Cakes & Cupcakes

My first post…and birthday cake!

Butter, sugar, creamed butter

I’ve been thinking about what to bake for my first post. My go-to chocolate chip cookies? Cute little petit fours (I’ve been dying to try)? Gooey cinnamon swirl bread? The possibilities are pretty much endless. My husband, Tyler, has a “little brother” through Big Brother BigSister and it just happened to be his birthday last week. Ty asked if he’d like me to bake anything for him and his request was simple: cake. Vanilla and chocolate, please. Ok, you got it.

vanilla paste, pure vanilla extract, butter, granulated sugar

I had actually just made cupcakes with this same combination for a co-worker’s birthday the weekend before and they were a huge hit, so choosing my recipes was a cinch! Both parts come from a favorite blog of mine, Joy the Baker. Joy’s food is decidedly yummy and her posts are friendly and whole-hearted (her cat seems like the man, too). The vanilla cake and (BEST) chocolate buttercream come from her self-titled cookbook. The cake is soft, light and so vanilla-y. The chocolate frosting is light and has the right combination of sweetness and buttery-ness. I was only a little sad that I wouldn’t actually be eating the finished product (turned out, I pretty much did with all my scraps).

 vanilla cake batter, vanilla bean, layer cake, birthday cake

The recipe bakes 12 cupcakes and Joy suggests doubling it to get a 2-layer 8″ or 9″ cake. I kept the recipe as is to make a 2-layer 6″ cake.  The cake is delicious as directed, but I made a couple tweaks. I used buttermilk instead of whole milk just because I love what buttermilk does to cakes (think lighter-than-air). I also used vanilla bean paste instead of a real vanilla bean, but mostly because I’m lazy. For the cupcakes I made the weekend before I used vanilla bean. It was delicious, obviously, but I just didn’t want the trouble of slicing and scraping this time around. Plus, those suckers are pricey! I didn’t touch the frosting other than cut it in half for my small cake. It’s pretty perfect.

vanilla birthday cake, vanilla, cake, butter, baking tip

I should say that I ended up making a ganache of milk and dark chocolate because I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough frosting. I probably would have, but I think having the richer, thicker ganache was a nice contrast to the soft and fluffy frosting.

This is the perfect everyday birthday cake. Add sprinkles and it’s ready to party! Oh, and the birthday boy loved it.

chocolate buttercream, frosted cake, piped frosting, sprinkles, best birthday cake
What’s your favorite birthday treat?

Simple Vanilla Cupcakes
Adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook


  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out (I used a teaspoon of vanilla paste)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (I used buttermilk)


  1. Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 350° F. Butter cake pans and cover the bottom with parchment paper and butter again,* or line a 12-cup cupcake pan with paper liners, and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Make sure to scrape down the bowl as well. Beat in the vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds (or paste) until well incorporated.
  4. Add half of the flour mixture and beat on low until almost incorporated. Add the milk (or buttermilk) and blend. Scrape down the bowl add the rest of the flour mixture. Beat until almost incorporated and continue mixing by hand.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans (or cupcake cups). Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. (I always like to check half-way through, my oven always errs on the shorter side). Insert a toothpick into the center, if it comes out clean, it’s done!
  6. Remove form the oven and let rest in the pan for 10 minutes before turning the cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely.

The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Also, adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook


  • 3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Scant 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup Ovaltine powder


  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or a hand mixer), cream together butter, cocoa powder, and salt. You may have to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice. The mixture will be very thick. Mix for 3-5 minutes.
  2. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the powdered sugar, reserving 1/2 cup.  Turn the mixer on low to incorporate the sugar. As it mixes, add the milk and vanilla. Gradually increase the mixing speed as the sugar incorporates. Beat until smooth, scraping the sides down as necessary.
  3. In a small cup, stir cream and Ovaltine together. Turn the mixer to medium speed and add the cream in a slow stream until the frosting reaches your desired consistency. Add from the reserved powdered sugar if necessary. (I didn’t add more powdered sugar to mine. I also whipped it into crazy submission so it was super fluffy). Joy recommends putting the frosting in the fridge for 30 minutes so it will spread and frost better.

Chocolate Ganache

  • 6 ounces milk chocolate
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) heavy cream


  1. Put chocolate in a heat-resistent bowl and set aside.
  2. Over medium heat, bring heavy cream to a boil and pour over chocolate. Let sit for 10 seconds and then mix together until smooth.
  3. Let cool completely. I put it in the fridge for 30 minutes so it was thick enough to spread in between the cake layers without spilling over the sides.

*I found this awesome tip that recommended using the paper from the butter to cover the bottom of the pan. You can see it on the bottom of the baked cake. It came off cleanly. Any reason to not cut circles in parchment paper is okay by me!



2 thoughts on “My first post…and birthday cake!

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