Showing posts with label birthdays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label birthdays. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How to Have a Half Birthday Cake

Today is my half birthday. The 6 month mark. That is worth celebrating, right? I was thinking of baking myself a half birthday cake. But what exactly does that look like? Does it mean I bake a whole cake and toss out half or give away half? Or do I only bake half the recipe? But in a round cake pan so it looks like a whole cake? Or do I bake a cake in a cake pan that looks like half a round cake? DING DING DING!

My friend Jan sent me a link to this half-round cake pan. It's perfect for celebrating half birthdays! Let me know if you have a different interpretation of how to bake a half birthday cake. I'm very interested. Particularly because I love finding excuses to bake. Not that I need excuses...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Video Cake Tour: Beth's Birthday Cake

Presenting my first ever Happy Go Marni Cake Tour! Because for some of you, it may be the closest you come to being inside my kitchen. Now if only we had smell-o-vision.

Read the full post about this cake here.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Banana Chocolate Chip Layer Cake with Mocha Frosting

This is not your conventional birthday cake. But it is totally a great birthday cake! Imagine making banana bread in round cake pans instead of a loaf pan. That's essentially what this is. And it's made me rethink all quick breads. What if any loaf could be turned into a layer cake. So much more exciting. And so much more room for frosting. ;)

Pumpkin bread, zucchini bread, lemon poppy seed. Oooh, some of those might go well with a cream cheese frosting, perhaps flavored with orange or lemon zest. This quick breads-turned-layer cakes thing could possibly be a dangerous discovery. I don't have time in my life right now to start a new obsession. Someone needs to write a cookbook on the topic. I should get royalties.

This banana chocolate chip layer cake is everything you want it to be and more. Actually, if we really want to talk about "and more," try changing the frosting to peanut butter, because we all know that bananas, peanut butter, and chocolate go perfectly together. But even as is, I am so happy to have discovered this recipe and I will be making it again for sure.

Not only were the texture and taste great, but from a difficulty level, this cake is easier than other layer cakes. When the two layers bake, they pull away from the edges so nicely and plop right out of their pans without any trouble. They're a little denser than other cakes and therefore less fragile when handling. Sturdier. Forgiving. And when you've made delicate cakes that crumbled when removed from the pan, or broke into four giant chunks in your hand during assembly (and broke your heart!), a forgiving cake is something to be thankful for. Ain't that the truth!

Banana Chocolate Chip Layer Cake with Mocha Frosting
Adapted from a recipe by David Lebovitz in Ready for Dessert

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon instant espresso or coffee powder (you can skip this to avoid caffeine)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream, at room temperature
2 cups banana puree (3 to 4 very ripe bananas)
1 1/4 cups mini chocolate chips

Mocha Frosting
10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup strong brewed coffee or espresso (or water if you don't want caffeine)
10 tablespoons unsalted or salted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of two 9-inch round cake pans, then place round parchment papers on the bottom.

In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy in texture, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and coffee powder. Add the two eggs, beating well after each addition. Beat in half of the dry ingredients, then add the buttermilk (or other dairy option) and the banana puree. Then beat in the remaining dry ingredients. Stir in the mini chocolate chips just until combined, using a spoon or spatula, not the mixer. You don't want a tough cake, so as soon as the chocolate chips are dispersed, put down the spoon!

Spread the batter evenly among the two prepared cake pans. Bake for about 40 minutes until the tops of the cakes are golden brown and the sides pull away from the edges. I recommend checking the cakes at 30 minutes in case your oven is fast (like mine!). Cool at least 15 minutes in the pans on cooling racks before using a sharp knife to cut around the edges, then inverting onto the racks to finish cooling. Remove the parchment from the bottoms.

To make the frosting, melt the chocolate with the coffee in a medium saucepan or in the microwave, taking care not to burn the chocolate. Stir occasionally. The consistency should be perfectly smooth. Remove from the heat and add in the 10 tablespoons butter, whisking until completely melted and combined.

