Our 2nd Birthday Cake

Three-layer yellow cake with chocolate frosting, sprinkles, and a candle

Jordan: About two years ago, we decided that we had more cake recipes bookmarked than we had occasions to make cake, and thus, Cake Day was born.

Kitra: I will always remember what weekend our cake… anniversary(?) falls on because it was the same day that Falsettos opened on Broadway in 1992. That’s in my calendar as a recurring event.

(Kitra is a nerd.) Cake Day shares a birthday weekend with several awesome things, including Kitra’s local bookstore, where she picked up a copy of Alison Roman’s Dining In this weekend. It’s full of great dinner ideas and brilliant cooking tips, but it also includes a recipe for the fluffiest yellow cake ever.

It’s tall and beautiful just like a birthday cake should be. Also, I would like everyone here to try and explain to relative strangers that you’re buying a birthday candle for a cake about cake. (Thanks to my other favorite local store for never being put off by sentences like that when I come in to buy a “2” candle, or walk in with nothing but a melon and a dog in hand.)

Funnily enough, we didn’t really have this kind of birthday cake growing up. (I was always a cheesecake fan, at least after the “cakes shaped like princess castles or dinosaurs” phase. I contained multitudes as a child). But there’s something undeniably birthday-y about good yellow cake, chocolate frosting, and sprinkles.

Mine often had the misfortune of being Halloween-themed, so I too lacked the classic birthday cake experience. In fact, for the past 6 years I haven’t had cake at all. But yellow cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles is still what I bring to any and all birthday celebrations that I’m allowed to bring cake to.

Last year we tried out the recipe from Stella Parks’s cookbook, Bravetart, and it was… fine? But it wasn’t quite what we were looking for. (The cookbook is great though, don’t get us wrong.) This one hit the spot.

I’m pretty loyal to the Smitten Kitchen cake and frosting, but I think that the size and scale of this cake work better with a fluffy beautiful cake like this. (If you want a sheet cake though, you know where to look.) We kept the frosting though, because it is just so damn easy and smooth.

That said, if you happen to have a recipe for a fudgy frosting that tastes just like the amazing canned stuff you buy at the grocery store, send it our way. There’s always next year.

Three-layer cake with chocolate frosting, sprinkles, and a lit candle

Fluffy Yellow Cake

From Dining In by Alison Roman

Notes

On the order of operations: We have you prep your dry and liquid mixes first here, so that they’re ready when the time comes to add them. However, the butter/sugar/egg process takes almost 10 minutes here, so if you have a stand mixer we recommend starting that first and prepping the other ingredients while it runs.

Ingredients

  • 3¼ cups (365g) cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 8 oz.) butter, softened
  • 2 cups (400g) white sugar
  • ½ cup (100g) brown sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350°. Grease three 8- or 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment.

First, prep your dry and liquid ingredients. In a medium bowl, combine cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a separate bowl (or large liquid measuring cup), combine buttermilk, oil, and vanilla and set that aside too.

In a large bowl (we mean large; don’t skimp here) combine butter, white sugar, and brown sugar. Using an electric hand or stand mixer, cream on high for about 4 minutes. The mixture should be very light and fluffy; take the full time here will make the next step work better. Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, then beat on high for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is absurdly fluffy and roughly doubled.

Add about a third of the flour mixture and beat on low until it’s just mostly combined. Mix in half the buttermilk. Repeat with another third of the flour and the remaining buttermilk. Add the last of the flour and mix until fully combined, being sure to scrape the edges and bottom of the bowl.

Divide the cake batter evenly into the three prepared pans. If you want to be precise and use a scale, we found that each pan got about 600g of batter. Smooth the surfaces of each layer.

Bake for about 35 minutes, until the tops are set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. You’ll likely want to shift the cakes halfway through, to change up whichever is in the middle (if you put them all on one oven rack) or on its own rack (if you used two). Cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before gently turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Frost with chocolate buttercream.

Chocolate Buttercream

Adapted the tiniest bit from Smitten Kitchen Every Day by Deb Perelman

Notes

We made this in the food processor, but if you don’t have one (or don’t have a large enough one), you can do it with an electric mixer as well. Just beat the butter, powdered sugar, and salt together first before adding the remaining ingredients. If you’re using a mixer, we recommend sifting your powdered sugar first; it’s not necessary with the food processor.

Deb uses unsweetened chocolate here; we used Trader Joe’s 70% dark chocolate. Either will work, but of course dark chocolate will end up with a slightly sweeter frosting.

