I have been to more than my fair share of baby showers, not that I am complaining. There is something about babies, their soft skin, the smell of their shampoo and body wash, their smiles, snuggles, and their grogginess after they eat. Oh I love babies. I even love the not-so-attractive side of babies: the burps, the spit-up, the dirty diapers, and the lack of sleep Mom and Dad get.
When my sister had my niece seventeen months ago, I love the nights I took over to let my sister get some extra sleep. I loved my sleepless nights soothing my Little Bean who had a wicked case of acid reflux keeping her up and fussy most of the first nine months of her life. I never complained (much) about the lack of sleep, even if it meant going to my then-current job at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at 5am with little more than a half-hour of sleep the night before. I will do anything for a baby.
But back to baby showers, yesterday we celebrated the pregnancy and impending birth of my friend Melanie’s little girl. Due in just shy of three months, Melanie still have time to savor those last months of pre-motherhood, meaning sleep, childless date nights, and…well I was going to say sleep-filled nights, but I am pretty sure most pregnant women do not have a night of solid sleep.
However, the main topic of interest for this post (I’m sure) relates to this photo I posted much to the horror and delight of my Instagram and Facebook followers on Friday night:
Yes, that is one stick shy of three pounds. Now don’t you worry your pretty little hearts, when I say I used every stick of this butter, I should probably make a note that I ruined 3 whole sticks of butter and 9 eggs in my first baking attempt.
What? Sarah made a mistake? I know, it’s shocking, unbelievable really. But I make mistakes all the time. I can’t tell you how many times I have made silly mistakes while cooking and baking. But let me tell you, I make sure to never make the same mistake twice.
SIDE NOTE: There is thunder and rain at the moment. Let’s take a moment to reflect on the wonderful smell that is rain on hot cement. Breathe deep my friends. Savor that smell. It is quite possibly the best smell on Earth.
Now, back to the baking…let’s move away from the fact that I made a mistake while cooking, and focus more on the recipe itself.
Let’s be honest and up-front here. When it comes to baking, I rarely come up with my own cake recipes. Instead, I, like you, read countless blogs, following the baking adventures of others and following their lead when they find a recipe winner. This brings me to the most delicious Vanilla Bean Cake I have ever eaten thanks to Sweetapolita, who by the way, if you don’t read her blog, you really should. I love her, which in effect, means you will probably love her.
Vanilla Birthday Cake Recipe
(thanks to Sweetapolita for the recipe and her directions which I only slightly edited with my snarkiness):
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
1 vanilla bean, split & scraped (not cheap, but oh so worth it. I have been ruined for life by vanilla beans)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (get pure people, none of that disgusting imitation foolishness)
(1) Preheat your oven to 350° F and make sure that your oven shelves are in the middle rack of your oven. You will thank me for this. While you are at it, prepare your pans. Sweetapolita uses her batter to make three 8″ x 2″ round cakes. For my baby shower purposes, I used two 8″ x 2″ round cake pans and one cupcake pan (making 12 cupcakes). If you are making round cakes, please grease your entire pan, bottom and sides, with butter. Then line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Make sure it is parchment and not wax paper. Wax will melt in the oven. You do not want waxy cakes, no one wants that. THEN, dust the entire pan with flour to make sure all areas of your pan are covered with butter. This is for two purposes, to makes sure you have enough butter and to make sure you can get your cakes out with ease when they are done baking. If you are making cupcakes, this recipe will probably make between 36-48 cupcakes, so make sure you have enough liners.
(2) Using a mixer (either a stand mixer with a paddle attachment OR you can be like me and use an electric mixer because I am poor and KitchenAid mixers are not on my parent’s budget list for my Christmas gifts)…but yes, using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture if lighter in color and slightly increased in volume. This will take about 3-5 minutes. I just set a time and beat it for 5 minutes to be safe. Then lower the speed to medium and gradually add the egg whites. For my egg whites, I separated them all into a big bowl and then let them come to room temperature and poured them into the butter and sugar recipe from that bowl.
(3) Before you start creaming the butter and sugar, like, after you butter and flour/prep your pans, you should sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Also, in a different bowl, you should wish the buttermilk, vanilla extract, and contents of the vanilla bean together. I also let this come to room temperature, but it is not necessary.
(4) On medium speed, alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into the creamed mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. NOW PLEASE, please make sure you do not over-work the mixture. You do not want to upset the gluten in the flour which will make your cake dense and/or tough. If your mixer is staring to strain with the batter, switch to a wooden spoon and gently mix by hand to finish your batter.
