Vanilla Cloud Cake

vanilla angel food cakeMy devotion to chocolate is generally absolute, but last week I was in the mood to bake something a little lighter, a little wintry-looking, and something very, very vanilla.  This angel food-style cake was a slam-dunk winner on several fronts: texture (spongy-soft and gorgeously moist), looks (sweet and snowy) and taste (hello, vanilla).  The cake calls for vanilla extract (use the real stuff) and vanilla bean paste (for even more flavor and those pretty little flecks) and I scraped in a whole bean to show off. Why not?

I’m not a fan of traditional scratch buttercreams (too buttery, if that’s possible), so I had a feeling I might like this frosting (cream cheese, whipped cream and white chocolate for sweetness). Oh, my. Dreamy, creamy, pillowy soft, vanilla. I’ll try slathering a batch on chocolate cupcakes sometime very soon.

Vanilla Cloud Cake
adapted (barely) from Shauna Sever’s Pure Vanilla, 2012
for the cake:

  • 1 1/2 cup superfine sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 2 cups egg whites (from about 16 large eggs), room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • one tablespoon vanilla bean paste

for the frosting:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 6 oz white chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups heavy cream, very cold
  • one tablespoon vanilla extract
  • one tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • one vanilla bean pod (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, sift the cake flour and half of the superfine sugar measure together. To a stand mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt. Mix on medium speed until the beaten whites form soft peaks that curl over on themselves, about 2-3 minutes. With the mixer running, sprinkle in the remaining superfine sugar until the meringue looks glossy and forms stiff peaks (they’ll stand straight up when you dip the whisk into the whites). Add the vanilla paste.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift 1/3 of the flour mixture over the meringue. Use a spatula to fold most of the flour into the egg whites. Continue adding the flour in two more additions, folding gently. Gently transfer the mixture to an ungreased 10″ angel food pan and bake for about 40-45 minutes, until golden brown on top and a wooden skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs when inserted into the cake. Invert the cake pan and place on the neck of a wine bottle to cool completely and set its structure, about 1 1/2 hours. (If your pan has feet, you can just flip it over and cool on your counter.) When totally cooled, take a butter knife and run along the inner and outer edges to release the cake from the pan. Place on a serving platter upside down.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and white chocolate until creamy and smooth. With a sharp paring knife, split the vanilla bean pod and scrape out the seeds; add to the cream cheese and mix to combine. (Discard the spent pod.) In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream, vanilla extract and vanilla paste to stiff peaks. Sacrifice 1/3 of the cream into the cream cheese mixture to lighten it a bit. Fold in the rest and frost the cake.

Note: to cut the cake, it’s best to use a serrated knife; a regular pie spatula or knife will just smush the cake.

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About scarpettakate

Scarpetta Dolcetto celebrates simple, seasonal, scratch home cookery.
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