I have mentioned before that my sisters are talented bakers, especially when it comes to cake and frosting. I can usually manage a cake recipe just fine. Due to past icing disasters, I tend to have icing anxiety every time I make it.
Part of the problem is my propensity to devise shortcuts after reading recipes. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. With frosting I have realized it would be better to master a recipe first, then decide whether I want to mess with it.
Yesterday was the last official day of winter and I decided to celebrate it by making light, fluffy, billowing clouds of Italian Buttercream. While I miss snowy winters spent living in the Chicago suburbs and Syracuse, New York, I don’t miss the cold weather. I’ll take a Georgia winter and fluffy frosting as a substitute any day!
Since I knew the icing might be time consuming, I wanted a quick and easy cake. The cake recipe is an old family recipe I found in the recipe notebook my sister-in-law gave to me (the one with the brownie recipes I have blogged about). It’s called Lightning Cake and is handwritten on a recipe card with (Aunt Mamie) written next to it. Mamie was my husband’s great-grandmother’s sister. Although I never knew her, I have admiration for a home cook with a good recipe for a quick cake!
There are other similar recipes out there for versions of Lightning Cake, including one published by Fannie Farmer. This one varies slightly in fat content (due to a swap out of butter for an extra egg), and method. I had my doubts about using boiling milk in a cake recipe, but it worked! The result is a slightly dense, golden brown cake reminiscent of sponge cake. While I served it with Italian Buttercream, it would be great unfrosted with just macerated fresh fruit and powdered sugar or ice cream.
I would love to say I have lots of beautiful method pictures to post with this, but my hands and mind were occupied with the buttercream. For the buttercream frosting recipe, I went with a reputable source; King Arthur Flour’s Italian Buttercream recipe.
I made a half batch and used one teaspoon each of vanilla extract and coconut extract for flavoring. There is a helpful blog post on their website that goes along with the recipe, I would check it out before attempting this if you’ve never made Italian Buttercream before.
Coconut Lightning Cake
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder (a heaping teaspoon as Aunt Mamie directs!)
Sift the above dry ingredients together and set aside
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare an 8 by 8 square or 8 inch round baking pan (grease and line with parchment).
Now “beat well” 2 large eggs. I beat the eggs until foamy, then gradually added 1 cup sugar a few tablespoons at a time until the mixture fell from the whisk in ribbons and the sugar was dissolved ~ you can use a hand mixer for this.
Mix the dry ingredients into the egg mixture and fold gently just until combined.
Heat 1/2 cup milk , one tablespoon butter, one teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract in a small saucepan, just until it begins to boil. Remove from heat and stir slowly into the batter until it is fully incorporated. Batter will look a little thin.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then carefully turn out. Remove parchment and let cool completely.
I cut my cake into three layers and frosted with Italian Buttercream, then garnished it with toasted coconut.