Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake

Guess what? Rayna Takes the Cake officially turns 2 years old today! If you want to see some really, um, interesting food photography (these, this, or those) and read more about my life after freshman year in high school you can head on back to the beginnings. It’s crazy to think that I’ve already had RTTC for 2 entire years, because when you are in high school, that’s practically an eternity. I’ve had so much fun baking and taking pictures and sharing recipes with you guys and I can’t wait to continue for many years to come!

_D320276I’m still in Canada and I’m just loving it. The people that I’ve met here are so amazing that I don’t want to even think about leaving! I’ll be back in the states on Sunday though, but I won’t be in the kitchen baking. Instead, I’ll be doing more music programs, but this time in New York City, which should be a blast. Not to mention that one of my great friends is joining me. I think I did a pretty good job planning out my summer, don’t you think?

_D320284In order to celebrate RTTC turning 2 years old, I knew I needed to make something spectacular. While I could have made something more culinar-ily (that is clearly a word) complex, layer cakes just have a special meaning that shouts celebration. I’ve made some layer cakes in the past, and clearly RTTC turning 2 called for another one. After making one of Sweetapolita’s incredible cakes for my brother’s birthday last year, I knew exactly where to go to find a delicious layer cake that would fit the bill for such an amazing occasion.

_D320289 2You start out with a simple vanilla bean cake recipe, and the amazing black dots of true vanilla bean are what bring it all together, and something that vanilla extract can’t exactly replace. Then, I made a latte Swiss meringue buttercream, using espresso powder and some cinnamon. I was especially proud because this was my first SMBC, and now I understand why it’s so popular. I’ll never need copious amounts of powdered sugar again! I filled one layer and the outside with SMBC, but then I took some Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter (so incredible) and heated it with some soymilk because why not. Finally, I just melted some chocolate (I probably should have made a ganache, though) and spread it on top to literally top it off. While I would recommend making this for a crowd, but I understand if you want it all to yourself. 🙂 Enjoy!

Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake


For the Cake:
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks)(341 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2-2/3 cups (540 g) granulated sugar
  • 9 (275 g) egg whites, at room temperature
  • 4-1/2 cups (570 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons (22 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (6 g) salt
  • 2 cups (480 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean, split & scraped
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
For the Buttercream:
  • 6 large egg whites (180 g)
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks)(340 g) unsalted butter, softened but cool, cut into cubes
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean, split & scraped or 1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) instant espresso powder (or to taste) dissolved into 1 teaspoon (5 ml) boiling water
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.5 g) cinnamon (or to taste)
  • Pinch of salt


For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter three 8″ x 2″ round cake pans, line with parchment rounds, butter paper and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until lighter in color and slightly increased in volume, about 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the egg whites gradually, mixing until fully incorporated.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Mix vanilla extract and vanilla paste (or contents of vanilla bean) into buttermilk. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated or finish by hand gently.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. If possible, weigh the batter in each cake pan on a digital kitchen scale to ensure even layers. Smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake for about 30 minutes, rotating once after 20 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick or skewer comes clean. Try not to over-bake.
  5. Let pans cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.
For the Buttercream:
  1. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 160°F, or if you don’t have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
  2. With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes or so). *Don’t begin adding butter until the bottom of the bowl feels neutral, and not warm.
  3. Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth). *If mixture is too runny, refrigerate for about 15 minutes and continue mixing with paddle attachment until it comes together. Add espresso mixture, vanilla, cinnamon and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.
Assembly of the Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake:
  1. Place cooled cake layer on cake pedestal, or cake board, face-up. Spread 1 cup of buttercream on top using a small offset palette knife, leaving narrow border along outside edge.
  2. Gently place 2nd cake layer on top, and be sure to center it with bottom layer. Apply another 1 cup of buttercream and spread as you did the first layer.
  3. Gently place final cake layer on top, face-down (so the clean bottom side is facing up). Apply a final layer of buttercream.
  4. Fill a pastry bag fitted with decorative tip (I used Ateco #887), and pipe desired designs on cake to trim and decorate. Sprinkle sliced cake servings with cinnamon, and garnish with espresso beans (optional).

A perfect replacement addition to your morning cup of java. 🙂

-Rayna 🙂


Buttery Apple Cake

Happy Thursday everyone! I hope everyone’s week is going well. Mine hasn’t been too eventful, but I’m really starting to get a feel of how this year is going to work out. Most of my classes are in full swing with projects, quizzes, tests, the whole package. Even though it will be a tough year (like most junior years tend to be), I’m really looking forward to learning lots this year without it being too overwhelming.

You can tell fall has really begun once Rosh Hashanah has gone by. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, and one of the traditions is to eat apples and honey, to celebrate a sweet new year. Although this cake doesn’t have any honey in it, this delectable delight from Martha Stewart would be a perfect way to end your new year, or just a great way to get into the swing of fall baking. Who doesn’t love that?

