Monday, August 23, 2010

Let them Eat Cake!

This weekend our granddaughter celebrated her first birthday, and our son celebrated his 30th birthday.  It got me thinking about birthday cakes, and how we celebrate birthdays. I know people who will spend weeks planning and executing amazing dinners, or children's birthday parties, only to have them turn into familial disasters that are talked about in hushed tones for years to come, or others who prepare a great casual celebration to mark milestones.  This weekend our granddaughters' birthday was perfect-- the menu was slow smoked pork shoulder from the Meat Hook in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn, and slow smoked brisket, rubbed generously with Big Bob Gibson's BBQ rub and smoked til it was melt in your mouth tender, served alongside potato rolls, slaw, and fresh corn on the cob.  Life doesn't get too much better than that when you are sharing a celebration with friends and family.  The cake is my favorite part---for our granddaughter we thought an ice cream cake (Carvel since her daddy worked for them in High School) would be perfect, and it was just the right cake for a first birthday---smeared to perfection over her hands and face. We actually weren't sure we would be able to get the blue food coloring off her hands!

For Ryan's 30th birthday the cake has been the same for years; a vanilla cake with a chocolate frosting.I managed to make this in our daughters' easy-bake-style oven in her teeny weeny kitchen. The cake is simple but oh so good, and gets better the next day for breakfast with a cold glass of milk. So even if it isn't your birthday, celebrate someones birthday today and eat a piece of cake!

Ryan is the founder of, hence the soccer players on the cake!

Ryan's Happy Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Makes two 9-inch layers, or about 36 cupcakes (and a zillion mini cupcakes)

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar4 large eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 recipe Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Coat two 9-inch round baking pans with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

3. In a 4 cup measuring cup, beat together the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla.

4. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour and milk mixture to the mixing bowl, and beat until smooth. Add the baking powder, salt and soda, stirring to blend.

5. Pour the mixture into the prepared pans, and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the cakes are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean.

6. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the pans, and cool completely before frosting. (At this point the cakes can be frozen for up to 2 months)

Chocolate Frosting

Makes enough to frost two 9-inch cakes

3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sour cream, plus extra to thin the frosting if needed

  1. Stir together the sugar and cocoa in the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl.
  2. Beat in the vanilla, butter, and sour cream on medium-high speed until the mixture reaches a spreading consistency. Add more sour cream if the frosting is too thick.

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