The Birthday Cake - LAYERED Turns 1!

Vanilla butter cake with fluffy chocolate icing and sprinkles from Layered: Baking, Building and Styling Spectacular Cakes.  Happy Birthday, LAYERED!

The Best Birthday Cake Recipe - vanilla butter cake with fluffy chocolate icing

One year ago today, my little cookbook baby hit book shelves literally around the world.  I can't hardly believe it myself!  Where does the time go?  

This past year has proved to be one of my best years yet.  I am beyond grateful for all of your support and thrilled with how well received my dream cake book has been.  It feels like just weeks ago that I was finalizing edits and reshooting pics... But really, somehow an entire year has passed and all my favorite recipes and personal stories have been floating around in and out of your kitchens for months now.  Just thinking about the colourful images I photographed from within my home being splattered with batter as you all whip of cakes with your children or for your loved ones absolutely warms my heart.  And with that, I say, "Happy 1st Birthday, LAYERED!"

 

They say that your first book is like having your first child.  Having both out in the world at nearly the same time (Everett was born just a week after turning in my manuscript), I have to both agree and disagree.  Like I touched on when the book was released, unlike a child that keeps growing, learning, adapting, pushing limits, and changing, and book is very finite.  There is a definitive end to the process.  And while you can drive yourself crazy picking over each letter and analyzing every recipe a hundred times, once it goes to print, that's pretty much it.  Kinda scary, right?  It's like "Hey world, here is my very best work, my blood-sweat-tears from the last two years, my heart poured into every page and picture, hope you like it...."  That kind of vulnerability is indescribable.  

At the same time, it's also like "Hey world!!  Here is my very best work, my blood-sweat-tears from the last two years, my heart poured into every page and picture.  Hope you like it!!!"  I mean, a beautiful book with my name on it?  A tangible piece of me that gets to go home with other cake enthusiasts around the world?!?!  A book where adults and children alike flip through the pages together and pick out cakes for special celebrations?!?!  I really did pour everything I had into Layered's 288 pages and could not be prouder of the result. Now that is pretty incredible.

The Best Birthday Cake Recipe - vanilla butter cake with fluffy chocolate icing

It brings me so much joy seeing your own creations inspired by Layered.  When writing the book, I don't think I stopped to think too much about what would happen after it came.  I mean, I wanted to make sure the recipes worked in your homes, but I had no idea how connected we would all become through a book.  From getting to meet some of you at local events, sweet messages in my inbox, and thousands of images on Instagram, I am so grateful to be a part of such an incredible cake-loving community.  Here are some highlights from the past year:

Events and Signings:
One of my favorite parts since becoming an author has been getting to meet some you face to face.  I had several book signings both here in Vancouver and in the States, but two stuck out in particular.  A quick 16-hour roundtrip down to Seattle turned into one of my best days all year.  My older brother and I made the drive from Vancouver with un-iced cakes and jars of buttercream in the car and a list of foodie spots to hit up before my event at the Book Larder.  We binged on General Porpoise Donuts, Kurt Farm Shop ice cream, and the best pizza of my life from Delancey. 

To my surprise, the event was packed!  I credit the amazing team at Book Larder for helping promote my arrival, but seriously guys - THANK YOU for coming!!  I loved meeting and chatting with everyone that lovely Tuesday evening.  Many of you even reminded me of myself just after college when I first fell in love with cake.

My second favourite event had to be here in Vancouver at West Elm Market.  Again, the power of cake on community really shows when you have random shoppers coming together to discuss and eat cake together.  I mean, who can say no to cake?  Nobody, I tell you =) The West Elm Market here was an awesome space (it's since sadly turned into a West Elm Bath) for local artists and makers to showcase their goods.  Hopefully we can find a similar type of space and do this again!

2nd and 3rd Printings:
In June, about 1.5 months after it came out, Layered got its second printing!  Yaayyyy!  And in the fall, just before the holidays, its third. 

Layered Goes International:
You can now find Layered, or Tortenzeit, printed in German.  We are currently working on an Italian version, too.

Good Reads Choice Awards:
Spoiler alert - I didn't win...  But Layered did come in 5th!
With past winners including Ina Garten and Gwyneth Paltrow, just being nominated was amazing.  Thanks to all of YOUR votes, I finished just behind Alton Brown.  Can't be too mad about that =)

As Seen On:
From interviews, to shared recipes, to giveaways - here are some of my favorite places around the web where you can find some Layered love:
"Off the Shelf" - Food Network
5 Stylish Layer Cakes - The Kitchn
6 Jaw-Dropping Cakes - The Nest
Yuzu Citrus Cake - Oh Joy!
Flamingo Lawn Cake - Oh Happy Day
Cookbook Corner - Food Bloggers of Canada
Cookbook Inspiration - Joy the Baker
 

Online Community Support:
When Layered was first released, I asked several of my baking blogger pals to create and share some of the recipes.  I know I've already shared their gorgeous work, but I am still so thankful for their support.  Click here to find all the AMAZING cakes!  Also, this is an updated list - so definitely worth clicking again.

Fan Faves:
I absolutely love seeing your work!  Between email and Instagram, there have been over 1500 cakes inspired by Layered and shared across social media.  And boy are you guys talented!!!

What I am super impressed by is those of you that have committed yourselves to baking through the entire book!!  I am seriously blown away by your enthusiasm and dedication.  I never even thought of someone ever so touched and motivated by my cakes that they would want to make all of them.  So honoured and grateful.  Thank you!

BIG shout-out to the sweetest account, Baking with Mini Me - a mom and daughter duo that are baking their way through the book together.  You gals are rock stars!!

Weddings, Special Occasions, and Much More:
When do we love cake?  All the time!!!  But really, it's things like birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and weddings that really scream cake.  Those special moments where you buy all the necessary ingredients, carve out time in your precious schedule, dig out your cake pans and sprinkles, and create a piece of edible art.  I've seen all sorts of cakes - from baby's first birthday cake, Christmas (you guys loved the Winter Chocolate Mint Cake), and even a few wedding cake - using recipes inspired from Layered.  I am so honoured to be a tiny part of your celebrations!
 


Thank you all for your continuous support.  I am forever grateful.  May you continue to learn, practice, bake, and create!

The Best Birthday Cake Recipe - vanilla butter cake with fluffy chocolate icing

Now of course, what kind of celebration would it be without some cake and prizes!?!?!?!  A couple months ago I started thinking about which cake I should make for the first birthday.  I am no even sure why I had to think twice, because - duh, THE BIRTHDAY CAKE!  As I write in the book, if you don't already have a go-to vanilla cake then this is it.  Make it, memorize it - your future grandchildren will thank you, hehe.

Vanilla Butter Cake
3 1/4 cups cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
6 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup whole milk

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans and set aside

Whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy (3 to 5 minutes).  Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, until smooth.  Add in the vanilla and mix until combined.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.

With the mixer on low, gradually add in half of the dry ingredients.  Slowly stream in the milk and mix until combined.  Add in the remaining dry ingredients and mix until the last streaks of flour disappear.  Mix on medium for no more than about 30 seconds.

Evenly distribute the batter between the two pans.  Bake for 28 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 20 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.  Let completely cool before slicing in half horizontally to create four, even layers (if desired).

Chocolate Fudge Frosting
1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
5 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup whole milk or heavy cream
8 ounces semi or bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter until soft and smooth.  With the mixer on low, gradually add in the salt, espresso powder, sugar, cocoa, vanilla, and milk until incorporated. Mix on medium until soft and silky, yet not runny, adding more milk as needed.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.  Add in the melted chocolate and mix until combined.

Please serve at room temperature!  Trust me, it's like 39872 times better than cold from the fridge =)

The Best Birthday Cake Recipe - vanilla butter cake with fluffy chocolate icing

Of course, it's not a party without some giveaways!  The easiest way is to enter below RIGHT NOW.  One winner will be randomly selected in one week.  There will also be a couple other chances to win over social media, so be sure to follow along on Facebook and Instagram all week long!

The Only Carrot Cake Recipe You Will Ever Need.

A tender, flavorful carrot cake that fulfills all of your carrot cakes needs!  Filled and frosted with fluffy cream cheese frosting, of course.

