How to Make a (Perfectly Delightful) Vanilla Birthday Cake

Perfectly Delightful Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

As you may have guessed, I love birthdays. Not just mine, but pretty much any birthday I can be part of. I especially love those celebrated by my family and friends, and now that we’re into spring nearing summer, it’s a birthday extravaganza. Between my husband, myself, my kids, my dad, and more, it seems there’s a birthday every week (and one wedding anniversary in 3 days!), and that’s one way to guarantee there will be no shortage of birthday cake (in case you’re concerned about my lack of cake). The kick off was on April 25th, when our little (but not so little) Reese turned 5. You might remember this colourful post from last year, when she turned 4–I feel as though I just made that cake, and yet it was a year ago. As a mom, that both amazes and saddens me, but of course it’s always a super happy occasion, and making cake for my girls is one most fulfilling things possible.

Perfectly Delightful Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

This year we threw her a Baking Party, which was something I’ve been wanting to do ever since I saw this party. I made her a cake just like this pink party cake–it was the perfect balance of girly, fancy, and delicious (and shh, don’t tell the girls, but this is one of the easiest and quickest cakes to make). The party itself was, as you can imagine, so much fun and complete chaos! The girls wore handmade chef’s hats (complete with pink satin lining–thank you Auntie Mary!), adorned with cupcake liner flowers (which the girls made when they arrived) and their names added by them in colourful letter stickers.

Wearing their favourite aprons, we whipped up chocolate sprinkled party spoons, decorated cupcakes, made strawberry jam and more. They each took home a pink-twine wrapped bakery box filled with their own creations as well as a “slice” of this goodie box cake filled with loot bag treats, designed by the talented Linnette of PaperGlitter, and printed and assembled by our friend, Danielle. Planning, preparing for and playing at this party made my inner 5-year old super-duper happy.

I was determined to engage, partake and enjoy every minute first hand this year, which I was able to do, but I wasn’t able to take photos as well, which does break my heart a bit. Looking back I would have designated someone to take photos or even hire a photographer, because there were just too many adorable, hilarious, messy, crazy moments. Most importantly, though, is that the we made the memories and nothing can take that away.

Perfectly Delightful Cake via Sweetapolita

The recipe itself for this cake is really just a very slightly adapted version of some of the other vanilla cakes I’ve posted (like this and this) but enough for 4 layers, paired with one of my best-loved sweeter frosting: a quick and easy (but super creamy and delightful) Whipped Vanilla Frosting that, as a result of whipping the butter and the blended frosting, tastes like creamy ice cream, and there is no sugary residue or chalky texture as with some sweet frosting. With an all-butter base and the addition of pure vanilla (and often vanilla bean), there’s an authenticity to it, even with all of that icing sugar. It also has a glide factor that makes it wonderful when applying it to the cake. I use this recipe anytime I need a fast fix or when baking for those attached to bakery frosting memories from childhood (although, isn’t that all of us?).

The reason I’ve put it together again for this post (aside from the slight adaptations of the cake), is because I’ve never posted it for a full 4-layer version of the cake, which is a simple way to make the cake party-worthy, along with some , again, quick and easy decorating I do when I can’t spend oodles of time on a cake. Truth is, sometimes even if I have the time, I still prefer cakes like these, and cakes that trigger all of my childhood memories.

Perfectly Delightful Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

If you knew Reese, you’d know that, like most 5-year-old little girls, she’s devoted to pink. And cake. And anything involving tutus and twirls, so the simple addition of a few retro ballerinas and sprinkles really fancies it up. In the past, I’ve done cakes for the girls that have taken me a week to do, but honestly, not only could I simply not make that happen this time with all of the party prep, but it wasn’t necessary. You know I love that kind of thing, so it’s not to say I won’t make more of those for her down the road, but this cake was enough to make all the girls giddy (even the moms!).

Perfectly Delightful Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

The best part about this kind of moist, buttery white cake is that it pairs nicely with this type of sweeter party frosting, as I like to call it, as well my all-time favourite, Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I took the super-simple approach of filling and frosting the cake with the same thing, but I’ve also filled this cake with strawberries and whipped cream, lemon curd, homemade jam, and more.  Just remember that for best results with these cake layers, you really need to weigh your ingredients. It really is the only way to guarantee cake success with this recipe–I promise!

And before I go, I thought it would be fun to share a short home video of Reese when she was 2 years old (I don’t normally share home videos, but just for fun!) This was at a little family dinner at my dad’s for her 2nd birthday (notice one of the early fondant cakes I made–apparently I thought we were serving a few million), and although it’s just your standard Happy Birthday song video, I love the look of wonder in her eyes and the fact that she was almost going to bust of excitement–it’s kind of what this whole baking thing is all about.

:

And, if you have 3 minutes and 24 seconds to fill, you can watch my all-time favourite video of Reese here. It has nothing to do with cake or birthdays, but funny as can be.

These videos may make me cry, but I hope they make you smile. ♥

Sweetapolita

Beautiful baker birthday girl, Reese.

