Saturday, February 11, 2012

the layers of valentine's day revealed.

this is how valentine's day works.

if you have someone, you're all for it. you're like "bring on the chocolate, the cheesy cards, the hearts, the fluff, the expensive dinner-for-two and the loooove."

and if you don't have someone, you hate it. you think it's a hallmark holiday created by and for the people who do have someone. you think they created it to torture those who don't have someone "special." maybe you even see it as an excuse to make a date with ben and jerry's and the latest channing tatum flick.

whatever your take is on this day, i hope you appreciate the following recipe. because i'm basically in loooove with it. :)

here's the reason i decided to make this extravagant dessert. my parents are part of a bible study and they asked me to make the food for their valentine's dinner. obviously, i agreed.

when in my right mind would i ever turn something like that down? mm. never.

so the other parts of the meal (which were completely delicious as well) will be another post on another day, so just the fact that i'm starting with dessert should count for something!

alright, so if you're a true food-blog-lover, i feel confident that you have seen these rainbow cakes circulating. ever since seeing the first one, i wouldn't call it a strong desire... i would call it more like just looking for an excuse to make a cake that extravagant.

because making one on a tuesday afternoon for no apparent reason would be completely ridiculous... for most people.

so with this cake fantasy whirling around in my head and a menu needing to be planned, i took the plunge into rainbow cake making.

and it. was. fan. tastic.

plus i made it v-day friendly :)

and it's a true symbol of valentine's day because after all, it really is what's on the inside that counts... (sorry for the cheesiness, single ladies).

so the cake recipe i found was enough for a 6 tier cake, so a large bowl was definitely in order.

after my idea of holding the bowl up under the kitchen aid paddle attachment got shot down, i resorted to the mini handheld mixer.

then, with six bowls spread out around me, i started dividing up the batter, 2 cups at a time.

the cake itself has an almond taste with the help of some extract, which is probably the reason i chose this recipe. i'm kind of an almond extract junkie. cookies with it are my favorite... if you have any recipes, please share :)

since i wanted my version of the rainbow cake to be valentine's day-themed, i busted out the red food coloring. a drop in the first bowl, a few more in the next, until i was basically emptying the bottle into the last bowl.

it was fun playing with the different shades of pink and red. so fun, that i ended up also dying each one of my finger tips red.

at this point you would think that the most time-consuming of all tasks would be out of the way. however, i had two cake pans to work with and 6 layers to be made. so a 15 minute pop-em-in-the-oven-and-they're-done-kind-of task turned into over an hour of greasing and pouring and baking and waiting and taking out and letting cool and flipping over and regreasing and repouring and... yeah you get it.

another reason i made what seemed to be such an insane amount of batter was because i figured i was going to have to cut off a good amount of the cakes so they would be flat. however, they baked up pretty flat, that i just figured i would leave them and make up the slightly rounded edges with just a little extra frosting (ohhhh yeah, i'm getting to that!).

one by one, they came out perfectly. some sort of baking fairies must have snuck in while i was scrubbing the red food coloring off my hands and sprinkled some sort of magic fairy dust over this project. because they were all very evenly cooked and almost exactly the same size.

 i was kind of geeking out at this point, but not on any sort of level close to what i was like when it was complete.

you'll see... just keep reading, my loves.

on to the frosting!

i would just like to start off by saying two things:

first, i realize what the name of this blog is. but i must admit that light and flavorful and delightfully whipped buttercream is an exception. i'm sorry, ok, but we all have weaknesses.

and second (and much less important), i made the cakes the night before and then made the frosting the next day. i really didn't want to risk putting the frosting on even slightly lukewarm cakes. plus, it was around 8 o'clock by the time i finished the cakes. and being the baker that i am not, i was totally baker-ed out at that point. i couldn't lift another measuring cup, if you catch my drift.

so the next day, the disaster started all over again.

i decided that since i was taking on such an enormous task as making a rainbow cake, i would stick with fairly "normal" flavors my first go-around. so with my plain white almond cake i went with a simple vanilla buttercream frosting that i found here.

alice's recipe called for 2 sticks of butter and 3 cups of powdered sugar as the base. i knew it was going to be whipped but i had no real idea of what that would look like after it was done. so i made one batch.

and i was pretty confident that the 3 dollops of frosting was not about to smother all 6 beautiful layers of cakes.

so i proceeded in doubling what i had just made in order to get 3 times the original recipe.

basically what that meant was 6 full sticks of butter...

and 9 cups of powdered sugar.

i started by whipping the softened butter until it was nice and fluffy.

then came the obscene amount of sugar.

i mixed those on low in order to prevent a dust... ahem, powdered sugar storm in my kitchen. but i don't always win those battles. and apparently i didn't have my game face on that day.

anyways, eventually the butter will start to be incorporated.

first it will look very crumbly.

then it will look really sticky.

and then it will almost resemble frosting. at this point, i cranked the mixer up to medium high speed to get that lovely, powdered-sugar-dense air incorporated into it.

as that happened, i slowly added in some vanilla extract and some half and half.

