Julia Child’s gift to cake

14th June, 2010 - Posted by admin - Comments Off

Butter sponge cake with fresh necatrines

For reasons I cannot adequately explain, I have never owned a cookbook by Julia Child. Thankfully, I was able to correct the situation at the Nevada County library book sale. In another moment of serendipity, stone fruit season is upon us.

How do these two events go together? I finally have the perfect sponge cake recipe to go under all the peaches, apricots and nectarines showing up at the farmers markets.

Knowing how to make a sponge cake is something that all cooks should be able to do. They are endlessly versatile and require very few ingredients. The recipe below is one that I consider to be a quintessentially French recipe: eggs, sugar, flour and a little butter and you have something wonderful. The trick is knowing how to put the ingredients together.

The batter comes together in two parts and is then combined at the end. Resist the urge to over mix. This recipe gets its airiness from the meringue, stirring too much will cause the batter to deflate and the final result will be an over-sized butter flavored hockey puck.

There is just enough flour in this cake to hold it together, remove the flour and it becomes a souffle. For this reason, definitely use cake flour as opposed to all purpose or bread flour. The cake will be much softer and delicate.

The cake can be stored in an air-tight container or frozen for several weeks. Sponge cakes thaw without any real loss of quality, so this is a good cake to make in multiples and store for any cake-related emergencies that might come up.

So once the cake has been created, what next? Because the favors are so light, sponge cakes pairs with all kinds of things. Chocolate sauce is classic, but this time of year, I like fruit. Strawberries with a little balsamic vinegar is always good, as are the stone fruits mentioned earlier. For an extra addition of deliciousness, slice the fruit in half, remove the pit and put them on a hot a grill for a minute or two. The heat will caramelize the sugars and increase the depth of flavor dramatically.

Lucchesi Vineyards Pinot Grigio is a good pairing with grilled peaches and cake on a warm summer evening.

Sponge cake
Courtesy of “The Way To Cook” by Julia Child
Makes one 8-inch cake

Batter Base
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Egg Whites
3 egg whites
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Completing the batter
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup plain cake flour, sifted
3 tablespoons melted and cooled butter

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Oil an 8-inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

2. Start beating the egg yolks in a mixing bowl and gradually beat in the sugar by tablespoons; continue for several minutes, until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a ribbon when the beater is lifted. Add the vanilla and mix.

3. In another bowl, beat the egg whites, starting at a slow speed until they foam throughout. Add the salt, cream of tartar and continue until soft peaks are formed. Add the sugar and beat to stiff peaks.

4. At once, stir a quarter of the egg white mixture into the egg yolks, to lighten the batter. Rapidly plop a third of the remaining whites on top and sift in a quarter of the flour. Delicately and quickly fold them together, and when almost blended repeat the sequence with a third of the remaining egg whites and a third of the remaining flour. When almost blended, add and fold in the melted butter – do not overblend or you will deflate the batter.

5. Fill the cake pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Posted on: June 14, 2010

Filed under: Dessert, Vegetarian

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