Snowflake Cake

To my way of thinking, behind every memorable holiday meal, there’s a great cake—the kind that looks so grand and tastes so great that it becomes an instant tradition. Look no further, because you’ve found it. I like to make the cake the night before. For decorating, I’ve suggested a drift of white chocolate snowflakes to cover the snowy frosting, but there are easier ways to top this charmer. Why not let the kids decorate it with toy skiers, skaters, or snowboarders? How about a few green gumdrop trees and a family of marshmallow snowmen?–Sara Perry

LC You Say Buttercream, We Say Buttahcream Note

This simple, silken, knee-wobblingly lovely frosting is made primarily from butter and, as a consequence, is aptly known as buttercream. In her book Holiday Baking, author Sara Perry strongly encourages us to rely on “a European-style, high-fat butter, such as Plugra (82% fat), Land 0′Lakes Ultra Creamy (83% fat), or another artisan-style organic butter with a fat content above the normal 80 percent. The added fat carries more of the vanilla flavoring to the mouth and contributes to a silkier texture.” We fully support what Perry suggests. Our only quibble? It really seems, given its indulgent nature, much more like “buttahcream” than “buttercream.”

Snowflake Cake Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 40 M
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • Makes one 9-inch layer cake

Ingredients

  • For the snowflake cake
  • 3 cups cake flour, plus more for the pans
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 14 tablespoons (7 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, separated while cold, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • For the snowflakes
  • 3 ounces white chocolate
  • Silver dragées for decorating
  • For the buttercream frosting
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, preferable a high-fat European style butter, at room temperature
  • 1 pound sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk or half-and-half
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

  • Make the snowflake cake
  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with waxed or parchment paper. Butter and flour the parchment paper.
  • 2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking soda, and salt.
  • 3. In a stand mixer on medium speed, beat the butter until creamy, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and beat until light and nearly white, about 5 minutes. Add the egg yolks, 1 at a time, and beat until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the vanilla until blended. Add the cake flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, in several additions, and beat until smooth and just blended.
  • 4. In another bowl, beat the egg whites just until stiff peaks form. Using a spatula, gently fold 1/3 of the whites into the batter to lighten it. Fold in the remaining egg whites just until incorporated and no white streaks remain.
  • 5. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, using a spatula to evenly spread the batter. Bake until the cakes begin to pull away from the sides of the pans and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let the cakes cool in their pans. Gently loosen the edge of each cake with a thin knife before inverting the cakes onto wire racks. Let the cakes cool thoroughly before carefully peeling off the parchment paper. Let cool completely before frosting, about 3 hours.
  • Make the snowflakes
  • 6. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the chocolate into a resealable plastic bag and immerse the bag in hot water until the chocolate melts. Dry the bag, then snip off the tip of a corner of the bab. Pipe as many 2-inch snowflakes onto the foil as possible. Decorate the points with silver dragées, if desired. Place the sheet of snowflakes in the freezer until the cake is ready to decorate.
  • Make the buttercream frosting
  • 7. In a stand mixer on low speed, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla, milk, and salt just until combined. Slowly increase the speed to medium-high, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary, and beat until light and creamy, about 1 1/2 minutes.
  • Assemble the snowcake cake
  • 8. Place a dollop of buttercream frosting in the middle of a platter to anchor the cake. Place the bottom layer of the cake on the platter, top side down. Using a narrow metal spatula, spread 1/3 of the remaining frosting over the top of the cake layer. Place the remaining cake layer on top and spread the rest of the frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Remove the snowflakes from the freezer and gently peel them off the foil. Cover the top and sides of the cake with snowflakes. (Be careful as these flakes are fragile. That said, don’t worry if some of the tips break or chip; just press them back onto the cake. In a snow flurry, they’ll still look good.)
  • 9. Refrigerate the cake for at least an hour, until the buttercream frosting and snowflakes are set. If you’re serving the cake the same day it’s made, keep it at cool room temperature after chilling. To cut, use a sharp, thin-bladed knife and dip the blade into hot water in between cuts to prevent the frosting from sticking.
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Comments
Comments
  1. L.F. says:

    This was incredibly, incredibly dense. My office loved it, but I just found it to be an extremely sweet brick. The cake batter was very light (so light, in fact, that it overflowed from the cake pans while baking, so remember to place the cake pans on a baking sheet), but then the cake somehow settled. And if you can’t find silver dragées, it looks more like a starfish cake than a snowflake cake.

