Buttery Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Ganache Frosting and Fluffy Chocolate or Vanilla Frosting

As my friend Lisa says, “what am I gonna do with all these cakes”? Basically, I have been on a cake rampage, so I am sharing a good chunk of it here for you to see. For a while I have wanted to perfect making and decorating cakes, but the problem with cakes is when you make them you end up with a bunch of food to eat! Luckily, K has coworkers that like enjoying cake! We have been sending big chunks of cake in to his work to spread the love. Today’s recipes are for a specific cake I am going to make this fall.

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The “clients” (family members) wanted chocolate frosting and vanilla cake to mimic a local bakery’s cake. After making Sweetapolita’s vanilla cake first, I followed it with this super buttery cake from America’s Test Kitchen. Although we loved the light almondy flavor in the first cake, the buttery cake better matches the one my family loves.

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Sweetapolita Vanilla Cake (fluffy chocolate frosting and ganache filling)

Next, was deciding on the proper frosting. Because I will be making the cake back home without all of my usual cooking supplies, I wanted the frosting recipe to be basic enough that I did not need to worry about having a thermometer. This ruled out buttercream recipes (other than American). Luckily, I was able to pull from other sources to come up with two suitable frostings.

Not my best cutting job!

Not my best cutting job!

I think I am going to use the ganache frosting for the filling and the outer coating, and the fluffy vanilla frosting for the crumb coat and decorations.

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The vanilla is not super white because it’s not made with shortening or egg whites, but my family is not as picky about that stuff. (Thankfully!)

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I kept hearing that having a cake turntable would change my decorating, and those people were correct! It makes it easier to smooth the frosting and get to all of the sides. If you plan on making at least a couple cakes, I recommend it! You can get one for about $20 that is decent. Plus, it is a handy lazy Susan when it comes to storing it! (Or maybe that is because I am too lazy to put it away completely.)

Crumb coat

Crumb coat: It helps to brush off the crumbs from the cake with a brush or your fingers before frosting.

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Directions for Buttery Yellow Layer Cake

Slightly adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Baking Binder

  • ½ cup milk, room temperature
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 sticks (16 Tablespoons) butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces and softened
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 7 ounces (1.75 cups) cake flour
  • 10.5 ounces (1.5 cups) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare two 8-inch cake pans with baking spray and parchment circles lining the bottoms.

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Whisk together the milk, eggs, and vanilla in a liquid measuring cup. In your mixer bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. With your mixer on medium-low, beat the butter into the flour, one piece at a time.

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Continue mixing until the texture looks like moist crumbs (about 3 minutes total, including the time for adding the butter).

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Turn the mixer to low, then stir in all but ½ cup of the milk mixture.

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Turn the speed up to medium-low and eventually to medium once you are past the “splash” stage. Continue beating for a couple minutes until the batter becomes smooth and fluffy.

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Stop the mixer occasionally and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all of the sugar/etc. is incorporated. Turn the mixer back to low once the batter is fluffy and add the rest of the milk mixture, stirring for just about 15-30 seconds.

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Scrape the batter into the prepared pans, after making sure everything is combined. Tap the pans on the counter to settle the batter, and smooth the tops.

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Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with crumbs (super important with cakes!). This could take 20 minutes, or up to 30-40 if your oven is like mine. Rotate the pans halfway during baking.

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Let the cakes cool in the pans 10 minutes before flipping them out. Remove the parchment, then turn right-side up again. Let cool about 2 hours before preparing for frosting.

Trimming the edges for a smooth frosting later.

Trimming the edges for a smooth frosting later.

Directions for Creamy, Fluffy Frosting (Vanilla and Chocolate)

Adapted from Taste of Home Baking Binder

Will make about 3-4 cups of frosting (enough for the outside of a 2 level layer cake)

  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 cups butter (4 sticks), softened
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4.5-5 cups confectioner’s sugar (or swap out ½ cup for cocoa powder to make this a chocolate frosting)

In a small saucepan, stir together the cornstarch and water until smooth. Turn the heat to medium and stir until the mixture is thickened.

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Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

With your mixer, beat together the vanilla and butter until fluffy.

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Stir in the cornstarch mixture. Sift the confectioner’s sugar (and cocoa powder, if using) over the bowl, a little at a time, beating in each amount. Once the frosting is thick enough for your liking, you can stop adding the sugar.

The chocolate version!

The chocolate version!

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Directions for Chocolate Ganache Frosting and Filling, with bonus truffles

Adapted from Joy of Baking

  • 9 ounces chocolate, chopped (bittersweet or semi-sweet is best)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, room temperature

Heat the cream until it barely simmers (you are scalding it). You can use the microwave or the stovetop for this. Have the chocolate in a bowl that is good for stirring. Pour the cream on top of the chocolate and stir gently until the chocolate melts and the mixture becomes smooth.

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Stir in the vanilla, then the butter. Continue stirring until smooth.

You can chill half of the mixture to use as a filling for a cake. As it chills, it will harden and can be pressed/smoothed onto a layer of cake.

