Today is my niece Frida's birthday, she's turning 4!
Frida is a very special little girl. Before she came along, I didn't really like kids.
The first five things that come to my mind about my adorable niece are the following:
She has the vocabulary of an eleven year-old (commission?!).
She brightens any place she is in with her positive energy.
She wants to be (is) Laura Ingalls Wilder.
She has an incredible intellectual capacity and thirst for learning.
She takes wonderful care of her baby sister, Aimee (Baby Jane), and they are adorable together.
She is very motivated and independent.
So, in honor of the lovely Miss Frida, I made my first layer cake. It was exciting, adventurous, and messy a process as could be, and I had a blast! I will admit, though, that I realized I'm not a huge fan of cake. I don't particularly care for the taste, texture, and the fact that I think it's not a very natural dessert either. I mean, who thought of cake? But I loved, loved, loved making it, and watching other people enjoy it.
This cake is for you, dahl! I hope your birthday is full of wonderful surprises and many many blessings. Happy Birthday!
Cake lessons and tips:
⁃ The butter must be at room temperature when you use it for the cake, you cannot microwave it to soften it, you must leave it out on the counter for a few hours or overnight to come to room temperature.
⁃ Use the "scoop (into) and swipe" method to measure the flour.
⁃ In this recipe, measure the powdered sugar for the frosting before sifting it.
⁃ Separate the yolks and the egg whites for the cake when the eggs are still cold (just out of the refrigerator), it makes them easier to separate.
⁃ Grease and flour your cake pans really well, even if they are non-stick. Do not use non-stick spray.
⁃ If you are using magic cake strips (strips you soak in water and wrap around the cake pans to prevent doming), attach them to the pans before filling the pans with batter.
⁃ Do not over-mix the batter once you have added the flour; it will result in a tough cake.
⁃ When frosting, place a plate or cardboard cake base on top of the turntable. Do not use a plate that has rims (oops), it's harder to frost.
⁃ Necessary equipment: Mixer of some kind (handheld or stand), two 9-inch cake pans, sifter or fine mesh sieve, cooling rack, large icing spatula.
⁃ Additional, but helpful equipment: magic cake strips, cake lifter, turntable, decorating tips & couplers, decorating bags, cake comb.
⁃ I used a disposable decorating bag, and boy, am I glad I did!
Classic yellow cake
Adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion
1 ½ sticks butter, room temperature (see tips above)
1 ¾ cups sugar
¾ tsp salt
2 ½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs and 2 egg yolks, room temperature (see tips above)
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups milk, buttermilk, or yogurt
Preheat the oven to 350F with the rack in the center. Grease (I used shortening and flour, make sure you grease WELL, cakes like to stick, even in non-stick pans) two 9-inch round cake pans and set aside.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, salt, baking powder, and vanilla for about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one is added. With the mixer on the lowest speed, alternately blend in one-third of the flour, then half of the milk, another third of the flour, the remaining half of the milk, and finally the remaining third of the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as much as needed.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. They are done when a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it, the cake is starting to pull away from the sides of the pan, and when pressed down upon, the cake will be slightly springy to the touch. Remove the cakes from the oven, cool for 10 minutes in their pans, and then turn out on a rack to cool completely before frosting.
Chocolate buttercream frosting
3 oz chocolate (any kind; I used 60%), chopped
½ stick butter, room temperature
⅛ tsp salt
4-5 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 TBSP milk or cream
Melt the chocolate by either microwaving it or in a heatproof bowl over simmering water, until ¾ of the way melted. Remove foam the heat or microwave and stir until it's completely smooth. Set aside to cool.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat together the butter and salt until fluffy. Add approximately half of the sugar and beat slowly until well incorporated. Add vanilla and half the milk and beat until fluffy. Mix in the melted chocolate until thoroughly combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, and add the remaining sugar and milk alternately until they are completely blended in. Beat until the frosting is light and fluffy. You may adjust the consistency using more milk or confectioners' sugar if you need.
Note: This makes enough frosting to coat and fill a 9-inch layer cake and leaves a tiny bit for decorating. If you wish to do extensive decorating, double all of the ingredients except the sugar; you will only need about 6 cups of sugar.
Note 2: For the drop-flower decoration on the borders, I used the Wilton tip #108. For information on how to frost the cake, check out these videos: Frosting the first layer of a cake, Frosting the second layer of a cake