How to Make a Simple Three-Layer Vanilla Cake With Buttercream Frosting
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Just as I have an obsession with baking and decorating cookies, I have recently become obsessed with baking and decorating cakes. This started when I searched for a baker to make a cake for my daughter’s unicorn-themed birthday party, and I was shocked at the prices of custom cakes. I thought that making my very own cake wouldn’t be too much of a challenge, and I made my own Unicorn Cake. After realizing that the process of making cake was relatively simple with the right tools, I quickly started baking cakes for various holidays and photoshoots. Here’s my guide for everything vanilla cakes, and my recipe for a simple three-layer vanilla cake with buttercream frosting.
For a simple vanilla cake, you will need 1 ½ cups butter, 2 ¼ cups sugar, 4 egg whites, 3 tsp. ff vanilla extract, 3 cups of flour, ¼ tsp. Baking soda, 2 ¾ tsp. Baking powder, and 1 ½ cups of milk.
Cake baking tools
Cake decorating tools
Making a cake is much easier than many think, as it doesn’t require many ingredients but can be quite complex, yet only taking less than 3 hours. However, it’s important to understand all of the little things in cake baking that can make or break the process. Using the right tools is very important- using a stand mixer is extremely important, as it will make almost every step of preparing a cake very quick and easy. I use my stand mixer on a weekly basis, and it’s surpassed its use for my photography business and is very useful for everyday cooking. Here are some other tips that I’ve found to be valuable in the cake baking process.
When baking the cake layers, I like to use Wilton Bake-Easy Strips, so that all my layers come out evenly and to prevent the edges from becoming too crisp. To do this, just soak the bands in water and squeeze out as much as possible before baking. The edges will rise a little bit more when using these bands, so be careful as to not let your cake become too thin in the center. Without these strips, the middle of your cake will rise too high, and you’ll have to cut the higher part.
Use Cake Liners with Tabs to easily pick up your cakes after baking, but be sure to grease them so you can easily remove the cakes from the paper.
After baking the layers, I like to freeze the individual layers before putting them together and decorating. To freeze a layer, take a freshly baked layer out of the oven and let it cool enough to pull out the pan, then wrap it in cellophane and foil and place it onto a baking sheet in the freezer. This allows the cake to hold in all of it’s moisture, and makes stacking and frosting the layers much easier. When decorating, seal all the edges of the cakes with buttercream frosting so none of the moisture escapes the cake, so you don't have to make and use cake moistener. I recommend decorating a frozen cake the day before serving, so it has time to defreeze.
Don’t use too much frosting for your cake, as it will quickly become too sweet and will become hard to manage. When decorating a cake, I recommend a revolving cake stand to make the icing job easier. I use a metal one, but any other revolving cake stand works just fine. When frosting the sides of the cake, I use a bash & chop cutter to evenly distribute the icing.
Icing is butter based- must be warm room or will get stiff.
This specific cake was made for a recent 4th of July party that I hosted, so it is colored accordingly- in red white and blue. To color the cake, I weighed the total amount of dough using a digital scale, and then split the dough into three even parts in separate bowls. I then colored the dough with food coloring with my stand mixer. This can be done with any color and this specific recipe allows for up to three different colors of cake layers. I preferred to freeze my layers before decorating, so this specific cake took me two days to complete. However, it’s possible to make the entire cake under three hours, with only lightly freezing the layers.
You could also save time by purchasing pre-made frosting, if you need to shave off a couple minutes of the prep time. Additionally, if you don’t have the equipment or time to prepare the batter for a cake, you can purchase any kind of dry cake mix at the store. Doing this will allow you to fully make the cake in about two hours, as you don’t need to go through the process of mixing all of the ingredients.
The photography aspect of making this cake can be a bit difficult, as I have to capture every single step of the entire process. This adds more time into the recipe, so much that it can take me a two entire days to make and shoot the cake. However, this paid off as my Independence Day cake both looked and tasted good, and I was able to successfully bake and shoot a cake myself, which once seemed to be very difficult.
Props used in this photo shoot
Some of the props might no longer be available in stores. I selected props as close as possible to match those items.