VANILLA BEAN BIRTHDAY CAKE
In my family, any celebration calls for cake. From birthdays to holidays, even regular weekend gatherings, we almost always make sure there is a cake around to share – even better if the cake is homemade. When it’s my turn to bring the treat, I turn to my trusted KitchenAid® Classic Series 4.5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer and Professional-Grade Nonstick 8×2 Round Pans every time.
Of course, nothing kills the fun more than a failed cake recipe – and believe me, I’ve had plenty of my own. But after a lot of practice (with my family as loyal taste testers), I’ve noted a few tips and tricks for best-ever cake baking that I use time and time again with great results.
This recipe for a vanilla bean white cake with vanilla buttercream frosting is a classic, no-fail recipe I love to make for any celebration – not just birthdays. It’s simple, easy to follow and yields a perfectly dense, moist and flavorful cake with a creamy and rich frosting that beats out any boxed mix. Practice does make perfect, but this recipe will always give you a great dessert to share with those you love.
To start, a few tips: While you can use all-purpose flour for cakes, I find that cake flour really does make a difference. It gives the cake a lighter crumb but without being crumbly. I also make sure my refrigerated ingredients (such as milk, eggs and butter) are at room temperature, so I take them out of the fridge a few hours before I’m ready to bake.
For this recipe, I made sure the milk and egg whites were around 65°F and the butter was still firm but with some give. If the milk and eggs aren’t quite warm enough, place them in bowls or measuring cups in a shallow bath of warm water in the sink for a few minutes until they reach the appropriate temperature.
To make the cake, prepare two KitchenAid® Professional-Grade Nonstick 8×2 Round Pans. I like to use 8-inch cake pans for taller cakes, but 9-inch cake pans work just as well. Spray the pans with baking spray, then line the bottoms with parchment paper and spray the paper. Dust the pans with cake flour, then turn the pans over and rap the bottom a few times to remove any excess flour. This is a simple but very important step so the cakes don’t stick to the pans.
Stir the milk, egg whites, vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds in a large bowl until combined. Set aside.
In a separate bowl of a KitchenAid® Stand Mixer with the flat beater attachment, stir the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until combined. Add the butter, in cubes, and stir until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs – almost like you would for pie or biscuit dough.
Beat in the milk mixture for a few minutes so everything is well combined and you get a bit of air into the batter so the cake becomes light and fluffy.
Pour the batter into your prepared cake pans and bake on the center rack of the oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (30 minutes for 8-inch pans, maybe a little less time for 9-inch pans). Let the cakes cool in the pans for five minutes, then carefully invert the pans and remove the cakes. Transfer the cakes to a cooling rack to cool completely. Once cooled, use a serrated knife to slice the domed tops off the cakes so they are flat on both sides. This allows the cake to be evenly layered and frosted well.
Once the cakes are fully cooled, make the frosting. I love a simple buttercream frosting for my cakes – it spreads on smooth and soft, but hardens and becomes firm once set. It’s easy to prepare, but yields a beautiful result.
To make the buttercream frosting, beat softened butter in a KitchenAid® Stand Mixer until smooth, light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar little by little, beating well on high speed after each addition – this way, the frosting maintains its fluffy, light and smooth texture. Add some milk, vanilla and salt and stir. The frosting should be firm, but still easily spreadable with an offset spatula. If it’s too firm, stir in more milk; if too soft, stir in more powdered sugar.
Place one cake, cut-side up, on a cake stand or serving plate. Frost the top of the cake using an offset spatula. Top with the second cake, cut-side down (so the flat bottom is facing up) and frost the sides and top of both cakes.
It’s time to decorate! I love the wow factor and colorful appeal of a nonpareil sprinkle-covered cake, but you can also pipe on extra frosting, colored icing or leave it simple and white.
A buttercream-frosted cake can stay out at room temperature (covered with a cake stand topper or plastic wrap) for two to three days – after that, though, it’s best to store the cake in the refrigerator.
The next time you’re celebrating, let the occasion call for this easy and delicious cake.
Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake with Vanilla Buttercream FrostingMakes 1 8-inch layer cake
For the cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour, plus more for preparing cake pans
1 cup milk, room temperature
6 egg whites, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
Nonpareil sprinkles, for decorating (optional)
For the frosting
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 1/2 to 4 cups powdered sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 pinch salt
Heat oven to 350°F. Spray two KitchenAid® Professional-Grade Nonstick 8×2 Round Pans with baking spray. Line cake pan bottoms with parchment paper, then spray paper. Dust pans with flour; invert and rap pans to remove excess flour.
In a large bowl, stir milk, egg whites, vanilla and vanilla bean seeds until combined.
In a bowl of a KitchenAid® Classic Series 4.5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer with a flat beater attachment, stir cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until combined. Cut butter into cubes and add to bowl; stir on low speed 2 minutes until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Add milk mixture to flour mixture and beat on medium speed 2 minutes. Scrape sides of bowl and beat another 15 seconds.
Divide batter between prepared cake pans. Bake on center rack 30 to 35 minutes until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans 5 minutes, then carefully invert cakes and transfer, flat-side down, to a cooling rack to cool completely, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Meanwhile, make the frosting: In a clean bowl of a KitchenAid® Stand Mixer with the flat beater attachment, beat butter on medium speed 3 minutes until soft, light and fluffy. Add 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating on high speed after each addition until just combined.
Add 2 tablespoons milk, plus vanilla and salt. Stir until combined.
Frosting should be a firm, yet smooth and spreadable consistency. If too soft, stir in remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until firm. If too firm, stir in more milk 1 tablespoon at a time until soft.
Use a serrated knife to trim domed tops of fully cooled cakes to create a flat surface. Place one cake, cut-side up, on a cake stand or serving plate. Use an offset spatula to frost top of cake. Top with second cake, cut-side down. Frost sides and top of cakes. Decorate with nonpareil sprinkles, if desired.