Brow Beat

Can This Dreamy Cake Redeem White Chocolate’s Reputation?

Everyone loves an underdog.

Two cake slices.
James Ransom

Politics and cilantro aside, is there anything more polarizing than white chocolate? Poor misunderstood, totally underestimated white chocolate. And it’s not even necessarily the fault of the haters for missing the potential. I blame Big Candy. Because all too often, people mistake “white baking chips” or “white candy coating” for the real thing. You know the stuff—that bizarre, waxy coating that forms the foundation of far too many bake sale nightmares, purchased at craft stores? (And next time, can we talk about how weird it is to buy food at craft stores?)

At any rate, white candy coating is most certainly not the same thing as real white chocolate. Even the FDA has gotten in on the specifics. In order to be labeled as such, white chocolate must contain at least 20 percent cocoa butter, 14 percent milk solids, and 3.5 percent milkfat, ensuring it will have a creamy, dreamy mouthfeel. Add to that a sweet breath of vanilla in every bite, and it’s a shame white chocolate is even called “chocolate,” because it immediately sets it up to be the eternal JV squad to its dark and bittersweet counterparts. If we can see white chocolate for what it is—a beautifully rounded, silky combination of cocoa butter and vanilla that can be melted and molded and whipped and even roasted and caramelized—then we can unlock its great potential. It’s time to break the monotony of dessert courses that feel like endless cycles of dark chocolate and fruit, and to stop making fun of white chocolate for its retro ‘80s vibes.

But since everything ‘80s seems to be coming back around (check the rise on these jeans I’ve got on!), white chocolate is perfectly posted to reclaim its time. These days we want punchy, sharp flavors in our desserts, which can sometimes go a little too far. White chocolate is a subtle balm for all that bigness, a way to allow dominant ingredients to shine (as white chocolate plays so well with just about anything), while reminding us that at its best, dessert should bring comfort and delight, not a punch in the face.

White chocolate is also perfectly capable of having its own star moment, especially if you buy high-quality bars (and when you’re attempting to convert white chocolate doubters, you definitely want to go with the good stuff). One of my favorite ways to highlight it in all its glory is a ridiculously easy, two-ingredient cream cheese frosting (cream cheese and white chocolate, you guessed it) that brings just about any cake up to Level: Casual Luxury. With this genius formula, white chocolate lends sweetness, structure, and a luxe quality you just don’t get from simply blending confectioners’ sugar and butter with a block of Philly. It’s kind of like switching a cotton blanket for cashmere.

Here, that blanket of velvety frosting cozies up a snowy white buttermilk sheet cake, scented with a slip of fresh nutmeg, and slightly dampened with a silky malted milk soak (with a few ounces of white chocolate melted in for good measure). It’s a cake that belies its low-key appearance, and can easily be transported to serve a crowd. With a cake this rich, you can serve upwards of 20 partygoers from a single pan, and convert them all to the Church of White Chocolate.

Malted White Chocolate Sheet Cake

Serves 15 to 20.

• 3 cups (360 g) cake flour, spooned and leveled
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
• 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
• 8 large egg whites (or 1 cup/225 g liquid egg whites), at room temperature
• 1 cup (225 g) well-shaken low-fat buttermilk, at room temperature
• 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
• 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
• 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar

Malted milk

• 1 1/4 cups (280 g) half-and-half
• 3 ounces (85 g) white chocolate, finely chopped
• 1/4 cup (28 g) malted milk powder (such as Carnation or Horlick’s)

Frosting

• 12 ounces (336 g) full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
• 12 ounces (336 g) white chocolate, melted and cooled

See the full recipe on Food52.

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