Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Two Birthdays and a Lot of Cake



I was blessed to have two of children in the same week.  Ok, the same week two years apart.  July 1st and July 2nd.  So it’s a really busy and a really expensive week.  We decided from the beginning that we would take our vacation week this week so the kids could have their birthday to themselves and then have a combined birthday on the weekend.  So far it has worked pretty well.  This year they both decided that they wanted a cake on their birthday and then again for the party.  I know I am crazy, but who can say no to cake? 


Alex the oldest, decided he wanted an chocolate cake with orange frosting.  Not orange flavored frosting, just the color orange.  Basically a Halloween cake.  In the middle of the summer.  So I set about making the Halloween cake.  I found the recipe for Devil’s Food Cake in Nigella Lawson’s cookbook “Nigella Kitchen”.  In this cookbook she centers her thoughts around the idea of “kitchen” and what it means to her and her family.  She lives in her kitchen.  I aspire to.  The recipes are her families favorites and like her other cookbooks, each come with a story of how it came they came to be.  I love her writing, her descriptions of flavor and the colorful language she uses.  She makes you believe with her words that this is truly the greatest chocolate cake you will ever have and then she does it again with the next recipe and you believe her, because it is true. 

IMG_0050 Birthday Breakfast.

The frosting for the chocolate cake comes from the cookbook “Joy the Baker” written by Joy Wilson. I have made quite a few recipes from this cookbook.  All of recipes can be found in the links below.  I needed a neutral frosting that just needed to be tinted the gregarious orange that Alex wanted for his cake.  I found Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting and it all came together.  I even like saying that.  Instead of using an actual vanilla bean, I used pure vanilla extract.  I am sure using the vanilla bean would have taken this recipe to a whole other level, but in the recipe she did suggest the extract as an alternative.


It was a cake fit for a 14 year old boy.  It was just what he wanted.  Isabelle’s birthday cake will be tomorrow. I just want to make sure your system can handle all this sugar I am going to unleash on you.  Links to other Joy the Baker recipes listed below.

Nigella Lawson recipes are linked below:



Alex’s Birthday Cake aka Devil’s food cake with orange frosting


For the cake:

This recipe makes two 8-inch round cake pans

1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

1/2 cups (packed) dark brown sugar

1 cup boiling water

1 stick plus 1 tablespoon soft butter, plus more for greasing the pan

1/4 cup super fine sugar ( I make this by whizzing a bunch of regular granulated sugar in the food processor)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 eggs at room temperature


1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray your baking pans with nonstick spray that has flour in it.

2.  Put the cocoa powder, dark brown sugar in a bowl and pour in the boiling water.  Whisk together and set aside.


3.  Cream the butter and sugar with a hand held mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beating until it is pale and fluffy.  If you don’t have either appliance you can do it by hand.


4.  In another bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  The flour, baking powder and baking soda.  You should have three bowls now.  That’s the curse of making a homemade cake.  You dirty every dish in your house.


5.  Dribble the vanilla extract into the creamed sugar and butter.

6.  While still mixing drop in 1 egg, quickly followed by a scoopful of the flour mixture, followed by the second egg.

7.  Keep mixing and incorporating the rest of the dried ingredients for the cake, then finally fold in the cocoa-hot water mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula.


8. Divide the cake batter between the two pans.  The cake batter will be quite runny. 

9.  Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.


10.  Allow to cool completely before stacking and frosting.

For the Frosting:

Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting

Frosting recipe will make enough for an 8 or 9-inch layer cake or 24 cupcakes.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened but still holding its shape

4 to 5 cups sifted powdered sugar

2 tablespoons of milk

1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out (or 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract)

Pinch of salt.

1.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, but for two minutes or until light and fluffy.

2.  Scrape the butter from the sides of the bowl and add 3 cups of the sifted powdered sugar.  Beat on low, increasing to medium speed as the mixture combines.

3.  Add milk and vanilla extract.  Beat on high for 1 minute.

4.  Scrap down the sides of the bowl again and add the 4th cup of powdered sugar.  Beat on medium until light and fluffy.  If would like a thicker frosting, add the last cup of powdered sugar.


4.  Add food coloring drop by drop until the desired tint is reached.

5.  Frost completely cooled cake or cupcakes.

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