Last weekend we celebrated Isabelle’s second birthday. We’ve officially survived babyhood and now we’re parents to a toddler! It’s been a dreamy two years – not that we didn’t have our share of sleepless nights or days when the house was a disaster zone of dirty laundry, unwashed dishes, and toys scattered everywhere. But overall we’ve been very lucky that the sailing has been relatively smooth and so much fun.
As she approached two years, Isabelle really started shedding all the trappings of babyhood. Her verbal skills made a huge jump – she speaks in full sentences now and happily recites lines from her favorite books, songs, or funnier still – things we’ve said to her, like, “Oh my! That’s crazy!” She loves to run and climb and jump – especially jump. Do not challenge her to a jumping contest right now: she’s the undisputed champion. The infamous toddler independence emerged early as well; her favorite phrase lately is, “My do it!” which can be frustrating when we’re trying to get her dressed, but pretty awesome when we’re eating. Mommy can finally eat her meal along with everyone else again! But mainly it’s just been amazing to see her personality continue to emerge and see her be able to communicate with us more and more. Having real conversations with her makes it feel like I’m no longer caring for a baby, but interacting with a little person.
It seems to me like parenthood is joy mixed with wistfulness – every day brings some unexpected delight that I scramble to capture in photos or words or just imprint in my memory, so that I can savor the memory, along with the knowledge that after every day she’s a little bit older. Even as I’m enjoying the cheerful, robust toddler she’s becoming, part of me misses the wobbly, babbling one year old she used to be. It’s probably a dichotomy every parent will live with for the rest of their lives, I’m sure.
So for Isabelle’s second birthday cake: I have my suspicions that her favorite color may be blue, and I actually first made plans for a blue birthday cake (Frozen, anyone? Sigh…wonder how long it will be before there are blue non-Frozen-themed cakes…). But as it turns out, she’s really into Minnie Mouse right now, so she ended up getting another pink birthday cake. I figure I might as well do it before she’s old enough to complain, right?
Several test runs in the kitchen led to the final two-tiered creation, which is made of vanilla white cake with Minnie Mouse pink buttercream, and has an appropriately sweet and girly strawberries and cream filling.
The decorations come in the form of Minnie-shaped macarons. I used my old reliable Italian meringue macaron recipe with 25 g of cocoa powder whisked into the almond meal and powdered sugar mixture. I then piped out my typical macaron rounds and added two ears to the top. It took me a couple tries to get the right proportions – if you make the ears too small, they end up looking a little more like bears, so don’t be afraid to go big! The little bows are piped on with royal icing.
Above, the final cake, and below, me with my little birthday girl. She insisted on having Minnie with her once she saw it was a Minnie birthday cake.
The cake is the same white cake recipe I used for her birthday cake last year; I love how easy it is to make and the tight, moist crumb. I decided to go a little fancier this year and make two tiers; the bottom tier is three 6″ layers while the top tier is two 4″ layers. You can make a five layer 6″ cake if you prefer, but it didn’t take much more effort to have two different size tiers. Since the cake is so small, I didn’t have to add any structural dowels or other supports – I just frosted the cakes and slid the top tier on.
Here’s the interior of the top tier. You can use fresh strawberries for the filling, but as it’s winter right now, frozen strawberries work just fine. I really like the strawberries and whipped cream together – it reminds of the whipped cream cakes from the Chinese bakeries that my mom would get for my birthday when I was little. I also prefer the lightness of the whipped cream compared to richness of the buttercream – it seems a little more suited for a kid’s birthday cake. It would be a lovely cake for spring or summer too, when you can decorate it with fresh strawberries.
Well, as it turns out, Isabelle was most interested in the Minnie macarons and couldn’t wait to pull them off once we finished taking photos. So I guess that was the most successful part of the cake. However, she did polish off her piece of cake so I think that got her seal of approval too. Overall I was really pleased with how this cake turned out, and I think it captured Isabelle’s current obsession. Two birthday cakes down!
Happy 2nd birthday to Isabelle. Now we’ll see what challenges toddlerhood have in store for us! Hope we’re prepared!
- 2 3/4 cups (380 g) cake flour
- 1 3/4 cups (380 g) sugar
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp (18 g) baking powder
- 1 1/8 tsp salt
- 7 ounces (200 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 5 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups (366 g) whole milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries, cut into 1-in pieces
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
- 3/4 cup whipping cream
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 1 1/4 cups (250 g) sugar
- 5 large egg whites
- 15 ounces (425 g) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-in pieces
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- few drops pink food coloring if desired
- This makes five 6" cake layers, if you want a cake that all the same width, or it makes four 6" cake layers and two 4" cake layers. One of the 6" layers is not used in this recipe.
