Birthday Medley Layer Cake

Hi!

So maybe I have a thing for turquoise layer cakes, but they’re just so pleasing. And while a vintagey looking turquoise cake with sprinkles seem to shout “vanilla birthday cake!” I thought we could mix things up a little with this recipe. You know that I’m a sucker for a cake that has an ahhh-factor upon cutting it open–especially when it’s so simple on the outside–and this cake celebrates just that.

Best part about a 5-layer party cake that boasts 4 different flavoured layers? Only making 2 batter recipes. This cake is super simple and, dare I say, “quick” to make, especially considering it has serious wow-factor going for it. So what exactly is a “Birthday Medley Layer Cake?” Well, it’s a chocolate chip, chocolate butter, cherry chip, confetti layer cake filled and frosted with a quintessential old-fashioned recipe: vanilla cooked flour frosting. We tint the frosting pastel turquoise for a lovely visual and sprinkle on some confetti sprinkles because, well, that’s what we do.

With one vanilla cake batter recipe, we can easily create 3 of the 5 layers by simply incorporating different additions–chocolate chips, confetti quins, and chopped Maraschino cherries. The chocolate butter cake is a partial batch divided into 2 pans, giving us a total of 5 layers. The chocolate cake adds some richness and of course visual appeal. These flavours are a celebration of some of the most beloved birthday cakes, so how can we go wrong?

So let’s talk more about “cooked flour frosting.” This was something I hadn’t tried in years, and I really couldn’t remember much about the outcome. I kept seeing it pop up in different recipes online, and I’d be meaning to make it again out of pure curiosity. I figured this cake was a perfect time to make a batch and run with the whole “old-fashioned” flavours thing. If you’re not familiar with this type of frosting, I would liken it more to a meringue-based buttercream (such as Swiss Meringue Buttercream), than a sweet bakery frosting–it has a silkiness to it that isn’t necessary possible with confectioners’ sugar frosting, as well as a butteriness that might not be for some. Much like meringue-based buttercream it isn’t particularly sweet. It also lends nicely to frosting a cake, piping cupcakes or even cake borders and decorations. I used a version of this recipe from Leelabean Bakes (she also offers a lot of variation ideas).

We start by cooking flour and milk into a super thick consistency, and then we add more milk and sugar until the mixture boils. Once cooled, this concoction is added to whipped butter, blended together and flavoured with vanilla, or even chocolate, peanut butter, etc. As far as ease goes, I’d say it is simple, although the wait time for the mixture to cool can be several hours. I made it the night before and then finished the frosting in the morning, but if you were in a rush this might not be the best frosting option.

I couldn’t decide if I should try a chocolate-frosted version first or this vanilla option, so if you happen to make this cake with a chocolate frosting, I’d love to hear about it!

And since I am sitting here eating this cake and drinking some incredible Pig Iron coffee, I feel compelled to tell you about Parachute Coffee, which is how I was lucky enough to discover it. This Canadian company is comprised of 2 “caffeinated Canucks,” and they are taking artisan coffee to a whole new level.  Mike and Jake are devoted to finding the best local hand-crafted, fresh-roasted coffee and delivering a different one to your doorstep each month. Because there is only one thing I love to consume more than cake, and that’s good coffee. I think their concept is brilliant!

And before I move onto sharing the recipe, here are a few bits of news from the land of Sugartown since my last post:

I moved! It was kind of spontaneous, but we did it and while we aren’t far from our old house, I am so much happier here. It was definitely time for a change. We’re pretty much unpacked, but it seemed to take me the longest time to get into the groove in the new kitchen. The truth is, I kind of felt displaced, which was weird because I love the new environment. I’ve got most of my baking gear organized, and I’m feeling like I’m myself again. Phew. Now I just need to really figure out where the best spot will be for photographing my cakes . . .

We can now chat on the phone! Yep. You and me, me and you, you know . . . us. We can talk about cake, sprinkles, blogging, or just about anything you want. I’ve just signed up for 12ish.com. Have you heard of this super-neato, totally awesome and progressive website? View my profile here to learn more.

The cover of The Sweetapolita Bakebook is ready to go! I’ve shared it over here on the “My Book” section of my site. Now it really feels, well, real.

So now let’s make this cake!

