A Birthday for Week Eighteen…

A very busy day, but not too busy to make a birthday cake for Didi. Spent the week packing and seeing friends before leaving for the Northern Peninsula for the summer. She told me it was okay if I didn’t have time and I told her that the only thing keeping me sane that week was the cake and the possibility of sticking my face in a bowl of pink icing. And of course she was more important than packing. That too.

Traditional Vanilla Birthday Cake

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour three 9×2 inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms with waxed paper. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about three minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the flours and add in four parts, alternating with the milk and the vanilla, beating well after each addition. Divide batter among the cake pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the centre of cake comes out clean. Let cakes cool in pans for ten minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack. When cake has cooled, ice between the layers, then ice the top and sides of cake.

So here’s where I had to stray from the recipe a little. I had no self-rising flour so in total I used 2 3/4 cup regular flour with 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder. I can’t get away from the salted butter, I love it in baking, I love the contrast, so I just went with it. At the time I was really worried about the cake because it just wasn’t cooking in the middle but was rapidly browning around the edges. I only had two standard round cake pans. That’ll do it. Took more like 35 or 40 minutes and I had to reduce the heat a little, but if you only have two, it’ll work. No wax paper seemed to be okay.  Just mind the heat and be patient. Icing, please. Cream cheese icing. Pink.

Cream Cheese Icing

1 pound (two 8-ounce packages) cream cheese,
softened and cut into small pieces.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter,
softened and cut into pieces.
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat well. Gradually add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating continuously until smooth and creamy. Cover and refrigerate icing for 2 to 3 hours, but no longer, to thicken before using. Makes enough for one 2- or 3-layer 9-inch cake.

I used to stay away from pink….clothes, icing, didn’t matter. But I’ve learned that, if not for clothes then definitely for icing, girls love it. Seven, twenty-seven, seventy, doesn’t matter. And if you’re going pink, go pink. Pastel’s kind of wishy-washy I think, unless it’s a baby shower. I like Chanel-suit kind of pink. I wouldn’t paint my bathroom that colour or anything, but it sure is nice for birthday cakes. And despite what the recipe says, this batch of icing did me one two-layer vanilla cake and a batch of 24 cupcakes, both generously iced, so if you’re going for one or the other, half the recipe. It keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days, I thought. Salted butter worked out well in the icing too…Great recipes, both of them. From The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook, Simon and Schuster, 2009.
My cake-decorating skills still have a lot to be desired, but I had fun. I was in a rush to get the cake done, iced and decorated so it was still a little warm. Icing too soft, cake too warm, and surgery had to be performed when the cake got to its final destination after a bit of sliding in the car and some pink rosebuds falling off. I’m no professional and was lucky enough to get it done in the first place, but the cake was delicious. Sweet, but too sweet, especially with the tang of the cream cheese icing. Moist, delicious, all that good stuff. And a very happy Didi.

4 thoughts on “A Birthday for Week Eighteen…

  1. I was an extremely happy Didi. Almost, I
    say almost, as happy as I was with the dragon cake my mother made when I turned 10.

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