A few weeks ago, I was raving about a beautiful book called THE SCHOOL OF ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS by Erica Bauermeister -- you can read my review here. I have been recommending it to everyone I meet because I think it is a book that all types of people will love.
I am just thrilled that Erica has taken time from her very busy schedule to write a guest post for Booking Mama. And this guest post is extra-special because it includes a recipe from a dessert in THE SCHOOL OF ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS. I think this book would make an excellent book club pick and you could even pair it with this cake for a most memorable meeting!
When I was writing The School of Essential Ingredients, my idea was to pair each character with a food that would help them - evoke a memory, spur a life change, heal a sorrow. Sometimes this match was obvious, easy, but for a long time I didn’t know what Carl’s food should be. I tried bread, omelettes, salt – nothing quite fit. And then I thought of cake, and I heard the click, the sound in your head that lets you know you have put just the right pieces together in a work of fiction.
The only problem was that at the time I could have easily won a prize as the worst cake baker in the world. In that regard, Helen and I were soul mates. I have a sister-in-law who makes extraordinary cakes – lofty, light, sculptural in their decoration – but mine were more like those scrawled cards a toddler gives you, full of love but cringe-worthy in production.
But Carl and Helen needed a cake – and a white one at that, when everyone in my family is a chocolate fanatic – so I had to figure it out. In the process I learned chemistry and patience and magic. And if I may say so, this cake is delicious. Even the chocolate lovers agreed.
I’m including the recipe below, but Lillian wants to make sure I say that you should mess with it. If you are in a book club, consider trying this for your next get-together....
Carl and Helen’s Cake
2 2/3 cups sifted cake flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter (room temp)
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
3 tsp vanilla extract
4 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 3 8" cake pans.
Separate eggs, set aside.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Beat butter until soft. Add sugar; beat several minutes (until fluffy!). Add one egg yolk at a time, beating after.
Add flour mixture alternately with milk. Flour-milk-flour-milk-flour.
Beat egg whites. When peaks are soft, add sugar. Beat until peaks are stiff, but don't overbeat!
Add egg white mixture to flour mixture and pour into cake pans.
Cook 20-25 minutes. Cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean.
1 cup unsalted butter
4 cups confectioner's sugar (plus more if necessary)
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
Beat butter until soft. Add sugar gradually, along with vanilla and milk/whipping cream.
What flavor would you add to the frosting or filling if you weren’t making a white cake?
That's a hard question for me, but I'm going to go with peanut butter (if my son's not around.) No...wait! How about raspberry? Or, maybe almond like my wedding cake. I'm not a huge chocolate fan, so I love white cakes with different fillings.
Are you interested in receiving a copy of this wonderful book? Send Erica your ideas and she’ll choose one entry to receive a signed copy of THE SCHOOL OF ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS. Email your entry to firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure you say you came from Booking Mama. Deadline to enter is Friday, March 28th. Good luck!