Tag Archives: layer cake

How to Make Mini Layer Cakes

How to Make Mini Layer CakesI have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to celebrate this year. Does it feel like the world is crashing down around us and everything is at least vaguely scary? Sure. Is there still stuff to celebrate? You know it.

I mean, all of us are going to have pandemic birthdays this year. Every last dang one. Birthday parties are inadvisable, but cake? That’s non-negotiable. If we can’t have cake in times of both joy and crisis, then what on earth are we even doing here?!How to Make Mini Layer CakesIn that spirit, today’s post is not actually a recipe, but instead is all about how to make a layer cake fit for a pandemic…er, small group. Sure, you could make a single layer of cake for any occasion you have coming up, but some things require a cake that’s stacked up tall, even if it’s on the miniature side. I’ve been making Mini Layer Cakes for years, for everything from birthdays to baby showers to wedding cake practice. It’s super fun and a great way to brighten someone’s day (or your own!) in these rough times.How to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer Cakes

How Big are Mini Layer Cakes?

The cakes pictured are 4 inches in diameter and 2.5 and 2.75 inches tall, respectively.How to Make Mini Layer Cakes

How Many People Can Mini Layer Cakes Feed?

Well, it depends. I think of these as being 4-6 servings, but could go up to eight in a pinch. I’m sure some of you are looking at these and thinking they’d only feed two–I suppose it all depends on exactly how much cake you want to eat in one go. Use your judgment.How to Make Mini Layer Cakes

What Flavors are Best for Mini Layer Cakes?

The answer here is pretty much anything your heart desires. The cakes pictured are Vanilla Cake + Nutella Buttercream and Chocolate Cake + Strawberry Buttercream; I chose these flavors based solely on what I had on hand.

The general rule for my Mini Layer Cakes is to make roughly half the recipe of any normal 9-inch layer cake. If you need some inspiration, here are some ideas off the top of my head:

Funfetti cake + vanilla buttercream
red velvet cake + cream cheese frosting
carrot cake (without nuts/fruit) + cream cheese frosting
white cake + seasonal fruit or jam + whipped cream frosting
vanilla cake with a little almond extract + mocha buttercream
-vanilla cake + key lime curd + whipped cream frosting
-vanilla cake + lemon syrup + lazy lemon curd + vanilla buttercream with lemon zest
chocolate cake + Oreo Buttercream
peanut butter cake + chocolate frosting
Black Forest Cake {Schwarzvaldtårta}! <—Yes, it works!How to Make Mini Layer Cakes

Things You Need to Make a Mini Layer Cake

-a single 9-inch layer of cake
-a half-batch of buttercream
-filling of choice, if not using buttercream
-a serving plate or cardboard round
-a ruler
a 4-inch ring cutter
-a serrated knife for trimming
-an offset icing knife

First things first, you’ve got to have the supplies. This list is pretty similar to what I use for regular layer cakes with a few exceptions. To start, you’ll need one 9-inch layer of cake and a small batch of buttercream…or roughly a half the quantity of most layer cake recipes. I understand that not all cake recipes halve easily (splitting eggs!), so I’ve included halved versions of my vanilla and chocolate cakes at the end of the post.How to Make Mini Layer CakesThe major specialty item here is a 4-inch ring for cutting small layers. Can you just bake your cake in 4-inch pans? Sure, and I have on many occasions, but they tend to produce dramatically domed cakes, and frankly, you’re never going to get as much use out of those pans as you think you will. As a person who has nearly every piece of kitchen equipment anyone could ever need, please trust me on this. It is much easier to bake a single larger layer of cake and then cut it into smaller ones.

With a 4-inch cutter, you’ll be able to get two small layers out of a single 9-inch round layer. If you measure/have a keener eye than I do, you can bake a 9-inch square layer and get four small layers out of it. That way, you can make two mini cakes at once or freeze two of the layers for another occasion. Either way, you’ll have leftover cake scraps, but I don’t see that as a problem.

Don’t have or want a 4-inch ring? Find a 4-inch circular object, trace it onto parchment, then cut out the circle and use it as a stencil.