Perfectly Delightful Vanilla Birthday Cake

Yield: One 4-layer, 8-inch round cake

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cup (360 ml) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 7 large egg whites (210 g), at room temperature
  • 1 whole egg, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) almond extract
  • 3-3/4 cups (430 g) cake flour, sifted
  • 2-1/4 cups (450 g) sugar
  • 1-3/4 tablespoons (25 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt (8 g)
  • 1-1/2 sticks (170 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes
  • 6 tablespoons (85 g) vegetable shortening
  • For the Whipped Vanilla Frosting:
  • 2-1/2 cups (5 sticks)(575 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 5-1/4 cups (600 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 4-1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) milk
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons (23 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch or two of salt
  • few drops pink gel colour
  • pastel sugar pearls (I used 4mm), or any other sprinkles for decorating

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease, line with parchment and flour two round 8-inch pans (you will be using each one twice), or four 8-inch pans (if you're lucky enough to have four on hand). I use Parchment Paper Circles for ease.
  2. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir 1/2 cup of the milk, stir the egg whites, whole egg, vanilla and the almond extract. Set aside.
  3. Sift cake flour twice. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients, including the sugar, together on low-speed (I use the “stir” setting on my mixer) for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the butter and shortening, blending on low-speed for about 30 seconds, then add remaining 1 cup of milk, and mix on low-speed until just moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for 1 -1/2 minutes (90 seconds), but no more.
  5. Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg/milk/extract mixture in 3 separate batches; beat on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition.
  6. Pour 1/4 of your batter (~2 cups)(445 grams) into each prepared pan (if you have 2 pans, you will bake 2 layers first followed by the remaining 2), spreading it evenly with a small offset palette knife. If possible, weigh the batter in the pans to ensure 2 even layers.
  7. Bake cake layers two-at-a-time in center of oven and 2" apart for 20 minutes or until a cake tester comes clean when inserted into the center. 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. 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.
  8. Wash the 2 cake pans and line, grease and flour again and repeat.
  9. 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.
  10. For the Whipped Vanilla Frosting:
  11. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed (I use “4″ on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  12. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low-speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy, and fluffy. If you want all of your frosting (for filling and frosting cake) pink, then add a drop of pink gel colour and mix again, adding one drop at a time until desired pink shade is achieved (see notes). If you want just the outside of the cake pink, you will fill the cake layers first, and then colour the remaining frosting pink.
  13. Best used right away (for ideal spreading consistency), but keeps well once frosted.
  14. Assembly of the Perfectly Delightful Vanilla Birthday Cake
  15. Trim any doming or top crust from cake layers using a very sharp serrated knife.
  16. Use a cake turntable for filling, frosting and decorating, if a possible. Place a small dollop of frosting in the center of a cake plate or 8″ round thin foil-covered cake board, and place the bottom cake layer on top, face-up.
  17. Place ~1 cup of frosting on top of the cake layer, and spread evenly with a small offset palette knife. Gently place 2nd cake layer, face up, on top. Repeat until you come to your 4th layer, which you will place face down.
  18. Put a generous scoop of frosting on top, spreading evenly with a small offset palette knife and working your way down the sides until you have a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake. Chill until set, about 30 minutes.
  19. Remove from refrigerator and apply another "coat" of frosting.
  20. For the top of the cake border, place a large star decorating tip (I used 1E) in a large Decorating Bag filled no more than 1/2 full with pink frosting.
  21. Hold pastry bag in one hand (your dominant hand) and slowly rotate the turntable with the other. Holding frosting-filled bag at a directly above the top of the cake (90° angle), squeeze a small bit of frosting and turn the table a bit at the same time, releasing pressure slowly then stop (this will create a tapered decoration). Repeat all the way around the cake, overlapping slightly each time you pipe a new "shell."
  22. For bottom border, you will want to have the cake on the plate or pedestal which you plan to serve it upon. Fill another pastry bag the same way, and this time use tip 1M. You will pipe at about a 45° angle this time (give or take). Sprinkle with your favourite sugar pearls or sprinkles atop the top border. For some kitschy charm, add a few Vintage Ballerina Cupcake Toppers to your cake!
  23. Store, covered in a cake dome, at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in refrigerator for up to 5 days. Best enjoyed day 1 or 2 at room temperature.

Notes

[cake layer recipe adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum]

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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • If you do not have access to cake flour, you can quickly and easily make your own to cake flour substitute. Learn how in this previous post, Bring Me Flours. Substitutions with other flour types will result in a drastically different cake.
  • This cake batter method of blending the butter with the sugar and dry ingredients first is called the “reverse creaming method,” and was pioneered by cake guru, Rose Levy Beranbaum.
  • As with any vanilla cake, you can use 100% liquid egg whites in the cake layers (simply weigh them on your kitchen scale), which saves wasting the yolks. If using whole eggs and separating, always separate when eggs are cold, but use when room temperature.
  • Baking the cake layers in 4 pans, rather than 2 and then splitting the layers afterwards, yields an evenly baked cake that bakes faster and without overdone edges.
  • I highly recommend (strongly urge!) you to use a digital kitchen scale to measure ingredients.
  • This batter makes fabulous cupcakes.
  • The frosting tastes like vanilla ice cream–you’ll see!
  • Some pink food gel colours cause streaking. I find that, for me, Americolor Electric Pink does not cause streaking (but it’s an intense pink, so go easy!). After several hours there are some teeny darker pin-sized dots, but the cake in the photos is after several days, to give you a better idea. Also note that pink colour fades, particularly in the sun. You still want to go easy with the colour, but just keep it in mind.
  • You may enjoy reading my previous post, 50 Tips for Baking Better Cakes.

