Tuesday, May 8, 2012

the best birthday cake with lavender butte cream icing

for finn's first birthday, i made a delicious yellow cake from a recipe I found on smitten kitchen. (if you have never checked out her website, you absolutely MUST! it is beyond amazing!!) appropriately named "the best birthday cake", this yellow cake is by far one of the most delicious i have ever made. its dense but still perfectly fluffy, sweet but well rounded, and (best of all) it will make you look like you are a master cake baker. it has a somewhat lengthy list of (not super low fat) ingredients, but for special occasions or days when you just NEED a cake, it will not disappoint! (read: worth every calorie!)

a couple of weekends ago, we met for our monthly women's circle/ craft night - one of our 'members', jenna, is soon due to have her first baby (eeeep!) coupled with the celebration of another member, heather's birthday, AND a special visit from our recent Ontario transplant, ami! i dont think there has ever been a better excuse for this perfect cake!

I wanted to fancy this other wise simple cake up a bit, so when i opened my cupboard and found lavender that i had bought on our last trip to fredericton, i knew i had my, perfect spring-like addition!

Best Yellow Layer Cake from 'The Best Birthday Cake' archive on Smitten Kitchen
Yields: Two 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake layers (*I used a single 9-inch round by 3-inch tall cake pan to make one single extra thick cake) or, in theory, 22 to 24 cupcakes

:: ingredients ::
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (480 grams) cake flour (I used regular flour as I did not have cake flour)
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
2 sticks (1 cup, 1/2 pound or 225 grams) butter, softened
2 cups (400 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk (475 ml), well-shaken

:: method ::
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment. (Alternately, you can use a cooking spray, either with just butter or butter and flour to speed this process up.)

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just Incorporated.

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. (I like to drop mine a few times from two inches up, making a great big noisy fuss.) Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour. * With a single 9-inch cake pan, I baked the cake for a little over 55 minutes.

Aunt Rose's Special Buttercream Icing (with infused lavender milk)

:: ingredients ::
1/2 lb of butter, softened (*you can also use half butter/ half shortening like the original recipe calls for, but i LOVE butter and never have shortening, so I usually just use all butter. It is a bit harder to work with for icing though - mostly when piping as it melts, where as the shortening will add more staying power)
4 cups icing sugar
½ cup whole milk
1 tsp lavender buds

:: method ::
Place ½ cup milk into a small saucepan with lavender and bring to a boil. Remove from heat once bubbling. Cover the pan and let it sit for 15 minutes so that the lavender infuses with the milk. Pour lavender milk into a cup and place in the refrigerator for a further 30 minutes to cool. Remove milk from refrigerator and strain to remove lavender buds. Set milk aside. Beat butter and sugar together until light and airy and fluffy (around 10 minutes). Add HALF of the lavender milk and mix to combine. Taste frosting; add more lavender milk if needed (i did not).

* I forgot to get a picture of the completed cake, but i think its fair to say it looked almost exactly the same as this one (slightly different flags were used) -
(the really funny thing about this style of cake is that i have taken several cake decorating classes in my life time, and have the tools and skill to make far prettier cakes than these, but whenever i commit to making a cake, i for some reason just love the look (and ease) of piling a bunch of icing all over it without any real design, plan or tools other than a butter knife. definitely money well spent on those classes!)