There is no better reason to bake a cake than to celebrate a birthday, especially if it’s the birthday of someone special. As I’ve gotten older I’ve begun to cherish birthdays in a different way; I look forward to others’ birthdays so much more than my own, not because I’m afraid of becoming another year older but because it reminds me of how I’ve been so blessed to have such amazing people in my life as friends and family. Birthdays are a great reason to celebrate the people we love and shower them with a little extra kindness and attention…and cake! I made this Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake for a dear friend of mine who celebrated her birthday this week and if you knew her you would agree that this cake suits her perfectly: it’s sweet and beautiful with a classic, simple elegance.
The recipe for this cake is adapted from my favourite egg-free vanilla cupcakes recipe. My niece has an egg allergy, so I’ve learned to master egg-free baking for birthdays and family dinners and such, but if I didn’t tell you this cake was egg-free you would never guess!
The vanilla bean buttercream frosting recipe is my own.
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
4 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups milk
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste (I buy the Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste. It’s the best one I’ve found at the best price point, and it’s usually cheaper on Amazon than it is at baking supply stores).
2-3 tsp butter for greasing the cake pans
1-2 tbsp flour for flouring the pans
For the frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter
4 oz. plain cream cheese
7 cups powdered icing sugar
4 tbsp whole milk
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prepare two round cake pans (8 or 9-inch rounds are fine for this recipe) by greasing them with butter and fitting a piece of parchment paper into the bottom of each pan. A good way to ensure you cut the parchment to the correct size is to trace the pan on a large sheet of parchment and cut it to size from the tracing.
Grease under the parchment and on top of it, and then flour the pans with 1 tbsp flour each. Toss the flour around in the pans until it coats the inside of each pan completely and then tap out the access over the kitchen sink.
Combine the flour, sugar, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl with a wire whisk.
In a separate bowl combine the milk, oil, apple cider vinegar and the vanilla bean paste.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine them with a wire whisk.
Continue whisking just until the mixture becomes smooth (about 1 minute).
Divide the batter evenly between the two pans you’ve prepared. When I bake cakes like this I like to use a kitchen scale to weigh each pan as I add the batter. This helps ensure that the batter is divided exactly evenly.
Just before you put the pans in the oven, bang the bottom of each pan against the counter several times. This helps the little bubbles of air in the batter to break through the surface before baking, preventing large gaping holes from developing in the cake as it bakes and creating a nice even texture.
Bake the cakes for 20-22 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or until they’re a light golden brown colour and they spring back to the touch.
Let the cakes cool in their pans for about 10-15 minutes before turning them out onto a wire cooling rack. Peel the parchment paper off each cake and leave them to cool completely.
While the cakes are cooling completely you can begin to make the frosting. The trick to creamy, fluffy buttercream frosting is the state of the butter, so make sure your butter and your cream cheese are both at room temperature before you begin. Whip the butter on high speed using a stand mixer (or a hand-held mixer if you don’t have a stand mixer) for at least 4-5 minutes, stopping every minute or two to scrape down the sides of the bowl. It’s a good idea to whip the butter until it takes on a very creamy consistency and it turns pale in colour.
Once the butter has reached the right consistency add the 4 oz. of cream cheese and whip them together until the mixture is smooth. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl often to be sure everything is incorporated evenly.
Add the icing sugar 1-2 cups at a time, mixing well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla bean paste and then the milk 1 tablespoon at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Pay close attention to the texture of the frosting, especially after you’ve added 3 tablespoons of the milk. For me, adding the last tablespoon of milk created a super creamy, silky frosting that was the perfect piping-consistency for the rosette design I was planning. If you’re simply spreading the frosting onto the cake then the frosting consistency isn’t quite as critical and if the frosting is slightly on the thicker side, it’s probably okay.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you’re using vanilla bean paste and not vanilla extract. The paste is thicker, so it won’t water down your frosting at all and it also creates those gorgeous flecks of vanilla bean that you can see throughout the frosting. If you use vanilla extract you won’t achieve that look.
Once the cakes are completely cool, turn one cake upside down and place it onto a plate or a cake board. I actually use a cutting board covered with aluminum foil in a pinch and it works really well!
Spread a thick layer of frosting over the cake and add the second cake, also upside down, on top of the frosting layer.
Using an offset spatula or a butter knife, frost the sides of the cake making sure to fill in all the little cracks and holes. This is just the crumb coat so don’t worry if parts of the cake are showing through. The idea is to use as little icing as possible on the crumb coat, just enough to create a super smooth surface with all the holes and cracks filled in. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and it certainly doesn’t have to look good. You’ll be frosting it a second time, so don’t worry!
Pop the cake in the fridge for at least 2 hours to let the crumb coat set. Refrigerating the cake will cause the butter and cream cheese in the frosting to harden and it will create the perfect canvas for the second coat of frosting.
Once 2 hours have passed and you pull the cake out of the fridge, it’s time to frost the cake! I decided to create a beautiful rosette pattern since this was a birthday cake for a friend and I wanted to take this cake to the next level. I’ve admired rosette cakes for years and years and I’ve recently been inspired by my food blogger friend Olivia from Liv for Cake. and her rosette cakes. I knew this birthday cake was the perfect opportunity to try out this design (spoiler alert: it’s easier than it looks!). Amanda from I Am Baker posted the original Rosette Cake tutorial that you can find here.
If you’re not into rosettes you can feel free to simply spread the remaining frosting on if you’d prefer that look (check out this post for an idea on how to do that effectively).
Fit a piping bag with a large star tip and fill the piping bag with frosting. Start piping the rosettes on the side of the cake and begin at the very bottom. Pipe a row of rosettes along the bottom and then offset your second row so it fills in the empty spaces. On the top of the cake, pipe the rosettes around the outside first and then work your way in, offsetting the rows to fill in the gaps. Make sure you pipe the rosettes close together so they’re almost overlapping each other. This will ensure you don’t have many empty spaces to fill.
It’s also a good idea to end your rosettes in the gap where the next row will fill. This will hide the scraggly ends of the rosettes and create a really clean look.
Please keep in mind that I am definitely not a professional baker or cake decorator and many of my rosettes aren’t perfect! What helped me immensely when preparing for this cake was to practice frosting rosettes on a piece of parchment paper on the counter. This helped me to know how to space them properly and how to offset the rows to prevent big gaps. And the best part is, you don’t have to waste the frosting you use to practice…just scrape it off the parchment with a spatula and dump it back in the bowl! You can even correct your mistakes this way as you’re frosting the cake. Since the crumb coat layer is hard and cold from the fridge, if one of your rosettes looks funny just scrape it off and try again.
And remember…it doesn’t have to be perfect. The style of this cake is beautiful, but it’s also rustic and homemade-looking, and that’s kind of the point.
The cake is so beautifully moist and the flavour compliments the sweet buttercream frosting so perfectly. And the sponge is the perfect texture: it’s not too dense, but it’s strong enough to hold its own as you layer it with thick, buttery frosting.
Don’t you just want to dig right in??
This cake is the perfect choice for a birthday and because it’s 15 Weight Watchers PointsPlus per slice if you cut 16 slices (or 21 PointsPlus if you cut 12 slices), it’s probably a good idea to reserve a cake like this for birthdays only!!
I really hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know in the comments below, what’s your favourite cake to make for special occasions?
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