Hello, hello from the land of vanilla cake and sprinkles!
As you probably know by now, I have just released my first cookbook, The Sweetapolita Bakebook: 75 Fanciful Cakes, Cookies & More to Make & Decorate (you can learn more about the book over on the My Book tab of my site), and I have to tell you that this Pastel Vanilla Birthday Cake is one of my favourite recipes from the entire book (and actually in life in general)!
In the book’s introduction, I chat about my first cake memories which stem back to my very early childhood, and how mom would buy me those supermarket white birthday cakes with pink swirls of frosting every year. I believe that is one of the reasons I am so enchanted by cake, and now the very sight of a vanilla birthday cake with frosting swirls brings me back to my childhood, and to those cherished days. Amazing how powerful vanilla cake can be . . .
So needless to say, creating and including the very best vanilla bakery-style birthday cake recipe in my book was extremely important to me, but I also wanted to give it a few little twists. While this cake is classic bakery birthday cake in a way with its fluffy layers and sweet frosting, it has a few little surprises to give it a bit more wow-factor. We fill the moist vanilla cake layers (also known in the Prized Basics section of the book as Super White Cake) with fluffy frosting mixed with sugar cookie dough bits, sprinkles and topped with colourful cupcake pieces before frosting the entire cake in pastel turquoise frosting and finishing it off with party-pink frosting borders. I also used vanilla bean paste in the frosting because it gives such a wonderful and authentic vanilla quality to it (and we love the black vanilla flecks!).
I think one of the reasons I love it so, is because it is one of the desserts that most represents Sweetapolita as a whole. You know? The best homemade white cake around, if you ask me, and I use it as a base for countless cake recipes now!
What’s kind of funny is that, as I mention in the book, I discovered that rainbow jimmies (those classic long rainbow sprinkles I used in this frosting) are much thinner and longer in Canada than the American version–funny, right? I used the American variety for this cake because I find that when decorating a cake with sprinkles right in the frosting, the more blunt the sprinkle edges are the better, as they sort of glide around with the frosting. The sharper, thinner “Canadian” ones are a bit too sharp for frosting as they tend to leave little lines when dragged through the frosting with the spatula. Just a random sprinkle note!
I’m telling you, whether you make the sky-high 4-layer version from the book, or this more classic 3-layer version, this cake recipe is a go-to for any baker. It is a sweet cake and sweet frosting, but the creaminess of the frosting and lightness of it all make it worth it, and it will transport you straight back to childhood. A vanilla birthday cake dream . . .
Fluffy, moist vanilla cake layers filled with vanilla bakery frosting, sprinkles, sugar cookie dough and colourful cupcakes, and frosted in sprinkle-laden turquoise frosting and finished with party-pink frosting borders. This is the 3-layer version of the 4-layer Pastel Vanilla Birthday Cake in The Sweetapolita Bakebook.
- 3 1/4 cups (375 g) cake flour, sifted
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/4 cups (450 g) superfine sugar
- 3/4 cup (170 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) milk, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons Princess Cake & Cookie Bakery Emulsion
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 7 large egg whites, room temperature
- 2 cups (454 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (100 g) high-ratio shortening (see Tip)
- Pinch of salt
- 7 1/2 cups (820 g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
- 1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract (or almond bakery emulsion)
- Few tablespoons water, if needed
- AmeriColor gel paste food colors in Soft Pink and Turquoise
- 1/3 cup (50 g) confetti quins
- 1 cup (150 g) rainbow jimmies
- 1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/3 cup (70 g) superfine sugar
- 3/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or Princess Bakery Emulsion
- 1 tablespoon milk
- Nonslip squares
- Cake-decorating turntable (optional)
- 8-inch round thin cake board (optional)
- Offset palette knife
- Pastry bag
- Decorating tip #1M
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease the bottoms of three 8 x 2-inchround cake pans and line with parchment. Line two oven-safe ramekins with cupcake liners.
- Into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the sugar. With the mixer running on low speed, add the cold butter one piece at a time. Beat until all of the butter is incorporated, about 3 minutes. The mixture should have a fine crumbly, cornmeal-like texture.
- In a medium measuring cup with a spout, combine half the milk, the emulsion and lemon juice. In a separate measuring cup, gently whisk the egg whites and remaining milk.
- Increase the mixer speed to medium-low and gradually add the emulsion mixture and beat for 5 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the egg white mixture. Beat for 2 minutes, occasionally stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Fold the batter once or twice to ensure everything has been incorporated. Fill each of the prepared ramekins two-thirds full with batter, and tint one bright pink and one bright turquoise. Divide the remaining batter evenly amount the prepared pans.