i think that little bit of half and half (only 2 tablespoons per batch) really made it shine and made it look a lot less like just whipped butter.

look at all those lovely air bubbles!

just in case i somehow measured something a little differently from the first batch, i added it back into the bowl at the end just to gently fold them together. for some reason or another, i then decided to transfer this outrageously heavy amount of buttercream into a separate bowl.

sometimes i think i subconsciously want more dishes to clean in the end. because there's really no other reason.

well with the cakes baked and the frosting whipped, i was ready to assemble! eek! i started with arranging 4 small sheets of wax paper on the bottom of my cake stand around a dollop of frosting. the dollop helps make sure the cake doesn't move around and the wax paper?

stay tuned...

one by one the layers were stacked, dolloped, spread out, and stacked again...

until i had this beautiful mountain of sugar-y, cake-y goodness.

but that's not very aesthetically pleasing. well, i mean the colors are fantastic, but the whole point is to hide the best part!

so with as much grace and master-cake-making craftsmanship as i could, i slowly turned that cake into a white pillar of mystery. 

and let me tell you, i did not have a drop of buttercream to spare.

sometimes my guesstimates are scary awesome.

once it was completely covered and i liked how it looked, i slowly removed the sheets of wax paper, leaving a clean plate. you're a genius paula deen!

a couple strawberries on top because i couldn't resist and voila! 

a six layer masterpiece!

this was the point in which my geeking out reached new levels... even for me.

the worst part was that no one was home. not a soul in ear shot that could hear me making little squealing noises and literally jumping up and down and skipping around my kitchen. picture messages were even sent to friends who i knew would either (a) roll their eyes, but still smile because they knew my excitement or (b) wish they could have been there to help. it was a big moment for me. because like i said, i don't normally take on baking adventures such as these.

the best part about all of this was that i finished it around 1 in the afternoon and it was for my parents' dinner party that night. and as luck would have it, i had to work that night. so with very specific instructions not to cut it before i got back, i  reluctantly left for work. and the whole time, all i wanted to do was get back to my cake. the stuffed pork chops, the mashed potatoes, the vegetables ... they could all have been served cold for all i cared. as long as no one touched my cake, i was happy. 

because i wanted to be the one to slide the dental floss down the center of the cake (yeah, that's the trick to avoiding collapsing layers!), and reveal the hidden treasure inside the white pillar.

call me selfish, but i wanted to be the one to do it.

so they waited. thankfully, i got off work at a very reasonable time, so at least the guests weren't waiting too eagerly for my arrival.

but let's be honest. if they knew what was hidden under that enchanted buttercream, their patience would have been coming to an end much quicker.

and oh, how magical it was.

there were so many elements of suprise here.

first, there's the obvious. it's a tower of magestically cascading colors of baby pink to fire engine red all tucked in to bed under a dreamy blanket of buttercream frosting. is your mouth watering yet?

second, i had no idea i had this in me. honestly. me? frosting a 6-tier cake? git ahhta heeya.

third, and most suprising, i really want to make another one. with some notes that hit a little higher than almond and vanilla on the interesting, yet delicious scale.

so to of all you who are taken this valentine's day, make this for your other half. you're sure to woo them and anyone else who happens to see this true work of art. and to all of those who aren't...

what are you doing this tuesday? because my schedule's pretty wide open :)

Versatile White Cake

2 (18 ounce) boxes white cake mix (I used Betty Crocker)
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 2/3 cups water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 cups sour cream
8 large egg whites

Place all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir together with a wire whisk.
Add the remaining ingredients and beat for 2 minutes.
Separate into 6 separate bowls, starting with 2 cups of batter in each bowl and finishing off each bowl with the rest. Dye each bowl different colors, or start with a small amount of dye in the first bowl and work your way up to more as you go along. Pour  batter into greased cake pans. Lightly tap cake pans on counter to bring air bubbles to top.
Bake in preheated 325 degree F oven until cake tests done. Baking time depends on the size of the pans and the amount of batter in each pan.
Creamy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
(this is for one batch, keep in mind i made 3 of these!)

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3-4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
up to 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream or half and half
Beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the sugar doesn’t blow everywhere) until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 2 tablespoons of milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add more sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add remaining more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time.


  1. My. Favorite. Post. YET! Funny, informative, and fantastic all around. Excellent job, on the cake and on the blog post :-)

  2. LOVE!!
    BUT, I'm wondering where my text is? ;)

    1. haha thanks! and idk, I'm wondering where our cinnamon rolls are? :)

  3. Hmmm ... Wonder who thought up the floss :) also if you're feeling bored I would love one of these for our g'day party at Sluggers lol I feel confident that I won't be able into master it like you did!

  4. I made this yesterday and I was so pleased with how it turned out!! The taste was awesome (I love almond extract), it was moist, and it looked great! I googled how to frost a cake and a helpful hint is to frost the cake with a thin "crumb" layer, put it in the fridge until it's hard, and then put another layer on top. Worked like a charm! I also used less food coloring, so my colors ranged from white to a hot pink. It was cute! Thanks so much for sharing! :) I wish I could post pictures on here. :)