A triple-layered cake is a guaranteed show-stopper, but if you're not feeding a large crowd, it's simple to reduce the quantities and make a single or double-layered cake. Sparklers to adorn it are optional, but highly recommended. The buttercream frosting is inspired by a Catherine Adams recipe.
- 350 gm softened butter, plus extra for greasing
- 700 gm (4 2/3 cups) plain flour
- 550 gm (2½ cups) caster sugar
- 380 ml milk
- 200 gm crème fraîche
- 6 tsp baking powder
- 280 gm eggwhites (about 10)
- 3 tbsp hundreds-and-thousands, plus extra to serve
- 500 gm caster sugar
- 230 gm eggwhite (around 8)
- 500 gm butter, at room temperature
- 1Preheat oven to 170C. Butter three 20cm-diameter cake tins, line the bases with baking paper and dust sides with flour. Beat butter in an electric mixer, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally, until very fluffy and almost white (10-12 minutes), then beat in vanilla seeds. Scrape down sides of bowl, add flour, sugar, milk, crème fraîche and baking powder and mix on low speed to combine. Beat in eggwhites, a little at a time, until smooth, then stir in hundreds-and-thousands. Divide evenly among prepared tins, smooth tops and bake, swapping tins occasionally during cooking, until pale golden and centres spring back when lightly pressed (55 minutes to 1 hour). Cool in tins for 10 minutes, then turn out and cool on wire racks. Trim tops flat with a serrated knife and set aside.
- 2For buttercream frosting, gently whisk sugar, eggwhite and a generous pinch of salt in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water until mixture reaches 50C-53C (10-12 minutes). Transfer to an electric mixer and whisk on medium-high speed until cooled completely (10-15 minutes), then add butter a little at a time until incorporated. Beat in vanilla seeds and set aside (see note).
- 3Place one cake on a serving plate, spread with frosting to about 7mm thick and refrigerate until frosting firms (8-10 minutes), then repeat. Top with remaining cake, spoon peaks of frosting on top, scatter with hundreds-and-thousands and serve.
Note If it's a hot day you may need to cool buttercream frosting over ice or in the fridge briefly to firm it up.