Last Tuesday was my 32nd birthday and I made myself a cake. You may have noticed that we just celebrated another birthday around here, Paul's. Our birthdays are exactly 1 year and 3 weeks apart. Which makes him a Gemini and me a Cancer, thankfully because I am not sure two cancers or two Geminis together would be all that great. Although he is not very Gemini, he has no twin or double or evil side. Me though I am a very very very typical Cancer...
I am a homebody nester to the deepest core (I would be very happy never leaving the house except for a daily wander in nature, that is a must and obviously besides our travelling, just more on a day to day basis nesting is my thing), motherly, imaginative and creative (at least I seem to think so), loyal, sensitive and emotional a lot of times to a fault (I have been known to cry at commercials and no fail every single episode of Grey's Anatomy I am balling).
Neither Paul or I are big birthday celebrators, I think we may have exchanged gifts the first one or two years of our relationship until we were both like hey we really don't need to do this. It's not that we don't celebrate or try and make that day special we just do it differently. I don't find material things or gifts the way to my heart or his, plus we really don't need anything and what we do need we just buy. For us we would rather spend the time intimately together, whether that is dinner out, dinner cooked in our kitchen together, a weekend away, a couples massage or maybe a kayak around the ocean inlets (5 minutes from our house). Something together that builds on our intimacy and creates lasting memories we will always cherish.
But now seeing as I am kinda a foodie, there is always cake. Birthday cake is a must. For the longest time I would bake the same cake for Paul every year (he loves chocolate, like maybe more than me) but I have been branching out and working on my cake baking skills and I think each year from now on will be some kind of new cake. We actually opted this year to have chocolate covered strawberries and cherries for his so I had to step up my cake game when mine came around 3 weeks later.
This here cake is total bliss. It may actually be my most favourite cake I have ever baked. I used coconut sugar in the batter instead of regular sugar or instead of maple syrup or honey, which you have heard me talk about before. I only use natural sweeteners in my baking which can sometimes make it hard when I am only using liquid to get the proportions right but I have been researching coconut sugar (a natural sugar made from the sap of a coconut palm tree) a little more lately and am quite impressed.
I have PCOS which I have mentioned before here and one of the biggest things with PCOS is keeping my insulin and sugar intake down (I actually went completely sugar free last year when I had a cyst appear and burst). Coconut sugar actually raises your insulin the least amount of any sugar, it also retains more nutrients and minerals (zinc, calcium and potassium) that being said it is still a sugar and all sugars natural or not should be used in moderation. I will still stick with my honey, maple syrup and dates most often but you may see coconut sugar popping up in my cake baking a little more frequently.
Coconut sugar does give the cake a much darker tone as coconut sugar is darker (along the lines of brown sugar) but it also gives the cake a really nice depth of flavour, so if you don't mind your vanilla cake not so white looking I would definitely suggest coconut sugar over regular sugar (although that can be used in this recipe 1:1 if you don't have any coconut sugar.
I adapted the cake from a recipe I found on The Vanilla Bean Blog and it turned out delicious. I only slightly changed it to use coconut sugar and used vanilla yogurt instead of sour cream (mostly because I didn't have any sour cream in the house and thought the vanilla Greek yogurt would add an extra dash of vanilla flavouring).
But the real winner of this cake is the strawberry rhubarb buttercream. Oh my god it is dreamy, by far the best buttercream I have ever made. It is not overly sweet and you can definitely taste the strawberry and rhubarb throughout. Plus the natural pink colour it gets from the strawberry and rhubarb is beyond pretty, no fake colouring needed here. Its luscious, creamy and perfectly pretty in pink.
vanilla coconut sugar cake + strawberry rhubarb buttercream
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup room temp butter
2 cups coconut sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp pure vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vanilla greek yogurt
1 1/2 fresh strawberries
1 cup fresh rhubarb
3/4 cup water
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup room temp butter
3 cups organic icing sugar
5 tbsp strawberry rhubarb puree
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9 inch cake pans
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Mix together the buttermilk and vanilla yogurt in a small bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, whip the butter with a whisk attachment at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the coconut sugar, and beat again until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the vanilla, then whisk the batter again at medium speed for 3-4 minutes, until the batter is light and voluminous.
Using a spatula, fold in the flour and the buttermilk-yogurt mixture into the butter/sugar mixture in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.
Divide batter evenly among the prepared cake pans and bake 25-30 minutes, or until set in the center and a toothpick comes out clean (or with very little crumb).
Roughly chop the strawberries and rhubarb into small chunks. In a small bowl on medium heat add the fruit, maple syrup and vanilla and bring to a boil.
Then simmer for 15-18 minutes until the fruit is tender and most of the water has evaporated. Transfer to a food processor and blend until pureed smooth. Cool and leave at room temperature.
In a bowl of a standing mixer, add butter and whip with a whisk attachment at medium speed until light and fluffy. A cup at a time add in the icing sugar and mix until incorporated with the butter. Finally add in the vanilla and strawberry/rhubarb puree and mix until just incorporated. I leave my buttercream at room temperature until I am ready to ice my cake.
Place one layer of the cake on a serving plate. Put 3/4 of the buttercream on top of the layer, while spreading evenly make a sort of well in the middle of the buttercream and place about 6 tablespoons of the strawberry rhubarb puree into the icing well (making the well just helps the puree not squeeze out the sides when you place the other layer on top).
Top with the second layer of cake. Add the rest of the buttercream and and spread evenly on top. I spread a very thin layer around the edges of the cake to give it that naked frosted look. You can make it thicker by making the top spread thinner.
The strawberry/rhubarb puree will make a lot more than needed for the buttercream and cake middle but it makes a delicious yogurt, granola, pancake, waffle or oatmeal topping for your morning breakfast. Or you can freeze the puree and add some to smoothies or save for when you bake this cake again!
If you have any trouble with the buttercream breaking (it happens to the best of us) Sarah (The Vanilla bean blog) shared an awesome link from the kitchn with tips on how to rescue a broken buttercream. I have used the temperature trick before and it worked like a charm!
Adapted from The Vanilla Bean Blog