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups (3 sticks, 12 oz.) butter, softened
  • 4½ cups (540g) powdered sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 oz (170g) dark or unsweetened chocolate (see note), melted and cooled
  • 3 tablespoons cream or milk
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

In a large food processor, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. Scrape the sides of the processor bowl to make sure there are no pockets of unmixed ingredients hiding anywhere. Blend again until fluffy.

Pecan Browned Butter Cake

Pecan browned butter cake, topped with whipped cream and strawberries and missing a slice

Jordan: Let’s start by saying that this cake was delicious.

Kitra: It tastes like pralines, and that wasn’t even the intent. It’s that lovely.

Think nutty, buttery, and lightly caramelly. We ate more than half the cake in one sitting.

Added bonus: no wheat! Which generally is… not a bonus. But it’s good here.

That said, we failed at one part of this cake. Or rather, I failed at it. (Kitra was just along for the ride.) The original cake included cornmeal, but in an attempt to make it kosher for Passover, we swapped that out. We also swapped out the small amount of all-purpose flour (which also makes it gluten-free)… Unfortunately, I remembered too late that rice flour, which we used, is still kitniyot, just like corn is.

It’s totally doable to make this work though if that’s your goal. Just don’t arbitrarily pick rice flour like we did.

It wasn’t arbitrary! It was recommended by the people in the comments as a gluten-free swap, and I already had it in my pantry. It was, however, not fully thought-out. Fun side story: I’ve also done this in the other direction. I once used a kosher for Passover recipe to make cookies for a gluten-free friend and realized as they were going in the oven that matzo meal is, you know, decidedly not gluten-free. Cookies were good though.

I enjoyed them.

I’ll also note that this cake is kosher for Passover if you eat kitniyot (corn, rice, legumes, etc.), which as far as I can tell is mostly a matter of how strong your feelings are about tradition, unless you’re Orthodox.

Jordan has done a lot of research and needs more outlets for it. I just like cake and know I should eat less wheat because it doesn’t always make me feel great but I’m in denial.

In my defense, there are a lot of topics I have done unnecessary research on but this is not one of them. It just comes from being the only non-Jew at my boyfriend’s mother’s Passover seders. Ask me about World War I facial surgery and then we’ll get into some unnecessary research.

We should end on something other than facial surgery. So: this cake is great and you should eat over half of it in 20ish minutes. No regrets.

Pecan browned butter cake topped with whipped cream and a pile of sliced strawberries

Pecan Browned Butter Cake

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, where it was adapted from Watt’s Grocery

Notes

We made some significant changes here, the biggest of which was swapping the cornmeal for more pecan, which Deb Perelman does in another nut/cornmeal recipe of hers. This has the added benefit of eliminating the three-hour resting time in the original recipe and allowing it to be made entirely in the food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, you’ll want to swap in an equal weight of ground nuts (pecans or other) and simply combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, then add the butter, eggs, and vanilla.

If you want to make this rice-free, you could probably swap the rice flour for about 2 tablespoons of potato starch. (Fair warning that we haven’t tried this ourselves.) If you don’t cake about it being gluten-free and don’t want to buy another type of flour, feel free to use 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour, as in the original recipe.

Finally, we found this cake to be a little on the sweet side, so we’ve marked a bit of the sugar as optional.

Ingredients

  • 9 tablespoons (4.5oz) butter, cold is fine
  • 1 cup (100g) pecan halves, toasted and cooled
  • 1 cup (120g) powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (25g) granulated sugar (optional)
  • ¼ cup (35g) rice flour (see note)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • lightly sweetened whipped cream and berries of your choice, for topping (optional)

Directions

First, brown the butter. In a small pan, melt the butter and cook it over medium-low heat until it begins to turn brown and smell nutty. Watch it carefully once it starts to get foamy, stirring frequently, as it can burn easily. Once it’s nicely browned, pour it into a small bowl and put it in the fridge or freezer to cool.

Preheat your oven to 325°. Line the bottom of a 9-inch tart, pie, or cake pan with parchment paper (don’t skip this!) and generously butter the sides.

In a food processor, pulse pecans and sugar(s) until finely powdered. Add rice flour, baking powder, and salt and pulse again until combined. Once the butter has cooled to room temperature, pour it into the food processor along with the egg whites and vanilla, and blend until thoroughly combined.

