This past weekend was a whirlwind of celebrations and man I’m exhausted. I celebrated my 26th birthday alongside my family and friends and of course felt the need to bake myself a birthday cake for the occasion. Deciding to keep it simple, I went with a classic vanilla bean cake – who doesn’t like that? However, I just can never seem to leave well enough alone, so I decorated the cake in a champagne buttercream gradient frosting topped with chocolate butterflies. While friends “ooh’d and aah’d” over it I must say, it was a lot easier to create than it seems.
I enjoyed my Friday night celebrating with some good grub and festive libations at our new favorite spot, 1321. It’s a great little gastro-pub that reminisces a speakeasy from the 40’s. It was a great evening with great friends and I could not have thought of a better way to ring in my 26th year.
We continued the celebrations well throughout the weekend, enjoying brunch with my family at another great restaurant that I often frequent, The Strand House. Not only does this place have an amazing menu but it also boasts some of the most spectacular views than anywhere in Manhattan Beach. If you’re local, I highly recommend this place. I was more than spoiled this year and want to send a huge “Thank you!” to all my family and friends. Last year was amazing but I have a feeling that more great times lay ahead.
Vanilla Bean Cake + Champagne Buttercream
Vanilla Bean Cake
- 7 ½ Cups of All Purpose Flour
- 6 Cups of Granulated Sugar
- 1 ⅓ Cups of Milk
- 3 Teaspoons of Baking Powder
- 1 ½ Teaspoons of Baking Soda
- 3 ¾ Cups of Water
- 1 ½ Cups of Vegetable Shortening
- 6 Eggs
- 3 Teaspoons of Vanilla Extract
- 1 ½ Vanilla Bean Pods, seeds only
Preheat the oven to 350°
Using a stand mixer, combine the dry ingredients and thoroughly mix. Add the wet ingredients and mix on low to fully combine the ingredients followed by mixing on high for two minutes. Transfer the cake batter into three 8-inch spring forms or four 6-inch spring forms. Make sure your cake pans are greased before baking. Bake the cakes for about 20-25 minutes or until fully baked. Transfer the cakes to a cooling rack and once cool, level the cakes.
Champagne Buttercream Frosting
- 8 Pounds of Confectioner’s Sugar
- 2 Cups of Butter
- 2 Cups of Vegetable Shortening
- 1 Tablespoon and 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
- ¾ Cup of Champagne
Using a stand mixer, combine the butter and shortening until smooth. Add in the sugar cup by cup and the champagne little by little, alternating between the two. The frosting will be used for frosting in between the layers of the cake as well as creating the gradient later on.
- Candy Melts
- Parchment Paper
- Pastry Bags
- Aluminum Foil
Fill a pastry bag about ¾ of the way full with the candy melts. Heat in the microwave on low for about 30 seconds and give the candy melts a bit of a squeeze; heat the candy melts for another 30 seconds. Trim off the tip of the pastry bag. Carefully pipe two individual butterfly wings and allow them to harden.
Using about an 8 ½” by 11” sheet of aluminum foil, fold in half lengthwise. Fold the foil again lengthwise and then fold each side down lengthwise. You should have what resembles an “M” form.
Once the butterfly wings have hardened carefully remove them from the parchment paper. Rest the wings in the form to create a winged butterfly look. Using the candy melts pipe a thick “body” between the wings to adhere them together. Allow the butterfly to completely harden before removing.
Gradient Frosting Technique
Frost the layers of the cake followed by a crumb coat and allow the cake to rest for at least an hour. To create the gradient look separate the remaining buttercream frosting into at least 4 different bowls. Using food coloring create different shades of the same color varying from dark to light. I chose purple, being in this crazy phase that I am in. A helpful hint, mix the colors and separate into pastry bags ahead of time.
Starting at the bottom of the cake pipe two rows of 1-inch thick borders around the entire cake. Repeat using the next lighter shade, followed by the next and so on. Top off the cake with two or three rows of white frosting or until you reach the top of the cake.
Using a small frosting spatula, gently smooth down the frosting rows allowing them to “fade” into each other. Be careful not to “spread” the frosting, focus on “smoothing” the lines.