Sunday, April 8, 2012

Anything But Vanilla: Life & Cake

Today is Easter. As a follower of Christ, today is the day I celebrate the resurrection of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I go to church, I sing my songs, I eat my brunch or linner (by the way, don't in between time meals drive you crazy! I feel like I get cheated out of 1 of my 3 scheduled feedings) and then I go about my merry way on Monday, back to life as I know it, back to eating chocolate or whatever I gave up for Lent. As I reflect on the previous sentences glaring dully back at me from my screen, they seem rather scripted. Honestly, if Easter is that shallow, I think I'd vomit from the flavorless hum-drum of it all. But if I am honest with myself, I have treated the holiday just like that in the past. Like it was a day to recognize God is God because He can rise from the dead, but it has no implication on my life rather than wearing a floral dress and eating ham once a year. (That is a rather weird picture isn't it).

If Jesus's resurrection was just that, sure I'd give him a way-to-go one year, two years even but anything after that seems rather silly to continue commending a divine magic trick or display of power. No, there must be more to it, and that is exactly what I feel like God has been shaping me to understand and experience in the past year, and particularly in the months leading up to Easter.

I feel as if I have been in an incubator of learning about and experiencing the resurrection. On my other blog, Sing To Me, Muse I posted this quote about Easter that I recently read in a book I just finished called Surprised By Hope by N.T. Wright. It goes like this...

"The message of Easter, then, is neither that God once did a spectacular miracle but then decided not to do many others nor that there is a blissful life after death to look forward to. The message of Easter is that God's new world has been unveiled in Jesus Christ and that now you're invited to belong to it."

Simply put, but powerful. I feel like why I have been learning so much about the resurrection as of late is because I have been experiencing more and more of the resurrection for myself. Obviously not in physical form, yet ;) (that could be a whole other blog post), but like N.T. Wright put it I have been taking a hold of the 'new world' Jesus unveiled by actively living as if I belong, because I do. 

A lot of times the Christian life to the outsider and insider can seem very vanilla, very bland. That is because we settle for it. We believe the lie that finding a full and illustrious life comes by doing exactly what pleases us the moment we need/want it. That being a Christian means saying a prayer and then going about 'life' as normal. But that is exactly why we miss life, why I miss life, because we aren't invited into a normal life anymore, we are invited into a new life, a resurrected life and to experience that resurrected life, which only comes through Christ accomplishing it for us first and then inviting us into it, is to live as if it exists. What I mean by that is to live as if this world wasn't it. To live as if Jesus really did conquer death (and I do mean physical death) and sin (anything that takes fullness of life from us) and that one day He is coming back to make everything right, but until then we are invited to be apart of heading in that direction here and now. 

N.T. Wright has more eloquent things to say on this matter...

"What you do in the present- by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself- will last into God's future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether. They are apart of what we may call building for God's kingdom."

Contemplating that this Easter and experiencing it more this past year as I have begun to let go of the "lack-of-life" I so dearly cling to, made this Easter and makes life very NOT vanilla. It makes it full, alive, what it is supposed to be.

You might be wondering how I will transition this into a post about cake, but I'm about to, so hold on tight.

The cake I made this Easter actually is a vanilla-vanilla layer cake, but the taste of the cake was so full of life it is "anything but vanilla." It's kinda like why people life Funfetti Cake. It really is just a vanilla-vanilla cake, but the flavor screams so loudly "I taste like cake!!" that you just love it for its pure unadulterated essence. That's what this cake is like, but way more gourmet ;)

Plus it is super cute and I am going to teach you the technique I used to frost it.

Anything-But-Vanilla Vanilla Butter Cake
*makes one 4-layer 6 inch cake
*adapted from Sweetapolita

2 large eggs (separated)
1 3/4 (210 grams) cups sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cups (200 grams) granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk (room temperature)
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350°F (180° C) and place rack in center of oven. Butter and flour two – 6 inch round cake pans. Line bottoms of pans with parchment paper and grease and flour parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft (about 1-2 minutes). Add 15o grams (3/4 cup) of the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.

In a clean bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy.  Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 50 grams (1/4 cup) sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. With a rubber spatula gently fold a little of the whites into the batter to lighten it, and then fold in the remaining whites until combined. Do not over-mix the batter or it will deflate.

Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and smooth the tops with an offset spatula or back of a spoon. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Place a wire rack on top of the cake pan and invert, lifting off the pan gently. Once the cakes of completely cooled, cut the domed top off of each with a serrated knife and cut each cake in half yielding 4 layer. Wrap each layer in plastic and place the cake layers in the fridge for at least two hours (to make filling and frosting the cakes easier).

Anything-But-Vanilla Vanilla Frosting

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
6 cups (750 g/1 lb + 10 oz) icing sugar (confectioners’)
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon water
a good pinch of salt

Beat the butter and icing sugar in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, for about 2 minutes.

Add the vanilla, water, whipping cream, and salt, and whip on med-high speed until fluffy and smooth–about 4 minutes. If consistency is too thick, add more water 1 teaspoon at a time, then whip again for 30 seconds or so. (If using food coloring, add it in the last minute of whipping. For the shade of pink I used on my cake, you only need 1 drop of red food coloring.)

Transfer the frosting into a pastry bag fitted with an open star decorating tip (Wilton No. 22). If you have no idea what I am talking about, you can just use a spatula to frost the cake, which is pretty self explanatory so I'll let you figure that one out.

Take your cake layers out of the fridge and unwrap them.

Place the first layer (the sturdiest looking one) on a cardboard cake round and put the cake round on a spinny cake decorating table if you have one; if you don't, no worries it just makes things easier.

Step 1: Pipe a ring of frosting around the edge of the cake and fill in the middle with frosting using a spatula, making sure to keep it even. 

Step 2: Repeat the process till your cake looks like this one below.

Step 3: The crumb layer. Ice the top and sides of the cake with a thin layer of frosting to hold all the crumbs in place when you do the final frosting coat. Use a bench scraper, if you have one, to smooth it all out. Put the cake in the fridge for an hour to firm up. I also put my frosting in the fridge for like 15 minutes to get it back to proper piping consistency, but you don't have to unless you need it.

Step 4: While the cake is in the fridge, practice your piping skills. The technique I used is not complicated, it was my first time doing it in fact and it wasn't too hard. Start by making a closed C shape, bring it up and over the top of the C to curl back into the middle (kind like a heart I guess). Then the next shape starts on the top part of the last shape, that's how you get that layering effect.

Step 5: Take the cake out of the fridge and pipe this design vertically in columns around the cake. Frost the top normally. Then step back and appreciate all your hard work!

I did some stamping around the edge of the cake board in honor of the occasion.

It was delicious! 

Happy Easter!


  1. I didn't get to try any...can you bring any leftovers to breakfast tomorrow?!

  2. I want some too!!! Looks amazing as usual! Happy Easter! Love and miss you!
    Momma Faye

  3. This looks wonderful, Alex!! I pinned it :)

    Happy Easter!

  4. Great message! Seems like God is giving you a bigger picture...that is always good!
    Cant wait to taste the cake sometime.