Strawberry Supreme Birthday Cake

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It’s my niece’s 4th birthday tomorrow. I have no idea how this kid is four already. I swear it was just yesterday I was sitting in the hospital room when she was wheeled in from the delivery with her mom, swaddled in her little burrito blanket. Time really does fly when it comes to kids, even when you’re just helping raise them.

I know I’m biased, but she really is such a sweetheart. I love her to death and feel blessed to have been able to be a major part of her life.

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I’ve been making her cakes for her day for the past two years. Last years was this Funfetti Cake. This year when I asked her what kind she wanted, she didn’t hesitate to reply: “Strawberry Cake, Auntie.”

I had my marching orders. A Strawberry Birthday Cake it was.

What first comes to y’all’s minds when you hear Strawberry Cake?

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If you’re like me, maybe you thought about strawberry shortcake–which is delicious, but I also knew wasn’t what my niece was talking about. There’s strawberry shortcake; a fluffy biscuit-y cake that’s served with whipped cream and strawberries. Then, there’s the Strawberry Cake; a pink colored cake that usually comes from a box mix. I loved it myself as a kid, and what little kid wouldn’t? It’s pink. It’s EXTREMELY sweet. 9 times out of 10 it’s spread with pink frosting.

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What’s the problem? Well, that cake is just so overly sweet  and artificial tasting. The ‘strawberry’ flavor and color often comes from the addition of a packet of strawberry jello packet. While this may not make a huge difference to a four year old little girl, it sure makes a difference to her 27 year old foodie and baker auntie who doesn’t like to have anything to do with box cake mixes.

I still wanted to give my baby what she wanted though: a yummy, pretty strawberry birthday cake. Guess what? I think I did, even sans cake mix.

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I won’t lie: layer cakes of any kind take patience and time. They can be a labor of love, and this cake is no exception. However, I’ve found that the work can be spread out over two days so that you’re not so rushed or in the kitchen for hours at a time by baking the cakes themselves on Day 1, refrigerating them overnight, then making the filling/frostings and assembling the whole thing on Day 2.

And I do have to say, the work is one hundred percent worth it. I don’t think this cake could be more of a Strawberry Cake if it tried: strawberries are literally in EVERY SINGLE part of it. There are pureed strawberries in the batter. The cake is filled with a fresh strawberry curd. The frosting is mixed with even more pureed strawberries.

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Strawberry on strawberry on strawberry.

The cake bakes up very moist and fluffy. The only downside was that the pureed strawberries in the batter did sink to the bottom of the pans. But that turned out okay too because they just melded together more with the strawberry curd. I’ve made lemon curd before, but never strawberry. This one was extremely easy to do and the result is a tart, smooth curd which gives a real punch of strawberry freshness to the overall taste of the cake. I think it might be the best part, to be honest. The frosting isn’t overly sweet thanks to the addition of the cream cheese to the butter and powdered sugar. And the scoop of the fresh strawberry puree gave it that pretty in pink tint that I knew my niece would love.

Linking this post with Fiesta Friday #161, co-hosted this week by Laura @ Feast Wisely.

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Strawberry Supreme Birthday Cake

Recipe Adapted from Taste of the South Magazine

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Ingredients

For Cake

  • 2 cups fresh strawberries
  • 2½ cups cake flour
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup ice water
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup butter shortening, at room temp
  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temp
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

For Strawberry Curd Filling

  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen sliced strawberries in syrup, thawed and drained
  • 1⁄2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1⁄4 cup butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon strawberry extract

For Strawberry Frosting

  • 1⁄2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1⁄2 cup reserved strawberry purée (from Strawberry Curd)
  • 1 teaspoon strawberry extract
  • 6 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 °. Flour, grease and line three round 8 or 9 inch cake pans with wax paper or parchment paper. Set aside.

