27/08/2015

Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake

There is no better reason to bake a cake than to celebrate a birthday, especially if it's the birthday of someone special. As I've gotten older I've begun to cherish birthdays in a different way; I look forward to others' birthdays so much more than my own, not because I'm afraid of becoming another year older but because it reminds me of how I've been so blessed to have such amazing people in my life as friends and family. Birthdays are a great reason to celebrate the people we love and shower them with a little extra kindness and attention...and cake! I made this Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake for a dear friend of mine who celebrated her birthday this week and if you knew her you would agree that this cake suits her perfectly: it's sweet and beautiful with a classic, simple elegance.









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The recipe for this cake is adapted from my favourite egg-free vanilla cupcakes recipe. My niece has an egg allergy, so I've learned to master egg-free baking for birthdays and family dinners and such, but if I didn't tell you this cake was egg-free you would never guess!
The vanilla bean buttercream frosting recipe is my own.


You'll need:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
4 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups milk
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste (I buy the Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste. It's the best one I've found at the best price point, and it's usually cheaper on Amazon than it is at baking supply stores).

2-3 tsp butter for greasing the cake pans
1-2 tbsp flour for flouring the pans


For the frosting:

1 cup unsalted butter
4 oz. plain cream cheese
7 cups powdered icing sugar
4 tbsp whole milk
2 tsp vanilla bean paste


To make:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prepare two round cake pans (8 or 9-inch rounds are fine for this recipe) by greasing them with butter and fitting a piece of parchment paper into the bottom of each pan. A good way to ensure you cut the parchment to the correct size is to trace the pan on a large sheet of parchment and cut it to size from the tracing.

Grease under the parchment and on top of it, and then flour the pans with 1 tbsp flour each. Toss the flour around in the pans until it coats the inside of each pan completely and then tap out the access over the kitchen sink.

Combine the flour, sugar, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl with a wire whisk.

In a separate bowl combine the milk, oil, apple cider vinegar and the vanilla bean paste.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine them with a wire whisk.


Continue whisking just until the mixture becomes smooth (about 1 minute).


Divide the batter evenly between the two pans you've prepared. When I bake cakes like this I like to use a kitchen scale to weigh each pan as I add the batter. This helps ensure that the batter is divided exactly evenly. 


Just before you put the pans in the oven, bang the bottom of each pan against the counter several times. This helps the little bubbles of air in the batter to break through the surface before baking, preventing large gaping holes from developing in the cake as it bakes and creating a nice even texture.

Bake the cakes for 20-22 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or until they're a light golden brown colour and they spring back to the touch.


Let the cakes cool in their pans for about 10-15 minutes before turning them out onto a wire cooling rack. Peel the parchment paper off each cake and leave them to cool completely.



While the cakes are cooling completely you can begin to make the frosting. The trick to creamy, fluffy buttercream frosting is the state of the butter, so make sure your butter and your cream cheese are both at room temperature before you begin. Whip the butter on high speed using a stand mixer (or a hand-held mixer if you don't have a stand mixer) for at least 4-5 minutes, stopping every minute or two to scrape down the sides of the bowl. It's a good idea to whip the butter until it takes on a very creamy consistency and it turns pale in colour.


Once the butter has reached the right consistency add the 4 oz. of cream cheese and whip them together until the mixture is smooth. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl often to be sure everything is incorporated evenly.

Add the icing sugar 1-2 cups at a time, mixing well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla bean paste and then the milk 1 tablespoon at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Pay close attention to the texture of the frosting, especially after you've added 3 tablespoons of the milk. For me, adding the last tablespoon of milk created a super creamy, silky frosting that was the perfect piping-consistency for the rosette design I was planning. If you're simply spreading the frosting onto the cake then the frosting consistency isn't quite as critical and if the frosting is slightly on the thicker side, it's probably okay.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you're using vanilla bean paste and not vanilla extract. The paste is thicker, so it won't water down your frosting at all and it also creates those gorgeous flecks of vanilla bean that you can see throughout the frosting. If you use vanilla extract you won't achieve that look.

Once the cakes are completely cool, turn one cake upside down and place it onto a plate or a cake board. I actually use a cutting board covered with aluminum foil in a pinch and it works really well!

Spread a thick layer of frosting over the cake and add the second cake, also upside down, on top of the frosting layer.