To assemble the cake, place one of the cake layers upside down on your serving plate. Slide pieces of wax paper or parchment paper under the edges of the cake to protect your serving plate from unruly frosting. Spread about 3/4 cup frosting over the cake. Place the second cake layer on top of the first, standing right side up. Use the remaining frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake.

Step-by-Step in Pictures
Sift the dry ingredients together; set aside...

Beat the butter and sugar together...

Add the vanilla and coffee powder...

Add the eggs, one at a time...

Add half the dry ingredients...

Add the buttermilk and banana puree...

Add the remaining dry ingredients...

Stir in the mini chocolate chips...

Spread evenly in two prepared cake pans...

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 40 minutes...

To make the frosting, melt the chocolate with the coffee...

Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until completely melted and smooth...

Spread about 3/4 cup of cooled frosting onto the first cake layer...

Place the second layer on top of the first...

Frost the outside of the cake with the remaining frosting...

Decorate with the back of a spoon if desired...

Slice and serve!

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Purple Chocolate Cake

In honor of my sister Beth's birthday, which is today, I made a chocolate cake. But this was not just any chocolate cake. It was purple. She made very clear to me that she wanted our Bubbe's buttercream frosting recipe instead of a chocolate one. But who leaves a buttercream frosting white when you have every color of the rainbow on your palette? Beth's favorite color is purple so the answer was easy.

I took this cake assignment as an opportunity to try a new recipe. I don't make birthday cakes that often, and I have 10 billion cookbooks, so I made the brave decision not to use our grandmother's chocolate cake recipe (GASP!) this time around. As it turns out, I quickly realized while following the recipe, that this one is not all that different from my grandmother's. Main differences are the use of semisweet chocolate (instead of German chocolate) and separating the eggs to beat egg whites to medium peaks (instead of mixing the eggs right in).

The cake turned out great, though I'm not going to lie, I'm partial to my Bubbe's.

~Classic Chocolate Cake~

Recipe by Cathy Burgett, Elinor Klivans, and Lou Seibert Pappas in Williams-Sonoma's Essentials of Baking
Makes one 9-inch layer cake

4 oz. semisweet (plain) chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup boiling water
2 1/2 cups cake (soft-wheat) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with circles of parchment (baking) paper cut to fit. Butter the paper and dust the bottoms and sides of the pans with flour.

Place the chopped chocolate in a small, heatproof bowl. Pour the boiling water over the chocolate and stir to melt. Set aside to cool.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt onto a sheet of parchment paper or onto a plate. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the butter and granulated sugar. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer, beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla, then beat in the cooled chocolate mixture. Remove the bowl from the mixer.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in one-third of the dry ingredients until almost fully incorporated. Fold in one-half of the buttermilk, then fold in another third of the dry ingredients, followed by the remaining buttermilk. Add the remaining dry ingredients and, using a light lifting motion and turning the bowl continuously, fold in until the batter is smooth and the dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Do not fold too vigorously, or the cake will be tough.

In a clean bowl, using a balloon whisk, a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, or a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until medium peaks form. The whites should fall over gently when the whisk or beaters are lifted. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans, dividing it evenly. Bake the cake layers until a toothpick inserted into the center of a layer comes out clean, 30-35 minutes.

Transfer to wire racks and let cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Place a wire rack on top of a cake and invert them together. Lift of the pan and peel off the parchment. Repeat with the remaining cake layer. Let cool completely on the racks. Cover the cake layers with a clean, slightly damp kitchen towel so that the outsides do not dry out as they cool.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cake Decorating for Werewolves

My good friends David and Tzviah recently got engaged. So over the weekend, David's mother, Linda, who is an undisputable master chef and baker, pulled off an incredible engagement party in her backyard. I can't think of a single thing that was not made in her kitchen from scratch. Okay fine, she bought the tortilla chips and she didn't grow the bell pepper. The event just so happened to be on David's birthday, as well. Double whammy celebration day.

