Vanilla Malt Buttercream Birthday Cake

Literally a few days before Casper’s 1st Birthday, he took his first (unassisted) steps! I am both horrified and delighted by this new skill. I mean, he’s still crawling a lot–it’s more efficient–but, he’s definitely walking even if it’s more of a Tommy Pickles stumble. It’s pretty cute but, it takes all of me to not scoop him up immediately every time he stumbles.

We celebrated his first year with some family and friends with a BBQ over the weekend. Sean smoked ribs–they are seriously delicious and he deserves major props for perfecting his method– I made a nectarine and tomato salad that I’ll post here soon, and my deviled egg potato salad that I’ve been trying to perfect (and I think is just about there). I also made this cake, obvs. The cake itself is just my chocolate cupcake recipe, baked as 2 6-inch cake layers. I split each layer, so I had a total of 4 layers because I like a tall party cake. This recipe makes sturdy, stackable, easy to split layers. There’s just something about all those layers that shout “CELEBRATION!” to me. I wanted a classic cake combo and after vacillating for days I decided on a chocolate cake with basic, sugary, vanilla buttercream. I knew Casper would only have a little, so I just kind of threw caution (or mom-crazy) to the wind and went all out with his cake. Even though I wanted a basic buttercream, I had to bump up the flavor a teeny bit more and add malt powder. I love the flavor of malt in sweet, vanilla desserts and it paired so nicely with the deep, chocolatey cake. I also used my homemade vanilla extract–vanilla beans + vodka + time–I actually used the last of my batch that I’ve had for years. Literally, years. Like, 5. It was a kindergartener. So the flavor was very vanilla-y and had specks of vanilla bean, which I love seeing in frostings but any good quality (aka pure) vanilla extract would be perfect. I iced it in what I’m calling a “water color stripe”–basically I followed the method for making an ombré cake, but alternated white and colored frostings instead. It turned out pretty cute, I think, and it was easy to do. This style of frosting is totally fine if it’s imperfect, leaving plenty of room for error. I appreciate that in a frosting technique. I sprinkled the edges of the cake with little star sprinkles to make it extra festive. For the cupcakes, I piped all the remaning colors–plus some pink, since it didn’t end up on the cake itself–into another piping bag and piped it onto the cupcakes using a star tip. I sprinkled those with some star spinkles plus some disco dust (aka edible glitter) and they turned out crazy but fun. I call them “space unicorn” cupcakes.

Anyway, then I made a little paper Totoro cake topper because Casper has a “Tototo” (as he says) plush toy that he LOVES (as well as a pillow and a print in his room). Sean is a huge Studio Ghibli fan, and it’s definitely getting passed on to Casper. He hugs and kisses Tototo and it’s so cute! It kills me. Initially I wanted to make a cake like this one from Lyndsay. I was feeling overwhelmed by the idea of trying to pipe a Totoro likeness, but I can put together a paper cut-out version, so I went with that. I also stuck some super cute sparkler candles in the top–thank goodness the didn’t catch Totoro on fire! It was a concern, but he remains unscathed and cake was had by all.

 

PS, You can see the lit sparklers and the rest of the food on my Instagram feed.

Vanilla Malt Buttercream Birthday Cake
 
Prep time
Total time
 
I did 2½ times (using 5 sticks of butter) this recipe to frost and fill a 4-layer, 6-inch cake and generously frost 9 cupcakes. For the cake, I usedthisrecipe and doubled it–which gave me the 2, 6-inch, cakes and 9 cupcakes.
Author:
Serves: about 3 cups
Ingredients
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • dash of salt
  • 4 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons malt powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
Instructions
  1. Beat the butter with an electric mixer or stand mixer until smooth and creamy. Beat in the salt. Add the powdered sugar, beating on low speed 1 cup at a time, until completely incorporated. Beat in the malt powder, vanilla, and heavy cream (1 tablespoon at a time, to reach desire consistency). Continue to beat the buttercream until it is smooth, creamy, and spreadable. Add more cream or powdered sugar to get your desired consistency. Tint with gel color, if you’d like. Pipe or spread onto the cake layers and cupcakes.
Notes
Adapted from Glorious Treats

Orange Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

These days I can’t let a birthday pass without baking something festive. Something homemade and tailored to the birthday girl/boy’s specific taste. If there is ever a time to bust out a layer cake and sprinkles, it’s on a birthday.

I thought about Sean’s birthday cake for months–chocolate is always a given, and the orange was added because the dude loves the zesty-ness of oranges juxtaposed against deep, dark chocolate. I made this cake for my guy because it’s his favorite. Because he is the best guy who makes me laugh every single day, and he doesn’t even get annoyed by my constant stream-of-consciousness singing…seriously, I’m pretty sure it’s like living in a really bad musical about the minutiae of life…and in my book that’s more than enough to deserve a birthday cake.

The cake is easy to put together, with a nice crumb and perfect tenderness. Lots of orange zest makes it bright and flavorful. The chocolate frosting has sour cream that brings a bit of tang to cut the dark richness–it spreads across the cake like a dream and takes on a fudgey quality once it’s set. A heavy dose of sprinkles make it the perfect party cake. Candles and tall glasses of milk are optional, but highly recommended.

Orange Cake

Adapted from How Sweet It Is

2 3/4 cups cake flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 cup orange zest (I used 6 oranges)

3 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

3/4 cup orange juice

1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350*F. Line two 8inch round cake pans with parchment circles, grease the pans and the parchment, set aside.

In a bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large measuring cup whisk together the vanilla, orange juice, and sour cream. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, rub the orange zest into the sugar until fragrant. Add the melted butter and beat until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping the bowl after each addition.  Add half of the dry ingredients, mix gently to combine, followed by the orange-sour cream mixture to combine, followed by the remaining dry ingredients, mix until just combined. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and bake in the center of the oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pans on a cooling rack about 10 minutes before turning out and cooling completely.

Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

Adapted slightly from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes

I subbed the corn syrup for golden syrup and added extra sour cream where the recipe called from half and half. 

12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped or in chips

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter

2 Tablespoons golden syrup

pinch of salt

3/4 cup sour cream, room temperature

Melt the chocolate, butter, golden syrup, and salt over a double boiler until smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in the sour cream. Continue to whisk until spreadable, but still soft–use to frost the cake immediately. The frosting will set up to a fudge-like consistency at room temperature.