Intro: Not-Your-Average Funfetti Cake Hack
A few weeks ago, I started hobby baking and my first favorite was a Double Espresso Cake Hack, using boxed cake mix as a base to create a decadent dessert. I served it to a group of my friends and it was definitely a hit, but a couple of the people in the group asked if I could make a funfetti cake. I had never before had a funfetti cake, but the concept was not entirely unfamiliar to me, so I told them I would give it a go. I decided to keep with my theme of starting with an ordinary boxed cake mix and changing/exchanging/adding ingredients to get to a "better than normal" flavor and texture. Below you'll find my take on funfetti - enjoy!!
Step 1: Ingredients
For the cake:
- 1 box of white cake mix (I used Betty Crocker Super Moist Vanilla)
- 1 box of instant vanilla pudding (I used Jell-O French vanilla)
- 4 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 stick of butter, melted and cooled
- 1/2 - 3/4 cup of vanilla yogurt (pick one that tastes good!)
- 2 teaspoons of good vanilla extract (I make my own - I'll give you the recipe at the end)
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup of buttermilk
- (milk can be substituted for any of the above liquids, if you don't have something)
For the frosting
- 2-3 tablespoons of cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 stick of butter, at room termperature
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of vanilla
- 3-4 cups of powdered (confectioner's) sugar
- 1 small jar of rainbow nonpareils (or more sprinkles!)
Step 2: Making the Cake
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Prepare your pan(s) using one of the following methods:
• Spray with non-stick cooking spray (this method does not always release the cake well).
• Butter the bottom and sides of the pan(s) and then dust with flour: place ~2 tablespoons into the pan and shake it around in all directions to coat, then invert over the garbage/sink and tap to remove any flour that has not stuck to the butter (this method usually releases pretty well...).
• Follow the instructions in the previous step, and then add parchment paper to the bottom of the pan. I used 2 round pans, tracing each onto parchment and then cutting inside the line I drew to account for the thickness of the pan itself (this method provides the easiest/neatest release of all)
3. Mix the cake mix and the pudding mix in a bowl and set aside.
4. In your mixer bowl, begin beating your room temperature eggs at a medium-high speed, one at a time, adding each successive egg after the previous is fully beaten. Most cake mixes call for only three eggs - the additional egg creates a richer cake and, let's face it, eggs are delicious.
5. Continue beating the eggs, adding the melted-but-cooled butter, the vanilla extract, the yogurt and the buttermilk. Here, we're replacing the vegetable oil with butter (which adds flavor) and we're replacing the water with vanilla yogurt for texture and flavor, buttermilk for richness and some extra vanilla because it's a vanilla cake.... Again, you can alter amounts and/or substitute milk in this step, depending on what you have on-hand.
6. Once all your liquids are fully incorporated, slowly add your dry mix (of cake and pudding) into the liquid while beating at a medium speed. Once all the powder is in the bowl, stop the mixer and scrape the sides, then beat for another minute.
7. Once your cake batter is mixed, fold in the sprinkles. Folding is just gentle stirring, to preserve the air we've mixed into the batter, keeping it nice and fluffy. After your sprinkles are folded in, pour the batter into your pan or pans and bake according to the time chart provided on your boxed cake mix.
8. When a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, allow the cake to cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire rack before removing the cake from the pan to cool completely (if you are planning to frost the cake in the pan, then just allow to cool completely) and then frost!
Step 3: Making the Frosting
The frosting is SUPER easy! So easy, I didn't even think of taking more than one picture!!
- Beat your room temperature cream cheese for a minute or so, by itself.
- Add your stick of room temperature butter and continue beating for another two minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl after a minute or so.
- Once your butter and cream cheese have gotten to know each other, introduce your vanilla extract and continue beating for another minute. The mix might separate slightly, due to the vanilla, but it will come back together in the next step.
- Add the first three cups of powdered sugar one cup at a time, allowing the sugar to fully incorporate before scraping down the bowl and adding the next one. Taste your frosting and adjust the vanilla level, if needed.
- Add the final cup of powdered sugar in 1/4 cup increments until you reach your desired consistency - you want it to be smooth and spreadable.
Step 4: Decorating
IMPORTANT: Let your cake cool completely before trying to frost it! I am (generally) an absolute menace when it comes to frosting a cake, mainly because I'm impatient - learn from my (frequent) mistakes!
For rectangular and/or single layer cakes:
- Drop a few good-sized "plops" of frosting onto the cake and then work it around. I find it is best if you avoid lifting your spreader (I use a rubber scraper) too often and if you generally spread in one direction. Again, I'm not a pro....use a method that works for you!
- Add the rainbow nonpareils. These are the teeny little dots, rather than the longer ones. I think they look nice and they don't seem to bleed their color as quickly/easily as the longer sprinkles or the colorful candy shapes. But, again, it's your cake - do what YOU want!!
For double layer cakes:
- Drop a single "plop" of frosting (1/2 cup, I'd say) onto the bottom layer and smooth it around. This one doesn't need to be perfect, as it will be hidden.
- Add an even coat of rainbow nonpareils.
- Choose which side of your remaining cake will be the top. Now invert the cake so it is bottom-up. Add a small "plop" of frosting and smooth this out, just like in step one.
- Carefully flip the top layer onto the bottom, so the frosting sandwiches the sprinkles you added to the bottom.
- Drop a few "plops" of frosting on the naked top of the cake, being sure to reserve some to frost the sides, and smooth it out - I find it is best if you avoid lifting your spreader (I use a rubber scraper) too often and if you generally spread in one direction.
- This is where I struggle the most - the sides. I found that I do best if I pick up a small amount of frosting onto my spreader and gently work it around, always traveling in one direction. If you get bare spots, don't backtrack, just keep moving in the same direction and you'll get back to it.
- Finally, add the rainbow nonpareils to the top and the sides - I used the shaker lid that came with mine and just tossed them toward the side and that worked well.
Enjoy making a basic cake something fun and delicious - don't be afraid to experiment!! Also, check out the next step for how to make vanilla extract!
Step 5: Bonus: Homemade Vanilla Extract
Making your own (delicious) vanilla extract is actually super-duper easy!
- (1) 375mL bottle of decent vodka (also known as a pint....even though it's not actually a pint....)
- (2) whole vanilla beans (minimum)
- Using a sharp knife, split each vanilla bean lengthwise. The easiest/safest way to do this is to hold one end of the bean on the cutting board with your thumb, then press the tip into the bean just below your thumb and slowly drag the knife away from your thumb.
- Once all your beans are split, put them into a bottle with a tight-fitting lid (screw top or swing top) and add the vodka.
- I like to give mine a little shake every few days at the beginning, but really all it needs now is time. Give it a minimum of 6 months in a cool dark place and that's it! The longer it sits, the more the beans will saturate the vodka. I also tend to leave the beans in the bottle until it's gone....and then, don't throw them out! You can take the "spent" beans and put them in a mason jar with granulated sugar and in a few weeks, you have a lovely smelling vanilla sugar - great in coffee, I hear!