Vanilla Bean Cake

July 15, 2011

I have to admit that this cake was made for the pure celebration of the last Harry Potter movie coming out. As it is a tradition for us, our good friends and my sister came over to watch the midnight showing of the movie. So I thought that there was no better a time then to celebrate with good friends, and that a cake was a must. I found this recipe from one of my favorite cake bloggers Sweetapolita. She is a stunning cake-stress and an amazing photographer. I have been dyeing to make this fun celebration cake for some time now so I was very pleased at the chance to make it.

 In her original recipe, she pairs the cake with a simple vanilla buttercream. However, my husband, as amazing as he is, is always challenging me to take my baking to the next level and to try new things. So he challenged me to make Swiss Meringue Buttercream (or SMB); something that I was been wanting to brave but have been to weary in the past since it is such a tedious process. Lone behold, I accepted his challenge and I am so happy that I did! The main difference between SMB and buttercream is SMB is tempered over simmering water to dissolve the sugar. 

Since this was my first time making SMB I was a little nervous at first, but it was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. It held up quite nicely and when it did start to melt, it was easy to rewhip and make new again. The trick with SMB is to not give up. It may look soupy, it may look like scrambled eggs, but I promise that all you have to do is to keep patient and keep whipping. Although my SMB turned out lovely; I hit one problem. Arizona summers are quite hot, and even though I turned our air down to 70 degrees in our little apartment, it still began to melt the cake. Taking pictures turned out to be much more difficult then I thought (due to melting and lighting) so we decided to put it in the fridge for a little bit and try again later. This was quite a good technique let me add. As all of us went out to dinner, I decided it was best to keep the cake in the fridge that way it would not melt. So when we got home and decided to eat the cake, it was very chilled. I cut every one pieces and every one seemed to be enjoying the cake, except for me. I could not get over the fact that the frosting had the consistency of pure butter! Well hello self, it only has 8 sticks of butter in the frosting and when chilled it takes on the consistency of butter! So needless to say, the cake would have been MUCH more enjoyable served at room temperature (as SMB is meant to be served), and I concluded that I cannot physically do that in this heat until fall. So SMB will not be made in this home for a little while longer. 

Since I am a new baker, I am still learning the techniques that fit my baking style and that I can do using the tools that I have. One of the things that I am still learning is proportion within the cake itself. Proportion of frosting in between each layer and proportion of frosting on the outside of the cake. One of the things that I love about a cake is when you cut into it and you are able to see the many layers. Let me tell you folks, this one was not pretty. The proportion was WAY off. So that is why there are no photographs of the inside! The great thing about baking though is that you can only improve and learn from the mistakes you make! And even if it looks silly, it takes great and everyone still eats it. So never be discouraged.

Vanilla Bean Cake
yields three 9-inch round layers
adapted from Sweetapolita

for the cake:

three sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 2/3 cups sugar
9 egg whites, at room temperature
4 1/2 cups all-puropse flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste OR 1 vanilla bean, split & scraped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350º F. Butter three 9" x 2" round cake pans, line with parchment paper, and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until it has slightly increased in volume and lightened in color, 3 to 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the egg whites gradually, mixing until fully incorporated.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Mix vanilla extract, vanilla paste (or contents of vanilla bean) into buttermilk. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mixed until just incorporated. Do not over mix. 

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating once after 15 minutes. Cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean.

Let pans cool on wire rack for 10-15 minutes, then invert the cakes onto racks, gently peeling away the parchment paper. Let cool completely. 

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream
yields 10 cups buttercream
adapted from Martha Stewart

for the buttercream:

10 large egg whites
2 cups plus 4 tablespoons sugar
8 sticks unsalted butter, softened, and cut into cubes
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
pink gel coloring

Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with a paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling) making sure that the water does not reach the bottom of the bowl. Whisk constantly, until candy thermometer reaches 140º F, or until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot. 

With the whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the mixture is thick, glossy, and cool. This should take 8-10 minutes and the mixture and bowl should be cool to the touch. Switch over to the paddle attachment and, while mixing on medium speed constantly, add softened butter in chunks until incorporated, and mixture is a silky smooth texture. (If your mixture looks soupy, the butter may have been too soft, stick in the refrigerator for 15 minutes and start where you left off.) If mixture curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth. Add vanilla, salt, and any food coloring or flavorings you may want. 

What I did while making the SMB was to wrap the cooled cakes in plastic wrap and freeze them so that they would not melt the frosting. 

You can keep in airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, leaving out at room temperature when needed, and rewhipping in mixer for 5 minutes.

Can freeze for up to 6-8 weeks.


Place bottom layer face up on a plate or cake stand. Spread and smooth 1 cup frosting using a small palette knife. Repeat this step using the second layer. 

Gently place the third layer, face down, on top. Spread a thin layer, also known as a crumb coat, all over the cake using an offset palette knife. Then, using a bench scraper, gently scrape off excess frosting from the cake, for a smooth finish. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

Use remaining frosting to decorate your cake. 

Add sprinkles or any other decoration! 


Missy said...

1) Great post! and stunning pictures!
2) I want to see a picture of the inside
3) I think you should come over in the morning and bring your very pregnant sister a piece of that cake!

The Sugar Tree said...

Great job! The photo with the glass of milk is nice.

Post a Comment