When I first met my husband, Grant, by chance while I was living in Grand Cayman in 1999, well, let’s just say that our meeting was a tad untimely. Sure, his gorgeous hazel eyes, true-blue demeanor, sincere compassion, and a few other remarkable (and seemingly rare) characteristics (that may or may not include a Calvin Klein model’s physique…if you don’t believe me, check him out in this previous post, here), were all striking and impossible to ignore, but it simply wasn’t the right time for us. After several years (4 to be precise), a move back to Canada, and a fresh start and move-in with a mutual friend in Toronto, he landed on our doorstep, almost literally. At that point, the timing was better, but still not perfect. A few weeks, and a bit of spring cleaning later, the timing was suddenly, well, perfect. We started to “date,” and it didn’t take me long to figure out that I was finally home.
I can recall one cold Sunday afternoon date in particular. We went for lunch to what soon became our favourite and most frequented greasy spoon, The New York Cafe, or as we like to call it, “The New Yorker” on “The Danforth” in Toronto. After that lunch date, for some reason (and yes, I’m in denial and swear it wasn’t our beloved New Yorker’s fault), I felt so ill. I managed to get the 40 paces home, but barely, and I could keep my eyes open no longer; I had to rest. I did feel a little weird about the whole needing-to-pass-out-or-die thing, considering we were on a date and really didn’t know each other that well (yes, I sure know how to wow a man, don’t I?), but it was really life or death, or so it felt. Grant asked me, in his sweet and famously compassionate manner, if there was anything he could get me, and I jokingly replied, “I’d give anything for cherry chip birthday cake with pink frosting and sprinkles.” Although this may seem logical, considering, I really cannot explain any of the following: A. Why I would crave cake when I was sicker than sick. B. What I thought he was going to do about it, even if I was joking, considering he’d never baked a cake in his life. C. If this was actually some kind of pseudo-subconscious dater’s test on my behalf. I can tell you, though, that if it was indeed a test of any kind, he passed; he rocked it, actually. While I was sleeping, he walked to the grocery store in the blistery-cold, came back armed with the provisions for making my cake wishes come true, and before I could say “father my children,” he presented me with what was possibly the loveliest-but-most-dilapidated cherry chip, pink frosting, and sprinkle-happy cake–talk about a serious
kiss-ass romantic, but I was genuinely impressed and touched. It was such a fun and thoughtful thing to do, and, of course, the visual of this science-minded newly-graduated Chiropractor swirling pink icing and sprinkles all over his first-ever cake attempt, well, it definitely got us off to a sweet start.
If we fast forward 2 years from that day, and 6 years ago this exact moment, the night before our wedding, I was about to return alone to the quaint little single-cottage honeymoon suite at The Waring House in the beautiful countryside of Picton, Ontario. We had just finished up our rehearsal dinner at Grant’s father’s home on the farm property on which Grant was raised, and I was most ready for a good night’s sleep (back when I knew what that was) before our “big day” the next day. When I walked into the cottage suite room, there on the table was the cake I remembered so well, and could never forget: cherry chip layer cake smothered in fluffy pink frosting and covered in colourful sprinkles. And a card. An impeccably written but candid and heartfelt card, in which he expressed that if he has it his way, he will spend the rest of his days making sure my days were filled with such cakes and sprinkles. And, although we know that marriage and life are never filled solely with such literal and figurative loveliness, it sure helps. ♥
This week, to celebrate our anniversary, I made us a classic 3-layer vanilla bean cake with pink vanilla buttercream, and heaps of colourful sprinkles. Before we talk more about that cake, I thought it would be fun to share some snippets of my night-before-the-wedding cake surprise, and our wedding day, June 4th, 2005:
Not bad, right? Grant explained that he was so proud of his second attempt (yes, he did indeed wait the full 2 years to make this cake, but we’ll go easy on him), and I think he should be. He confessed that the back right portion of the first cake he made me, years before, had fallen off and the rest was held together strictly by strategically-placed gobs of frosting. I decided that night that I should wait until the wedding day morning to cut into this cake, and so I did. Seeing as this was long before my budding food photography days or, well, even my Sweetapolita days, I’m particularly pleased that the wedding photographer thought to take these photos. And, yes, that’s me on the morning of my wedding day, hovering over a table eating cake before going to the church. To think that the Sweetapolita in me had not yet been born; she would have been so proud! Looking back, it was a respectable and ironic way to start one of the best days of my life, and I love that Grant knew me well enough to come up with such a surprise. Here are a few more sprinkles from our wedding day (best I could do without digital files, but I still wanted to share):
Yes, we’re both drinking wine on the loose, but the good news is that the entire bridal party was doing the same. More good news is that we had a handy (and huge) limo bus to carry our insanely large and possibly tipsy bridal party back to the reception. And even more good news is that we were on the gorgeous Chadsey’s Winery property, in Prince Edward County, doing wine tastings and getting rustic country photos taken, so it all made sense at the time. Wait, there really is no bad news in this story.
