Remember when you were a kid and having cake was almost exclusively devoted to birthdays. Upon getting my ‘oven privileges’ that was the case for me. Or of course when you went out for a fancy dinner and were allowed to get dessert – unless an ice cream sundae was included with your kid’s meal, cake made an un-birthday appearance.
Despite cake and other treats losing their special-occasion-novelty I still love an almost cloyingly sweet, over-the-top birthday cake. As much as people ‘don’t need any cake’ or will have ‘just a sliver’ we all know the gargantuan classic vanilla cake (a la mode) is what we really want.
The disappointment of going to a birthday now, hoping for a homemade light fluffy vanilla or chocolate cake, thick with buttercream – and finding sugary, strangely un-melting cake-like thing is like getting nothing for your own birthday. Ok, maybe it’s not that bad, but to build up the excitement of an indulgent childhood treat and not getting it – well it really does suck.
Take the office cake (exclude the aforementioned grocery store sugar brick) scenario: Post lunch, someone’s birthday, everyone flocks towards the rare-homemade cake like flies to a pie. You know it brightened your day. It may put you in a sugar-coma but really, were you going to work right until 5 anyways? We won’t tell anyone when you sneak over to take some home, (after sitting on the communal counter and no one’s touched it – totally ok.)
This cake covers all the basis. To amp up the nostalgia factor, I added sprinkles in the cake and lemon curd in the middle. It was a bit too sweet with no extra filling, (possible the sprinkles’ fault, but I couldn’t resist them.) I also had strawberries on hand and thought they would add a bit of freshness to the (still awesome) sweet cake. I also cut the two layers in half for a towering and showy cake, not necessary but you know, why not?
From smittenkitchen.com and cookbook
Yield: Two 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake layers, and, in theory, 22 to 24 cupcakes, two 8-inch squares or a 9×13 single-layer cake (I have yet to audition the cupcakes, shame on me)
- 4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (480 grams) cake flour (not self-rising)
- 2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
- 2 sticks (1 cup, 1/2 pound or 225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups (400 grams) sugar
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 cups buttermilk (475 ml), well-shaken
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment. (Alternately, you can use a cooking spray, either with just butter or butter and flour to speed this process up.)
- Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes- then beat in vanilla.
- Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition.
- At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just Incorporated.
- Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then tap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles.
- Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour. You can keep these at room temperature for a day covered or longer in the fridge tightly wrapped if you are making them at a later date. They even store in the freezer if wrapped well enough.
White Chocolate Icing
- 6 oz white chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cup milk
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks, 12 oz) butter softened but cool, cut into small pieces
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- optional: food colouring
- 1 pint strawberries, diced finely
- 1 cup lemon curd*
- Melt white chocolate over double boulder, set aside to cool.
- In a medium heavy-bottom saucepan, whisk sugar and flour together. Add milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally until mixture comes to a boil, about 20 minutes.
- Transfer mixture to bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high until cool. I put mine in the fridge to help it out a bit before mixing.
- Reduce speed to low and add butter, mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy.
- Add vanilla and white chocolate and continue mixing until combined. If you’re using it immediately and it’s too soft, put the bowl in the fridge to chill then bat until it’s the proper consistency. If it’s too firm, place it over a double boiler and beat until the desired consistency.
I divided my icing into 3 batches with the intentions of making an ombré cake. I also thought it would be a good idea to make this icing on a 30˚ day. I wouldn’t advice the later, but if my icing wasn’t melting from the heat, the ombré would have succeeded….That being said, you can just keep it simple and have a lovely, stress-free white icing.
- Carefully, slice each cake layer in half, you will have 4 discs of cake. Place the first disc onto a platter. To keep the try clean, create a parchment ‘drop sheet’ on the sides, tucking it under the cake to keep them still. This isn’t necessary, but I wanted my cake to be extra showy.
- Evenly spread about 3/4-1 cup of the icing onto the cake. You may want to refrigerate before adding 1/3 of the lemon curd on top of that. I needed to because of the heat, otherwise it shouldn’t be a problem unless your icing and curd are warmer than room temperature.
- Sprinkle 1/3 of the strawberries on top. Repeat with remaining cake, curd, icing and strawberries.
- Crumb coat the cake and refrigerate for about 15 minutes. Frost the sides and top of the cake with the frosting and refrigerate for 15 minutes to firm up the finished cake. Add sprinkles on top as generously as you wish.
- Before serving, let the cake sit at room temperature for 2 hours. It keeps in the fridge covered for up to a week.
*The lemon curd isn’t essential, but I highly recommend it. If you don’t want to make it, there are great varieties available at the grocery store. The tanginess of the curd offsets the intensely sweet icing and cake. It also brings out the strawberry’s natural sweetness.