December 14, 2013

Vera Bradley Inspired Cake

About a year ago I took the first 3 courses in the Wilton Cake Decorating Series, and I LOVED it! If you are thinking about taking the classes and can't decide, go for it. It was one of the best things I've done as far as my decorating skills are concerned and my instructor gave us so many tips and tricks from her experience.

However, since this past summer I haven't made any cakes because I've been busy with school. So yesterday I began this cake with great hesitation... But my decorating classes paid off once again and it was a success!

Now I'm gonna share some of my favorite tips and the things that help me make a great cake.

First of all, the cake recipe I use for most of the white cakes I make came from Recipe Girl. It starts with a box mix, but it tastes 1,000,000 times better!

Wonderful White Cake (or Cupcakes)

makes 2 - 9 inch rounds plus a little extra, or about 36 cupcakes


  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 large egg whites

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Cut parchment paper the size of your pan and put it in the bottom, then grease the sides; or place cupcake liners in cupcake pans (you'll need approx. 36).
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together cake mix, flour, sugar and salt. Add remaining ingredients and beat with a mixer for 2 minutes. (the full 2 minutes are needed! otherwise your cake will be flat)
  3. Pour about half of the batter into each pan, or until the pan is 3/4 full. (set aside extra batter to make a few cupcakes!) Or fill cupcake liners 3/4 full. Bake the cake for 24-26 minutes or the cupcakes for 18-20. Test with a toothpick to see if they are done. 
  4. Let cakes cool completely and then remove from pan.
  • For the cake I made I wanted 3 layers, so I made two recipes and used the extra batter for cupcakes.
  • I always use Wilton Bake Even Strips (link at bottom of the post) when baking cakes to help them be more uniform in color and shape. The tops won't dome as much, so you don't cut as much off when you level the cake. And the sides don't get darker than the rest of the cake.

When icing the outside of a cake, I always use the recipe I learned in my decorating classes. It comes out pure white and it holds up really well, especially in humidity. The recipe is from Wilton.

Wilton White Buttercream Icing 

makes 2 1/2 cups icing 

  • 1 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
  • 6 -7 teaspoons water
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder
  1. Cream shortening, flavoring, and water together. 
  2. Add dry ingredients and mix on low speed until fully combined.
  • Crisco sticks are the best shortening to use because it is already measured for you and 1 cup = 1 stick.
  • Making a double recipe is the easiest way to make this icing, and then you will have enough to icing your whole cake plus some for decorations.
  • When you add your dry ingredients, place a towel around the top of the bowl before you mix. Then you won't have powdered sugar dust all over your kitchen.
  • This recipe makes a stiff consistency icing, but medium consistency is needed for icing cakes and adding decorations. Add 2-4 teaspoons of water to reach medium consistency; it should be like toothpaste but a little thicker. 
  • If you don't have meringue powder you can leave it out, but the icing may not hold up as well in humidity. 

When coloring my icing, I prefer to use Americolor instead of Wilton, but it's just a personal preference. I think it gives a more intense color and it's easier to dispense because of the squeeze tops. For this cake I made 3 recipes of icing and colored 2 recipes teal (I had a lot of extra), and used the 3rd recipe for my other colors. I made about 1/2 cup black, 1 cup green, and 1 cup white.

After you level your cake, refrigerate it. After you stack your cake, refrigerate it. After you put the main color of icing on, refrigerate it. 

The best trick I learned in my decorating class, which was from my instructor, was don't stress over making your icing super perfect. Put the icing on as best you can, covering all holes and making it generally smooth. Then use the paper towel trick. This YouTube tutorial shows you what to do.

Before pipping anything on my cake I used a toothpick to draw all of the lines out. This really helped me to visualize things and if you don't like it, you can smooth it back out and re-draw it. 

Then pipe everything on. I always start with the top, work my way down the sides and finish with the boarder. When you pipe in this order there is less of a chance of bumping or messing up what you've already done. That's all there is to it!

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