Saturday, November 14, 2015

Vanilla Bean Latte Cake

I come from a family of coffee drinkers.  Coffee drinking, and coffee making, too, for that matter, is a comfortable ritual, as much as it is a welcome wake-up on sleepy mornings.  Coffee in the morning is obvious, by my mom and grandparents also had the habit of making a pot of decaf at night after dinner, especially if there was dessert (and of course there was dessert).  I never make coffee at night, myself, but appreciate the habit of coffee with dessert when I visit my parents' house.

My first cup of coffee was at an airport when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old.  We were seeing my grandparents off, and the adults were all drinking coffee while we waited at the gate with them for their turn to board the airplane.  The hot liquid steamed from paper cups, and as they sipped their coffee, talking about adult things that were of little interest to me, I found myself wishing I could have my own cup and be as grown up as they were.

I asked if I could have some, and my parents said yes, likely thinking I'd take one sip and refuse to drink anymore.  But I excitedly filled up a cup to the very top from the free beverage station (how things have changed at airports!) and took it back to my seat.  My first, scalding sip burned my tongue and sent a shiver down my spine.  What were they thinking, drinking something that tasted so terrible?  The second taste was just as bad.

But I was determined to drink that whole cup and prove to them that I was as grown up as they were, and so I did, my body shuddering with every awful gulp that I forced myself to swallow.

I remember ordering lattes in college, and feeling oh-so-sophisticated.  Usually I drank them with a pump of sickly sweet vanilla syrup and a sprinkling of cinnamon on top.  For years now, though, I have grown to appreciate the bitter, but smooth richness of black coffee, perhaps with a splash of real cream now and then, but never sugar.

This cake combines two things I love, coffee and vanilla bean.  It's a somewhat dense cake, that is moist and rich with a beautiful crumb, and the buttercream is so light and fluffy.  I practiced some classic piping just for fun, and I love the elegant flair the piped borders add.  A slice of this would be so perfect with, well, maybe a cup of coffee?

Vanilla Bean Latte Cake

  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/3 cups coconut milk or coconut cream, full-fat
  • 2 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons espresso powder

Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray the bottoms of three 8 or 9-inch pans with non-stick baking spray, line with parchment paper, and spray the paper as well.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar, cream cheese and butter on medium speed for 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Beat in the vanilla bean paste, then the eggs, one at at time, beating well after each.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut milk and espresso powder to dissolve the powder..  Add the flour mixture to the mixing bowl in 3 additions, alternating with the milk, starting and ending with the flour; stir on low just until moistened.

Divide the batter between the pans and bake for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool completely on a wire rack, covered loosely with a clean kitchen towel.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter and vanilla bean paste until smooth.  In a separate bowl, combine the powdered sugar and meringue powder.  With the mixer on low, add by spoonfuls.  Dissolve the espresso powder in the milk, add to the mixing bowl and increase speed to medium high, whipping until very light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes, scraping the bowl several times.

Frost the cooled cakes with the buttercream.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen