Friday Favorites: Birthday Cake

Friday Favorites: Birthday Cake​

My birthday is tomorrow, so let’s talk birthday cake! From elaborate layer cakes to ice cream cakes to marble cupcakes to cookie cakes, the cake you choose to have at your birthday celebration is highly personal. Some people have the same thing every year. Others, myself included, like to change it up. No matter which camp you fall into, I have loads of cake recipes for you in my archives. Here are some of my absolute favorites.

Friday Favorites: Birthday Cake​

Black Forest Cake {Schwarzvaldtårta}

While feeling homesick on my birthday last year, I decided to recreate a Swiss-style Black Forest Cake that is hugely popular in my hometown. You won’t find any cherries or chocolate cake here, just layers of airy almond dacquoise, whipped cream and dark chocolate. It also happens to be naturally gluten-free and so, so good. I’ll be having the real deal for my birthday this year (lucky me!), but this homemade version hits the spot if you’re not near Fort Worth, Texas.

Friday Favorites: Birthday Cake​

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Cake

Who doesn’t love ice cream cake? This one is simple as can be, starting with sandwiching mint chocolate chip ice cream with two layers of chocolate cake, then finishing it with whipped cream and anything else you like! Feel free to change up the ice cream flavor or just use this as a template and change the recipe completely. There is no wrong way to ice cream cake.

Friday Favorites: Birthday Cake​

Funfetti Cookie Cupcakes

When I was a kid, all the best birthday parties involved cookie cake. The same is true as an adult. I have Brown Butter Chocolate Chip, Chocolate M&Ms and Red Velvet Cookie Cakes in my archives, but this almost-36 year-old could really go for these colorful, miniature Funfetti Cookie Cupcakes right now!

Friday Favorites: Birthday Cake​

Red Velvet Marble Cupcakes

We all know a red velvet person. I usually save it for Oscar Night, but I think these Red Velvet Marble Cupcakes would fit the bill for birthdays too!

Friday Favorites: Birthday Cake​

Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate Cake

This chocolate cake is a thing to behold. Made with all vegan, gluten-free ingredients and stacked tall with vegan chocolate buttercream, it might just surprise you and become a favorite.

Friday Favorites: Birthday Cake​

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Something about Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting screams “birthday” to so many people. Mine is made with very good things like sour cream and brown sugar, mixed using the reverse creaming method, and finished with an irresistible chocolate frosting.

Friday Favorites: Birthday Cake​

How to Make Mini Layer Cakes

Not quite ready to start celebrating with larger groups yet? A mini layer cake might be the perfect solution! This tutorial has everything you need to make a birthday cake for 4-6 people.

Friday Favorites: Birthday Cake​

M&Ms Surprise Cake

This is the cake for that person in your life who’s a little extra. The one who likes all the bells and whistles and would enjoy slicing into a cake full of candy—this cake is for that person. Also? Hi, I’m that person.

Have you made these or any of my other chocolate chip treats? Let me know in the comments or on social media!

Friday Favorites: Birthday Cake​

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting​

My birthday is coming up this weekend, so this week is all about birthday cakes!

I have made a lot of birthday cakes—a lot!—and they have all been highly personal. I’ve had requests for everything from mousse cakes to Funfetti to Neapolitan to Flourless Chocolate Hazelnut, but Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting is the favorite by far. For whatever reason, it just screams “birthday” to a lot of people. And while I am inclined to rebel against anything that everyone seems to love (hello, I am a Gemini), I can’t say I’d be anything but delighted to blow out candles on a Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting.

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting​

I mean, what’s not to love about an egg-yellow vanilla butter cake with rich chocolate frosting? Nothing, that’s what. This cake is a classic for a reason.

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting​

That said, not all yellow cakes are created equal. Yes, they’re all made rich and yellow from lots of eggs, yolks and butter, and they all have some amount of vanilla, but that is frequently where the similarities end. Some are too dense, others too light. Some taste vaguely like cornbread despite containing zero cornmeal (so weird). Even the really good ones vary wildly in terms of flavor and texture. I can say that from experience—I’ve tried a lot of them.

This Yellow Cake though? I like to think it strikes a balance. Yellow, buttery, vanilla-scented, not too dense, and not a hint of cornbread flavor to be found (seriously, it’s a thing). It’s made using the reverse creaming method I use for white cake. You mix the butter into the dry ingredients, then add loads of eggs and a mix of milk and sour cream. It feels wrong, but it’s so simple and produces tender results every time.

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting​

I haven’t even mentioned the Chocolate Frosting, but as you can hopefully tell from the pictures, it’s absurdly good. Made with cocoa, melted dark chocolate and just enough confectioner’s sugar, it’s pure luxury. I like to frost this cake simply for a homemade look with lots of swoops, but feel free to increase the batch size if you want to pipe. Birthday person’s prerogative, you know.

