Bake Break: Birthday Cake

A few weeks ago I undertook that most quintessential of baking adventures: making a birthday cake.

Oddly enough, for all the years I've been baking, I've never once made an actual birthday cake for anybody, so this was a new experience. Normally I hop onto the King Arthur Flour website to find my recipes, but this time I decided to consult one of my own books.

A few years ago one of my mother's friends gave me this Winnie the Pooh cookbook. I'm not quite sure why, I've never been all that fond of the bear and his friends, but there was a simple recipe for a birthday cake in the book that intrigued me, so I decided to give it a go. 

Basically it's a 1-2-3-4 cake, which means 1 cup of milk and butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, 3 teaspoons baking powder, and four eggs. I had almost all the ingredients on hand, so that was incentive enough for me. First I mixed the batter:

Once I had the batter I made a few modifications. First I added vanilla to give it a little more flavor, but the main thing I did was add chocolate chips:

I had gotten the chips to make a basic dark chocolate ganache for the cake, in lieu of frosting. I didn't need the whole bag though, so rather than eat the unused chips, I put them in the batter to keep them away from me (my self-control around chocolate is basically nil).

Next I poured the batter into two cake pans and baked them up. Much to my relief, the cakes came out of the pan intact.

After the cakes had cooled I froze them overnight, as this makes them easier to frost. The next day, I trimmed the top off the bottom layer to make a nice flat surface. I then added vanilla pudding as the filling, and put the two together. I happen to love Boston cream pie, so I had it in mind as I was making this.

Finally I made the ganache, which entailed melting the chocolate with some whipping cream in the microwave. I poured this delight over the top of the cake.

I thought the edges looked a little overdone, so I trimmed them to expose the soft interior. In retrospect I should have done this before I iced the cake, but that's hindsight for you.

It wouldn't win a cake beauty pageant, but it was delicious, and everyone at the birthday party ate it, which is what counts in my books. Now that I've done it once, I know how to streamline the process to make it even better next time.

Want to try this cake for yourself? Here's the original recipe:

"Hipy Papy Bthuthdth Thuthda Bthuthdy Cake I" (yes, that's the actual name, it's a reference to Owl's attempt to write Happy Birthday or something along those lines. Give him a break, he's a bird writing with his talons. From The Pooh Cookbook by Virginia H. Ellison. New York: E.P. Dutton and Co., Inc. 1969. Pages 88-89)

1 cup each butter and milk
2 cups sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted with 3 teaspoons double-acting baking powder and 3 pinches salt (1/8 teaspoon)
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a 10-inch tube pan (I used 2 9-inch pans instead). Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt and add it alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour to make a cake of fine texture. Beat for at least three minutes or until well blended. Pour into the buttered and floured tube pan. Bake for about an hour or until a cake tester or a toothpick, when stuck in the cake an inch from either side, comes out clean. Let cool for about 30 minutes in the pan before turning out on a rack to finish cooling.

I added about teaspoon or two or vanilla and about 3/4 bag of chocolate chips. The nice thing about this recipe is that its simplicity allows for endless variation, so make it your own!