The Vintage Baker’s Silver Cake with Pink Frosting

Silver Cake
Excerpted from The Vintage Baker by Jessie Sheehan with permission by Chronicle Books, 2018 / Photo by Alice Gao

Retro, charming, and undeniable sweet, The Vintage Baker by Jessie Sheehan (Chronicle Books, 2018) is the baking cookbook to snag before heading into summer. Expect recipes for creamy ice box pies, fancy layer cakes, and decadent peanut butter bars all gathered from Jessie’s personal stash of vintage cookbook pamphlets. It’s a blast from the past, the sugar-shock edition. This silver cake from the cookbook is a simple throw back to the white cakes of old, but with a stunning coat of perfectly pink buttercream, you can count on this layered beauty stealing the show. 

This early to mid-twentieth-century white cake is made with nary an egg yolk but with copious amounts of stiffly peaked egg whites. I encountered many recipes for this cake, often with slight variations on the name—Silver Sea Foam Loaf, Penny-Wise Silver Cake, and Silver White Cake. I revamped a recipe for White Moon Cake from Home Baked Delicacies (1931) and I substituted ice water for the milk as ice water makes for the most tender of cake crumbs. I frosted the cake in pink buttercream and sprinkled the whole thing with sanding sugar.

3.7 from 3 reviews
Silver Cake with Pink Frosting
serves 16
  • Cake
  • 2¼ cups [270 g] cake flour, sifted
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • ½ cup [90 g] vegetable shortening
  • ¼ cup [55 g] unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups [300 g] granulated sugar
  • 1 cup [240 ml] ice water
  • 4 egg whites, stiffly beaten
  • Pink Buttercream
  • 1½ cups [330 g] unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ tsp table salt
  • 6 cups [720 g] confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • ⅔ cup [160 ml] whole milk or heavy cream
  • 4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Red food coloring, optional (but so pretty)
  • Pink sanding sugar for decorating
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F [180°C]. Grease two 9-inby- 2-in [23-cm-by-5-cm] round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray or softened butter. Line with parchment paper and grease again.
  2. For the cake: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the shortening, butter, and vanilla on medium to medium-high speed until fluffy and light, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the granulated sugar and continue beating for another 3 to 5 minutes, until the mixture doubles in volume.
  3. Decrease the speed to low and add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with two additions of the water, scraping down the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula. Stop the mixer when there are still streaks of flour in the batter. Finish mixing by hand, adding the egg whites in three stages, and folding them in with a rubber spatula.
  4. Transfer the batter to the prepared pans and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating at the halfway point. The cakes are ready when a cake tester comes out with a few moist crumbs and the cake has just started to come away from the sides of the pan. Let cool for about 20 minutes, and invert the cakes right-side up onto cooling racks. Let the cakes cool to room temperature. The cakes can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and stored on the counter for up to 1 day.
  5. For the buttercream: In the cleaned bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and soft. On low speed slowly add the salt and 2 cups [240 g] of the confectioners’ sugar, scraping the bowl periodically with a rubber spatula. Add one-fourth of the milk and mix until incorporated. Continue mixing in this manner, adding the remaining confectioners' sugar and milk, until the frosting is fluffy and spreadable.
  6. Add the vanilla and a few drops of food coloring, if using, and continue mixing on medium-low to medium speed for at least 5 minutes, until fluffy and stable. A longer mixing time results in exceptionally light frosting. The frosting will keep on the counter in an airtight container for up to 1 day, but may need to be re-whipped in a stand mixer before using.
  7. Generously frost the cooled cake layers with the buttercream, using an offset spatula or butter knife. If you do not want a thickly frosted cake, you will have leftover frosting. Sprinkle sanding sugar on top of the first frosted layer, before placing the second on top of it, and on the top and sides of the frosted cake once you are done. Slice the cake using a long serrated knife. The cake will keep, lightly covered in plastic wrap, on the counter for up to 3 days.


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    • I made this for my daughter-in-law’s birthday celebration. It was a huge hit. Everyone said it was very light and fluffy in texture.

    • Hi Gillie,

      Thank you for your question! I’m sorry you had some difficulties with the cake.

      If your batter was overmixed, there would actually be a lack of air bubbles in the batter, so I don’t think that’s your issue. To prevent air bubbles in your cake, you can tap the pans lightly on a kitchen towel lined surface just before baking. Running a toothpick through your batter in the pans before baking can also help to remove some of the bigger air pockets in your batter. If you continue to have issues, please let me know and we can keep troubleshooting!

      Hope this helps, and happy baking!


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