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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Our Favorite Layer Cake Recipe

Daniel's 7th Birthday Cake

Daniel's 7th Birthday Cake

When I first had children and started celebrating their birthdays, I'd bake my own birthday cakes for their parties. The very first one I did I used a recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Cake Bible book and it turned out really well. However, the frosting called for buttercream. While it was a really delicious and not-too-sweet buttercream frosting, it was still a LOT of butter! And I've always preferred fresh whipped cream whenever possible.

This recipe from Fine Cooking magazine has been my go-to cake recipe for all special occasions now. I've used it to bake birthday cakes and baby shower cakes. Just about any occasion that calls for a cake, I've made it. I'll tell you why.

Vanilla Butter Layer Cake with Fruit from House of Annie -- NOT a Bakery!

Vanilla Butter Layer Cake with Fruit from House of Annie - NOT a Bakery!

Better Than Store Bought

Firstly, the cake itself is so delicious and yet so easy to make. Secondly, I'm not a really good cake decorator so being able to pile on fruit makes a cake look so pretty without too much effort. Thirdly, fresh whipped cream is THE BOMB as frosting on a cake and can be easily whipped up and spread on the very day the cake is needed. Finally, the cake looks so professional (you know, people think layer cakes are hard to make) and I've had many people ask what bakery I bought the cake from.

The cake itself is a vanilla butter cake and the flavor is seriously amazing. The vanilla sings, and the texture is light without being spongy or airy (which you will find if you get a cake from an Asian grocery store). It is the perfect cake for layering with sweet fruit and lightly sweetened vanilla whipped cream.

Easier Than You Think

And making it is a dream! When I first started baking cakes, I thought there was only one method for making a cake--you know, the creaming method which involves creaming butter and sugar until it is light and airy.

Well, this cake is much easier. It basically calls for all the dry ingredients to be sifted together and then add butter and just quickly mix, followed by the wet ingredients and finally eggs. But the time used mixing the ingredients are so quick that it really whips up in a jiffy!

The only caution I have is you have to bring the ingredients to room temperature so do prepare some time for that. And you can bake the cake the day before the party so that it's even quicker to assemble and decorate the cake on the day of the party.

Ok, I can't help myself, I have to say it again. Please, please get yourself a digital kitchen scale! You really need one when baking and it makes life so much easier too (as in you don't have to wash another measuring cup or extra bowls).

Ok, I won't say it again.

In this post anyway.

Talk About the Frosting

The frosting is also really easy. It's basically fresh whipped cream with a little bit of sugar and some vanilla. You could easily change the flavors and the color of the frosting up if you want. I've pureed and strained berries and mixed it into the whipped cream before to get a pink frosting (my daughter is sooo girlie and wanted a pink cake last birthday! Sigh! In case I haven't told you, pink is not my favorite color. Can you guess what is?).

Esther's Pink Birthday Layer Cake

Esther's Pink Birthday Layer Cake

Some tips for whipping heavy cream. Firstly, you want to make sure that your cream is cold and your mixing bowl is cold and your whisk is, you got it, COLD! Secondly, if you're using an electric mixer to whip the cream, stop shy of it being fully whipped and finish whipping by hand. This way you can get the best texture for the whipping cream and it will have a nice smooth, glossy finish. (How do you know when the cream is ready? When you lift up your whisk, the cream will form a nice, stiff peak.)

Be Creative With Your Fruit

As for the fruit toppings and sides, you can use any fruit you like. I like to use berries when they are in season--strawberries, blueberries and raspberries make a really pretty cake. And you could keep it even simpler by just putting a layer of whipped cream and then piling berries, and then repeating with each layer without bothering to frost the sides. This is a great look for a tea or shower party with a round cake.

Round Layer Cake with Whipped Cream and Strawberries

Round Layer Cake with Whipped Cream and Strawberries

At other times when berries are not in season, I've used canned mandarin oranges and peaches as well as fresh kiwi. These are all great fruit for decorating a cake. They make any cake look professionally done. My friend used mango as her fruit of choice and she said it turned out really well too. And you could always use lemon curd or passion fruit butter/curd to fill your cake as well. Very delicious!

So really, your limit is your own creativity. If you're like me and sometimes don't feel too creative, go check out a few cake shops and get ideas from them! I shamelessly steal ideas all the time!

Look Between the Layers

So this cake calls for four layers. When I'm making a rectangular cake (you'd have to double the recipe to do this size), I usually only fill the middle layer with fruit. What I do with the first and third layer is spread on some thinned jam and a little bit of whipped cream to sandwich it together.

In the second layer, I pile on a much bigger amount of whipped cream and tons of cut up fruit (this is where you use the fruit pieces that aren't as lovely looking--yes people, please select the nicest ones to decorate on the outside). Of course, you can choose to do whatever you like so if you want to fill every layer with fruit, go right ahead!

Vanilla Butter Layer Cake with Fruit from House of Annie

Vanilla Butter Layer Cake with Fruit from House of Annie

Vanilla Butter Layer Cake Recipe

Makes two 9-inch cakes.