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting​
Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting
makes one two-layer 9” round cake

Yellow Cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3 large eggs + 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup full-fat sour cream

Chocolate Frosting:
3 ounces dark chocolate
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4-1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream
rainbow sprinkles, for garnish (optional)

Place an oven rack in the center position. Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease two 9-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment and grease again. Set aside.

Combine flour, cornstarch, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk ingredients together (I like to do this by running my mixer on its lowest speed for about a minute).

Add butter to dry ingredients. Gradually turn the mixer from low up to medium, to mix in the butter until there are no large pieces and the texture is sort of rubbly. This will take a few minutes.

With the mixer running, add eggs and yolks one at a time, followed by vanilla. Mix until combined.

In a measuring cup or small mixing bowl, use a fork to whisk together milk and sour cream. Running the mixer on medium, add the milk mixture in two installments and mix until combined. Scrape down the bowl well to ensure even mixing.

Divide batter among prepared pans. Tap each full pan on the counter five times to release any large air bubbles. Bake layers on the center rack for 31-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Let let layers cool in their pans for 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edges of the layer before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.

Make the Chocolate Frosting. Place chopped dark chocolate in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 15 second increments, stirring just until melted. Cool to room temperature (this can be done quickly by putting it into the fridge for 5-8 minutes, then whisking with a fork).

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until very light and fluffy (about 4-5 minutes). Beat in confectioner's sugar, followed by cocoa powder and salt, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Mix in melted chocolate, followed by vanilla and heavy cream. Beat on high for 1-2 minutes, until very fluffy.

Fill and frost the layers as desired. Garnish with rainbow sprinkles, if desired. Serve.

Layer cake will keep covered at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to five.
Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting
Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Pavlova with Lemon Curd & Berries

Pavlova with Lemon Curd & Berries

If you’ve never had pavlova, your life summer dessert game might be about to change. This naturally gluten-free meringue cake has a crisp, glossy exterior and marshmallow-soft interior, and is a vehicle for all sorts of good things, including but not limited to whipped cream, lemon curd and fresh summer berries. It’s a perfect rustic-but-classy dessert to have in your warm weather recipe arsenal. I don’t have a roof deck or a backyard, but one day when I do, I’m going to have friends over for mocktails and pavlova all summer long, just because I can. In fact, my maternal grandparents’ backyard is the first place I ever remember eating pavlova.

Pavlova with Lemon Curd & Berries

You might be wondering “Is pavlova popular in North Texas?” The answer is a hard “no.” To tell you the truth, I don’t know how my grandma learned about it, aside from the part where she just *knew* how to throw together simple dinner party foods. If she ever told me, I’ve forgotten…probably because I was trying to get a whole bunch of fruit, whipped cream and meringue in my face as efficiently as possible. My best guess is our friends-who-are-family from Australia taught her about it during one of their visits.

Pavlova with Lemon Curd & Berries

So how did I go from eating pavlova exactly once during my Texan childhood to making it thirty-odd years later? Well, the answer is simple. I had leftover egg whites, a fresh jar of Lazy Lemon Curd, got a little over-ambitious with my berry purchasing, and I always have heavy cream. When life gives you those things, make Pavlova with Lemon Curd & Berries.

Like most things that rely whipped egg whites and sugar for structure, pavlova is incredibly simple to make. The most important step in the whole process is ensuring that your mixing bowl and mixer attachment are super clean and dry so that you end up with airy results and not sad egg white soup.

The actual work of making meringue is just gradually combining egg whites, salt, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla and vinegar while your mixer works overtime to create stiff peaks. After that, form your meringue into a cake on a parchment-lined sheet pan and bake it very low and slow before letting it cool completely in the oven.

Now, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that baked, cooled pavlova meringue can be made up to three days before you serve it. The bad news is that once you start piling toppings on it, your pavlova isn’t long for this world. Glossy, crisp, marshmallowy meringue is fleeting, so don’t assemble your pavlova until right before you want to serve it. But then, do it up!

Pavlova with Lemon Curd & Berries

Obviously, I went the lemon curd/whipped cream/fresh berries route here, but feel free to go wild with your pavlova toppings. Change the fruit to mango, pineapple, cherries or peaches! Grate on chocolate! Scatter toasted coconut over the top! Use key lime curd in place of lemon and sprinkle crushed graham crackers on there. Key Lime Pie-vlova, anyone?!

But back to the point, which is, as always, to take my recipe and make it yours. Like I said, your life summer dessert game might be about to change.

Pavlova with Lemon Curd & Berries
Pavlova with Lemon Curd & Berries
makes one pavlova, about 8 servings

Pavlova:
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white or apple cider vinegar
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream, very cold
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

For Assembly:
1 cup Lazy Lemon Curd or other lemon curd
2-3 cups fresh berries of choice (I used strawberries, raspberries & blueberries)

Preheat oven to 250F. Draw an 8-inch circle on a sheet of parchment big enough for a rimmed sheet pan. Turn the parchment over (so the drawn circle side is facing down) and place on the pan. Set aside.