Pulse strawberries in a food processor or blender until well blended, but still with some chunks inside. Set aside in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the ice water, whole milk and buttermilk. In bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and shortening until creamy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla, mixing another 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat just until combined. Alternating adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the bowl, starting and ending with flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl with spatula to ensure it’s well mixed. Remove this mixture to another bowl, & wipe out thoroughly. Using clean beaters, place the egg whites and cream of tartar together in the bowl at medium speed, beating until soft peaks form. Using a spatula, fold the egg whites into the cake batter. Fold in the strawberries. Divide the batter evenly between the three pans, smoothing the tops with spatula. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted inside cakes comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 20 minutes before removing from pans and letting cool completely on wire racks.

For Curd: Pour the drained strawberries into a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth. Remove and reserve 1/2 cup of t he puree for the Strawberry frosting. In a medium saucepan, add the strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, egg yolks and lemon juice over medium heat, whisking constantly until thickened; about 7-8 minutes., Remove from heat and add the butter in chunks, then the strawberry extract. Let mixture cool slightly, cover with a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours before using.

For Frosting: Cream together the butter and cream cheese in bowl of a standing mixer or using a handheld one until fluffy. Add the reserved strawberry puree and the extract and mix until just combined. Add the confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time and beat together until smooth and creamy.

To Assemble: Level the tops of each cake. Line the edges of a cake platter with strips of parchment paper to keep the platter clean while you assemble the cake. Place one cake layer on the platter. Pipe a border of frosting around the edges of the cake. Spread about half of the strawberry curd inside the border, smoothing with a spatula. Top with another cake layer and repeat process. Top with final cake layer. Spread entire cake with just frosting enough over the top and sides to make a crumb coat. (It should be thin).  Refrigerate cake for one hour until the crumb coat is firm. Finish spreading the remainder of the frosting on the cake, decorating with sprinkles if desired. Remove the parchment strips from the platter before serving.

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3 Layer Coconut Sheet Cake

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So, before I get into the specific of this post, I feel I should make it clear that coconut cakes and I don’t really have much of a history of “getting along with each other”. I always tell people that ask me that I learned how to be a pretty decent baker through lots of trial and error. Best way to learn.

As it turns out, several of those “errors” have come through my attempts at making coconut cakes over the past few years. Sometimes it’s worked wonderfully.  Sometimes I’ve just blown it.

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Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’ve never really been that much of a coconut fan in general; I don’t like Pina Coladas (or getting caught in the rain by the way). I think Mounds Bars are disgusting. Shredded coconut on its own reminds me of tasteless confetti or wood shavings. I do like to cook with raw, unsweetened coconut milk very much but on it’s own? Meh.

However…my grandmother’s favorite kind of cake is coconut cake. Therefore for the past four or five years, every June when her birthday comes around, I set out to bake her a coconut cake.

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I’ve baked about 5 different coconut cakes over the past few years; they’ve ranged from ridiculously basic to EXTREMELY complicated. Some have taken little to no effort and others have took me all day long. The first one I attempted was when I had first started my foray into baking. I wanted to make my grandma a cake for her birthday and my mom (in her infinte wisdom) advised me that I should start with something basic and easy to do. I found a recipe an old cookbook of hers that she suggested I try. I had my doubts about it: first, it was supposed to be made in a 13 x 9 pan. Me, being the naive over-eager overachiever I was, thought that was “too easy”. Second I was worried that because the recipe was in a fat free cookbook, it wouldn’t be very tasty.

Turns out, it was DELICIOUS. Seriously. I didn’t and still do not even like coconut cake…and I still ate a big slice of that one.

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I’ve made subsequent coconut layer cakes for my grandma after that one that turned out well. Some VERY well. However, it was always that first fat free, easy-peasy coconut cake that I made for her as a novice baker that remained the crowd favorite.