Carrot Cake Recipe with buttercream flowers
Carrot Cake Recipe with buttercream flowers
Carrot Cake Recipe with buttercream flowers

Spring is finally here in Vancouver, and Easter is just around the corner.  To celebrate, I made you all the only carrot cake recipe you will ever need.  I was working on a few Easter assignments last month when I realized that I didn't have a carrot cake recipe up on the blog – until now.  How could that be?  In all my efforts to come up with unique flavor pairing and over-the-top combos, this classic somehow slipped through the cracks...

To remedy this, I started to question all-things carrot cake... What makes the very BEST carrot cake?  Do people like nuts in their cakes?  Am I the only one that thinks raisin have zero business belonging in a layer cake?  Even if canned crushed pineapple adds the best flavor/moisture, is applesauce a more convenient option?  Can we all agree that cream cheese frosting is its only acceptable companion?  

I actually took these concerns to my Instagram stories – the most legit place these days to find all the answers, jk.  Thankfully, a lot of you responded back!  Apparently I'm not the only who hates raisins, hooray!  But, like with all things, I quickly discovered that not matter what recipe I developed, it wasn't going to please everybody...   

You see, I couldn't very well make the BEST ever carrot cake out there, no matter how hard I tried, because there truly is no "best" anything.  Everyone has different taste and preferences.  Instead, I attempted to make the most flavorful and tender carrot cake possible with several variations to suite all your carrot cake needs.

Carrot Cake Recipe with buttercream flowers
Carrot Cake Recipe with buttercream flowers

First of all, I think a carrot cake needs to be (excuse me for this horrible word) moist.  It should be tender and never too dense.  We are making cake here, not the equivalent to banana bread, and not traditional fruit cake either.  In other words, don't shy away from a bit of oil.  Sometimes a good amount of fat is needed.  Although most of my other layer cakes are baked with creamed butter, I prefer a neutral tasting oil here (like grapeseed or canola oil).   

In addition to oil/fat, I typically add crushed pineapple to moisten and flavor my carrot cakes.  I understand that not everyone keeps a spare can of pineapples around, but equal parts applesauce will also do the trick.  In a pinch, you could even substitute for about a cup of mashed bananas (although I personally have not tested this yet).  Weary of adding pineapples to your cake?  You should definitely try hummingbird cake next =)

Next, are you for nuts or not?  I like the idea of walnuts.  They add an additional level of earthiness and texture.  At the same time, I personally don't care for large chunks of nuts (or anything, really) within my cake.  Instead, I opted for ground walnuts.  This way, you get that subtle nutty flavor but with a cake that is more texturally pleasing.  Be sure not to grind too far though!  Not into walnuts?  Try substituting for almond meal.  Hate nuts all together?  Replace the ground walnuts with 1/3 cup all-purpose flour.

Raisins.  I think we can all agree here that you either hate 'em or love 'em.  At least when it comes to cake.  I opted to leave them out.  If you must, add about 1/2 to 1 cup with the shredded carrots.

With carrot cake, as with most other baked goods, I believe any additional spices should play supporting roles.  There should be no need to drown out the flavors with spoons of cinnamon or any other spice.  I do love a touch of cinnamon for warmth though (and nutmeg, too), but not need to overwhelm the tender cake.  Love cloves?  Cardamom?  Feel free to experiment a little here and adjust the spices to your own taste.

I was baking banana cake recently.  As I was gathering ingredients, I realized I was out of brown sugar.  I decided to continue on with plain white sugar.  As the cake baked, the kitchen began to fill with yummy scents of cinnamon, ripe banana, and baked goodness.  I was so excited to sneak a taste test, but was then struck down with disappointment.  I've become so used to swapping in brown sugar for a portion of the white sugar that I missing that deeper, slightly more caramel flavor almost immediately.  The same goes for carrot cake.  I love adding both white and brown sugar.  I just think the brown sugar adds more dimension and depth of flavor.  Try using a combo of both as I've done here, or even go all brown or even deep muscovado sugar - Yum!

Lastly, the carrots themselves.  If you are only making one cake, just shred them yourself.  No need to pull out or dirty the food processor either.  Grating just 3 to 4 carrots with the large holes of a box grater takes only a few minutes (unless you prefer washing your food processor, hehe).  I find the bags of pre-shredded carrots to be a bit thick.  When quickly grated at home, the carrot pieces are finer and nearly melt into the cake. To measure, loosely pack the shredded carrots.  No need to drain them either, like you would with a zucchini cake.