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The rest can be poured on top of a cake that has been crumb-coated (or even frosted).

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Any remaining chocolate ganache can be chilled. Take small spoons of the ganache and roll them into balls. Coat the balls lightly in cocoa powder, then place on top of a cake for decoration.

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Directions for Buttery Yellow Layer Cake (without pictures)

Slightly adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Baking Binder

  • ½ cup milk, room temperature
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 sticks (16 Tablespoons) butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces and softened
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 7 ounces (1.75 cups) cake flour
  • 10.5 ounces (1.5 cups) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare two 8-inch cake pans with baking spray and parchment circles lining the bottoms.

Whisk together the milk, eggs, and vanilla in a liquid measuring cup. In your mixer bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. With your mixer on medium-low, beat the butter into the flour, one piece at a time. Continue mixing until the texture looks like moist crumbs (about 3 minutes total, including the time for adding the butter).

Turn the mixer to low, then stir in all but ½ cup of the milk mixture. Turn the speed up to medium-low and eventually to medium once you are past the “splash” stage. Continue beating for a couple minutes until the batter becomes smooth and fluffy. Stop the mixer occasionally and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure all of the sugar/etc. is incorporated. Turn the mixer back to low once the batter is fluffy and add the rest of the milk mixture, stirring for just about 15-30 seconds.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans, after making sure everything is combined. Tap the pans on the counter to settle the batter, and smooth the tops. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with crumbs (super important with cakes!). This could take 20 minutes, or up to 30-40 if your oven is like mine. Rotate the pans halfway during baking.

Let the cakes cool in the pans 10 minutes before flipping them out. Remove the parchment, then turn right-side up again. Let cool about 2 hours before preparing for frosting.

Directions for Creamy, Fluffy Frosting (Vanilla and Chocolate) (without pictures)

Adapted from Taste of Home Baking Binder

Will make about 3-4 cups of frosting (enough for the outside of a 2 level layer cake)

  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 cups butter (4 sticks), softened
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4.5-5 cups confectioner’s sugar (or swap out ½ cup for cocoa powder to make this a chocolate frosting)

In a small saucepan, stir together the cornstarch and water until smooth. Turn the heat to medium and stir until the mixture is thickened. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

With your mixer, beat together the vanilla and butter until fluffy. Stir in the cornstarch mixture. Sift the confectioner’s sugar (and cocoa powder, if using) over the bowl, a little at a time, beating in each amount. Once the frosting is thick enough for your liking, you can stop adding the sugar.

Directions for Chocolate Ganache Frosting and Filling, with bonus truffles (without pictures)

Adapted from Joy of Baking

  • 9 ounces chocolate, chopped (bittersweet or semi-sweet is best)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, room temperature

Heat the cream until it barely simmers (you are scalding it). You can use the microwave or the stovetop for this. Have the chocolate in a bowl that is good for stirring. Pour the cream on top of the chocolate and stir gently until the chocolate melts and the mixture becomes smooth. Stir in the vanilla, then the butter. Continue stirring until smooth.

You can chill half of the mixture to use as a filling for a cake. As it chills, it will harden and can be pressed/smoothed onto a layer of cake. The rest can be poured on top of a cake that has been crumb-coated (or even frosted). Any remaining chocolate ganache can be chilled. Take small spoons of the ganache and roll them into balls. Coat the balls lightly in cocoa powder, then place on top of a cake for decoration.

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12 thoughts on “Buttery Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Ganache Frosting and Fluffy Chocolate or Vanilla Frosting

  1. You are one busy lady! That’s some yummy looking cake!! Love all the chocolate and those truffles! You know I have a turntable but never use it (I also never crumb-coat..oops!). : )

    P.S. – If you remember the list of savory things I mentioned I wanted to cook, I’ve made the singaphore noodles (not bad) and on to a simple Japanese curry tomorrow night. Then pad thai soon! : )

      • That’s so sweet of you but I don’t think so…I had originally planned to snap a pic of the three to combine into a post for a change of pace but I cook these things later at night for “date night” with my husband and it’s dark and I’m hungry so it doesn’t pan out. I’m not very adventurous when it comes to savory cooking (trying to change that a little) because I don’t like to use a recipe – ironic since I couldn’t imagine not using one for baking!

        Sorry one last thing – that beef stew I mentioned…the recipe was from an old Everyday Food issue. I looked at it one day (nostalgic given its demise now) and wanted to try a recipe since I know there’s lots of good stuff in there. Didn’t even need to brown the meat and it was simple and surprisingly delicious!

        That said…I hope you’ll continue to post more savory dishes to inspire me!! When I see one of your noodle dishes, I am like “I’m going to cook more noodles!” : )

      • Couldn’t hurt to ask. 🙂 As you can probably tell from my pictures, I never do anything during proper lighting. Of course, it’s also tricky living in a place where sunlight is at a premium.

        I will definitely keep posting new savory dishes as we keep eating them! I am making a beef stew tonight that will hopefully make it to a post eventually.

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