Your pastry cream is set. Your kitchen is prepared. Or you just skipped part one. Whatever. Get ready for the easiest layer cake ever. The layers of the Pancake Cake are rich, rustic blueberry buttermilk cake that is the simplest from-scratch cake recipe I’ve ever found. Don’t worry: I still managed to fuck it up.
The base recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, here. I doubled the recipe, which was enough to make one nine inch three-layer cake, and then a fourth layer that I made into a Personal Pancake Cake. More on that in a bit. The basic glaze I used is below
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest from half a lemon
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
One of those little clamshells of blueberries. (Or two, if you really like blueberries.)
9 inch round baking pans. I recommend having at least 3.
Two mixing bowls
So, in this cake part: I screwed up. I thought, I’ve made this cake before! It was easy! I don’t need to read the instructions carefully!
Hot Baking Tip: Always read the instructions carefully. The cake turned out just fine, but I’m including the actual instructions as well.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter your pan(s) or spray them with Pam.
Throw all your dry ingredients together into one of the mixing bowls and stir them up. Put the butter and sugar in the other bowl and mix them on not-quite-the-fastest speed on your mixer until they are kind of creamy looking. Smitten Kitchen says “pale and fluffy.” Here’s a fact: I don’t have a stand mixer. I have a valiant little hand mixer, which gets the job done, but makes a fucking mess. No matter how much butter I fling around, I have never once in my life gotten it to be pale and fluffy. Just do the best you can. Add in the egg, vanilla, and lemon zest, and then beat the shit out of your wet ingredients.
My shirt was in the splatter zone.
Here’s the part where I fucked up. According to Smitten Kitchen, one must not add buttermilk with the rest of the wet ingredients. It gets alternated with the flour when putting the dry ingredients and wet ingredients together. This works! I have done the cake this way, and it was great. Adding it with the other wet ingredients appears to have made the dough lumpier. But they’re butter lumps, which don’t count.
Pictured: Butter lumps.
So if you want to do things right, pour a third of your dry ingredients into your wet ingredients. Mix them together. Pour in half of your buttermilk. Mix it up. Flour, mix, buttermilk, mix, flour, done. At this point, it is acceptable to lick the beaters.
Hot Baking Tip: Everyone gets to decide what kind of baker they want to be. However, a courteous baker washes the implements they have licked before continuing to use them in the kitchen.
Divide that batter into approximate quarters and scrape it into your prepared pans. You’re only going to get 1/2-1/4 of an inch of batter into each pan. That’s fine–they’ll rise. Divide your blueberries into approximate quarters and sprinkle on top of the batter. Pop each pan in the oven for 20 minutes. Once you can stick a fork in the cake and have it come out clean, they’re done baking.
Should look something like this.
Let the pan sit until you can pick it up without burning your hands. My preferred method of removing cakes from pans is grabbing a bendy rubber spatula and jamming it in around the edges, then putting a plate on top, flipping the whole thing upside-down, and banging on the bottom of the cake pan until I am 90% sure the cake is out. In this case, that actually worked!
I don’t remember sacrificing a goat to the Cake Gods…
Once your layers are out of the oven, go get your pastry cream from the fridge. It’s already in a plastic bag, so just snip off a corner and call it a pastry bag. Just make sure you’ve sealed the top before you start squeezing. Not that I know anything about getting filling all over my kitchen. Put your bottom layer on the serving plate and squeeze a generous amount of pastry cream on top. Remember, the goal here is to make the cake look like a stack of pancakes. Go heavy on the cream in the middle and leave some more empty space around the edges. Smooth the cream out with a knife/spoon/your fingers.
Should look something like this.
Pop the next layer on top and repeat.
Pre-glaze cake, with bonus outdated iPod!
Astute readers may notice that you have a spare layer on hand, as well as some leftover pastry cream. On the one hand, you could stack another layer on top of the short stack. But you could also make a Personal Cake.
The Personal Cake
Baking is an inherently generous activity. Unless you are planning on eating an entire cake yourself. In which case you are my hero, and please consider taking acolytes. Most baking is meant for sharing. Cookies, brownies, and other hand-sized treats make it easy to give away your treats with a smile because you have your own secret stores at home. However, it is really easy to tell when someone has taken a slice of cake before the main event. And as much as I love feeding people, I have a hard time keeping a happy expression on my face while watching all my hard work disappear, with the knowledge that I will not be able to eat my fucking pancake cake for breakfast the next day because some assholes didn’t leave me any leftovers.
I have a lot of feelings about cake.
But all this resentment and internal conflict (if they don’t eat it all, does that mean it sucks? if they do eat it all, will I ever forgive them?) can be completely avoided by baking an extra layer and making your own Personal Cake. Cut the layer in half or in thirds, squeeze on the filling, and stack the layers up. Pour your glaze/frosting on top. There! Personal Cake! (Extra bonus: courteous bakers can now can taste-test before serving to their guests.)
The glaze is pretty simple. I adapted it from this epicurious recipe. I would have liked to have more glaze on hand, so you might want to consider doubling this part.
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
The juice of your sadly denuded half-lemon from the layers
1/4 teaspoon salt
A small pot
Put everything in the pot! Turn the heat on low and stir occasionally until the butter is melted and everything is bubbling. Let it simmer for a minute or two, then turn off the heat. Let the glaze cool for 5 minutes so the pastry cream doesn’t give up this life on contact. Then pour the glaze on top of the cake. Try to spread the glaze easily. There is no way to do this without making a mess of your entire life. I’m so sorry to have done this to you.
And now you have–the Pancake Cake.
Shiny and decadent and ridiculously satisfying. Which you’ll know. Because you have a Personal Cake to eat right now.
I’m really fucking happy, and I hope you are too.
The Mess Report:
I’ve seen worse.
Next Time: The Crime Scene Cake, or, Why Weeknight Baking Is Wrong For You!