The next six months are big in my family. My son turns 18 in a months time, in January my daughter turns 21 and then in March and April my husband and I both celebrate our 50th birthday. So you can imagine I have a lot of cake on my mind. Birthday in our house are never celebrated without cake. We love them! Cake = Celebration.

I have been seeing a lot of layer cakes around. And they look so perfect! Ooooooh, I so want to make a wonderful cake for the most special people in my life. So I decided to practice this weekend. It’s not perfect but I’m quite happy with a first attempt. The vanilla cake is from a great blog Cake Paper Party which has the most amazing cake combinations. Have you ever hear of a Pinot Noir cake? No, I hadn’t even imagined that flavour but how fantastic! 
The Italian Meringue buttercream is by Warren Brown and is one I have used before for the Rainbow Rose Cake and the Filipino Sans Rival Cake. I love this buttercream but it can be a challenge especially if you don’t wait for the meringue to cool.
So, after this I feel I have some good celebration cakes in me for the upcoming BIG birthdays. I have a lot to learn still and by no means perfect but I look forward to creating something special for my family. 
Do you celebrate with cake every time?

Vanilla Cake (recipe adapted from Cake Paper Party)

230g unsalted butter, softened
340 grams castor sugar (superfine)
60mls canola oil
4 large eggs
25ml vanilla extract
170 grams all-purpose flour
170 grams cake flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
300mls buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F. Grease and flour 3 x 20cm cake pans.
In a stand mixer beat the butter, sugar and oil until light and fluffy which should only take 2 or 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until just moistened. Pour in the buttermilk, mix in slowly, then turn up to medium and beat for 1 minutes. Pour evenly in cake pans. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes until well cooked. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pans then turn out onto a wire cooling rack to cool.

Italian Meringue Buttercream ( recipe by Warren Brown)

1 cup castor sugar (superfine)
1/4 cup water
5 egg whites
1/4 cup castor sugar (superfine)
250g unsalted butter, cool room temperature

Heat the 1 cup castor sugar and water in a pan until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to boil until it reaches 120C/245F. At the same time as the sugar syrup is cooking start the meringue. Beat the egg whites in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until  soft peaks form – about 2 minutes. While still whisking sprinkle in the 1/4 cup sugar. Beat well. By this time the syrup should be ready. Pour it into the meringue, whisking all the while,  in a slow and steady stream. Continue to beat until the mixture cools. This will take about 10 -15 minutes or longer. Once cool and not before, slowly add the butter tablespoonful by tablespoonful. The mixture will deflate slightly but all is well. If your butter melts the meringue is still to hot. Beat until it cools. If necessary, remove the bowl and place it in the refrigerator for a while. Then start again.

Flavourings

I stirred a couple of tablespoons of Amaretto liqueur and a teaspoon of almond essence into the finished buttercream. Taste as you go and adjust to your taste.

Almond Simple Syrup

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon Amaretto Liqueur
a few drops of almond essence

Heat the sugar and water in a pan. Bring to boil and boil for 2 or 3 minutes. Allow to cool then add flavourings.

Bringing the cake together

You will need to toast a cup of almond in the oven until fragrant. Chop coarsely for the filling.

Place one cake onto your serving plate. Brush lightly with Almond simple syrup. Then spread an even layer of buttercream over the cake and sprinkle with a generous layer of crushed almonds. Top with another layer of cake and press down lightly but firmly. Repeat filling. Top with the last cake. Press down and check that the cake is level.

  Spread a thin layer of buttercream all over as a crumb coat. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, mix 3 teaspoons of instant espresso powder with 1 tablespoon of boiling water. Allow to cool. Then mix into the remaining buttercream along with two heaped tablespoons of icing (powdered) sugar. Once the cake is set and cold, spread the coffee buttercream all over side and top of the cake. Decorate as you wish.

PS: When the cake was really set and cold it cut much more cleanly.
 Hmmm, lesson learnt!

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