Monday, May 16, 2011

Best Birthday Cake!

Wow, this was quite the weekend... I'll spare you all the details but you should know I'm still scraping the booze off the floor! The occasion for the festivities was that my man turned 30 on Saturday, which we celebrated with enough alcohol to inebriate an elephant. It all started quite innocent though, with some Bloody Mary's in the morning. But we all know that a Bloody Mary is a gateway drink, and it was no different this time!

Anyway, as I am trying to be a good wife, my main goal was to to bake him a cake. From scratch. I know me and my big mouth have been blabbing about wanting to bake more, but this is actually the first time I ever made a cake without any help from supermarket bake mixes. It turned out to be easier than I thought, with the delicious recipe from Smitten Kitchen that I pretty much followed. In order to customize this cake, I added fresh strawberries to fill the cake, and decorate the top. It was so delicious to have those sweet and moist strawberries as a flavor and texture surprise on the inside that I suggest you do the same. Just add a big box of 'em to the ingredients below, and go crazy with them!

The Smitten Kitchen recipe goes a little something like this:

Best Yellow Layer Cake

  • Two 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake pans
  • 4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (480 grams) cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup, 1/2 pound or 225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (400 grams) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups buttermilk (475 ml), well-shaken

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment. (Alternately, you can use a cooking spray, either with just butter or butter and flour to speed this process up.)
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just Incorporated.
Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. (I like to drop mine a few times from two inches up, making a great big noisy fuss.) Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.

Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

15 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons instant espresso (optional, but can be used to pick up the flavor of average chocolate)
2 1/4 cups sour cream, at room temperature
1/4 to 1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the chocolate and espresso powder, if using, in the top of a double-boiler or in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is melted. (Alternately, you can melt the chocolate in a microwave for 30 seconds, stirring well, and then heating in 15 second increments, stirring between each, until the chocolate is melted.) Remove from heat and let chocolate cool until tepid.
Whisk together the sour cream, 1/4 cup of the corn syrup and vanilla extract until combined. Add the tepid chocolate slowly and stir quickly until the mixture is uniform. Taste for sweetness, and if needed, add additional corn syrup in one tablespoon increments until desired level of sweetness is achieved.
Let cool in the refrigerator until the frosting is a spreadable consistency. This should not take more than 30 minutes. Should the frosting become too thick or stiff, just leave it out until it softens again.

This is where the Smitten Kitchen recipe ends, which should work for those of you that are experienced bakers. For me, it was a bit of an experiment, but here is what I did:

I took the two cakes and covered the top of one of them in frosting, which I then covered with fresh strawberries (I took the green stuff off the strawberries, washed them, cut them, and then lightly dusted them with sugar. The sugar will soak into the strawberries, making them nice and sweet).

The rest is easy... Just put the other cake on top, slather the whole thing with an abundance of frosting, and decorate with the rest of your fresh strawberries.


Needless to say, it was delicious. I can't wait to make this again, as it was definitely a big hit and it earned me lots of smooches from the birthday boy!

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