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vanilla cake with fresh berries

July 9, 2012

There are certain recipes that whisper to you through the internet, begging to be tried. Such is the case with pretty much everything that comes out of the amazing Smitten Kitchen. One of her latest cakes, however, so begged to be made asap, that I actually made it untested for a bake-off because that was the next baking need I had.

The prospect of making this cake on short notice saw me trek to 3 different farmers markets on Saturday in search of fresh raspberries and blueberries. I was too late in the day to nab them at either Fulton or Midtown. Luckily, Mill City rescued me from using grocery store berries. The gorgeous raspberries (my all time favorite berry) are from Prairie Hollow Farm. The succulent blueberries are from Heath Glen Farm. (The blueberries were, in fact, so tasty they have nearly converted me to a lover of blueberries. They have been one of the few fruits I never warmed up to. until now.)

Are you reading this in the Twin Cities? Have you ever thought to yourself, I should try entering my beloved [enter baked good here] in a bake-off? I urge you to dip your toes into the bake-off pool at Kingfield Farmers Market. It’s not only a fun, low-stress way to tick this activity off your lifetime to-do list (or was that just me?), it’s a fundraiser to help support this most excellent neighborhood market. And while this cake didn’t take home a prize yesterday, it was a definite winner with us. The only thing I changed when I made a third cake just for us last night was the amount of cake underneath the frosting and fresh berries. We either had crazy good conditions yesterday, or super baking powder, or I don’t know what. As written, the cake rose to the tippy top of a standard 9″ x 13″ pan, and was a bit much for the frosting & berries on top. For the cake pictured here, I used a half recipe of the smitten yellow cake & same proportion of frosting.

Deb’s instructions also reinforced some of the earliest cake baking lessons I learned from mom, a list of best cake making practices if you will:

  • Room temperature butter means room temperature butter. If you need to ‘help’ it there with your trusty microwave, so be it, but proceed with caution. If you end up with a soupy half melted stick of butter, start over again. Butter at different stages of solidness absorbs flour differently. Your recipe is giving you a key piece of information with the butter temp it calls for. (that’s also why you cut ice cold butter into flour for pie crusts)
  • Yes, your eggs should be room temp too. No, you can’t help THEM along in the microwave.
  • “Cream together butter and sugar” always means mix them together until they take on the properties of a light yellow, fluffy cloud (about 3 minutes on medium high regardless of whether you’re using a stand or a hand mixer).
  • Yes, sifting the dry ingredients together is a pain. Do it anyways, especially if you’re working with cake flour (clumps may survive the mixing. and clumps? bad for the batter).
  • Always add your eggs one at a time and always scrape the bowl down in between adding ingredients.
  • If you have to add dry and wet ingredients to a batter, alternate them and add each bit by bit. It’s easier for the batter to absorb a bit of flour and then a bit of liquid and so on, than to pour all of either in all at once.
  • The toothpick test is the most reliable way to test for cake doneness (an inserted toothpick will come out of the center of the cake cleanly when it’s done). you may, however, find yourself needing to test a cake without the aid of a toothpick. With practice, you can also see that a properly baked cake will pull away from the edges of the pan slightly.

Vanilla Cake with Fresh Berries

adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Flag Cake

Preheat oven to 350°


  • 1 pint raspberries, washed and dried
  • 1 pint blueberries, washed and dried

Vanilla Cake

  • 1/2 C butter, room temp
  • 1 C sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temp
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla bean paste
  • 233 grams cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 C buttermilk, well shaken

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder & salt. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and sugar, then add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Alternately add dry ingredients and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry. Pour into prepared 9″ x 13″ pan. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out of cake-center clean. Cool completely before frosting & adding the berries.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8-ounces cream cheese, room temp
  • 1/2 C butter, room temp
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla bean paste
  • 2 1/3 C powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese and butter together until they are fully incorporated and fluffy. Add powdered sugar 1 C at a time. (if you want it a bit more sweet & stiff, you can use 3 C powdered sugar instead)


I’ve never figured out how to best measure flour when accuracy really counts. Scoop & level a measuring cup? Pour into a larger measure cup and wiggle the cup on the table to level the flour? Each method gives enough of a different quantity to potentially make a difference in a recipe. Which to choose?! This is why I adore recipes that give me flour as a weight. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, GO! BUY! They aren’t expensive and you can even get ones that will do tare weights and flip between American and metric measures.

If you don’t have cake flour, don’t fret. Head over to the original recipe for the hack on how much regular flour & corn starch to use instead.

For cakes where the vanilla is to shine, I like vanilla bean paste. Strictly speaking it’s not necessary. Sub in pure vanilla extract if you don’t have the paste.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 10, 2012 8:30 am

    All great tips chick – I read this recipe & thought it’s begging for coconut frosting !!!! Never knew you weren’t into blueberries, I have a great blueberry pie, remind me to send…..

  2. July 10, 2012 2:08 pm

    If not for “grownup responsibilities,” we’d be on the first plane out….

  3. May 22, 2013 7:34 am

    I’m more than happy to discover this website. I need to to thank you for ones time for this particularly fantastic read!! I definitely enjoyed every part of it and I have you saved to fav to look at new stuff on your site.

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