How to Assemble a Mini Layer Cake

Mini Layer Cake assembly isn’t rocket science, but has its challenges. There is a lot of measuring and evening out of things, but rest assured that you’ll get the hang of it quickly.How to Make Mini Layer CakesStart by using your cutter to cut two small layers out of your larger layer. Make sure that the cutter is as close to the edge of the larger layer as possible, so as to make room for a complete second layer. <—This is important.How to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer CakesUse your ruler to measure your layers for height. There is a good chance your layers will have an incline, as cakes tend to dome a bit as they bake. Grab your serrated knife and even out the top of one layer. Make sure it’s even (or very close) and measure it again—this how tall you want your other layer to be. Repeat that process to even out that second layer, until they’re identical in height (or very close). Mine are all about an inch tall.How to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer CakesNext up, stacking. Swipe a tiny bit of buttercream on your plate or cardboard round, then place one of your layers on top. If you’re a messy froster like me, tuck bits of parchment under the cake all the way around for clean edges. Frost the top of your layer, then stack the second layer on top and press down lightly to adhere.How to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer CakesFrom here, frost as normal. For me, that means a very light crumb coat (thin layer of buttercream), a 20 minute chill, then a thicker layer of buttercream, piping and decor.

Keep in mind that Mini Layer Cakes are smaller and lighter-weight than what most of us are used to, and therefore cannot take as much physical pressure as a larger cake, particularly when frosting around the sides. Be gentle with the cake and with yourself, and remember that there is no shame in having to move layers back into place and frost over flaws. Buttercream is a surprisingly forgiving medium.How to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer CakesAt this point you can serve your cake. I, however, like to let mine sit for an hour or two ahead of serving, just to let everything adhere nicely. This isn’t strictly necessary, but I find it makes slicing easier and prettier. If you’re refrigerating your cake, make sure to let it sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before serving.How to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer Cakes

How to Transport a Mini Layer Cake

If you’re making a Mini Layer Cake (or any layer cake), chances are you have to take it to a celebrant or they have to pick it up. In more normal times, I box and transport cakes all over NYC. The most important thing in this process is to make sure your cake fits the box beforehand—this is why I have a ruler in my kitchen. My cake boxes are 3-inches tall, so the cardboard round, both layers of cake and any filling and frosting need to be shorter than that when stacked.How to Make Mini Layer CakesOther important things? Keep your box as level as possible. I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping them level while walking and riding in cars and on the subway. It’s just a matter of remembering that pretty much everything (your body, a car seat, etc.) has a natural slope, and then carrying/positioning your box in a way to counterbalance that. Also, remember that cold cakes are easier to transport. When delivering cakes, I refrigerate them as soon as I’m done assembling, and then let them come back to room temp while en route to wherever I’m going.

Please know that I have shown up a few times with cakes that did not look the way they did when I left the house. This is a hazard of the job–rest assured that ugly cake is still delicious. If you make somebody a cake and they don’t like it because it’s a little disheveled, take it back. You don’t need that negativity.

And on that note, if you are inspired to make a Mini Layer Cake or two and need a place for them to go, I’m gladly accepting donations.How to Make Mini Layer Cakes
Are there any Mini Layer Cake tutorials you’d like to see? Thinking of doing one for tiered cakes (wedding cake). Let me know what you think in the comments.How to Make Mini Layer Cakes

Vanilla Cake {Half Recipe}
makes 1 9-inch layer or enough for 1 mini layer cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 batch Nutella Buttercream or other buttercream

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease a 9-inch round or square pan. Line the bottom with parchment. Grease again. Set aside.

Make the cake batter. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, granulated sugar and light brown sugar. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating completely after each addition. Mix in half the dry ingredients, followed by half the buttermilk. Add remaining dry ingredients followed by the remaining buttermilk. Scrape down the bowl as necessary.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Tap full pan on the counter five times to release any large air bubbles. Bake cakes 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cake cool in its pan for fifteen minutes. Run a small thin knife around the edge of the pans and invert the cakes onto a rack to cool completely. Peel off and discard parchment.

For a Mini Layer Cake, follow instructions detailed in the post above. Fill and frost with Nutella Buttercream or other buttercream.