Good luck & enjoy!



Related posts:

Pink Éclairs {Winner of the Amy Atlas Sweet Designs Giveaway!}

Happy Wednesday! Here is the winner of the Amy Atlas Sweet Designs: Bake It, Craft It, Style It book giveaway:

#393 Patisserie Paris: “I like a more classic/elegant style for a dessert table!”

Congratulations! (I will be also notifying you by email.)

And thank you to everyone for sharing their favourite dessert table/party themes and party treats!

See you soon with a sweet & summery recipe.

Today is the day! Amy Atlas, sweet table designer and blogger (and so much more) extraordinaire, is celebrating the release of her first book, Sweet Designs: Bake It, Craft It, Style It–and what a book it is. As you know, I love all things sweet and pretty, and this book is jam-packed with some of the loveliest and most wonderfully crafted dessert and party table ideas I’ve ever seen. Amy shares 175 recipes and seemingly countless crafty ideas for readers to whip up impressive (and charming) dessert displays. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this gem, and after reading it almost all in one sitting I am certainly inspired.

I’m excited to say that one lucky reader is going to win a copy of their own, courtesy of Amy!

Pink Eclairs via Sweetapolia

While reading the book, I was immediately drawn to the chapter entitled Pastel Pretty (naturally), which showcases the most appealing array of pastel sweets and baked goods that take center stage on an incredible dessert table inspired by–you guessed it–pastel colours (think pastel cotton candy, pastel sugar cookie rounds, pastel cake bites and more). When I spotted a recipe for “Pink Éclairs,” I was smitten. I love the idea of including authentic French éclairs on a dessert table (or of course making them for any day of the week) and tweaking them just slightly to give them a pretty twist. So I decided to make a batch. With the crispy pastry (classic Pâte à Choux dough, which is much easier than it sounds) filled with vanilla pastry cream and topped with sweet pink glaze, they are every bit as delightful as you would expect “Pink Éclairs” to be.

Pink Eclairs via Sweetapolita

Although you might expect this treat to be a tricky one to make, Amy’s recipe was easy to follow and a great success. I’ve shared the recipe for these delights below, and I know this is only the beginning of my adventures with Sweet Designs.

And for even more celebratory posts in honour of Amy’s new book (and more chances to enter to win your own copy!), be sure to pop by and visit my friends:

Cheryl from Tidy Mom sharing Honey Panna Cotta

Marian from Sweetopia sharing Chocolate Beehive Cupcakes

Jamie from My Baking Addiction sharing Banana Whoopie Pies

Callye from The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle

Darla from Bakingdom sharing Mini Strawberry Trifles

Bridget from Bake at 350 sharing Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles

Maria from Two Peas and Their Pod sharing Banana Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Amanda from I am Baker sharing Chocolate Cupcakes

Here are the details and how to enter this giveaway:

1. Leave a comment and tell me, “What type of party/dessert table theme best suits your personality?” (eg. modern, preppy, vintage, superhero, rainbow, etc.) or “What was the last party treat you made (or enjoyed)?

2. For an extra entry you can tweet: “I want to win a copy of @amyatlas ‘s amazing new book, Sweet Designs, from @Sweetapolita!” Simply come back here and leave a comment telling me you tweeted.

3. Contest ends May 1, 2012 at midnight (EST) and winners will be selected using random.org and notified by email and announced here on the blog. You must leave a valid email address (will not be displayed) in your entry.

4. One entry per person, please (or two, with tweet). *Your comment may not appear right away.

*Prize courtesy of Amy Atlas. Contest is open to US and Canadian residents only.

And here is the recipe for the Pink Éclairs, as written in the book Sweet Designs: Bake It, Craft It, Style It, by Amy Atlas:

Pink Éclairs

Yield: 12-14 4-inch éclairs

For the Vanilla Pastry Cream

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon salt

5 egg yolks

1 cup whole milk

1 cup half-and-half

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the Pâte à Choux

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 large eggs

For the Glaze

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Pink food coloring gel

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add the egg yolks and whisk until combined; set aside.

2. Combine the milk and half-and-half in a medium saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until it simmers. Whisk half of the hot milk into the egg mixture. Return egg-milk mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens and two or three large bubbles appear on the surface. Whisk in the vanilla and butter. Pour the mixture into a heatproof bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator until set, at least 3 hours.

3. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium saucepan, combine 3/4 cup water, butter, sugar, and salt over medium-high heat and cook, stirring, until the mixture just comes to a boil. Quickly stir in the flour and continue to stir until the mixture comes together and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to stir for 2 minutes more (a film may form on the bottom of the pan–this is okay).

4. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until the mixture cools slightly and the steam disappears, about 3 minutes.

5. Slowly add the eggs, one at a time, mixing to completely incorporate after each addition. Stop mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle as necessary.

6. Spoon the batter into a pastry bag or resealable plastic bag fitted with a round tip (Wilton Round Tip #1a). Pipe 12 to 14 straight 4-inch lines, spaced 2 inches apart, onto the baking sheet.