Buttery Apple Cake

Makes one 8 inch Cake


  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 pound Granny Smith apples, peeled and shredded on the large holes of a box grater (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Heavy cream, for serving


  1. Make the cake: Preheat oven to 325. Coat an 8-inch springform pan with cooking spray; dust with flour, tapping out excess. Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Spread apples in pan; set aside.
  2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, milk, oil, and eggs in a medium bowl until smooth. Pour over apples. Bake until set and pale golden brown, about 40 minutes.
  3. Make the topping: Stir together butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla in a small bowl. Remove cake from oven, and pour topping over cake. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Remove sides of pan, and transfer cake to a serving plate. Serve slices drizzled with cream.

A simple cake that’s sure to make your weekday that much better.

-Rayna 🙂

Browned Butter Banana Bundt Cake

Happy Monday everyone! I can’t believe that I only have a few days until I’m officially a junior! I feel like I was walking into my high school for the first time just last week, and now I’m actually an upperclassman! I certainly have my fair share of things to do on my plate this year, but I’m very excited all the same. One of the things I’m really looking forward to is my MSM schedule, which is packed. In addition to the 4 required classes, I’m also taking a class on music of the 20th century, which should be very interesting. I’ve taken classes in music history before, but this will be my first time focusing on the 20th century! Maybe I’m just a nerd, but I’m really excited.

Awhile ago when I made these blondies, I developed a love for browned butter. The nuttiness of it is addicting and I just had to have more. So when Deanna came over, it was only appropriate that we make a cake with browned butter in it. Grab some overripe bananas and you’re all set with a spectacularly moist cake that makes a great breakfast, snack or dessert. Drizzle it with some melted peanut butter to make a pretty presentation, or make a peanut butter and honey sandwich for lunch…oh my the possibilities are endless.I’m looking forward to seeing this in my lunchbox!

Browned Butter Banana Bundt Cake from The Cake Duchess


  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 6 oz. butter (3/4 cup or 1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups banana puree
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or sour cream)


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour your bundt pan (regular 12 cup bundt pan). I personally prefer to use baking spray for bundt pans.In  large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  2. To Brown the Butter: In medium-low heat, melt the butter. Rise the heat to medium and cook until the butter gently boils. Cook until the butter starts to brown and it develops a dark color. Carefully pour the browned butter into a bowl to cool for ten minutes.
  3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy using the paddle attachment (you could also beat it with a hand mixer). Beat in the eggs one by one, waiting until each has been incorporated to add the next. Beat in vanilla extract and mashed bananas. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mix and beat on low speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to incorporate. Add in the sour cream and beat until incorporated followed by the remaining flour mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to incorporate. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  4. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the top springs back when lightly pressed. Allow cake to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

A perfect way to start off my school year!

-Rayna 🙂

Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake

My Saturday mornings are spent playing away at classical viola, so I don’t have time for a nice leisurely weekend breakfast. Pancakes and waffles rarely make an appearance on a weekend morning, but certainly freshly baked goods are available!

I love cranberries. Adore cranberries. I think they are one of the best all time things to bake with in the entire planet. They offset the sweetness of cookies and cakes and offer just the right amount of tartness to pair along with it. Not to mention that they don’t expire quickly, leaving time for lots of goods to be baked :). This coffee cake will blow your mind. I’m actually not the biggest fan of (eating) a 8 layer cake, just because they tend to be a little sweet for me, but this coffee cake is just the perfect balance. It was loosely based on the Smitten Kitchen, but I changed up the recipe to what would work what I had on hand and it turned out great! It’s a great recipe for the holidays once you’ve polished off all of the chocolate peppermint cookies. 😉

Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake

Makes 2 9 inch cakes


  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, cut in half (6 ounces, I used fresh)
  • 2 cups and 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 stick and 1 tablespoon softened unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Turbinado sugar (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and spray 2 circular 9 inch by 1 inch cake trays.
  2. Combine the sugar and the seeds from the vanilla bean (just scrape it with the back of a knife) until fully incorporated. You can also just use vanilla sugar if available.
  3. Whisk together the flour and baking powder. In a separate bowl, beat together 1 stick of butter and 1 cup of the vanilla sugar. When light and fluffy, beat in the eggs.
  4. Add in the flour and the milk, alternating between them until just combined.
  5. Add half of the batter to each cake tray and cover with the cranberries and turbinado sugar.
  6. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.

This will be gone from your breakfast table faster than you can say “Happy Holidays!”

-Rayna 🙂

Caramelized Pear Upside Down Cake

My life is stressful. It’s the best thing ever and I wouldn’t change it, but it’s stressful. Between gymnastics and viola and school, time for anything else (namely…friends- remember when I had those?) is limited. However, time for baking is never limited. In my mind, Baking>Viola>Schoolwork. So when I had pears that were patiently waiting to be made into something delicious, I just can’t pass up on an opportunity like that. 😉 So this cake was born. I was thinking of making an apple pear crisp (which I will do later, but meanwhile this one will have to do), but since I had just made one, this cake sounded absolutely amazing. And it was. And you should make it.

