Last week, we published a round-up of birthday candles. As we brainstormed for that post, we thought about the photos we would need to take and, sure, we could have gotten by without displaying them in their natural setting (i.e. in cake). But, we’re not ones to pass up any excuse opportunity to bake cake. Too, we always have a slew of recipes on the “to try” docket and so it seemed like the perfect time to give some of them a whirl!
For the purposes of this post, we thought we’d do five classic cake and frosting combos, sourcing almost every cake and frosting recipe from a different internet baker/source. Needless to say, five cakes in one go is a lot of cake. So, how did we manage? With a big smile and a whole host of willing tasters. As it transpired, each cake got a shout out as a favorite or a top pick from one or more of our tasters. That said, the coconut cake and the chocolate cake with vanilla frosting were, without a doubt, the crowd favorites, and the chocolate ganache frosting used for the white cake got a lot of mentions too. We’ll definitely be trotting out these recipes again and we hope you find them as tasty as we did if you give them a go. Happy baking!
- WHITE CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE GANACHE FROSTING - Rachel, aka The Stay at Home Chef, the baker behind the white cake recipe we used, chose to pair her cake with a white buttercream frosting. White cake is often also paired with lemon curd or some kind of jam. However, we love both the flavor and visual contrast of pairing white cake with a dark, dark chocolate frosting which is why we opted to use Chef Ed Kasky’s ganache recipe for this cake. Rachel’s white cake proved to be light and finely textured, while the ganache was fudge-like, a scrumptious contrast both texturally and flavor-wise. Baking notes: following the recipe to the letter, we added the almond extract to the cake which ultimately proved to be a divisive flavor amongst our tasters - for one, it was their absolute favorite out of all the cakes we made, others though were a little confused and wondered if there was a non-extract liquor in the cake. As such, for younger audiences (or if you’re looking for a more traditional flavor), you may wish to swap in vanilla extract for the almond. On a separate note, this recipe uses six egg whites and no yolks - for that reason it made a lot of sense to bake a yellow cake at the same time. Even if you don’t need that much cake immediately, cake layers freeze easily and well, so if you do bake a yellow cake, you can save it for impromptu celebrations (or a raging sweet tooth!). 😉
- YELLOW CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING - Confession. This frosting recipe was not a new one for us. But, because we think Hummingbird Bakery’s chocolate buttercream frosting (found on page 126 of their book Cake Days from Hummingbird Bakery) is pretty much without equal in its category, we couldn’t not pair it with “David’s Yellow Cake” recipe, which we found on Allrecipes.com. With the frosting already in the bag, so to speak, it was no surprise that this cake combo proved to be a winner. A bonus is that both the cake and frosting are easy peasy to make. Just be sure to keep an eye on that timer!
- CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH VANILLA BUTTERCREAM FROSTING - This was one of the top picks amongst our lot of more than 10 tasters, winning great acclaim, particularly amongst the younger members of the crew. Full disclosure: our choice to decorate the exterior with colored sprinkles probably didn’t hurt! Again, this was a frosting recipe we have used for a long time - the frosting recipe from the Domino’s confectioners sugar box - it’s extremely easy to make and, to us, tastes like childhood which means it tastes pretty perfect. In this case we added a touch more milk to the frosting than we might normally, in order to get the sprinkles to adhere that bit easier. As well, we always like to add a dash of salt (particularly if using unsalted butter) to serve as a counterpoint, flavor-wise, to the frosting’s inherent sweetness. As for “Sandy’s Chocolate Cake” recipe? It could hardly have been easier or more perfect texture-wise. We tend to be partial to cakes that incorporate some kind of acid - like buttermilk or sour cream - for their tenderizing powers. In this case, it’s sour cream that gets the job done. In all honesty, when we first snuck a taste of the cake, not long after it came out of the oven, we wondered if there was enough chocolate flavor. But, give it a bit of time. By the time you’ve frosted it and a slice makes its way to your plate, that chocolate flavor has blossomed into something pretty unbeatable. Let’s just say, this recipe is definitely going into regular rotation in our kitchen.
- COCONUT CAKE WITH COCONUT BUTTERCREAM FROSTING - We liked/loved all the cakes we made but, if we had to pick one “winner” out of the five, this one would be it, hands down. We wanted to try Lynne Bassler’s “Incredible Coconut Cake” recipe because, rather interestingly, it calls for three different extracts - vanilla, almond and, of course, coconut - which we thought would give an interesting flavor complexity (and, indeed they do). As well, both texturally and flavor-wise, we liked that it actually called for shredded coconut. We opted not to use Ms. Bassler’s frosting recipe because it calls for cream cheese and, for us, when we make coconut cake, we want the focus to be on the coconut flavor. Don’t get us wrong, we love us some cream cheese frosting (see the next cake!), but when we’re hankering for coconut, we like it served up pretty unadulterated. For that reason, we decided to try Jen’s (aka Baked by an Introvert) coconut buttercream frosting. It appealed to us because it called for coconut milk, which lent a really nice, slightly savory note that served to balance the sweetness of the toasted coconut we knew we wanted to use to decorate our cake. The result? Several of our tasters said things along the lines of, “you know I don’t usually go for coconut cake, but this one has made me change my mind.” One even remarked, “maybe now I should think about coconut cake for my wedding cake.” ‘Nuff said. This combo is, without a doubt, a keeper.
- RED VELVET CAKE - Last but not least, a Southern classic. Michelle, aka the Brown Eyed Baker, has shared online a fabulous red velvet cupcake recipe that originated at Hummingbird Bakery in London. The recipe yields 12 cupcakes or, in our case, two 6-inch cake rounds. Depending on what kind of red dye you are using, you may need to use a fair amount to achieve the cake’s now-signature deep red color (we had to use a lot!). But, we love the fact that there’s cocoa in this recipe, lending a bit more complexity of flavor to the final cake, as well as paying homage to the suspected origin of the cake’s coloring (natural cocoa can have a reddish tint to it). We also believe props are due to the white vinegar for the cake’s tender crumb. The Food Network cream cheese frosting recipe we chose to use is actually pretty similar to the one that accompanies the cake recipe - however, it calls for a bit less vanilla and a bit less sugar which we think helped make the cream cheese shine. Maybe it was this choice that led one of our tasters to remark, “I don’t usually like cream cheese frosting but, actually, I really like this one.”
Well, that’s the round-up, folks! We hope our foray into birthday cake baking helps you in yours. If you end up trying any of the recipes, let us know what you think in the comment section. Meantime, happy baking!
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