I've been making an insane amount of surprise cakes lately. This certainly was not a mission I set out on. I wanted to try one - JUST ONE! - of these surprise cakes for my website's birthday, but I should have figured once I showed the world I knew how to make instagram's favorite cake it would take off.
Shortly after I posted the first cake, a client of mine requested one for her son's birthday. Despite the havoc it wreaks on my kitchen, I obliged. I'll note that when you live in 900 or so square feet, the sprinkles end up in about 450 of those. A couple months later my three (going on thirty) year old niece called me and asked if I could make her birthday cake. She had three strict requirements: candy, sprinkles, and a cherry on top. Only a monster can turn down a three year old, but even if I were a monster, this girl does not take no for an answer, (no, not even from a monster) so once again I obliged. In between all of this, I had the idea to do a Chanukah surprise cake filled with gelt, but back to my niece.
By the time her birthday rolled around I'd thought we'd reached peak saturation on this whole sprinkle cake thing. I was wrong. As soon as the cake came out at the birthday party, I was fielding requests for business cards and before you could say surprise, I was back in the kitchen making a fresh batch of frosting for the cake orders I'd received.
I've always loved making cakes but after the month I've had I think I'm heading into retirement for a little bit. The last stop on this tour is this Chanukah Surprise Cake. Yes, the surprise cake is over saturated but what's more oversaturated? Latkes and sufganyot! Yes, yes, they're delicious. But if you, like me, are ready for something fresh for Chanukah desserts then I just might be your gal.
Recipe for the cake via Martha Stewart
For the cake
2 cups butter, softened to room temperature
4 ⅔ cups sugar
5 egg whites, at room temperature
1 ½ tablespoons vanilla extract
1 ½ tablespoons baking powder
6 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups milk, at room temperature
Blue food coloring
For the frosting
2 cups butter, softened to room temperature
2 pounds confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
For the center of the cake
Blue and white sprinkles
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare four 6” cake pans. Grease them well and line with parchment rounds. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream together sugar and butter. Beat at a medium speed until fully combined. Slowly drizzle in the egg whites, then add the vanilla and the baking powder. Reduce the speed and add the flour and milk in three alternating additions, starting with the flour and ending with the milk. Continue to mix until fully combined.
3. Separate half the batter into a large bowl. Add several drops of the blue food coloring to one of the bowls. Mix until the food coloring is fully combined. Add more food coloring until you reach your desired color.
4. Separate equal amounts of the blue batter to two cake pans. Then separate equal amounts of the white batter into two cake pans. Transfer to the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes. (Check on them after 15 minutes as baking times will vary by oven)
5. When the cakes are cool enough to handle, place a plate over the cake pan and flip the pan so that the cake flips out onto the plate. If the cakes are stuck, use a paring knife and scrape around the sides of the cake pan to gently separate the cake from the pan, then try to flip it again. Be careful not to do this when the cake is too hot because it could fall apart. Allow the cakes to cool completely. If the cakes are domed, use a serrated knife to trim the top of the cake to make it level. Then use a cookie cutter or the mouth of a cup to remove the center of three of the cakes. Leave one of the cakes intact. Once the centers are removed, wrap each cake in two layers of saran wrap, followed by one layer of aluminum foil. Freeze the cakes at least overnight, up to a month. (You can eat, save or dispose of the centers of the cakes. It’s entirely up to you.)
6. When you’re ready to assemble the cake, remove them from the freezer (you can assemble them completely frozen.) Make the frosting: in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter on a medium speed until it is very smooth and lightens in color, about 2 minutes. Lower the speed and slowly add in the sugar. Continue to mix until the sugar is fully combined and then add the vanilla and milk. Raise the speed to medium and continue to whip the frosting for about 5 minutes.
7. Place a cake board or piece of parchment paper on a rotating cake stand or lazy susan. Place a dollop of frosting on the board and place one of the cakes with the center cut out. Generously frost the top of the top of the cake and then top with another one of the cakes without a center. You will want to alternate the colors (so if you started with a blue layer, top it with a white cake.) Frost the second cake, and top with the third cake making sure to line up all the cake layers so that they align.
8. In a small bowl combine the sprinkles and gelt. Pour the mixture into the hole in the center of the cake. Frost the top of the cake and top with the last layer. The last layer should be the layer without the hole.
9. Cover the entire cake with a thin layer of frosting and use a bench scraper to scrape off any excess. Place in the fridge for about 30 minutes to allow the first coat of frosting to harden.
10. In the meantime, separate one heaping spoon of frosting into a small bowl. Add a few drops of the blue food coloring to the bowl and mix well.
11. When the cake is hard to the touch, remove it from the fridge. Cover the entire cake with a second, thicker layer of the white frosting. Add a few dollops of the blue frosting sporadically around the cake. Then use the bench scraper again to scrape off the excess cake. You can add more frosting, including more of the blue frosting, and repeat this process as you like.
12. Optionally: add a ring of gelt around the bottom of the cake. Secure the gelt by placing a little bit of frosting on the back of each one. Place a small plate on top of the cake and sprinkle sprinkles around the plate for an even ring. Top with a bow.