In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together sugar and cornstarch. Set aside.

In a separate very small bowl, combine vanilla and vinegar. Set aside.

Add egg whites and salt to a very clean, dry mixing bowl. Starting at the lowest setting and gradually ramping up to medium-high, use an electric mixer to beat egg whites until foamy (about 2-3 minutes). With the mixer running, add sugar-cornstarch mixture a tablespoon at a time until incorporated. Then add the vanilla-vinegar mixture. Turn the speed up to high and whip until stiff peaks form (about 5 minutes).

Turn the mixture (now a meringue) out onto the prepared baking sheet, using an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to gently spread it to the edges of the circle. Make it taller at the edges than the center so you have a logical place for the toppings.

Place pavlova in the oven and bake for 75 minutes (1:15) until puffed, glossy, and slightly cream-colored. Turn off the oven and wedge a wooden spoon in the door to keep it slightly ajar. Let the pavlova cool completely in the oven (a couple of hours or overnight).

If not using immediately, carefully remove the pavlova from the parchment and double wrap with plastic wrap. Keep at room temperature for up to three days.

Assemble the pavlova immediately before serving. If wrapped, gently remove and discard plastic wrap. Place pavlova on a serving plate.

Make whipped cream topping. In a medium-large mixing bowl, combine heavy cream and confectioner’s sugar. Use an electric mixer to whip cream until stiff peaks form.

Spread the top of the pavlova with lemon curd. Spoon/spread whipped cream over the top. Finish with berries of choice. Serve immediately.
Pavlova with Lemon Curd & Berries
Pavlova with Lemon Curd & Berries
Pavlova with Lemon Curd & Berries

Neapolitan Bundt Cake

Neapolitan Bundt Cake

Why have one flavor of cake when you can have three?! This Neapolitan Bundt Cake has them all: vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.

Neapolitan Bundt Cake

All the flavors start together with a batch of my favorite go-to bundt base. It’s ridiculously easy: just dump everything in a mixer, then mix on low for 30 seconds before turning the speed to medium for 3 minutes. Easy easy easy.

Once the batter is ready, divide it in thirds. Leave one plain (vanilla), stir cocoa powder and melted chocolate into another (chocolate), and flavor the last with pulverized freeze-dried strawberries (strawberry).

Neapolitan Bundt Cake

I tried a few different methods for the cake assembly, including spooning them all in at random, but my favorite is the one you see here. I spooned one flavor at a time into the pan, then spread it around in a circle. It doesn’t matter if they’re all perfectly even—the layers of batter will produce a stripey marble effect. The imperfections are all part of the fun.

Neapolitan Bundt Cake
Neapolitan Bundt Cake

Neapolitan Bundt Cake takes just over an hour to bake and will need to cool completely before glazing…with three glazes! Gotta have one for each flavor, right? These glazes are all quick and easy to whisk together; the only thing you want to watch for is that they all have similar viscosity. Once mixed, drizzle to your heart’s content.

Neapolitan Bundt Cake

With a tight crumb, tender texture, and three flavors and colors, this Neapolitan Bundt will be a winner with everyone! It’s perfect for any occasion, including the first picnic or cookout back together after so many months apart.

Neapolitan Bundt Cake
Neapolitan Bundt Cake
makes one 10-cup capacity bundt

For the Cake:
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 16 pieces
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teasp Kosher or sea salt
1 cup milk (preferably whole), room temperature

For the Strawberry Batter:
1 1.2 ounce package freeze-dried strawberries, pulverized
red food coloring (I used 1 drop red gel), optional

For the Chocolate Batter:
2 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

Place an oven rack in the center position. Preheat oven to 325F. Heavily grease a bundt pan with softened butter (or shortening) and dust well with flour. Set aside.

Make the cake. Make the cake. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer to mix on low for 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes. Batter will be thick.

Make the Strawberry and Chocolate batters. Divide batter into 3 medium bowls, with about 1 2/3 cups batter going in each. Leave one plain. This is the vanilla batter.

To make the strawberry batter, whisk pulverized freeze-dried strawberries and optional food coloring into one of the bowls of batter.

Make the chocolate batter. Whisk cocoa powder into the last bowl of batter. Put chopped dark chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 15 second increments, stirring in between, until melted and smooth. Whisk into batter.

To assemble the cake, spoon half the vanilla batter into the pan and spread around in a circle. Top with half the strawberry batter, and spread around in a circle. Top with chocolate batter, and spread in a circle. Add remaining vanilla, strawberry and chocolate batters one-by-one, spreading in circles before adding the next. It’s okay if this isn’t perfect—it will look great when sliced, I promise!