This year, I attempted to make one that I bookmarked from Food and Wine magazine. I’ll make a long story short by just letting you guys know right off the bat: it didn’t work. In retrospect I don’t think that I beat the ten eggs that were in the batter nearly long enough to make it rise high and fluffy. The cake came out SUPER dense and flat. I knew right away I had messed up and would have to make a  hasty adjustment/save if I was gonna have a cake ready for my grandma’s birthday. Once again, my mom suggested I just go back to the “Old Faithful” cake I made for her the first time. I started to brush it off…the I stopped to think a little bit.

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Once I finished thinking and mulling it over for the night, the next morning I decided to go ahead and bake the first cake again; but this time, I thought of several ways to “doll it up”.

The first way was based off the shape of a cake I saw on Pinterest. I did some Googling and baking science research and it turns out, that the same amount of batter that goes into a standard 9 inch two layer cake also goes into a 13 x 9 size cake. That amount of batter can also fit inside a 15 x 10 x 1 baking sheet without spilling over. The original recipe for the coconut cake was for a 13 x 9 cake pan.

It took me about .2 seconds to see how I could make this work rather nicely.

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Basically, what I did was bake the coconut cake in a sheet pan, cut the cooled & finished cake into 3 equal vertical pieces, and stack them on top of each other to form a square layer cake. For the frosting, I decided to adapt from the vanilla buttercream I made for my Funfetti Layer Cake; I swapped out vanilla extract for coconut extract, and plain milk for coconut water. Finally, I pressed coconut flakes I briefly toasted in a skillet to the sides and tops of the cake.

By the time I finished, I took a step back and felt pretty darn proud of myself.

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Let me just state again for the record: I do not like coconut.

I do not care very much for coconut cake.

But…. this cake. THIS CAKE.

I think what may blow my mind the most about this recipe is the cake itself; it’s a low fat cake, but holy cow is it MOIST and FLUFFY and yes, still plenty sweet. It’s perfectly complimented by the coconut buttercream–which I feel I ought to point out, is NOT low fat whatsoever. I mean after all, this is a birthday cake. Birthday cakes should never be completely low in fat. The sweetness of the buttercream is perfectly tempered by the subtle nutty flavor of the toasted coconut.

It went over like gangbusters with my grandparents and I gotta say, I was not surprised. This was just a great idea all around. I also think I may have found a new, preferred way of making layer cakes in general. Whoop Whoop.

Happy Fiesta Friday #124 and thanks to our co-hosts this week, Lindy @ Love in the Kitchen and Liz @ spades, spatulas & spoons.

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3 Layer Coconut Sheet Cake

Recipe Adapted from Secrets of Fat Free Baking and Southern Living Magazine

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Ingredients

For Coconut Cake

  • 1 1/4 cups coconut water
  • 3/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cups white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • 2 tsp coconut extract

For Coconut Frosting

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (32 ounces.) package powdered sugar
  • 6 to 7 table tablespoons coconut water
  • 1 tablespoon coconut extract
  • toasted coconut flakes, optional

Directions

For Cake:

Preheat oven to 325°. Grease, flour and line a large rimmed 15 x 10 x 1 baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

Place the coconut water and shredded coconut in a bowl and stir together.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda and stir to mix well. Add the coconut mixture, egg whites, vanilla extract and coconut extract and stir to mix well.

Spread the batter evenly in the baking sheet. Tap the baking sheet on a counter top a few times to release air bubbles.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for about 10-15 minutes before flipping out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For Frosting:

Beat butter and salt at medium speed with an electric mixer 1 to 2 minutes or until creamy; gradually add powdered sugar alternately with 6 tbsp. coconut water, beating at low speed until blended and smooth after each addition. Stir in coconut extract. If desired, beat in remaining 1 tbsp. coconut water, 1 tsp. at a time until frosting reaches desired consistency.

To Assemble Cake:

Place the completely cooled cake on a cutting board and cut into equal thirds. (About 4 1/2 inches) Make sure both cakes are evenly leveled before beginning to decorate. Line the edges of a cake platter with strips of parchment paper to keep the platter clean while you assemble the cake. Place one (evenly leveled) cake layer on the platter. Spread 1 1/2 cups of the frosting evenly across the top of the cake with a spatula. Place the second cake layer on top, then spread with just enough over the top and sides to make a crumb coat. (It should be thin). Refrigerate cake for one hour until the crumb coat is firm. Finish spreading the remainder of the frosting on the cake. Gently press toasted coconut flakes onto sides and tops of cake.