Using an offset spatula or a butter knife, frost the sides of the cake making sure to fill in all the little cracks and holes. This is just the crumb coat so don't worry if parts of the cake are showing through. The idea is to use as little icing as possible on the crumb coat, just enough to create a super smooth surface with all the holes and cracks filled in. It doesn't have to be perfect, and it certainly doesn't have to look good. You'll be frosting it a second time, so don't worry!



Pop the cake in the fridge for at least 2 hours to let the crumb coat set. Refrigerating the cake will cause the butter and cream cheese in the frosting to harden and it will create the perfect canvas for the second coat of frosting.

Once 2 hours have passed and you pull the cake out of the fridge, it's time to frost the cake! I decided to create a beautiful rosette pattern since this was a birthday cake for a friend and I wanted to take this cake to the next level. I've admired rosette cakes for years and years and I've recently been inspired by my food blogger friend Olivia from Liv for Cake. and her rosette cakes. I knew this birthday cake was the perfect opportunity to try out this design (spoiler alert: it's easier than it looks!). Amanda from I Am Baker posted the original Rosette Cake tutorial that you can find here.

If you're not into rosettes you can feel free to simply spread the remaining frosting on if you'd prefer that look (check out this post for an idea on how to do that effectively).

Fit a piping bag with a large star tip and fill the piping bag with frosting. Start piping the rosettes on the side of the cake and begin at the very bottom. Pipe a row of rosettes along the bottom and then offset your second row so it fills in the empty spaces. On the top of the cake, pipe the rosettes around the outside first and then work your way in, offsetting the rows to fill in the gaps. Make sure you pipe the rosettes close together so they're almost overlapping each other. This will ensure you don't have many empty spaces to fill.

It's also a good idea to end your rosettes in the gap where the next row will fill. This will hide the scraggly ends of the rosettes and create a really clean look.



Please keep in mind that I am definitely not a professional baker or cake decorator and many of my rosettes aren't perfect! What helped me immensely when preparing for this cake was to practice frosting rosettes on a piece of parchment paper on the counter. This helped me to know how to space them properly and how to offset the rows to prevent big gaps. And the best part is, you don't have to waste the frosting you use to practice...just scrape it off the parchment with a spatula and dump it back in the bowl! You can even correct your mistakes this way as you're frosting the cake. Since the crumb coat layer is hard and cold from the fridge, if one of your rosettes looks funny just scrape it off and try again.



And remember...it doesn't have to be perfect. The style of this cake is beautiful, but it's also rustic and homemade-looking, and that's kind of the point.




Once you've finished frosting your rosettes, chill the cake for another 2 hours before serving to set the frosting. After you pull it out of the fridge it will be quite hard, so it's a good idea to let it sit at room temperature again for about 15 minutes before cutting into it.


The cake is so beautifully moist and the flavour compliments the sweet buttercream frosting so perfectly. And the sponge is the perfect texture: it's not too dense, but it's strong enough to hold its own as you layer it with thick, buttery frosting.


Don't you just want to dig right in??


This cake is the perfect choice for a birthday and because it's 15 Weight Watchers PointsPlus per slice if you cut 16 slices (or 21 PointsPlus if you cut 12 slices), it's probably a good idea to reserve a cake like this for birthdays only!!

I really hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know in the comments below, what's your favourite cake to make for special occasions?



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98 comments:

  1. You are so sweet, thanks for the shout out! Your cake looks stunning. I think I love rosette cakes the most. And you're right, it IS easier than it looks! Love these pics, especially that last one with the cut piece!

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    1. Thanks Olivia! I appreciate your kind words :) And your cakes are REALLY amazing!

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  2. This cake looks so tasty and beautiful! :)

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  3. This looks delicious...and beautiful! :) I love the step by step pictures!

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    1. Thanks Sarah! I was hoping the step-by-step pictures would help with a more complicated recipe :)

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  4. Yum! This looks like the perfect go-to vanilla cake recipe. Now, if I could make mine look as pretty as yours does! LOL

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    1. Thanks so much! I'm sure you could! Practice makes perfect :)

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  5. SO jealous of your amazing cake frosting skills! This cake looks so simple and amazing, I love it (and I'm sure your friend did too)! I'm still learning all there is to know about cake, so I'm definitely going to test your technique and recipe out! Thanks so much for sharing! :)

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    1. Thanks Ariel! I think she did love it :)

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  6. This is such a beautiful cake - I'm way more into vanilla than chocolate! Plus, I love your frosting technique. It seems like it could hide a multitude of cake mishaps - When I tend to have!

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    1. Thanks Erin! It is a good technique for hiding mistakes :) Happens to me all the time too!!