7. Bake for 15 minutes, do not open the oven door. At this point, the éclairs will be puffed and golden brown. Reduce the heat to 350°F and bake until éclairs appear dry and are a deep golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes more. Do not underbake; this may cause the éclairs to collapse. Let cool completely on pan.

8. When éclairs have cooled, use a small skewer to poke a hold in either end of each one. Gently move the skewer around the inside the éclair to clear a space for the cream.

9. Spoon the cooled pastry cream into a pastry bag or resealable plastic bag fitted with a Wilton Round Tip #230. Fill éclairs with pastry cream from both ends, taking care to not overfill.

10. In a medium bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar and 1 to 2 tablespoons of water until smooth. Stir in a few drops of pink food coloring until the desired color is achieved. Hold an éclair over the bowl of glaze, spoon the glaze over it, and spread to coat the top. Place the éclairs in individual rectangular treat cups and arrange on a rectangular platter in a single layer. Replenish platter as necessary.

I had so much fun making these decadent and pretty-as-can-be éclairs, and now off I go to bake, craft and style everything else in this incredible book.

Good luck & enjoy!


Related posts:

Bakery-Style Vanilla Cupcakes

Bakery Style Vanilla Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Happy National Vanilla Cupcake Day! I’m sorry that I’m sending you these wishes at the end of the day, but I couldn’t go without celebrating this holiday with you, but as usual, this is a late-night write. With such a holiday to celebrate, how could I possibly wake up and not bake a batch of classic pink vanilla bakery-style cupcakes? I couldn’t, so I did.

Bakery Style Vanilla Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

So we’ve got company today–a close friend (you may remember I chatted awhile back about how it was because of him my husband and I met) visiting from Grand Cayman, and I thought it would be a great time to celebrate National Vanilla Cupcake Day. I realized that as much as I make vanilla cake with vanilla frosting (of all kinds), that I don’t often make a classic bakery-style vanilla cupcake with sweet frosting and sprinkles. I know, it’s really inexcusable, considering. So this morning I woke up and made a batch of the Magnolia Bakery vanilla cupcakes. If you’re not familiar with the Magnolia Bakery, it’s a charming bakery in New York City that has been celebrated for its from-scratch baked goods, most notably the pink vanilla cupakes and the like. I first learned of the bakery while watching Sex in the City, but I’m sad to report that I’ve never actually set foot inside the bakery or tried any of their treats.

Bakery Style Vanilla Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Bakery Style Vanilla Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

As you may believe, I love cupcakes, and I have made many, but I hadn’t ever baked or tried their version, so today seemed like a good time to give that a whirl. The cupcake portion of their recipe is a very classic butter cake technique and you won’t find anything too unexpected in the ingredient list, but the result is pleasingly vanilla and perfectly classic. After much blog discussion about vanilla cake, following the Fluffy White Vanilla Cake post (a post about my epic journey to discover a pure white, fluffy, cake-mix-like scratch cake), I have received dozens of emails asking me if that batter would be suitable for the ultimate cupcake. Truthfully, I find that batter amazing and ideal for fluffy cake layers, but with only egg whites, I find it doesn’t make the ideal cupcakes. That’s just for my taste, though, but I love a sweet, sturdy and “eggy” cupcake (sorry if that sounds odd, but it’s the only way I can describe that taste). This recipe calls for, among other things, 4 whole eggs, a generous amount of white sugar and a combination of self-rising and all-purpose (plain) flour, which to me is a great combination for the classic cupcake.

Bakery Style Vanilla Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

If you read my previous post about my Ruffles & Roses tea party, you may remember the Fairy Cakes. For those I used another vanilla cupcake recipe from another popular New York City bakery, Billy’s Bakery, that has a very similar ingredient list, but uses a combination of cake flour and self-rising flour. That recipe, however, uses the reverse creaming method, just as my Fluffy Vanilla Cake does, and the result is very similar to the Magnolia Bakery version. To me, they are both wonderful and consistent options for the perfect vanilla cupcake and I think the biggest difference is the “cake flour” taste–some love it, and some prefer a less distinct flavour that all-purpose flour seems to lend.

Bakery Style Vanilla Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

For the frosting, I opted to sort of combine my favourite whipped vanilla frosting with the sugary-sweet Magnolia buttercream, by increasing the icing sugar, but keeping it a bit less than what they call for. I have to admit that making these pink sprinkled vanilla cupcakes, made me happier than even I could have guessed.

If you’d like to keep up with the seemingly endless ‘National Dessert Days,” just for fun, my friends over at Best Friends for Frosting have a fabulous post including the Complete Directory List of National Dessert Days, and, trust me, I refer to it often!

Speaking of pink sprinkles, I’m not sure my life will be complete if I don’t soon order this. Why do sprinkles make us so silly happy?

Ah, yes, sprinkles. I have too much to say about them. No, really, I do, but, oh friends, it’s the middle of the night here in my world, and I think I must go to sleep! I don’t say that often, but tonight, I must. I will be back very soon to talk about all sorts of life-altering topics: flour, buttercream, frosting cakes, chocolate, pink . . . zzzz.

Off I go to dream about cakes and rainbows. Or more sleep.

