vanilla birthday cake

Hello all, long time no see! I’ve just got back from a few days in Cornwall, which was blissful but action-packed, and I think I’m more tired now than I was before I left! Isn’t that always the way…

I came home on Thursday night to a very happy household, as my little brother got accepted into university. {It was A level Results Day in the UK, so nervous teenagers around the country found out their fates}. It was only last week that he turned 18 so I made this cake to celebrate. The brief was that it could be anything but chocolate, so I went for a three-layered vanilla cake, sandwiched with apricot jam and buttercream, and decorated with white chocolate finger biscuits, little white chocolate stars, and a couple of sparklers. I was really pleased with how it turned out; it was one of those cakes where I had a picture of how I wanted it to look in my head, and luckily it wasn’t far off that!

Cake recipe from BBC Good Food

Ingredients:

Vanilla cake:

  • 225g softened, unsalted butter
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 5 egg whites
  • 325g plain flour
  • 25g cornflour
  • 1.5 tbsp baking powder
  • 250ml buttermilk {can be substituted for milk mixed with 1 tsp lemon juice}

Sandwiching:

  • 75g softened, unsalted butter
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 0.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • approx. 170g apricot jam

Decorating:

  • 50g unsalted butter
  • approx. 550g icing sugar
  • hot water / milk
  • 3 packets white chocolate finger biscuits
  • ribbon {tie it around the cake tin, leaving some extra, in order to get the right length}
  • 40g / 1 tube white chocolate stars {found in the cake decorating aisle – you could also use sweets such as smarties, coloured sugar, or leave the top of the cake plain}
  • sparklers, if desired

Method:

Cake baking

Line three circular tins with greaseproof paper, and preheat your oven to 160*C {fan-forced}. I only had 2 tins that were the same size, so I ended up dividing the mixture into two-thirds and a third, and cutting the larger cake in half to give three equal layers.

This is definitely a recipe to measure out all your ingredients beforehand, so you can just add them in when needed – particularly the egg whites. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
Mix the vanilla with the egg whites, and add them to the butter/sugar one at a time. Beat well between additions, making sure those whites are fully incorporated. 
Sieve together the flours and baking powder into a separate bowl. Fold them gently into the mixture, a third at a time, and alternate with the buttermilk. Once you’ve added everything, make sure it’s all combined – nothing more gutting than finding big pockets of flour at the base of the bowl once you’ve tipped the cake mixture in!
Divide the mixture between the three tins, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden on top and a skewer comes out clean. My larger cake took around 40, and I covered it with tin foil towards the end to stop it burning on top.
Once cool enough to handle, take the cakes out of their tins and leave to cool completely. 

Sandwiching:

Beat together the butter and sieved icing sugar, with the vanilla and a splash of hot water, until you get a smooth buttercream. 
Spread a thin layer of apricot jam onto two of the cakes, Put the remaining cake onto a serving plate, and cover it with half of the buttercream. Put another cake on top, jam-side-down, and then cover the top of that one with buttercream, before finally putting the last one on top.

Decorating:

I made a simple butter icing to cover the top and sides of the cake. If you like, you could use a proper buttercream instead, or a swiss meringue one as suggested in the original recipe. 
Melt the butter, and add icing sugar until it gets saturated and stiff. Alternate adding icing sugar and hot water / milk, and mix well until you have enough. I found that 550g of icing sugar gave me enough, with a little to spare. 
Coat the top and sides of the cake with it – luckily with this cake you don’t need to be too careful about getting crumbs in the icing, as you’re going to cover them with biscuits and stars. Try to work quickly, so the icing’s still pretty wet by the time you come to stick the biscuits on. 
Stick the finger biscuits round the sides of the cake, lining up their bottoms with the serving plate. Tie the ribbon round them once you’re finished to keep them in place. 
Finally, cover the top of the cake with the chocolate stars, and add the sparklers. 
Phew, we’re done! I hope you like this one!
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