Chocolate Cake {Half Recipe}
makes 1 9-inch layer or enough for 1 mini layer cake

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 1/2 teaspoons espresso granules (optional, but recommended)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 cup boiling water
1 batch Strawberry Buttercream or other buttercream

Preheat the oven to 325F. Grease a 9-inch round or square pan. Line the bottom with parchment. Grease again. Set aside.

Make the cake batter. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, espresso granules, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together oil and egg, followed by vanilla and buttermilk. Whisk in half the dry ingredients, followed by half the boiling water. Whisk in remaining dry ingredients, followed by remaining boiling water.

Pour batter into the pans. Tap full pan on the counter five times to release any air bubbles. Bake 25-27 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cake cool in pan for fifteen minutes before running a small, thin knife around the edge. Invert cake onto a cooling rack and allow to cool to room temperature. Peel off and discard parchment.

For a Mini Layer Cake, follow instructions detailed in the post above. Fill and frost with Strawberry Buttercream or other buttercream.

How to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer CakesHow to Make Mini Layer Cakes

Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate Cake

Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate CakeWhen you make as many layer cakes as I do, it’s inevitable that someone will ask you to make a gluten-free or vegan one, or one that is both of those things. I used to fear these requests and turn them down across the board, but as time has gone on, I’ve gained confidence, learned new skills, and befriended my NYC ride-or-die, VJ, who just so happens to be a gluten-free vegan. I’m not saying I’m fearless now, but I am saying that I make a hell of a Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate Cake.Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate CakeGluten-Free Vegan Chocolate CakeIt all started with The Minimalist Baker’s genius 1-Bowl Vegan Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake, which I made for VJ’s birthday last winter. That recipe’s major appeal is that it’s ridiculously easy—it doesn’t require making flax eggs or using a complicated gluten-free flour blend, instead relying on blanched almond flour, a mix of potato starch and cornstarch, unsweetened applesauce and leaveners. The results are soft, moist, and delicious. I would have been content to only make that cake for my gluten-free vegan friends forever…but then another friend requested a chocolate version for their birthday last May. And so, here we are.Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate CakeGluten-Free Vegan Chocolate CakeGluten-Free Vegan Chocolate CakeThis triple-layered chocolate masterpiece is gluten-free and vegan, yes, but also moist and tender and chocolaty AF—exactly what you want in a layer cake, gluten-free and vegan or not. I used Dana’s (The Minimalist Baker) Vanilla Cake formula as a starting place for the batter, relying on almond flour and potato starch for structure, and swapping in natural unsweetened cocoa powder instead of cornstarch. I’ve traded the applesauce for pure pumpkin purée, mostly because I almost always have a can of pumpkin and almost never have applesauce. The remaining ingredients are the usual baking powder and soda, granulated sugar, salt, and a mixture of almond milk and vinegar, which acts as a vegan buttermilk swap. I also add a little granulated espresso to accentuate the chocolate flavor.

You’ll notice that there is no added fat in the cake batter—this is because there is plenty in the blanched almond flour. In combination with the moisture from the pumpkin and soured almond milk, this cake always turns out soft and springy.Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate CakeIf you’re looking at this list of ingredients and wondering where to find them, the answer is almost any well-stocked grocery store. Blanched almond flour is available at Trader Joe’s and Costco, as well as my local supermarket. Potato starch is usually in the specialty flours section or the Kosher foods aisle.Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate CakeAs for the swoopy, pipeable Vegan Chocolate Buttercream…well, first of all, good luck not just eating it straight from the bowl. It’s as flavorful and creamy as traditional chocolate buttercream, thanks to a base of equal parts vegan butter and coconut oil-based shortening, along cocoa powder and confectioner’s sugar.Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate CakeGluten-Free Vegan Chocolate CakeGluten-Free Vegan Chocolate CakeI recommend using shortening in vegan buttercream for the textural magic it works in the absence of dairy butter. Shortening is a polarizing ingredient, to be sure, but it’s what makes this butterless buttercream so incredibly luxurious and pipeable. I am a fan of Nutiva’s coconut oil formula, but I’ve used regular Crisco in a pinch with good results. If you are anti-shortening, feel free to swap in an equal amount of vegan butter—I’ve been using Miyoko’s lately and totally love it. With an all-vegan-butter frosting, your results may be a little less fluffy than mine, but I promise they will still be delicious. We’re talking about chocolate frosting here—how could it be anything but wonderful?!Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate CakeThis buttercream recipe makes a lot—enough to fill and frost a cake and then pipe it to the gills! I have had no problem finding things to do with any leftovers (vegan buttercream candies, anyone?), but if you’d like to do a naked cake or have less frosting around, feel free to halve the ingredients.Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate CakeBut really, is there such a thing as too much chocolate frosting on a chocolate cake? I don’t think so, especially on one like this that can feed nearly all my friends! This vegan, gluten-free dessert is as delicious and beautiful as it is inclusive. Heck, that in itself is almost enough reason to make one.Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate Cake

Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate Cake
adapted from The Minimalist Baker

makes one 3-layer 9-inch round cake

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
~2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup pure pumpkin purée
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups blanched almond flour
3/4 cup + 3 tablespoons potato starch
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon granulated espresso
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 3 9-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

Pour apple cider vinegar into a liquid measuring cup. Add almond milk until liquid reaches the 2 cup mark. Stir and let sit for 5-10 minutes, until curdled. Stir in pumpkin purée and vanilla. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together blanched almond flour, potato starch, cocoa powder, granulated sugar, granulated espresso, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add liquid ingredients in two installments, whisking until combined.

Divide batter among prepared pans and smooth with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. Tap each pan on the counter 5 times to release any large air bubbles. Transfer to the oven and bake 32-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each layer comes out with only a few crumbs.

Let layers cool completely in their pans on cooling racks. Run a thin, flexible knife around their edges before inverting to release. Fill and frost as desired with Vegan Chocolate Buttercream (recipe below).

Frosted cake will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days and refrigerated for up to 4. Unfrosted layers may be triple-wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before frosting.

Vegan Chocolate Buttercream
makes enough for a 3-layer 9-inch round cake with piping

4 cups confectioners sugar
1 1/4 cups natural unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
8 ounces (1 cup) vegan butter, room temperature (I like Miyoko’s)
8 ounces (1 cup) shortening, room temperature (I like Nutiva)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Combine confectioners sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat vegan butter and shortening until light and fluffy. Mix in dry ingredients in three installments, mixing until combined and fluffy. Mix in vanilla.

Use to frost layer cakes, as a sandwich cookie filling, or to make vegan buttercream candies.Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate CakeGluten-Free Vegan Chocolate CakeGluten-Free Vegan Chocolate Cake

Peanut Butter Marble Cake

Peanut Butter Marble CakeToday is my 34th birthday!Peanut Butter Marble CakePeanut Butter Marble CakePeanut Butter Marble CakePeanut Butter Marble CakeIt’s been a really fun one so far: my little sister is visiting, I made this Sicilian pizza, went to dinner and to see Golden Girls Live! with a bunch of friends, did some vintage shopping, and saw Rocketman last night. Pretty great, right?!Peanut Butter Marble CakePeanut Butter Marble CakeNow it’s time to talk birthday cake. I make many (many many many) throughout the year, but this one is mine: Peanut Butter Marble Cake, y’all!Peanut Butter Marble CakeWe’re talking thick layers made with my favorite peanut butter batter and swirled with dark chocolate a la Marble Bundt Cake. Yesssss.Peanut Butter Marble CakeThe cake is filled and frosted with a silky Chocolate-Peanut Butter Buttercream. This stuff is sweet-salty magic and it swoops like a dream!Peanut Butter Marble CakePeanut Butter Marble CakeAll that, and I didn’t even mention all the chopped peanut butter cups in the middle! There are even more on top 😊 Peanut Butter Marble CakeIt’s a total showstopper—the ultimate chocolate-peanut butter cake, as far as I’m concerned.Peanut Butter Marble CakePeanut Butter Marble CakeI can’t think of a more delicious way to start my 35th trip around the sun 🎉 Peanut Butter Marble Cake

Peanut Butter Marble Cake
makes one 2-layer 9-inch round layer cake

Cake Batter:
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cup creamy-style peanut butter*
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
4 ounces dark chocolate

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Buttercream:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup creamy-style peanut butter
3 cups confectioners sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup heavy cream

For assembly:
12 miniature peanut butter cups + more for topping

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

Make the cake batter. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter and peanut butter until combined and fluffy. Beat in light brown and granulated sugars. Add eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla. Mix in half the dry ingredients followed by half the buttermilk. Add remaining dry ingredients, followed by remaining buttermilk. Set aside.

