I hinted at this cake weeks ago, and finally got around to writing up the recipe. I did not, however, get around to taking better photos. On the plus side, you can see what this matcha vanilla cake looks like unstaged, in a messy kitchen, on a dinner plate with frosting smears. Still not bad, right? The flavor and texture turned out exactly as I wanted, so who cares about a bit of mess. And because it’s a small cake, it’s a quick bake relative to most layer cakes – I made it from start to fully frosted in about 2 hours.
I am not a food blogger (you may have noticed?), but I had to create this recipe because of a fixation. Fixation as in, “I must have this exact thing, no, not one of these things I found online that is almost the exact thing, it must be the exact thing.” Obviously, the thing I fixated on was a matcha vanilla cake with white chocolate cardamom cream cheese frosting. But also I wanted it to be a layer cake, not a pound cake. The kind made by creaming butter and sugar, no oil-based cakes please. And also it must stay a vibrant matcha-reminiscent green, not turn 70s-kitchen green as many matcha cakes seem to do.
So, what, I couldn’t find a single matcha vanilla cake recipe on the entire internet? Well, yes, plenty, but they all failed at least one of my other criteria. Eventually I changed tactics and searched for a really good vanilla layer cake recipe, reasoning that I could just replace a small amount of the flour with matcha powder. I also wanted a recipe that used buttermilk, as I suspected this might help with the color (while the color did turn out how I wanted, I’m still not sure if it was the buttermilk or some other factor). I settled on combining this classic vanilla butter cake by Stella Parks with the white layer cake recipe in her book, BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts. And I reduced the recipe to make two 6-inch layers, because two people don’t need a full-size layer cake.
The frosting recipe is an aggregate of several white chocolate cream cheese frosting recipes – plus some cardamom, obviously. You could leave the cardamom out if this sounds like an overwhelming number of flavors in a single cake, but I think you’d be missing out. Also, I prefer cream cheese frosting to buttercream 100% of the time; if you like buttercream, you might prefer that here, as the cream cheese tang can be right on the edge of overpowering. I think you could get around this by replacing the cream cheese with mascarpone, but I haven’t tried that yet.
Finally, if you have a kitchen scale that measures in grams, you should use that function here. The small amounts required for making this petite cake mean there’s not much room for error in the measurements.
Matcha vanilla cake with white chocolate cardamom cream cheese frosting
- 152 g (5.33 oz, ¾ c.) sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- ⅓ c butter – softened but still cool
- 75 g all-purpose flour (2.65 oz, scant 2/3 c.)
- 75 g cake flour (2.65 oz, 2/3 c.)
- 2 g matcha powder (about 1 tsp)
- 1 egg, brought to room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- ⅔ c buttermilk, brought to room temperature
- 1/4 c. butter
- 6 Tbsp cream cheese
- ½ tsp vanilla
- ¼ tsp lemon juice
- 85 g (3 oz) white chocolate chips
- 100 g (3.5 oz, 7/8 c.) confectioner’s sugar
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- Move a rack to the lower-middle part of the oven and preheat to 350°F (180°C). Lightly grease 2 6-inch aluminum cake pans and line with parchment. If you only have one pan, it’s fine to bake one layer at a time. You can also use one 8-inch pan – baking time will be slightly longer.
- Combine sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and butter, and beat with an electric mixer. Mix on low speed to blend, then increase to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Pause once or twice to scrape the bowl and beater.
- Meanwhile, sift together flours and matcha powder.
- With the mixer still running, add the egg and mix well. Add vanilla. Reduce speed to low and mix in about 1/2 of the flour, followed by 1/2 of the milk. Repeat with remaining flour and milk.
- Scrape the bowl and beater, then mix on medium for about 3 seconds to ensure everything is well combined. The batter should be thick and creamy. If you have a kitchen thermometer, test the batter; it should be between 65 and 68°F (18 and 20°C). If you don’t have a thermometer, it should feel about room temperature or a bit cooler.
- Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans (about 10 ounces/282.5 g for each pan). Place pans on the same oven rack, and bake until puffed, firm, and lightly browned on top, about 28 minutes (about 30 minutes if using an 8-inch pan).
- Cool cakes in pans for 1 hour, then run a butter knife around the edges to loosen. (It’s fine to put in the fridge or freezer to speed cooling – in fact I recommend this if you’re using the same pan to cook 2 layers.) Invert onto a wire rack, peel off the parchment, and turn cakes right side up.
- While the cake cools, make the frosting. Beat the butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and lemon juice on medium until well mixed. Gradually increase speed to high and continue beating until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl as necessary.
- To melt the white chocolate chips, bring about an inch of water to a simmer over medium heat in the bottom of a double boiler, or use a medium saucepan. Place white chocolate chips in top of double boiler or in a medium heatproof bowl, set over simmering water (make sure bottom of bowl does not touch water) and lower heat to medium-low. Stir constantly until melted.
- Cool chocolate slightly (to a point where you can touch it), add to frosting mix, and beat until well mixed and smooth. Gradually add confectioner’s sugar while beating on low speed, then beat on high speed until smooth and fluffy, scraping down bowl as necessary – this should take about 2 minutes.
- Make sure cake layers are completely cool before beginning to frost. Use a bread knife to level the cake layers by slicing off the domed tops. Dollop a big spoonful of frosting onto the middle of one of the cake layers and spread almost to the edges, adding more frosting if it seems too thin. Place the second layer on top of the first. Crumb coat the cake by spreading a thin layer of frosting over the top and sides. (Ideally, you should refrigerate at this point to let the crumb coat harden. I forgot this and it turned out ok, but you have to be a little more careful with the second coat.) Then frost with the remaining frosting.
- Slice and enjoy!
- You can probably replace the cake flour with more all-purpose. (I mean, you definitely can, I’m just not sure how much it will affect the texture.)
- The ingredient and batter temperatures affect the cake texture, but that doesn’t mean your cake is ruined if the temperature is off. Unless you’re aiming for absolute perfection (which if you are, I’d recommend using a recipe from a professional baker), go ahead and bake your too-warm or too-cold batter.
- I will not be held responsible if your butter melts from doing this, but when I forget to set things out to come to room temperature, I’ve had good results microwaving on the lowest power setting (usually 10%) in 5-10 second bursts. If you do this with the egg, crack it into a container first.
- If you’re planning to do anything decorative with the frosting, you’ll need a double batch.
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