Funfetti Layer Cake

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I don’t care who you are, how old you get, how your taste buds “mature”  to other things or how long it’s been since the last time you’ve had it. There is one thing I still know for sure:

Nobody ever stops loving Funfetti cake.

They just don’t.

Ever since that first taste we get of it in our childhoods at home or at birthday parties, I think there’s just this permanent appreciation we have of that distinctive taste; nothing can replace it. It’s a go-to, sure crowd pleaser for everybody. You serve a funfetti cake and chances are, EVERY ONE will want a piece.

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For me, there’s just one problem: most of the time, the only way I can get a funfetti cake is if it comes out of a box from a pre-made mix.

And if you guys know anything about me by now, it’s that I just…  I try to stay away from cake mix out of the box. I’ve got nothing personal against those that do use it, it’s just for me, once box cake is baked it starts a countdown for how good it’s still going to taste.

In my opinion that’s roughly only about a day or two. After that, there’s just something about the way the ingredients in the cake react to the exposure of the air and then the quality of the taste begins to decline.

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In addition, the canned stuff they try and call funfetti “frosting” sucks. Don’t even get me started on what happens to it after a day or two of sitting on top of a box cake in a baking dish.

Blegh. It’s pretty much inedible.

But all of that is still no reason why we shouldn’t be able to take a walk down memory lane and get that funfetti cake fix we’ve been missing from way back when.

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And yes, it CAN taste better.

I’ll show you.

At the core of every delicious funfetti cake, is a fantastic white cake recipe. You just have to have a good, moist and fluffy white cake with that intense vanilla flavor or its going to either taste way too sugary and artificial (like the box ones do in my opinion), or it won’t taste like much of… anything, really.

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After you’ve got the cake down, you’re still not out of the woods. For a grown-up funfetti cake, you also need a good, quality vanilla buttercream. Buttercream that’s delectably delicious enough to eat clear off a spoon.

Don’t you dare even THINK about using some pre-made crap that comes out of a can.

Have some respect for yourself. You’re better than that.

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My niece turned three a few weeks ago and I was lucky enough to be the one to put together her birthday cake. Her mother told me to make whatever kind of cake I wanted to, so I thought, who better  than to give her her first taste of Funfetti Cake, than her Auntie Jess?

Frankly, I’m honored to have been given the task. A child’s first Funfetti Cake is rite of passage so far as I’m concerned. This could change the trajectory of her entire life, am I right?

So naturally, there was no way I was going to let it come out of a box.

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There’s a crucial ingredient to both the cake and the buttercream that if you can get your hands on it, I REALLY do recommend you don’t do without: Vanilla bean paste.

Vanilla beans can run pretty pricey and I’ve found that vanilla bean paste is an excellent and more inexpensive way to still get all the flavor of you get from raw vanilla beans. I’ve found it at Hobby Lobby, and grocery stores that sell Wilton bakeware and cake decorating tools–and of course, you can always get it online. However, it is perfectly fine to use regular vanilla extract. The vanilla ‘punch’ just won’t be quite as strong.

I’ll tell you guys, that first bite you take of this cake will INSTANTLY take you back in time to when you were a kid. The thing is, your adult taste buds will also thank you because you’ll be able to taste the quality of the ingredients and the irreplaceable flavor of a cake that’s been made from scratch.

Let’s let everyone at this week’s Fiesta Friday #111 eat cake, shall we? Thanks to our co-hosts this week, Naina @ Spice in the City and Julianna @ Foodie On Board.

