An airy white butter cake flavored with grappa and orange, filled with a not-too-heavy grappa crème pâtissière (inspired by the Fraisier Cake). This is a perfect cake for summer.
- 3 cups (360 grams) cups cake flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- .75 cup orange juice at room temperature
- .25 cup grappa
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or .5 teaspoon table salt)
- 2 sticks (.5 pound) butter at room temperature
- 2 cups sugar
- zest of one orange
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
Heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease or spray two 9x3” round baking pans and set aside.
Sift the cake flour and baking powder into a bowl and stir until the baking powder is distributed evenly throughout the flour. Set aside.
In a bowl or cup, combine the orange juice, grappa, vanilla and salt. Stir until the salt is dissolved. Set aside.
Fit your stand mixer with the paddle attachment and put the butter and sugar into the mixer’s bowl. Combine the butter and sugar on low speed. Once combined, increase the speed to medium and beat for 8 minutes. Remove the bowl from the stand and place a Microplane grater over the bowl. Use the grater to remove the zest of the orange into the bowl. Replace the bowl on the mixer.
Incorporate the eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition. Add the flour and liquid mixture, a third at a time, and beat on low speed after each addition until incorporated. When finished, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure the batter is throughly combined, then beat on medium speed for two minutes.
Divide the batter evenly between the pans. Bake for 25 to 29 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove from the pans and cool on the rack to room temperature.
Crème pâtissière filling
- 2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
- .5 cup (90 grams) sugar
- 2 tablespoons grappa
- 5 tablespoons (50 grams) cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup and 2 fluid ounces whole milk
- 4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
To make the filling, whisk by hand the eggs, sugar, grappa, cornstarch and vanilla extract in a heatproof bowl.
Pour the milk into a saucepan and bring it just to a simmer. Remove from heat and use it to temper the egg mixture. Add a tablespoon at a time to the egg mixture, whisking vigorously. Continue until the egg mixture is hot, then add the remaining milk in a slow stream, whisking constantly.
Rinse and dry your saucepan and pour the custard back into it. Cook it over medium heat. You must stir it vigorously and without interruption or it could burn. The custard will thicken and become difficult to beat, but continue until it is firm, like a thick icing. Remove from heat and mix in the butter. The butter will melt; continue stirring until the butter has disappeared into the filling.
Pour the filling into a heatproof container and refrigerate it.
When the cake layers are room temperature and the filling is cold, you are ready to finish the cake. Level your cake layers and save the removed cake pieces for the topping. Place one layer, top side up on a serving plate.
Remove the filling from the refrigerator. If it is too thick or dry, mix in teaspoons of milk until it is the desired consistency. Spoon or pipe the filling on top of the plated cake layer. Use an offset spatula to even out the filling. Place the other layer, top down, on the cake. For the topping, follow my Frugal, Toasted Cake Topping article, but mix the toasted crumbs with confectioner’s sugar on top of the cake.
Consume this cake at room temperature and cover well to store in the refrigerator as it can dry out easily.