For your next birthday celebration, make this fun and colorful cake recipe!
To describe its flavor, I must begin with something that is not cake at all. It’s something sugary-sweet and so comforting, something that begs to be paired with a tall glass of milk, something that you can’t help but close your eyes in pure joy while eating.
What I’m talking about, and this will be obvious the moment you take a bite, is a sugar cookie.
Follow my crazed reasoning for just a moment…
Picture that rich, buttery, and creamy taste of a sweet sugar cookie, piled high with fluffy icing. Then transfer that image to a moist and fluffy vanilla-scented layer cake, slathered with generous dollops of pink buttercream frosting.
Do you see it?
That, essentially, is this amazing birthday cake!
The recipe is inspired by one of the desserts at Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Virginia. Served as a mini cake covered in pink frosting, piping details, and colorful sprinkles, it was a favorite choice by diners celebrating birthdays and other special events.
Though the restaurant is now permanently closed (so sad, since I lived near Alexandria for a couple years right after they closed!), the sweet flavors and fun colors of the cake will live on in this recipe any time you make it.
My favorite part of this recipe is how impossible it is to mess up. You actually don’t have to worry about overmixing!
You’re familiar with the usual method of mixing cake batter: cream the softened butter and granulated sugar together, then alternate between adding the dry and the wet ingredients, only mixing until the ingredients are just combined.
But this particular recipe uses the reverse creaming method. Sounds scary, but it’s simple!
All you do is mix melted butter into the dry ingredients, then add the liquid ingredients all at once. Mix everything together at a high speed until the batter is smooth and super fluffy.
The final texture after you bake the batter is unique, and it really will remind you of a sugar cookie – the crumb is finer, tighter, softer, creamier, and just a little denser.
Finish this glorious creation by decorating the layers with colorful frosting and lots of sprinkles, two must-haves for any festive celebration.
Are you excited to try something new? Scroll through your calendar, find out whose birthday is coming up next, and start baking!Print
Are you dreaming of a birthday cake that tastes like a giant, fluffy sugar cookie? Try this vanilla cake, covered in pink frosting and sprinkles. Read more.
For the Cake:
- Nonstick cooking oil spray
- 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup whole milk, room temperature
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Buttercream Frosting:
- 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 8 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1/4 cup heavy cream, plus more if needed
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Pink food coloring, as needed
- Sprinkles, as needed
For the Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare two 8-inch round cake pans by generously greasing the bottoms and sides with cooking oil spray and lining the bottoms with parchment paper.
- Place the butter in a heatproof bowl and heat in the microwave until almost completely melted. Remove from the microwave and cool to room temperature.
- Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Combine at a low speed.
- Staying at low speed, add the melted butter. Run the mixer for about one minute, or until thoroughly incorporated. The texture should resemble cornmeal.
- In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, and vanilla extract. On low speed, slowly add the liquid mixture to dry ingredients in the stand mixer. Increase the speed to high and mix for one minute, until the batter is smooth and fluffy. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and mix briefly to incorporate.
- Divide the batter evenly into the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and set the pans on a wire cooling rack to cool for about 30 minutes, then remove the cakes from the pans and return to the rack to finish cooling completely.
- Optional: with a serrated knife, carefully cut the cooled cake rounds in half to get four total layers.
For the Frosting:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the softened butter on medium speed until it is smooth with no lumps.
- Sift the confectioners’ sugar in a separate bowl. Add one cup at a time to the butter, beating very well after each addition at medium speed.
- Add the heavy cream, vanilla extract, and salt. Mix on medium-high speed until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. If the frosting feels too stiff for decorating, add one additional tablespoon of heavy cream at a time and mix thoroughly.
- Mix in the pink food coloring on medium-high, using a few drops at a time until you achieve your desired color.
- Immediately decorate the layers of the cake with the frosting, adding piping details along the top and and bottom around the edges, if desired. Decorate with sprinkles.
- Serve immediately, or store covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Prep Time: 2 hours
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Category: Cake
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Dessert
Keywords: cake, vanilla, birthday
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare two 8-inch round cake pans by generously greasing with cooking spray and lining the bottoms with parchment paper.
Don’t be too stingy with the cooking spray! The batter will tend to stick to the sides of the pan as it bakes.
