Life is a piece of cake. ~ Merenge
With the release of New Horizons only days away, I couldn’t resist making the new birthday cake! We saw a quick glance of this cake in the latest Nintendo Direct for the game.
Baking from video games always involves some creative freedom. Unlike Pokepuffs which have labelled flavors (and are clearly not macarons), the New Horizons Birthday Cake is only a picture. From our single frame of in-game reference, I created my take on the cake! We may get more information about this cake later, but my birthday is in January so I will need to wait a while for my in-game birthday treat.
Back to cake: from the in-game picture, I decided on the following structure:
First, the cake: We can see this is a two-tiered cake, with the bottom tier exposed to show a golden color cake. While there are many cake flavors with a light golden color, I don’t think my Animal Crossing villagers are running around baking rosemary-lemon-chai-spice cakes – especially on a deserted island. I decided to go with a simple vanilla cake. As for size, I chose to make an 8-inch cake topped with a 6-inch cake. If I were to do this again, I think I would do a 6-inch cake topped with a 4-inch cake. The current cake looks a little too big compared to the game. But the larger cake did give me more to share!
Second, the frosting: The frosting is white. I again figured the simplest solution makes the most sense and went with a vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream. You can also use American buttercream, but I find Swiss meringue to be less sweet and easier to smooth on a cake. Each tier also has a lumpy-looking border of white frosting around it. I decided this looked like a shell border, as it has clear lumps and isn’t one consistent thickness. Shell borders are also a simple, classic look.
Lastly, the decoration: The top of the cake is covered in what looks like red, cone-shaped fruits. This narrows it down to either raspberries or strawberries. To decide which, I consulted the previous Birthday Cake item from New Leaf:
New Leaf’s cake has much larger berries, so by comparison, it looks clear that the New Leaf cake uses strawberries and the New Horizons cake uses raspberries. Because the cake topping should always reflect the filling, I made a raspberry filling as well.
In addition to the berries, the cake is also decorated with blue and yellow candles with no other pattern. I tried to find taller candles, but failed, which is why my candles don’t reach the top of the cake.
Making this cake was really fun, but it took me way longer than I thought. It’s only the third tiered cake I’ve ever made, so I still forget how long it takes.
I made this cake across two days:
Most of this day was waiting for cakes in the oven. In total, it was probably four hours. If you use two box cake mixes, use store-bought frosting, and buy raspberry jam, you could save yourself almost four hours.
- Make, bake, and level the cakes (3 hours)
- Make the frosting (1 hour)
- Make raspberry filling (30 min)
This day was longer than expected because I ran into an issue while layering my cakes… Also, taking the design off of the candles was not as easy as I thought it would be. In total, probably another four hours.
- Assemble: Layer raspberry between each layer, crumb coat both cakes (1 hour)
- Frost: Apply smooth final layer of frosting to both cakes (1 hour)
- Tier: Cut the cake dowels, insert, and stack the two cakes (30 minutes)
- Decorate: Frosting swirls around the base, finish raspberries and place on cake, add candles (1 hour)
Overall, it took me about eight hours to make this cake because I made everything from scratch. Was it worth it to make everything from scratch, you ask? For the frosting and the filling, absolutely yes. For the cake, eh. Box cake mixes these days are really good. If you need to save time, grab a box mix. I still wouldn’t use store-bought frosting, but to save more time, you could make American buttercream instead of Swiss meringue. If you can plan ahead, you can make Swiss meringue buttercream and keep it in your freezer for up to one week.
- KitchenAid Mixer or hand-mixer (required for Swiss meringue buttercream)
- 6-inch cake pans (I used Wilton easy layers, 6-inch)
- 8-inch cake pans (I used Wilton easy layers, 8-inch)
- Large open star frosting tip for lower tier border (I used Wilton #20)
- Smaller open star frosting tip for upper border (I used Wilton #21)
- Cake dowels to support the upper cake tier
- Cake turn-table
- Cake scraper / Icing smoother / Decorating comb
- Cake boards for your cake sizes (I used a 6-inch board for the top, and a 12-inch board for the bottom to give myself more room)
- 8 brightly-colored candles, without a pattern
Because this requires so many ingredients, I broke them up by component and then included a “Shopping List” at the end, which is basically adding all of the ingredients together. For example, each cake needs 3 eggs and the frosting needs 6, so the Shopping List says 12 eggs.
