Sunday, March 18, 2012

(Where's The) Butter Cake

About a week ago, my friend JY pointed me towards a recipe for a cake that used cream instead of butter. The whipped cream cake from Rose Levy Beranbaum uses heavy cream in lieu of butter. I was curious and I couldn't wait for the weekend to try making the cake, especially since JY tried it herself and boasted of the "wonderful flavour and tender crumb" of her cake.

I measured the ingredients, preheated the oven and got to the first step of the recipe: whipping the cold cream till it formed stiff peaks.

And then things went a little out of control. I decided to multitask. I sieved my flour, baking powder and salt while the cream was whisking. It should take about 5 minutes more, right? I had time. I made myself a cup of tea, washed the dishes and then sauntered back to check on my cream only to find a big sloshy mess in the bowl of my mixer.


I'd let the cream be whipped too long! I was well on my way to making butter! Blast! (Yes, these exclamation marks are deliberate). So much for a no butter cake!

What had happened? The extra whipping had expelled the butter milk from the cream.

[Aside: To make butter, you need to drain the buttermilk away and whip the cream once more to expel even more buttermilk. Then you drain again and wash the butter: fill the bowl with cold running water. Let the water wash over the 'butter', gently kneading the butter to dispel any remaining buttermilk from it. Keep was water going until there is no trace of whey, until the water that drains off the clear.  For a detailed explanation read this article in The Guardian]

Back to my cake.

I turned off the oven and stared at the butter-in-progress, quite helpless. What should I do? Abandon the project and make butter instead or try to salvage the cream as best I could. I decided to keep whisking, wondering all the while what would happen.

Wouldn't you know it, miraculously, the buttermilk and cream came together once again. What just happened? Turns out, just as you can separate the buttermilk from the cream to make butter, you can whisk it all back together. Buttermilk and cream whisked together give you cream. Well, that's how I understand it. Would gladly welcome any comments or a better explanation perchance.

Alls well that ends well: I managed to reconstitute the cream and whipped it to hold peaks, watching closely this time and proceeded with the recipe.

Wasn't sure how the cake would turn out but as I watched it bake, I was hopeful that all would be well. It rose really well and though cracks appeared on the surface, it looked swell.

After 35 mins, I removed the cake and waited impatiently for it to cool before tasting it.

It ... was... lovely. Light, moist, pillowy soft with that tender crumb JY promised. It didn't quite taste like a butter cake: it was lighter and Beranbaum's recipe called for a modest amount of sugar and if anything, the next time I would add just a little more sugar to the recipe. To compensate, I slathered on some chocolate buttercream frosting which I had stored in my fridge: remnants of a cupcake project from last week. Ah, perfect! [On hindsight, or rather after eating quite a few slices, the topping wasn't necessary. Instead a light dusting of powdered sugar as Beranbaum suggests, works sufficiently].

Phew. What a morning.

Whipped Cream Cake
adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum

21/4 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
11/2 cups heavy cream, cold
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
11/4 cups sugar (the original recipe called for 1 cup + 2 tbsp)
Preheat the oven to 190C.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.

Gently whisk the eggs and the vanilla. Set aside.

Whisk the cold cream the your mixer until it forms firm peaks. Start on a low speed and slowly increase to medium high and then high. 

Add the egg mixture gradually to the cream until its incorporated and achieves the consistency of mayonnaise. Add the sugar and beat to incorporate.

Gently fold in half the flour with a spatula; add the remaining flour and fold in till mixed together well.

Pour the batter into a greased baking pan and bake for 30-35 mins or till a tester comes out clean. 


  1. Oh, you sweet-toothed vegetarian! :))
    I actually reduced Rose's sugar by 15g and loved its mildness. That's probably why I couldn't stop scarfing down the cake, piece after glorious piece. It worked well as cupcakes too, but not as well in a loaf pan (in the middle section, the bottom half cm was slightly soggy or compacted). That's probably why she recommended using a tube pan or Kugelhopf pan.

    1. Yeah i was surprised too. Usually I reduce the sugar in recipes but this time I found it lacked sweetness. Wierd :)


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