Nonstick cooking spray for the pan
10 1/2 oz (2 3/4 cups) cake flour (and yes, please use cake flour for best texture)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp table salt
6 oz (12 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at room temperature
3/4 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature

1. Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. Lightly coat two 9x2-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
3. Sift the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed (#2 on a KitchenAid mixer) until the ingredients are well combined.
4. Add the softened butter pieces and mix on low speed for 20-30 seconds to mix the butter into the dry ingredients--the mixture should look a little lumpy, with the largest lumps being about the size of a hazelnut.
5. Add the milk and vanilla extract and mix on medium speed (#5 on a KA) for 1 minute to thoroughly blend the ingredients and aerate the batter. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
6. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing on medium speed for about 15 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the bowl after the second egg.
7. Divide the batter equally between the two prepared pans (how? scale! Oops! Sorry, I did promise, didn't I? Ok, zipping it now) and use your spatula to smooth the surface.
8. Bake until the cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes.
9. Set the pans on a rack, run a table knife around the edge of each cake and let cool in the pans for 30 minutes.
10. Invert the cakes onto the rack, lift the pans, peel off the parchment, and reinvert back and let cakes cool completely. If baking ahead, wrap cakes in plastic once fully cooled.

Vanilla Whipped Cream Frosting Recipe

Yields about 7 cups, enough to fill and frost a 9-inch four-layer cake.

3 cups heavy or whipping cream
5 Tbsp sugar (I normally use only about 4 Tbsp)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


1. Chill the bowl and whisk attachment of a stand mixer for 20 mins in the fridge or 5 mins in the freezer. Pour the heavy cream into the bowl and whisk on med-high speed until it just starts to thicken.
2. Slow the speed down to medium and gradually pour in the sugar. Continue to whisk until soft peaks form.
3. Add the vanilla extract* and continue to whisk by hand until the cream is smooth, and stiff peaks form (the cream will stand up straight when the whisk is raised).

*Instead of vanilla, you could also make a raspberry or strawberry "pink" whipped cream by subbing the vanilla with 2 1/4 cups raspberry/strawberry puree (puree the fruit in a blender and strain) and add an extra 2 Tbsp sugar to the whipped cream.

Assemble cake:
1. If the cakes have a slight dome after baking, cut to level them (best to use a serrated knife). Then, cut cake in two layers. I use a Wilton cake leveler that I got from Michael's for that purpose but using a knife will do just as well. If I had to use a knife, I would trace a line around the middle and then cut following that line (sometimes I poke toothpicks around the center to give me a guide).
2. Prepare the fruit (you will need about 6+ cups of fruit if you fill every layer). Choose the nicest strawberries and if possible look for the ones that are closest in size to each other and slice in half. Chop up about half a cup of strawberries for filling in the center. Peel and slice kiwis into rounds (about 3 kiwis). Chop up the end pieces to use in the middle filling. Drain any canned fruit you might be using.
3. Place the first layer (bottom of one cake) on your cake plate or board (if I'm using a rectangle, I just cut out a piece of cardboard a little bigger than my cake and wrap it in heavy duty aluminum foil). Depending on how you want to decorate, you could spread some thinned jam (you could thin with water or some 3 Tbsp liqueur, like brandy or Grand Marnier) and a thin layer of cream OR you could take 1 1/2 cups whipped cream and spread right to the ends of the cake and add fruit.
4. Add second and third layers and add more jam/cream or cream and fruit.
5. Finish by placing the final layer (I like to use the flat bottom of the second cake as the top so that the cake is nice and flat at the top). Spread the last of the whipped cream on top and if covering the entire cake, make sure that you have left enough to cover the sides as well.

6. Decorate artfully with fruit. Wipe up crumbs and smears. Refrigerate till ready to serve. It is best to frost this cake the day you plan to serve it.



Cheers, Annie

Vanilla Butter Layer Cake with Fruit from House of Annie

Vanilla Butter Layer Cake with Fruit from House of Annie

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Hungry for more cake recipes? Click below:

Easy Green Tea Tiramisu Recipe

Pandan Chiffon Cake

Third Aunt's Butter Cake


Bakeling said...

How about sending me a piece of the cake?

Anonymous said...

I love all of these (even the pink one, though it's not my favorite color, either). I wonder what it is about layer cake that makes it a perennial favorite. Whenever I eat it, I feel quite childlike, peeling off each layer and eating it on its own!

Anonymous said...

hey annie,
the cake looks great! i just tried a recipe from america's test kitchen called strawberry cream cake. the frosting was 8 oz. cream cheese, some sugar, vanilla, and 2 cups of whipping cream. the texture was firm enough to pipe on the cake and the cream cheese added a nice tang to the whipped cream.

Anonymous said...

Can you spare any leftovers? ;)

Mark Scarbrough said...

Yes, yes. Can you spare any leftovers?? Although that first photo, the look on the face, wow, it was like I was back 40 years. I remember feeling that. This cake? Mine? Wow. And besides, whipped cream is a beverage.

