Around six months before my son Miles was born, I started to get deeply interested in good food. I had always loved food, but I was never really great at cooking or baking. I had long decided before Miles was born that I wanted to raise my kids on good tasting, healthy food. I knew I had to get working on my cooking skills. I’ve since come a long way after almost a year and a half of practice. I make a habit of cooking at least two new meals a week. I can even say I’ve now poached an egg (not that I can say I’m good at it).
Now that I feel a little bit more comfortable in the kitchen, I decided that I was going to make the cakes (yes that’s plural: a smash cake, a vanilla, and a chocolate cake), appetizers, and side dishes for Miles’ first birthday. We’ll be ordering pizza from one of our favorite local restaurants, Galactic Pizza. This post focuses on my attempts to make Miles’ birthday cake. The cake ended up taking me several attempts before I got everything right. I whipped the egg whites four times (stiff peaks are the devil — but I now have it down). I baked the cake twice because the first time I ran out of parchment paper and by the time I got them in the oven, the egg whites had gone flat. Although I’m not going lie and say it wasn’t frustrated, I am happy to say it helped me master baking a traditional white birthday cake!
The basic recipe for the cake came from Food That Really Schmecks which I discovered from Cilantropist who got the inspiration from Sweetpolita. The cloud frosting came from grandmother and I am unfortunately uncertain of the source.
I was immediately smitten with the idea of making a traditional white birthday cake. I am personally not a huge fan of buttercream unless it is a meringue buttercream. The cloud frosting is a perfect alternative to buttercream without all the fussiness of meringue.
(3) 8-inch round cake pans
offset spatula (optional but helpful)
parchment paper cut into 8-inch circles
SNOW WHITE VANILLA CAKE, from Food That Really Schmecks:
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
2 cups granulated sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups ice water
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 egg whites, beaten until they hold stiff peaks
(1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare round cake pans by greasing the pans, placing parchment rounds in the bottom each the pan and then greasing the top of the parchment paper.
(2) Separate the egg whites from the yolk and allow them to sit out on the counter covered for no more than thirty minutes.
(3) Meanwhile, in a large bowl or stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In a separate large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Alternate between adding the dry ingredients and wet ingredients (ice water, vanilla, and almond extracts) to the creamed butter and sugar. Be sure to beat thoroughly after each addition. Set the bake batter aside while you make the egg whites.
(4) Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, being careful not to overbeat. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter until it is just combined.
(5) Divide the batter evenly between the greased pans. I poured approximately 2-3 cups of batter into each pan. Don’t be alarmed at how little batter is in the pans. The cake will rise. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cakes completely before frosting the cake.
Baker’s Note: I prepared my cake the day before and frosted the cake the day of the event. After the cakes had cooled completely, I wrapped them tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated them overnight. Chilled cake is easier to frost as the crumbs are less likely to flake off while you frost.
Cloud Frosting, from my Grandmother (original source unknown)
1 cup and two tablespoons of sugar
3 large egg whites
¼ cup of water
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
a pinch of salt
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 drops of Turquoise Americolor Gel
1 drop of Sky Blue Americolor Gel
1. In a saucepan, bring a small amount of water to a simmer. Set a large stainless-steel bowl over the simmering water and combine the sugar, egg whites, water, cream of tartar and salt. Beat the egg whites with a whisk or hand mixer until the frosting holds stiff peaks and registers 150 degrees on an instant read thermometer, about 3-5 minutes.
2. Remove the bowl from atop the simmering water and continue to beat the frosting until it has cooled, swells, and becomes cloud-like, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla and food coloring gel and beat until just combined.
ASSEMBLING THE CAKE:
Position the first cake layer onto a cake stand or serving plate. Using an offset spatula, add a ½ inch layer of cloud frosting and top with the second cake layer. Add a ½ inch layer of cloud frosting and top with the third cake layer. Frost the entire cake with the remainder of the cloud frosting.
Note: I’ve noticed that if the cloud frosting is properly brought up to 150 degrees, it will keep longer. It is recommended that you use the frosting immediately. However, we were able to continue eating cake for 2 days. After 2 days, the frosting began to shrink and bubble.
My next post will focus on making Miles’ smash cake!