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  7. This cake is so pretty with these roses:)

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  8. Your photos are STUNNING!! I wish it was my birthday so I could have this cake but I may have to make it just because tomorrow is Friday! xx

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  9. This cake looks sooo delicious but it's almost too pretty to eat! Gorgeous!!

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  10. Wow, this is such a gorgeous cake, yumming this one and scheduling the pin now!

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  11. This cake showcases great talent behind a beautifully executed cake; thanks for showing the rest of us that it can be done!

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  12. This cake truly looks too good to eat! You did an amazing job!! I've never tried my hand at cake decorating, but I have at cookies, and it's not easy. You sure make this look easy!

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    1. Thanks Renee! I think a cake like this is easier than cookies! Buttercream rosettes are fairly forgiving :)

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  13. Chrissie, this is such a beautiful cake ! I love the simplicity of the design which actually makes it look so elegant. Art !

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    1. Thanks Florentina!! I love simple designs too :)

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  14. Chrissie this is so lovely! We made one like this last spring in lemon. They are so fun to put out on a cake plate and just admire! Love this beauty!

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  15. I can't get over how beautiful this cake is - if I had half the cake decorating skills that you have I would be soo happy!

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    1. Thanks Sarah! So nice of you to say :)

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  16. Wow, Chrissie, such a beautiful cake! This looks like something from a high-end bakery!

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    1. Thanks Julia! What a nice compliment :) I really appreciate that!

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  17. This is simply gorgeous. I don't know how long it took you to learn how to decorate, but wow, love this! My favorite cake is vanilla, and this is a must try recipe for my next birthday celebration!

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    1. Thanks Sam! It really is much easier than it looks. And the practicing techniques I mentioned in the post are very helpful!

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  18. beautiful decor! wish I was so good at it!

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  19. Oh my gosh your cake looks so beautiful and so delicious. I am for sure going to try to make this cake I am sure it won't look nearly as gorgeous as your though.

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    1. Thanks so much! And I'm sure your cake will look beautiful too!

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  20. Chrissie, the frosting just looks real... I can make it for my daughter and change the color to pink!

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  21. The rosettes are fantastic - and the entire cake looks gorgeous. I love vanilla bean ANYTHING

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  22. Very Beautiful Chrissie! This would be amazing for any celebrations.

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  23. What a beautiful cake! I wish I could reach through the screen with a fork right now.

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    1. Ha! That's a great compliment! Thanks :)

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  24. Omg that cake is beautiful. I will try this recipe soon. My family will definitely love it.

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  25. Thank you for breaking down the steps to make this gorgeous cake look so easy and achievable!!! I was wondering what do you do with the remaining frosting while the crumb layer is chilling in the fridge for 2 hours. Is it okay to leave it out at room temperature?

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    1. Thanks Sharon! I actually do leave it out at room temperature since my kitchen is fairly cool. If yours is very warm I would suggest refrigerating it for about one hour while the cake is chilling and then letting it reach room temperature again. In order for the rosettes to look smooth, the frosting should be slightly softer than spreading consistency. Hope that helps!

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  26. I'm having some SERIOUS rosette envy right now. That cake looks so gorgeous! *applause*

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  27. Although I'm not a big fan of vanilla cake but I so Wanna Stuff my Face with this one. It looks so pretty and look at those gorgeous gorgeous Rosettes.

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  28. I love vanilla bean and this cake looks stunning and delicious!! I might have to make this for my own birthday! :)

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  29. Such a beautify and elegant cake! My mouth is watering now...

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  30. Lovely looking cake! I would never be able to tell that you were not a professional. I have never used the paste, because I always make sure to have at least 10 or 20 vanilla beans on hand at all times! I will give the paste a look though!
    I think I will surprise my wife with this cake on our anniversary!

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    1. Wow, what a compliment! Thanks so much! I actually really like using vanilla bean paste for recipes like this. It's a little more economical than the whole vanilla beans and it still gives the same authentic flavour. Happy Anniversary!

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  31. That is a beautiful cake and I absolutely love the rosettes!

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  32. I just want to wait until no one is looking and stick my finger into one of those sweet and inviting rosettes! Yes, I'm that person. Especially with a cake that looks so delicious!

