Happy Birthday to me, cake recipe, please?
April 14, 2012 9:44 PM   Subscribe

I turn 37 in less than a week. My husband doesn't bake, I do not like grocery store cakes, so I typically bake my own. This year I want something different from my norm. What is your best cake recipe of all time? Frosting recipes are welcome as well, I want to do it all from scratch.

It can be an involved recipe, or a simple one. I have all week to work on it if need be.

I'm not allergic to anything that would go in a cake, so go nuts, any and all recipes for cakes and icing/frosting, please?
posted by SuzySmith to Food & Drink (42 answers total) 105 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a big fan of changing up cake expectations by going extremely subtle. Instead of FRUIT! or CHOCOLATE! or such, go for a "clean" taste. Almond cake with a very light buttercream frosting, topped with a small handful of toasted almost slivers. Pair it with a brandy that has good subtle flavor.
posted by introp at 9:49 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake from Smitten Kitchen is outstanding, beautiful and not overly complicated. Each bite has the flavor profile of a really excellent peanut butter cup.
posted by Saminal at 9:53 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

French yogurt cake
posted by illenion at 9:56 PM on April 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Saminal, that is the cake I made in 2010 for my husband's birthday, it is delicious.

In fact, for the past few years for him, I have made 2012: peppermint and chocolate
2011 chocolate orange cake with orange icing
2010 chocolate peanut butter cake
2009 chocolate with chocolate icing. (can you tell he loves chocolate?)

For me the past few years it has varied from an orange sponge to yellow to a chocolate. I love lemon cake, but have never found a recipe I really love.
posted by SuzySmith at 10:02 PM on April 14, 2012

I like a lemon olive oil cake.

Cakes I'm hoping to make soon:

Whipped Cream Cake
Burnt sugar cake (I've made this one before, but want to tweak the posted recipe to incorporate coconut. )

For my birthday I actually have a cupcake contest, and ask guests to bring the most unusual cupcakes they can think of. It's really fun.

Last year's standouts were:

Chocolate with dark choc icing, stuffed with pepper jelly
Thai iced coffee
posted by spunweb at 10:08 PM on April 14, 2012

Oh, and I want to try the rosemary balsamic cake here.
posted by spunweb at 10:16 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Smitten Kitchen has a lot of lovely cake recipes, but it sounds like you're already familiar with her site.

For another subtle cake suggestion, I've made Mary Todd Lincoln's white cake a couple times, and it is quite nice, especially paired with a berry coulis.

For a quick and easy lemon cake with a twist, I've used a lemon cake boxed mix but substituted thawed raspberries in their juice for the liquid. Baked in a bundt pan with a lemon frosting drizzled over, it's delicious and quite pretty, too, with the raspberries studding the cake. (I know you want to bake from scratch, feel free to use an actual lemon cake recipe - I don't have one to offer right off.)

If I may stray from cakes and suggest a tart, the whole lemon tart from Smitten Kitchen is pretty easy to make if you've got a food processor. A wonderful tart! I've made this one several times. I usually use a Meyer lemon plus a little fresh juice from a regular lemon.

And one more completely non-cake possibility - one year I made a pavlova with fresh fruit and real whipped cream for my sister's birthday, and it is now her standard birthday request. Haven't used that exact recipe - there are tons online.
posted by dorey_oh at 10:18 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I really liked this pistachio cake with lemon buttercream, if you want something with less chocolate. Chestnut cake with a chocolate ganache and chestnut buttercream is also fantastic, though not so spring-like.
posted by jeather at 10:20 PM on April 14, 2012

I've been aching to make Alton Brown's coconut cake ever since I saw the episode. Nice and complicated, with little doubt in an incredible payoff.
posted by scarykarrey at 10:30 PM on April 14, 2012

This almond praline cake with mascarpone frosting is pretty amazing. I've made it twice to rave reviews, and here are my notes:

You can decrease the sugar in the batter by a third if your almond paste is pretty sweet; you can definitely skip the praline with no ill results, the chocolate ganache, cake and frosting are what make it amazing. Instead of chocolate bark you can grate the chocolate over the cake and sprinkle chopped nuts on top to no ill effect. The mascarpone frosting is pretty amazing and not overly sweet at all. Overall it's a showstopper of a cake, and comes together pretty easily over two days.

posted by tatiana131 at 10:30 PM on April 14, 2012

My link didn't work, so just google epicurious almond praline cake. Sorry.
posted by tatiana131 at 10:31 PM on April 14, 2012

One more idea for an unorthodox cake - a French Crepe Cake. Haven't made one myself, but it's on the list!
posted by dorey_oh at 10:34 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Julia Child's favorite was Queen of Sheba cake, fully documented in her books. I've never made it but it looks really, really good.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 10:39 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I made this dark chocolate bourbon cake for babbyʼ); Drop table users; --'s birthday a few months back, much to the acclaim of the SF Cabal.
posted by mollymayhem at 10:44 PM on April 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Here's the recipe for Julia Child's Queen of Sheba cake.

Are you a member of the Cook's Illustrated website? I'm not a huge coconut fan, but their coconut cake is fantastic. I made the 3-layer Chocolate Mousse Pie for my honey's birthday and we all swooned over it--so light, yet rich.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 10:49 PM on April 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've made this Mascarpone-Filled Cake with Sherried Berries for my own birthday the past few years.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:53 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

OP, would you mind sharing your recipe for the chocolate orange cake so we can have it for posterity?
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 11:13 PM on April 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Caramel Sauce will look a little unadorned, like a big brownie, but don't let that fool you. It's very, very dense and rich, and not too sweet, like dark chocolate fudge. It's really terrific. Serve it with just a thin line of the caramel sauce and not-too-sweet whipped cream.
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 11:14 PM on April 14, 2012

The Momofuku Milk Bar birthday cake recipe is insanely complicated -- don't say you weren't warned -- but it's well worth the effort.
posted by evoque at 11:53 PM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Not quite a cake, but try a Peach and Pistachio Frangipane Tart. I like to add a rosewater glaze or rosewater pastry cream to the top.

Hungarian Dobostorte (7 layer cake) is the greatest thing ever, and takes a while to make, but is incredibly good refrigerated. The chocolate buttercream filling has a nice firm texture.
posted by benzenedream at 12:08 AM on April 15, 2012

Best answer: So I read your post and wondered, "But I wonder if she likes lemon cake?" and then read the update. Okay, then! ...the recipe from the Silver Palate Cookbook is the best lemon cake I've ever had, possibly the best cake fullstop. It's dense like a poundcake; you glaze it warm so the butter in the glaze melts into the cake. Texture and flavor gets even better the second day. I suggest halving the quantities for the glaze, as even a half recipe yields enough to cover the cake heavily and then some. Recipe here.

Happy bday!
posted by torticat at 12:18 AM on April 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

Chardonnay Cake with Almond-Sugar Crust is ridiculously easy but incredibly delicious (and a great way to use up a couple of cups of leftover wine that have gone slightly off, if you ever have such a thing lying around).
posted by posadnitsa at 5:33 AM on April 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

My MIL's fantastic English trifle. Vanilla cake layered with jam and homemade custard soaked in sherry and topped with whipped cream and toasted almonds.
Holy cannoli amazing.
Memail me for more details.
-ms. Veg
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:39 AM on April 15, 2012

Best answer: This lemon buttermilk sheet cake from Cook's Country is amazing. It's fresh and lemony tasting, and really beautiful. I made it in a 10" square pan, which made it a little more elegant than a 9x13 one.