Place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 30 second increments in the microwave, stirring in between, until melted. This may also be done in a double boiler.

Transfer 1 1/2 cups of batter into the bowl with the melted chocolate. Use a fork and/or silicone spatula to combine the two.

Divide remaining peanut butter batter among prepared pans. Tap full pans on the counter five times to release any large air bubbles. Dollop chocolate batter over the tops and use a thin knife or skewer to lightly marble it in. Bake 40-42 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean.

Let cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes. Run a thin, flexible knife around the edges. Invert cakes onto a cooling rack and let cool completely.

Make buttercream. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy (about two minutes). Beat in peanut butter. Add in confectioner’s sugar in two installments, followed by cocoa powder and salt, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add in vanilla, followed by heavy cream. Beat on high for 1-2 minutes, until very fluffy.

Place 12 miniature peanut butter cups on a cutting board. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to cut them into small pieces (I like to cut them into eighths).

Use a serrated knife to even out the tops of the cake layers. Place one cut-side-up on a serving plate or cake stand. Top with a thin layer of buttercream, followed by chopped peanut butter cups. Top with the second layer cut-side-down. Frost and decorate cake. Garnish with more peanut butter cups, if desired.

Slice and serve. Leftovers will keep covered at room temperature for up to two days or in the refrigerator for up to five. If storing in the refrigerator, let cake sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Cake is best served at room temperature.Peanut Butter Marble CakePeanut Butter Marble CakePeanut Butter Marble Cake

Neapolitan Cake

Neapolitan CakeI make a lot of cakes—a lot. In any given month, I make at least ten, plus any that are tested and posted on this blog. What can I say? I have friends who like to celebrate and like my cakes. I’m flattered.Neapolitan CakeOf course, this means that making cake—something that once only brought joy—can sometimes be a slog. I don’t necessarily mind when baking feels like work (because it is my work), but I’d be lying if I said I couldn’t wait to come home and bake layers after a long day of blogging and personal cheffing. The joy understandably gets a little lost when I’m making a double batch of vanilla layers at 11pm on a Tuesday.Neapolitan CakeBut when inspiration strikes and I can be creative, it could be 4am and I’d be psyched to be baking. My roommate might not particularly like it, but I’d be in heaven.Neapolitan CakeSuch was the case last month when I made a cake for a friend whose only instruction was that it should have something strawberry involved, at his young daughter’s request. Other than that, I could go wild.Neapolitan CakeAnd so that request for a strawberry element somehow meshed with vanilla and chocolate and became Neapolitan…and I went wild. Wild! And it was so much fun (and so delicious!) that I went and made a second cake for this blog. You’re welcome 😉Neapolitan CakeY’all. Y’ALL. This cake. It is a thing. A real undertaking. A project best done over the course of two days. The most intricate cake work that’s ever been on this blog (aside from the wedding cake, of course).Neapolitan CakeBut I am also completely obsessed with it. I mean, what’s not to love about this checkerboard chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry interior and the ruffled tricolor buttercream exterior? It’s the most fun!Neapolitan CakeThe cake layers are all made from one batter. Once it’s mixed together, it’s divided in thirds. One is left plain—that’s the vanilla layer. Another is spiked with freeze-dried strawberries, and the last with cocoa powder and melted chocolate.Neapolitan CakeThey’re baked, cooled, evened…Neapolitan Cake…and then punched into rings and reassembled.Neapolitan CakeAnd layered in a specific order with thin layers of vanilla buttercream.Neapolitan CakeNeapolitan CakeNeapolitan CakeNeapolitan CakeNeapolitan CakeAnd then decorated in the most fun (and shockingly easy!) ruffle pattern. Or, you know, however you like.Neapolitan CakeWhen all is said and done and sliced and served, all your friends’ minds will be blown at your Neapolitan Cake prowess. As they freaking should be.Neapolitan Cake

Neapolitan Cake
makes one 3-layer 9-inch round cake

Cake Batter:
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, melted & cooled slightly
5 large eggs, room temperature
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups whole milk, room temperature
1 cup full-fat sour cream, room temperature

For the Strawberry Layer:
1 1.2 ounce package freeze-dried strawberries, pulverized
2 tablespoons whole milk
red food coloring (I used 6 drops red gel), optional

For the Chocolate Layer:
1/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup whole milk

Special Equipment:
6 inch round cake ring/cookie cutter
3 inch round cake ring/cookie cutter

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 3 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment and grease again.