For the cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three 6" round cake pans and two 4" round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper.
- Combine cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
- Add the butter and beat until a crumbly mixture forms, just starting to come together.
- Add the egg whites one at a time, and beat to combine. Add the egg and beat to combine.
- Combine milk and vanilla extract together in a measuring cup. Add to the mixer in three additions, beating well after each addition.
- If you want to be precise, weigh the batter so you know how much to put in each pan.
- Pour one-fifth of the batter into one of the prepared 6" pans. Repeat twice with the other 6" pans. Divide one-fifth of the batter between the two 4" pans (meaning each one gets half the amount of batter that would go in the 6" pan.) You will have one-fifth of the batter left over. You can bake an extra layer or make some cupcakes!
- Bake for about 24-28 minutes, rotating halfway. The cakes should be set and a skewer inserted in the center should come out with a few crumbs on it.
- Remove and place on wire racks. Run a knife around the edges for easier removal. Let cool for about 20 minutes and then invert pans to remove cakes. Let them finish cooling before decorating.
For the filling:
- Combine strawberries, water, sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil on the stove, stirring occasionally until the mixture thickens. Remove and let cool before using.
- Whip the cream in a stand mixer to soft peaks. Chill while you are making the buttercream.
For the buttercream:
- Combine the sugar and egg whites in a medium metal bowl and place over a pan of simmering water.
- Whisk the sugar mixture constantly over heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture looks smooth and shiny. Continue whisking until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F.
- Remove mixture from heat and pour into a stand mixer bowl. Whisk on medium speed for about 5 minutes until the mixture has cooled.
- Switch to the paddle attachment and with the speed on low, add the butter a few pieces at a time, beating until smooth. Do not add the butter too quickly or beat too quickly or the buttercream may break.
- When all the butter has been added, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed for about 6-10 minutes until it is very thick and smooth. It may appear to separate briefly but continue beating and it should come back together.
- Add in the vanilla and almond extracts and beat to combine. Add food coloring as desired.
- The buttercream is ready to be used. Place a piece of plastic wrap against the surface until you are ready to use it to prevent it from drying out.
To assemble the cake:
- Level off cake layers if necessary. Place one 6" cake layer on a cake board or cake decorating stand.
- Spread some of the strawberry filling over the cake layer evenly. Spread a layer of whipped cream over the strawberry filling. Place a second 6" cake layer on top and spread some more strawberry filling and whipped cream over the cake layer. Top with the third 6" layer.
- Spread a crumb coat of buttercream over the top and sides of cake (see here for tips on doing a crumb coat). Refrigerate for about an hour to let the frosting set.
- Spread the rest of the buttercream over the top and sides of cake with an offset spatula.
- Place a 4" cake layer on a cake board or cake decorating stand. Spread some of the strawberry filling over the cake layer evenly. Spread a layer of whipped cream over the strawberry filling. Place the second 4" cake layer on top. Spread a crumb coat of buttercream over the top and sides of cake same as before. Refrigerate for about an hour.
- When you are ready to finish the cake, spread the rest of the buttercream over the top and sides of the two cakes with an offset spatula. Place the smaller 4" cake on top of the 6" cake, aligning it so it is centered. Finish decorating as desired.
such a pretty cake! happy birthday isabelle:)
Kyla Currier says
Oh my goodness, she is adorable! Her cakes looks amazing too! I wish I had those skills to make that!
The Food Hunter says
Ashley @ Wishes & Dishes says
Being the huge fan of Disney that I am – I LOVE this cake! I want it for my next birthday 🙂
This cake is so delicate and gorgeous! I think it fits your little one so well! <3
Kate @ Diethood says
The cake is beautiful, but your girl is waaaaay gorgeous!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!
This is ADORABLE! And I’m so impressed that you made the macaroons, too! Your little girl is so cute and I’m sure she loved the cake!
Kimberly Bonham says
So freakin’ cute!! Love it!
What a pretty cake for a little princess!
Charlotte's Little Web says
Isabelle is so stinkin’ adorable! And the cake is, too! Isn’t it kinda sad when they start speaking in complete sentences? I find myself missing the way my nieces and nephews used to mispronounce simple words. But it’s still a treat to watch them grow.
