Yes, I know it's May, but spring seems to be taking its sweet time arriving in the Northeast. We have had dreary, drizzly, cold weather lately and it put me in the mood for maple instead of flavors more reminiscent of spring.
My grandmother has always made a white cake with maple walnut frosting, which is what inspired me to make this cake, sans walnuts, courtesy of my 1960 edition of Betty Crocker's Cookbook. (The cookbook belonged to my great-grandmother and is one of my favorite possessions.) I happen to love simple, unfussy cakes perfect for snacking. As the name implies, this cake is fluffy and white and the perfect vehicle for maple frosting, or really any other kind of frosting. When the weather warms up, it will be nice with the fresh flavors of berries and whipped cream. It's easy and versatile. The cake is delightful but the frosting is the star of the show. A classic American buttercream made with butter and confectioners' sugar with maple flavor. It's creamy, sweet, and flavorful. A perfect antidote to a gloomy spring.
Recipes originally from Betty Crocker's Cookbook, 1960 edition, very slightly adapted
For the Cake:
- 4 egg whites
- 1/4 c. softened, unsalted butter
- 1/4 c. shortening
- 1 1/2 c. sugar
- 2 1/2 c. cake flour
- 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 c. milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla
Butter and flour a 9x13 cake pan and preheat the oven to 350. Separate the eggs and beat the egg whites until stiff, then set aside while you make the rest of the batter. Beat together the butter, shortening, and sugar until fluffy. In a separate bowl, combine cake flour, baking powder, and salt. In another container that is easy to pour from, measure the milk and vanilla together. I use a liquid measuring cup for this step. Add a third of the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture and give it a quick mix. Add a third of the milk and mix. Continue alternating dry ingredients and wet until everything is combined and beat until the batter is smooth, a minute or two. Gently fold in the beaten egg whites, half at a time, resisting the urge to stir, as it will flatten the air out of the egg whites. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 35-45 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.
For the Frosting:
First, a note about frosting - I almost never measure anything when making frosting. I prefer a little bit of a mad scientist approach, adding ingredients as I go until I get the desired result. I start with my fat, either butter or shortening or both, blend in flavoring, and add confectioner's sugar and milk until I get the consistency I'm after. The frosting pictured is a maple buttercream and I will do my best to approximate the measurements, but play around a little until you get what you want. You can't really go wrong with these ingredients. If you find that you've added too much sugar and the frosting is sickeningly sweet, no problem, just add a little bit more softened butter and if needed, the smallest pinch of salt to cut the sweet.
- 1/2 c. softened unsalted butter
- 2 1/2 - 3 c. confectioners' sugar, depending on taste and consistency
- 1-2 tsp. maple extract (a little goes a long way! Start slow and add as needed)
- OR skip the extract and use 1/4 c. of pure maple syrup and adjust your sugar needs accordingly
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- Milk or cream
Beat softened butter with salt and flavoring. Add 2 1/2 c. confectioners' sugar, about 1/2 c. at a time so it doesn't fly all over the place. Don't worry if it looks dry and crumbly. Add a couple of tablespoons of milk and mix together. Continue adding milk, one tablespoon at a time, until you get the consistency you desire. Taste. Add more sugar if it wants to be sweeter, add more flavoring if it's not strong enough, add more milk if it needs to be creamier, add more butter if it's too sweet. Don't stress about it. It will come together and be delicious. If you want a creamy consistency, beat on lower speeds to avoid adding lots of air. If you prefer a more whipped icing, once you get the flavor you want, beat on high for several minutes to incorporate air into the frosting. Spread liberally over the cake and enjoy!