My senior year of college I lived in a house with 10 roommates in West Philadelphia. This house was not your typical off-campus house; not only was it giant (we're talking 11 bedrooms 6.5 bathrooms, and 2 kitchens), it was also designated as an official historic landmark by the City of Philadelphia. A painter, Herman Herzog, lived there with his family during the late 1800s-early 1900s. I'm not sure who lived in the house for the 75 years after Herman's death, but at some point, a local man named Vuong bought the house and completely renovated the inside. Since the house is right on Penn's campus and since there are not many 11 person families living in Philadelphia, he decided to rent it out to college students, which was appropriate considering there was a giant mosaic Penn "P" on one of the walls in the kitchen. My big big sis in my sorority lived there before me, and then she passed down the lease to me and my big sis, along with several friends and friends of friends.
Living in that house for a year was one of the best decisions I ever made. Inside the house was much less adult--we had a broken TV, ate off of stolen silverware from the dining hall, sat on mismatched bar stools, and had a minor mouse problem to top it off--but it was our home and we absolutely loved it. We were a family--a weird, quirky, squabbling family. When you live with that many people there was always someone who wanted to skip class and watch Extreme Couponing with you, or go for a run outside through campus, or just sit in the kitchen, ignoring your work, talking until 2am. Living there was, as Mariana Keegan said so beautifully, the opposite of loneliness.
As you can imagine, living with that many girls, someone was ALWAYS baking. No exaggeration. Pretty much every morning I'd wake up to a plate of something sweet with a post-it that said, "Made these, please eat!" Above all we were obsessed with anything funfetti flavored, especially RAINBOW CHIP ICING. Rainbow chip icing, which I swear to god can only be found at the FroGro in West Philly, is the most magical canned icing out there (and this is coming from a gal who hates canned anything). It is not just sprinkles in icing, it's these little colored sweet chips blanketed in icing that is a cross between buttercream and cream cheese icing. It's just trouble, really. The other day I was craving said icing but with no way to obtain it I settled for making this more grown-up funfetti cake from Molly Yeh's website. Everything she makes is so beautiful, I knew this cake would be a winner and it did not disappoint!
This one is for you, Zogmates. I wish y'all were here to help me eat it.
Recipe can be found here along with instructions. A couple changes: first, I didn't have clear imitation vanilla on hand so I used the brown kind. It still turned out great! The batter is just more of an off-white color. Second, I added 2 tsp almond extract, because I just think almond brings out the flavors in everything. Third, I ran out of long jimmies for sprinkling the top of the cakes before you bake them, so I used nonpareils instead. This cake uses a LOT of sprinkles! Not for the faint of heart, I used an entire standard-sized tube of store-bought sprinkles for this baby.
To make your life easier, make sure you grease the pans and line the bottoms with a circle of parchment paper!
After baking I recommend letting your cakes cool, then wrapping them in plastic wrap and sticking them in the freezer for at least an hour. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to frost a just-baked cake because it is super friable and falls apart under the stress of the knife and frosting. I am the worst at having patience but this step is worth it, promise! For the frosting I followed Molly's recipe with a few exceptions. Although this is not a "true" buttercream (which is made with hot sugar) the texture is very similar and so it is very important to use unsalted butter, otherwise your frosting will taste more like straight butter, less like frosting.
Vanilla-Almond Buttercream (adapted from Molly Yeh)
4 sticks of butter, room temp
3.5 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon 1/2 and 1/2
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 pinch salt
Blend butter until fluffy, add salt and extracts followed by sugar, a little bit at a time. Last, add the milk and blend for an additional minute on medium speed.
To assemble it's easiest to work on a rotating cake stand. I use this one--it was inexpensive and works like a charm! Unwrap your semi-frozen cake and put it flat side down (the side that was on the bottom of the cake pan). Add a heaping pile of frosting on top and spread around before putting on the next cake layer, flat side UP this time.
Next is the crumb coat. Think of this like an insurance policy for your cake; you lightly cover the entire cake in a tiny bit of frosting, filling in all the nooks and crannies, so when you add the final coat it goes on perfectly smooth.
At this point put your cake in the freezer and let it sit for five minutes while the crumb coat hardens up. After, you can add the final coat of buttercream. Use all the frosting the bowl! It isn't too much, go for it. Really pile it on the edges at the top and along the bottom where the cake meets the plate. It should look shaggy like the picture below.
If you want your cake to have those perfect, sleek sides get a bench-scraper or some other sort of strait-edged implement. Line your scraper up on the cake with one hand and turn the cake stand with the other. Do this repeatedly until the sides are smooth, then repeat on the top, placing the scraper at an angle like it is a hand on a clock and rotate the stand again.
At this point you can do whatever your heart's desire may be. I added gold sprinkles to the top and fondant hearts to the sides, because it is February after all.
To make the hearts I used this fondant recipe but only used 1/8th of the recipe and didn't add extract or salt. The math got tricky, but it was about an 1/8th cup shortening and an 1/8th cup corn syrup, enough powdered sugar so that the dough formed a stiff disk, and enough peach and pink food coloring to achieve the desired coral hue. From here you can roll it out (I recommend rolling on tin foil or parchment so that the color doesn't bleed onto your counter) and cut shapes using cookie cutters.
And finally, the best part! sticking the shapes on the cake! They should stick all by themselves, but if you need you can use a little bit of the leftover frosting.
Serve with piping hot coffee and an extra large dose of college nostalgia. Xx