If you want a layer cake I recommend this butter cake recipe from Wilton. I used it to make my wedding cake last summer. It was honestly the best cake I have ever eaten. It has a lovely light almond flavor, and a moist and slightly dense crumb. It makes a beautiful cake. For frosting I used Smitten Kitchen's Swiss buttercream. I'll never try another layer cake recipe again. This one is perfection.
posted by apricot at 7:02 AM on April 15, 2012

It's a little early for strawberries here, but this Strawberry cake from Smitten Kitchen is one of the best things I've ever eaten and everyone I've made it has loved it. In a more pie sort of format, Smitten Kitchen's Dark Chocolate Tart was the hit of Christmas this year.

On the way more complicated side, I've made this Black Pearl Layer Cake a couple times and found it very tasty.
posted by katers890 at 7:23 AM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, the tart was the hit of Thanksgiving, for Christmas I made this
Lemon Layer Cake
* and people quite enjoyed it, but it was a decent amount of work and my cutting things evenly skills were questionable, so it was a bit slide-y.

*at least I think it is that recipe, I got mine out of a Cooks Illustrated magazine, this one seems like the exact same recipe, but I can't guarantee it I guess, if you have an online subscription to Cooks Illustrated then look for the recipe there.
posted by katers890 at 7:28 AM on April 15, 2012

Best answer: My family has a recipe for Chocolate Chiffon cake that is always made for birthdays. The chocolate cake is a nondescript devil's food type cake, but the frosting is the best ever!

Chocolate Chiffon frosting: 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder. Beat on high until it achieves a thick frostable consistency.

It is rich and delicious, but not as horribly sweet as many frostings. The proportions I gave may need a bit of tweaking, the recipe is at my Mom's, those measurements are just off the top of my head. We always make an extra half batch for extra frosting-y goodness.
posted by catatethebird at 7:37 AM on April 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa gives this cake an unbelievable lushness. It is the only cake that friends and family will have for birthdays now. The children even insist that I make it for Jesus' Birthday (Christmas). It keeps for up to a week in the fridge. You can serve it cold, room temp, or microwave-warm with ice cream.

The Cake
by Tricia Prewitt on Saturday, August 28, 2010 at 9:44am ·
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup special dark cocoa
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350º. Grease 2 round pans, 1 13x9 pan, or 1 bundt. In large mixer bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Add wet except for water. Mix for 2 minutes, then add water (have the water in your microwave and heat for 2 minutes, timing your mixing and boiling your water at the same time). Add water carefully and mix well. Pour into pans and bake for just under 30 minutes. Do not overcook. If it seems a little undercooked in the middle, then it is done. Cool for 10 minutes then release from pans and let cool.
If you are making the 4 layer version, you will have easier results if you chill the cakes for a bit. Use a long, serrated knife to carefully make a horizontal cut through the middle of the cake. Flip your round pan over, place the cake on it, start at the shallowest edge and work around, turning the pan to get easy access to all sides.

Truffle filling

16 ounces dark chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons butter

The chocolate should be in small bits and slightly melted. If you are not using a high quality chocolate, you may have to use your hand mixer to achieve a smooth finish. Do not over-mix.
Prepare your chocolate and have ready in a large bowl. Cut butter into small pieces and have ready. Bring heavy cream to a simmer over med. high heat. Pour over chocolate and stir until smooth. Add butter and stir until smooth.
Depending on the temperature of the kitchen, your ganache may need to cool a little before using. You can put it in the fridge or freezer for a few moments. Check frequently and stir every time. Avoid precipitation or it will leave streaks. Once it begins to hold it's shape, then you can use on cake. I adapted this from a recipe for truffles. If you make a 4 layer cake, then you will only have the bowl to lick. If you make a 9x12 cake then you will have extra. Allow extra to firm up in fridge, roll into balls and roll in crushed nuts, hot cocoa mix, coconut, whatever. Put frosted cake in the fridge to set. Once it is set, you can cover it without it sticking.

Serve fresh, serve cold, serve room temperature or heat for a few moments in microwave for molten cake.

