Vanilla Rye Cake with Ermine Buttercream / by Molly Brodak

This is a special cake.

I know, I know, I always say that about my cakes. But I really mean it this time. You have never tasted a cake quite like this before.

In fact, my photo shoot with the finished cake kept getting interrupted as I stole away to snack on this beaut. And I can tell you, that does not usually happen--usually I am sick of the cake I'm working on by the time I'm done with it. But this one I could not stop tasting.

The taste of rye balances so well with the intense vanilla flavor in the recipe for a really captivating and homey--yet elegant dessert.

You have to make this cake.



Yes you're going to need to get yourself some rye flour. I tested this recipe with both dark and light rye flour, and found the flavor difference negligible. The texture difference, on the other hand, was dramatic--the dark rye flour had an unpleasant whole-grain chunkiness that I could not abide in my cake.

The good news is that light rye flour is easier to find anyway--I picked up mine at my local farmer's market (just called "whole rye flour"). Rye, turns out, is a lovely flour for cakes with its low gluten and more of the complex sugars called pentosans, which allow the cake to absorb more liquid (hence the extra dairy and oil in this cake)--making it super moist. These sugars also break apart easily when disturbed so your crumb will be very fine and short, and you will notice how little resistance the cake gives you when you cut it.

What to do with your extra rye flour? I've heard, although I have not tried it, that rye flour works well as dry shampoo. Worth a shot?

I've learned a lot about rye since I started working on this recipe. The main illusion of which I was disabused during this process was related to flavor. What I thought was "rye bread flavor" didn't come from rye flour at all, but from caraway seeds. 

Caraway seeds are tough little bastards. MINUTES of whizzing around my mini food processor could not reduce these buggers to dust. I resorted to my mortar and pestle, which worked pretty well, although they resisted me as much as they could. Or, you know, just buy ground caraway seeds.

Oh I haven't even gotten to the ermine yet. Richer and creamier in mouthfeel than Swiss Meringue Buttercream but just as silky, and even easier. It's not too different from the custard buttercream a few posts back, but rather than a custard we have more of a pudding--no eggs. Ermine has a long history in American sweetcraft--it was the original frosting used for red velvet cakes. If you have a handle on making roux, you'll have no trouble with this. Just whisk, whisk, whisk, as you add the cream/milk so you won't have lumps.

roux goo

roux goo

It has a rich, fully body so it is perfect under fondant and pipes beautifully. It also tastes WONDERFUL. Seriously. If you've never had ermine, you owe it to yourself to try it. You might never go back.

it frosts up so smooth! 

it frosts up so smooth! 

Ermine Buttercream

4 Tbsp. flour

1/4 c. milk

3/4 c. heavy cream

1/2 c. granulated sugar

1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. salt

2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 c. powdered sugar, or to taste

Combine milk and cream. Place flour and 1/3 c. of the milk/cream mixture in a small saucepan. Whisk constantly over low heat until mixture thickens. Add remaining liquid and sugar, boil over low heat for about 2 minutes until mixture is thick as paste and bubbling. Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate until cool. Whip butter, salt, vanilla, and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cool pudding in small batches and whip until smooth and combined.  

If you don't like frosting because it's too sweet, or because you just don't like a mouthful of butter, try this buttercream--it is a revelation.

I highly recommend trimming this cake since the rye flour makes an especially tough/dark "rind"

I highly recommend trimming this cake since the rye flour makes an especially tough/dark "rind"

I finished this cake with hand painted fondant design that was inspired by this transitional time between summer and fall. A few touches of gold, a little fondant ribbon, and my heart is all aswole.



Vanilla Rye Cake

3/4 c. (88 g.) cake flour (White Lily)

1 c. (105 g.) light rye flour

1 3/4 tsp. (6 g.) aluminum-free baking powder

4 Tbsp. butter, softened

1 1/2 c. (310 g.) sugar

1 1/2 tsp. caraway seeds, ground finely

1/3 c. canola or vegetable oil

2 Tbsp. vanilla extract or one vanilla bean, scraped

3 yolks

2 eggs

1/2 tsp. salt

1/3 c. buttermilk

1/2 c. heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk flours and baking powder together thoroughly and set aside. Whip heavy cream to stiff peaks and set aside in the refrigerator. Whip butter, caraway seeds, and sugar until light and fluffy, then add oil, vanilla extract or vanilla beans, and salt and whip until combined. Add yolks, then eggs, one at a time, and beat until uniform and fluffy. Add buttermilk and mix until incorporated. Sprinkle in 1/3 of the dry ingredients and mix until combined, then add the rest and mix until just combined. Fold in whipped cream.

Divide batter among two or three greased and floured 8" or 9" pans and tap on the counter to remove large air bubbles. Bake for 30-40 minutes until centers are fully set and spring back when pressed. Allow to cool completely in the pan, then split, fill, and frost.