Scrape batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. A toothpick won’t tell you anything useful here, so bake it until the edges are golden and the center is set. If you lightly tap the center, it shouldn’t leave much of an indentation in the cake once it’s done.

Let cool completely before topping with whipped cream and berries. Eat in one sitting (optional, but encouraged).

Chunky Carrot Cake

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Jordan: There’s a restaurant near my apartment that sells a four-layer carrot cake with roughly equal parts cake and frosting. It is monstrous and beautiful and impossible to eat in one sitting. My boyfriend and I once split a slice and still almost couldn’t finish it. He picked some up the other day and while it was perfectly fine, all it did was leave me with a craving for better carrot cake. Something not so painfully sweet, and with ALL the things in it.

Kitra: And I, like most people (I hope) will never say no to a chance to eat carrot cake. Or have my house smell like carrot cake. Or have it in my fridge for breakfast. Or dinner.

Carrot cake is one of those cakes that can go in a lot of different directions. Fancy layer cake? Casual sheet cake? Dinner while you type a blog post? Carrot cake has got your back.

The thing is, everyone has a different idea of what it is. Dense or fluffy? Nuts or none? Raisins? How many spices?

Is it just a vessel for cream cheese frosting? Should you actually be able to see the carrots or is this just a spice cake pretending to be healthy?

This is our version of carrot cake. Enough carrots that what you pour into the pan looks more like a carrot slurry than a batter. Walnuts because the cake needs some crunch to break up the density.

Also, raisins! Raisins belong in everything. Those people who complain about raisins being in oatmeal cookies or trail mix because “I thought it was a chocolate chip”? They are wrong.

Chocolate chips ruin the whole vibe of trail mix. I have never been disappointed that something was a raisin and not chocolate. I have been disappointed that it was chocolate.

Point is: if you like a light, fluffy, delicate carrot cake, this is not for you. If you like a chunky, dense, vaguely earthy carrot cake, read on.

carrot-cake-2.jpg

Chunky Carrot Cake

Adapted from Alton Brown

Notes

We made several big changes to this recipe. First, almost every carrot cake recipe needs more carrots. The compensate for the extra moisture, we swapped in a bit of whole wheat flour, a tip we stole from Stella Parks. Then we added in plenty of nuts and raisins. The extra volume was enough to fill a larger pan, which means we could have the sheet cake of our dreams.

The instructions below use a food processor, but it’s totally doable without. Just grate your carrots using the large holes of a cheese grater and whisk your ingredients very thoroughly in separate bowls before adding them to the main mix.

We used 8 ounces of all-purpose flour and 4 ounces of whole wheat, but feel free to adjust the proportions to your liking. We think you could have done as much of half of the flour with whole wheat, or you could reduce the amount if you’re really not a fan. We also suspect it would be great with a higher proportion of brown sugar to white, if you’re up for experimenting.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb carrots, washed, stem ends cut off
  • 340g (about 2.75 cups) flour, a mix of all-purpose and whole wheat (see note)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoons allspice
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 120g (1 cup) walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 100g (⅔ cup) raisins
  • 280g (1⅓ cups) white sugar
  • 55g (¼ cup, packed) brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 170g (¾ cup) plain yogurt (not Greek-style)
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350° and coat a 9”x13” pan with baking spray or butter and flour. Line the bottom with parchment paper.

Using the large holes of your food processor’s shredding blade, grate your carrots and transfer them to a large mixing bowl.

Add the flours, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt to the bowl of the food processor and blend for about 5 seconds to mix. Add the flour mixture to the carrots and toss/stir to coat everything. Add the walnuts and raisins and toss/stir again.

Add the sugars, eggs, and yogurt to the food processor and blend to combine. With the processor running, slowly add the oil until everything is well-combined. Pour the liquid mixture over top of the carrot/flour mixture and stir to combine.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and even out the top with a spoon or spatula. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes, then lower the heat to 325° and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the edges are golden.

Let cake cool completely in the pan before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen Everyday

Notes

We like a less-sweet frosting, and Deb Perelman’s is definitely on the less sweet side. We also swapped in some plain yogurt in place of the milk/cream, which gave it even more of a tanginess. If you don’t have enough yogurt for that, feel free to use an equivalent amount of cream or whole milk.

Ingredients

  • 8oz (225g, or one block) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons (2 oz, or ½ a stick) butter, softened
  • 160g (1⅓ cups) powdered sugar, sifted
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together until mostly smooth. Add the sifted powdered sugar and salt and beat until thick and smooth. Add yogurt and vanilla and continue beating until well-mixed and slightly fluffy.