- Baker the first two layers in the center of the oven until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs, 20 to 22 minutes. Repeat with the final layer (bake the ramekins along with this layer for 20 minutes). Remove the cupcakes from the pan immediately and let cool on wire rack. Let the cake layers cool in their pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Using a knife, loosen the sides of the cakes and carefully turn them out onto wire racks. Peel off the paper liners and let cool completely.
- The cake layers will keep wrapped tightly in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 2 days.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, shortening, and salt on medium speed until very pale and creamy, 8 minutes. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar, heavy cream, vanilla, and almond extract.
- Reduce the speed to the lowest setting and beat for 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until very light and fluffy, about 6 minutes.
- The frosting will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Bring chilled frosting to room temperature and beat on low speed to soften. If necessary, you can warm the frosting in a heatproof container in the microwave in 10-second intervals, stirring after each one, until smooth and spreadable. Add a small amount of water, one tablespoon at a time, if the frosting needs more "glide."
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until it becomes a pale paste, 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat well. Add the milk and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Reduce the mixer speed to the lowest setting, and gradually add the flour mixture, beating until just incorporated. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.
- The dough will keep in a plastic zip-top bag in refrigerator for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Using a serrated knife, trim any golden crust off the top or sides of the cake layers. Put a nonslip square on your turntable (if using), followed by a piece of wax paper, and another small nonslip square (smaller than your cake board). Place a cake board or plate on top. Put one of the cake layers, top-up, on the cake board and brush away any stray crumbs using a dry pastry brush.
- Transfer 2 cups of bakery frosting to a medium bowl. Fold in ½ cup confetti quins, ½ cup rainbow jimmies, and half of the cookie dough in pieces (freeze the remaining dough and reserve for another use). Using an offset palette knife, spread about 1 cup of the frosting mixture on top of the first layer. Break about one-third of each the pink and turquoise cupcakes into pieces and press into the frosting. Repeat until you come to the final layer, which you will place top-down. Press the top of the cake down gently with your hand to secure the layers.
- Frost the entire cake with a thin layer of the untinted frosting. Chill the cake for 15 minutes. Tint about 1½ cups of the frosting bright pink using Soft Pink gel paste color. Tint the remaining frosting pastel turquoise using a few drops of Turquoise gel paste color. Fold in about ¾ cup rainbow jimmies into the turquoise frosting and frost the entire cake. Fill a pastry bag fitted with decorating tip #1M two-thirds full with the pink frosting and pipe a border around the top and bottom perimeter of the cake: hold the pastry bag above the cake at a 45-degree angle to the right, squeeze until you have a shell, drag just to the right, and release (don’t lift the bag). Repeat all the way around. Try counting the same number of seconds with each squeeze for accuracy. Pipe the same border around the bottom of the cake.
- The cake will keep at cool room temperature for up to 3 days.
- For a more classic version of this cake, omit the Eggless Sugar Cookie Dough and cupcake bits.
- Note from the book re: the Vanilla Bakery Frosting: You can certainly use all butter, rather than high-ratio shortening, if you prefer. High-ratio shortening is used to add stability and tenderness to white cakes and creaminess and stability to frostings. In a pinch you can also use regular shortening, such as Crisco, but the high-ratio version is designed for frosting and gives a much better mouth-feel. I used this High Ratio Shortening, but there are several brands available.
- Note from the book re: the Eggless Sugar Cookie Dough: Coming across chunks of cookie dough in a dessert is always a welcomed surprise, but since our intention is to eat it raw, I’ve modified my favorite Vanilla Sugar Cookie Cutouts dough into an eggless version for popping into anything from frosting to ice cream. Simply store it in the freezer and cut off pieces as needed. Cookie dough addicts rejoice!
- As I also mentioned in the book, for an extra-celebratory hit of sprinkles, turn this vanilla cake into a confetti cake by folding 3/4 cup of confetti quins into the prepared batter.
- You can find Lorann Oils Princess Cake & Cookie Bakery Emulsion here, as well as from most baking supply shops, as well as the Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste I used in the frosting.
- I used CK brand Confetti Pastel Sequins for the filling, and CK Products Mixed Jimmies for the exterior frosting.
- If you don’t have a cake-decorating turntable, I certainly recommend one. I use the Ateco 612 Revolving Cake Stand.
Good luck & enjoy! And before I go, just a note that I have recently updated my Videos section of the blog–you’ll find my latest television segments as well as the How to Cover a Cake in Fondant video!
See you soon with more, yep, cake!