A birthday cake is a gift that you give someone you love. Cakes can be anything you want them to be from simple to decadent, to match someone’s tastes and personality. A homemade cake is best when it’s an expression of the celebration and the person. When it’s the first cake that you’ve ever made for your new little one, bestowed on a first birthday, it’s even more special.
Before we knew it, it was time for a first birthday in our house. For weeks, I struggled with what kind of cake to make. I read recipes. I searched the web. (I annoyed people by talking about it.) I finally put together a combination that I thought would be both baby-friendly and delicious for adult guests. I baked it with love, iced it with great care, and placed that candle proudly. And then he refused to even eat a bite. Ah, that would be the irony of motherhood, wouldn’t it?
Baby’s First Cake
I chose a moist butter cake which makes nice layers and sturdy cupcakes. After much deliberating, I retained the original amount of sugar. The icing, however, only has 3 tablespoons! It’s tangy, creamy, and easy to use for decorating. I used a strawberry-rhubarb jam for the filling which complimented the tang of the frosting.
for 2 9-inch rounds
12 tbls. butter, room temperature
1 3/4 c. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs, plus 2 more yolks
2 3/4 c. AP flour
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
- Cream the butter, sugar, salt, baking powder, and vanilla with an electric mixer for about five minutes or until light and fluffy.
- Mix in the eggs and yolks, beating after each one.
- Alternate mixing in the flour and milk. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl carefully.
- Bake for 25 minutes at 350F. (For a 9X13 sheet pan, bake for 35 minutes. For cupcakes, decrease the baking time to 20 minutes.)
Yogurt Cheese Frosting
64 oz. of plain yogurt
8 oz. cream cheese
3 tbls. sugar
3 tsp. vanilla (or to taste)
- Make yogurt cheese from the yogurt. Place a large piece of cheesecloth over a bowl and scoop the yogurt into it. Tie or rubber band the ends and hang for about 12 hours, letting the whey drip into the bowl.
- Before you are going to whip the frosting up, remove the cream cheese from the fridge and let it come to room temperature.
- With an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, whip the cream cheese with the sugar and vanilla for a few minutes. (You’re looking for it to change consistency, leaning towards fluffy.) Whip in half of the yogurt cheese until completely blended. Then, gently fold in the rest of the yogurt cheese with a plastic spatula.
- Refrigerate until ready to use.
1 jar of strawberry-rhubarb jam
2-3 tablespoons of icing, mixed with the jam to thicken.
- If you’re making homemade yogurt, know that:
2 quarts of milk yields 2 quarts of yogurt which yields 1 quart of yogurt cheese (or 32 ounces)
- For homemade cream cheese, see Ricki Carroll’s Home Cheese Making.
This cake wasn’t as billowingly beautiful as I had hoped it was going to be, but it turned out to be extra delicious. The cake is moist and hearty, while the frosting gives it a delicate boost. The orange zest is a decadent option, but it gives the cake a little something special. Have a cup of hot cider and say, “Ah, so this is fall.”
2 c. AP flour
1 tbls. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
4 large eggs
3/4 c. vegetable oil
2 c. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
about 1 pound carrots, grated finely
1/2 c. pecans, lightly toasted
12 oz. cream cheese
3 c. confectioners’ sugar
zest of half of an orange
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- Set cream cheese and butter out to soften to room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 35oF and butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans.
- Mix flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.
- With an electric mixer fitted with whisk, beat eggs at high until they are frothy. Decrease speed to low and add oil, sugar, salt and mix until combined. Mix in flour mixture. Fold in carrots until dispersed evenly. Fold in nuts.
- Pour batter evenly into pans. Bake for 45 minutes. Cool for 20 minutes and remove from pans onto rack.
- When cake is cool, make frosting. With a paddle attachment or regular beaters, whip cream cheese, sugar, and zest about 2 minutes until smooth. Add butter and mix on medium until fluffy. Add vanilla and mix briefly.
- If your ingredients are not at room temperature, you will not be happy with the consistency of the frosting. It may be unpleasantly lumpy.
- There is enough frosting to ice and use as a filling.
- Keep cake refrigerated.
- This is adapted from the wonderful Sweet Melissa Baking Book.
Here’s a light cake that is a wonderful dessert but can also pass as a breakfast treat. I made it with rhubarb this time, but you could make it with any frozen fruit that you have stored.
Last summer, my goal was to put away a lot more fresh produce than I had the year before. This goal was fresh in my mind when rhubarb, one of the first ‘fruits’ to appear at the market, came out. Consequently, I wound up with a whole lot of rhubarb hoarded in my freezer. What are we waiting for? It’s time to start using those delicious things in the backs of our freezers! Soon, we’ll have some fresh delights.
Anytime Cake (with rhubarb)
1 stick butter, unsalted
1 cup sugar
3 eggs from happy chickens
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. AP flour, plus more for dusting fruit and pan
3 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups rhubarb or prepared fruit*
*If you use rhubarb, you’ll swear that you taste citrus in this cake, which is a pleasant illusion. To prepare the rhubarb: wash, peel away any extra-tough strings, and cut into small pieces. This can be done before it goes into the freezer bag. For other fruits, prepare them as you would for a muffin. Use berries straight from the freezer – no need to thaw.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. (This cake mixes up so quickly that you’ll be done before your oven is ready, so think ahead.) Prepare a 9-inch round cake pan. Butter it and dust with flour.
- Cream the butter and the sugar until fluffy, using an electric mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, beating and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.
- Gently beat in the dry ingredients.
- Add the milk and vanilla.
- Pour about 2/3 of the batter into the prepared pan, leaving the rest in the mixing bowl. Dust the fruit with flour and toss until coated, then add it to the remaining batter. Mix. Pour this batter and fruit mixture onto the batter that is already in the cake pan. (This procedures will keep your fruit from falling to the bottom and sticking to the pan.)
- Bake for 40 minutes.
- Cool in pan for about five minutes and then invert onto a rack.
Serve warm or room temperature anytime of the day. A little sweetened whipped cream or vanilla yogurt is lovely.
If you’re looking for more great rhubarb recipes, you might check out Orangette.