As I’ve mentioned before, I’m the kind of gal who bakes her own birthday cake. This year I went back and forth between several ideas, and finally settled on a two-layer, 6-inch cake decorated with a buttercream hydrangea. Happy birthday to me, eh?
A while back I’d bought this color swirl piping set, and it was a total disaster. This time, I tinted my buttercream three different shades of purple and blue, then put them in three separate 12-inch piping bags, all of which went into an enormous, 18-inch piping bag. It worked incredibly well; see more photos of the cake below. A word of caution, though: I actually think this cake would be even more delicious without buttercream frosting. The next time I make it, I think I’ll bake it in a regular 8-inch round pan and either drizzle it with a powdered sugar icing or just serve it with fruit and whipped cream.
Vanilla Bean Cake
- 1 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- dash of salt
- 8 tablespoons butter, softened
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped*
- 6 tablespoons milk
*Save the pod and make vanilla sugar – just add the pod to a jar of white sugar and let it infuse the sugar with vanilla-ness!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 6-inch round cake pans, line each with a parchment circle, and lightly grease the parchment.
In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until very well-blended. Add eggs and vanilla seeds and beat well to combine, scraping the sides of your bowl a few times.
Add flour and milk alternatively in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until completely combined.
Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow cakes to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Vanilla Almond Buttercream
- 1 1/2 cups butter, at room temperature
- 5 cups powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tablespoons almond extract
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- Purple, sky blue, and leaf green gel food coloring
In a mixing bowl, beat butter for about 2 minutes. Add powdered sugar all at once and beat on low speed until all of the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes.
Add vanilla and almond extracts and beat on medium, then medium high speed for about 2 minutes. Scrape down your bowl, then add the heavy cream and beat for another 2-3 minutes.
To frost and decorate your cake, place one cake on your cake stand and top with buttercream, spreading almost to the edge. Top with the second cake and frost the top and sides, smoothing the buttercream as much as you can.
Divide your remaining frosting into one small portion (about 1/4 cup) and tint leaf green; set aside. Divide the rest into three equal portions and tint one dark purple, another light purple, and the other sky blue.
Place dark purple, light purple, and sky blue frosting into separate 12-inch piping bags. Fit an 18-inch piping bag with a Wilton M1 tip and place the 12-inch bags inside. Pipe petals in a few layers (I did three, and it was a ton of frosting) to make your hydrangea flower, then pipe petals around the bottom edge of the cake.
Fit a small piping bag with a leaf tip and fill with leaf green frosting; pipe leaves on each side of your hydrangea flower, then pipe a few leaves around the bottom of the cake.
Store in a domed cake stand at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes about 6 slices.
Here’s a detail of the flower.
If you look closely you can see the tiny vanilla seeds in the cake.