How To: Floral Vanilla Birthday Cake

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My dear friend Sijia is turning 25 today! To celebrate this momentous occasion, I wanted to make her a very special cake. Sijia is a very classy, elegant person, and I wanted her cake to reflect that. I ended up making my very first real floral cake. It required a beautiful bouquet, some floral tape, and a lot of thin wire. I made a classic, three-layer white cake, with my favorite vanilla buttercream.

Cake Batter:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs, room temperature
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Vanilla Buttercream:

  • 1½ cups butter (3 sticks), softened
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit. Prepare and line three 7-inch round cake pans, then coat with nonstick baking spray.

Cream together butter and shortening until light and fluffy with a hand mixer or Kitchen Aid. Slowly add the sugar, one cup at a time. Make sure to fully incorporate each cup before adding another. Add eggs one at a time, also making sure to fully incorporate each egg before adding another.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the butter and shortening mixture, followed by 1/2 cup of buttermilk. Repeat, mixing in another 1/3 of the dry mixture, followed by the remaining half cup of the buttermilk. Mix in the remaining third of dry ingredients, and gently stir until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula to ensure the batter is fully mixed.

Evenly distribute cake batter between cake pans, and place pans into oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove and allow to cool slightly in cake pans for about 5 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.

While the cake cools, prepare the buttercream. Beat the butter on high for two minutes, until light and fluffy. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with splashes of cream. Once fully mixed, add in the vanilla and salt, and beat on high until the frosting is fluffy, and has reached the desired consistency. If the frosting is too thick, add in cream (1 Tablespoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (half a cup at a time).

Once the cake has fully cooled, frost and stack the cake layers, applying a thin crumb coat to the exterior of the cake. Refrigerate for a half hour, to let the frosting harden. Frost the exterior of the cake with the remaining frosting, and use a spoon to make swirls for a textured exterior. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes to allow this layer of frosting to set.

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To decorate the top of the cake with flowers, gather a beautiful bouquet, green floral tap, sharp scissors, and a thin wire. Cut the flowers at the top of the stem, leaving about one inch of stem attached to the flower. Wrap the remaining stem with the green floral tape. Cut a piece of wire about 5 inches long, and insert it through the middle of the wrapped stem. Line up the flower in the center of the wire, and bring the ends of the wire down and twist together to secure the flower. Position the flower in desired location on the cake, and gently push the wire into the frosting, until the flower is secure. Repeat with each flower, until the arrangement on top of the cake is complete. Keep in fridge until the cake is ready to be served. Let the cake site out for about 1 hour before cutting, to ensure that the frosting has softened enough to cut through the cake.  If you have any questions about this process, this is a wonderful video about cake making and floral garnishes. Scroll through to minute 27, that’s when they get to the flowers 🙂

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