Mallory and I have been taking a calligraphy class these past few weeks. It’s so much fun. And hard work. Man, sometimes I just feel like my letters have little minds of their own. But I’m working on reigning them in. (More later? Perhaps, if I ever make anything good enough to show you.)
Anyway, at the beginning of our class we realized one of our classmates, Megan, had been in our cake class last summer. As we reminisced about cake class, our calligraphy teacher let it (subtly) be know that she had a birthday at the end of the month and she had always wanted a cool cake with flowers on it. Well, it’s the end of the month. So last class, Mallory and I made her a cake and decorated it. We chose to do ombre roses for the frosting and it turned out soooo cool. Plus, the cake tasted pretty good, too.
I made the cake based off a Mrs. Field’s recipe. This is one of my favorite cakes to take into the “unknown.” It’s perfect for presenting to a person or group whose tastes you might not know. Not everyone loves chocolate as much as I do (although I can’t understand why), and some people have aversions to fruit and other things. So a vanilla speckled cake is really the way to go. It is rich and good, without being too chocolatey or not chocolatey enough. Your really can’t go wrong with this baby.
Vanilla Speckled Cake
- 3 cups minus 6 Tablespoons flour, thoroughly sifted
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup vanilla Greek Yogurt
- 6 large egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons milk, at room temperature
- 6 ounces (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 350. Prepare two 9-inch cake pans and set aside.
In a medium bowl, use a fork to sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in the vanilla yogurt. Add the egg yolks one at at time, beating well between each. In three additions, alternately stir in the flour mixture and the milk, beating well to combine after each addition. Fold in the chopped chocolate. (Yes, it is actually important that you finely chop your chocolate chips, otherwise they will be too heavy and will all sink to the bottom of the cake while it is baking. And folding means that you use a spatula or wooden spoon to gently lift your batter in a cranking motion to incorporate the chocolate chips – it is not stirring.)
Divide the batter (it will be thick) between the two pans and spread until even. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a fork inserted into the center comes out clean. Be careful not to overcook this cake – it is very dense and so burning it would really not work out well. Cool the cakes in their pans for 10 minutes and then on wire racks for 20 minutes. Level if necessary. (That’s when you cut off the rounded top of the cakes so they will fit together well. You can do it with either a long knife or a cake leveler.)
To frost the cake, we made the regular vanilla buttercream frosting. Usually, I add some almond flavoring, but I didn’t because I wanted to keep this one nice and vanilla-y.
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
- 2 lbs powdered sugar
- 1 Tablespoon clear vanilla extract
- 4-6 Tablespoons milk or water*
- Food coloring of your choice (we used Wilton’s Violet)
In a medium mixing bowl, cream the butter on low. Still beating on low, gradually incorporate the powdered sugar and vanilla. Add the milk or water, one tablespoon at a time, until you have reached your desired consistency of frosting. Add a small amount of food coloring, still beating on low.
Once you are happy with the lightest shade of your ombre palette, ice the entire cake using a spatula or knife, so as to avoid icing holes where the roses don’t quite line up.
Begin with a center rose and then add an outer circle of your lightest shade. Then add more food coloring to the frosting to darken it slightly and make the next circle of roses. Keep adding the food coloring after each row is done. This way, you don’t have to worry about dying your different colors ahead of time and possibly running out of a certain shade… because that would be a very difficult mistake to fix.
The all-over roses were really quite simple (well, at least for Mallory. She’s a rose pro. I’m still working on my certification.), but they turned out so beautifully. I think even if I am just frosting with chocolate icing from now on I am going to use this method, sans the ombre effect. It looks so finished and put together, and isn’t really as time intensive as some other decorating methods.
Anyway, I just loved how this cake turned out. Thanks, Mallory, for making my ombre rose icing dreams a reality. What would I do without you to execute all my perfect plans? I felt pretty cool walking into calligraphy class with this looking so awesome. 🙂