A long time ago, I started looking for the ultimate butter cake recipe. You would think something as basic as a butter cake would be easy to master but no, it isn’t. I could never get the proportions, nothing tasted rich enough. And I didn’t want to have those cakes from my neighborhood bakeries as a yardstick because I knew they were made with magarine and not real butter, and likely had preservatives and flavorings in them… but the truth was, they tasted good. And my trial butter cakes were not matching up to them.
Then I came across a post on someone’s blog -it slips my mind who- and he had said that his aunt, a legendary butter cake baker, swore by the tinned Golden Churn brand of butter. So I promptly when out and bought a few tins. Fyi, these tins are REALLY expensive. Look for Golden Churn, not Golden Fern which is cheaper. The Golden Churn tin butter has a very distinctive bovine smell, almost like pure ghee. Its butterfat content (the thing that makes butter creamy and rich) is also higher than the normal block Golden Churn butter.
Okay, so now that I had my superior butter, I went searching for a fantastic recipe to use it in. After much online browsing and sending a few pleading email for people to share their recipes with me, I decided to try out 3 versions. They all worked wonderfully, but each had their own unique flavor. Before giving you the lowdown on each contender, let me share a few butter cake tips I picked up:
1. Use good butter. Pretty obvious but I still have to point it out. Look for tinned Golden Churn or European butters like Lurpak or President. The higher the butterfat content (above 82% is good), the richer your cake. I like the taste a little salt gives so if you’re using unsalted butter, remember to add a small pinch of salt in your batter.
2. Room temperature is your best friend. Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature. Anything cold will cause the batter to curdle. Take butter, eggs, milk etc. out of the fridge at least 30 mins ahead of time.
3. Cream the mixture evenly. Uneven creaming causes some pockets of the baked cake to be darker than others, because bits of sugar that have not been creamed well with the butter and eggs cook faster than the rest of the cake. Most electric beaters do not reach the corners and bottom of the mixer bowl, so you have to stop the machine every 3 minutes and scrape down the sides and bottom with a spatula. Do this 3-4 times during the creaming process to ensure that the batter is even. Also, make sure to cream the butter and sugar long enough. You want it to be a very pale yellow, almost white.
4. Do not use dark or non-stick cake pans. They cause the cake to brown too much and develop a tough and chewy crust. Not what you want in a moist, fluffy butter cake.
5. If you find your cake cooking too quickly, i.e. top is brown but the inside is still wet and uncooked, cover the top of the cake loosely with a large piece of aluminium foil. This prevents the top from getting darker while the rest of the cake continues to cook.
6. Slice your completely cooled butter cake with a serrated knife, in a slight sawing motion to retain its fluffy texture. If you cut it with a flat edged knife, the delicate crumb gets compacted and the cake becomes dense.
Okay, that’s all I can think of for now. Here are the cakes, with a short commentary for each.
This was the butter cake I was looking for. SiNfULLy rich, moist and deliciously fragrant. Can you imagine 10 egg yolks and 375g of butter in one puny 8″ cake?? And I think the addition of melted butter made the cake even more moist. When I pressed down a little on a slice, I could almost see the butter oozing from the crumb. *immediate coronary* But it tasted divine and the texture was perfect. Although I won’t be making it too often, because of health concerns (I don’t usually bother about calories but this IS a little overboard), this is the recipe I’d go to for a special occassion.
10 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1. Melt the butter in the microwave or over gentle heat on the stove. Leave to cool.
2. Lightly grease and line the bottom of an 8″ round cake pan. Preheat oven to 165 degree C.
3. Cream yolks and sugar until creamy and pale yellow. Remember to scrape down the sides and bottom periodically.
4. Add in the cooled melted butter and vanilla.
5. Sift the flour and baking powder (and a pinch of salt if using) and fold carefully into the creamed mixture.
6. Scrape into pan and level surface. Bake for 45-60 mins until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
This was an interesting recipe that called for the eggs to be seperated and the yolks to be added to the butter mixture. The egg whites are then whipped and folded into the batter. The resulting cake is light and fluffy, with a delicate buttery taste. Yummy but not as rich as the previous version. I think this would taste good with a buttercream frosting, because the cake is not too heavy.
250 g butter
100 g sugar
1 tsp vanilla Essence
90 g egg yolk
1 tbsp evaporated milk
200 g cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
160 g egg white
1. Cream butter, sugar, salt and vanilla essence until light and creamy, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times.
2. Add in the yolks one at a time and beat until creamy. Add in evaporated milk.
3. Fold in seived cake flour and baking powder.
4. Whisk egg white and sugar until it holds soft peaks and fold gently into the creamed mixture
5. Pour into a 20 cm round tin (lightly greased and bottom lined) and bake at 175C for about 45 mins or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
Doris Greenspan’s Butter Pound Cake
This was a pound cake recipe so it wasn’t all that light. And it was the driest cake of the lot. But I must say that it was delicious when the slices were warmed up and slathered with some butter and jam. This wasn’t really a butter cake, but on the whole, it was a good cake.
I’ve followed this recipe from Sugar and Spice, which I think is superbly detailed.