i made a cake for a friends birthday last night. let me just tell you... it was awesome. i am not usually one to toot my own horn, but you need to understand this. i am not a baker. don't get me wrong, i love to bake, but cakes are not my forte. anyone who has been to either of e's birthday parties can attest to this. her first cake... neat looking, not great. her second cake... the frosting was great. the cake, practically inedible. it tasted like dry bread. horrible. i can make a simple cookie recipe, seven layer bars or brownies from a box... things that are easily accomplished. but the cake i made last night was completely from scratch, and it was awesome. so, the recipe. after searching my favorite recipe sources... epicurious, cannelle et vanille, i opted for the basic version of "birthday cake" from cooks illustrated the best recipe.
i would love to say that this is my cake. its not. i wish i had gotten a picture of my cake but... i used this for inspiration. i modified the recipe to make 3 layers, so the cake was nice and tall. i added little flags like these, made with linen and neutral colors of ribbon with little pops of green. 

classic white layer cake 

1 C milk, room temperature
3/4 C egg whites, room temperature
2 t almond extract (i used all vanilla)
1 t vanilla extract
2 1/4 C plain cake flour (i used all purpose flour)
1 3/4 C sugar
4 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1. adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350. generously grease two 9 inch cake pans cover bottom of pans with parchment rounds and grease and flour pans.

2. pour milk, egg whites and extracts into a 2 C glass measure, and mix with fork until blended.

3. mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer at low speed. add butter; continue to beat at a low speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery ingredients remaining.

4. add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes. add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. return mixer to medium speed and beat 20 seconds longer.

5. divide batter evenly between the two prepared pans; using rubber spatula spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. bake 23-25 minutes.

6. let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. loosen from sides of pan with a knife, and invert onto greased cake racks. let cool completely about 1 1/2 hours. 

for the assembly, the book suggested using a butter frosting along with a jam filling... which i did, but found it cloying. my recommendation would be to go with the jam, i used raspberry, but use a swiss meringue icing instead of the butter frosting.

i LOVE this swiss meringue recipe. it makes such an amazing icing... beautifully white, and shiny. just gorgeous, and not too sweet. 

on the first cake layer, spread about a half of a cup of frosting over the top. spread about a third of a cup of jam over the frosting and top with the second layer. spread frosting over top and sides of cake.