Vanilla Cake Layers:
Note - this is a slightly-simplified layer cake recipe from ChelSweets.com - I highly recommend checking out her site if you haven't before; it's amazing!!
3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter (or 2 sticks) room temperature
2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature (or buttermilk powder with water is an option if you can’t find liquid buttermilk at your grocery store!)
1/8 cup (28 grams) vegetable oil
(Save and add later – about 10 drops pink gel food color; I used Americolor Electric Pink)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line four 7 inch pans (for taller layers) or three 8-inch cake pans with parchment rounds, and /or grease with non-stick or baker’s floured cooking spray.
Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined.
Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.
Pour in eggs and mix on low until just incorporated. Mix in the buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed. Add in vanilla and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds.
Divide batter evenly between three bowls (or four if you’re using 7-inch pans). (I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part). This guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height. Color each bowl of batter a progressively darker shade of pink. I used about 1 drop for the top layer, 3 for the second layer, and 6 for the base layer. Pour into the prepared cake pans.
Bake for 35-37 minutes if using 8-inch pans, or 37-38 minutes for 7-inch cake pans (or until a toothpick comes out clean). Allow cake layers to cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire cooling rack before removing from pans – it helps to run an offset spatula or knife around the perimeter of the pan first. Cool completely before frosting. Set in the fridge or freezer to accelerate the cooling process if desired.
Once the layers have fully cooled, the caramelized bits can be trimmed from the sides / top of the cake using a serrated knife if desired. Be sure the layers are completely cooled or chilled before trimming. If you try to trim the layers while they’re still warm, they will crumble apart.
This is a great time to make your frosting and/or decorations!
Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:
8 oz (one package) cream cheese, softened
16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened
6-7 c powdered sugar
2-4 Tablespoons milk
1 T clear vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt (if using unsalted butter)
(Save and add later –
About 3 drops pink gel food color; I used Americolor Electric Pink
½ cup black cocoa powder, and
About 3 drops of black gel food color – I used Americolor Black
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add vanilla and salt if needed and beat until well combined.
Divide your frosting in half, and color one half pink.
Beat ½ cup of black cocoa powder (the brand I used is linked) and black food gel into the remaining half. Set aside.
- 1 8- or 10 -inch cardboard cake circle (I prefer Wilton’s center-punched circles) or an 8” acrylic cake disc (I started using these so I wouldn’t waste so many cake circles!)
- Large piping bag & tip – I use this set of reusable large bags & tips more than almost any of my others!
- Cake leveler, cake turntable, large offset spatula, and pastry cutter/bench scraper - not all 100% necessary but incredibly helpful! (Here’s a link to the cake turntable I use)
- Small offset spatula
- 2-3 ounces of fondant for decorating- fondant can be purchased,or it’s less expensive, tastier, and not too difficult to make your own! (RoseBakes Marshmallow Fondant Recipe is my current fave!)
- Small letter cutters (or you could pipe the lettering or use pre-made edible letters) – this set I found on Amazon is very similar to mine! I also found Wilton’s Cake Marker helpful in keeping my lettering on the same level.
- Optional – sprinkle mix of your choice; I used Sweetapolita’s ‘Stardust’ mix! I also used a touch of non-toxic glitter, but I’ve since started using FancySprinkle’s Prism Powders since they’re fully edible!
- Food-safe paintbrush for adding a metallic accent to your fault line
Once your cakes are cool, level them (if needed/desired). This can be done with a cake leveler or a large serrated knife and a ruler. Place a smear of frosting on your cake circle (to keep the cake from sliding while you decorate it) and center your base cake layer in the center of the circle. Spread the layer with frosting.
Repeat the process with your remaining cake layers, adding the lightest layer on top.
Now you're ready to crumb-coat – use your pink frosting for the crumb coat. If you're unfamiliar with crumb-coating, it's just what it sounds like – spreading a thin layer of frosting over the entire outside of the cake to keep crumbs out of your final layer. I usually do this with my large offset spatula.
Once your crumb coat has set (this takes about 5-10 minutes in the fridge), add your final layer of frosting and smooth. I like to use an offset spatula and bench scraper for this part. Once your cake is covered, place it into the fridge or freezer to set the frosting.
Okay! Steps and tips for creating your ‘fault line!’
Spread a layer of pink frosting the middle of your cake, covering the crumb coat. This is where you’ll put the lettering. I chose the phrase ‘Friends don’t let friends fight alone,’ but what you’d like to write is up to you! Just use a bit of parchment paper or a measuring tape to make sure it will fit around the cake. Press the lettering into the frosting, making sure they’re pressed in to about an even amount to make smoothing your next layer easier.
Now to create the ‘fault line!’ Use an offset spatula to spread black frosting around the upper border of the cake and cover the top. Take your bench scraper in several gentle swipes to smooth the frosting – be careful not to take too much off.
Of note here – your frosting will spread as you smooth it, so don’t put it on too thick right at first!
I found it the easiest to smooth the bottom layer before adding the upper layer – as suggested but @sheri.wilton (formerly CakeDesignBySheri) on Instagram. Repeat the process around the top of the cake, adding on a similar layer of frosting and smoothing it with your bench scraper.
Transfer your remaining pink frosting to a large piping bag – I used a 1B jumbo tip on mine. Pipe small swirls around the top of the cake, and add some sprinkles (optional but recommended)!
With your paintbrush, outline the edges of the ‘fault line’ you just created with a bit of edible glitter. If you’d like, you can flick the paintbrush across the top of the cake to add a bit more sparkle to the top!
Cut in and enjoy – or refrigerate until ready to serve!