Chocolate Babka Swirl Coffee Cake

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Jordan: This is a coffee cake, which means you can eat it for breakfast. It also uses a pound of butter, so you probably shouldn’t, but that’s not going to stop us.

Kitra: I eat ice cream for breakfast about 40% of the time, so this seems perfectly reasonable.

That’s sad and we’re not going to comment on it.

I mean, that percentage is lower in the winter. I eat a lot of Girl Scout Cookies for breakfast instead.

So if you’re looking for a cake that is better for you than Kitra’s usual breakfast fare but still feels like a comforting plate of carbs and chocolate, you’ve come to the right place!

If there’s one thing we know, it’s how to provide you with healthy breakfast options.

This is supposed to be a coffee cake (that’s cake to have with coffee, not cake made with coffee) mashed up with a loaf of chocolate babka. Call it babka-inspired: It has chocolate filling and swirly layers, but no one is going to mistake it for the real thing.

And that’s fine, because it’s “breakfast” and mostly chocolate. This cake is moist and pretty, so what’s not to love.

We both brought leftovers to work (it’s a LOT of cake) and both sets of coworkers demolished it, which is the sign of a successful cake in our book.

So have your cake and eat it (for breakfast) too.

Chocolate Swirl Babka Coffee Cake

Adapted from Joy the Baker and Smitten Kitchen

Notes

We used the cake recipe from Joy the Baker but, not wanting to track down chocolate wafers, we swapped in the filling from Smitten Kitchen’s Better Chocolate Babka. We didn’t use streusel because the original doesn’t and Kitra, like a monster, doesn’t enjoy it but both coffee cakes and babka often include it. Should you want to add it, use whatever recipe you like best (it’s included in other recipes from both Joy and Deb) and sprinkle it generously on top of each chocolate layer and/or on top of the whole thing.

This recipe calls for 2 cups of sour cream; a 16-oz container of sour cream contains about 30 tablespoons, which will put you just shy. We used the entire container and didn’t find it lacking, but if you happen to have the extra 2 tablespoons accessible it will make the cake slightly more moist and delicious.

Ingredients

  • 9 oz dark chocolate, or approximately 1½ cups of chocolate chips
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (100g) powdered sugar
  • ⅔ cup (60g) cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups (500g) flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 (400g) cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups or 16 oz. sour cream (see note)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350° and butter and flour a bundt or tube pan (or coat it with baking spray).

First, make the filling. In a medium bowl, microwave butter and chocolate until melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Stir together until smooth, then mix in powdered sugar, cocoa, and cinnamon. Set the filling aside while you make the rest of the cake.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Add the softened butter and sugar to a separate large bowl and use an electric beater (or stand mixer) to beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until roughly combined between each, then add the vanilla.

Add half of the flour mixture and gently beat to combine. Repeat with all of the sour cream and then with the remaining half of the flour. Your batter will be quite thick, which is normal.

Scoop about 1½ cups of batter into the prepared pan and gently smooth it; no need to measure carefully here. Add several large dollops of chocolate (Joy says about ⅓ of a cup; Jordan says just eyeball it) and smooth that as well—we recommend using separate spoons for the chocolate and the batter so that you don’t mix them too much at this stage. Repeat until you’ve used up all of the batter and filling, ending with a layer of batter on top.

Bake for 70 to 80 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out free of batter. Let cool in the pan for at least half an hour before turning it out onto a cooling rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Almond Cupcakes with Raspberry Filling and Marzipan Buttercream

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Can I start with a rant about Valentine’s Day?

The floor is yours, m’lady.

I’ve long been a supporter of Valentine’s Day, even—or especially—for people who aren’t in a relationship. We as a society put so much emphasis on ~romance~ and finding “The One” and the idea that if you’re not coupled up, you’re somehow less than a full person. Which is, frankly, ridiculous. There are SO MANY WAYS to be a person and only some of them involve finding a single partner, falling in love with them, and spending the rest of your life together.

I suggested cupcakes this week because I think Valentine’s Day should be about all kinds of love. Love for your friends. Love for your family. Love for your cheerful next-door neighbor and for your coworker who shares memes with you on bad days and for your dog. (Just don’t give your dog cupcakes.)

