I can’t believe my younger brother turned 21 this week.  It terrifies me and makes me feel very old at the same time.  Thankfully I still have one brother under 20, but when he hits 21 I just don’t know what I’ll do!  Anyway, I wanted to make Davy (AKA “Bro”) a fun, 21st-themed cake.  I came up with tons of different ideas but finally settled on this one – a nice simple cake, festive, and no alcohol in the cake so the pregnant baker could still taste it :)  Plus, the mini liquor bottles doubled as his gift which was nice.  I was so happy with the way this turned out and Davy loved it. 

Here’s a pic of us when we were little (Davy is sitting on the lawn mower and the other cutie is our brother Steven):


And here’s a pic of both boys now at one of their favorite places, Wrigley Field (Steven is second from the left being weird, Davy is third from the left):


And now, on to the recipes.  The whole cake turned out really well and I liked it so much, I was honestly a little sad to give the whole thing away :)  I especially loved the frosting.  It was soooo delicious, and very easy to make.  I kind of want to make a cake again just to have some more of that frosting.  My only change was to sift the powdered sugar before adding to the frosting.  I always do this when making frosting or icing because it just turns out better.

Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake
2 ½ cups cake flour, plus extra for dusting pans
1 ¼ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. table salt
1 ¾ cups sugar
10 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks plus 3 large egg whites, at room temperature  

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°.  Grease two 9-inch cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper.  Grease paper rounds, dust pans with flour, and knock out excess.  Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1 ½ cups sugar together in large bowl.  In 4-cup liquid measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and yolks. 

In clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium-high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds.  With machine running, gradually add remaining ¼ cup sugar; continue to beat until stiff peaks just form, 30 to 60 seconds (whites should hold peak but mixture should appear moist).  Transfer to bowl and set aside.  

Add flour mixture to now-empty mixing bowl fitted with whisk attachment.  With mixer running at low speed, gradually pour in butter mixture and mix until almost incorporated (a few streaks of dry flour will remain), about 15 seconds.  Stop mixer and scrape whisk and sides of bowl.  Return mixer to medium-low speed and beat until smooth and fully incorporated, 10 to 15 seconds.  

Using rubber spatula, stir 1/3 of whites into batter to lighten, then add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain.  Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans.  Lightly tap pans against counter 2 or 3 times to dislodge any large air bubbles.  

Bake until cake layers begin to pull away from sides of pans and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 20-22 minutes.  Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes.  Loosen cakes from sides of pan with small knife, then invert onto greased wire rack and peel off parchment.  Invert cakes again and cool completely on rack, about 1 ½ hours. 

Source: Cook’s Illustrated, April 2008 

Easy Vanilla Buttercream
20 tbsp. (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. heavy cream 

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds.  Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds.  Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds.  Scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds.  Then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.  

Source: The Way the Cookie Crumbles, originally from Cook’s Illustrated, April 2007