  2. David Leite says:

    This cake hold such a special place in my heart and memory. I made it years ago when The One invited his sister and her kids up for a good old-fashioned Christmas in Connecticut. At the time, Callie, The One’s troubled niece, was 12 years old and interested in all things baking.

    We made the cake together in the warmth of the kitchen. But it was so hot from the oven and burners blaring that I decided to spend part of the afternoon in the garage, in the middle of one of the bitch-slappiest cold snaps we had that winter, finishing the cake. Callie and I hunched over a milk crate that I’d topped with a parchment-covered baking sheet. Our goal: Make dozens and dozens of snowflakes of all sizes to decorate the cake. I gave Callie the job of keeping the white chocolate warm so that it would remain liquid enough to pipe. Now, this falls into the bounds of Acceptable Family Cruelty, because I knew it would be nie unto impossible to keep the chocolate warm for long. So all afternoon we ran back and forth through the snow to the kitchen, laughing as we coddled new batches of warm chocolate.

    While we shaped snowflakes, we talked about boys (a topic she was appalled to discuss with me but couldn’t stop asking questions about), her family, and her hoped-for Christmas gifts. It was one of the last memories I have of her being so innocent. Before dropping out of school. Before dating much older guys. Before falling in with a questionable crowd.

    A few years ago, an older, tougher Callie came to stay with us in Connecticut for her birthday. I wasn’t very happy about her visit. She’d grown so distant over the years, I couldn’t even find a shimmer of that young, hopeful girl I’d known. But as I cooked throughout the week, she mentioned how she remembered our time in the garage, freezing as we made what she said was one of her most favorite cakes ever.

    Every time I see this cake, I think of Callie and how an activity as simple as cooking with a child can change something deep inside them–a slight molecular shift–that can have a ripple effect years and years later.

    I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas, and I hope this season you’ll take the time to bake with a child you love. You never know how much they might lean on that memory when they need it most–long after you’ve forgotten it.

    • Sofia says:

      David… I was in tears by the end of reading your comment. Beautiful, beautiful. Having two daughters, as you know, one a teen that I try to keep involved in as much family life as possible yet at the same time seeing her changing on a daily basis into a young lady (and no longer my little baby girl), I so understand your comments. Even though I have been lucky so far with her. Indeed the kitchen and cooking can be so therapeutical for children and memories they will treasure forever whatever route they may take. As to your final comments, go fill your fridge with lots of goodies and share precious moments with kids while cooking. Those are much better presents than any of the latest technology they may think they “need”!

      • David Leite says:

        Sofia, thinking of cooking with kids as a present is a terrific way to think. I never quite looked at it that way, but when I do, you can grasp the enormity of it. (And best of all, they can’t exchange it, outgrow it, or throw it out once they get it!)

  3. Stu B. says:

    The warm moments you created those many years ago still remained as a glistening memory of an earlier life which was likely more stable and pleasant than the one she chose. As long as there is life in her there may be a rethinking of her choices and an attempt to get back to that more pleasant, stable place. You gave Callie something she will never let go of. You never knew it. Now you do. It should be gratifying for you, and, very sad at the same time. Stu B.

    • David Leite says:

      Stu B, it is gratifying but frustrating. We’re seeing little–and I do mean little–steps on her part. She has called The One several times for no apparent reason other than to say hello. When she called on Thanksgiving she expressed interest in visiting us in December–which we told her we’d welcome her and her friend with open arms–but we haven’t heard back. It’s hard not to call and prod, but we made the decision to let her move at her own speed. We will always respond positively when she we does.

  4. Carmen says:

    My daughter will be 9 on the 22nd (her older sister will be 18 that day as well, and no – they are not twins, although someone asks me that EVERY YEAR!) and she wants a winter party. I’ve been wracking my brain as to the best method of execution – Winter is a pretty broad theme – but once I showed her this cake, that area of concern was immediately resolved.

    Now, do you have an Winter themed ideas for 6 9 year olds????

  5. Stu B. says:

    You get videos of Mattie B and Justin Bieber and a few teen magazines, you make grilled cheese sandwiches, and sandwich loaf with chips, and some cheese dips or salsa or taco dip. Ice cream for dessert with assorted toppings and sprinkles and the cake.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      That’s quite the party, Stu B. Clearly you’ve given this quite a lot of consideration…! Always lovely to see your comments, thank you for them. Wishing you all the magic of the season….

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