I use Hershey's special dark chocolate when making 'the cake' but any chocolate will do. Ghirardelli cocoa is lovely in the bundt cake version.
posted by myselfasme at 7:40 AM on April 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, I sadly don't have a recipe, but I recently had some absolutely delicious red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting at my aunt's wedding reception. I noticed that one you didn't mention making, I'm sure there are plenty of recipes around. The cake had a wonderful buttery, crumbly texture.
posted by catatethebird at 7:41 AM on April 15, 2012

I actually just made a birthday cake for my wife's 30th yesterday. It was a basic yellow cake filled with passion fruit curd and passion fruit flavored buttercream frosting.

My advice is to pick up Rose Levy Beranbaum "Cake Bible" - her recipes are really really well written and basically fool proof if you are good at following directions.
posted by JPD at 8:07 AM on April 15, 2012

It's not fancy, but man oh man does it remain the tastiest cake ever: behold, the rum cake.
posted by smirkette at 8:09 AM on April 15, 2012

Someone made me this Meyer Lemon Cake with Lavender Cream from Gourmet magazine for my 30th birthday a few years ago. It was amazing.
posted by min at 8:34 AM on April 15, 2012

Seconding the corpse in the library .. I make that cake all the time and it's wonderful. Though I like it better with just fresh fruit rather than the macerated fruit.
posted by Jacob G at 9:12 AM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you like chocolate, the Triple-Chocolate Celebration Cake from Epicurious is delicious and a beauty, to boot. It is a bit expensive to bake, however, especially if you opt for higher quality chocolate.
posted by sugarbiscuit at 10:24 AM on April 15, 2012

Best answer: The best cake I've ever made is an Orange Ginger Carrot Cake with White Chocolate Icing. Its a little more involved than a basic cake but very do-able at home and the white chocolate icing spreads smoothly making a very professional looking cake without too much stress. I baked the cake layers the evening before I served the cake and did the frosting in the morning to give the cake time to chill for dessert that night.
posted by GilvearSt at 11:24 AM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you've never had a dacquoise, it's worth trying. Here's a basic recipe for a hazelnut dacquoise.

I no longer have the recipe I used. But it had three layers of meringue and ganache, with the final cake wrapped in chocolate plastic.
posted by zinon at 4:53 PM on April 15, 2012

At my daughter's request for her 16th birthday last year, I made carrot cake. Now, I like carrot cake fine, but I've never gone gaga over it at all. I have always preferred really decadent, dense chocolate cakes. Carrot cake has always seemed pretty pedestrian to me, not fit for a special birthday cake.

But I went on Epicurious.com and found this recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Tropical-Carrot-Cake-with-Coconut-Cream-Cheese-Frosting-107949.

It is one of their "blue ribbon" recipes: the top 30 or so (out of thousands and thousands) rated recipes in the entire site. And for good reason. This cake was spectacular! So moist! So complex! Incredible. I can't recommend it highly enough. Oh, and the cream cheese frosting recipe included is amazing, too. Happy birthday!
posted by primate moon at 9:30 PM on April 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

The hands-down, best cake I ever had, was a basic carrot cake recipe but made with beetroot instead.

Beetroot is sweeter, and softer than carrot, and in a cake? Unbelievably delicious, and a dark, rich, amazing color. Everyone who had a slice of that cake agreed.
posted by Elysum at 4:50 AM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Chocolate Beet cake!
posted by np312 at 12:20 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Chocolate Orange cake for those that asked.

I cheated and used the recipe off the Hershey's cocoa can. It makes a nice moist chocolate cake.

What I did was changed the vanilla extract to orange extract, added a couple TBS orange juice to the water (or actually changed out two tablespons) and added a whole orange's worth of zest.

It was awesome. The orange buttercream was, meh. I made a basic buttercream with orange extract instead of vanilla, changed the milk to OJ, and added orange zest. I am still working on my buttercream though.
posted by SuzySmith at 4:36 AM on April 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just popped back in to say, I have made several of these cakes now for various people and I'm favoriting items as I make the cake listed in each one! My family loves AskMeFi!
posted by SuzySmith at 12:20 PM on May 15, 2012

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