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Funfetti Layer Cake

Recipe Adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion & Southern Living Magazine

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Ingredients

For Cake:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/4 ounces) vegetable shortening
  • 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) baking powder
  • 1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) superfine or granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract if you don’t have the paste; but I DO reccommend using the paste, the taste is better)
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 2 3/4 cups (11 ounces) cake flour (Like Swans Down)
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) milk
  • 1/4 cup of rainbow colored sprinkles (Jimmies are best, they’re typically the largest and won’t bleed as much as nonpareils)
  • About 1 tablespoon of all purpose flour

For Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (32 0unces.) package powdered sugar
  • 6 to 7 table tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract if you don’t have the paste; but again, I DO recommend using the paste, the taste is better)
  • Rainbow colored sprinkles, optional

Directions

For Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter shortening, baking powder, sugar, salt and extracts until fluffy and light, at least 5 minutes. Add the egg whites to the butter mixture one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Stir one third of the flour into the creamed mixture, then half the milk, another third of the flour, the remaining milk and the remaining flour. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl occasionally throughout the process.

In a small bowl, toss the sprinkles with the flour until they’re evenly coated. Shake off the excess flour from the sprinkles, then GENTLY fold them into the batter with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter into two greased and floured or parchment-lined 8 or 9 inch round pans, three 8-inch round pans or a 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake the cakes for 23 to 26 minutes (for 8 inch pans), 25 to 30 minutes (for 9 inch pans) or about 35 minutes (for the 9 x 13 inch pans). Remove the cakes from oven and cool them on a rack.

For Frosting:

Beat butter and salt at medium speed with an electric mixer 1 to 2 minutes or until creamy; gradually add powdered sugar alternately with 6 tbsp. milk, beating at low speed until blended and smooth after each addition. Stir in vanilla bean paste. If desired, beat in remaining 1 tbsp. milk, 1 tsp. at a time until frosting reaches desired consistency.

Make sure both cakes are evenly leveled before beginning to decorate. Line the edges of a cake platter with strips of parchment paper to keep the platter clean while you assemble the cake. Place one (evenly leveled) cake layer on the platter. Spread 1 1/2 cups of the frosting evenly across the top of the cake with a spatula. Place the second cake layer on top, then spread with just enough over the top and sides to make a crumb coat. (It should be thin). Refrigerate cake for one hour until the crumb coat is firm. Finish spreading the remainder of the frosting on the cake, decorating with sprinkles if desired. Remove the parchment strips from the platter before serving.

Fluffy Yellow Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting

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Is it too late to wish all you guys a Happy New Year? No?

Ok then, well… Happy New Year!

I know it’s been a while since my last post, but the 12 Days of Christmas series always does sap a lot of energy out of me, and this year I was also doing it while we were in the process of moving to a new place. By the time I put up my most recent post on Christmas Eve, I was pretty exhausted and in much need of a break. So I took one.

I hope your year’s been off to a promising start. Mine certainly has.

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Apart from the fact that the new (and sadly, the last) season of Downton Abbey always comes to America the first week in the new year, the beginning of January also marks the birthdays of several people in my family that are clustered together. This includes one particularly important person to me that I’d like to share a few words about in brief snapshots of my memory.

(This is going to get sentimental. Very sentimental. You’ve been warned.)

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To the woman who let me and my sisters crowd around her on a bed while she read aloud from “Great Expectations” as our ‘bedtime’ story and made me discover my great and all-consuming love of books and subsequently, writing.

To the woman who would wake us up for school with a chipper rendition of “When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bobbin Along” until we all laughed and forgot how sleepy we were.

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To the woman who would pile us all into the backseat of our car and drive to chase sunsets (back in the days when gas was cheap as dirt, of course).

To the woman who when I cried and was sad, was always willing to rock and hold me and sing “You Are My Sunshine” until I felt better.

To the woman/wonderful cook who was nothing but completely encouraging and supportive when I made the hefty decision to start learning to cook for myself.

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AND, to the woman who shares my opinion that yellow cake with chocolatey fudge frosting is the BEST type of cake there is.

