Try your hand at a homemade real/fake Funfetti cake

A slice of cake, with the top covered in sprinkles on a plate, with a large cake with candles in it sitting on a cake plate in the background

I’m really big on making birthday cakes. You might say it’s my love language — like if I make you a cake, it means I love you. I don’t know if it’s the particular astrology of my friend/family circle, but it seems like May kicks off a back-to-back birthday cake making season that doesn’t end until November. Right now, I’m way into making homemade Funfetti cakes with fluffy buttercream frosting. Blame my ‘80s childhood, but Funfetti says birthday to me.

I’ve tried a lot of “confetti cake” recipes — some of them are really complicated. I’ve become partial to riffing on one from a cake blog called Cake by Courtney, which I’ve adapted below. It’s festive and delicious, with a tender crumb and a nostalgic birthday cake flavor, sans the boxed cake chemical aftertaste. It does require some specific ingredients, but it only needs your full attention for about 30 minutes total. Exactly my speed! A couple tools make it easier: a long offset frosting spatula or pastry scraper and a cake frosting turntable. Both of those things are relatively cheap and, in Anchorage, available at Joann and Walmart, among other spots. They really up your game.

A few other lessons from my birthday-cake making exploits: try to have most of your wet ingredients at room temperature. It really helps them combine with fats. If you don’t, it still works, just not as well. And, importantly, for that old-school Funfetti flavor, you have to use imitation vanilla. If you can find it, white or clear imitation vanilla is the best, because it helps keep the cake nice and white to contrast with the sprinkles. If you’d like to make a solid sprinkle top on your cake, just carefully shake the sprinkles on top and press them with the back of a flat metal spatula. Another extra sleek option is to mix sprinkles into the frosting and do a mostly white cake with a little sprinkly hint. Finally, don’t make me relive how I know, but if you can avoid it, never transport a cake to a party on an elevated cake plate. Cakes should travel flat as possible, in a tight-fitting cardboard box. An actual cake box is worth every penny.

Three-layer real/fake Funfetti birthday cake

Serves: 10 to 12

For the cake:

1 cup (two sticks) salted butter, room temperature

1 3/4 cups white sugar

1/3 cup canola oil

3 large eggs, room temperature

3 egg whites, room temperature

1/4 cup sour cream, room temperature

3 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon imitation vanilla extract or white vanilla extract

1/2 cup rainbow “jimmies” or sprinkles

For the frosting:

Four sticks (two cups) salted butter, room temperature

6 cups powdered sugar, sifted through a fine mesh sieve

3 tablespoons whipping cream

1 tablespoon white vanilla extract

1 teaspoon sea salt

Optional: 1/4 cup rainbow jimmies or sprinkles

Additional sprinkles to decorate.


Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Trace one of your three cake pans three times on parchment paper, and cut out the circles. Spray each pan generously with cooking spray, place the parchment circles in each pan and give one more cooking spray spritz. In a medium sized bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter for a couple of minutes until it gets a little fluffy. Add sugar, mix until well combined. To the running mixer, add the eggs and egg whites, one at a time. Incorporate the canola oil, then add sour cream. It should be pretty smooth. Measure out the buttermilk and add the vanilla to it. With the mixer on medium-low speed, shake in about a third of the dry ingredients and then add about a third of the buttermilk mixture. Repeat until it’s all combined. Don’t overmix. Using a kitchen scale with your pans to get an even three-way split, fill each with the same amount of batter. Slide into the oven and set a timer for 28 minutes. When the timer goes off, test the cakes’ doneness by gently touching the top of each one. If it’s done, it’ll bounce back. If it doesn’t, give it a minute more. Let the cakes cool in their pans for a few minutes and then carefully invert them on a rack. Let them cool completely before moving on to the frosting step.

Make the frosting: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter for 2 or 3 minutes, until it’s starting to get fluffy. Add the sugar a cup at a time — go slow or you’ll puff it out of the bowl and get it everywhere, ask me how I know. Sprinkle in the salt. Drizzle in the cream and the vanilla. Scrape down the sides. Now, set the speed on medium high and let it go for 6 minutes. You’ll see it fluff up and increase in volume. At the very end, if you’re wanting to have sprinkles in the frosting, you can slow the mixer down and shake them in. Give the frosting some stirs with a wooden spoon to tame down the bubbles.

To frost: When the cakes are totally cool, place a fat dollop of frosting at the center of your cake plate, lay down the first layer of cake and position it in the middle. Frost the top of that layer, with about a third of an inch of frosting, trying to kind of get an even, flat top.

Repeat with the next layer and then position the final layer on top. Now frost sides, using about half of the remaining frosting, smoothing it around the cake as you go with a large knife, offset frosting spatula or a pastry scraper. It really helps, here, to have a rotating cake frosting carousel, if you’re looking for a really smooth finish. Plop the remaining frosting on the top and spread, evening out the edges and then smoothing with a frosting spatula or pastry scraper. If you like, carefully spread a heavy layer of sprinkles on the top and gently press into the frosting with the bottom of a spatula.

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