Measure all of the ingredients, making sure to leave out the milk and eggs for about 20 minutes to bring them to room temperature. Ingredients that are all close to room temperature will homogenize into a smooth batter more easily than if some of the ingredients are still chilled.
Step 2 – Partially Melt the Butter
Place the unsalted butter in a heatproof bowl and heat in the microwave until it is almost completely melted. Remove from the microwave and set aside to cool to room temperature.
Even if you totally melt the butter, it’s no big deal! Just be sure it has enough time to cool to room temperature before adding it to the dry ingredients in the next step.
Step 3 – Combine Butter with Dry Ingredients
Place all the dry ingredients (the all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt) in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix at a low speed to combine the ingredients together.
Staying at low speed, add the melted butter. Run the mixer for about one minute, or until thoroughly incorporated. The texture should resemble coarse cornmeal.
Step 4 – Mix Together the Liquid Ingredients
While you’re mixing the butter with the dry ingredients, whisk together the milk, eggs, and vanilla extract in a separate medium bowl.
Step 5 – Combine and Mix
On low speed, slowly add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients in the stand mixer. Increase the speed to high and mix for about one to two minutes. The end goal is to create a batter that is very smooth and very fluffy!
Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to collect any ingredients that didn’t fully mix into the batter. Mix again at high speed briefly to incorporate.
Step 6 – Divide the Batter
Divide the batter evenly into the two prepared cake pans. Smooth out the top of the batter in each pan with a spatula.
Step 7 – Bake and Cool
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the edges are a golden-brown color and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove immediately from the oven and place on a cooling rack.
Cool the cakes in the pans for about 30 minutes before removing from the pans and cooling completely on a cooling rack.
Are the cakes not budging from the pan? Take a paring knife and scrape around the entire circumference between the cake and pan to loosen.
Uh-oh… did the cakes rip and crumble when you tried to remove them? Don’t give up hope yet! Here are seven sweet sensations you can make as alternatives, from cake pops to mini trifles.
Step 8 – Divide into Layers (Optional)
You can leave the rounds as is to have two thick layers for the assembled cake, but if you want multiple layers that are thinner, you can easily divide the cooled cakes in half to get four total layers.
With a serrated knife, very carefully slice each completely cooled round in half horizontally, making sure you are cutting evenly around the entire cake.
To prevent the layers from drying out, tightly cover them with plastic wrap while you make the frosting.
Step 9 – Make the Frosting
For this recipe, I simply doubled Foodal’s American-Style Vanilla Buttercream Frosting recipe and added pink food coloring.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the softened butter on medium speed until it is smooth.
Sift the confectioners’ sugar in a separate bowl. Add one cup at a time to the butter, beating very well after each addition at medium speed.
Add the heavy cream, vanilla extract, and salt. Mix on medium-high speed until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Add the pink food coloring, a couple drops at a time, until you achieve the desired color. I used about 12 small drops of liquid pink coloring from the bottle to get a bright pink color.
Does the frosting seem too stiff for decorating? You may need to add a little more liquid. Mix in one additional tablespoon of heavy cream at a time to get the right spreadable thickness.
Step 10 – Decorate and Serve
Using the appropriate decorating tools like a bench scraper and offset spatula, assemble and decorate the cake layers with the pink frosting.
Use piping tools to pipe borders on the top and bottom of the decorated cake. Complete the decorating with colorful sprinkles.
Serve the cake immediately, or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Feeling Pretty in Pink!
With the beautiful pink frosting and rainbow sprinkles, I am staying true to the original vibrant colors of the cake from Restaurant Eve.
But there is always room for customizing!
If pink isn’t your color, you can use whatever color you like to fit whatever event. Or you can use multiple colors as well! Try one color for the cake, and another color for the piping details, like what I did for mine – for a more dynamic appearance, I have a lighter shade of pink here for all of the piping details.
If you want to take a step in the direction of more natural ingredients, consider using alternative ingredients for food coloring. Take inspiration from these tri-color Christmas cookies: use turmeric powder for yellow, matcha powder for green, and fresh beet juice for red.
I’d love to know what you decide to decorate! And you have to let me know what you think of this reverse creaming method – it’s so easy and delicious, right? Leave a comment below. I’m so excited to chat with you!
Alright, master bakers, are you ready for more? Try some of our favorite cake recipes next:
Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on March 12, 2009. Last updated on February 7, 2021.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is an ACS Certified Cheese Professional and cheesemonger living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.