Birthday Medley Layer Cake

Ingredients

    For the vanilla-based layers (chocolate chip, confetti, and cherry chip):
  • 3 cups (345 g) cake flour
  • 2 1/4 cups (450 g) superfine sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into about 15 pieces
  • 1 1/3 cups (320 ml) whole milk, room temperature
  • 6 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 cup (150 g) mini chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup (115 g) confetti quin sprinkles
  • 1/4 cup Maraschino cherries, chopped (about 12 cherries)
  • 1 tablespoon Maraschino cherry juice
  • Drop pink gel-paste food color
  • For the chocolate layers:
  • 1 stick (115 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup (165 g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) superfine sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups (155 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (60 g) dark cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk, room temperature
  • For the Vanilla Cooked Flour Frosting
  • 2 cups (480 ml) whole milk
  • 1/3 cup (45 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (454 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Few drops turquoise gel-paste food color
  • Confetti quin sprinkles, for decorating

Instructions

    For the vanilla-based layers:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease and line the bottoms of 3 round 8-inch pans with parchment. I use Parchment Paper Circles for ease.
  2. In a medium-sized measuring cup, combine and stir 1/3 cup of the milk, egg whites, vanilla, and almond extract. Set aside.
  3. Sift cake flour twice. Into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together, and mix on low-speed (I use the “stir” setting on my mixer) for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the butter, one piece at a time, and continue mixing until the mixture is a fine, crumbly texture, about 5 minutes. Add the 1 cup of milk and and mix on medium speed for 3 minutes.
  5. Scrape the sides of the bowl, decrease the speed to medium-low, and gradually add the egg/milk/extract mixture. Once the milk mixture has all been added, continue to mix for 30 seconds.
  6. Pour one-third of the batter (~2 1/2 cups)(500 grams) into one of the prepared pans, another third into another of the prepared pans, and keep the remaining batter in the bowl. Gently stir the chocolate chips into one of the pans of batter and spread the batter evenly with a small offset palette knife. Repeat with the sprinkles in the other pan of batter. Bake the 2 cake layers in the center of oven and 2" apart until a cake tester comes clean when inserted into the center, about 22 minutes. Be so careful to not over-bake. Check cake at 20 minutes, but not before, and once you feel it’s almost ready, set the timer for 2 minute intervals. While the cakes are baking, add a drop of pink gel paste into the remaining batter, along with the chopped cherries. Turn the batter into the third prepared cake pan. Bake once the first 2 layers are out of the oven. Let cool on racks for 10 minutes before loosening the sides with a small metal spatula, and invert onto greased wire racks. Gently turn cakes back up, so the tops are up and cool completely.
  7. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature for up to 2 days, refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 2 months. Best enjoyed day 1 or 2.
  8. For the chocolate cake layers:
  9. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease and line the bottoms of 2 round 8-inch pans with parchment.
  10. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, superfine sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until lighter in color and slightly increased in volume, about 7 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is fully incorporated before adding the next, about 30 seconds.
  11. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.
  12. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated, or finish by hand gently.
  13. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 prepared pans. Smooth the batter with a small offset palette knife, and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs, about 25 minutes. rotating once after 20 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick or skewer comes barely clean.
  14. Let pans cool on wire rack for 20 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.
  15. For the frosting:
  16. In a medium saucepan over medium-heat, whisk together 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the milk and the flour until combined. Continue whisking until the mixture thickens and reaches the consistency of brownie batter, 6-8 minutes. Add the remaining milk, sugar, and salt and whisk constantly until the mixture comes to a boil, about 10 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and pour through a sieve and into a medium bowl. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the mixture and place in the refrigerator until cool (this can be done the night before to save time).
  17. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using a hand mixer), beat the butter until very fluffy, about 7 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap from the cool milk/flour/sugar mixture and stir until smooth (it will be a slightly gelatinous consistency). With the mixer running on medium speed, gradually add all of the milk mixture to the whipped butter. Beat until smooth well-incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. To remove some of the air bubbles, beat on low speed for a few minutes.
  18. Assemble the cake:
  19. Put a dollop of frosting on an 8-inch round cake board (or cake plate) or 9-inch scalloped cake board.
  20. Put your confetti cake layer top-up on the cake board or plate, and spread about 3/4 cup of frosting evenly across layer. Put a chocolate layer on top and repeat with another layer of frosting. Add the cherry chip layer on top, more frosting, followed by the second chocolate layer. Now place the final layer (chocolate chip) top-down. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and wiggle the layers into place. Refrigerate the cake for about 20 minutes. Add a few drops of turquoise gel paste to the remaining frosting and beat to combine.
  21. Using a turntable, if possible, frost entire outside of cake with a thin layer of turquoise frosting to seal in the crumbs. Chill until the frosting begins to firm-up, about 15 minutes. Repeat with another thin layer of frosting, this time working to achieve a smooth finish. Chill for another 15 minutes.
  22. Apply a third coat of frosting to the cake. Holding a small offset spatula in your dominant hand, press it gently against the side of the cake, starting at the very bottom, and keep it steady. Use the other hand to slowly rotate the turntable until you have gone all the way around the cake, raising the spatula just slightly at every full rotation, so you are working your way up the cake. Clean the spatula and then use the same technique on the top of the cake, starting from the outside working in. This time you will hold the spatula flat against the top of the cake. Sprinkle confetti quins around the perimeter of the cake.
  23. The cake will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • For the chocolate cake, I always use Cacao Barry Extra Brute cocoa powder–it’s super dark and rich.
  • I bought my vintage ballerina cake toppers here.
  • One of my favourite and most-used gel paste colors (and the one I used on this cake) is Americolor Turquoise. A little goes a long way!
  • When making confetti cake, I like to use Edible Confetti Sprinkles because they don’t tend to bleed color as much as some other variations.
  • If you’re not sure about “cooked flour frosting,” or you want a more traditionally sweet party cake frosting, try this recipe (and oh yes, more ballerinas dancing atop a cake!).
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New Blog Design + KitchenAid Mixer Giveaway!

