My friends called for a birthday cake with the specifications that it should contain a lot of cream and be covered in marzipan.

I had a lot of vanilla buttercream left over in my freezer but it seemed too dense, so I mixed it with equal parts whipped cream and pastry cream.

I baked Toba Garrett’s yellow cake in 2 9-inch pans.

I cut each cake in half and leveled the tops. Each layer was generously brushed with simple syrup (flavored with peach schnapps), then covered in a thin layer of Sarabeth’s peach jam. Then a layer of cake, reapeating the process with all layers.

I crumb coated everything with straight-up buttercream.

Finally I kneaded and rolled out the marzipan to cover the cake. All the decorations were marzipan as well (except for the piping, which was royal icing, painted gold).

Toba Garrett’s Yellow Cake

3 cups (330 g) cake flour (King Arthur now makes an unbleached one…hooray)

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup (8 oz or 230 g) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 cups (454 g) granulated sugar

5 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups (10 fl oz or 300 ml) buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and line with parchment paper two 9 inch pans. Set aside.

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

Cut up the butter into 1-inch pieces and place them in the large bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment or beaters. Beat for 3 minutes on MEDIUM-HIGH speed until the butter is light and creamy in color. Stop and scrape the bowl. Cream the butter for an additional 60 seconds.

Add the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add the eggs one at a time.

Reduce the mixer speed. Stir vanilla into the buttermilk. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. Mix just until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a knife. Lift up the pan with the batter, and let it drop onto the counter top to burst any air bubbles, allowing the batter to settle.

Center the pans onto the lower third of the oven and let bake 45 to 50 minutes or until the cake is lightly brown on top and comes away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Toba Garrett’s Vanilla Buttercream

I like to make a double recipe and freeze the left-overs because it is such a time commitment to make this.

1 1/2 Cups (345g) granulated sugar
3/4Cup (6floz or 180ml) milk
1 1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4tsp salt
1Tbsp pure vanilla extract
3/8 Cup (3floz or90ml) heavy cream
1 1/4 lbs (567 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
Make custard by heating milk and sugar until sugar crystals dissolve. Add flour and salt and whisk over an ice bath until the custard has cooled, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1/2 hour to cool the mixture. Whisk in vanilla extract.

Pour custard mixture into a mixer bowl with a paddle attachment. Add cut-up butter and add heavy cream. Mix on low speed to incorporate ingredients. Gradually increase speed to medium-high until the mixture begins to thicken. It takes at least 7 to 9 minutes for the butter to be completely incorporated.

Put the icing in a plastic container with a lid and refrigerate. It will keep for 1 week in the refrigerator or freeze for 2 months.

Note: Don’t panic if the buttercream looks like cottage cheese. The more you beat this buttercream, the creamier it gets.

Pastry Cream
  • 2 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

In medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup milk, egg yolks, 1/3 cup sugar, and cornstarch.

Transfer remaining 1 3/4 cups milk to heavy medium saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean and add the pod. Add remaining 1/3 cup sugar over.

Set pan over moderate heat and bring to simmer without stirring.

Whisk hot milk mixture. Whisk half the milk into the egg yolk mixture. Pour everything back into the saucepan with milk. Cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until pastry cream thickens. Remove from heat, discard vanilla pod, and whisk cream until smooth. Transfer to bowl and press plastic wrap directly onto surface. Chill until cold, about 4 hours. (Pastry cream can be made ahead and refrigerated, wrapped well with plastic wrap on surface, up to 3 days.)

Simple Syrup

2 cups water

2 cups sugar1 Tbsp vanillaLiquor of choice (optional)Boil water and sugar until all the sugar dissolves. Add vanilla and liquor (such as calvados, kirsch or amaretto, depending on the flavors of your cake). Cool before use. This keeps in the fridge for at least two weeks.