stir together slightly beaten eggs, vanilla and milk.

In a stand mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar till light and fluffy. Add dry ingredients slowly it should like small crumbs when combined. Add liquid ingredients till the batter is silky smooth

Pour batter into pan evenly tap bottom of cake pan. Bake at 325 45-50 minutes check with a cake tester or toothpick. Place on cooling rack