To assist in the preparation, because there was MUCH to do, my sister and I came over both Saturday night and Sunday and one of my "tasks" (which is SO the wrong term since I get pleasure from this), was to decorate a birthday cake for David. I brought over some of my cake decorating equipment and frosting dyes, and set to work in a corner of the dining room. Silly me, I didn't start the project till midnight. Finished at 4am Sunday. And that's the worst kind of 4 a.m. because I drove home and then painfully, begrudgingly changed all my clocks to 5 a.m. for Daylight Savings. My all-nighter timing was impeccable, dontcha think?

The cake itself is uber moist, quite chocolaty, and yet doesn't have all the bad-for-you-ness that other recipes have. No eggs. No butter. The frosting used between the cake layers was a Mocha Buttercream. Be careful not to eat all of it straight out of the bowl. This is highly likely. And of course, to decorate the cake, I whipped up a couple of batches of Home Decorator Buttercream to dye in all sorts of fun colors. The key to the Decorator Buttercream is to make two versions: one with corn syrup, one without. The corn syrup makes the buttercream spreadable, so only use it for frosting the surface and sides of the cake (and inside if you opt not to use Mocha Buttercream, too). The version without corn syrup will make a stiffer frosting, perfect for piping onto cakes and keeping the shape of whatever you design. Nobody wants a "wilted" frosting rose or a crooked frosting nose; familiarize yourself with the purpose of corn syrup.

The cake was a big hit. Mazel Tov to David and Tzviah on their engagement and Happy Birthday David!

Amazon Chocolate Cake
Adapted from the Cafe Beaujolais cookbook by Margaret Fox

3 cups flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 cups cold water
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. corn oil
1 Tbsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. white vinegar

Mix together flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Sift (though recipe will be fine if you don't). In separate bowl, mix together water, corn oil, vanilla, and vinegar. Whisk together the wet and dry mixtures. Pour through strainer into bowl, breaking up lumps and pressing them through strainer. Mix and pour into 2 greased 9 inch round cake pans or one 9x13x2" pan. Tap the edge of the pan against the edge of the counter, or drop from 6 inches several times to the counter to pop air bubbles. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Mocha Buttercream

2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 Tbsp. instant coffee powder
2 Tbsp. espresso (liquid)
1 cup unsalted margarine or butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 egg yolk

Melt chocolate, instant coffee, and espresso in the top of a double boiler or in a microwave. Let cool slightly. Place margarine or butter, sugar, and egg yolk in bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Blend thoroughly, and add chocolate and coffee mixture. Mix and chill to spreading consistency - about 15 minutes.

Home Decorator Buttercream
Recipe by my mommy

1 tsp. vanilla, clear is preferable
2 Tbsp. liquid (water, milk, whipping cream, etc.; I prefer milk)
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter/margarine
1 lb. powdered sugar, sifted
2 Tbsp. white Karo syrup

Beat until fluffy. The Karo syrup increases the frosting's spreadability. Makes enough frosting to cover a 9-inch two layer cake or a 9x13x2" cake.
My mom's note, in her words: This is the decorator cream that I use to make the frosting to cover the entire cake, if it has the extra Karo syrup added. Without the Karo syrup, I use this frosting to make all the roses and decorations on top of the cake.

Step by Step in Pictures

First cake layer gets a slathering of Mocha Buttercream...

Second cake layer is very very carefully placed on top of the first...

I piped some musical notes around the sides of the cake...

And here it is again: the final product...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Mother of All Cupcakes

Today is my cousin Jessica's 28th birthday. Happy Birthday, Jess! Translate that to: Another excuse to bake! W00t! (please tell me you know that very 21st century was named 2007's Word of the Year by Merriam-Webster Online)

My mom recently gave me a giant cupcake pan and all kinds of fun accessories to dress up the final product. Today, it was time to premiere it. What's cool about this pan is, you've got your top and you've got your bottom. Slather a little frosting between the two parts, assemble, frost the top, and voila! The mother of all cupcakes!