When we were growing up, for Valentine’s Day the THING in our house was to make candy  to bring to school and share with your friends/teachers/whoever you wanted. And as the sister who has been single for literally every Valentine’s Day of her life, that’s my primary association with the day.

(Except that I tend to forget about actual Valentine’s Day, because February 14th is also the day that Oregon became a state and I’m very pumped about that every year. Happy Birthday Oregon!)

To me—and, I suspect, to Kitra too—there aren’t many better ways to show you care than by making something. I loved making handmade Valentines in elementary school, and when I was in college I would send Kitra Valentine’s Day care packages covered in stickers and filled with silly things.

And I love making cookies shaped like Oregon, and a banner… shaped like Oregon. But also yes, bringing food for my friends and laughing at whatever Jordan came up with that year.

These cupcakes are made to be shared, both because it’s Valentine’s Day and it’s nice to share things, but also because they’re delicious. We made this almond cake as a sheet cake back in the pre-blog days, and it’s just as good in a smaller form.

And because we love a good themed decoration, we added raspberries for taste and color. Even though nothing says love like sprinkles—the glitter of the food world—we went with crushed raspberries stenciled into hearts on top because hot damn it’s cute. And tasty.

The frosting is an almond buttercream, and it all works very well together. Make these cupcakes for whoever you love this week, or any week.

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Almond Cupcakes with Raspberry Filling and Marzipan Buttercream

Adapted from Food52, Genius Kitchen, and Molly Yeh

Makes 18 cupcakes

Notes

If you’re looking for a specific cupcake height, we recommend doing a test cupcake to figure out just how much batter you need in each. We filled these about ⅔ full for a relatively flat cake or ¾ full for a slightly domed cake.

We found that the frosting could be made entirely in a food processor, which is what we did here. If you think your food processor might be overheating, or if you have a very small one, you can follow Molly Yeh’s original directions and move to a mixer after you make the nut butter. If you don’t have a food processor at all (or if yours isn’t very powerful), you can try using store-bought almond butter (or, to keep the light color and cleaner taste, almond paste and a smaller amount of powdered sugar) and doing the whole thing in an electric mixer.

The frosting recipe will make more than you need (unless you are a VERY enthusiastic cupcake-froster) but a standard-sized food processor will have trouble making nut butter out of a smaller batch. If you have a small food processor, or are doing the whole thing in a mixer, feel free to make a two-thirds batch.

If you want to stencil hearts like we did, just cut a heart out of a piece of cardboard. Frost each cupcake with a very smooth layer of frosting, place the stencil on top, and dust crushed raspberries over top in as even a layer as possible. Remove the stencil very carefully so that you don’t dump the excess powder back on the cupcake.

Cupcakes

2 ¼ cups (270g) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ cup (1 stick, 4 oz) butter, at room temperature
1 ⅓ cups (267g) sugar
3 eggs
½ teaspoon almond extract
¾ cup milk
⅓ cup (35g) almond flour or meal

Preheat your oven to 350° and line a muffin pan with paper or foil liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour and baking powder and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well, followed by the almond extract.

Add ¼ cup of milk and mix to combine, followed by a third of the flour mixture; repeat until you’ve added all of the milk and flour and the batter is cohesive. Mix in the almond flour.

Fill each cupcake liner ⅔ to ¾ of the way with batter, smoothing the top of each with the back of a spoon. Bake cupcakes 20-22 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Once they are cool enough to handle, move cupcakes to a cooling rack to cool completely before filling and frosting.

Filling

6 oz (about 1 ½ cups) frozen raspberries
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup sugar

In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring and crushing raspberries with the back of your spoon or spatula to help them break them down. Cook until the sauce has thickened; it should thickly coat the back of a spoon, and when you scrape down the middle of the pan, you should see the bottom of the pan for a second or so before the sauce has a chance to fill back in. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature before filling cupcakes.

Frosting

1 cup (128g) blanched almonds
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups (480g) powdered sugar
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons almond extract
¼ cup heavy cream

Add almonds to a food processor and process on high until they become a soft, creamy nut butter, about 5 minutes. You’ll need to stop and scrape down the sides every so often.

Add butter to food processor and blend until the butter and almonds are smooth and well combined. Add powdered sugar in two batches, processing until smooth and creamy. Add salt, vanilla and almond extracts, and heavy cream and continue blending until the frosting is light and fluffy. You may need to but the frosting in the fridge for a few minutes at this point if it’s too soft to handle, but we didn’t find it to be unmanageable.