So, as I mentioned, in honour of our 6th wedding anniversary this weekend, I wanted to make a cake reminiscent of Grant’s pink cake with sprinkles. I made his favourite flavour, vanilla bean, with a version of pink vanilla buttercream that I’d never tried before: it’s a white sugar and meringue base buttercream, similar to Italian Meringue Buttercream, but much quicker. The main difference technique-wise is that it doesn’t require a candy thermometer; the main difference ingredient-wise is that it uses light corn syrup. I found the texture to be incredibly fluffy, satiny, and stable; and the taste to be very similar to the meringue buttercreams. I will admit, that although this is a fabulously quick and easy classic buttercream, I still adore the corn-syrup-free Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Don’t get me wrong, this one is gorgeous, and I love that it doesn’t have powdered sugar. On a sidenote, I thought I’d point out that I bought so much pink ribbon for our wedding that I am still trying to come with ways to use it, such as above! You’ll likely see, and may have already seen, it make its way into my photos often; let’s think of it as the “Where’s Waldo” of food photography.
The cake itself is one of my favourites, the Vanilla Bean Layer Cake from the previous Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake post. A fairly dense, but stable, moist, and wonderfully vanilla cake (it’s also a great option for cakes that will be covered in buttercream and fondant).
Wishing you a weekend (and more) of love, cake & sprinkles!
*Wedding photos by Click Photo Co.
Pink Vanilla & Sprinkles Cake
For the Vanilla Layer Cake:
- 1-1/2 cups 341 g(3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2-2/3 cups 540 g granulated sugar
- 9 275 g egg whites, at room temperature
- 4 1/2 cups 575 g all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons 28 g baking powder
- 1 teaspoon 8 g salt
- 2 cups 480 mL buttermilk, at room temperature
- 1 vanilla bean split & scraped or 1 tablespoon (15 mL) vanilla bean paste
- 1 teaspoon 5 mL pure vanilla extract, best quality
For the Vanilla Buttercream:
- 5 large 150 g egg whites
- 1-1/4 cups 250 g granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons 213 g light corn syrup
- 2 cups 454 g (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon 15 mL pure vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 1-2 drops pink gel food colour
For the Vanilla Layer Cake:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter three 8" x 2" round cake pans, line with parchment rounds, and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy and pale, about 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the egg whites gradually, mixing until fully incorporated.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Mix vanilla extract and vanilla paste (or contents of vanilla bean) into buttermilk.
Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. (If possible, weigh the batter in each cake pan on a digital kitchen scale to ensure even layers.) Smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes clean.
Let pans cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.
For the Vanilla Buttercream:
Wipe a mixer bowl with dampened with some lemon juice to remove any traces of grease.
Place the egg whites in the mixer bowl and, in the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk on medium-high speed until foamy.
Gradually add 6 tablespoons (72 g) of the sugar and beat on high speed to medium peaks (the whites should be smooth, full, and shiny, and the peaks should curl a little).
Combine the remaining 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar and the corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring briefly to dissolve the sugar. Continue to cook just until the mixture comes to a rolling boil; there should be bubbles covering the entire surface, and no pockets of sugar undissolved on the surface.
Promptly remove the syrup from the heat and, with the mixer set on medium-high speed, slowly pour the hot syrup down the side of the bowl in a steady stream between the bowl and whisk, being very careful not to let the syrup hit the whisk (otherwise you end up with sticky hot syrup splatters stuck to the sides of the bowl).
Set the mixer to medium speed and whisk until the bottom of the mixer bowl feels neutral to the touch. Add the butter in, 1 tablespoon at a time (doesn't have to be precise, just in small chunks), until it has all been incorporated.
Add vanilla extract, pinch of salt, and a few drops of any food colouring gel you want to use, and beat until thickened and smooth.
Assembly of the Pink Vanilla Cake:
Place bottom layer face-up on a cake stand, plate, or thin cake board. Spread and smooth ~ 1 cup frosting using a small palette knife. Repeat with second cake layer.
Gently place third cake layer, face-down, on top.
Spread a thin layer (also known as a crumb coat) all over cake using an the offset palette knife for the top and straight palette knife for the sides. Then, using a bench scraper, gently scrape off excess frosting from the cake, for a smooth finish. This works best while slowly spinning your rotating cake stand with one hand and holding the bench scraper with the other.
Refrigerate your cake for at least 30-60 minutes.
Use remaining frosting to decorate your cake.
Add sprinkles or any other decorations that make you happy!
You may enjoy this previous post, 50 Tips for Baking Better Cakes.
Good luck & enjoy!