Can we talk vacations? There was an article that David Lebovtiz posted on his facebooks that said that Americans “don’t take vacation seriously.” I would argue the point differently. Personally I’m sure many of us take vacation very seriously, but American corporations do not. Case in point: most Americans get only 10 vacation days a year. That’s “two weeks” if you count only business days. The article then quotes how all these other countries take all their 25-30 allotted vacation days, yet failed to mention if Americans did as well. They said that we tend to spread our vacations out a few days here, a few days there.
Can I offer a, “Duh!” moment? If you only get 10 days, and MAYBE an extra 10 holidays (if you’re lucky) and don’t actually have to work weekends of course you’re not going to waste all 10 of your vacation days in one solid go and then never have a break the rest of the year.
I’m only bringing this up because I’m going on vacation this week for a whopping 11 days. Apparently I’m breaking the norm here. Personally I love taking extended vacations. Most of the “big” vacations I have taken ranged from a month to two weeks minimum. That’s exactly how I love to travel. Sadly, now that I am no longer on an academic schedule I don’t have that luxury anymore. (Not to mention I should be responsible and start saving for potential impending doom. ) Now I have to stretch my vacation days by traveling during holidays (ohgodjustshootme airport lines during the hoildays?! There aren’t enough Xanax in the world to solve that anxiety).
So I find myself, two days out from our impending flight absolutely panicked. Have I wrapped up everything at work? Did I make an accurate packing list (a new trend I have to follow lest I forget important things at home, which I inevitably always do), does the cat have enough food and water, is someone watering my plants? OH GOD WHAT IF THE APOCALYPSE HAPPENS WHILE I’M GONE?! All valid thoughts that run through my brain before I board a flight.
Of course, as soon as I’m on the flight (and we have safely taken off without crashing) I’m totally fine. I have planner’s anxiety. It’s a thing.
What does this have to do with my stunning lactose free cake? I’m not sure, probably nothing. My aunt has planner’s anxiety like me so I’m sure she had plenty in preparing for last weekend’s mini-reunion. (I totally feel yah sister, we are so related).
Anyhoodles. This cake is really easy and very moist if you make it with Crisco (ha!). I made a classic buttercream as usual since I was told butter was safe to eat, just not milk. I didn’t take photos of the process because it was late at night and was not pretty looking. But I can tell you that it’s simple, and as long as you make clean cuts you’re golden.
*Just a Note: If you don’t want to make this lactose free you can sub equal amounts butter and milk where it calls for Crisco or almond milk. Also use 1/2 cup less flour for the almond portion.
- 2¼ cups flour, separated
- ½ cup cocoa powder
- 4 eggs, room temperature
- ½ cup almond milk
- 1½ tsp vanilla
- ½ tsp almond extract (or emulsion)
- 1½ cups sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ¾ tsp salt
- 16 tbsp Crisco (regular or butter flavored)
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup sugar
- ⅓ cup meringue powder
- approx. 1 lb powdered sugar
- 2 sticks (16 tbsp) butter, softened
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp coffee flavoring (or ¼ cup strong brewed coffee cooled to room temperature)
- milk (or almond milk for less lactose)
- Heat oven to 350ºF, grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans (I use extra Crisco to grease).
- In a small bowl mix together the almond milk, eggs and extracts. Beat until combined and then measure out 1 cup of the mix.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a separate bowl whisk together 1¾ cups of flour, the sugar, baking powder, and salt.
- With the mixer running on low add the Crisco a tablespoon at a time and combine until the mixture resembles coarse sand - about 30 - 40 seconds.
- With the mixer still running on low add the reserved 1 cup egg mixture. When combined turn mixer to high and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Turn mixer down and add the remaining egg mixture and beat until fully incorporated.
- Split the batter in two, add ½ cup cocoa powder to one bowl and ½ cup flour to the other bowl and mix until thoroughly combined.
- Pour each into a separate cake pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes away with only a few crumbs and top springs back to the touch.
- Let cool on a wire wrack for 10 minutes then remove from pan.
- When cake has cooled to the touch wrap tightly in saran wrap and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
- Boil the water and dissolve the sugar in it. Cool until just warm to the touch.
- Once cooled, in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment add the meringue powder. Pour the simple syrup in a thin stream mixing on high. Whip until meringue is fluffy, about 5-8 minutes.
- Swap out the whisk attachment for the paddle.
- Add half the powdered sugar mixing on low until thoroughly incorporated.
- Turn the mixer to medium and add the butter 1 tbsp at a time, beating thoroughly between each addition until the buttercream is smooth and silky.
- Add the flavorings and beat until incorporated.
- Add the remaining powdered sugar until the frosting is a spreadable consistency. Thin as necessary with milk (or more coffee).
- /2 cup simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar boiled and cooled)
- approx. 6 inch circular template
- approx 3 inch circular template or biscuit cutter
- frozen cake layers
- First level your cakes, trimming the tops flat.
- Using a sharp knife and cutting perpendicular into the cake, cut a 6-inch diameter circle out of the center of each cake using the template. Then use the 3-inch template or biscuit cutter to cut another circle out of the center of that 6-inch circle. You will have created a bullseye within each layer.
- Carefully remove the innermost circle from each layer and swap them out.
- Remove the outermost circle of each layer and swap them out as well. Each layer should now alternate flavors (almond-chocolate-almond, or chocolate-almond-chocolate).
- Generously brush on the simple syrup to each layer making sure to cover them completely, and especially along the seams. Brush the bottom layer generously with simple syrup, then stack the two layers and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Freeze overnight.
- Before frosting the cake make sure the layers are thawed to room temperature. I suggest pressing some sliced, blanched almonds around the edge for a nice textural addition.
If you don't want to make this lactose free you can sub equal amounts butter and milk where it calls for Crisco or almond milk. Also use ½ cup less flour for the almond portion.