Assembly

Using a sharp paring knife, carefully cut a circle out of the top of each cupcake and set it aside. Use a small spoon (we used a ¾ teaspoon) to scoop out a bit of the center. You want the hole to go about halfway down and be about ¾ of an inch wide.

Use a small spoon or piping bag to fill the hole most of the way with raspberry filling and replace the cake circle you removed earlier. (This gives you an even surface to frost on.) Top with frosting and crushed freeze-dried raspberries, if desired.

Poppy Seed Orange Cake

Poppy seed cake with whipped cream and blood orangesJordan: Happy New Year!

Kitra: 2018 happened. It’s over. We’re moving on with cake.

Specifically, a lucky cake. Poppy seeds are considered lucky in Hungary, especially around New Year’s.

And when we briefly lived there, the holidays were marked by a Black Friday-esque battle for oranges at the grocery store.

Imagine, if you will, dozens of middle-aged eastern Europeans, swarming the aisles of Tesco to fill their carts to the brim with boxes and bags of oranges. We’re not exaggerating here; people would buy literal cartloads.

Every person you passed in the store had nothing but oranges in their cart.

To this day, all of my Googling has been unable to come up with an explanation for this surreal phenomenon. We’ll blame it on the Soviet Union, just like all of the rest of Hungary’s idiosyncrasies.

So we paired a documented Hungarian tradition with one we’re only mostly sure we didn’t dream.

Here’s hoping this cake brings you a bright, lucky, and only mildly perplexing 2019.


We also did some other things since we last posted!

While we may revisit some of these in later posts, we’ll share the links here now as a belated Christmas/Hanukkah gift to you and an apology for being gone so long.

Spiced Brown Sugar Pound Cake | We’ve had this bookmarked since it first went up on Shutterbean more than a year ago and recommend that you don’t wait nearly as long as we did to make it. It’s from Julia Turshen’s Feed the Resistance and it’s truly excellent.

Olive Oil Cake with Farmer’s Cheese Filling | We made this, as Alice Medrich suggests, as a Hanukkah cake but it was delicious and would be welcome all year round. We swapped farmer’s cheese for the creme fraiche in the filling, but suspect it would be great either way.

Thanksgiving (and pre-Thanksgiving) pies: Garam Masala Pear Pie, Sweet Potato Pie, and Orange Maple Walnut and Apple Chai pies, both from A Year of Pies.

Poppy seed orange cake, brown sugar bundt cake, three pies, and Hanukkah cake

Poppy Seed Orange Cake

Adapted, just slightly, from Food52

If you like poppy seeds, this cake has a lot going for it! It’s moist and light, gluten-free, and is interesting enough to serve for dessert but not so sweet that it can’t be breakfast or an afternoon snack. If you don’t like poppy seeds, then this is really not your cake.

We used orange in the batter, in keeping with the theme, but you could also use lemon (as in the original recipe). We top it here with a lightly sweetened whipped cream and fresh blood oranges, but it would also be good on its own or with a light icing.

We used a very small blood orange but have adjusted it here to use a regular one and increase the amount of orange flavor in the cake itself. We strongly recommend doing the almonds and poppy seeds by weight, so convert those to cups at your own risk.

Ingredients

¾ cup (150g) sugar
1 orange
5 eggs
1 tart apple, peeled and coarsely grated
7 oz (200g) almond flour/meal or an equal weight blanched almonds, processed until fine
7 oz (200g) poppy seeds
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
Lightly sweetened whipped cream and sliced oranges, for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Add sugar to a large bowl and zest the orange over top of the sugar. Use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar to help release the orange flavor.

Once you’ve zested it, cut your orange in half and juice one half into a small bowl. Toss the grated apple with the juice and set it all aside.

Separate your eggs. The whites should go into a clean large bowl, while the yolks can go on top of the orange sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat the whites until they reach soft peaks. Without bothering to wash the beaters, beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy.

Add the almond flour and poppy seeds to the egg yolk/sugar mixture and mix until well-combined. Mix in the grated apple (along with any juices in the bottom of the bowl), then the baking powder. Using a spatula, gently fold in the egg whites.

Bake for 40 minutes, until the top is golden and set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool fully before serving with whipped cream and sliced oranges.