Anonymous said...

Quite impressive!

Anonymous said...

That looks wonderful! I too am not a huge buttercream frosting fan. The frosting looks perfect. Now you got me wanting to bake!

Anonymous said...

I'm really going to have to give this a try since my last foray into baking a cake was a bit of a challenge!

Anonymous said...

I am not a real dessert lover but anything with whipped cream has me!

Sonia ~ Nasi Lemak Lover said...

Your way of stpes to prepare a cake is amazing, all ingrediants just mix it together. I will give a try next time.

Anonymous said...

Hey Annie, your cake looks fabulous! Whipped cream icing is one of my favorites especially with fruits, yum! Did you double the recipe? Did you bake it on 9 x 13" pan? The cake looks tall and bigger than a 9" cake.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you must get requests all the time to make birthday cakes - they're so pretty! Whipped cream frosting is so great, we don't see it often enough. Happy Birthday to Daniel!

Babe_KL said...

annie, those cakes are just fabulous!

Jenster said...

Your cakes are beautiful, better looking than the ones at the Asian bakeries!

Have you ever tried whipping cream in a blender? I used to use the whisk attachment on my stand mixer but once decided to pour the cream into my blender and press the "whip" button. I kid you not, I had perfectly whipped cream in less than 10 seconds. I'm just curious as to why more recipes don't refer to blenders for that purpose.

Anonymous said...

Hi Annie,

Thanks for introducing me to this layer cake. I´ve now baked it twice and it´s definately gonna be one of my fav. cakes. The texture is simply lovely, moist enough and it´s really easy to make. Your cake looks simply fabulous with all the fresh fruits :)


jesse said...

Annie, that cake is soooooo beautiful!!!! The layers look scrumptious and the fruits are just begging to be eaten! Great work!

Anonymous said...

OMG I want it now! it looks so good. They all do!

~Found this on tastespotting

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@all - thanks for your comments!

@Bakeling - sorry, all gone :-(

@Lydia - thanks! layers are more fun.

@anonymous - thanks for that recipe.

@Carolyn - sorry. Maybe next time!

@Mark - Given the chance, I could eat a whole bowl of whipped cream.

@Bubs - if you use our recipe, let us know!

@Mrs L - I'd love to know how it comes out!

@Emile - thanks!

@Anonymous - yes, we did double the recipe.

@PaniniKathy - thank you!

@Jenster - but then isn't it hard to get all of the whipped cream out? I like to hand-whip in a large stainless steel bowl.

@Eliz - great to hear from you!

@Jessie - thank you so much!

Diana H said...

Wow, that cake is gorgeous. I love all the fruit decorating it, just lovely colors.

Queenie said...

Amazing photos and I'm sure the cake was delicious. I have tried the recipes in the Cake bible.. but can you tell me how this vanilla cake compared to Rose B.?

choi yen said...

I like cake with more more cream!!!!

Laura said...

I LOVE the idea of this cake--but I never have space in my fridge for the leftovers so I always avoid the whipped cream toppings. Plus I am afraid it will melt while waiting on the counter to be served.

Is it less delicate than I think?

Food For Tots said...

The cakes look so absolutely gorgeous! I am drooling now!

Anonymous said...

I love the freshly whipped cream on the cakes - especially the pink one!

Anonymous said...

omg omg omg they all look so artful and delicious :D

Lingzie said...

ooo that cake looks divine! and yes i do love freshly whipped cream frosting. buttercream can be too rich! will definitely try out this recipe!
i'm looking for a sugar cookie recipe (gonna make cookies for a kid's birthday party)..any tips you wanna share with me?

Anonymous said...

Love how you used the fruit to decorate the cakes. Very creative and healthy. Just needs a few dark chocolate curls. ;o)

Nate @ House of Annie said...

@Laura - you could add a little gelatin to help stabilize it. But I would still refrigerate it.

@8chocolate - now THAT is a great idea!

Anonymous said...

This site depicts a colorful cakes with the presence of strawberry makes it very amazing.


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Axelrod said...

Found your blog on a search and baked your cake base. GREAT recipe! I also linked to you from my blog. Hope you don't mind :)

Unknown said...

Hello Annie

Nice Cake you have there :D Just wondering if that recipe is enough for a 9x12" rectangle pan? I did see that you said you double the recipe for that pan, so it should be 4 cups of flour or something? Thanks

Annie said...

@Queenie--I like them both but I think this one has a slight edge over Rose's cake.

@laura--I don't know the weather where you're at and I've not tried to make this using fresh whipped cream here in Malaysia. I made this in temperate California a gazillion times and I never had issues with the whipped cream.

@susan--the recipe as it is would fit one 9x13 inch pan but if you want to make it into a nice TALL layered cake, then you'd have to double the recipe and bake twice (which is what I did with all the ones you see in our pictures)

Danielle said...

That looks so pretty! Nice presentation. Check out my blog too?