A year ago, my friend gave birth to her son after a grueling 38-hour labor. Today, I spent my evening making Rowan’s first birthday cake.
Theresa e-mailed me a couple of weeks ago and asked if she could hire me to make his cake. I, of course, agreed without hesitation. We talked a little bit about themes, things Rowan likes, and what would work for a cake. She also expressed interest in having a small smash cake just for Rowan. One of the first things she mentioned to me was monkeys, and when I started googling for ideas, I came across a few pictures of monkey cakes with banana smash cakes. Perfect.
And so I set out designing and creating my own. Here is the finished product:
For the cake itself, I decided to try out yet another new white cake recipe. I sampled the scraps, and it was delicious! The texture was fluffy and springy, and the almond extract adds a wonderful flavor to it that’s different than your traditional white/vanilla.
Classic White Layer Cake
(Source: Cooks Illustrated, as seen on The Way the Cookie Crumbles)
CI note: If you have forgotten to bring the milk and egg white mixture to room temperature, set the bottom of the glass measure containing it in a sink of hot water and stir until the mixture feels cool rather than cold, around 65 degrees. Cake layers can be wrapped and stored for one day.
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 2 1/4 cups cake flour (9 ounces), plus more for dusting the pans
- 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
- 6 large egg whites (3/4 cup), at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons almond extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened but still cool
1. For the Cake: Set oven rack in middle position. (If oven is too small to cook both layers on a single rack, set racks in upper-middle and lower-middle positions.) Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds. Spray the paper rounds, dust the pans with flour, and invert pans and rap sharply to remove excess flour.
2. Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended.
3. Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.
4. Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1.5 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer.
5. Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans; using rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from the oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation.) Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes.
6. Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto wire racks. Reinvert onto additional wire racks. Let cool completely, about 1.5 hours.
AboutI'm Heather. I just turned 30. I'm happily married, and mommy to the most beautiful little girl in the world (what, you're saying I could be biased?). Determined DIYer and homeowner. Sarcastic. A perfectionist. A bleeding-heart liberal. Frugal. Loves a little dog way more than many humans. Loves food, hates exercise (it's an ongoing battle). A loyal football fan. I love to laugh. Value family and friends above all else. Vie to be a world traveler.