My niece is also OBSESSED with Minnie, so thank you for the recipe! I really like the simplicity of the style. Girly but subtle. It’s a wonderful combination.
Thank you for sharing it!
Gosh you’re talented! I never would have thought to do this. Looks amazing.
[email protected] Family Feast says
Awww…so adorable! We had a Mickey Mouse party for my daughter when she was too but it wasn’t nearly as cute as this!
Ayana Pitterson says
Hmmm, someone who makes macarons at home…lol. I pay so dearly for those little pieces of heaven. Beautiful cake and welcome to toddlerdom. It’s not easy but it’s fun.
[email protected] Mom says
Oh my goodness she is the cutest little thing ever! Oh the cake is cute too, but she is just gorgeous, those cheeks!!
Shannon Peterson says
Oh my gosh, that is a beautiful cake! And those macarons look delicious!
Paula - bell'alimento says
OH my goodness so precious! What a perfect cake for a sweet little girl. Pinned and stumbled.
Stephanie @ Back for Seconds says
What a pretty cake for the birthday girl. I love it!
Cookin Canuck says
Happy Birthday to your adorable little girl! What a lucky girl she is to have such an amazing cake.
Happy Birthday, Isabelle. ~ Such a beautiful cake it is gorgeous and I think my almost 9 year & 11 year old would still love a pink cake with Minnie Mouse.
Parenthood is such an amazing ride.
[email protected] says
What a great recipe. The cake looks amazing.
Cute! My Isabella had a minnie mouse third birthday party
that is so cute. we have our daughters 2nd party this weekend and I need to make a cake!
Ginny McMeans says
Isabelle is an absolute doll! She deserves a gorgeous cake like that.
awww she is adorable and that cake is just amazing, can not wait to have kids now.
This cake looks so incredible! Happy Birthday to Isabelle – I definitely want to make this cake at some point and definitely going to give your macaron recipe a go!
Heather / girlichef says
She is just precious. This cake is just precious. Those macarons…well…you guessed it – precious! This is such a fun cake for a little girl.
Renee - Kudos Kitchen says
Your daughter is just precious! Congratulations to her for turning the big TWO! Your cake is adorable. I’m sure it is something she will never forget!
Elizabeth@ Food Ramblings says
Gorgeous cake- happy birthday to Isabelle 🙂
That has to be one of the cutest cakes ever. Your daughter is do adorable as well.
Lora @cakeduchess says
Gorgeous cake and gorgeous Isabelle…I’m in LOVE with all the pink. You’re cake is perfection!
Adorable cake for a beautiful little girl!
Angie | Big Bear's Wife says
Happy Birthday, Isabelle! Oh my gosh, this cake is perfect! I love the minnie mouse!
Kelly - A Side of Sweet says
Aww, these are adorable! You’re so talented lady!
Kim (Feed Me, Seymour) says
I am so 100% obsessed with this cake! And your adorable little girl, she’s so cute!
Awesome job!! That is the perfect cake 🙂
Rose | The Clean Dish says
Well, Happy Birthday Isabella!! I’m glad to hear you enjoy motherhood so much. We have a handful of parents around us who make it look like it’s not that much fun at all but looking at your photos and reading about your experience is certainly an encouragement to have kids!! The cake is absolutely stunning!!
Chelley @ AisForAdelaide says
I love how you broke it all down- this cake is adorable and I love that I feel confident that I could make it (and it would hopefully look 1/2 as good!)
michele @ i-heart-baking says
adorable cake! and adorable little girl! 🙂 happy happy birthday isabelle!!!
what a cute cake and little girl. I love it
Nutmeg Nanny says
This cake is so pretty! What a beautiful party 🙂
kellie @ the suburban soapbox says
That’s one cute cake and one adorable little girl!
What an adorable cake.. so easy to make too.. lovely photos.. thanks for sharing ;o)
Ashley@ Keeping Up with Ashley and Cody says
That cake is beautiful and very creative. I am sure she loved her cake. It looks really yummy.
Alli Kat says
What a cutie! Happy Birthday little lady!
WOW! This turned out so beautiful! Also, she is too cute!!
Amanda @ The Kitcheneer says
This cake is absolutely gorgeous! You are so talented!
I love the cake! How cute is your little one? She melted me into a pile of goo. 🙂