the best cake EVER

My little one’s first birthday was on Sunday, and I decided it was high time to cross one of the items off my 30 before 30 list: bake a cake from scratch that doesn’t fall. We’re planning to do cupcakes for her birthday party this Sunday, but I wanted to do a layer cake for our little family birthday dinner. The result?


Woo freaking hoo! No cake falling! Sure, my cake pans aren’t the same size (the result of lending my matching cake pans to my sister and never getting them back) but the problem was easily fixed with a little trimming.

I used the same recipe as for the margarita cupcakes I posted a few weeks ago, except I substituted lemon for the lime in the cake and vanilla for the lime in the frosting. I also left out the tequila completely (surprise, surprise). I added a few drops of red food coloring to the swiss meringue buttercream to make it pretty, and slathered it all over. Yeah, I’m not a cake decorator. I even tried to do a design with strawberries, and then sort of gave up. But at least the cake didn’t fall!


It was by far the best cake I’ve ever made! Incredibly delicious, and the cake had the perfect texture… moist and light, but still able to hold itself together. Cake perfection. Better than anything I’ve eaten from a bakery, for sure.


And the cake’s most important critic? She loved it! She shoved it into her mouth as fast as she could and didn’t look back. Birthday cake success!

Perfect Birthday Cake
adapted from Annie’s Eats
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
zest of one lemon
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
For the frosting:
2 cups sugar
8 large egg whites
Pinch fleur de sel (coarse salt)
1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
To make the cake, preheat the oven to 325˚ F.  Grease and flour two 8 or 9 inch cake pans.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir with a fork to blend.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.  Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Beat in the lemon zest and vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Beat each addition just until incorporated.
Divide the batter between the prepared pans.  Bake 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 
To make the frosting, combine the sugar, egg whites, and salt in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.  Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (don’t worry, it will come together, though it may take a very long time!)  Stir in the vanilla and mix until fully incorporated and smooth.
Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes. 

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  1. Yes, I have made cupcakes successfully with this recipe many times. It's really a toss up between the two recipes as far as my favorite. I tend to make the other recipe more often, but that may be because I don't usually have buttermilk in the house. They're both delicious! This recipe is slightly more dense and sweet than the other one, but I really love both of them.

  2. Yes, it would be fine without the lemon zest, I'm sure. And you can just substitute regular salt for the sea salt. It just needs a pinch for flavor.

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