We’ve had a couple of reasons to celebrate birthdays here in the shoebox.
Jason turned 35 on May 31. Although we didn’t bake him a cake that day, he did receive the best birthday present ever.
In fact, his birthday will never be the same again.
On her daddy’s birthday, Alice Catherine Faulkner came into the world, weighing in at 7 lbs 5 oz. She is the absolute sunshine of our lives.
So, as you can imagine, we’ve been a little busy around here the past week. And we don’t mean in-the-kitchen busy.
However, in celebration of Alice’s one week birthday, we did manage to throw together a birthday cake yesterday. But we should mention, this feat would have been impossible if it were not for Anne’s mother playing a dual role as housekeeper/babysitter, and for our good friend Kate, who brought us a delicious home cooked dinner last night.
This cake is actually from a wedding cake recipe, but since we made it for Alice’s birthday, we’ll just call it:
Birthday Cake (from wedding-cakes-for-you.com, with very slight modifications)
- 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, near room temperature but not soft
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Zest of two large lemons
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter and lightly flour two 8″ cake pans.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. We triple-sifted, in hopes of adding a little more airiness to the cake.
In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until it’s just soft, then add the sugar and beat until you get a soft and fluffy texture. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition, and scraping the sides of the mixer bowl as necessary.
Now with the mixer on low speed, alternately add the milk and flour.
Now add the vanilla and lemon zest (the zest is optional, but we think it adds a nice fresh essence for a summer birthday cake). Stir to combine.
In a separate mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until you get soft peaks. With the mixer on low, pour in half the egg whites and mix until combined. Then, gently fold into the mixture the remaining egg whites. This step, of course, is one of the best ways to make a cake more airy and springy. It takes a little more time to separate the eggs and get a separate mixing bowl out, but we think it’s totally worth it.
Distribute the batter evenly between the two cake pans, shaking the pans to level the batter and smoothing out the top from middle to edges with a spatula.
Bake the cakes for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let the cakes cool in the pan on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes.
After ten minutes, gently turn the cakes out onto the cooling rack; they should be bottom side up. Allow them to cool for at least another hour.
For the icing, we used Shirley Corriher’s:
Basic Confectioners’ Sugar Buttercream (from BakeWise; we doubled this recipe)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup Crisco
- 1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 4 cups 10x confectioners’ sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup (optional, for sheen)
In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter until soft, then add in and whip the shortening until combined. On low speed, beat in the extracts.
Sift the sugar and beat into the butter/Crisco mixture on low speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Stir the salt into the milk to dissolve, then mix milk and corn syrup into the icing on low speed until a smooth and creamy texture is achieved. The consistency can be adjusted by adding more milk or sugar.
Once the cakes have cooled, and before adding the icing, gently cut off the curved tops of each cake using a long bread knife, making sure to keep the knife level as you cut. Sometimes it helps to go ahead and put the cake on a lazy susan and rotate it as you cut the perimeter of your circle, before cutting across the middle.
The two cut sides of the cakes will match each other in the middle of the stack, leaving the flat bottom of one cake for the bottom of your stack, and the flat bottom of the other cake as the top of your stack.
There are many tutorials online for how to ice a cake, and we invite you to check those out. We are by no means experts, but hopefully the photos above will give you some idea of the general process we follow. The must-have tools are 1) a cake spatula, 2) a large, wide rubber spatula, and 3) a lazy susan or rotating cake stand.
If you’re up for it, get out your piping bag and jazz up that birthday cake. To get the pink icing, we simply reserved about 1/4 of the batch we made and stirred in two drops of red food coloring.
Alice slept through her pseudo-celebration. She wasn’t even polite enough to wake up for her one birthday guest.
But we really enjoyed her birthday cake. In fact, for a recipe that we just stumbled upon and which was pretty simple to follow (simple, relative to some from-scratch cake recipes), we were pleasantly surprised by how light, moist, and flavorful this cake was. Especially with Corriher’s icing, it really did taste a lot like good wedding cake.
Happy 1 Week, Alice!