Love, Cake & Sprinkles {Pink Vanilla & Sprinkles Cake}

Love, Cake & Sprinkles via Sweetapolita

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:

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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):

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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.

Love, Cake & Sprinkles via Sweetapolita

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.

Love, Cake & Sprinkles via Sweetapolita

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).

Love, Cake & Sprinkles via Sweetapolita

Wishing you a weekend (and more) of love, cake & sprinkles!

*Wedding photos by Click Photo Co.

Pink Vanilla & Sprinkles Cake

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

Ingredients

    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

Instructions

    For the Vanilla Layer Cake:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Mix vanilla extract and vanilla paste (or contents of vanilla bean) into buttermilk.
  4. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated.
  5. 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.
  6. Let pans cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.
  7. For the Vanilla Buttercream:
  8. Wipe a mixer bowl with dampened with some lemon juice to remove any traces of grease.
  9. Place the egg whites in the mixer bowl and, in the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk on medium-high speed until foamy.
  10. 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).
  11. 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.
  12. 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).
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. Assembly of the Pink Vanilla Cake:
  16. 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.
  17. Gently place third cake layer, face-down, on top.
  18. 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.
  19. Refrigerate your cake for at least 30-60 minutes.
  20. Use remaining frosting to decorate your cake.
  21. Add sprinkles or any other decorations that make you happy!
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You may enjoy this previous post, 50 Tips for Baking Better Cakes.

Good luck & enjoy!

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Inside-Out Neapolitan Layer Cake

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake via Sweetapolita

I have great news! My temporary cake-diet, you know, the one during which I stopped eating cake, is over, and I’ve resumed my more permanent cake-diet, the one where all I think about and often indulge in cake. And, let me say, I ended it and restored order just in time: 3 layers of rich Southern Devil’s Food Cake stacked between fluffy Neapolitan flavoured Swiss Meringue Buttercreams: Belgian Chocolate, Vanilla, and Strawberry, and topped with pure dark chocolate sprinkles from Holland. If you read the past post of mine, Neapolitan 5-Layer Birthday Cake with Strawberry Frosting, you’ll recall that I adore Neapolitan. In that case, the cake itself was Neapolitan. The flavours really bring me back to my childhood, and I was so happy to see that so many of you felt the same way after reading that post. Lately, I’ve been thinking more and more about Neapolitan and how I think there may be a serious shortage of it in my day-to-day life, so I’ve been dreaming up new ways to incorporate it into my world. This was a really fun start to that mission!  

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake via Sweetapolita

If someone was ever cruel enough to force you to choose, would you say that you’re a cake person, or a frosting person? I find the older I get, the more I appreciate the cake itself. I would say that most times I would be perfectly content with a fresh piece of cake icing free, but wow, Swiss Meringue Buttercream makes me so very happy, and I’m pretty sure, with some focus, I could sit down and eat an entire bowl of it. Of course, its rich-but-light texture that’s not too sweet but just sweet enough is a dream in itself, but working with it, well, there’s just nothing better. It’s so satiny and holds up so well under fondant, on its own, in ruffles, smooth & perfect, or just about any way at all. You can flavour it with just about anything, and it can be frozen, then thawed, refrigerated, then room temperature–it will take just about anything! It may seem intimidating to make at first, but it’s really quick once you get the hang of it, and you will never look back. It’s also a really great way to take a simple layer cake and make it a bit more special and luxe.

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake via Sweetapolita

As for the cake itself, I decided to take a break from my favourite Dark Chocolate Cake and go for a really rich and decadent Southern Devil’s Food Cake recipe I found, from Fine Cooking, that’s made with a few different ingredients than my usual recipe, such as mayonnaise, butter, and dark brown sugar. I did, though, make sure to include my must-have cocoa powder, Cacao Barry Extra Brute, for that really dark and rich taste. Divine. I really can say that I notice that extra richness that the butter and mayonnaise add–incredible!

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake via Sweetapolita

What better way to show off all of these buttercream flavours, than to just tie it into the design of the cake, and leave the frosting off of the outside? I personally love cakes that are left open like this, and I think it’s a really refreshing change once in awhile, particularly when you play with interesting filling flavours, textures, and colours. Now, I did go quite generous with this filling because of the gorgeous, not-so-sweet Swiss Meringue Buttercream, but I wouldn’t recommend this with sugary frosting. As a “rule,” not that I’m big on those, you would aim for your layer-cake filling to be about 1/2 of the thickness of your cake layers.