Make the cake batter. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and granulated sugar. Set aside.

Pour melted butter into a medium mixing bowl. Whisk in eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla.

In a large measuring cup, use a fork to stir together whole milk and sour cream.

Whisk half the butter mixture into dry ingredients, followed by half the milk mixture. Add remaining mixture, followed by remaining milk mixture.

Make the flavored layers. Pour 3 1/4 cups of batter into one of the pans. This is the vanilla layer. Set aside.

Pour 3 1/4 cups of batter into each of two small mixing bowls.

To make the strawberry layer, whisk pulverized freeze-dried strawberries, whole milk, and food coloring into one of the bowls of batter. Transfer to another prepared pan. Set aside.

Make the chocolate layer. Whisk cocoa powder into the last bowl of batter.

Put chopped dark chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 15 second increments, stirring in between, until melted and smooth. Whisk into batter, followed by whole milk. Transfer to remaining prepared pan.

Smooth the tops of all the pans-full of batter. Tap each full pan on the counter five times to release any large air bubbles. Bake cakes 32-37 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Let cakes cool in pans for fifteen minutes. Run a small thin knife around the edges of the pans and invert the cakes onto cooling racks to cool completely. Layers may be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Even the layers. Working with one layer at a time, use a serrated knife to trim all layers until they are of even height (mine were each 1 1/4 inch tall).

Assemble the layers. Working with one layer at a time, place layer on a cutting board or other surface. Use the 6-inch ring to cut out the center. Use the 3-inch ring to cut out the center of the 6-inch circle of cake. Wipe rings clean. Repeat with remaining layers.

Separate all circles/rings of cake so that you have 3 3-inch center pieces, 3 6-inch middle rings, and 3 9-inch outer rings. Make layers by pressing pieces together like a puzzle. Layers should be as follows:

• chocolate outer ring, vanilla middle ring, strawberry center
• vanilla outer ring, strawberry middle ring, chocolate center
• strawberry outer ring, chocolate middle ring, vanilla center

For Layering & Assembly of Cake

Simple Syrup:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water

Vanilla Buttercream:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 pound confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3-5 tablespoons heavy cream

Strawberry Buttercream:
1 1.2-ounce package freeze dried strawberries
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioners sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
5-6 tablespoons heavy cream

Chocolate Buttercream:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
6 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Make the simple syrup. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly until sugar dissolves, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Make the vanilla buttercream. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in confectioner’s sugar in three installments, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Beat in salt, followed by vanilla. Add in heavy cream until desired consistency is reached.

Make the strawberry buttercream. In a medium-large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low, beat in confectioner’s sugar, strawberry powder, and salt. Mixture may be alarmingly crumbly—this is normal. Add vanilla and 5 tablespoons of heavy cream. Beat until very fluffy, about 2 minutes. If desired, mix in another tablespoon of heavy cream until the proper consistency is reached.

Make the chocolate buttercream. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy (about two minutes). Beat in confectioner’s sugar, followed by cocoa powder and salt, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add in vanilla and heavy cream. Beat on high for 1-2 minutes, until very fluffy.

Place the layer with the chocolate outer ring on a serving plate or cake stand. Brush with simple syrup. Top with a thin layer of vanilla buttercream. Place the layer with the vanilla outer ring on top. Brush with simple syrup. Top with a thin layer of vanilla buttercream. Place the layer with the strawberry outer ring on top. Brush with simple syrup. Frost the entire cake with a very thin layer of vanilla buttercream (a “crumb coat”). Refrigerate for 15 minutes or up to 1 day.