I lied.  The last thing is the FROSTING!  Part of me thinks that carrot cake was invented just as a vehicle for consuming large amounts of delicious cream cheese frosting.  Cream cheese frosting should have some flavor to it though, in my opinion, not just sugar.  I've provided options for both vanilla bean and lemon cream cheese frosting variations below.  Either way, I prefer to add as little sugar as possible (but enough so that the filling doesn't squish out the sides) and to whip it for at least about 3 minutes.

Carrot Cake Recipe with buttercream flowers
Carrot Cake Recipe with buttercream flowers

Best Carrot Cake Recipe*
¾ cup ground walnuts, toasted**
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¾ cup grapeseed or canola oil
1 ¼ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
zest of one orange (optional)
4 large eggs
3 cups shredded carrots
8 ounces crushed pineapple or applesauce***

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans as set aside.

Grind about 1 cup of toasted walnuts in a small food processor or spice/coffee grinder.  Small chunks of walnut is okay, but be sure not to grind too far or it will start to become more of a paste.  Measure out 3/4 cup and set aside.

Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together both sugars, eggs, and orange zest (if using).  Stream in the oil and mix until combined.  Working in two batches, gently stir in the dry ingredients.  Stir in the ground walnuts.

Lastly, fold in the shredded carrots and pineapple until combined.

Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pans.  Bake for 28 to 32 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes come out clean.  Cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.

* In my humble opinion =)
** The ground walnuts may be replaced with equal amounts almond flour or 1/3 cup all-purpose flour.  A great tip for cleaning out your spice/coffee grinder in between uses it to grind up a small bit (like a tablespoon) of uncooked white rice (I read this is Luisa Weiss' Classic German Baking)
*** I have not tested this, but I bet you could replace the pineapple with a cup of mashed bananas as well (sort of like in this recipe)

Cream Cheese Frosting
12 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 to 5 cups confectioners sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons whole milk
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
seeds from ½ vanilla bean or zest of one lemon (optional)

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth.  With the mixer on low, mix in the remaining ingredients until just combined.  Once incorporated, turn up the mixer to medium-high and beat until fluffy.  Adjust the sugar and milk until your desired consistency in achieved.

Assembly
Once the cakes have cooled, gently cut them in half horizontally to create 4 even layers (this step is optional, but then you get to add more cream cheese filling – yummy!).  Fill each layer with about 3/4 cup of the cream cheese frosting.  Crumb coat the cake and chill for about 15 minutes.  Frost with the remaining cream cheese frosting and decorate as desired.

For the buttercream flower crown, I used my favorite Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  I tinted it with pastel yellow, peach, and a little fuchsia.  I like the blend the different shades together as I go to create a color palette that really coordinates.  I currently don't have a full tutorial of how to pipe each blossom (coming soon!), but you can find more info on the buttercream rose here and how to assemble here.  For a video of me piping the rose, click here!!  All of the flowers were piped using a petal tip, either 103 or 104.  The English roses are similar to the rose from the video, but instead of a cone-shaped in the center, I piped two centric circles of ruffles before starting the outer petals.  For the 5-petal blossoms, check out this video.  Before the buttercream sets, add a few tiny white sprinkles.

One final tip for the flowers – I like to pipe them each on individual squares of parchment paper.  I then pop them into the fridge so that the buttercream hardens.  This way, you just peel off the parchment then arrange the flowers on the cake.  They are much easier to arrange once chilled and are less subject to bumps and bruises.

Retro Cherry Chip Layer Cake

Cherry Chip Cake with chocolate ganache, vanilla whipped buttercream, and a retro, diner-inspired finish.

Cherry Chip Cake with chocolate ganache and whipped vanilla buttercream.

This cake is so much fun!!  A bright pink interior from sugary sweet maraschino cherries with Tiffany blue buttercream?  Yes, this cake certainly is a dream.  But really – I've been thinking and dreaming about this cake for over a year now.  I am constantly brainstorming new cake flavors and decoration ideas.  This one in particular (blue frosting and all) popped into my brain last winter, and I am so excited to finally share it with you all!

Cherry Chip Cake with chocolate ganache and whipped vanilla buttercream.
Cherry Chip Cake with chocolate ganache and whipped vanilla buttercream.
Cherry Chip Cake with chocolate ganache and whipped vanilla buttercream.
Cherry Chip Cake with chocolate ganache and whipped vanilla buttercream.

