A few weeks ago, I was able to do one of my favorite things – make a dessert for someone else! I love baking with a purpose. Although many of the recipes that I make for this blog go to friends, Kevin’s co-workers or soon the local firehouse now that they have their doors open again, there is something special about making a specific dessert for a specific person. In this case, the dessert was a train inspired cake for a 3 year old. His mom asked me to make the cake for the party. When I asked her if he liked any specific flavors she said vanilla and strawberry. I searched around for a while and landed on this vanilla cake recipe from Cake by Courtney. I use her recipes often, one of the reasons is that her website is beautiful and her cakes always look amazing. I doubled the recipe to have enough cake to feed a party full of people but you could always make the single version for enough cake for a smaller gathering or family. I ended up making a strawberry curd for the filling between the layers and it was delicious with a really bright strawberry flavor. I used this recipe from Preppy Kitchen. I also frosted the cake with the ermine frosting that I wrote about my the last post. Back to the cake though! This cake is a solid vanilla cake recipe to know. It stacks really nicely and because it only uses egg whites it is a beautiful white color. I’m sure any vanilla cake fans in your life will love this cake.
The prep work needed to be before baking this delicious cake: I brushed 3 round 8 inch cake pans and 1 round six inch cake pan with melted butter and then placed a round piece of parchment paper into the bottom of each cake pan and brushed more melted butter on top of the paper. I set those aside and then I preheated my oven to 325 F degrees. Next, I got my ingredients ready. I needed 2 cups of room temperature unsalted butter, 3 1/2 cups of granulated sugar, 12 room temperature egg whites, 2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste, 6 cups of cake flour, 2 tablespoons of baking powder, 2 teaspoons of salt, 2 cups of room temperature buttermilk and 1 cup of room temperature sour cream.
To begin, I put the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium sized mixing bowl and whisked them all together. I set that aside until later. Next, in my stand mixer fitted with my paddle attachment, I mixed my butter and sugar together for a full 5 minutes on medium speed until they were very light in color and fluffy in texture. Then, I turned the mixer speed on low and started to pour in my egg whites slowly. I needed to stop the mixer a few times and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. After that, I added in the vanilla bean paste and mixed until it was fully incorporated. I did notice that my mixture looked a little split at this point but I kept going and it turned out great in the end – so don’t worry if yours does too. Now it was time to add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter. With the mixer on low speed, I added a 1/3 of the flour mixture to the batter, then 1/2 of the buttermilk, next a 1/3 of the flour mixture, then 1/2 of the buttermilk and finally the last 1/3 of the flour mixture. I stoped the mixer as soon as I could no longer see any large streaks of flour. Finally, I pulled the bowl off my mixer and used a large spatula to fold in the sour cream to the batter. I also used this time to make sure that I scraped the bottom of my mixing bowl really well to try to get any clumps of ingredients that can try to hide and not mix in properly.
I placed each of my 8 inch cake pans onto my food scale and weighed out 30 grams of cake batter per pan. I put all of the extra cake into the 6 inch cake pan. Then I smoothed out the top of each cake pan as much a possible with an offset spatula and tapped each cake pan on the counter a few times to try to remove as many air bubbles as possible. I baked the cakes in the 325 F degree oven for about 50 minutes. I began checking them around 45 minutes and they needed more time. I baked them until the middles were no longer jiggly, a pairing knife inserted came out with only a few crumbs and the edges began pulling away from the sides of the pan. I also recently heard that your cakes will sound loud when they are still cooking if you listen to them carefully, so I have begun trying to listen to my cakes to see if they are quiet and then I knew they were finished baking. The 6 inch cake was finished slightly sooner than the 8 inch cakes. I placed the cakes in their pans on the cooling rack.
I set a timer for 10 minutes and as soon as it went off I flipped my cakes out of their pans. I like to turn them onto a plate and then turn them back onto the rack with their parchment paper underneath them. I find this helps them not to stick to the cooling rack. Once the cakes were entirely cooled, I wrapped them tightly in plastic wrap and placed them in the freezer. I like to freeze the cakes after I bake them because then I can bake the cakes one day and finish the other parts of the cake like the filling or the icing another day. Also, it is easier to trim the tops of the cakes or sides once it is cooled down and frosting them is easier also. I find that the crumb coat goes on very easily when the cakes are already cold.
Here is a slice of the extra 6 inch cake that I made so that you could see how soft the texture of this cake is on the inside. Also, I wanted you to be able to see the beautiful white color of this cake speckled with vanilla bean seeds from the vanilla paste. I always feel like knowing how to make some basics really well can take you far in your life and this basic vanilla cake is a recipe that you can get a lot of mileage out of over the years. It is extremely versatile depending on what filling and icing you add to finish the cake. So the next time you need to make a birthday cake or celebration cake, instead of reaching for the box on the shelf, grab some ingredients and give this one a try!
**I just got to the end of this post and realized that I already have a vanilla cake recipe on the blog…it was one of my earliest posts. They are not really that different in their basic ingredients but the photos VERY different. I think this recipe still deserves a post but both recipes will make yummy cakes. This one will make much more cake and I think the texture of this cake is a little softer. **
Recipe: Homemade Vanilla Cake
Ingredients: **This is double the original recipe**
- 2 cups of room temperature unsalted butter (452 grams)
- 3 1/2 cups of granulated sugar (700 grams)
- 12 room temperature egg whites
- 2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste (26 grams)
- 6 cups of cake flour (690 grams)
- 2 tablespoons of baking powder (20 grams)
- 2 teaspoons of salt (10 grams)
- 2 cups of room temperature buttermilk (480 grams)
- 1 cup of room temperature sour cream (240 grams)
- Prepare 3 round 8 inch cake pans and 1 round 6 inch cake pan (optional) by brushing the bottom and sides with butter and then placing a piece of parchment paper the size of the bottom of the pan into the pan and brushing the top of the paper with butter.
- Preheat the oven to 325 F degrees.
- Put the cake flour, baking powder and salt into a medium sized bowl and set aside.
- Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment for 5 full minutes on medium speed. The mixture should be light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- With the mixer on low add the egg whites slowly. Scrape the sides and bottom as needed. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
- With the mixer on slow, add 1/3 of the flour, then 1/2 the buttermilk, then 1/3 of the flour, the final 1/2 of the buttermilk and finally the last 1/3 of the flour. Stop mixing when no streaks of flour remain. Be careful not to over mix.
- Pull the bowl off the mixer and fold in the sour cream with a large spatula. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to make sure all there are no ingredients hiding at the bottom.
- Pour 30 grams of batter into each prepared 8 inch cake pan and the extra into the 6 inch cake pan (again optional). Smooth the tops and tap the pans on the counter a few times to remove air bubbles.
- Bake the cakes for 45 – 55 minutes, begin checking around 45. A pairing knife inserted into the middle of the cake should only have a few crumbs on it when finished and the cakes should be pulling away from the sides of the pan and not sound very loud when they are finished baking.
- Cool the cakes for 10 minutes in their pans on the cooling rack. Turn the cakes out and finish cooling them on their parchment paper rounds on the cooling rack until they are completely cool to the touch.
- Wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze them until you are ready to construct, fill and ice your cake.
Recipe adapted from Cake by Courtney