Classic Vanilla Birthday Cake

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Congratulations Hello Yellow! In honor of the launch of this exciting new addition to the Leon’s fleet, I made a bright, classic vanilla birthday cake to celebrate. Moist and fluffy, spiked with a soft vanilla bean flavor, there is no better way to celebrate than with a slice of this happiness. Read on to get the full recipe and make one of these delicious cakes for yourself!

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Ombre hair and manicures are on trend lately, so why not dessert? The ombre effect is eye-catching, and surprisingly easy to make, with a million different colour combinations. All you need is your choice of food colouring, your favourite white buttercream frosting, 3 bowls and a spatula/knife. The technique is as easy as icing a cake the good old fashioned way, explained more below.

This vanilla cake is sturdy with a good crumb, but light as air – this is from using egg whites only in the batter. The moistness comes from using full fat buttermilk, which keeps the flavor sweet and creamy. The two main points to keep in mind to ensure your cake tastes like it’s straight from a bakery is to not skimp on the amount of time you cream the butter and sugar, and make sure to sift your dry ingredients. Creaming the butter and sugar until it is pale and fluffy incorporates large quantities of air into the mixture, which react with your leavening product to expand and rise.

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The other important part to ensure your cake stays light and airy is to always sift your flour/dry ingredients. You don’t need a fancy sifter to do this; a wire whisk will do just fine. If you think about your flour being transported in its sack, it gets compacted and flat. Just make sure to give it a good whisk to make it light and fluffy again. Once you add your other dry ingredients, ensure to give it a good whisk once more, just to ensure everything is distributed evenly – this will prevent a lopsided cake! The one thing that should always be sifted properly is icing sugar . Laziness = lumps in this case – keep this in mind when following the frosting recipe below.
Now that we have all the tips and tricks to create a perfect cake – follow the recipe below to make your own. Don’t be put-off by the lengthy instructions and ingredients list – this really comes together in no time! Welcome me in wishing Hello Yellow a huge congrats!

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Classic Vanilla Cake
*Makes one 3 layer, 8 inch cake
1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2-2/3 cups granulated sugar
9 egg whites, at room temperature
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
1 vanilla bean, split & scraped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, best quality

Directions
Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter three 8″ x 2″ round cake pans, line with parchment rounds, and dust with flour, tapping out the excess (parchment rounds ensure the bottom doesn’t brown too quickly, and make it easy to pop out the cakes after. You can buy these at baking shops, or, just lightly trace your cake pan on parchment paper and cut out – only takes a second!)
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using an electric beater, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy and pale, about 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the egg whites gradually, mixing until fully incorporated.

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Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Mix vanilla extract and vanilla paste (or contents of vanilla bean) into buttermilk.
Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated. Your batter will be very thick – this is okay. Your cake will still be moist and fluffy.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans, filling ¾ of the way full (remember, your cake will rise). Smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes clean (about 25 minutes, depending on your oven). Repeat with remaining batter (there should be enough left for one more pan full)
Let pans cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.
Classic Buttercream Icing
Cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or ½ pound), softened (but not melted!) Ideal texture should be like ice cream.
3-4 cups icing (powdered) sugar, sifted. In this case, sift the icing sugar through a mesh strainer. This will make sure that there aren’t any lumps and your frosting is nice and smooth.
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
up to 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream (if you have leftover buttermilk from the cake recipe, you can use that too!)

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Instructions
Beat butter for a few minutes, until whipped, with a mixer with the paddle attachment, or an electric hand mixer on medium speed. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and turn your mixer on the lowest speed, until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 2 tablespoons of milk/cream and beat for 3-6 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add remaining sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add remaining milk 1 tablespoons at a time.

Assembly

Place bottom layer face-up on a cake stand, plate, or thin cake board. Put a smidge of icing in the middle of the stand to help keep that bottom layer in place. Spread and smooth some frosting using a small knife or spatula. Repeat with second cake layer.
Gently place third cake layer, face-down, on top.
Spread a thin layer (also known as a crumb coat) all over cake using a spatula or the backside of a butter knife. Slowly spin your rotating cake stand with one hand and holding the back of the knife with the other to scrape excess icing off.
Refrigerate your cake for about 30 minutes to let the crumb layer set.
Starting with your darkest colour first, cover 1/3 of the bottom of the cake with the icing. Using the lighter colour next, cover the next 1/3 of the cake, and repeat for the top 1/3 with white icing or an even lighter variation of your chosen colour. Cover the top in the same colour.
Using a bench scraper, or the back of a knife, turn your cake stand, slowly blending the colours up into each other – this will create the ombre effect, and create a nice, smooth finish. You can play around with colour combos. Remember you can always add more white frosting if you feel a portion is too dark.

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