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
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 the prepared cake pans (I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part). This guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height.
Note: I used a red/white/blue theme for 4th of July with this one – you can color your cake layers whatever color you like or not at all!
(I actually made two sets of cake layers and used pieces of one to make an American Flag cake and the leftover layers from that cake went into this one! Color of the layers is up to you! )
Bake for 35-37 minutes if using 8-inch pans, or 37-38 minutes for 7-inch cake pans (or until a skewer comes out clean). Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers into the freezer for 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process.
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!
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)
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.
- 2 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!)
- 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)
- Squeeze bottle OR piping bag OR spoon – whatever you’d prefer to add your drips to the cake
- Large piping bag & tip – I use this set of reusable large bags & tips more than almost any of my others!
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 coat has set (this takes about 5-10 minutes in the fridge or freezer), 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 or freezer for 10-15 minutes to set the frosting.
Candy Melt Drip:
- 4 oz red and blue candy melts (I use the Wilton brand)
- 2 ½ Tablespoons heavy whipping cream (the brand I usually use comes from Costco and is incredibly thick; you may need a bit less depending on the thickness of your heavy cream!)
This recipe is very similar to my white chocolate ganache recipe – you’re basically using candy melts instead of white chocolate to make a very similar drip ganache. Place heavy cream and candy melts in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave on 50% power in 30-second intervals until smooth, stirring in between.
I used small zip-lock bags to add the drips since my squeeze bottles were full of chocolate ganache and caramel. I’ve used squeeze bottles before though, and I find them to be the easiest to work with if you’re new to drip cakes! (A spoon will also work in a pinch.)
When your candy melt mixes have cooled to a moderate temperature – it should feel slightly warm and still be fairly liquid – transfer it to a squeeze bottle or piping or small ziplock bag. Slowly drizzle ganache around the upper edge of your cake, pausing every inch or so to let more fall in a drip down the side of the cake. Return cake to the fridge or freezer for about 15 minutes to set the drips and make sure the frosting is firm.
Okaaay – now the freaky part! Center your second cake circle on top of your cake. Slide one hand underneath the bottom cake circle and place the other hand on top, and flip your cake over – this part can feel a little scary on the first go, but if your drips and frosting have set in the freezer you shouldn’t have any problems! Remove the now-the-top cake circle, and add a layer of frosting and smooth. I used my offset spatula and bench scraper again.
Repeat the drip process, working slowly to try and keep *too* many of the drips from running into each other!
Pipe a rim of frosting around the top of the cake and add on a few sprinkles if you like – though double drip cakes look pretty impressive without any extra frills! Congratulate yourself on your amazing cake!