Guys it’s my birthday! Cue the confetti and surprise balloons! T Swift’s “22” no longer applies to me. Which is kind of sad because I have less of an excuse to act irresponsibly as each birthday comes and goes. But every birthday makes me excited because I get to eat copious amounts of cake and drink glasses of champagne without any judgment. And what’s better than that?
Now if you know me at all, I love trashing everything up with sugary details. I have a box in my pantry full of candies and sprinkles that I will literally put on yogurt for breakfast. It still counts as healthy if I use Greek yogurt, right?
This year, I decided to take this obsession one step further by making my own sprinkles! They’re amazing. And worth the effort. Plus even if it’s not your birthday, treat yoself!
Sprinkles are basically pieces of dried sugar paste. It’s actually pretty cool. The main ingredients are sugar and water, and the sugar binds the water to create a thick mixture. When you pipe this mixture into thin strips and let it sit out, the mixture hardens as water evaporates. The texture doesn’t totally go to pieces, however, because of that sugar binding I mentioned earlier. The sugar retains some of the water locking in some flavor and preventing complete crumbling. The paradox is that the sugar also causes a shorter drying time. By binding the water, less is available for evaporation.
This sprinkles recipe actually uses an egg white as its primary source of water which accomplishes a couple of things. First, the protein retains the structure of the sprinkles more easily after piping the sugar paste out. Second, the egg white also creates a shiny appearance for the sprinkles.
So there you have it! Have I convinced you to make your own sprinkles yet? No? Well at least make yourself feel like it’s your birthday too with this cake. It’s a vanilla almond three-layer cake with a pink champagne buttercream (and vanilla sprinkles of course!). Oh and glasses of champagne.
Adapted from Food52
Makes slightly over 1 cup
8 ounces powdered sugar
1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or another flavor)
¼ teaspoon salt
Food coloring, as desired.
1. In a bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients except the food coloring until thick but similar to glue. Depending on how watery your egg white is, you may have to add ⅛ teaspoon water. Make sure the powdered sugar is completely incorporated.
2. Divide the sugar mixture into 3 or less parts to color using food coloring. If you want pastel like shown here, one drop per third of mixture will do the trick!
3. Pipe thin lines of the sugar paste onto wax paper-lined baking sheets using either a piping bag and tip or a Ziploc baggie with a small corner cut out of it.
4. Leave the piped sugar paste out for 12 hours or overnight in a dry, cool place to let it dry. Once they have dried, use a bench scraper or butter knife to chop the piped paste into small pieces. Use immediately or store in an airtight container.
Almond Vanilla Cake
Adapted from Two Peas and their Pod
Makes 3 9” layers
4 ½ cups flour
1 ½ tablespoons baking powder
½ tablespoon salt
3 cups granulated sugar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 large eggs
1 tablespoon almond extract
½ tablespoon vanilla bean paste or extract
1 ¼ cups milk
¼ cup heavy cream
1. Preheat oven to 350⁰F and prep 3 9” cake pans.
2. In two separate bowls whisk together your flour, salt, and baking powder in one bowl and the milk and heavy cream in another. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar together until light and fluffy. This will probably take about 5 minutes, and you’ll begin to hear it slap against the side of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, followed by the extracts. Scrape the bowl and beat again for 30 seconds.
4. Beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, alternate adding the milk/cream mixture and the dry ingredients to the bowl, beating on low. Mix until just incorporated.
5. Divide the batter evenly among the cake pans and bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, turning 180⁰ after 15 minutes. Check the cakes with a toothpick inserted in the center. When it comes out cleanly, the cake is done. If you are not baking all of the cakes at once, reduce the bake time slightly. Keep an eye on the cakes as vanilla cake can overbake extremely quickly, causing it to become dry.
6. Before assembly (see below), make sure the cakes are completely cooled. (And for easier assembly, refrigerate the cakes after removing them from the pans)
Pink Champagne Buttercream
Adapted from Hummingbird High
Makes about 7 cups, enough for the cake depending on how heavily you frost it
3 cups (6 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 cups powdered sugar
⅓ cup dry champagne
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
4 drops red food coloring
1. Cream the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and you can hear it slapping against the bowl. Add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, with the mixer on low speed, until it is completely incorporated. Scrape the bowl and mix to combine.
2. Add the champagne, vanilla, salt, and food coloring to the bowl. Beat slowly to avoid the champagne from sloshing out of the bowl. Once incorporated, increase the speed of the mixer to high and beat for about 5 extra minutes. Use immediately.
*Make sure the cake layers are completely cooled, and preferably chilled
1. To keep the cake in place, put a large dollop of frosting on a plate and spread in the middle. An elevated cake plate will make the assembly much easier.
2. Take the first cake layer and even out the top with a large serrated knife. Place it in the middle of your plate on top of the buttercream.
3. Spread the top of the cake with buttercream, as thick as you want your filling layers to be. Even out the top of the second cake layer just like the first. Place it on top of the first layer and filling making sure that the layers are even on the edges.
4. Just like the first, spread the top of the layer with buttercream. Repeat the process with the third layer evening it out and placing on top of the other layers.
5. With a rubber spatula or an un-serrated flat spreading tool (like an old-school butter knife), scrape against the sides of the cake to catch any excess buttercream seeping out from the filling.
6. Frost the cake with the buttercream on the tops and sides of the cake. The easiest way to do this is to start at the top with a huge dollop of buttercream and work its way down the cake sides.
7. Sprinkle the top of the cake with your homemade sprinkles, and enjoy! I love this cake with the same dry champagne used in the frosting. The carbonation and dryness will cut through some of the sugar while complementing the almond flavor in the cake.