Vanilla Celebration Cake
The day I made this cake, I had started out by trying to imagine a birthday cake for my niece, who's going to be 11 this year. I wanted something that would appeal to a young girl, but was not too girly. Elegant, maybe, rather than in your face, but with a sense of fun. I had a number of different ideas in my mind, and although there are some I didn't use, the base was going to be inspired by the American-style 'Funfetti' cakes I have seen on a lot of the US blogs I follow.
I think they stem from a particular Pillsbury cake mix that a lot of Americans seem to remember fondly from their childhood; the vanilla sponge cake is loaded with multicoloured sugar chips which give it a peppering of colours when baked. The cakes usually seem to be iced with a plain frosting to maximise the impact of the speckled layers. There are some great examples here, on Sweetapolita and here, on The Kitchn. I thought this was brilliant, and I wanted that element of surprise, and playfulness, as you cut into it.
I also wanted to make it suitably impressive as a three layer cake, but in a small-ish version, so tried out some 6" (15cm) cake pans I recently bought. I wanted to find a way of making this from scratch though, so looked for a recipe to base it on. The one I decided to use is from Delia Smith's 'Delia's Cakes' book, and it's actually the sponge from the Iced Lemon Curd Layer Cake. I thought it looked a lovely moist sponge - and it's an all in one method - and so decided to tweak it to make it into a vanilla sponge. I added about half a cupful of multicoloured sprinkles to the batter at the last moment, folding them through carefully, as I didn't want the colours to run.
The finished cake was lovely, but I have to admit that the sprinkles I added to the cake batter (which were 100s and 1000s) had dissolved away into nothing, so there was no multicoloured effect to the sponge. I want to try this again at some point, and I think I'll follow the advice on the Kitchn post (link above) which suggests using the longer sugar strands, or 'jimmies', that have a slightly waxy texture. Hopefully, they would hold up a bit better. The layers baked beautifully evenly though, and this was the first time I have ever baked a cake that did not 'dome', or which needed to be trimmed. The amount of batter (which in the original recipe is used in two 7" (18cm) pans) was absolutely perfect in my three 6" ones. It was quite a moist, dense sponge, and really tasty.
The icing is my favourite Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting, which has a slight tang from the cream cheese, and helps to offset the sweetness of the sponge. I crumb coated the cake first, let it chill for 10 minutes, and then put the final layer of icing on it. I just used an angled palette knife to smooth the lines into the side of the cake, and then used a Wilton 2D piping tip, to pipe stars on the top. I used more of the sprinkles to fill in the centre of the cake - but I put these on after I had chilled the cake again for a couple of hours and the icing had firmed up. That meant that when I cut the cake, some of them rolled off. So next time, I'd put the sprinkles on immediately after icing, when it's still soft, and press them into the icing a little. That might help them stay in place a little longer.
Vanilla Celebration Cake
175g self-raising flour
1 level tspn baking powder
175g softened unsalted butter
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 tbspn milk
1 tspn vanilla extract
1/2 cupful (110g) of multicoloured sugar strands (optional)
For the Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
225g full fat cream cheese at room temperature
113g softened unsalted butter
1/2 tspn vanilla extract
400g icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 150 Fan / 170 Conventional / Gas 3. Grease and baseline three 6" (15cm) cake pans (or use two 7" (18cm) pans at least 4cm deep). If you use the 7" pans, you can cut the layers in half horizontally to give a four layer cake.
Measure out all the ingredients into a bowl and mix together using a hand-held mixer (or a stand mixer) until well incorporated (this will only take a minute - be careful not to overwork it). You're looking for a smooth, creamy consistency. Fold the sprinkles, if using, gently into the mix so they are evenly distributed.
Measure the batter into the prepared tins. I wanted to try and ensure mine were as even as possible. As I used my Kitchen Aid mixer, I weighed the bowl before I added anything to it, then weighed it again after I had mixed the batter. Taking the weight of the bowl away from the total weight at the end, gave me a weight for the mixture of 825g, so I measured 275g into each pan.
Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 20 - 25 minutes, until risen and golden, and springy to the touch. I managed to get the three tins onto the same oven shelf and I think that helped them bake evenly. When done, a wooden skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for a few minutes, until turning out onto a wire rack to continue cooling. When completely cooled, you can decorate them.
To make the Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting, place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using the paddle attachment, mix for a few seconds to a smooth consistency. Add the cream cheese, and mix again, so that they are both mixed well and smooth. Add the vanilla extract and the icing sugar (if necessary, bit by bit). Mix well until you have a smooth icing of the consistency you want. Let the mixer run a little longer, so that you ensure that the icing is really smooth and creamy.
I did the final layer, and added a bit of piping and some more sprinkles. I was really pleased with the result, and the only disappointment was that I didn't get the multicoloured effect to the sponge I was after.
This really didn't take me long to do (about 2 hours from start to finished cake), so if you're looking for a quick, simple idea for a special cake, this could work for you.