Because this is a tiered cake, you need to make two cakes. The following recipe is for one cake, so you will need to make this twice. Because I love Liv For Cake’s Swiss meringue buttecream recipe, I decided to try her vanilla cake as well!
The following is Liv for Cake’s recipe:
- 2 1/4 cups (270 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt (I reduced to 1/2 tsp, because I use salted butter)
- 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup buttermilk or whole milk, room temperature
Buttermilk will cut the sweetness of the cake, and is a popular choice for a usually sweet vanilla cake. Because I’m using a tart raspberry filling, I figured I didn’t need to cut the sweetness of my cake and used whole milk. Also, not gonna lie, I didn’t feel like buying or making my own buttermilk.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
After making Swiss meringue buttercream for the first time, I never want to go back to American buttercream.
This is Liv for Cake‘s recipe:
- 6 large egg whites
- 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 cups (4 sticks) salted butter softened but still a bit firm, cubed
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 24 oz raspberries
- 2 Tbsp vanilla-infused sugar (or regular sugar + 1/4 tsp vanilla)
- 12 oz fresh raspberries, to top the cake
- 2 oz fruit jelly (not jam, not preserves) to glaze the raspberries
I found myself making this list when going to the grocery store, so I figured I would share! This is basically adding all of the ingredients together. For example, each cake needs 3 eggs and the frosting needs 6, so this Shopping List says 12 eggs.
- 4 1/2 cups (540 grams or 1.2 lb) all-purpose flour
- 5 cups (1,000 grams or 2.2lb) sugar
- Baking powder
- Vanilla extract
- Birthday cake candles
- Fruit jelly (not jam, not preserves). Ideally raspberry, but strawberry also works
- 2 3/4 cups (5.5 sticks) butter
- 2 cups whole milk or buttermilk
- 12 eggs
- 24 oz frozen raspberries
- 12 oz fresh raspberries
- Lemon juice, to wipe down utensils before making the Swiss meringue buttercream
And with that, let’s get baking!
Directions: Day 1, Baking
- Preheat your oven to 350F.
- Take the butter, eggs, and milk out of the fridge to begin bringing them to room temperature.
- Begin the Swiss meringue buttercream and complete steps 1 – 4. I always like to do this first because meringue can be finicky – by doing it first, I have time to make it again if something goes wrong. However, if you follow Liv’s instructions exactly, it will come out perfectly! Rather than transcribing Liv’s instructions here, you really should just follow her recipe.
- Once you get to STEP #5 – WHIP YOUR MERINGUE in Liv’s recipe, you will have some downtime while the meringue whips. This step also takes me 20 minutes rather than the 5 – 10 she suggests, I think because I bring my egg whites all the way up to the food-safe temperature of 160 degrees. During this time, grease and flour your cake pans.
- Once you finish STEP #7 – ADD THE BUTTER, you’re basically done! After adding all of the butter, and then your 2 tsp of vanilla, crank up your mixer as high as possible (without spewing buttercream all over your kitchen) for five to ten minutes.
- While the buttercream finishes whipping, combine the dry ingredients for your cake. In a medium-sized bowl, add your flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- Once the buttercream finishes, transfer to a different bowl so you can re-use your stand mixer bowl for the cake. Or, if you’re fancy, take out your second stand mixer bowl. If you’re planning to frost the cake today, leave the buttercream out on the counter. If you’re planning to frost tomorrow, cover in an air-tight container and place in your fridge.
- In your clean stand-mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until the texture changes (fluffier) and the color lightens.
- Reduce the mixer speed and add the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. After the eggs, add the vanilla.
- Alternate adding your flour mixture and milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture (three additions of flour mixture, two additions of milk), fully incorporating after each addition.
