Food & dining

Recipe for Carl’s White Cake

Makes one 9-inch double layer cake

Author Erica Bauermeister explains on her website that in “The School of Essential Ingredients” she paired each of the book’s characters with a food that would “help them — evoke a memory, spur a life change, heal a sorrow.” However, she also describes herself as the worst cake baker in the world. She did manage to master this one, a process that taught her “chemistry, patience, and magic.”


Butter (for the pan)
Flour (for the pan)
2cups cake flour
1tablespoon baking powder
½teaspoon salt
12tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
cups granulated sugar
1tablespoon vanilla extract
3eggs, separated, plus one additional egg white
¾cup milk

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Butter two 9-inch layer cake pans. Sprinkle the pans with flour and tap out the excess.


2. In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt until blended.

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3. In an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter with 1¼ cups of the granulated sugar until light. Beat in vanilla. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time. Add flour mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour.

4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Add remaining ¼ cup of granulated sugar and continue beating until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Use a spatula to fold the egg whites into the egg yolk batter with spatula. Divide the batter evenly between the pans.

5. Bake the cakes for 25 to 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into center of the cakes comes out clean. Set the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and turn right side up. Leave to cool completely.


1cup (2 sticks) butter,
room temperature
4cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted into a bowl
1teaspoon vanilla extract
¼cup heavy cream
¼cup milk


1. In an electric mixer on medium, beat the butter until light. With the mixer set on its lowest speed, gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar.

2. In a bowl, combine the vanilla, cream, and milk. Gradually beat the liquids into the butter mixture until smooth.

3. Set one round of cake right side up on a cake stand. Tuck strips of waxed or parchment paper around the cake (to protect the stand while frosting). Add several large spoonfuls of frosting to the top of the cake and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly. Set the other cake upside down on the first round. Spread the top and sides with the remaining frosting. Gillian O’Callaghan. Adapted from