My birthday was this past Saturday. I love birthdays. I love anyone’s birthday, but I’m not gonna lie…I love mine the most! Who doesn’t love their own birthday best?!
I had planned to have a very laid back birthday this year, i.e. no cake. I thought a few simple, but delicious cupcakes would suit me fine. But my sister had other plans. As sisters, especially older sisters, often do, she coerced me, in her own loving, but big sisterly way, into making a cake this year after all. She knew I’d be disappointed if I didn’t have one. She knows me oh so well. She did the right thing. She even helped me find inspiration by having a little Q&A session via Yahoo Messenger (since we live thousands of miles from each other :(), then bombarded me with pictures of beautiful cakes in the colors I had chosen (turquoise and yellow). That did it. I was hooked…my brain going a million miles an hour about what I could do. As our little chat came to an end, with an idea firmly entrenched in my mind, it struck me that I wanted an owl on my cake this year. I must have an owl. I would have an owl. And so I did.
And my favorite birthday cake ever was born. Much as it pains me to admit it, I even love it more than my Harry Potter cake. *gasp* I feel like a traitor…but that’s just my deep seated HP love. As far as cakes, not subjects, go, this is definitely my favorite one so far. Although it doesn’t look like it, the cake is actually quite small. The bottom tier was only seven inches square, the middle five inches, and the itty bitty top tier was only two and a half inches square! Of course that little tier was my own piece of the cake. Of course.
The fat, happy little fondant owl is my favorite part (find my tutorial for making this owl here). He took up the majority of work, but this cake was relatively simple, and even he came together in no time. I love him. Truly. I do. He’s just so sweet (no pun intended) and fat! I love a cute, fat little owl! I perched him slightly off center on my tiny top tier, so that I could add a single tall, white candle to the cake. I didn’t take any pictures, but it was quite pretty.
On a whim, I added sweet flowers to the owl’s back. I love the end result. He’s so much more interesting sprinkled with tiny blossoms, and he ties in with the rest of the cake beautifully! I want this owl as a doll. I must find him…he’s out there and he needs a good home!
Here’s a shot of the inside of the cake. I’ve been seeing vertical cake layers all over the place lately and just had to try my hand at them. To be honest, I didn’t see what the big deal was…until I cut into my own cake. It really is beautiful and surprising! Hearing all the ooh-ing and ahh-ing made the extra (yet surprisingly still easy) work worth it! Want to make your own vertical layer cake? I’ll show you how in my next post! I stuck with a basic, but the best ever, yellow cake (recipe below) and tinted half of the batter turquoise for the layers. This is my favorite yellow cake recipe and is absolutely perfect for birthdays!
I love everything about this cake. Everything from the tip of the little owl ears to the very bottom trim! The colors were absolutely exactly what I wanted, and it was simple and clean looking, while still achieving a girly, pretty look. By using the cutters from my sugar flowers kit, I was able to create a more modern, minimalistic look with very little effort. Plus, keeping things predominantly fondant-free also streamlined the workload. I hope everyone’s weekend was as wonderful as mine, and if you make this cake…be sure to have a slice for breakfast! Enjoy!
Yellow Layer Cake
Makes 2 8- or 9-inch round layers (I used 2 8-inch square cake pans)
4 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature (soy, almond, or rice milk work well too)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 16 pieces (margarine can be substituted)
FOR THE (the best ever) FROSTING
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 lb. (16 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Food coloring (optional)
To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 8- or 9-inch cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, and set aside.
In a large measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, milk, and vanilla extract; set aside.
In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the butter one piece at a time, mixing until the dough comes together and looks sandy.
Add about 1 cup of the egg mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated, then increase to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy. Slowly add the remaining egg mixture, with the mixer on low speed, until incorporated. Scrape the bowl, if necessary, then increase speed to medium-high and beat for about 20 seconds. The batter will just barely look a little curdled.
Divide that batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 23-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.
To make the frosting: In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the butter for about 30 seconds. Beat in the sugar and salt until combined. Add 1 tablespoon heavy cream and whisk on high for 3 to 4 minutes, until light and fluffy. If the frosting is too thick, add more cream, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.
Stir in the vanilla and food coloring.
Cake adapted from Baking Illustrated, Frosting by Darla
P.S. Check out these absolutely GORGEOUS cupcake stands that the hubster had custom made for me…he did GREAT! [UPDATE: The cupcake stands are from Whitney Smith Pottery, she has tons of gorgeous stuff in her etsy store, including full size cake stands.]