cat-kitchenaid-artisan-aqua-sky-stand-mixerHello friends! Welcome to my newly redesigned blog!

I am totally over-the-top excited about the new look and feel of the site, as well as the improved functionality. Thanks to the incredibly talented Melissa at Melissa Rose Design Studio for totally “getting it,” and going above and beyond to make the site awesome.

Not only has the design changed, but if you take some time to peek around, you’ll see that there are several improved areas of the site. My favourite feature of the site now is the visual recipe index–finally, right? So now, to search for a recipe you will see that each one is grouped as before, but with photos for easy reference. This should make searching for “that vintage-looking blue cake” or “that pinky cake with the swirls” so much more efficient! You’ll also notice a tab above for “My Book,” which is where I chat a bit about it, link to online retailers for pre-order, and going forward where I will be sharing more and more info about the book, the cover, events, and more.

To celebrate my new website, I’m giving away a KitchenAid Artisan 5QT Stand Mixer–the mixer I love, adore, and possibly abuse on a regular basis. I’ve shown the mixer in one of my favourite colours, Aqua Sky, but the winner will have a choice of 1 of 25 colour options! [Read more...]

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6-Layer Neapolitan Macaron Delight Cake

Neapolitan Macaron Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

Well, all I can say is thank-the-cake-fairies that Neapolitan will never be oh-so-vanilla. It’s nearly impossible to get tired of making, serving, seeing, or eating anything with the beloved trio of chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla. But since it’s such a classic, and many bakers love to create Neapolitan-themed treats, it never hurts to put a new spin on things. I’ve had some fun with this idea before with the Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake, which was a combination of chocolate butter cake with a trio of strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream flavours. I’ve also made it with a more classic flavoured cake layers variation with the Neapolitan 5-Layer Birthday Cake with Strawberry Frosting, which is perfectly delightful, but this time I wanted to kick it up a notch and make it a bit more unique and decadent. And since that’s what I love to do, I did!

Neapolitan Macaron Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

This time I opted to split the layers into 6 (one of the easiest ways to add instant wow-factor to a cake), fill them with dark chocolate ganache, strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream, vanilla Swiss buttercream, and whole neapolitan macarons. I frosted the entire cake with chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream, and then added a pink glaze for drama and topped with more of the macarons and a few small pink sugar beads. As with this lemony blueberry cake I made awhile back, the macarons add the most amazing texture inside the cake, as well as a unique visual when the cake is sliced. The distinct macaron crunch & chew factor is the perfect match for the rich and decadent ganache, satiny buttercream frosting, and of course the deep, dark, and moist chocolate cake. [Read more...]

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Birthday Party Ice Cream Cake + Tales of July

Birthday Party Ice Cream Cake via Sweetapolita

Hello my friends!

I’m happy to report that I lived to tell the story of July 2014.