- Pour into your prepared cake pans. This batter is a little thick, so measuring an even amount into each pan was a little tricky.
- Bake time will vary depending on your pan size. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. My 6-inch pans took about 20 minutes, and my 8-inch pans took about 25.
- As your first cake bakes, repeat steps 8 – 12 for your second cake.
- As your second cake bakes, begin the raspberry filling. In a small pot, add all 24oz of raspberries. Crush them with a fork and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add sugar to taste. I like it with 2 Tbsp of vanilla-infused sugar. If you don’t have that, add 1/4 tsp vanilla.
- Simmer the raspberries until reduced by half; about 25 minutes. Once reduced, place in air tight container in your fridge to chill. The filling must be cold to assemble your cakes.
- Check on your first cake – is it cool enough to come out of the pan yet? I usually take my cakes out of their pans as soon as the pan is cool enough to handle comfortably. If you want to level your cakes while they’re still in the pan, allow to cool almost completely. Otherwise, remove from the pan and allow to cool on a wire rack, then level once completely cool. You must level your cakes!
- If you’re assembling your cakes tomorrow, wrap each layer in plastic wrap and place in the fridge. Even if you’re frosting same-day, I find chilled cakes easier to work with.
- While cakes cool and filling chills, take this downtime opportunity to painstakingly scrape the white design off of your candles.
This was my Day 1! If you’re doing this all in one day, I am proud of you. Next, we move on to cake assembly.
Directions: Day 2, Assembly & Decoration
- Prepare your assembly station. You will need your cakes, frosting, filling, and decorating tools all accessible.
- Add some buttercream to an icing bag, and cut off the tip. You will need this to make your frosting “dam” to hold the filling.
- Using your cake scraper, add a thin layer of buttercream to your layer. This keeps the raspberry filling from soaking into the cake.
- Next, use your pastry bag to pipe a “dam” around the rim of your cake. This keeps the raspberry filling from oozing out of your cake.
- Fill the center of your cake with raspberry filling, taking cake not to fill higher than the “dam”.
- Place the next layer directly on top, trying to keep these layers as vertically straight as possible.
- Repeat steps 3 – 5 until you’ve used all your layers. Do not put raspberry on your top layer!
- Next we need to crumb coat the cake. This is the layer of frosting which helps seal in the “crumbs” and allows us to put in a nice smooth picture-perfect second layer. Because the Animal Crossing cake has an exposed bottom, I left the bottom here exposed.
- Put this cake in the fridge, and do the same thing for your smaller, upper tier.
- Panic because you overfilled the raspberry and it started oozing out of your cake.
- Shove the cake into the fridge and hope that chilling it stops the oozing.
- Pretending your smaller cake isn’t a disaster, cut your cake dowels for your lower tier.
- Insert three dowels into the cake and mark where the cake ends. It is better for the dowels to be a little too short than a little too long.
- Pull out the dowels and cut them down to size. Most importantly, all of your dowels must be exactly the same length. If any dowels are taller or shorter, your top tier will be crooked. Re-insert into the cake.
- Take your chilled top tier out of the fridge and scrape off excess exposed raspberry with a spoon.
- Cover your shame with large amounts of frosting. Realize that while not perfectly smooth, you can’t keep running over it with the scraper or you will expose the raspberry again. Put it back in the fridge to chill, while praying there is still raspberry left in that layer.
- While the frosted cakes chill, finish your raspberries.
- In a microwave safe bowl, heat a large spoonful of jelly until liquid. It only needs a few seconds.
- Toss your fresh raspberries in the liquid jelly, coating them completely. Set aside.
- Stack your two cakes! Gently place your smaller tier on the center of your lower tier.
- With frosting in a piping bag and an open star tip, pipe a small shell border on the top tier and a larger shell border on the bottom tier.
- Place the finished raspberries stem-side down along the top of the cake.
- Add your candles to the bottom tier, pressed against the top tier.
- You did it! Enjoy your Animal Crossing Birthday cake!!