Between holiday baking and seasonal assignments, this fun, whimsical cake kept getting pushed to the back-burner.  I kept it on my "to-bake" list month after month.  The idea waited patiently as berry season came and went, while my short obsession for braided pie crust took up all of fall 2016, and for my brief trial with gluten-free baking to last just long enough to stock up on a dozen different alternative flours that have now been pushed to the back of the pantry.

But as winter rolled around again, this cake idea floated back up to the top of the list.  When the only produce in season is citrus and you need something bright and playful to chase away the winter blues, jarred cherries and artificial hues come to the rescue!!  

For as long as I've been decorating cakes, I've been wanting to make a cake inspired by my favorite Wayne Thiebaud paintings.  He attended college in my hometown of Sacramento, CA and even taught at my Alma mater, UC Davis, so I've always felt a small connection to his work.  Plus cake, obviously (Does anyone know if they are still on display at the Crocker Art Museum?).  This cherry cake is not quite like his paintings, but the swag detail is definitely similar.  One day, I would LOVE to create a scene of cakes that replicates this famous painting, but today I will settle for a Thiebaud X retro diner cake "swag" instead.  

Cherry Chip Cake with chocolate ganache and whipped vanilla buttercream.
Packed with maraschino cherries and decorated with an almost retro feel, this cake naturally comes with a sweet side of nostalgia. I imagine it being served at a diner with checkerboard floors and red vinyl booths or at a soda shoppe, where everything is topped with whipped cream and bright red cherries. The pale Tiffany blue frosting was begging to be paired with the pink interior. For whatever reason, blue is often synonymous with vanilla-flavored candies (when not representing the ambiguous “blue raspberry” ??), and in this cake, I think the color brings everything to life.
— Tessa Huff for The Cake Blog

As you can imagine, the cake here itself is fairly sweet.  Studded with maraschino cherries, the pink hued layers will have your tastebuds dancing in no time.  My recipes tend to encompass all sorts of ingredients and styles from rustic bakes using wholesome grains and seasonal produce to death-by-chocoalte pastries and technicolored cakes.  This cake definitely lies on the playful, sugar-filled end of the spectrum.  To help balance out the flavors, a thin layer of bittersweet ganache is spread between the cherry chip cake and whipped vanilla frosting.

Cherry Chip Cake with chocolate ganache and whipped vanilla buttercream.

Head on over to The Cake Blog for the full recipe!!

Rainbow Polka Dot Cake

A whimsical "surprise-inside" cake with pastel rainbow polka dots and soft watercolour frosting.

Rainbow Polka Dot Cake

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  The recipes you can typically expect on this blog range from rustic to classic to playful.  Sometimes the desserts are left au naturel while others are adorned with sprinkles, candy-coated decorations, and lots of color.  What seemed to be lacking in recent months/years was something in the RAINBOW category!  In honor of little green leprechauns chasing after pots of gold, I'm excited to share my own rainbow treat.

Rainbow Polka Dot Cake

On the outside, this fairly unassuming layer cake is cute and slightly dressed up already with a few piped details and swoosh of my favorite ocean blue.  Had I shared this image first, then you would have had no idea what secrets are hidden inside.  As it is here, this cake looks like what you can typically expect from me here on Style Sweet CA.  But, BAMM!!  One slice reveals an entire party inside!!

Is it just me or are rainbows and unicorns having a moment right now?  I swear I see this adorable unicorn cake pop up on my news feed at least a dozen times a week.  For me, I try to embrace the latest trends, but only when they are a natural fit.  This polka dot cake really seemed to fit the bill and was a fun way to interject a pop of "rainbow" into one of my cakes for spring.

Rainbow Polka Dot Cake
Rainbow Polka Dot Cake
Rainbow Polka Dot Cake

To be honest, pinning down this recipe did take some major trial and error.  In order to keep the polka dots floating within each layer and appear seemingly random yet abundant, I needed to create a ton of mini cake balls.  The base batter had to thick enough to suspend the cake balls as well.  In the end, I rolled the polka dots cake bites into balls about the size of a grape – and a lot of them, at that.

You can find the entire recipe and assembly method here at Dairyland.ca

 

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