Layer cakes, I MISSED YOU. It has been almost a year since I’ve posted a layer cake. Not because I didn’t want to make layer cakes all the live-long day, but because I was nomadic for several months, then setting up my new apartment, then didn’t have anywhere to bring a whole layer cake for a while over the summer. But that’s all sorted now, and I’m so very thrilled to be stacking and frosting tender cake layers again! I learned to make layer cakes that actually look nice through Baked Sunday Mornings (what haven’t I learned to do better through this group??), and I vowed never to miss a layer cake on our baking schedule. But sadly, when the group tackled Milk Chocolate Malt Ball Cake from BAKED: New Frontiers in Baking in the spring, I was traveling in Israel and nowhere near my malted milk powder! So I knew that I’d make this one up at some point as a “rogue” recipe. That opportunity came this week when our scheduled recipe was Baked Tricolor Cookies. Now, it makes my heart ache to skip an Italian recipe, but I just cannot deal with that much almond paste/extract, which is such an integral ingredient to these that I had to skip it. I did, in good faith, make the Tricolor Cake with the group a couple of years ago, and I really, really wanted to like it, but I couldn’t tolerate more than a couple of bites. You can hit that linked post if you feel like reading my rant about the repugnance of almond extract, but really, I’m here to talk about MALT.
The recipe for the cake layers is BAKED’s usual white cake with whipped egg whites folded in, except with a hefty helping of malted milk powder, which gives it a slightly yellowish hue. You start by creaming the butter and shortening, adding sugar and vanilla (I used vanilla bean paste), then alternating additions of the dry ingredients (cake and all-purpose flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, malt powder) with ice water. I had mild issues from the beginning because my butter was too warm, in that the creamed mixture was somewhat melty-looking. (I learned at some point that the cakes come out slightly better if the butter is at cool room temperature rather than softened, even though the recipe calls for the latter.) The last step is folding in egg whites beaten to soft peaks. I don’t know why after so many years of baking, I still struggle to beat egg whites correctly, and I managed to overbeat them a bit. I wasn’t sure how this would affect the finished cakes, as there were stubborn bits of egg white that I couldn’t quite incorporate. Nevertheless, in the oven went the pans…
The cakes baked in 37 minutes with lots more bubbles than usual on top, I presume because of the egg white situation, or maybe also having to do with the softer-than-usual creaming. However, I was quite pleasantly surprised that besides the top bubbles, the cakes seemed to be perfectly fine! The texture was fluffy, and they were perfectly flat on top. I chilled the layers for 5 hours so they were easier to work with for cake assembly.
My frosting also had some issues, and also ultimately came out just fine. (This is a testament to the forgiving nature of BAKED’s cake recipes and some of their frostings… the cooked one, not as much!) It was a warm day and the frosting came out very liquidy. We are instructed to basically make a ganache: bring the heavy cream and corn syrup to a boil, pour it over a mixture of chopped milk and bittersweet chocolate (I used Guittard 38% Soleil d’Or and 72% Coucher du Soleil, respectively), let it sit and start melting, then whisk it to a smooth, sexy pool of chocolate.
The recipe says to refrigerate it for a few minutes until it holds its shape, but being that it was a warm day, it wasn’t even close to that type of texture, and I was concerned at that point that I had measured something wrong. But lo and behold, after a few minutes in the fridge it was obvious that it would firm up and be usable. I chilled the frosting overnight for good measure, then took it out five hours before I needed it. I thought this would be a quicker frosting than BAKED’s more complex cooked buttercream, but I found that it’s a good idea to make it well ahead to avoid a last-minute time crunch in case it doesn’t set up right away as you intend it to. When I mixed it after it had thawed from the fridge, I whipped it by hand for a couple of minutes, but it had a heavy, slightly grainy texture, which I didn’t care for. I threw the bowl on the mixer and within seconds the frosting had whipped into a gorgeous, silky cloud with a lighter cocoa color. It’s on the soft side compared to the cooked frosting, so probably easier to work with in the winter. I swirled the frosting in typical BAKED fashion and topped the cake with a ring of crushed Whoppers malt balls around the edge.
The cake went into the fridge to set before cutting, which was helpful with the tender white cake layers and soft frosting. I could not WAIT to dive into this beauty! The malt flavor is surprisingly subtle– if you told me to taste it and guess the flavor, ‘malt’ would probably be like my 16th guess. It has a warm, pleasing nuttiness, just not immediately identifiable as malt (thought the crushed candy garnish is sort of a giveaway). Combined with the milk chocolate frosting, this cake was just perfect. It is fluffy, just-the-right-amount-of-sweet, and rich without being cloying or overly decadent. This would make an awesome birthday cake as a nice alternative to the standard yellow cake with chocolate frosting.
My tasters loved this cake, and I’d gladly make it and again. You can find the recipe for Milk Chocolate Malt Ball Cake at Baked Sunday Mornings, and please check out the other bakers’ cakes from that week!
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2019.