When all batters are in the prepared pan, smooth the top with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. Tap full pan on the counter five times to release any large air bubbles. Bake 65-75 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in several places comes out clean.

Let cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Run a thin, flexible knife around all exposed edges. Invert cake onto a cooling rack and let cake cool completely. Cake may be made up to a day in advance; it will keep double-wrapped in plastic wrap until you are ready to glaze.

Vanilla Glaze:
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Strawberry Glaze:
1 tablespoon pulverized freeze-dried strawberries (from about 1/4 cup pieces)
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons whole milk

Chocolate Glaze:
1 tablespoon natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
pinch of salt
2-3 teaspoons whole milk

Make your glazes. For the vanilla, combine confectioner’s sugar, salt, milk and vanilla in a small bowl. Use a fork to whisk ingredients together until very thick, but pourable. If it’s too thick, add more milk by the 1/2 teaspoon up to 1 teaspoons (1 tablespoon); if it’s too thin, add more confectioners sugar in 1 tablespoon increments.

For the strawberry, combine freeze-dried strawberries, confectioner’s sugar, salt, and milk in a small bowl. Use a fork to whisk ingredients together until very thick, but pourable. If it’s too thick, add more milk by the 1/2 teaspoon up to 1 teaspoons (1 tablespoon); if it’s too thin, add more confectioners sugar in 1 tablespoon increments.

For the chocolate, combine cocoa powder, confectioner’s sugar, salt, and milk in a small bowl. Use a fork to whisk ingredients together until very thick, but pourable. If it’s too thick, add more milk by the 1/2 teaspoon up to 1 teaspoons (1 tablespoon); if it’s too thin, add more confectioners sugar in 1 tablespoon increments.

Pour or drizzle glazes over cake. Let sit for 20 minutes to set. Move cake to a serving plate before slicing and serving.

Leftover cake will keep covered at room temperature for up to two days or in the refrigerator for up to five.

Note:

This recipe may be halved and baked in a parchment-lined 9x5-inch loaf pan. Start checking the cake for doneness at the 55 minute mark.
Neapolitan Bundt Cake
Neapolitan Bundt Cake
Neapolitan Bundt Cake

Crispy, Crunchy Double Chocolate Cookies

Crispy, Crunchy Double Chocolate Cookies​

I’ve been a chewy cookie devotee for pretty much my whole life, but I might be coming around to the other side. I mean, I’m not going to swear off soft cookies forever or anything, but let’s just say I get where the crunchy cookie people are coming from.

Crispy, Crunchy Double Chocolate Cookies​

Think about it. We don’t eschew crunchy vanilla wafers or snappy shortbread. Lord knows we love Oreos. But for some reason we all rush to vilify pretty much any other cookie with that texture. And why? What’s so wrong with a light, crispy cookie with a good crunch all the way through?

Nothing. That’s what. Especially when they’re double chocolate and can be yours in less than an hour’s time.

As with other crispy, crunchy cookies I’ve made, these Double Chocolate Cookies are top notch. They’re not a second best, or an “if you don’t have eggs and brown sugar” cookie. They’re their own thing—a double chocolate cookie for the crunchy cookie people. They’re light, crackly-topped, and chocolaty as all get out. If that isn’t enough, you likely have all the ingredients in your kitchen right now.

Crispy, Crunchy Double Chocolate Cookies​

Who knows, with a little elbow grease and working oven, you could become a crunchy cookie person any day now. Welcome to the club.

Crispy, Crunchy Double Chocolate Cookies​
Crispy, Crunchy Double Chocolate Cookies
makes about 2 dozen cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (or golden syrup or mild honey)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips + more for topping

Arrange oven racks in central positions. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Cut softened butter into 8 pieces and add them to the mixing bowl. Starting at low speed and increasing as ingredients become incorporated, use an electric mixer to mix the butter into the flour/sugar mixture until powdery and wet-sandy. You may need to stop a time or two to break up larger pieces of butter.

Add corn syrup and vanilla and mix to combine. Dough will look crumbly, but should hold together well when pinched.

Add the chocolate chips to the dough and mix/knead them in with a clean hand (or a silicone spatula or wooden spoon) until evenly distributed and the dough is a cohesive unit.

Scoop the dough by the tablespoon, roll into balls and place them 2-3 inches apart on prepared pans (I fit 12 on each half-sheet pan). Bake for 9 minutes, then rotate the pans top-to-bottom and front-to-back. Bake another 8-9 minutes, until a bit puffy and cracked on top.

Let cookies cool for 7 minutes on the pans. Remove to a rack to cool completely. Serve.

Leftover cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.
Crispy, Crunchy Double Chocolate Cookies​
Crispy, Crunchy Double Chocolate Cookies​