Load remaining vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate buttercreams into piping bags (or ziplocks with smalls corners snipped off). Remove the cake from the refrigerator.

To decorate the cake as pictured, working with one buttercream at a time, pipe a ring of dollops around the entire bottom of the cake. Use the back of an offset spatula to press into each dollop and drag upward to create a “ruffle” effect, wiping clean as needed. Use another buttercream to make a ring of dollops above the first (now-ruffled), and repeat the same pressing/dragging method to create the same pattern. Use the remaining color of buttercream, and continue the method, alternating in a pattern until you have frosted your way up the cake, onto the top, and to the center.

Slice and serve. Leftover cake may be kept covered at room temperature for up to two days or in the refrigerator for up to five.Neapolitan CakeNeapolitan CakeNeapolitan Cake

Maple Layer Cake

Maple Layer CakeNotice anything different? I updated the look of this site on Wednesday afternoon!Maple Layer CakeI haven’t made any major aesthetic changes to this site since I started blogging almost three years ago. I mean, I’d thought about it on and off, but had never actually gone through with anything until two days ago. I’d love to say this was planned, but it absolutely was not. I just decided on a whim that it was time to change the theme and streamline a few things, so here we are.Maple Layer CakeNow, I’m not someone who makes many impulse decisions—I’m a big over-thinker—so changing the look of my blog is a pretty big deal for me. I still need to make a few formatting adjustments, but other than those, this look is here to stay.Maple Layer CakeAnother impulse decision I made recently? Baking this Maple Layer Cake! One minute, I thought “I should make a maple cake this fall,” and the next, I was whisking up batter and whipping buttercream.Maple Layer CakeMaple Layer CakeMaple Layer Cake
Maple Layer CakeMaple Layer CakeThat’s really something, considering that I was deep in the babka zone at the time, working on a recipe that I overthought to the point of making 18 (!) babkas.Maple Layer CakeMaple Layer CakeMaple Layer CakeIn the midst of all that self-imposed craziness, this cake went from a one-off thought to a sparkling four-layer naked cake in the span of an afternoon. Isn’t it a stunner?!Maple Layer CakeThat’s not all! This cake tastes as good as it looks 🙂 Maple Layer CakeThere are 1 1/3 cups of pure maple syrup in the entire cake—in addition to the cake and fluffy buttercream, each buttery layer is torted (sliced in half equatorially) and brushed with the good stuff. There is absolutely no mistaking the flavor of this cake!Maple Layer CakeI’m sure I will continue to be an over-thinker for years to come, but if this Maple Layer Cake proves anything, it’s that it’s good trust my gut every now and then.Maple Layer Cake

Maple Layer Cake
makes one 9-inch round cake

Cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups buttermilk,* room temperature

Frosting:
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
4 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons heavy cream

For Assembly:
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
sparkling sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter and granulated sugar. Whisk in eggs one at a time, followed by maple syrup and vanilla. Whisk in half the dry ingredients, followed by half the buttermilk. Add the remaining dry ingredients, followed by remaining buttermilk.

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Tap each pan on the counter 5 times to release any large air bubbles. Bake 32-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Let cakes cool in their pans for 15 minutes. Run a small, think knife around the edges, invert onto racks, and remove parchment. Allow cakes to cool completely.

Make the frosting. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in confectioner’s sugar in two installments, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Beat in salt, followed by vanilla. Beat in maple syrup, followed by heavy cream.

Assemble the cake. Use a serrated knife to slice cake layers equatorially so that you are left with 4 very thin layers. Place one layer, cut-side-up on a serving plate or cake stand. Brush layer with maple syrup. Top with a thin layer of frosting. Top with another thin layer of cake and repeat the brushing and frosting. Repeat layering process one more time. Top with the last remaining thin layer of cake, cut-side-down. Frost cake as desired. Top with sparkling sugar, if using.

Slice and serve. Leftover layer cake will keep covered at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Note:

If you do not have buttermilk on hand, you may make a substitute. Place 2 tablespoons of vinegar (or lemon juice) in a liquid measuring cup. Pour milk up to the 2 cup mark and stir. Let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes, or until curdled. Continue with the recipe as written.

Maple Layer CakeMaple Layer Cake