Since the upscale diner Hail Mary opened on Greenpoint Avenue in May, its funfetti cake has become the single most ordered item on the menu. “Every table gets one, sometimes more than one, and a lot of people come just for cake,” said Sohla El-Waylly, who runs the restaurant with her husband, Ham. It’s no wonder—the three-tiered masterpiece is like a Proustian madeleine for those of us who grew up eating the sprinkle-filled cakes on our birthday.

“When I was little—I don’t remember this, but everyone told me about this—there was a year in my life when I made box mix everyday and I would sing happy birthday to myself and blow out the candles,” Sohla said. “It’s one of those things that everyone brings up when they see me and they make fun of me and ask, are you still making birthday cake everyday? And it’s funny because now I am!” Needless to say, whenever people come into the restaurant for a birthday, they make a really big deal of it.

Hail Mary’s interpretation of the classic is a vanilla cake with salted caramel buttercream frosting and handmade rosewater sprinkles. It has more sugar than flour, so the key to getting the right texture is to mix it a lot more than you would mix a normal cake. And don’t add too many sprinkles to the batter—they can affect the acidity level. Now go forth and bake!

bk1116_fob_food_funfetti_janebruce_1Funfetti Cake

2      Sticks softened butter
3      c sugar
1      T salt
5      whole eggs
2      egg yolks
  c  flour
2      T baking powder
1       t baking powder
  c buttermilk
1       T vanilla extract
1       T birthday cake extract
½     c store bought sprinkles

Cream together butter, sugar, and salt until fluffy. Add one egg at a time, creaming for two minutes after each egg. Combine together the flour and baking powder and set aside. Combine together the buttermilk and extracts and set aside.

Add half the flour mixture to the creamed butter and eggs and mix for one minute. Slowly add half the buttermilk mixture. Repeat with the remaining flour and buttermilk. Finish the batter by stirring in the sprinkles.

Divide the batter evenly between three 8-inch pans, which have been lined with parchment and butter. Tap the pans firmly against the table to get rid of any large air bubbles. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes, or until the center of the cake bounces back when pressed firmly. (We bake our cakes in a Combi oven with a little steam to keep the cakes extra moist, you can mimic this in a home oven by placing a pan of boiling water on the shelf below the cakes when baking.)

Home-made Sprinkles

4      c powdered sugar
2      egg whites
1       t vanilla
2      T rose water
1       t salt

Mix everything together until smooth. Divide icing into several bowls and add desired food coloring to each bowl. Put tinted icing into a pastry bag and snip off a tiny corner to get desired sprinkle width.Pipe icing onto a parchment lined sheet tray in short lines about one inch long.

Leave overnight to dry. Once dry gently lift sprinkles off parchment using an offset spatula or thin knife.

Salted Caramel Buttercream

For the caramel
  c sugar
¼     c water
½     c cream
2      T salt
1      vanilla bean

In a medium saucepan combine the sugar and water. Cook over medium heat without stirring with a lid until all the sugar has dissolved. Remove the lid and increase the heat to high. Split and scrape the vanilla bean and add the seeds and pod to the caramel. Continue cooking on high until almost burnt. When the sugar is smoking and almost black, deglaze with the cream.  Be careful, because it will sputter and spit. (This is why it’s important to always use a larger pot than you think) Finish with the salt and set aside.

For the buttercream
6      whole eggs
1      c sugar
¼     c water
  softened butter

Whip the eggs on high in a stand mixer. While eggs are whipping, combine water and sugar in a small saucepan and cook until it reaches 235 F. The eggs should triple in volume. Slowly pour the hot sugar into the whipped eggs. Continue whipping until the base of the mixing bowl is no longer warm. This can take up to 30 minutes. Once the bowl is cool to the touch, add the softened butter a tablespoon at a time. (The butter must be perfectly soft, we usually pull it out of the fridge the night before, and it’s perfect in the morning) After all the butter is added, the eggs will lose a lot of volume, but if you continue mixing you will regain some of that volume. Finish by whipping in the cooled caramel.


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