White Out

The universal question: Chocolate or Vanilla? I am, and have always been, a chocolate girl. When I read a dessert menu, more often than not, my eyes will immediately zero in on the chocolate items. I love chocolate (now there's an oft repeated statement) and will go to great lengths to get the chocolate I want. Chocolate for me draws pictures of things both sweet and sinful, dark never-ending passions, decadence, bliss.

That being said, there are certain times when some rogue vanilla-craving sneaks up behind me, when things get a little to "noisy" and I seek solace in the simplicity of of the unadorned. Times when I yearn for something pure and white, like a crisp cotton shirt. When I long for sophistication instead of flamboyance, in a place where I lounge, cool as a cucumber, on Scandinavian furniture while sipping artesian water from Fiji. Yes, my escape to vanilla-land.

I was having one of those days, and I despeartely needed something, well, white, to soothe my soul and calm my nerves. Something I could conjure simply to see something white...like a clean slate on which I could regroup and refocus. Is that strange? White first, taste later. An affront to the true purpose of food? I was in a strange mood I suppose...

Anyhoo, I rooted around the cookbooks and this is what I came up with. For the cake, I decided to make a pretty basic yellow cake from our battered, handed-down, copy of Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook. I had to adjust the recipe a bit as I didn't have any shortening, so I used butter, which made for amazing flavor. For the icing, I used the icing for Nigella's Burnt-Butter Brown Sugar Cupcakes, except I didn't "burn" the butter, in order to keep the icing pure white. I also had to adjust the measurements because I didn't have enough sugar on hand (so I apologize for the seemingly random and uneven quantities!). No tragedy...I still had icing leftover.

Here's the recipe:

Rich Golden Cake
(adapted somewhat from Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook)

- 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup white sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 eggs

Here's what you do:
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
- Add the butter, milk and vanilla, and beat for 2 minutes.
- Add the eggs, and beat for another 2 minutes.
- Pour into a greased and floured cake tin (I used a 9 inch one for this recipe. Although that wasn't what it originally called for, it worked just fine. I also lined the bottom of the pan with parchment paper) and bake for 30 - 35 minutes (or until done, when the handy toothpick thrust into the center of the cake comes out clean).

Icing for Burnt-Butter Brown Sugar Cupcakes
(adapted from Nigella Lawson's How to Be a Domestic Goddess)

- 84 grams butter, softened
- 140 grams icing/confectioner's sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 - 2 tablespoons milk

Here's what you do:
- Beat butter with around half the sugar, just to make it stiff.
- Add milk and remaining sugar alternately until you reach a nice consistency.
- Add vanilla.

After the cake has cooled of completely, spread icing all over the cake to cover. It would have been nice if I had a straight edge spatula to clean up my white-out cake's look...unfortunately we had to make do with the rustic, smear-y look.

I had started out just wanting to calm some jumpy nerves with the joy of beholding a nice, plain, white cake, but the boon was that it actually came out delicious! This is no light and fluffy cake though. It is dense and rich and moist. And although it looks quite benign, sitting there in all it's white innocence, it is actually quite intense. The vanilla in the cake and icing, paired with the butter-y-ness of the cake, comforted even a solid chocolate lover like me. Sigh...