Inside-Out Neapolitan Cake via Sweetapolita

I sliced this piece for the photo, and then covered it with wrap once I was done with the photographs. I wasn’t going to eat it (I promise), but then as the girls were walking to the bathroom for bath-time, they discovered it, and well, there we sat in the upstairs hallway sharing this with 3 forks and a lot of “mmmm”s. Nothing could have prepared me for the extreme cute that is watching a 4-year-old and a 19-month-old eat cake and sprinkles while sporting bare bums.

Sprinkles via Sweetapolita

Speaking of sprinkles, I have to tell you about this incredible range of imported sprinkles I found at the cutest little bakery and European grocer located in a wee little town near me, Orono, where I buy most of my antiques. I was there this past weekend, and I discovered an entire shelf of these gourmet sprinkles from the Netherlands. Aside from the fact that they offer pure dark chocolate, milk chocolate, anise, and many more sprinkle variations, they won me over at first glance–can you guess why? Yes! They have smothered these sprinkles all over toast, and this is, what I since discovered something the Dutch love to do! I can’t say it ever crossed my mind to do that, but I think I need to give that a try–immediately. Besides, any country that swears by mayonnaise and french fries is clearly on the brink of culinary genius (did I mention that the little grocer also sells large squeeze bottles of the french-fry-designated mayo?), and I trust them completely. I sprinkled a handful of the dark chocolate variety as the finishing touch to this cake. Love them! You can learn more about these De Ruijter sprinkles here or buy them here.

I hope you enjoy this cake as much as my bare-bummed little cakelets and I did.

Inside-Out Neapolitan Layer Cake

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

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (460 g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1-3/4 cups (220 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (90 g) unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1-1/4 teaspoon (7 g) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (10 g) kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 cup (360 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml) mayonnaise
  • For the Buttercream:
  • 5 large fresh egg whites (150 g)
  • 1-1/4 cup (250 g) superfine granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups (340 g) (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 5 oz (150 g) quality bittersweet chocolate
  • Few drops Strawberry Flavor Oil, or 2 tablespoons (30 ml) strawberry puree
  • Few drops pink gel colour

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line with parchment rounds, and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar and vanilla on medium-high speed until lighter in color and slightly increased in volume, about 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is fully incorporated before adding the next.
  3. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder into a medium bowl. Add the salt to the dry ingredients after sifting, and whisk dry ingredients.
  4. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated, or finish by hand gently. Fold mayonnaise into batter with a whisk, until just blended.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. If possible, weigh the batter in each cake pan for 454 g each (excluding the pans--you will want to tare the scale each time.) This ensures even layers. Smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake for about 30 minutes, rotating once after 20 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick or skewer comes barely clean. Try not to over-bake. I tend to under-bake a few moments, so the skewer is a little bit gummy. This works well for a moist chocolate cake (not vanilla).
  6. Let pans cool on wire rack for 20 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.
  7. For the Buttercream:
  8. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 160°F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
  9. Place bowl back on mixer and fit with whisk attachment. Whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes, or longer). Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add softened butter in chunks until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth).
  10. Add vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.
  11. Assembly of the Inside-Out Neapolitan Layer Cake
  12. Divide buttercream into 3, and flavour 1/3 chocolate and another 1/3 strawberry. Leave remaining buttercream vanilla. For chocolate, add melted and cooled bittersweet chocolate and blend until combined. For strawberry, add a few drops of Strawberry Flavor Oil (minimal) or 1-2 tablespoons of strawberry puree. Add a few drops of pink gel food colouring to strawberry buttercream
  13. Trim any doming on your cake layers with a very sharp, serrated bread knife. Wrap layers in plastic wrap and chill for 15 minutes in freezer.
  14. Spread a 1" circle of icing onto an 8" round thin cake board using an offset palette knife and place the first cake layer on top, face-up.
  15. Using a small offset palette knife, spread 1 cup of chocolate buttercream on top, leaving about a 1" gap from edges. Place second cake layer on top, face up, and repeat, using Vanilla Buttercream.
  16. Place final layer on top, face-down and repeat using Strawberry Buttercream.
  17. Fill 3 piping bags with remaining buttercreams fitted with Wilton 8B decorative tip, or the tip of your choice, decorate edges, filling in gaps. Top with dark chocolate sprinkles.

