Lightly butter and flour two 9 x 1 1/2-inch round cake pans. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter at low speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Slowly add the sugar and mix until just incorporated. Raise the speed to high and mix until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. (Occasionally turn the mixer off, and scrape the sides of the bowl down with a rubber spatula.)
Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together into a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and vanilla.
Reduce the mixer's speed to low. Alternately add the flour mixture and milk mixture, waiting for each to be fully incorporated before adding the next (scrape the bowl down occasionally). Raise the speed to medium and mix briefly until a smooth batter is formed. Transfer the batter to a large bowl.
Thoroughly clean the bowl of the mixer and place the egg whites inside. Using the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on high speed, until stiff peaks are formed.
Working in 3 batches, using a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into the batter, until just incorporated.
Divide the cake batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. Place the pans on the middle oven rack evenly spaced apart. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through the cooking, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
Remove the cakes from the oven and run a knife around the edges to loosen them from the sides of the pans. One at a time, invert the cakes onto a plate and then re-invert them onto a cooling rack, rounded-sides up. Let cool completely.
Frost the cake. Place one layer, rounded-side down, in the middle of a rotating cake stand. (If using the vanilla frosting, reserve about 1 to 2 cups for coloring and decorating.) Using a palette knife or offset spatula spread about half of the frosting all over the cake. (Spread enough frosting over the top to make a 1/4-to-1/2-inch layer.) Carefully set the other layer on top, rounded-side up, and spread all over with the remaining frosting.
If coloring the vanilla frosting, place the reserved frosting in a medium bowl and stir in the food coloring, little by little, until the desired color is reached. Transfer the colored frosting to a pastry bag with small, round or fluted tip, or a plastic baggie with a small portion of a corner cut off.
Using the colored frosting, creatively write "Happy Birthday" to whomever and decorate the edges in fringes and whirls, if desired. Serve immediately with lit candles or store at room temperature or in the refrigerator covered with a cake or pie lid. (If storing the cake in the refrigerator, remember to remove it several hours before serving, to bring it to room temperature.)
In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand-held electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and mix on low until incorporated. Raise the speed to high and mix until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. (Occasionally turn the mixer off, and scrape the sides of the bowl down with a rubber spatula.)
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the milk, vanilla, lemon juice, and zest.
Reduce the speed of the mixer to low. Add the milk mixture in 3 batches, waiting for each batch to be fully incorporated before adding the next (scrape the bowl down occasionally). Raise the speed to high and mix briefly until fluffy. Use as desired. May be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 3 days.
Yield: about 6 cups
Put the chocolate in a large bowl and set aside.
In a small saucepan, whisk together the cream and corn syrup and bring to a boil. Pour the cream mixture over the bowl of chocolate and immediately whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool completely, about 1 hour.
Transfer the chocolate mixture to the bowl of a standing electric mixer, or with a hand-held mixer and whip on high speed until creamy and fluffy. Use as desired. May be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Yield: about 4 cups
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