Bakery-Style Vanilla Cupcakes

Yield: 24 standard cupcakes, or two 9-inch round cakes

Ingredients

    For the cupcakes:
  • 1-1/2 cups (190 g) self-rising flour
  • 1-1/4 cups (160 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks)(227 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (400 g) white sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (237 ml) milk
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla
  • For the frosting:
  • 3 sticks (345 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 5 cups (625 g) confectioners’ sugar (icing, powdered)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) milk
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

    For the cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 standard muffin tins with cupcake liners of your choice (24 total).
  2. In a small bowl, combine the flours and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended.
  5. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners and bake in middle of oven until tops turn golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out just clean (a few crumbs is okay), about 18 minutes.
  6. Cool the cupcakes in tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.
  7. For the frosting:
  8. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 5 minutes on medium speed (I use “4″ on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  9. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 5 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy, and fluffy.
  10. Add touch of gel food colour, if desired and mix until blended.
  11. Best used right away.

Notes

[cupcake recipe adapted from Magnolia Bakery]

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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

1. To keep frosting smooth and creamy (and not filled with air-bubbles), work it often in the bowl with a rubber spatula, in a pressing & smearing movement to remove air bubbles.

2. To decorate these cupcakes, I used a few drops of Americolor Electric Pink Soft Gel Paste to achieve the “bakery-pink” colour. I then piped a generous swirl of frosting onto each cupcake using a plain round decorating tip inserted in a piping bag, followed by pressing the bottom flat side of a small offset spatula into the centre of the frosting swirl, working in a gentle circular motion, to create an indent and swirl onto the cupcake.

3. I try to avoid keeping cupcakes in an airtight container, as that seems to cause some of the liners to separate from the cupcakes. Cake boxes with the flaps closed seems to work well.

Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

An Epic Tale of Vanilla Cake {and my 1st Blogiversary}

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

Update (June 2012)! You can find a video tutorial for this frosting technique here.

It’s true–it’s been one year since I started this blog. When I think back about how it all came to be, I recall waking up one day last summer and realizing that my poor husband was never going to survive a lifetime of listening to my frequent baking tales, no matter how hard he tried–it was that simple, at first. I wish I was kidding, but, truly, this poor man has put in some serious time listening to my occasionally wordy-yet-passionate descriptions and raves about baked goods! I also felt that something was missing from my creative life, so, I figured I better share all of my baking love in some other way. When the idea of a baking blog entered my mind, I knew it would be a perfect outlet to express myself, but honestly, I had no idea if anyone would actually read it, and I didn’t realize what an amazing outlet and lifeline it would become for me. This blog is so much a part of me now, that I don’t know what I would become without it, so thank you all so much for your visits, sincere comments, and enthusiasm–it astounds me daily, and it means more to me than you could ever know. You can read my first post (kind of embarrassing) here. Yikes–okay, okay, go easy on me!

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

As I looked back on the recipes I’ve shared over the past year, I came to realize that I may have a slight thing for vanilla cake. And, well, seeing as I counted a total of 30 cakes in my recipe index so far, well, I may need to accept that my cake addiction may be an actual condition for which I may want to seek medical attention. Call me a hopeless romantic, if you will (or maybe just a girl who really loves cake), but I figure if you’re going to love something, you better love it with every fiber of your being. That being said, I realize it must be a bit overwhelming to visit my recipe index and find so many vanilla cake options, so I’ve given a little description of each below to help those who were curious about what differentiates them. So many of them are similar, but the recipes are varied slightly, by ingredients and method. I’m forever epicurious and can’t help but attempt any yummy-looking vanilla cake recipe in search of the the perfect vanilla cake.

For my taste, perfect is a light, moist, and borderline cake mixish (gasp) vanilla butter cake that I use for both buttercream covered and fondant covered cakes. I recently came across a recipe that was as close to this as I’d ever seen (that being said, I still love the others!). This was an amazing discovery for me, because since I’ve been baking scratch cakes, I tend to prefer serving chocolate cake–mostly because of its fabulous ability to stay moist and fresh for days. But, in my heart I’m a vanilla cake with pastel vanilla frosting and sprinkles girl. I just am.

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

So, I’ve been making the fabulous Fluffy Vanilla Cake recipe now for weeks, and I make it every chance I get. I love it. It changed my life! I loved seeing your enthusiasm for this cake, and I’ve received more emails about making that cake than anything else I’ve made–so many of you are enjoying vanilla cake success and bliss, but I noticed that some of you are having some issues with the batter “curdling,” once you add the liquid, which then likely caused your cakes to sink in the middle and be more dense. I know how frustrating cake fails can be, so I really wanted to try to make that better so you too could enjoy this incredible cake.

The points of difference in this recipe versus a typical vanilla butter cake, from what I can see, would be the large number of egg whites and the reverse creaming method, created and encouraged by famed baker Rose Levy Beranbaum and her book (one of my all-time favourites) The Cake Bible. The thing is, with so many egg whites and a cup of milk, if there’s even a tad too much liquid, the batter becomes unstable. There is a version of this cake in Rose’s book called White Velvet Butter Cake, which is almost exactly the same, but calls for more cake flour, less egg white, and less sugar. Both of these recipes using the reverse creaming method, although the directions are slightly different. I found that the White Velvet Butter Cake is perfectly stable, easy to make, and delicious. I would say that it may be just a bit less light and fluffy, but incredible.

So, long story short, I’ve modified the Fluffy White Cake recipe we’ve been using, to have just a bit less egg milk and egg white, in hopes that it will be more reliable to make, and the results tasted and looked great to me. Depending on how you measure your ingredients, it’s easy to have too much liquid, so I definitely recommend weighing your egg whites, to be sure. Well, for me it’s so important to weigh all of the ingredients to ensure a successful cake–I find too much or too little flour, in particular, can throw an entire cake’s texture off, which is too bad because it’s easy to have that happen if you don’t weigh it, but then think it’s the recipe’s fault, so to speak. Lastly, when I make this cake, I use Rose’s exact reverse creaming method from her book, although the method was a bit different (very slight) on the original Baking Bites recipe. You can try both methods and see what works for you, if you’re really determined. Confused yet?

That being said, here are the images of me making the fluffy vanilla cake recipe in hope that it answers some of the questions you’ve been asking about making the batter:

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

So, the first step is mixing the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment for 30 seconds…

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

Then you add the butter and the remaining milk (1/4 cup is added to the egg whites and vanilla to be added next), and mix on low speed just until the ingredients are moistened. Then mix on medium speed (I use #4 on my Kitchen Aid) for exactly 90 seconds–this is really important, so that you don’t overmix the batter. Rose (the creator of this reverse creaming method) explains this is “to aerate and develop the cake’s structure.”

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

This is how my batter looks after the 90 seconds of mixing on medium speed.

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

Next I add gradually add the milk mixture (1/4 cup milk that’s been gently mixed with the vanilla and egg whites) starting with 1/3, and mix on medium for 20 seconds–no more, no less.

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

Here it is after 2 of the 3 additions of the egg white mixture have been added and each mixed for 20 seconds. It shouldn’t look curdled, but nice and smooth.

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

Finally, here it is after the final third of the liquid mixture has been added. Again, it should be smooth, but not curdled. If it’s curdled, in my experience that means there’s too much liquid, and the cake will sink in the middle when you bake it.

Vanilla Cake via Sweetapolita

And, finally here are the cakes baked and cooling, and this method really works for me, so I really hope it helps you along in some way! I should also mention that using the two 9-inch pans or two 8-inch pans tends to yield the best result for this recipe, and, typically, I find it’s best to stick to the cake pan size that any recipe recommends. It’s not to say you can’t play around with cake pan sizes/shapes, but, especially when you make a certain cake recipe for the first time, it’s likely the best way to get an accurate result.

As I mentioned, my vanilla cake recipe list is growing, and it must be a bit confusing to know which one is what you’re looking for, so I’ve done my best to include a quick description of each one:

Classic Vanilla Butter Cake: One of the first vanilla cakes I made for the blog. It’s a traditional vanilla cake using whole eggs and whipped egg whites and cake flour to lighten batter: moist, delicious, slightly dense. Straight-forward method and tastes great.

Fluffy Vanilla Cake with Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting (the one we just made): The lightest, fluffiest vanilla cake, and one of my favourites. Uses only egg whites (not yolks) and cake flour for light crumb and reverse creaming method. Can be unstable if too much liquid is added.

Love, Cake & Sprinkles: A delicious vanilla bean cake made with buttermilk, egg whites, and all-purpose flour using the traditional butter cake method of creaming, adding eggs, and alternating dry & wet ingredients. It has gorgeous flavour, is very moist, but not as light and fluffy as above. I love this cake.

My Baker’s Crush: BAKED (and The Whiteout Cake): A delicious butter cake from the famous BAKED bakery in NYC. Some ingredients are butter and shortening, cake flour and all-purpose flour, ice cold water, and egg whites. It’s made by creaming fats, alternating wet & dry, and folding in whipped egg whties. It’s heavier than the Fluffy Vanilla Cake, but delicious and unique.

Rainbow Doodle Birthday Cake: This vanilla cake recipe was originally from Whisk Kid, and I find it perfect for the rainbow cake. It’s also very close to Rose’s White Velvet Butter Cake in that it has egg whites, cake flour, butter, but it is made with the tradtional creaming method. It’s light and stable.

Vanilla Bean Bundt Cake with Vanilla Bean Glaze: A very vanilla traditional bundt cake that bakes up beautifully, but has a heavier texture than vanilla layer cake.

Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake: This is another version of an egg-white vanilla butter cake, that I really love. It uses the creaming method and some key ingredients are buttermilk, egg whites, and all-purpose flour. It’s not the lightest, but tastes incredible and is very stable.

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake with Instant Fudge Frosting This recipe comes from the book Sky High, and it’s a gorgeous vanilla butter cake made with buttermilk and whole eggs. It’s also a very straight-forward cake to bake and it tastes great. It has a golden finish due to the whole eggs.

I hope this helps! Here’s the modified cake recipe that I find to be a little more consistent in results:

*Notes: If you have made the Fluffy Vanilla Cake prior to my modifying it, and had success, you can keep the recipe the same as it was, which was 1 cup of milk and 6 egg whites (the recipe I use).

Fluffy Vanilla Cake {modified}          {click to print}

Yield: One 2-layer, 8-inch round cake or 9-inch round cake

*Very fluffy and light, but can be a bit more challenging if even a fraction too much liquid is added.