Notes

*Keep buttercream in airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, leaving out at room temperature when needed, rewhipping in mixer for 5 minutes.

**Can freeze buttercream for up to 6-8 weeks. To thaw, place on counter overnight, and rewhip for 5 minutes with paddle attachment in an electric mixer.

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[Southern Devil's Cake Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking, by David Guas]

Good luck & enjoy!

 

 

PS. I love receiving your baking questions, and I find it works really well if you ask them in the comments section, so that when I reply to post-related questions in the comment section as opposed to via email, other readers with the same questions can read the information as well. Thanks so much!

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Paper-Craft Sugar Posy Cake {Guest Post for Paper*Cakes}

Happy April!

Several months ago I came across the quirkiest and craftiest blog, Paper*Cakes Finds, created and run by creative, and one-of-a-kind, Canadian, Chelsea Ling. I loved everything about the sweet colour-scheme of her blog, the paper-crafts, the unexpected goodies she’s discovers online, and just the overall energy and whimsy that’s going on over there. I’ve had a lot of fun getting to know her over the past few months, and inspired when she asked me to guest post. I’d love for you to pop over here to Paper*Cakes Finds to check out my Paper-Craft Sugar Posy Cake and tutorial.

Speaking of cake, thanks so  much for all of the sweet words and feedback on my last post (Dark Chocolate Raspberry Buttercream Cake with Ganache Drizzle). I love that you loved it! I’m happy to report that I actually managed to resist eating that cake. I’m actually quite proud of myself–resisting cake is not exactly my forte! I split it up, used a few for the photos, gave some to a few of my neighbours, and froze a bit (and by “bit” I mean a large slab) for when this crazy sugar-free adventure of mine is over, and I can finally indulge.

On a sidenote, I want to share a link with those interested in food photography (or photography of any kind). If you remember my mentioning that I worked on a crazy-fun cake project for Wedding Bells magazine in Toronto awhile back (issue will hit stands in July–I’ll keep you posted!), well, the work of the photographer from that shoot, Jim Norton, is simply incredible. I’ve stared at the images in his food photography portfolio so many times, and with my being so new at this whole food photography thing, they are just pure inspiration. I’m particularly affected by his dark, moody shots, but they are all gorgeous. You can find his stunning portfolio at Jim Norton Photography here. Just had to share!

I’ve got something sweet & fun in the works as we speak, so another baked good post will be up shortly. I hope you’re having a fabulous weekend!

Love, Rosie xo

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Girly Woodland Dessert Table

After falling in love with the idea of a pink woodland theme for my youngest cakelet’s birthday, I was inspired to create an entire dessert table to display some neapolitan woodland treats.  Since I spend days (sometimes weeks) preparing cakes and confections for a party, why not put as much love and care into displaying them? The inspiration initially came from her favourite blabla doll, Prudence the Owl, and her organic woodland embroidered blanket in her crib. I knew, though, that I had to infuse the brown woodsy feel with some pink “girliness.” I incorporated white to freshen it up and give it a bit of a contemporary feel. The sweets on the table that I created, included a 3-tier woodland cake, neapolitan mini cakes, chocolate fondant “N” monogrammed cupcakes (for birthday girl, Neve), pink woodland sugar cookies, vanilla cupcakes with pink buttercream swirls and fondant flowers, and raspberry cheesecake brownies (from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook). My gorgeous sister-in-law (and I’m not just being cute–she really is gorgeous) Mary, made the chocolate birds’ nests with eggs (sadly not shown in the above photo–darn lens!), and I bought cookies n’ cream bark and dark chocolate bark to complete the woodsy feel.

Here are the little chocolate fondant-covered cupcakes. Loved making these little cuties. Inside they are chocolate cake covered in Swiss Meringue Buttercream. One of my favourite details on the table was the lovely hello hanna recyled paper individual cupcake stands, shown in this photo. How important does this cupcake feel, perched up there on such a pretty little (and environmentally responsible) pedestal?

Lastly, here’s an adorable (and teeny) neapolitan banner I found, at the last minute, on Esty from Big Day Party Shop. Life is in the details!  All in all, I loved every minute of creating this party for my little Neve’s birthday. Now, there are only 198 days until my preschooler, Reese, turns 4–better get planning!

Thanks for stopping by! xo