Josh Is Still Ten!: Classic White Layer Cake with Butter Frosting and Raspberry (or Cherry)-Almond Filling

I was happy to make a second birthday cake for a second birthday party for my cousin's son Josh (I also made Josh two birthday cakes last year -- one with a baseball theme and one with a Star Wars theme). Josh requested something vanilla for his second cake, so I decided to try a recipe from the folks at Cook's Illustrated: a "Classic White Layer Cake with Butter Frosting and Raspberry-Almond Filling."

The cake is a high-ratio cake with more sugar than flour by weight, and you make the batter with the high-ratio mixing method. You put all of the dry ingredients (cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt) into a mixer bowl; add softened butter; and add the liquid ingredients (milk, egg whites, vanilla, and almond extract) last. You divide the batter between two parchment-lined 9-inch pans to bake.
The frosting is American buttercream that is simply a mixture of softened butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, milk, and salt. I used Heilala vanilla paste in both the cake and the frosting and I liked the small specks of vanilla seeds visible in both.

To assemble the cake, you spread a layer of seedless raspberry jam on one of the cooled cake layers, followed by a generous amount of toasted, slivered almonds. I happened to have a jar of Clearbrook Farms Michigan red tart cherry preserves on hand, which has whole cherries in it. I decided to use the cherry jam instead of raspberry. I added the second cake layer and covered the entire cake in frosting. I had plenty of frosting to pipe some borders. I kept the decoration simple and spelled out a birthday message with some fondant I had leftover from another project, painting the letters with some edible luster dust dissolved in lemon extract.
My decision to use the tart cherry jam was fortuitous. My cousin makes homemade ice cream regularly, and it just so happened that among the containers of ice cream nestled in his freezer, he had some homemade sour cherry ice cream. The ice cream was delicious, and of course, it was perfect with the cake. I liked the tender texture of the cake, which was soft and had a very fine crumb. I generally don't like the dense texture of American buttercream, and I think that the layer of jam in the middle of this cake is necessary to offset the sweetness of the frosting (eating the cake with ice cream also definitely helps). The crunchy almonds in the middle were my favorite part.

I would make this cake again, although I would replace the frosting with Italian or Swiss meringue buttercream. But the birthday boy wasn't complaining, so I consider the cake a success.

Recipe: "Classic White Layer Cake with Butter Frosting and Raspberry-Almond Filling" from Baking Illustrated.

Previous Birthday Cakes for Josh: