Cy’s Ginger Birthday Cake
Serves 12 to 16
2 cups all-purpose flour (measure the flour by stirring up the flour in the bag, then spoon it into a dry-measure cup and sweep the excess off the top with a knife)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon finely ground white pepper (optional, but I like it)
12 tablespoons (one and a half sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup egg whites (usually 6 large egg whites), at room temperature
3/4 cup milk, at room temperature
1 tablespoon peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
16 ounces (or 500 grams) good mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2-1/2 cups sifted confectioners sugar (sift into the dry-measure cups and level off with a knife)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 -2 tablespoons milk or cream, if needed
1/2 cup finely diced crystallized ginger (the dry kind. Unfortunately, you have to dice this up by hand. If you try to use the food processor you’ll probably end up with mush or a big, sticky mass.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans, fit the bottoms with parchment paper, then grease the paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and granulated sugar together. Start on low speed, and increase to medium, beating for about 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides occasionally. The mixture will lighten in color and will get a little fluffy. Beat in the grated fresh ginger and the vanilla extract.
While the butter and sugar are beating, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, powdered ginger, and ground white pepper in a small bowl. (If you don’t have white pepper just leave it out, but don’t use ground black pepper.) In a large measuring cup with a spout, whisk the milk and egg whites together and set aside.
With the mixer on low speed, beat in a quarter of the flour mixture until it’s just barely combined, then a third of the milk/egg white mixture. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl. Start it up again on low, and alternate adding flour and milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the bowl and the beater and stir the batter with a spatula to make sure it’s all mixed. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each layer comes out clean (start checking after 25 minutes). Cool the cake layers in the pans for 5 minutes, then tip them out onto cooling racks. Remove the parchment paper, then set them right-side-up to cool completely.
For the frosting, beat all the ingredients together except the crystallized ginger on low speed, until the confectioners sugar is mixed in. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds or so. If the frosting seems very stiff, beat in a little milk or cream to thin it out so you can spread it. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the crystallized ginger, and stir the rest into the frosting.
Frost the cake, then sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of diced crystallized ginger on top.