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  33. OMG! Your cake is drop dead gorgeous! How can you make those perfect rosettes? Pinned and shared and saved, who knows maybe one day I'll be able to make it :)

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  34. Oh, my dear Canadian friend... how did you ever manage to put the knife through that gorgeous creation? If I could make something that elegant, I would never, never cut it! :) The recipe sounds wonderful. Still, can't believe you cut it! LOL

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    1. Byron, your comment made me laugh out loud!! If you must know, I actually made 2 cakes...because you can't cut into your friend's birthday cake before giving it to her the next day!! But even still, I did shed a few tears over this one :) Thanks for the feedback!

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  35. what a beautiful cake! I love that top down photo of it. A very lucky friend you have indeed!

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  36. The rosettes on this cake are gorgeous!!

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  37. Great explanation, pics, and all around great recipe. Thanks for sharing!

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  38. OMG, those roses are gorg! I wish I could decorate a cake like that!

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  39. Beeaauutiful piping work! Bravo!

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  40. WOW!! This is such a pretty cake! Your friends are truly blessed! I totally understand what you are saying. Other people's birthdays are awesome :)

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  41. First of all, your cake is BEAUTIFUL! There is no way mine would come out like that. And I have never heard of vanilla paste! I am going to have to check it out!

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    1. Thanks Mandee! Vanilla bean paste is great. It's kind of a cross between using vanilla extract and scraping the vanilla bean seeds out of the vanilla pod. The paste is great in a pinch and cheaper than buying the pods, and it has the seeds in it so it still gives the same vanilla flecks, as if you used the actual vanilla bean. I use it all the time!

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  42. This cake is stunning!! I can't imagine the patience it takes to make all those little roses -- so impressive!

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    1. Thanks Jessica! It did take a bit of patience, but it was worth it :) Practice also helps it go a little faster!

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  43. What a beautiful and elegant cake! I love the pictures- wish I could taste!!

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  44. This is one ancy-looking birthday cake! I would definitely feel special receiving this one for sure!

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  45. There's nothing like having a great vanilla bean cake in your repertoire and yours turned out beautifully!

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  46. Such a beautiful cake! I loved that you used vanilla bean paste! Pinned!!

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  47. That cake is gorgeous. Your friend is lucky to have someone like you in her life! I love the step by step pictures that you've used in the post.

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  48. I just had my birthday and this cake sure looks way more gorgeous than the cake I had! I am not much of a baker but you sure make it look so easy, I just might give this a try. Thanks for sharing :)

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  49. this cake looks so beautiful! nice post with step by step pics!

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  50. Your description is simple perfection!! As is the decoration of this cake. I don't have the patience or skill to decorate, but I can work the flavors on a not as pretty as yours version! Love, love this cake!

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  51. I love a classic vanilla cake, and the buttercream roses are gorgeous!

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  52. this is beyond beautiful! Too pretty to eat, but I will! <3 it

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  53. I love vanilla cake and your presentation is out of this world!

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  54. Your rosettes came out GORGEOUS! You really have mastered that technique!

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  55. I came back to visit and do some pinning!

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  56. Oh my gosh, this is GORGEOUS Chrissie! You can come over and bake for me anytime. :)

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  57. This is definitely my kind of cake - simple yet delicious! Plus I love how pretty it is!!

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  58. Looking so tasty, My hands can't wait without making this cake. I will definitely make this Happy Birthday Cake

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  59. Your frosting skills are amazing!! It looks gorgeous!!

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  60. Fantastic instructions and beautiful cake! I think I might actually be able to do this!

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  61. I guess your last name is suitable for you! (It's mine too) This cake looks absolutely amazing, and you are SO talented with the decorating. Bravo!!

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  62. Chrissie, thanks so much for your baking tips! I had completely forgotten about banging the pans a bit to settle the air out (my grandma used to do that). Weighing the two pans of batter is a REALLY good idea for me. I can guarantee mine will be uneven every time if I eyeball it. This cake looks so scrumptious!

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  63. This is the sort of thing I find incredibly intimidating, it looks unbelievably good but your instructions are superb and walk you through wonderfully. I think I may need some practice with a piping bag though ;)

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  64. Gorgeous cake, Chrissie. I'd never cut it. I'd just stare at it all day. :)

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  65. Amazing cake and the photos are beautiful!!

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  66. When I first saw this beautiful cake at Pinterest, it was love at first sight! This is too gorgeous to be eaten and any celebrant who will have this will surely be extremely pleased! :)

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  67. So I made this cake for my brother-in-law's birthday and it came out awesome! I followed the directions exactly and it looked fantastic, but I thought the cake itself was a little dense (although everyone loved it). If I wanted to use eggs to make it a little lighter, how would I change the recipe? Thanks in advance!

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