Friday, August 1, 2008

On birthday cake

ROBERTA: One of the traditions we had in my family growing up was that the birthday person got to choose their cake. I went with angel food cake with whipped cream frosting, tinted pink with food coloring.

My own John (yes the young groom you met on Monday) is turning sixty next week! With him (and my stepdaughter,) it's always chocolate. The recipe that I use for feathery fudge cake with chocolate sour cream frosting comes from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. My birthday falls in early January--not only are there no other bakers in my family, most of the good bakeries in the area are closed, exhausted from the holidays. I've managed to persuade my stepson (birthday in July) to prefer the cake I would choose: yellow cake spread with whipped cream and crammed with strawberries. I found this on a Softasilk cake flour box one year--it's a winner.

1.5 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
4 egg yolks
2 1/4 C Softasilk cake flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk
whipped cream

grease and flour 2 round pans, heat oven to 35o. eat sugar and shortening until fluffy. beat in vanilla, eggs and egg yolks, one at a time. mix flour, baking powder and salt. Mix in alternately with the milk, beating after each addition just until blended, beginning and ending with flour mixture. pour into pans. Bake 25 min or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. cool 10 min, remove from pans. cool completely.

frost with fresh whipped cream sweetened with a tbsp of sugar and a dash of vanilla. I put chopped strawberries in the middle layer and decorate the top with halved strawberries, maybe a few blueberries too.

So that's it guys and gals--it's anything can happen Friday and I've got birthday cake on the brain. Let's hear about your birthday traditions!


  1. We always put a dime in the cake batter, so it bakes right in (covered, of course, in plastic wrap) and no one knows where it was. Whoever gets the dime, gets the dime and a year of good luck. We hope.

  2. Karen, you bake plastic wrap in the cake? that reminds me of king's cake we had after New Year's at my sister's house. A plastic baby was baked into the cake for luck. After all the hype though, the cake was a little dry!

    You must have gotten the dime this year Karen--great article in the NYT this week!

  3. I'll say it out loud: I don't like chocolate (okay, you all, stop throwing things at me). I've always been intrigued by the idea of hiding symbolic things in a cake and letting people find them (I think the Irish do that a lot)--but now I worry about someone breaking a tooth.

    My favorite cake of all time: the yellow cake with buttercream filling and fondant icing from Robert Day Dean's in New York (long gone, I fear). My grandmother, who lived in New York, would bring them for all birthdays, and a few other occasions. I would eat pieces fresh or stale, including for breakfast.

    Currently I've got a great recipe for apple cake, cribbed from James Beard. I love it because you don't have to peel the apples, you can shrink or expand the recipe easily, and it travels very well (good for potluck events).

  4. I don't like cake! (But I love cupcakes, go figure.)

    I always ask for pie if the birthday's staying housebound, but often it's a restaurant celebration where I can have some impossibly pfoofy presentation-type thing -- all drizzle and coulis and chocolate curls that shoot up like fireworks. There's a restaurant down the street that prides itself on these kinds of dessert events. Bonus: they taste good, too, which isn't always the case with presentation foods, is it?

    If we stay home -- it's pie, pie, pie. My birthday's in December, so I like a nice fruit pie with cream and cinnamon or some kind of ice cream pie made on the spot: warm brownies on the bottom and peppermint ice cream on top, for example.

    Yum. This is one dangerous thread.

    Happy birthday to John!

  5. On birthdays, or other major occasions, the person being feted in our house gets to use the one set of gold-plated silverware. Birtday person picks the meals for the day -- my yongest usually picks something like waffles or pancakes for dinner (even at 18.)My family demands the same cake every year -- the same one I had growing up -- we call it a vinegar cake but I think some people say it's a three-hole cake -- no eggs -- and I use "portsmouth frosting" which I decided to try because I live in Portsmouth but it's the best -- not as sweet as some others. The most recent addition to the traditions, begun unfortunately by my husband many Christmases ago for me, is to write (hopefully clever) clues on a piece of paper attached to the wrapped gift. That gets very challenging sometimes.... (and at Christmas, downright exhausting)

  6. Roberta,
    A. Hear that whirring? That's my printer printing out this recipe.

    B. But what is softasilk flour? I bake a lot, have never even seen it. Where can I buy it and/or will the cake work with King Arthur?