A couple of tips: Be sure to grease and flour your pan well, or you might end up with a headless horseman of a cupcake, or a bottomless one. Neither is a good scenario. Also, you'll probably need to use a bread knife and cut off the rounded top of each of the two parts so you have flat surfaces. You need the spiral top to lie snug on the bottom. Finally, be sure to select a cake recipe that is sturdy enough to withstand so much weight. Having a top resting on a bottom requires a firmer cake. I had to forgo the chocolate cake I usually make for birthdays for fear it would sink when I placed the spiral top on it. I opted for a devil's food cake by Lori Longbotham. Her Luscious Chocolate Desserts cookbook is one of my all-time favorites. I am working my way through the entire thing.

Divine Devil's Food Cake
Recipe by Lori Longbotham in Luscious Chocolate Desserts
Serves 8.

2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
2/3 cup natural cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

7 1/2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9x2 inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with aluminum foil, and butter the foil.

To make the cake: Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Stir together the buttermilk and water in a small bowl.

Beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium-high speed in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and add the cocoa mixture alternately with the buttermilk mixture in 3 batches, beating just until well blended. Transfer the batter to the pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans on wire racks for 5 minutes. Carefully invert onto the racks, turn right-side up, and let cool completely. Remove the foil.

To make the frosting: Melt the chocolate with the cream in a heatproof medium deep bowl set over a saucepan of about 1 1/2 inches of nearly simmering water, whisking until smooth. Add the butter and whisk until smooth. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate, covered, for 15 minutes.

Beat the frosting with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for about 8 minutes, until thick enough to spread.

To assemble the cake: Place 1 cake layer on a serving plate. Spread about 1 cup of the frosting evenly over the layer. Top with the remaining cake layer and frost the top and sides with the remaining frosting. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, until the frosting sets.

Serve cut into wedges.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Bert's Chocolate Cake: Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my birthday. All good birthdays involve chocolate cake. Using the transitive property, if A=B and B=C, then A=C, today involves chocolate cake. Now don't laugh. Don't call me pathetic. Yes, I baked my own birthday cake. But before you judge me, hear me out. Three reasons why it makes perfect sense that I made my own:

1. I love baking and this was an enjoyable project.
2. It is a tradition in my family to have this specific chocolate cake recipe, and with my mom (the one who normally makes it for us kids) living 400 miles away, I can't expect her to show up at my doorstep with the cake.
3. This is the chocolate cake recipe to outdo all other chocolate cake recipes. Why settle for a bakery's cake when I can have my grandma Bert's?

This is a very special recipe. It's the cake made at every single birthday in my family. I make it for my sister now that we live in Los Angeles. Growing up, four of the five of us in my immediate family had birthdays in January. That meant my mom would make 4 of these cakes in January. I am not kidding. And we never tired of it. Well, maybe temporarily by January 31st.

So here goes, the best chocolate cake on the planet. And happy birthday to me!

~Bert's Chocolate Cake~

1 (4-oz.) German chocolate bar (Baker's)
1/2 c. hot water
1/2 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. white sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 c. cake flour, sifted
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla

Blend chocolate into water and set aside to cool. Cream together the butter with the brown and white sugars. Add the eggs, one at a time. Now add chocolate carefully so it doesn't splatter. Mix the flour, soda, and salt together. Add these dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix well. Add the vanilla. Pour into two well-greased and floured 9-inch round pans or a 9x13" pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. To remove from the pans, put hot pans on cooling rack for 10 minutes. Then remove from pans and put onto rack to cool right-side up.

~Elegant Chocolate Frosting~

1 1/4 c. sugar
1 c. evaporated milk or heavy cream (I prefer cream)
5 (1-oz.) squares Baker's unsweetened chocolate
1/2 c. butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine sugar and milk in large heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat; simmer 6 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; stir to blend. Stir in butter and vanilla. Chill until mixture begins to thicken (or if you're short on time, place the bowl over an ice bath). Beat until thick and creamy. Makes enough to fill and frost an 8- or 9-inch layer cake.

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