honey sour cream cakes

 
"It takes courage to grow up and become who you truly are." - e.e. cummings

I recently offered to make a big celebration cake for my nephew's high school graduation open house. After weeks of really bad sketches musing about flavor pairings and cake structure and thinking about how I was going to transport and assemble all of the cake and frosting elements, I decided to  ask my nephew what flavor he personally wanted (his answer: chocolate cake with chocolate frosting). I gave him a huge, stunning, 3-layer chocolate cake studded with about a million broken Kit Kat bars - his favorite candy - which was eagerly devoured by the guests. I wasn't able to get a photo of the cut slices, but it was so moist and delicious, its chocolatey goodness made even more seductive by the candy beginning to melt slightly from the heat and humidity. As I expected, no one complained about the melting chocolate.

I had also wanted to be able to offer two other cake flavors for anyone wanting a lighter alternative to all of that chocolate. A few weeks ago I had devised a wonderfully moist honey sour cream recipe, and I decided to use that cake base as my inspiration for two more cakes for the party. Isn't it nice to have multiple cake tasting options?

The first cake was a tall and cute 4-layer 6-inch round cake that I frosted with alternating layers of vanilla bean buttercream and chocolate buttercream. I decorated this one very simply with a layer of sparkling sanding sugar that I gently pressed into the buttercream all over the top, and left the sides of the cake completely bare for a rustic presentation.

The second cake was a larger 4-layer 8-inch round cake filled and topped with a luscious yet light whipped cream topping mixed with sugar, vanilla bean, a little bit of tangy creme fraiche, and some cream cheese. Again, I left the sides untouched so that all of the pretty layers were visible. This cake seemed to be the crowd favorite, with its array of fresh raspberries dotting the top in a simple, seasonal decoration. Relatives I hadn't seen in years were hugging me, thanking me profusely for baking the various cakes. You should sell these! one aunt told me sincerely. It's a good thing I don't live near you or I would be eating way too much cake... I was so grateful for the complement, and in retrospect I should have told her, "This is why I bake. I love seeing people indulge in comfort food. I love baking for people and seeing the joy on their faces, their eyes closed in pleasure as they relax and savor each bite."

Honey Sour Cream Cake
with Vanilla Bean and Chocolate Buttercream Frostings
You will need: 4 (6") round cake pans
Yields: 10 very generous slices, or 20 smaller pieces

For the cake:
2 sticks + 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 tbsp raw organic honey
3 large cage-free eggs
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla bean paste
1 3/4 generous cups sour cream
3/4 cup unsweetened cashew milk
2 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose unbleached flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder (preferably aluminum-free)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp coarse kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Coat 4 (6") round cake pans very generously with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, honey, eggs, extract, paste, sour cream, and milk until light and fluffy. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda, and salt. Slowly add the dry mixture to the mixer bowl, adding about 1 cup at a time, on low speed, until just incorporated. Use a spatula to gently scrape the bottom of the mixer bowl, to incorporate any stray bits of flour.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans, distributing evenly among the pans. Tap each pan once on the counter to eliminate any air bubbles. Bake the cakes for 25 to 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean and the tops are a very light golden brown. Don't over-bake.

Let the cakes cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. Gently run a butter knife around the edges and invert one at a time onto a serving plate to begin layering alternate layers of both Vanilla Bean Buttercream, found here and Chocolate Buttercream, found here, both from Alice Currah from Savory Sweet Life. These frostings are the only ones I use when I bake cake, and they always whip up light and fluffy and amazing. People want to eat them by the spoonful, and I often make extra frosting just to give to people alongside their cake as a gift for later....

Store any leftover slices in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days.

Honey Sour Cream Cake
with Whipped Cream Filling
You will need: 4 (8") round cake pans
Yields: 8 to 10 generous slices

For the cake:
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup raw organic honey
4 large cage-free eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp pure vanilla bean paste
2 generous cups sour cream
1 cup unsweetened cashew milk
3 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
2 tsp baking powder (preferably aluminum-free)
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Coat 4 (8") round cake pans very generously with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, honey, eggs, extract, paste, sour cream, and milk until light and fluffy. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda, and salt. Slowly add the dry mixture to the mixer bowl, adding about 1 cup at a time, on low speed, until just incorporated. Use a spatula to gently scrape the bottom of the mixer bowl, to incorporate any stray bits of flour.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans, distributing evenly among the pans. Tap each pan once on the counter to eliminate any air bubbles. Bake the cakes for 25 to 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean and the tops are a very light golden brown. Don't over-bake.

Let the cakes cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. Gently run a butter knife around the edges and invert one at a time onto a serving plate to begin layering with the Whipped Cream Filling and Topping.

For the Whipped Cream Filling and Topping:
1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp powdered sugar
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla bean paste
2 tbsp creme fraiche*
1 (8-oz) package Neufchatel cheese, softened

1 dry pint fresh raspberries, gently rinsed and patted completely dry with a clean towel

In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the cream on medium-high speed until slightly thickened. Add both sugars and the vanilla bean paste; continue beating until soft peaks form. Add the creme fraiche and cheese, and continue beating on high speed for another 2 minutes or until the mixture is light, creamy, and very smooth, with no lumps.

Gently layer the cream between each cake round, leaving a bit of cream visible at the edges of each layer, and top the cake with more cream and fresh raspberries (make sure your berries are totally dry, or any excess moisture will run into the cream topping). Keep the cake refrigerated, uncovered, until ready to serve. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days. Interestingly, when I made the previous version of this cake, I found that it got better and better with each day, due to the moisture and richness from the cream filling. Good luck trying not to sneak frequent bites of this one straight from the fridge....

*If you are unable to find creme fraiche at your grocery store, you can substitute full-fat sour cream or mascarpone cheese.

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