Making a vanilla cake with vanilla icing look like a suitable birthday cake for a 9 year old is a bit tricky - it's all a bit, eh, bland. But I had a plan. I broke out the pricey vanilla bean paste and used it liberally on both the sponge cake and the icing, so it would taste as great as possible. I also used a few packs of Dr. Oetker Giant Chocolate Stars and Soft Shimmer Pearls... not a bad result if I say so myself. This time around, I made a Vanilla Sour Cream sponge cake and Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream icing. Vanilla heaven.
Vanilla Sour Cream Sponge Cake
240g Plain Flour200g Caster Sugar
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
175g Butter, at room temperature
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste150ml Sour Cream
Preheat your oven to 180c/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line two 8 inch (20cm) loose bottomed cake tins with baking paper.
Place all of the ingredients into a food mixer & blend for about 2 minutes until light and well mixed. Scrape down the sides and base of the bowl to make sure everything is combined.
Pour the batter into the two tins (they should each hold about 430g of batter if you're a bit obsessive!) and bake for 25-35 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Mine were done after 25 minutes so start checking for doneness from this time onwards.
Remove from the oven & allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing
10 Egg Whites (or 300g of Pasteurised Egg Whites in a Carton)500g Sugar
675g Butter, cut into cubes & halfway between fridge cold & room temperature
1 tbsp Vanilla Extract
1 tbsp Vanilla Bean Paste
Boil a kettle of water and put about 2 inches worth into your biggest pot. Place on the hob & turn the heat down to the lowest simmer. Make sure your food mixer bowl is spotlessly clean - if in doubt, give it a wipe with some kitchen paper and vinegar or lemon juice - and place into the pot to form a bain marie.
Add the egg whites and sugar and whisk gently but continuously for about 5 minutes until all of the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove the bowl from the water & wipe the outside with a teatowel, so you don't get your food mixer wet.
Using the balloon whisk, beat on a slow speed (2-3) until the meringue is glossy, very thick and the base of the bowl is slightly warm. How quickly this happens depends on your bowl : if it's plastic, about 10 minutes but up to 30 minutes for metal. This is when you will fall on your knees and give thanks that you're using a machine and not doing this by hand!
Once the bowl has cooled, swap the balloon whisk for the paddle beater and start adding the cubes of butter, one at a time. Don't try to add more and beat faster... it doesn't work like that & this will take about 10-15 minutes. Once all the butter has been incorporated, add the vanilla extract and beat for another minute. If you want it to look very vanilla-y, use vanilla bean paste. Also, if you want to colour or flavour the SMB, now is the time to add gel colours or fruit puree/melted chocolate.
The finished SMB pipes beautifully, goes on smoothly with a spatula and is really quite the most perfect cupcake icing in existence. If you're serving them in warm weather or prefer a firmer icing, give them 30 minutes in the fridge.