It was your *bleep*th birthday: so I made you one.

And we both of us thought it tasted pretty awesome.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you.

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Yellow cake is usually something that people don’t get unless it comes out of a box of cake mix. I’m not gonna knock yellow cake mix too hard; so long as you’re eating it in the first two days after it was made, then it’s actually pretty tasty.

But after making this recipe twice, I really must insist…there’s still NO substitute for yellow cake and chocolate frosting made from scratch. There just isn’t.

Even after running into a momentary setback with the new oven temperature in our new place, this cake recipe proved very forgiving and STILL came out great. The buttery richness that we all love to see in yellow cake really comes through with the 6 egg yolks, while the whites made it plenty moist and fluffy. And the milky, chocolate fudgey frosting…wow. I had to resist the urge to just eat it clear off of a spoon. The folks at ATK prove time and time again that they know what they’re doing.

I’ll be sharing my mom’s birthday cake with you wonderful people at the Fiesta Friday #102 party, co-hosted this week by Elaine @ foodbod and Julie @ Hostess at Heart– both GREAT ladies, with great blogs.

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Fluffy Yellow Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting


Recipe Courtesy of The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2015

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Ingredients

For Cake:

  • 2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) cake flour, plus extra for the pans
  • 1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp table salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 10 tbsp. (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks, plus 3 large egg whites, at room temperature

Frosting

  • 20 tbsp. (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) confectioner’s sugar
  • 3/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • Pinch table salt
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate, melted and slightly cooled

Directions

For the Cake:

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour two 9-inch wide by 2-inch high round cake pans and line with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, 1 1/2 cups of the granulated sugar, the baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. In a 4-cup liquid measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, melted butter, oil, vanilla and egg yolks.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. With the machine running, gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar; continue to beat until stiff peaks form, about 30 to 60 seconds (the whites should hold a peak but the mixture should still appear moist). Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add the flour mixture to the now empty mixing bowl. With the mixer till fitted with the whisk attachment and running at low speed, gradually pour in the butter mixture and mix until almost incorporated (a few streaks of dry flour will remain), about 15 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape the whisk and sides of the bowl. Return the mixer to medium-low speed and beat until smooth and fully incorporated, 10 to 15 seconds.

Using a rubber spatula, stir one third of the whites into the batter to lighten, then add the remaining whites and gently fold into the batter until no white streaks remain. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans, smoothing tops with a rubber spatula. Lightly tap the pans against the countertop two or three times to settle the batter. Bake until the cake layers begin to pull away from the sides of the pans and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time. Cool the cakes in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the edge of the cakes, then flip them out onto a wire rack. Peel off the parchment paper, flip the cakes right side up, and cool before frosting, about 2 hours.

For the Frosting:

Using a standing or hand held mixer, cream the butter, confectioner’s sugar, cocoa and salt together until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the corn syrup and vanilla and mix until just combined, about 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the chocolate and mix together until smooth and creamy, about 10-15-seconds.

Line the edges of a cake platter with strips of parchment paper to keep the platter clean while you assemble the cake. Place one (evenly leveled) cake layer on the platter. Spread 1 1/2 cups of the frosting evenly across the top of the cake with a spatula. Place the second cake layer on top, then spread with the remaining frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake. Remove the parchment strips from the platter before serving.

Apple Pecan Carrot Cake

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Guys, can I ask you all a random, but still perfectly serious question?

How old do you think I am?

Take a look at my picture to the right, or the pictures of me in my last post at my sister’s wedding. (Disclaimer: I usually ‘look’ like the picture to the right on a day to day basis, whereas at my sister’s wedding I was dolled up with lots of pretty makeup and a gorgeous hairdo which is NOT the norm for me.)

But anyway, yeah: how old am I?

Don’t be shy. I won’t be offended. Let’s hear it. Your best guesses.

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If you guys are anything at all like most random strangers I meet, my estimation is that a lot of your guesses are in late teens, early twenties. A lot of people think that I’m young enough to just be starting college or midway through at the most.

