Thursday, May 30, 2013

Graduation Cake

      My sister graduated today, and I'm really happy for her.  So, to say congrats, I made her a cake instead of saying it directly to her face because I knew that she heard "congrats" a bazillion times already.  I'm going to miss her weirdness next year.  She's going to a college that is pretty far away from my house, but I know we'll video chat often (hopefully).  

     I decided to make a square cake because I've never actually make one before and it just seems right for graduation.  You know, birthday cakes can be round, but graduation cakes just seem like a rectangular kind of cake (and squares are rectangles).  Our school colors are blue, white and yellow, so I made a vanilla cake filled with homemade lemon curd and store-bought blueberry jam and iced with vanilla butter cream.  

Lemon curd is easy to make.  Just cream together some ingredients and cook it over a stove.

It's done cooking when it leaves a trail on the back of a wooden spoon like this.

Then you just refrigerate it until it thickens.
    The cake is perfectly tender, soft, and dense.  It's the ideal vanilla layer cake.  It's simple to make and tasty.  The lemon curd turned out well, and so did the frosting.  The recipe makes enough buttercream to give the cake a thin coat of frosting, but if you love frosting, you should double the recipe.  The buttercream is my go-to vanilla frosting.  It's rich, creamy, and sweet. Perfect for any cake/cupcake.  I'm really happy with how the cake turned out, even though the frosting was kind of sloppy (I couldn't find my piping tip!).

     I made a figurine resembling my sister.  You know, both have brown hair and a light blue graduation gown.  A few tips on making fondant decorations:  (1) Use toothpicks to hold up your figure and attach it to the cake. (2) NEVER put your decorations in the freezer or refrigerator.  The fondant may harden at first, but once you take it out, it will start sweating and become really sticky and gross.  I think it's because since the fondant is cold, a lot of water condenses on the fondant and sticks to the surface.  It's best just to leave the fondant at room temperature lightly covered in plastic wrap.  If you want it to harden, don't cover it.  

     I'm still trying to grasp the fact that my sister is going to college and that I'll be like an only child (except for my brother).  Also, I can't believe that I'll be graduating in just three years!  

To make the cake:

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
Stir in the butter.
Add vanilla and milk.
Beat in eggs.
Prepare a pan.
Spread batter in.
Bake and cool.

Vanilla Layer Cake

enough to make 1 9x13 cake, 2 9" rounds, 3" 8" rounds, 3 9"x9" squares, or 2 dozen cupcakes
recipe modified from King Arthur Flour


2 cups (397g) sugar, preferably superfine or castor sugar (or granulated sugar pulsed in a blender until fine)
3 1/4 (390g) cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, soft
1 1/4 cups milk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter and flour cake pans.  Line with wax or parchment paper and grease and flour that.  
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Add the butter and beat with an electric mixer at low speed, until the mixture looks sandy.
  4. Combine the milk and vanilla and add, all at once. Mix at low speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
  5. With the mixer running at low speed, add 1 egg. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Repeat with the second egg. Continue adding the eggs, scraping after each addition, until all 4 are added.
  6. After the last egg is added, scrape the bowl once more, then beat at medium-high speed for 30 more seconds.
  7. Transfer the batter to the pans of your choice. For layers, divide the batter equally among the pans. Smooth out the tops with an offset spatula. The whole batter weighs 48 oz so if you have a kitchen scale, you can make sure you divide the batter equally.
  8. Bake for 40 minutes for a 9" x 13" pan; 27 minutes for 9" layers; 20-25 minutes for 8" layers, or 18-23 minutes for cupcakes. The cake is done when it's golden brown around the edges and just beginning to pull away from the edge of the pan. A toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.
  9. Remove the cake and cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then remove the cake and let it cool completely before frosting.

Vanilla Buttercream

makes about 2-1/2 cups, enough to frost 12-24 cupcakes or one small cake depending on how much frosting you like
modified from Savory Sweet Life


1 cup (2 sticks, 8oz) unsalted butter, softened 
3-4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 to 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream


  1. Beat butter until smooth and creamy.  
  2. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and slowly mix with the butter until incorporated. 
  3. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat in the vanilla extract, salt, and 1 tablespoons of milk/cream. 
  4. Beat in another 1-2 cups of confectioners sugar until incorporated, and then increase the mixer speed and whip the frosting for 3 minutes.
  5. For stiffer icing (good for piping) use more sugar. For thinner icing (good for spreading) add more milk or cream.

Lemon Curd

makes about 2 cups


3 oz. (6 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon zest


  1. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer, about 2 min. Slowly add the eggs and yolks. Beat for 1 min. Mix in the lemon juice. The mixture will look curdled, but it will smooth out as it cooks.
  2. In a medium, heavy-based saucepan, cook the mixture over low heat until smooth. Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly (you don't want it to burn), until the mixture thickens, about 15 minutes.  It should leave a path on the back of a spoon and will read 170°F on a thermometer. Don't let the mixture boil. 
  3. Remove the curd from the heat; stir in the lemon zest. Transfer the curd to a bowl. Press plastic wrap on the surface of the lemon curd to keep a skin from forming and chill the curd in the refrigerator. The curd will thicken further as it cools. Covered tightly, it will keep in the refrigerator for a week and in the freezer for 2 months.

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