    C. I want your chocolate bd cake recipe, too. (demanding, aren't I?)
    I want it really, really, badly.

    Our tradition is that all bd cakes must be cut with the sterling cake knife my mother left me. We always used it as a kid, and of all the things I have of hers, this is what brings me the most joy. I get in a good mood just pulling it out of the silver box.

    The other tradition here is that my daughter was born dec. 12th, smack in the middle of the holiday season. So we always buy and decorate the tree on her birthday.

  7. Thanks, Roberta, about the NYT article! But I actually had an ice cream cake last year (my birthday's in August) and no dime! (and, oh, the dime's wrapped in plastic wrap with a little tin foil around it...forgot that part)

  8. I'm so happy you posted about your cake, Roberta. (And happy birthday John!)

    I used to be so good about baking birthday cakes: Chocolate/chocolate for Pomegranate, Yellow/Chocolate icing for my husband, and...well, poor Bengal has suffered with Wal-Mart theme cakes (his choice!) since he was three. But my very favorite is a three-layer Chocolate Chiffon Cake with Mocha Buttercream Icing. I confess I've made it for myself more than once--but it's been years. So your blog sent me scrambling for my stack of Southern Living Cookbooks, and I found it again. Yay! It must be someone's birthday, somewhere this weekend...

    Whatever the cake, though, we always cut it with the Waterford cake knife that was a gift from my mom. It sure dresses up those Rugrats/Batman/Spiderman/Transformer confections from Wal-Mart!

  9. Softasilk is cake flour...a little lighter and a little less gluten than regular wheat flour. NOT the same as self-rising cake flour. My husband's birthday is the day after mine so we try to have a birthday week. I'm always up for champagne and caviar..but when it comes to cake, I'm a chocolate gal. And I'm an equal opportunity eater - I don't care if it's Duncan Hines or Valrhona. Ring Dings or Richart. Show me the icing....

  10. Oh, I don't like the icing. Or is it frosting? Is there a difference? ANother question for another day.

    We used to be able to choose whatever we wanted for our birthday dinner. Whatever we wanted! Chinese food was big, as was lobster. The lobster was kind of difficult, since we lived in Indiana.

    In our family, we also have the tradition of trying to get our parents to make it birthday WEEK instead of just one day. My mother's tradition is to say no to that request!

  11. When I turned forty, I had a birthday month. My husband still hasn't gotten over it!

  12. I like to call it a birthday season...

    Laura, wish I had a piece of that chocolate chiffon cake right now. I don't care whose knife we cut it with!

    Loved hearing about all the traditions and see you Monday!


  13. hank, if i remember correctly, i was the PRO at birthday week!!

  14. Mmmm...mocha buttercream. Yes!

    Recently my daughter has taken to making just frosting--no cake. We each take a spoon, and...

  15. I first made this cake for my mother-in-law, because no one had made her a birthday cake since she left her mother's house. It is now our family favorite, a "depression" cake that does not need butter or eggs (rationed items):

    Wowie Cake
    3 c. flour
    2 c. sugar
    1-1/3 c. cocoa
    2 tsp. baking soda
    1 tsp. salt
    1 T. vinegar
    2 tsp. vanilla
    2/3 c. salad oil
    2 c. water

    Combine ingredients and pour into two 8-9-inch round pans or 9x13 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees 35-45 minutes, until knife inserted in cake comes out clean.

    8 blocks unsweetened baking chocolate
    2 c. sugar
    12 oz. can evaporated milk
    1-1/3 tsp. vanilla
    8 T. margarine

    Cut chocolate into small pieces. Blend all ingredients at low speed until larger pieces are chopped. Stir. Blend at high speed until frosting is thick and creamy.

  16. Hey Liz--(Say hi to everyone --Liz is my sister!)Yes indeed, you definitely managed to get birthday week--with your three older sisters paving the way, of course!

    Laura clearly has the right idea...

    And Mo--is that cake really good?Will you make it for the next SINC meeting?? Just for research,of course..

  17. This is definitely a death-by-chocolate cake. I'll bring mine if Roberta and Sheila bring theirs some time. Right now I'm thinking of all the interesting things that could be baked into a cake--tracking devices, diamonds, human teeth. Don't know where that came from, but makes you think, doesn't it?