Birthday Cake

Saturday, July 30, 2022
Tag: dessert
A watercolor illustration of a birthday cake. It's a cream colored cake sitting on a mustard yellow base with handles on each side. The cake has multicolored sprinkles on top and a slice taken out on the right to show it's a layer cake. It says 'Birthday cake!' above the cake with each letter a different color.

inspired by King Arthur Baking & Food52

Ingredients

Cake

Frosting

Directions

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 325F and make sure a rack is in the center of the oven.
  2. Lightly grease 2 - 8” or 9” cake pans, being sure you coat the sides well. A buttery butter wrapper or cooking spray is fine.
  3. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper cut to mostly fit the round pan and grease this as well.
  4. In a small bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder.
  5. In a bigger mixing bowl (the one for a stand mixer if you got it, and if you don’t got it, a hand mixer or whisk is fine but I cannot recommend a stand mixer enough), add the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract.
  6. Beat the eggy mixture with whisk attachment until thickened and light gold - around 2 minutes or so at medium high. When you lift the whisk, the batter should fall in thick ribbons vs. just splash down immediately.
  7. Add the dry ingredients to the wet using the low speed, just enough to combine.
  8. Scrape the bottom and sides with a spatula and mix again briefly just to combine what you scraped.
  9. In a saucepan set over medium, or a in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave, bring the milk just to a simmer.
  10. Remove whatever you used from the heat and add the butter, stirring by hand until it melts.
  11. Stir the oil into this milk mixture.
  12. Slowly pour the milk mixture into your batter, whisking at low speed until everything is well combined.
  13. Scrape the bowl and mix what you scraped in briefly.
  14. Divide the batter evenly between pans. This will be around 580 grams in each, if not a little more.
  15. Bake the cakes on the same middle rack in the oven. If you’re using 9” pans, this will be 26-30 minutes. If you’re going with 8”, this will be 38-42 minutes. In my experience, going over the maximum amount of time will result in a more-brown-around the edges cake. I’m not sure if this was my oven or the pans, but I’d prefer it to not be like that. Mainly look for the cake not looking like it’s still liquid in the middle (testing with a toothpick helps) and lightly browned overall.
  16. Once they’re done, remove and carefully pull a butter knife around the edges just to loosen them up.
  17. Let them sit in the pans for 15 minutes.
  18. Turn out the cakes on wire racks, preferably flat-side down so their tops don’t get stuck. This might require some flipping multiple times, but I believe in you.
  19. The cakes need to be totally cool before you frost. This may be a couple hours. 


Frosting

  1. Put the butter in the standing mixer (with a paddle attachment) to beat until light and smooth, 1-2 minutes.
  2. Gradually add the sifted confectioners’ sugar (to prevent it exploding upward when you turn on the mixer), and mix on medium-low speed to combine.
  3. Once all the sugar is added, raise the speed to medium-high and cream until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes. I know it seems like a long time but it really makes a difference!
  4. Add vanilla and almond and mix to combine.
  5. Add milk/cream until it’s the consistency you want.
  6. If you’re not using the frosting ASAP, put it in the fridge. 


Bringing it all together

  1. Unless you plan on eating the whole thing immediately (absolutely no judgment), you’re gonna need a cake holder of some sort. Get its base out and flip the cake you want as your bottom layer. I like flat side up as to give the center a flat surface without any air pockets when you slice it, but that’s just me.
  2. Put about a cup of frosting on this layer. I’ve both under and over frosted this, not having followed these instructions, so I think measuring is the way to go (unless you want an over/under frosted layer).
  3. Plop your other cake on top. Again, I like the flat sides on the inside to avoid the air pockets, but I could definitely see an argument for wanting the flat side on top. Do what you want!
  4. Do a crumb coat - a thin layer of frosting all over the cake.
  5. The original cake recipe suggests putting this in the fridge after. I haven’t done this because I’m impatient, but I guess it could make a difference.
  6. Cover the cake in the rest of the frosting.
  7. If you’re doing sprinkles, now is the time. 


Thoughts

I love homemade, thoughtful, food with ingredients you can read without needing a degree or two in a science. This is probably not a surprising statement. However, there are a few trash foods I just love. One of them (until discovering this cake) was grocery store cake. I’m taking about the sheet cakes made in the bakery section of Food Lion. Yellow cake. Buttercream icing (don’t EVEN give me that whipped cream shit). If I had to guess, 90% of my birthdays have been celebrated with those cakes. It’s pure junk but I love(d) it.

For Trey’s birthday this year, he requested a homemade birthday cake - yellow cake with vanilla frosting. I pieced together the above recipe then and was just embarrassingly pleased with myself. Honestly, I’ve been looking forward to my own birthday since, if only because I would have an excuse to make this again. You don’t have to wait for a birthday, but honestly I need this rule so I don’t constantly make it. A bonus is it makes me feel like I never need to resort to the grocery store bakery section cake again.

I think the secret is in the warm milk mixture. This cake is so tender and pleasantly reminiscent of yellow cake from a box (or the the grocery store bakery), but it’s…not! You made this from scratch! I know it seems like a lot of steps, but I honestly never felt like I could do cakes well and this makes me feel like the next Star Baker. It’s worth a couple hours to make yourself or someone else feel special.