Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Bean Icing

Every couple of months DH gets together with a group of friends and they sit around catching up about various topics that are generally uninteresting to women. Last time he went, they ended up staying for hours with no food so I told him next time he goes, I will make them a luscious delight to tide them over.

With another gathering coming up, DH asked me to make them a cake and instantly I had visions of myself whipping up a dessert I've wanted to try for ages but not had the opportuniy to make. But to my dismay, DH asked for a simple vanilla cake with vanilla frosting. This has been his favourite cake ever since I made it a few months ago.

Vanilla cake can either make you or break you. It’s such a simple cake but can be hard to master. When I was looking for a great recipe, I went straight to Sweetapolita’s blog for a look around in her recipe collection. And there it was, Fluffy Vanilla Cake with Whipped Vanilla Bean Icing . Instantly the white on white attracted me, as well as the bowl of whipped icing. Sweetapolita always takes the most beautiful photos.

As vanilla bean can be quite expensive, about $6+ from regular supermarkets, you may wish to substitute for vanilla extract. Warning this will change the flavour and overall look of the icing (the vanilla bean gives the icing a lovely speckled look). Bakers commonly tell you that all your ingredients should be room temperature, I’ve never found a good reason for this. All of my cakes have turned out fine with non-room temperature ingredients. In saying that, one day soon I will do an experiment to test my theory. If you are able to plan ahead, and you want to have your ingredients at room temperature, take the eggs, milk and butter out of the fridge about an hour before you start. I also don’t sift dry ingredients. To read why, and what I do instead, visit here 

Please visit my Facebook page here for more step by step photos. The following recipe is adapted from Sweetapolita’s Fluffy Vanilla Cake with Whipped Vanilla Bean Icing.

What you will need for the cake:
5 large egg whites (about 150 grams)
¾ Cup whole milk
2¼ tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
2¾ Cups cake flour, sifted
1¾ Cups Sugar
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Baking Powder
¾ tsp Salt
12 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, cut into cubes
As always, prepare cake tins first, in this case 2 x 20cm (8”) rouch cake tins and preheat the oven to 180°C. Next mix the eggwhites, ¼ cup milk and the vanilla in a small bowl and set aside.

Using a MixMaster (or similar) with the paddle attachment (or similar), mix the dry ingredients on low for about 30 seconds.
Butter and flour
Add the remaining milk (about ½ cup) and still on low speed, mix until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 1½ minutes. At this point, scrape the sides of the bowl and then start adding the egg mixture in 3 separate batches. After each addition, beat for 20 seconds on medium.

Completed batter
Divide the batter evenly into both cake tins and ensure the mixture is spread evenly by gently banging the tins on the counter top (this also eradicates any air bubbles). Bake in the oven for about 25-35 minutes or until the cake springs back under your touch (this is a great time to make your icing).

Into 2 tins
Sweetapolita warns not to open the oven before 20 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the tins on racks for 10 minutes before allowing them to cool out of the tins. If you don’t want to use these cakes straight away you can wrap in cling wrap and store at room temperature for 2 days, keep them in the fridge for 5 days or freeze for 2 months.

While the cakes are baking, you can whip up the vanilla bean icing.

What you will need for the Icing:
347g + 28g Unsalted Butter, cut into cubes
3 Cups Icing Sugar
3 Tbsp milk
1 Vanilla Bean, scraped
1 tsp Pure Vanilla Bean Extract or 1½ tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
Pinch Salt

Icing ingredients

A vanilla bean 
Using a MixMaster with the paddle attachment (or similar), whip the butter for about 8 minutes on medium speed, or until the butter is pale and creamy. Next add all the other ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute and a further 6 minutes on medium. I always taste the icing during this 6 minutes. You will know if you want the icing to be sweeter or not, in which case you can add more vanilla extract and/or icing sugar. Just add small amounts at a time because you don't want to make the icing too sickly sweet. I would add no more than 1 extra cup of icing sugar or 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract and probably not both.

Half way through 
 After the 6 minutes the icing will be very fluffy. The icing is best when used straight away.
Completed icing
When the cakes have cooled, coat one cake with some of the icing, place the second cake on top, and cover the cakes with the remaining icing.
Icing sandwiched between the two cakes
It is more of a time consuming cake than a difficult one. Stick to the times as they really do make a difference, especially with the icing. Give it a go, it’s a great Sunday afternoon tea cake.

The completed cake (sorry about the poor photo)
and no cut cake photo, I wasn't there when it was cut and eaten
This is a great birthday cake option, and you can adapt the recipe to make cupcakes if you prefer.

Next time I make it I will ensure that I get a good cut photo and a better display photo. The cake was too big to keep transporting from plate to plate.


  1. Followed a link here from your comment on Brave Tart's Choc Chip Cookie post (I know, right? Nutmeg & a chocolate garnish; who'd have thought?)
    Good to see someone else's opinion on a Sweetapolita vanilla cake recipe - I get so overwhelmed by the sheer number of vanilla cakes she does that I have no idea which one to choose! Maybe I'll have to try this one...
    (ps is that a Breville mixer I see? Looks the same as mine!) :)

  2. I know how you feel about Sweetapolita and she has just posted about a new vanilla cake which I'll have to check out. Definately give this one a go. My husband loves it, says it's the best vanilla cake I've ever made. Yes I believe it is a Breville. I love it. It's one of the most hard working pieces of machinery in my kitchen.

  3. I have made a few of her recipes... I just love her and those gorgeous pictures. I have succeeded and failed at that frosting. When you get it right though, wow! yummy. It is good to see another review. Thanks

  4. Dawn I've also made a few of her recipes and they have failed but this was my first success. It's well worth trying again until you get it right, just like you say.