What do you do when throwing a surprise 30th birthday party for a friend, and her absolute favorite cake in the whole world is funfetti, and you can’t deny her her childhood favorite on a decidedly adult birthday, but you’ve never made cake from a box and as you near 30 yourself you’re not about to start?

You make it from scratch of course. And are shocked at how easy it is. Here we go  box-cake hacks!

Looks like the “real” thing, no?

For the cake, we followed TheKitchn’s white cake recipe (which substitutes some shortening for extra-whiteness), and baked the cake in three layers. We liked the idea of three for 30, and didn’t want to risk drying the layers out too much by stretching to four. It’s a delicious white cake: super fluffy, moist, and not too sweet!

For the frosting, we went with a cooked buttercream (the “Italian style” which uses whites instead of yolks). It’s a more stable and less sweet version of classic buttercream, so we prefer it. We don’t use cream of tarter in our meringue, especially when we make it in our copper bowl, but it’s been know to help. Two notes: (1) if you don’t have a stand mixer, as is our case, then you’ll really benefit from two people here. And wear long sleeves. It splatters, and the hot sugary syrup burns; (2) the frosting keeps well in the fridge, but if you’re planning on eating the frosted cake within a few hours (even a day) of frosting it, best to keep it at room temp. It actually benefits from a bit of time on the counter.

Pssst. Lots of egg whites go into the production of this cake — 10! So obviously we did the only thing we could: we made a heck of a lot of David Lebovitz’s classic chocolate ice cream. Cake and ice cream! Yay birthdays!

Happy 30th, Jill!

funfetti cake (from scratch).

Adapted from The Kitchn. Makes two nine inch layers, or three shortish 8 inch layers.

for the cake

4 egg whites from large eggs
1 cup milk, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
8 tablespoons non-hydrogenated shortening
1/2 cup multi-colored sprinkles

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans, or three 8-inch round pans. (We used three.)

2. In a small bowl whisk the egg whites, 1/4 cup milk, vanilla and almond extract. Set aside.

3. Mix the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until well-combined. Add the butter and shortening and mix again until well-combined with the flour mixture (it will be vaguely crumbly.) Pour in the remaining 3/4 cup milk and continue mixing on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

4. Gradually pour in the egg white mixture, mixing until well combined. Gently fold in the sprinkles.

5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. If baking two layers, bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops are slightly golden and spring back when pressed. (For our three layers, we baked them for 23-ish ish minutes. Don’t dry out your layers!)

6. Remove from the oven and place the pans on baking racks to cool for about 10 minutes. Turn the pans over onto the rack. Flip the cake layers over and let them cool completely before icing.

cooked buttercream

Makes enough to frost a 9″ cake or approximately 24 cupcakes

6 egg whites
pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cream of Tartar
2 cups butter, cut into tablespoon portions and softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Beat the whites and salt until soft peaks are formed.

2. Combine the sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a medium sauce pan and set over medium heat. Cook until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches the softball stage (238°).

3. With the mixer still running and beating the eggs, pour the sugar mixture in a slow steady stream down the side of the bowl, being careful to avoid hitting the mixer’s whisk. Continue beating until the egg-sugar mixture is cool and the side of the mixing bowl registers room temperature when you touch it. (Wear long sleeves here, and get someone to help you if you’re doing it by hand!)

4. Reduce speed to medium and begin beating in the butter one tablespoon at a time. Continue beating until the buttercream holds soft peaks. Add the vanilla. Chill until the buttercream is firm but spreadable.

Buttercream will keep in an air-tight container for several days.


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