Do you love sprinkles in your birthday cake? Was the classic Pillsbury Funfetti cake mix your very favorite? Funfetti cakes were a staple of childhood birthday parties, but I haven't had one in a long time — probably because I don't really use boxed cake mixes anymore. I realized, though, that it is still a snap to make a Funfetti cake. Just add sprinkles!
Yes indeed, that's all you need to do in order to make a Funfetti cake from scratch. Find a light, fluffy white cake (they're really so easy to make from scratch — and so much better-tasting than a boxed mix!) and add sprinkles.
I combed through some of my favorite recipes for white cake, including a classic one from Joy of Cooking. I settled on an adaptation of a Rose Levy Berenbaum recipe, substituting some shortening for the butter to ensure a very white, very tender cake. I don't use shortening all that often when I bake, but there are plenty of good non-hydrogenated options out there now, and they have their place. I keep a few baking sticks of shortening around for baking recipes like this.
This particular recipe comes out very fluffy, and not too terribly sweet. As a simple, reliable, moist, and tender white cake, it works very well. Here's the original recipe, if you want to compare:
→ White Velvet Cake from Rose Levy Berenbaum
Personally, I love four-layer cakes, so I baked this cake in four cake pans, instead of two. This makes for a slightly less fluffy cake. Professionals usually opt to just split cake layers, but this method is easier and faster for me. (And hey, more frosting!)
For the frosting I used a very plain, basic white buttercream. I didn't have a lot of time, so I used this simple buttercream from I Am Baker (adapted from Magnolia):
This frosting is quite sweet, though, so if you have a little more time I recommend this cooked buttercream, which is a bit more balanced:
Sprinkles are everything, when it comes to a Funfetti cake. The best sprinkles for baking into a cake are the longer "jimmies" — multi-colored and waxy. I used the ones pictured above on the right. But if you want to get seriously homemade here, you could make your own sprinkles and bake those into the cake. I'm not 100% sure that you would get the same effect, but it's worth a try. I'd love to see someone do this! (And making sprinkles might sound ridiculous, but it's actually quite easy.)
The result of all this is, as you might imagine, a very sweet vanilla cake. If you're looking for a big, sprinkled, colorful sugar bomb for your next party, this is your thing!
The sprinkles do stand out — colorful and bold — in a fluffy white cake, so tender and moist. And that's really what I was after here. Funfetti — it's not just for kids' birthday parties anymore. This cake has a far better texture than those cottony puffballs that come out of cake-mix boxes; it has real tenderness and vanilla flavor.
Makes 1 9-inch layer cake, serves 8
4 egg whites from large eggs
1 cup whole milk, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
8 tablespoons non-hydrogenated shortening
1/3 cup multi-colored jimmies
Heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans. (Or, for a four-layer cake, grease four cake pans.) In a small bowl, mix the egg whites, 1/4 cup milk, vanilla, and almond extract. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix for 30 seconds or until well-combined. Add the butter and shortening and mix for another 30 seconds, or until combined with the flour mixture. Pour in the remaining 3/4 cup milk and continue mixing on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Gradually pour in the egg white mixture, mixing for 30 seconds after each addition. Mix for one more minute. Gently fold in the multi-colored jimmies.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans (see this tip on the best way to divide batter between cake pans). If baking in two pans, bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops are slightly golden and spring back when pressed. If baking in four pans, bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are slightly golden and spring back when pressed.
Remove from the oven and place the pans on baking racks to cool for about 10 minutes. Turn the pans over onto the rack. Flip the cake layers over and let them cool completely before icing.
Tips for Icing a Layer Cake
This recipe was originally published May 2011.
(Image credits: Faith Durand)