Birthdays demand a special cake, and my heavily vanilla-scented Uncle Sam’s All-American Birthday Cake delivers on all counts…
Several years ago, I visited Florida for an unforgettable summer holiday. I had never thought of myself as someone who would enjoy visiting Disney World – my repressed Britishness just could not countenance a place filled with wall-to-wall happiness. However, from the moment the plane touched down in the Sunshine State, I could feel my cynicism drip away. It is impossible not to be infected with the sincere happiness and optimism of the place – especially when you are accompanying a six-year-old child on his first holiday abroad.
It was during this trip that I first encountered Uncle Sam’s penchant for Birthday Cake flavourings. We don’t really have an equivalent back in Blighty – and for those of you who have never tasted it before, think of a very sweet, heavily vanilla-scented-buttery sponge cake, completely bedecked in rainbow sprinkles.
American’s go wild for this flavouring – Ice Creams, Oreo biscuits, candles, protein bars – even in drink form as white wines and liquors. I’m sure some of the shops we visited were piping in the fragrance through their air conditioning. It seemed to be everywhere.
I am a firm believer that foods can help invoke memories so it is for that reason that this recipe for All-American Birthday Cake is wheeled out for celebrations where I also want to serve up a heavy dose of happiness. Not only does it look the part – brightly strung with colourful sprinkles – but the cake itself is soft, tender and sweet. It is everything a birthday should be in cake form.
October and November heralds the start of a busy birthday season in my family so now feels like the perfect time to dust off this recipe once more. Don’t be afraid to give it ago – even those of us who struggle to decorate cakes with any sort of accomplishment can feel assured that this recipe will look good at the end!Print
For the cake
- 110g softened unsalted butter
- 120ml sunflower oil
- 5 eggs
- 1tbsp vanilla extract
- 250ml milk
- 450g white caster sugar
- 350g plain flour
- 1tsp baking powder
- 1tsp table salt
- 3tbsp rainbow sugar strand sprinkles (vermicelli)
For the frosting
- 330g softened unsalted butter
- 1 pinch table salt
- 210g rainbow sugar strand sprinkles (vermicelli)
- 2tsp vanilla extract
- 60ml single cream
- 400g icing sugar
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line 3 x 20cm cake tins.
- Beat 110g unsalted butter with the oil and sugar with an electric mixer until it is light and fluffy. Continuing to mix on high, add each egg one at a time before pouring in the 1tbsp of vanilla extract.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Using a large metal spoon, fold the flour mix into the liquid batter – making sure that there are no small clumps of flour that are not incorporated. When the mix is ready, fold through the 3 tbsp of rainbow sprinkles with three or four folds – if you overmix the sprinkles at this point you risk the colours bleeding into the batter and making a mush.
- Share the batter equally between the three tins and bake in the preheated oven (ideally on the same shelf) for around 35 minutes. Test with a skewer at the end of cooking to make sure that the batter is fully cooked – the cake should be golden and springy to tough, while a skewer should come out clean when inserted into the middle.
- Allow the cakes to cool in their tins for 5-10 minutes before carefully removing and leaving to cool fully on a rack.
- To make the frosting, beat the 330g of unsalted butter with the pinch of salt in a freestanding electric mixer until it is light and fluffy. You will notice the colour of the butter changes, going from a creamy yellow to an almost white as it fluffs up. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the mixer periodically to get everything whipped up.
- Gradually add the icing sugar in three of four stages, beating on high to incorporate everything before adding more icing sugar. Keep scraping down the sides every so often before beating some more on a high setting. This stage will take about 5 minutes so please be patient.
- When everything is light and fluffy, beat in the vanilla extract and gradually add the single cream. You should be left with a light, pillowy cloud of frosting at this stage.
- Use approximately 1/3 of the frosting to sandwich the three cakes together. I like to rest the cake in the fridge for around 30 minutes at this stage to help the cakes firm up together with the frosting.
- Remove from the fridge and use the rest of the frosting to spread an even layer all over the cake – starting from the top and working down the sides. A pallet knife will be your friend at this point to get a sharp, crisp finish. Sometimes I do this in two stages – returning the cake to the fridge in between applying two coats of frosting to firm up slightly.
- Once the final layer of frosting has been applied, you can do the fun bit with the rainbow sprinkles. Gently scatter them all over, using your hands to gently pat them into the frosting to get an even spread all over. Decorate with candles and indoor sparklers before conveying to the birthday person with a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday!
- Category: Baking, Cake, Birthday Cake
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: American, Baking, Birthday Cake, Cake