The recipe for our birthday cake was born from one of the happiest accidents we’ve had at Butter & Scotch.
Hours before the opening party for our friends and family, our baker Lindsey baked a cake for us to serve at the celebration. But when she took the layers out of the oven, they all sank! Without time to bake more, we just lopped off the tops of each cake round and frosted them anyway. It turned out she had inadvertently omitted almost half of the flour that the original recipe called for, and in doing so had created the best vanilla cake we’ve ever tasted. We immediately adjusted the recipe to the “mistake” version and still bake it this way at the shop. It’s basically the dictionary definition of a happy accident!
Recipe excerpted with permission from Butter & Scotch by Allison Kave and Keavy Landreth, published by Abrams Books (2016). —Food52
one 9-inch (23-cm) 3-layer cake; serves 12 to 20
For the birthday cake
(4 sticks / 455 g) cold unsalted butter, plus more for the pans
(500 g) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter three 9-inch (23-cm) round cake pans. Dust with a few tablespoons of flour, then tap out the excess.
Chop the butter into small, pea-size pieces and return them to the refrigerator. Bring the milk to room temperature by zapping it in the microwave for 30 seconds, then add the vanilla and set it aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, 2 1/2 cups (500 g) of the sugar, the baking powder, and salt. Mix on low for 30 seconds. Add the cold butter to the flour mixture and bring the speed up to medium. Mix until the butter breaks down and the flour mixture is the texture of wet sand. Bring the speed back down to low and add the milk mixture. Transfer the mixture into a large bowl and set aside.
Fully clean and dry out the bowl of the mixer, swap out the paddle for the whisk attachment, and add the egg whites and remaining 1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar to the bowl. Whisk on high until the mixture forms soft peaks. Gently fold the meringue into the flour and milk mixture until fully incorporated.
Divide the batter equally between the prepared pans and bake them for 30 to 40 minutes, rotating halfway through, until they are golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean.
Transfer the pans to a wire rack for 10 minutes before turning the cakes out of the pans to cool completely. Using a serrated knife, trim the tops off the cakes to make them level and frost and stack the three layers. Decorate the side with rainbow sprinkles and the top with frosting rosettes. Serve a slice with a glass of bubbly.
Store at room temperature in a cake dome or large plastic Tupperware for up to 3 days.
For Keavy’s Favorite Vanilla Frosting
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, making sure to stop the mixer every so often to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. It’s important to have all the butter nice and soft so you don’t get any clumps of cold butter when trying to pipe the frosting. Next, add the cream cheese a quarter at a time on medium speed. When it is incorporated, add the vanilla. Turn the mixer to the lowest speed and slowly add the sugar. Finally, crank the mixer up to high speed and beat it for 30 seconds, until fully blended and fluffy.
Makes enough for one 8-inch (20-cm) cake, 4 dozen mini-cupcakes, or 1 dozen regular-size cupcakes