Ingredients

5 large egg whites (5 ounces/150 grams) at room temperature

3/4 cup whole milk (180 mL/6 liquid ounces), at room temperature

2 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (12.5 mL) — I use Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract

2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour (10 ounces/285 grams–weighed after sifting)

1 3/4 cups sugar (12 ounces/350 grams)

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder (19.5 grams)

3/4 teaspoon salt (5 grams)

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (6 ounces/170 grams), at room temperature and cut into cubes

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease, line with parchment, and flour two round 8-inch pans.

2. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the egg whites, 1/4 cup of milk, and the vanilla. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients together on low speed (I use the “stir” setting on my mixer) for 30 seconds.

4. Add the butter and remaining 1/2 cup of milk, and mix on low speed until just moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for 90 seconds.

5. Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg mixture in 3 separate batches; beat on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition.

6. Divide the batter in two, spreading it evenly with a small offset palette knife. If you have a kitchen scale, weigh to ensure 2 even layers.

7. Bake 25-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes clean when inserted into the center. Be so careful to not overbake. Check cake at 20 minutes, but not before, and once you feel it’s almost ready, set the timer for 2 minute intervals. 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.

8. 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 eaten the same day as baked.

*Slightly adapted from Classic White Cake recipe on Baking Bites

Frost with the Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting for the ultimate vanilla cake experience.

You may enjoy my 50 Tips for Baking Better Cakes post.

Good luck & enjoy!

Love, Rosie xo

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Strawberry Layer Cake with Whipped Strawberry Frosting

Strawberry Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

Well, hello there! I’m here, I’m here! Life got a little crazy for the past 2 weeks–cakes and beyond (beyond and beyond), but I’m so glad to be back and focused on my personal mission to never wear a bikini again share all of my favourite cakes and baked goods with you, one by one. Strawberry cake has been on my recent would-love-to-make-again list, because, well, I just love the old-fashioned taste of strawberry cake and strawberry frosting. I did recently (my birthday) make a strawberry Swiss buttercream to top a dark chocolate cake (here), but I was still craving double strawberry cake, and, dare I say, more sugary-but-satiny frosting. Then, it happened: I was officially inspired by a jelly bean. Yep, a tiny, little, harmless jelly bean. See, a few weeks ago, while doing some “candy research” for another project, I found the discovered the yummiest jelly beans ever created, and I’m not even a “jelly bean girl.”

I bought a bunch of Jelly Belly’s “Cold Stone Ice Cream Parlor Mix,” and these little things pack some serious ice cream flavour–I actually couldn’t even believe it. I think I may need to revisit the whole I’m-not-really-into-jelly-beans thing. This particular bunch I bought is a variety of ice cream related flavour combinations, including a pink one they call “Our Strawberry Blonde.” One little wee, pink jelly bean manages to pull together the flavours of strawberry ice cream, graham cracker pie crust, strawberries, caramel, and whipped cream . . . can you imagine? So, although I didn’t incorporate graham cracker pie crust or caramel (yet), I was inspired to create a sweet strawberry cake with an overall ice cream parlour taste.

Strawberry Layer Cake via Sweetapolita

For the cake, I went with a moist strawberry butter cake, frosted with whipped strawberry frosting that, for some inexplicable reason, tastes like strawberry ice cream (remember it in vanilla form, here?). I topped it with some whipped cream swirls, and, of course, the ice cream parlour jelly beans. I should say, though, that although I’m usually a bit more of a dessert purest, the cake recipe itself does use strawberry gelatin (yep, Jell-O) to boost the colour and flavour, in addition to the real strawberry puree. Although there are bakers out there that strive and succeed to use only puree and/or strawberry pieces to flavour the cake (and those recipes do look gorgeous), for some reason, I’m personally not offended by incorporating the gelatin. I was really close to going the purest route as well, but in this situation, I find the sweet strawberry flavour really reminiscent of my childhood, and I love it: I love that it’s pink, and I love the taste. Overall, it has a really ice cream parlour feel to me, and nothing bad ever comes from an ice cream parlour, does it?

On a sidenote, I get oodles of emails asking about slicing cakes, and how I get mine to slice “so perfectly,” so here are my thoughts on that–I’m not a cake-slicing expert, but I hope it helps in some way:

Tips for Cutting the Perfect Layer-Cake Slice:

1.  All Cakes are Not Created Equal: The first issue is the type of cake you’re slicing–some varieties simply slice and serve neater than others. I find that very moist, light cakes, such as the Fluffy Vanilla Cake, tend to want to fall not so perfectly when sliced (although, we won’t hold that against it, or other cakes like that, because they are so yummy and uniquely delicious). That being said, I find that if I refrigerate those cakes for an hour or so after frosting, it does tend to set them a bit. The only issue with that, is that typically refrigeration butter cakes can dry them out a touch. Chocolate cakes I have no problem slicing neatly at room temperature, but they are particularly easy to slice when they are refrigerated for a short time as well. The great news is that oil-based chocolate cakes stay so moist, even once refrigerated, so that’s a definite win-win.

2. The Right Stuff: Slicing a cake with a sharp, long, thin knife is key for me when slicing layer cakes. I use a large glass of hot water to dip the knife into and dry cloth to wipe clean between each cut. This makes a huge difference, I find.

