Have you ever been so sick that you missed your own birthday? I hope not because I can tell you from very recent personal experience it's no fun!! :( This past Tuesday, I turned thirty (woohoo 3-0, dirty thirty, club 30, etc.) and the funniest thing about it is that I had been dreading it for the last year or so, and then I basically missed it because I was sleeping off a terrible flu and building tissue towers (gross, I know) instead. And this was just after I decided that I was ridiculous to dread it for even a minute because *epiphany moment* I am thrilled to be thirty and wouldn't trade a minute of the memories and experiences that brought me to this glorious age. Apart from getting over this vicious flu, I haven't felt better. I feel centered, energized, and so ready for all that will come next and quite frankly, I am already starting to look back at my twenties and thinking to myself, thank goodness those years have come and gone. Anyway, I'm pretty sure that if Sex and the City has taught me anything, it's that age is just a number and if you're living life right, you just keep getting better every year.
Gone are the days where the quality of my birthday celebration was measured by the amount of shots poured or number of guests in attendance. I'll tell you that if I wasn't sick, my ideal birthday celebration would have included an intimate dinner with my dearest friends and family, perhaps a round or two of celebrity (my favorite new game), and this cake. Yes. I made myself a cake. Because I turned thirty, I like making cakes, and why not! Each component compliments the others perfectly and also manages to represent different pieces of my life. Going back to the celebration for a quick moment, I do hope to get in a belated celebration (hint hint: Moses)!! And actually, thank goodness for birthday months because, I already got in a birthday dinner with family and another with my lovely friends when I went home earlier this month.
Regarding this year's birthday cake, I knew I wanted to make a cake that would stand up to a lilikoi curd and strawberry rhubarb jam filling and I couldn't think of better cake than a butter cake. And because I love me some vanilla bean paste, I of course added a healthy dose of that to the mix. Now, I have to give you the back story on butter cake because it might not be the first cake that comes to mind for most. One of my best friends worked at California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) when we were in college and she forever changed my life with that CPK butter cake (side note, where did my college metabolism go?). CPK's butter cake is insanely rich and dense, and while I definitely enjoyed my fair share of butter cakes back in the day, this cake is not quite that. While it is buttery and rich, it's much lighter and perhaps moister, thanks to the addition of the buttermilk.
While the cake is aces, the lilikoi curd kind of steals the show. This particular lilikoi curd came from my mom's neighbor Jan's company, Maui Upcountry Jams and Jellies. Not only does it take me back to Maui but it's also some of the best lilikoi curd I've ever had. Feel free to make your own, pick up a different brand or sub a curd of your choice BUT be warned: you'll be missing out on the best lilikoi curd you've ever had (Maui Upcountry Jams and Jellies). I paired that ridiculously delicious curd with Sqirl's strawberry rhubarb jam to add a little bit of LA to the equation (and because Sqirl makes some damn good preserves). Finally, this vanilla bean buttercream takes me back to SF, as SF is the spot where I made my first buttercream (shocker?) and also where I discovered my love for vanilla bean everything. Oh!! And in case you were wondering, the violets and basil flowers came from my little garden!!
To pull the whole cake together, I turned to Molly, the queen of cakes. If I ever have a question about how to build a cake, I always check My Name is Yeh for tips and tricks. In this case, I learned how to keep the amazing lilikoi curd and strawberry rhubarb jam where they belong (and avoid oozy curd and jam sides). Piping a line of buttercream around the edge of the layers keeps that curd and jam in check and keeps your cake lookin' pretty. Thanks for the tips, Molly!!
P.s. Happy Birthday to all you January babies. Today's officially the last day of our favorite month!
Vanilla Bean Butter Cake with Lilikoi Curd, Strawberry Rhubarb Jam, and Vanilla Bean Buttercream
Slightly adapted from King Arthur's Golden Vanilla Cake Recipe
Makes one 3-layer 9-inch round cake
- 2 c. granulated or baker's sugar
- 3 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 3/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/4 c. buttermilk, at room temperature
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla bean paste
- 4 large eggs
VANILLA BEAN BUTTERCREAM
- 16 oz. (2 c.) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla bean paste
- 3 - 4 c. powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 - 4 tsp. milk (I used almond milk)
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 8 oz. lilikoi curd
- 4 oz. strawberry rhubarb jam
- Three 9" x 2" round cake pans
- Three 9" parchment rounds
- Stand mixer
- Mixing bowl
- Silicone spatula
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Wire cooling rack
- Plastic wrap
- Offset spatula
- Piping bag fitted with tip
- Sharp knife to level cakes
- Move racks to middle of oven and preheat to 350°. Butter three cake pans and line with parchment rounds. Butter the rounds then dust pans with flour. Tap out any excess flour and set aside pans.
- In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt on low speed. Add butter and beat on low speed 'til mixture looks crumbly. In mixing bowl, whisk together buttermilk and vanilla bean paste. On low speed, incorporate the buttermilk mixture into the dry mixture and beat on low for 30 seconds then increase speed to medium and beat for an additional 30 seconds. Scrape bottom and sides of bowl.
Turn mixer to lowest speed and add 1 egg. Increase speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape bottom and sides down. Repeat three more times. When the last egg has been added, scrape the bottom and sides one more time, then beat at medium-high speed for 30 seconds.
- Evenly distribute batter amongst the three prepared pans. Bake for 24-27 minutes. Test doneness with a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done! Cool in pans for 30 minutes, then invert onto a rack to cool. When cooled completely, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and transfer to freezer till ready to frost.
VANILLA BEAN BUTTERCREAM
- In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine unsalted butter and vanilla bean powder and beat on medium-low speed until for 2-3 minutes. Add 3 c. powdered sugar and salt and beat at low speed until combined. Once combine, increase speed to medium and beat for around 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add 2 tsp. milk and beat for another minute. If you'd like a thicker consistency, add more sugar. If it needs to be thinned out a bit, add more milk.
FROSTING THE CAKE
- Level off your cake layers. Set your first cake layer on a plate with flat side facing down. Pipe a border of buttercream around the edge of your layer then fill with 4 oz. of lilikoi curd. Spoon on 2 oz. of strawberry rhubarb jam, dispersing as evenly as possible on layer (refer to images to see how I did mine). Top with the second cake layer, flat side up. Repeat the piping and curd and jam filling and finish with third layer. Using your offset spatula, frost cake with the remaining buttercream and decorate as you please! Note, you can do a thin crumb coat with the buttercream, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes then cover with an additional layer of buttercream if you'd like but I didn't. Refrigerate for at least an hour before slicing.
- Serve and enjoy!