Not so.

I actually graduated from college three years ago.

And I’m not in my late teens or early twenties.

As a matter of fact, this weekend, September the 27th to be exact, I will officially be out of my ‘mid twenties’ and step into the later half of them.

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In a nutshell: my 26th birthday is on Sunday, guys.

I’ll be twenty six. In a manner of speaking, I guess I already am considering twenty six years ago I was alive and kickin in my mom’s stomach with Jas.

When I’ve informed people that I meet of this that mistake me for a teen or early twenty-something, I always get the same reaction. Shock. Disbelief. Then, immediate congratulations at having “good genes” or “aging really well.” I’m personally not sure how I feel about it. I mean, I’m sure that soon enough further down the road if I still look younger than what I really am, I’ll feel great about it. But for now, still being mistaken for someone who’s still not old enough to legally purchase alcohol, when in actuality I crossed that bridge LONG ago is…meh.

Birthdays stopped being something that were really important to me years and years ago. I typically let my own pass by without much fanfare or celebration; it just isn’t that big of a deal anymore. Still, the one tradition that I do still like to continue- especially since I learned how to cook/bake, is the tradition of having a cake. Because cake, is ALWAYS a big deal. Last year it was this Caramel Snickerdoodle Cake. This year, I knew I wanted something that really tasted like Fall. My mom had just bought me The Southern Cake Book released by Southern Living, and I picked this one out as my and Jas’ birthday cake pretty much as soon a I saw it.

Apple Pecan Carrot Cake5

Let me break it down for you guys: small chunks of apples, pecans and grated carrots mixed into a SUPER moist cake batter with a mild spice flavor gets baked into 2 9-inch cakes. The middle filling is a GLORIOUS, smooth and easy Apple Cider caramel sauce that comes together in minutes. Sandwich the two cake layers together, then spread a light n’creamy cream cheese frosting on top and sprinkle with more pecans.

I made the cake last weekend- and we’re down to the last few slices already. Yep. It’s THAT good. If you’ve got a birthday coming up in the family or your circle of friends, I highly reccommend this one: you’ll make your loved one and anybody else lucky enough to get a slice VERY happy. I’ll be linking up this post with our host Angie at this week’s Fiesta Friday #87– that way, we ALL get cake.

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Apple Pecan Carrot Cake


Recipe Courtesy of The Southern Cake Book

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Ingredients

2 1/3 cups finely chopped lightly toasted pecans, divided
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons apple pie spice
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups peeled and grated Granny Smith apples
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
2/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp. Apple Cider Caramel Sauce, recipe follows
Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows

Apple Cider Caramel Sauce

1 cup apple cider
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup whipping cream

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 (8-oz.) container cream cheese
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup whipping cream

Directions

For Cake:

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Sprinkle 1 1/3 cups toasted pecans into 2 well-buttered shiny 9-inch round cake pans; shake to coat bottom and sides of pans.

2. Stir together flour and next 3 ingredients.

3. Stir together eggs and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl until blended. Add flour mixture, stirring just until blended. Fold in apples, carrots, and remaining 1 cup pecans. Pour batter into prepared pans.

4. Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely (about 1 hour).

5. Place 1 cake layer, pecan side down, on a serving plate. Spread top of cake layer with 2/3 cup Apple Cider Caramel Sauce; top with remaining cake layer, pecan side down. Spread Cream Cheese Frosting over top of cake. Drizzle 2 Tbsp. Apple Cider Caramel Sauce over frosting, and swirl sauce into frosting. Serve immediately.

For Apple Cider Caramel Sauce: Cook cider in a 3-qt. saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, 10 minutes or until reduced to 1/4 cup. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly; boil, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and cool completely. Refrigerate up to 1 week. To reheat, microwave at HIGH 10 to 15 seconds or just until warm; stir until smooth.

