Vanilla Cake Layers:
Note - this is a halved vanilla layer cake recipe from ChelSweets.com - I highly recommend checking out her site if you haven't before; it's amazing!!
1 ½ c + 2T all purpose flour
1 ½ c. granulated sugar
1 1/4 t. baking powder
½ t. salt
½ cup unsalted butter (or 1 stick) room temperature
1 t. vanilla extract
½ c egg whites
¾ c buttermilk, room temperature
2 T vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two six-inch pans with parchment rounds, and grease with non-stick 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 egg whites, 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.
Bake for 35-38 minutes (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.
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
Reserve and add later –
1-2 drops pink (or red) food coloring
1-2 drops green food coloring
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add vanilla and salt and beat until well combined. Remove about ½ c of frosting and color a light green – you’ll use this to pipe leaves a bit later. Stir pink or red food coloring into the rest of the frosting until it reaches your desired color – it took me 2-3 drops of red food coloring to get the pink shade I wanted, so be careful if you’re using a gel food color.
This may make more frosting than you need for a small cake, but it doesn’t hurt to have extra – I made a full recipe when I put this cake together, and had some leftover. I was worried that a ½ recipe wouldn’t be enough though, so I posted the full recipe.
- 1 6- or 7-inch cardboard cake circle
- small / large piping bag & small / large tips
- Brown fondant – you can purchase this or make your own! Recipe below (Note – the recipe recommends making the fondant several hours or the day before you want to use it – it molds the best after some resting time.)
- stem- or antler-shaped fondant mold, or a cutting board, skewers, toothpicks, and a small knife
- Cake leveler, cake turntable, offset spatula, and bench scraper - not all 100% necessary but incredibly helpful!
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 first cake layer in the center of the circle. Spread the layer with frosting. Repeat the process with your remaining cake layers.
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), 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.
Once your cake is frosted, you’re ready to decorate!
I used pink icing swirls, some green frosting for leaves, and some and brown fondant – fondant can be purchased, or it’s fairly easy and significantly cheaper to make your own! I used Amy’s Confectionary Adventures recipe for chocolate marshmallow fondant –
Chocolate Marshmallow Fondant
1 (16 oz) bag Jet Puffed Mini Marshmallows
3 oz dark cocoa candy melts or semi sweet chocolate
3 tbsp light corn syrup
½ cup cocoa powder, sifted
3 ½ - 4 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
Solid vegetable shortening
Place the marshmallows, chocolate, and corn syrup into a microwave safe, glass bowl. Microwave in 30-second increments, stirring well each 30 seconds, until the marshmallows and chocolate are completely melted and smooth (total time will be around 2 ½ minutes).
Generously grease the counter and your hands with shortening. Stir the cocoa power and 3 ½ cups of confectioner’s sugar in to the melted marshmallow mixture, then turn out onto the greased countertop. Knead the confectioner’s sugar mixture into the melted marshmallows, adding shortening to your hands, as needed, to prevent sticking.
Continue kneading until the mixture forms a smooth, slightly tacky ball, working in up to an additional cup of confectioner’s sugar, as needed.
Cover the fondant in a layer of shortening and cover tightly in plastic wrap for 15 minutes or until ready to use. Chocolate MM fondant may be used right away (after a 15 minute resting period) or within a few days. Once the fondant cools, if may harden slightly. Heat it for up to 10 seconds in the microwave to help with pliability.
Whichever type of fondant you decide to use, soften it slightly in the microwave and then roll it out into a large sheet on a cutting board or clean countertop. Use a fondant mold or a knife/skewers/toothpicks/your fingers to make tree trunks and deer antlers from the marshmallow fondant and press them into the top and around the sides of the cake.
Transfer your green frosting to a piping bag fitted with a teardrop-shaped tip – it doesn’t hurt to do some practice leaves onto a plate or paper towel if this is your first time piping them. Pipe leaves onto the ‘tree trunks’ on the sides of the cake – and you're done! Enjoy watching the cake smashing!
Make this recipe? Let me know how it went - or find me on Instagram and tag @IntensiveCakeUnit in your photo!