Vanilla Cake Layers:
Note - this is a scaled (x1.5) and modified layer cake recipe from ChelSweets.com - I highly recommend checking out her site if you haven't before; it's amazing!!
4 7/8 c. all-purpose flour
4 1/2 c. granulated sugar
3 3/4 t. baking powder
1 ½ t. salt
1 ½ cup unsalted butter (or 3 sticks) room temperature
3 t. clear vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups buttermilk, room temperature
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line three 8-inch cake pans and three six-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 the prepared cake pans (I used a kitchen scale for this part so I wouldn’t need so many bowls!) Pour about 300 grams into each of the 6” pans. Divide the rest of the batter into the remaining pans – I ended up with about 690g in my large pans. The kitchen scale guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height.
Bake for 35-37 minutes, (or until a skewer 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.
While you’re waiting…make your frosting and/or your Mickey topper!
Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:
12 oz (one and a half packages) cream cheese, softened
16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened
10 c powdered sugar
3 T clear vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt (if using unsalted butter)
1/4-1/2 cup whipping/heavy cream
(Add now or save and add later if you’d rather fill/crumb-coat with white frosting) – 4-5 large drops red gel food color (I used Americolor Super Red)
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with whipping cream until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add vanilla and salt and beat until well combined.
If you’d rather use less gel color, you can fill/crumb-coat your cake layers in white frosting and make just your outer layer red. If you’d rather use all red frosting, add your gel color now!
- 1 8- or 10 -inch cardboard cake circle (I prefer Wilton’s center-punched circles) and 1 six-inch cake board – one option is to buy a set like this one that contains a variety of cake circle sizes and trimmable dowels
- Small piping bag & tip – this set has been one of my favorites!
- 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)
- A set of circle cutters (here’s a link to my favorite circle cutter set!) or a jar lid or measuring cup
- Black fondant (for base border / cake topper (see below) – I used about 6 oz)
- Yellow fondant (for ‘feet,’ decorations and top tier border) – I used a 4 oz pack) - (+Optional – I found shaping Mickey’s feet with these ice cream/cakesicle molds the easiest way to make them even!)
- White fondant (for buttons) – you only need a little bit of this, so you could cut slices from a marshmallow for the buttons if you wanted to leave off the number and lettering. Or there’s a combo pack of white/black/yellow fondant available here! You could also use letter and number cutters to make your decorations.
- small new or food-safe paintbrush+ a bit of black gel color (I used Americolor Super black)
- large red, black, and yellow sugar pearl sprinkles
Mickey Mouse Topper:
- 4” craft foam half-sphere – I’ve purchased these at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby, but they’re also available online! - Black fondant (for border / cake topper (see below) – I used about 6 oz)
- Light tan fondant – only way I’ve found to buy this is in a multi-pack like this one, or you can color your own with a bit of brown kneaded into white fondant
- White fondant (you’ll also need a bit of this for the gloves)
- Black adhesive-backed craft foam (I found some with an adherent back; you’ll need a bit of glue if using regular craft foam) + 2 toothpicks/skewers and a circle cutter or a jar lid
Topper assembly: Cover your sphere in fondant, using a bit of corn syrup to help it stick if needed. Cut an ‘M’ shape out of tan fondant and two ovals out of white / two smaller ovals out of black fondant. Roll a small black slightly oblong ball for the nose.
With a circle cutter or jar lid, cut 4 identical craft foam circles. Place a toothpick halfway onto each of 2 circles, and with the backing adherent (or glue if using regular craft foam), press 2 circles together form each of Mickeys ears. I added the ears once the sphere was on the cake – you can add them whenever!
I free-handed the gloves on paper and traced them, but there are plenty of templates available online! I opted to paint the little lines on at the end so I didn’t smear them in the transfer.
Once your cakes are cool, level them (if needed/desired; these cakes usually bake fairly flat so I didn’t trim much from the tops). This can be done with a cake leveler or a large serrated knife and a ruler. Place a smear of frosting on your large cake circle (to keep the cake from sliding while you decorate it) and center your large first cake layer in the center of the circle.
Spread the layer with frosting, and add your next cake layer on top. Repeat the process with your remaining cake layers.
Next, repeat the same process with your smaller cardboard circle and cake layers. Of note – if your circles aren’t pre-center-punched, be sure to grab a dowel or straw and make your own hole in the exact center of the circle! This will allow you to center the tier on the base tier later on.
Now you're ready to 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.
Once your crumb coats have set (this takes about 5-10 minutes in the fridge), add your final layers of frosting and smooth (white for the base tier, red for the top). I like to use an offset spatula and bench scraper for this part. For my larger tier, I was able to smooth the frosting fairly well free-handed, but I struggled getting the sides smooth on my smaller one. Trimming my smaller cake layers slightly smaller than my cake circle and using the cardboard as a guide worked well!
Place both tiers into the fridge to set the frosting – I think this makes stacking easier.
Okaaaay. The stacking process!
I watched a few tutorials before I made my first tiered cake, and ‘How to Make a Tiered Cake’ by Chelsweets was my favorite.
Basically, doweling a tiered cake is done to ensure that the top tier doesn’t crush the lower tier, as well as keeping it centered. I used four shorter cut-to-height plastic straws for my base tier dowels, and one taller one cut at an angle in the center to hold my top tier in place.
Grab your ruler for this next part! Since I was centering a 6-inch cake on top of an 8-inch cake, I pushed the straws down into the base tier just over one inch from the cake edge, placing them evenly at quarter intervals around the cake. Place your last, tallest straw or dowel into the exact center of the cake, making sure to keep it straight up as you press down. Now you’re ready – center the hole in the bottom of your top tier cake circle over the tallest dowel and let the top tier gently down onto the base tier. The dowel will poke into the center of the top tier to hold it in place.
Pat yourself on the back; you did it! I found that my cardboard cake circle showed more than I was happy with, so I used a fondant border (cut with my ruler) to hide it.
Now the fun part – decorations! (See above for topper assembly)
Cut two small white circles, and press small ‘buttonholes’ into the circles with a butter knife, and press them onto the side of the top tier.
Roll out your fondant with a rolling pin and a bit of cornstarch if needed.
Cut a ½” yellow fondant strip (I used a ruler as a guide) and a ½” black fondant strip and wrap the yellow around the top and black around the base tier – I found this easier to do in 2 strips than trying to transfer 1 super-long one.
Add black, red, and yellow sugar pearls around the bottom tier of the cake – (alternatively, you could use these to replace the fondant strips around the tier bases!)
Place your cake topper on top of the cake, and add three small lines to each of Mickey’s hands…
Annnd you’re done! Congratulations!