3. Method to the Madness: I believe that the method you use to slice your cakes is really important. I press the tip of the knife gently into the centre of the cake once I’ve placed it where the slice will be cut, then slowly begin to slice the cake with the knife’s tip cutting the cake just slightly before the rest of the knife, so that it is the first part of the knife to hit the bottom of the slice/cake plate. I use one relatively clean cut, but never a sawing motion. Once the entire knife has reached the bottom of the slice and is touching the cake board/plate, I slowly remove the knife straight out towards me, never letting the bottom of the knife lift from bottom of slice. To remove the slice from the plate, I like to slide the flat side of the knife under the cut slice, so it is supporting the entire piece, and gently remove it so it is resting on the knife. Then I usually lay it flat on a plate to serve. For photos I do often place the slice upright, which works for many cakes–you can judge the likeliness of that once you pull out the first slice, and go from there.

4. Size Matters: This may go without saying, but you’ll find that the taller your cake, the more difficult slicing the perfect slice can be, but it’s definitely not impossible. You’ll likely notice that two-layer cake will cut much cleaner than a 4, 5, or 6+ layer cake. Even a 3-layer cake can give you trouble if it’s too fragile or if you’re not using the right knife or method. If you follow steps 1-3, though, you will likely find that you can make it work.

5. Let Them Eat Cake: Just remember that my efforts to achieve super-neat slices of cake is mostly because I want to photograph a cake in its loveliest possible moment. When I serve cake at home, it’s not always neat and tidy because I insist on serving it as fresh and soft as possible. If it means a yummer-but-messy cake, I recommend just doing whatever it takes to get the cake to your guest in its freshest, tastiest form–even if it is a little messy. If you follow the above steps, really, it shouldn’t be sloppy, but some just may be cleaner cut than others.

I hope this helps!

Strawberry Layer Cake with Whipped Strawberry Frosting

Yield: One 3-layer, 8-inch round cake

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 1-3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 (85 g) package strawberry flavored gelatin (such as Jell-O)
  • 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 eggs (room temperature)
  • 3 cups (300 g) sifted cake & pastry flour
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (5 g) salt
  • 1 cup (240 ml) whole milk, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) strawberry puree made from frozen strawberries (puree itself should be closer to room temp, not frozen or icy)
  • For the Frosting:
  • 3 sticks + 2 tablespoons (375 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 4 cups sifted (500 g) confectioners' sugar (icing, powdered), sifted
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) milk
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon (7.5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) strawberry puree made from frozen strawberries (if you want the frosting seed-free, you can put the puree through a sieve before adding to frosting)

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. If you're making your own strawberry puree, remove frozen strawberries (about 2 handfuls) from freezer and place in a single layer in a flat dish to thaw slightly. Place into food processor and puree the strawberries until smooth. Stir to ensure it is nice and smooth and not icy. Measure out 1/4 cup for cake and 3 tablespoons for frosting, and freeze the remaining puree for another use.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter, line with parchment, and flour three round 8-inch pans, tapping out the excess. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the milk, strawberry puree, and the vanilla. Set aside. Sift and whisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl, and set aside.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar, gelatin, and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the eggs, one by one, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with spatula.
  6. Add the wet & dry ingredients to the creamed mixture by alternating--beginning and ending with dry ingredients and mixing just enough after each addition to incorporate, but not over-mix.
  7. Divide the batter in three, spreading it evenly with a small offset palette knife. If you have a kitchen scale, weigh each pan filled with batter, to ensure 3 even layers. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes clean when inserted into the center. Be so careful to not over-bake. Check cakes at 20 minutes, but not before, and once you feel it's almost ready, set the timer for 2 minute intervals. 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.
  8. 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 eaten day one.
  9. For the Frosting:
  10. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed (I use "4" on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  11. Add remaining ingredients, except strawberry puree, and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy and fluffy. Add strawberry puree (can be cool, but not frozen or icy) and mix until incorporated.
  12. Assembly of the Strawberry Layer Cake with Whipped Strawberry Frosting:
  13. Place a cake layer face-up on cake plate or 8" round thin cake board. Place 1 cup of frosting on top, and spread evenly with a small offset palette knife.
  14. Repeat until you come to final layer and place final layer, face-down. Place a generous scoop of frosting on top, spreading evenly with a small offset palette knife and working your way down the sides until you have a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake. Use a bench scraper to achieve very smooth sides. Chill until set, about 30 minutes.
  15. Remove from refrigerator and cover with a final layer of frosting. Finish with any decorations of choice, or frosting borders.

Notes

*I used stabilized whipped cream (1 cup whipping cream whipped with 1/4 tsp unflavoured gelatin) and Jelly Belly's "Our Strawberry Blonde" jelly beans (combines the flavour strawberry ice cream, graham cracker pie crust, strawberries, caramel, and whipped cream...um, yummy!)

**A little tip to help make evenly spaced whipped cream (or other decoration) touches: Take a cake pan the same size and shape as your cake, trace onto a piece of parchment paper and cut it out. Fold it in 1/2, then again, and once more for 8 servings. Unfold, and gently place onto top of chilled cake, and using a toothpick make a little mark in the center of each "slice," where the whipped cream will go. Remove paper and keep for next time. Pipe your whipped cream over of each mark.

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[cake layer recipe adapted from allrecipes.com]

Good luck & enjoy!

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