(5) Evenly divide the batter between your pans/cupcake liners. For my cakes, I used my digital kitchens scale to make sure each pan had the exact same amount of batter, but you can also just eyeball. Then smooth the tops of the batter to ensure even cooking. For my cupcakes, I use a small ice cream scoop and each cupcake gets just under two level scoops. If you are making cupcakes, never fill your liners more than 2/3 of the way full. Otherwise they may overflow, which isn’t bad, but the tops of the cupcakes might stick to the rest of the pan.
(6) Bake the cakes for about 30 minutes. Sweetapolita says to rotate once after baking for 20 minutes. I didn’t do this, but please feel free to. If you are baking cupcakes, mine took between 15-18 minutes. For either the cake or cupcakes, you can check to see if they are done by inserting a toothpick and having it come out clean (or with a touch of crumbs) OR by lightly touching the top of the (cup)cake and if it springs back, it’s done.
(7) For either your cakes or cupcakes, let them cook in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then remove to let cool completely on the wire racks. If you made cakes, you can peal away the parchment at this time.
At this point in time, your house will smell AMAZING. For it, it was just after 10:30pm when everything was done baking and LORD HAVE MERCY, the smell made me feel like I had died and gone to baking heaven. This cake has made a vanilla cake lover out of me. Honestly.
But you can’t have cake without frosting. It is just, well, against the law. For this occasion, I went wild and crazy and wanted two frostings. I live on the edge. Here is what delighted me that late Friday night:
Fresh Raspberry Frosting:
12 ounces fresh or frozen raspberries (I used frozen because well, fresh were way too expensive)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
4 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
(1) In a medium saucepan, cook the raspberries over medium heat, stirring often, until the begin to break down. Once they are broken down and saucy, turn the heat down to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for at least 20 minutes. You are going to want to keep an eye on these beauties. What you are looking for is the the raspberry goodness to reduce by at least 1/2 to 2/3. You want your final sauce to be incredibly thick and a deep wonderful red color.
(2) When your raspberry sauce is at the desired thickness, Pour the raspberry sauce into a fine mesh strainer, which is over a bowl, please don’t forget a bowl people! Press the sauce through. What you want is all the delicious raspberry juice (which will be thick) and none of the seeds. I mean, you could keep the seeds, I just didn’t want them. You are looking for about a 1/3 cup of very concentrated sauce. If you have too much, put it back on the stove and reduce for a little bit longer. Let cool completely.
(3) In a medium-largish bowl, combine the cool raspberry sauce, butter, and 3 cups of the powdered sugar, as well as a nice pinch of kosher salt. Using your mixer, beat over medium heat until well mixed. Then slowly start adding the rest of the powdered sugar. You are looking for a consistency here which makes you happy. I like stiffer frostings so I can pipe them. this however, would be perfect thinner if you wanted to say, use it as a filling, or if you wanted to drizzle it over slices of chocolate loaf…yum. For me, I used about 5 1/2 cups of powdered sugar.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (or you could mince your lemon zest like me)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream (please use cream, not whole milk)
3 cups sifted powdered sugar
(1) In a medium-large bowl, beat together the butter and lemon zest with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Slowly start to add the powdered sugar, beating until smooth. At this point it will seem slightly thick.
(2) Add the lemon juice and heavy cream. Now, please do not panic. It will look soupy and watery. Trust me, turn the mixer back on and slowly work up to medium-high speed and beat for one more minute. Your results should be light, fluffy, and oh so lemony-delicious.
Here are what my end results look like:
Look at that gorgeous red raspberry color. And you know what makes it even better…IT”S ALL NATURAL. There is no food coloring added. Isn’t that amazing? Oh the beauties of nature. For my lemon buttercream, I did use a dash of buttercup yellow food gel from Wilton. Let’s also take a moment to behold the beauty of grease-proof cupcake liners. Ahem.
I would also like to add that the cake was a hit. Only one slice is missing here, but let me just say, out of the cake and 12 cupcakes I brought to the baby shower, I only brought two slices home. Let’s also thank Instagram for these last three beautiful photos. I love you Instagram.
It was a High Tea themed party. I do enjoy myself a nice cup of tea, especially in such beautiful china.
I love my niece, don’t you. She didn’t have tea, but apple juice. But still, I’d say it was one successful baby shower.