When I stopped at Wegman's on the way home to New York, I was tempted to buy a lemon raspberry cake that they were selling, but I was afraid that it wouldn't survive the long drive home in a hot car. I did buy many other wonderful things, though. I especially love Wegman's salad and deli bars with all the prepared dishes. My favorite is their gigante bean salad. I bought a container of that to eat right away, but I also bought a big bag of dried gigante beans to try to replicate the salad at home.
And today was the perfect opportunity, as my friend, June, had a little end-of-the-school-year barbecue and potluck at her house. It turned out to be quite the gourmet event, too! A new couple, Ray and Ben, made a splash with a lovely Israeli couscous salad with fresh veggies and mint. My friends, The Cones, made a yummy pimento cheese spread, and a stunning shrimp cocktail platter. (Jarrod told me that his secret was cooking the shrimp with pickling spice. Yum!) And my friend, Patti, brought a comforting bundt cake that was a recipe of her mom's.
As for my contributions to the affair, I went with the Wegman's theme, and I brought both a gigante bean salad that I could easily live on and a cake that was in the style and flavor of the one that we enjoyed so much at the dog agility trial. It had both a vanilla layer and a chocolate layer with fresh raspberries as well as raspberry coulis in the middle, and a soft, whipped vanilla bean frosting. It was humble-looking (like all my cakes are--decorating is NOT in my wheelhouse), but it held together as it was sliced (that was my main worry), and I think the taste and texture were excellent. It was certainly an experiment worth repeating. Next time, I might try an oil-based vanilla cake to make it less dense, especially when refrigerated.
Cook half a pound of gigante beans (soak overnight, then boil until tender). Roast one small red pepper and one small green pepper over open flame (your gas burner will do just fine). Peel their skins off and slice peppers into super-thin strips. (I used red and yellow roasted peppers from a jar.) Mix cooked beans with 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, two tablespoons olive oil, one tablespoon fresh chopped parsley (I used chives), 1/2 cup (or more, to taste) of roasted pepper strips, one or two minced garlic cloves, and salt to taste. I added a teaspoon of paprika. Let salad marinate in fridge for several hours so flavors can blend. Serve at room temperature.
2 1/3 cups sugar
3 large egg whites
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl on medium speed about two minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg whites and vanilla and beat on medium speed for about one minute. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Add about one-third of the flour mixture to the batter and beat on medium speed until incorporated. Add about half of the buttermilk and beat on medium speed until incorporated. Continue adding dry and wet ingredients alternately, scraping the bowl down and beating until incorporated after each addition. End with the dry ingredients. The batter will be thick and glossy.
Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans. Stagger the cake layers on the oven racks so that no layer is directly over another. Set two layers on one rack and the third on the other. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean and tops are flat and browned. Monitor the layers carefully for doneness; each one me be done at a different time.
Set the cake pans on racks to cool for ten minutes. Invert the cakes onto the racks and cool completely before frosting. At this point the cakes can be tightly wrapped in a layer of plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil and frozen up to three weeks.
Beatty's Chocolate Cake (aka Hershey's Black Magic Cake)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch x 2-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
Place one layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.
Sour Cream Vanilla Bean Frosting
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
5-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
In a medium bowl, mix together the butter, sour cream, vanilla, lemon juice and salt. Stir in confectioners' sugar, and beat with an electric mixer until smooth.