Here are a few of the adventures that have been going on in my world during the past month:

1. I shot the cover of my book! This was a lot of pressure, in a way, but I think it’s super-fun and I hope you love it. Speaking of the book, let me tell you that this crazy book o’ sugary delights is officially called The Sweetapolita Bakebook. Hooray! And while I will be sharing many more detailed posts about the book, I can tell you that, even though it is still several months from release (April 7th, 2015), it is already available for pre-order in many online shops! You can find it for an amazing price on Amazon.com in the US: The Sweetapolita Bakebook, or if you are here in Canada with me, you can pre-order on Amazon.ca or Indigo.

For my international friends, there are already many options for online pre-ordering, such as amazon.co.uk (UK), amazon.es (Spain), and many more! You’ll notice that the cover has not yet been “revealed,” on these listings, but that is soon to come. I will also be sharing that here with a whole bunch of fun details about the book itself.

2. I turned 40. Oh right, that. But I’m okay! And because I’m all cake-backwards in life, I eat it all year long and get excited to eat some other form of dessert on my birthday. Last year was lemon meringue pie from Betty’s in Niagara Falls (and no, I didn’t buy a slice, I bought the entire pie). This year was the most decadent of apple caramel crumbles with vanilla bean ice cream. Now I’m back to cake. But you know, 40 isn’t so bad. Since the girls are a bit bigger now, I’m finding that I have more time to do the little things that being busy and in your thirties with babies doesn’t necessarily allow for–things like painting my nails (often), shopping (and not in the kids’ section at Target), organizing my life and closets, doing what I love to do in the kitchen, and more. I think it’s going to be a decade of strength, change, adventure and, well, more cake. Oh, and possibly more of these.

Sweetapolita

3. I had a super-fun photo shoot done for my author photo and such (above), by the talented Wendy & Michael Lewicki from Wendy Alana Photography near Toronto (you might also know Michael from his incredible blog, Verses from my Kitchen). I fell in love with Wendy’s style, and couldn’t wait to shoot with them. Just as I suspected, they are amazing people in “real life”–warm, talented, kind, and just the kind of people you want to be around. Even with dark skies, severe heat and humidity in the kitchen during shoot, and the impending storm outside during the shoot, they pulled off some serious magic. I can’t wait to work with them again!

4. My sister-in-law got married! And my cakelets were (the world’s cutest) flower girls. And I was a bridesmaid (are you still allowed to be called a “bridesmaid” when you’re 40?). Oh, and I made a trio of three-tiered vintage-inspired pastel ruffle wedding cakes for the occasion. It was a big, happy, stunningly beautiful, pastel-blue-and-green day! Congratulations, Mary & Ted! ♥ [Read more...]

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Barbie Cake + Meringue Girls Book Giveaway!

Barbie Cake via Sweetapolita

Hello, my friends!

So there’s a series of words I never imagined using in the same sentence: chocolate, beet, cake, meringue, and Barbie! But yes. Oh yes. Now it just seems perfectly natural–necessary even–to combine them all.

As a child of the 70s, I’m no stranger to doll cakes, but I have never had the joy of making one, particularly one of this magnitude. That was until I came across the recipe in a new baking book I absolutely adore: Meringue Girls: Incredible Sweets Everybody Cake Make by Alex Hoffler and Stacey O’Gorman. What a visual delight! I’ve always been a meringue enthusiast, but I have to say that these girls have taken meringues, and all things meringue, to an entirely new level.

Meringue Girls Cookbook

So if the cover doesn’t have you giddy, the recipes and images throughout the book are sure to. And while the cover of a cookbook can sometimes be a little misleading, in this case the entire book lives up to the awesome package: it’s filled to the brim with unique, vibrant, and easy to follow meringue recipes and useful techniques for foolproof meringue (we’ve all had our fair share of meringue mishaps, no?). As you probably know, I’m a meringue enthusiast, but even for those of you who haven’t ventured too far down meringue lane, I have a feeling this book will inspire you more than you might expect.

The “Meringue Girls” take us through the basics first–making the perfect batch of meringue every time, countless flavouring ideas (think Hot Cross Bun, Manuka Honey, Lavender, and more), and super-awesome colouring techniques, like “striping,” as I did here with the Barbie Cake meringue “kisses,” as they call them. They then delight us through different chapters of unexpected and irresistible meringue recipes, such as the cutest rainbow cake in the universe–the Meringue Rainbow Cake, the decadent Ferrero Rocher Meringue Tower, the unbelievably tempting Honeycomb, Chocolate, Salted Peanut Meringues (um, hello!), and so much more. Can you tell I’m totally smitten with this book? [Read more...]

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