Every time Rebekah Brooks and her dad would take on projects, he always had an intricate, detailed plan.
It didn’t matter if it was house repairs or her fourth-grade science experiment. Her father, a truck driver with a knack for disciplined schedules, insisted on a set of exacting steps to ensure perfection.
“I was his little helper,” she said. “I would try to predict his next move. I wanted to hand him the wrench he needed before he asked.”
That methodical approach is part of what has made Brooks a master at making cakes. While other bakers may be content with writing Happy Birthday in icing or decorating with a few dyed-sugar stars, Brooks creates some of the most ornate, over-the-top cakes Miami has ever seen. Think Millennium Falcon in a field of stars, a fairy house floating above a fantastical garden, or a purple octopus perched atop an underwater world.
Finding Her Creative Outlet
Back in 2002, Brooks was a line cook at the Four Seasons in her hometown of Vancouver. She started dating a fellow cook there who would become her husband: Aaron Brooks, now executive chef at Edge Steak & Bar at the Four Seasons Miami. In 2008, after their daughter was born, Rebekah Brooks took a break from restaurant life and found herself in need of a creative outlet.
She started making and decorating cakes for friends’ birthdays and anniversaries. Every time she baked, she’d make the cake a bit more complicated than the last time. She used the skill her dad taught her: Come up with a plan and execute it.
‘It took me years to find a cake recipe I was happy with.’
One of her first complex projects was a massive carrot cake with cream-cheese frosting to serve 60 people. She made it in the shape of a tractor-trailer and served it at a backyard retirement party: her father’s.
“Oh, that one was stressful,” Brooks said. “I learned that fondant doesn’t stick to cream-cheese frosting.”
Cakes That Put Personality on Display
Word of her cakes has spread in large part because of the photos she uploads to Instagram (@rebekahbrookscakedesign). Her contracts usually begin with a direct message followed by a phone call to assess the client’s hobbies and charisma. Each cake “is like a glimpse into that person’s personality,” Brooks said. “I try to put a little piece of them into it.”
It’s a lot of pressure to bake a cake that will be the centerpiece of a milestone moment, she said, acknowledging that she often dreads the big reveal, fearing they’ll hate it. (That hasn’t happened yet.)
For the base recipe she shared with INDULGE, Brooks picked her vanilla buttermilk batter. Using the perfectionist planning her father taught her, Brooks studied dozens, maybe hundreds, of vanilla cake recipes before creating her own. It rethinks the standard dry-then-wet method of ingredient mixing, employing a technique closer to biscuit making.
“It took me years to find a cake recipe I was happy with,” she said. “This is my go-to. That’s my recipe now.”
Recipe: Vanilla Buttermilk Cake
By Rebekah Brooks
MAKES 1 CAKE
2 1/2 sticks butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups white sugar
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk
5 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine butter, sugar and flour. After it becomes sandy in texture, slowly add buttermilk. Once incorporated, turn mixer to high and whip until thick and fluffy. Scrape bowl and mix once more to make sure it’s combined.
- In a separate bowl, use a stick blender to blitz eggs, yolks and vanilla. Add egg mixture to bowl of stand mixer with butter, sugar and flour. Use low setting to combine.
- Pour batter into cake pans and bake at 325 degrees until middle of cake springs back to touch — about 20-30 minutes, depending on depth of pan.