Yes, You Can Make These Stunning Layer Cakes at Home
Pickowicz uses a small spatula to spread fillings between layers and a larger one to frost assembled cakes.
Photo by Chelsie Craig
Choose a small brush with natural bristles to evenly apply flavored syrups or soaks to the cake layers.
The 4 Parts You’ll Make
Pickowicz’s genoise, a.k.a. sponge cake, gets its light and airy texture entirely from meringue, a mixture of egg whites whipped together with sugar. It’s light, pleasantly eggy, and just the right level of sweet.
It’s also the perfect texture for absorbing the syrups (see below) and because it doesn’t contain butter (the richness comes from yolks), it doesn’t harden or dry out when it’s chilled.
That means you can assemble the cake several days ahead and keep it in the fridge till you’re ready to serve.
The trick to incorporating the delicate egg whites into the thick batter without deflating them in the process: Start by mixing a small amount of meringue into the batter to lighten it up. This makes it much easier to fold in the rest of the whites without overworking it.
The Swiss Meringue Buttercream
The frosting that shellacs the outside of your cake should be super silky, easily spreadable, and also architecturally stable.
Pickowicz favors Swiss meringue buttercream, which is made by heating a mixture of sugar and egg whites to 115°, then whisking until it forms stiff, glossy peaks and incorporating powdered sugar and, finally, a whole lot of butter.
Best of all, it can take on any number of flavors, from chocolate to espresso to vanilla to lemon.
Where the typical bakery-style layer cake has thick, heavy cake layers separated by thinner smears of rich frosting, Pickowicz’s cakes use light, gelatin-set fillings— mascarpone mousse, chocolate ganache, and mango curd—in equal proportion to the cake. When you take a bite, all the components mingle and complement each other in a way that’s distinctly greater than the sum of its parts.
Brushing a flavorful soak, whether it’s a vanilla bean simple syrup or a mixture of sweet Marsala and espresso, over the cake layers as you assemble ensures that the sponge will be moist and tender.
How You Get 4 Layers from 2 Baking Sheets
Rather than baking her genoise in round cake pans, Pickowicz transfers the batter to two rimmed half-sheet trays, then punches out circles of finished cake. What might seem an extra step to home bakers has serious advantages advantages.
First, the cakes bake faster and more evenly, and since two sheets will yield four layers, there’s no need to bake in stages if you don’t have a set of matching pans. Second, all the layers come out to an even thickness, which means there’ll be fewer gaps to spackle with icing after you’ve stacked.
The result is perfect stripes of cake and filling in every slice.