Caramelized Pear Upside Down Cake: Adapted from Fine Cooking


For the Topping

  • 1 pound ripe pears, peeled, cored, and cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1 recipe caramel*
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • Crystallized ginger (optional)

For the Cake

  • 6 3/4 ounces (1 1/2 cups) all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon (or about 10 grates) ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup milk ( or Vanilla Soy Milk!)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 7 1/2 ounces (1 cup) light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs

Basic Caramel

  • 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped out (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9×2 inch cake pan (make sure it isn’t a springform)
  2. Arrange the cut up pears in a circle around the bottom of the pan, having them slightly overlap. Have them with the point facing towards the center of the pan. If they don’t fit perfectly, you can cut the ends off, and if they are too short to reach the middle, add a few smaller pieces in the middle to cover it.
  3. To make the caramel, put the sugar over medium heat and stir until brown and liquidy. Add the vanilla bean. Remove from the heat and whisk in the 4 tablespoons of butter, one at a time, until completely combined.
  4. Pour the hot caramel over the pears. It should spread evenly across all of the pears. Sprinkle on crystallized ginger if desired.
  5. For the cake, whisk together in a medium bowl, the flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a small bowl, stir together the vanilla and the milk.
  6. Cream the butter and the sugar, and then add in the eggs one at a time. Once combined, alternate adding in the flour mixture and the milk mixture until just incorporated.
  7. Spoon the batter in large dollops over the pears and smooth into an even layer. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, 35-45 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, then carefully flip the cake onto a plate

Trust me, you won’t be disappointed. 😉

-Rayna 🙂

Blueberry Brown Sugar Plain Cake

With all of the crazy add-everything-in-the kitchen crazy flavors baking out there, sometimes it’s nice to go back to the basics, and classics. So who else to go to besides Dorie’s Baking book? This Blueberry-Brown Sugar Plain Cake is light because of the whipped egg whites, but the brown sugar gives it a nice warm sweetness and then the punch of the blueberries is just a perfect combination. A must have…always. 🙂

Blueberry Brown Sugar Plain Cake

From Dorie Greenspan Baking From My Home to Yours

Makes one 11×7 pan, about 15 servings


  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour (plus a few tablespoons)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 2 large eggs and 2 whites
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) room temperature unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (I used vanilla flavored almond milk, yum!)
  • 1 pint blueberries, fresh (frozen if you have to)


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease a 11×7 baking pan
  2. Mix together the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon if you’re using it.
  3. Rinse the blueberries and toss them in 1-2 tablespoons of flour until just coated.
  4. With a stand or a hand mixer, whisk the 2 egg whites until they form firm glossy peaks. Be careful not to overwhip! Once done, if using a stand mixer, scrape into a different bowl, or a hand mixer, just a new bowl.
  5. Cream the butter and sugar until combined. Add in the 2 eggs until combined.
  6. Add in half of the dry ingredients, combine, then all of the milk, and then the rest of the dry ingredients. Be careful not to over mix, only mix until just combined!
  7. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir in 1/4 of the egg whites. Then carefully fold in the rest of the egg whites, being sure to use a light hand. Add in the blueberries, being careful to fold them in.
  8. Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.

It’s a classic. A must make. A must eat 🙂

-Rayna 🙂

Blackberry Swirl Pound Cake

That’s right, a Blackberry Swirl Pound Cake. This dense delight has swirls of sweet blackberryness in every bite. Although it takes over an hour to bake, trust me, it’s worth it. Say goodbye to your bowl of cereal and say hello to heaven!

You could use any berry you want, raspberries and blueberries are more than okay to use. Mixed Berry Swirl Pound Cake anyone? With a dollop of some freshly made vanilla whipped cream? Say goodbye to the perfect summer body and say hello to the perfect summer breakfast/snack/dessert!

Blackberry Swirl Pound Cake- Courtesy of Martha Stewart


  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 ounces blackberries (1 1/3 cups)
  • 1 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (I used Chobani Fat Free Greek Yogurt for even more tang-yum!)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9×5 loaf pan.
  2. In a food processor, puree the blackberries and 2 tablespoons of sugar. In a separate bowl, mix together flour and baking powder.
  3. In another bowl, cream together the butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar until smooth. Add in eggs and vanilla extract.
  4. Mix in the dry ingredients and the sour cream, alternating between them.
  5. Add 1/2 of the dough into the loaf pan and spread to the edges with a spatula. Dot 1/2 cup of the blackberry puree on top . Add on the remaining dough and then the remaining puree on top.
  6. Take a knife or skewer and swirl the batter and the puree together.
  7. Bake for 1 1/4 hours, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for at least 30 minutes before taking out of the loaf pan.
  8. Eat the entire loaf before anyone else gets any….or not 🙂

Excuse me while I hide this delectable dense delight before anyone else can get to it.

-Rayna 🙂