The Traditional Cake

This extraordinarily light and delicious cake is our family’s traditional birthday cake. We have photos of my dad in 1937 having it for his first birthday (and every year since!). My mom modernized the recipe in the sixties since it is so time consuming in its original form. YUMMMMMM!!

The Traditional Cake

  • Servings: 10-12
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Sponge Cake
3/4 cup egg whites (7 eggs) at room temperature*
1/2 cup egg yolks (7 eggs) at room temperature*
1-1/3 cup (160 g) sifted cake flour
1/2 tsp. (2 g) double acting baking powder
1/2 tsp. (3 g) salt
1-1/2 cups (300 g) sifted granulated sugar (divided)
1 tsp. (4 g) cream of tartar
1/4 cup (59 ml) water
1 tsp. (5 ml) vanilla extract

*Set the eggs out one hour ahead OR place whole eggs in a bowl of room temperature water for five minutes. Make sure you dry the egg shells before cracking them open.

In large mixer bowl, combine egg whites and cream of tartar.  At high speed, beat egg whites until soft mounds begin to form.  Add 1/2 cup of sugar, a couple tablespoons at a time.  Beat until very stiff peaks are formed.  DO NOT UNDERBEAT.

In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, salt and the remaining cup of sugar.

Combine yolks, water, extracts in a small bowl.  With a rubber spatula, stir into sifted flour mixture just to blend. 

Fold egg whites into batter gently (40 folding strokes). Turn into a 10″ diameter ungreased tube cake pan; cut gently through batter to remove large air bubbles. 

Bake for 35 minutes at 375°F (190°C).  After it comes out of the oven, turn the tube pan over and let the cake cool. (I usually bake it the night before and let it sit upside down in the tube pan overnight. This dries it a little more, making it a perfect sponge for absorbing the frosting). If you decide to make it the same day you serve, be gentle slicing the layers.

2 cups (473 ml) whole milk
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (40 g) flour
1/2 lb. (227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 oz. (28 g) Baker’s unsweetened baking chocolate (one square) or 1 oz. of a dark chocolate of your choice)
1 bag of sweetened coconut

Mix milk, sugar and flour together in a heavy bottomed saucepan and cook on medium high, stirring the whole time, until it is as thick as possible (about ten minutes).  Cut out a circle of foil for the top (so it doesn’t build up a skin as it cools) and refrigerate until cooled completely.

Beat butter until fluffy with a mixer.  Once the cooked mixture is completely cool, add to butter and beat just to incorporate. Note: the texture of this frosting is different from a buttercream; it won’t be as stiff.

Melt baking chocolate (still in its paper) in the microwave on high for one minute. Mix this with a little over a third of the frosting.

Spread coconut evenly on a sheet pan. Place it in a 350°F (177°C) oven for 15-20 minutes, taking it out every 3-5 minutes and tossing it with two forks so it toasts evenly. DON’T leave it and walk away. Coconut burns easily!! When it’s lightly browned, it’s ready. Let it cool. (Don’t cover it as it will lose its crispness).

Slice the cake horizontally into four sections. [If desired, lay a piece of parchment paper on your cake plate and cut a slit through the center but only 3/4 of the way through. The parchment can then be pulled away at the end for a cleaner result.] Center the bottom layer on your cake plate. Spoon a little less than half of the chocolate frosting on it and spread it evenly.

Frost the next layer with a dollop of the creamy frosting, and the third layer with chocolate again.

For the top layer, spread the rest of the creamy frosting over the top and sides.  If you have any chocolate frosting leftover, it’s fun to create little swirls over the whole thing.

When the entire cake has been frosted, sprinkle the toasted coconut on the whole thing. Voila!!

Origins unknown but we thank you!!

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