I have always thought I don't have goals, but I think maybe I do — they're just disguised as determination.
I grew up in a baking (and cooking) family. My mom was an amazing cook and baker. And all those years of working for my father, who was a baker (I had to work in his bakery, and even though I got paid I hated it, I might add) I experienced what it meant to be a professional baker. Knowing how great both my parents were at it, I was always just a wee bit afraid of not being able to rise to the bar that had been set so high.
But over the last several years I've taught myself, through practice and determination, to make a great tart crust (I'm not a fan of pie crust), a damned fine loaf of wheat bread for sandwiches and many of my other trademark treats — all things I've always been mortally afraid of failing at. But my advancing age has also taught me that you don't learn unless you make mistakes.
So now I move onto cakes. I'm a great cake maker, just not a great cake put-togetheror/decorator. I worked in the front of my dad's bakery, serving customers, so other than writing Happy Birthday *Insert Name* I have zero decorating experience. But here I go anyway.
This past weekend we celebrated Hubby's 50th birthday. Using Sweetapolita's version of Perfectly Delightful Vanilla Cake as my guide, I made a version of amped up vanilla cake, using seeds from vanilla beans.
I know I may be committing heresy by saying this, but I prefer using salted butter in my buttercream icing. That's the way my dad made it, and that is what makes my tastebuds tingle. I love the sweet and saltiness. Sorry traditional buttercream icing lovers, but if it doesn't have salt, it tastes kind of like something I could by at my local grocery store. (I cringe as I write this because if I had as many followers as Rosie from Sweetapolita, I'd probably lose half of them right now.)
Even Rosie's original recipe says to add pinches of salt, but when I did it I got hits of salt instead of the even taste of salty-sweetness that salted butter brings. I stand behind my taste choices. AND, there were no complaints when I served it and I even had a few friends say it was right up there with the best cakes they had ever had. Think sweet and salty kettle corn, sweet and salty caramels and you'll get where I'm coming from.
So here goes...
I've made a vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream icing before, but I think I had Hubby finish it. Since I couldn't make him decorate his own cake for his birthday, I followed some of the great instructions in Sweetapolita's recipe.
Sandy Shepherd, master cake decorator.
I'm excited that Rosie from Sweetapolita is going to do some videos on cake making and decorating techniques. She must have sensed my need...
Not likely... I'm already eyeing that piece on the left for dessert tonight!
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Very Vanilla Birthday Cake
Adaptedf rom: Sweetapolita http://www.sweetapolita.com
Yield: One 4-layer, 8-inch round cake (about 9 inches tall once frosted)
Very Vanilla Cake
1-1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
7 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 whole egg, at room temperature
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped (discard pod)
1/2 tsp almond extract
4 cups cake flour, sifted
2-1/4 cups sugar
1-3/4 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup + 3 tbsp salted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease, line with parchment and flour two round 8-inch pans, or four 8-inch pans. Make parchment paper circles by tracing bottom of pan and cutting.
2. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the egg whites, whole egg, 1/2 cup of milk, vanilla and seeds, 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 lowest speed 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 lowest speed until just moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for no more than 90 seconds.
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 (about 2-1/4 cups) 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 topside up; cool completely.
8. If you only have 2 cake pans, wash and line, grease and flour again; repeating steps 6 & 7.
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.
Sweet and Salty Buttercream Icing
I have to say that I much prefer icing that is made with salted butter, because that’s how my dad the baker made it. I like how the sweet and salty play against each other. If you prefer a traditional buttercream, add a couple of pinches of salt and you’ll see…
The addition of vanilla bean seeds give a lovely French Vanilla look to the icing.
Makes enough to fill, frost and decorate a 4-layer 8" round cake
2-1/2 cups salted butter (5 sticks), softened and cut into cubes
5-1/4 cups icing sugar, sifted
4-1/2 tbsp milk
1-1/2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped (discard pod)
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed. Butter will become very pale & creamy.
2. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low-speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Icing will be very light, creamy, and fluffy. If you are colouring your icing, add a drop of gel colour and mix again, adding one drop at a time until desired shade is achieved. If you want just the outside of the cake coloured, you will fill the cake layers first, and then colour the remaining icing. This icing is best used right away for ideal spreading consistency, but keeps well once frosted.
3. Trim any doming or top crust from cake layers using a very sharp serrated knife.
4. Use a cake turntable for filling, icing and decorating, if a possible. Place a small dollop of icing in the center of a cake plate (which acts as glue), and place the bottom cake layer on top, topside up.
5. Place about 1 cup of icing on top of the cake layer, and spread evenly with a small offset palette knife. Gently place 2nd cake layer, topside up, on top. Repeat until you come to your 4th layer, which you will place face down.
6. Put a generous scoop of icing on top, spreading evenly with a small offset palette knife and working your way down the sides until you have a thin layer of icing over the entire cake. Chill until set, about 30 minutes. (This is call “crumb-coating”). See Notes.
7. Remove from refrigerator and repeat step 6.
8. Decorate as you please.
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.
Mostly Sweetapolita’s Notes:
- 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.
- This batter makes fabulous cupcakes.
- The icing tastes like vanilla ice cream – you’ll see!
- For complete decorating how-tos, watch the tips detailing everything from crumb-coating to borders and piping on a site called MonkeySee by master cake decorator. I can’t wait for Sweetapolita’s videos, which will show modern decorating styles. ,
Printable Very Vanilla Birthday Cake