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 . . . 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


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 Pastel Sequin 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 - try Sweetapolita Ocean Turquoise!
  • Confetti Sequin sprinkles (for decorating)

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.

For the chocolate cake layers:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease and line the bottoms of 2 round 8-inch pans with parchment.
  2. 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.
  3. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.
  4. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated, or finish by hand gently.
  5. 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.
  6. Let pans cool on wire rack for 20 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.

For the frosting:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.

Assemble the cake:

  1. Put a dollop of frosting on an 8-inch round cake board (or cake plate) or 9-inch scalloped cake board.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 Pastel Sequins around the perimeter of the cake.
  5. The cake will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Sweetapolita's Notes:
  • For the chocolate cake, I always use Cacao Barry Extra Brute cocoa powder--it's super dark and rich.
  •  To achieve a similar look, try a few drops of your favourite Sweetapolita Oil Based Colours. A little goes a long way!
  • When making confetti cake, I like to use Pastel Confetti or Pastel Sequins because they don't tend to bleed color.
  • You could also try mixing Pastel Bit Chips into the frosting as well! These tend to soften just enough to create that classic Confetti style frosting you might remember from childhood. 
  • 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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