For Cream Cheese Frosting: Whisk together first 3 ingredients in a large bowl just until blended. Beat whipping cream at medium speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into cream cheese mixture.

Caramel Snickerdoodle Cake

Snickerdoodle Cake1

So today, I’d like to say a few things about September 27th.

(Yes, I’m aware that today is the 26th. I just don’t want to talk about the 26th. I want to talk about the 27th.)

On September 27th, 1779, John Adams formally negotiated the Revolutionary War peace terms with Great Britain.

On September 27th, 1821, the Mexican Empire formally announced independence.

On September 27th, 1908, Henry Ford’s first Ford Model T automobile was leaves the Piquette Plant in Detroit, Michigan.

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On September 27th, 1919, the Democratic National Committee voted to allow female voters.

On September 27th, 1954 “The Tonight Show” first premiered, hosted by Steven Allen.

On September 27th, 1983, basketball legend Larry Bird signed a seven-year contract with the Boston Celtics worth $15 million. The contract made him the highest paid Celtic in history.

Then, on September 27th, 1989 (9:01 a.m. to be exact)…something else happened.

Snickerdoodle Cake3

A baby girl was delivered by C-section in a hospital on a remote Army base in Montana. She was me.

So yeah, guys: tomorrow (September 27th) will be my 25th birthday. I’ve officially hit the middle of my twenties-five years past twenty…and five years away from being thirty. Ouch. Why does just typing that out make me feel old?

Birthdays haven’t been very much of a big deal to me for years. I’ve never actually had a birthday party. Most of them have either been spent at home while my mom or grandma made me a special dinner and cake, or in more recent years, out for a celebratory dinner at a restaurant. Not much of a big deal, which is fine with me. I’m a self-proclaimed introvert and I my social life is very private. I don’t need much of a fuss.

Snickerdoodle Cake4

This year however, was special in that, this was the first time that I’ve ever made me and Jas our own birthday cake. I’ll admit, the blog was a huge factor in pushing me to make that decision. I usually don’t make very many cakes in our house, but for some reason I just felt a necessity to bake a  really good birthday cake for a post. So after running several different ideas by Jas, I finally settled on this cake as one.  We both were very impressed with the result. Despite the title, I wouldn’t say that the flavor mimics a snickerdoodle cookie perfectly- however, you get a lot of the cinnamon, earthy and rich flavors that remind you of autumn baked goods. The texture is very moist and soft, thanks to the sour cream.The icing really sends the whole dish over the top- it’s good enough to eat off a spoon, no joke.

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I’d like to give a small shout out to my twin sister Jas real quick:

We made it to 25 years, chick. Thanks for being a pretty awesome ‘womb-mate’ for nine months, and an even greater roommate for the last 25. It’s been a great ride. You’re not just my twin sister- you’re the person who knows me the most in the entire world- both the good and bad. Happy Birthday. You know I love you.

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I’ll be taking this cake to this week’s Fiesta Friday #35, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by Prudy and Naina. Hope to see you all there 😉

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Caramel Snickerdoodle Cake

Recipe Adapted from Gold Medal Flour

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 1 and 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1teaspoon salt
  • 1 can (5 oz) evaporated milk
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Cinnamon Icing

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

1. Heat oven to 350°F.

2. Grease 12-cup fluted tube cake pan with shortening. In small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the sugar and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon. Sprinkle mixture over inside of pan, turning to evenly coat. Shake out any excess.

3. In large bowl, mix remaining 1 3/4 cups sugar, remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon, the flour, baking soda and salt.

4. Stir remaining evaporated milk, sour cream, melted butter, vanilla and eggs into dry ingredients until well blended. Pour batter in pan.

5. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 30 minutes; remove from pan. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

6. Combine all remaining ingredients. Add more powdered sugar or milk if need be to achieve correct consistency. Icing should be slightly thicker than a glaze, but not as thick as a frosting. Using offset spatula, spread icing over cooled cake. Allow to harden for about 30 minutes. Serve.