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Fluffy Vanilla Cake with Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting

  There is something tremendously satisfying about a rustic vanilla cake.

  Sometimes, you wake up, and you just know that a cake has to happen.  And because it's a free weekend, obviously you have every right to coax a flavorful cake out of the oven and smother it with vanilla bean buttercream.  I mean frosting...or whatever.

  Either way, there's definitely butter involved.  Be still my soul. 

  This is my second attempt at layer cake-ing.  It's not perfect, but it's definitely not supposed to be.  This is a laid back cake.  This is a cake you serve to friends in need of butter-y comfort, stressed out couples trying to plan weddings, rejected boyfriends/girlfriends, in thin slices with tea and a good chat.

  This cake is your friend, don't fight it.

Fluffy Vanilla Cake with Whipped Vanilla Bean Frosting
Yield: One two-layer, 8-inch round cake

Ingredients for the cake:
  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cups cake flour, sifted
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into cubes

Ingredients for the frosting:
  • 3 sticks + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 3 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two round 8-inch pans, then line the bottoms with parchment and grease and flour the parchment as well.

In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the egg whites, 1/4 cup of the milk, and the vanilla. Set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together on low speed for 30 seconds.  Add the butter and remaining 1/2 cup of milk, and mix on low speed until just moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for 1 1/2 minutes.  Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg mixture in 3 separate batches; beat on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition.

Divide the batter between the two pans, spreading it evenly with a small offset palette knife. If you have a kitchen scale, weigh to ensure 2 even layers.  Bake 25-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the center. Be very careful to not overbake. Check the cake at 20 minutes, but not before, and once you feel it's almost ready, set the timer for 2 minute intervals. Let cool on racks for 10 minutes.  Then loosen the sides with a small metal spatula, and invert onto greased wire racks. Gently turn cakes back up, so the tops are up, and let cool completely. 

To make the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed.  Butter will become very pale and creamy.  Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy, and fluffy.  Best used right away.

To assemble the cake, place bottom cake layer on cake plate or 8" round thin cake board, top up.  Place 1 cup of frosting on top, and spread evenly with a small offset palette knife.  Gently place second cake layer face down on top. Place a generous scoop of frosting on top, spreading evenly with a small offset palette knife and working your way down the sides until you have a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake. Chill until set -- about 30 minutes (This is your crumb coat, it makes for a pretty cake!).  Remove from the refrigerator and finish frosting.  Best served the day it's made, but it can be stored in a cake keeper at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Sources: adapted from Sweetapolita, who adapted the cake recipe from Baking Bites and the frosting recipe from Donna Hay