Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Yellow Birthday Cake

Last month, my nephew asked me to make a birthday cake for him.  He didn't care what flavor it was, but was very specific as to how if should be decorated.

So here is his cake, with Mickey and Minnie and lollipops and butterflies and gummies.  I'm pretty proud of my Mickey and Minnie, considering that art has always been my second-worst subject in school (after P.E.)  I made two layers of a basic 9 x 13 yellow cake, filled it with chocolate mousse, and covered and decorated it with buttercream frosting.  Mickey and Minnie were made with Rice Krispie Treats - I printed out pictures of them to trace out their silhouettes in the treats.  I decorated them with melted chocolate and royal icing (basically just powdered sugar and milk).

Yellow Cake (I doubled this recipe to make two layers)
Adapted from Baking Bites

2 ½ cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup butter, softened
3 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch sheet pan.

Sift cake flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add sugar and mix on low speed to blend. Cut butter into 4 or 5 chunks and drop into the bowl with the flour. Mix on low speed until mixture looks sandy and no large chunks of butter remain, 1-2 minutes.

In a large measuring cup, combine eggs, milk and vanilla. Beat lightly with a fork until combined. With the mixer on low, pour 1 cup of the egg mixture into the bowl. Turn speed up to medium and beat for 1 ½ minutes. Reduce speed back to low and pour in the rest of the egg mixture. Continue to beat at low speed for an additional 30 seconds, until liquid is fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for a few more seconds, if necessary.

Pour into prepared 9×13 pan and spread batter evenly with a spatula. Tap gently a few times to eliminate any bubbles.

Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes, until a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let cool for 30 minutes in the pan before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.

Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together.  Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a large glass or metal bowl.  Beat on high speed with an electric mixer until cool.  Reduce the speed to low and add the butter.  Beat until thoroughly incorporated.  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.

Add the vanilla and continue mixing until combined.  If the frosting is too soft, transfer the bowl the the fridge to chill slightly, then beat again until it is the proper consistency.  If the frosting is too firm, place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.

To assemble the cake:

Using a cake leveler or long serrated knife, level the top of the cakes.  On one layer, spread a thick layer of chocolate mousse.  Place the other cake layer on top.  Spread a thin layer of frosting over the top and sides of the cake - this is your crumb coat.  Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes.  Spread another layer of frosting on the cake.  Decorate as desired.

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