Birthday Season = Cake Season


When it comes to birthdays, a homemade cake is non-negotiable. With my brother and sister-in-law’s days of birth arriving in rapid succession, I spent some quality time with the hand mixer. I let my sister in law choose her flavor (red velvet), as my brother has had the same favorite cake since…forever. Interesting fun fact about my brother’s cake, it’s an orange cake from a family cookbook we’ve had sine the 1970s (my dad gave it to my mum back back back in the day.) I had to convert everything into standard measurement, but as usual, it was worth it. I remember my mum making this cake all throughout my childhood, and I love baking it today.

Orange Cream Gâteau from the Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook, 1978 Edition
*note: I’m doubling the recipe, because I found that it was not enough for 2 9-inch cakes
1 cup flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 oranges
For Buttercream:
1 cup butter
2 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream fat and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir the flour, baking powder and salt together, then grate the rind from the orange, and fold in with the dry ingredient. [Combine the wet and dry ingredients–this step is missing in the original recipe!] Divide mixture evenly between 2 well greased [9-inch baking rounds]. Bake in the center of the oven for 25-30 minutes. Turn out and cool on a wire tray.

Make the buttercream: Beat the butter until soft and creamy. Add the sifted confectioner’s sugar a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the juice from the orange before all of the sugar has been incorporated.
Sandwich the cake together with the buttercream. Coat the sides and top, swirling decoratively.

I chose to decorate with some yellow sprinkles and chocolate pieces, all in the letter “I” for my brother!

My sister in law is a chocoholic, so I was pretty surprised when she requested red velvet cake. I used a New York Times recipe I’d just seen, and it came out pretty perfect. They paired the cake with an Ermine icing, but I just went with regular buttercream. The yellow sprinkles look a little weird here…

  • ½ cup /113 grams butter, at room temperature, plus 2 tablespoons to prepare pans
  • 3 tablespoons/22 grams cocoa powder, divided
  • 1 ½ cups/300 grams sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons/10 milliliters vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons/30 milliliters red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon/6 grams salt
  • 1 teaspoon/5 grams baking soda
  • 2 ½ cups/320 grams flour, sifted
  • 1 cup/236 milliliters whole buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon/15 milliliters vinegar
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare three 9-inch cake pans by buttering lightly and sprinkling with 1 tablespoon sifted cocoa powder, tapping pans to coat and discarding extra cocoa.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time and beat vigorously until each is incorporated. Mix in vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, make a paste of the remaining 2 tablespoons cocoa and the food coloring. Blend into butter mixture.
  4. Sift together remaining dry ingredients. Alternating in 2 batches each, add dry ingredients and buttermilk to the butter mixture. In the last batch of buttermilk, mix in the vinegar before adding to the batter. Mix until blended.
  5. Divide batter among 3 pans and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on a rack completely. (Can also be made in 2 cake pans.)
  6. To assemble, remove 1 cake from its pan and place flat side down on a serving platter. Drop about 1 cup of icing onto cake and, using a flat spatula, spread evenly over top. Remove the second cake from its pan. Place flat side down on top of first layer. Use remaining frosting to cover top and sides of cake.

Chocolate Cake’s What the Doctor Ordered

…no but actually.

IMG_0349My best friend’s fiancé just began his residency about a month ago, and needless to say, we haven’t seen much of him. The two of them used to live in my brother’s basement (yes, we’re that kind of crew), but since he moved to Delaware to get all doctor-fied, and she moved out for the summer, my family hasn’t seen nearly enough of him.

This past weekend, the two of them had a rare weekend in Washington–to celebrate his birthday–and he wanted to come over to meet my new nephew (!) It’s not a birthday without a cake–especially a chocolate one, and I was dying to make this seemingly-very easy recipe from Food52‘s Amanda Hesser.

It reminded me how any stress immediately dissipates when measuring spoons, whisks, and of course chocolate, come into the picture. I’ve gotta bake more often.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups Nestle’s semisweet-chocolate chips [I used fancy Whole Foods chocolate because Nestle’s are surprisingly hard to find]
  • 1 ½ cups sour cream, at room temperature

PREPARATION

    1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place a baking sheet on the lowest rack to catch any drips as the cake bakes on the middle rack. In a 2- to 3-quart pot, mix together the sugar, unsweetened chocolate, butter and 1 cup of water. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally until all of the ingredients are melted and blended. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
    2. Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, stir together the milk and vinegar. Grease and flour a 9-inch tube pan.
    3. When the chocolate in the pot has cooled a bit, whisk in the milk mixture and eggs. In several additions, and without overmixing, whisk in the dry ingredients. When the mixture is smooth, add the vanilla and whisk once or twice to blend. Pour the batter into the tube pan and bake on the middle rack until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool on a rack. (This can be tricky — if someone is around to help, enlist him.) Let cool completely.
    4. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler, then let cool to room temperature. Stir in the sour cream, 1/4 cup at a time, until the mixture is smooth.
    5. When the cake is cool, you may frost it as is or cut it in half so that you have 2 layers. There will be extra icing whether you have 1 or 2 layers. [I stored it in a Tupperware and served it alongside–for those similarly gluttonous] 

It has the rare quality of actually being chocolatey enough without overly dry. So basically, it’s my new go-to. The frosting? Just melted chocolate chips + sour cream. What could be easier?DSC_0049

We had some gorgeous nectarines–and I’m a sucker for fruit with chocolate–so on the cake they went, with just a couple of chocolate chips…