Election Cake

election-cake-2

Kitra: Election Cakes are part of the largely forgotten American tradition of bribing people to participate in democracy. First it was politicians offering free booze outside of polling locations, then the country turned to cake. Women made massive batches of election cake and offered them as incentives to come to vote. And we’re not the only ones who did this. In Australia, it’s still a common practice to serve “democracy sausages” outside of polling sites.

Jordan: Kitra vaguely remembered that one of the early presidents once won an election by providing free booze at the polls. Turns out it was George Washington, who lost his first election in Virginia but won the second by spending his entire campaign budget on alcohol.

Speaking of presidents, our election cake inspiration came from an 1887 White House cookbook full of poison antidotes and cake recipes that seem to be missing most of their ingredients and all of their directions.

The full recipe for Election Cake:

Three cups milk, two cups sugar, one cup yeast; stir to a batter, and let stand over night; in the morning add two cups sugar, two cups butter, three eggs, half a nutmeg, one tablespoonful cinnamon, one pound raisins, a gill of brandy.

Brown sugar is much better than white for this kind of cake, and it is improved by dissolving a half-teaspoonful of soda in a tablespoonful of milk in the morning. It should stand in the greased pans and rise some time until quite light before baking.

That’s it. That’s the entire recipe.

Notice, no flour.

Four cups of sugar.

ONE CUP OF YEAST. YEAST!

How long does it bake for? What kind of pan? No one knows!

So obviously we had to make it. And also a safety cake with flour, instructions, and a very reasonable amount of yeast.

To reconstruct this cake, we started by assuming that it was wrong. Four cups of sugar and no flour sounded like a disaster, but two cups of flour and two of sugar might work. We decided that the first mention of sugar must have been a mistake and swapped it for flour. We also reduced the yeast significantly. We cut it in half to account for using active dry yeast rather than fresh yeast, then again for the advances in yeast effectiveness that have probably happened since 1887, then reduced it a bit more for good measure.

I just thought it should be a living buzoozle of yeast.

That felt like a bad idea. Also like a cup of yeast would be kind of expensive.

I wasn’t thinking a cup, but like, maybe a ¼ cup.

The actual process for this was pretty concerning. It turns out that adding a very liquidy batter, raisins, and brandy to creamed butter and sugar gives you… very liquidy butter and sugar with raisins and brandy. So we added a little bit of flour, threw it in the oven, and crossed our fingers.

Slice of rather squishy cake, with raisins
Our experimental late-1800s election cake.

You don’t need to butter this cake. This cake is ALL. BUTTER. My immediate reaction upon turning it out was “So greasy…”

In fact, testing it with a toothpick was very concerning because even though the cake still felt quite soft, the toothpick came out with nothing but butter on it.

A selection of our reactions to this cake upon trying it:

“What the hell is this?”

“It’s like we invented baked oatmeal, but without the oats.”

“It’s like we already made french toast out of the other cake.”

“This is bread pudding.”

And honestly? It’s not bad. It’s pretty good actually, just… not election cake.

It has potential, though. We’ll revisit it next time there’s an election. Until then, here’s a recipe that actually works… and, if you want it, our variation on the 1887 cake. We recommend you make the former.

Sliced election cake, with butter

 

Election Cake

Adapted slightly from Food52, where it was in turn adapted from I Hear America Cooking by Betty Fussell and American Cookery by Amelia Simmons

While we didn’t discuss it much, this version is a pretty good cake! (It’s the one in the first and last pictures in this post.) It’s closer to a bread, which makes it an excellent breakfast cake or afternoon snack. It’s great on its own or with a bit of butter. Fair warning that the alcohol doesn’t cook all the way off, which also makes it a good way to drown any election-related sorrows you might have without looking like an alcoholic.

Our only real change was to use brown sugar instead of white, because “brown sugar is much better than white for this kind of cake.” This recipe is supposed to be made in two smaller 8”x3” loaf pans; we used foil 8”x4” pans. A 9”x5” pan would likely just hold it, maybe with a couple of muffins or a mini-loaf left over. We also found that the recommended 2-3 hour rise time was longer than necessary and have shortened it here.

Ingredients

½ cup warm milk (100° to 115°)
1 packet (2 ¼ tsp) active dry yeast
1 cup (120g) flour
1 T molasses
1 ½ c (8 oz) raisins; we used a mix of golden and regular
¼ c sweet fortified wine; the original recipe calls for Madeira or sweet sherry, but we used white port
¼ c brandy
2 ½ c (300g)flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp salt
1 c (100g) toasted and chopped pecans
1 c (2 sticks, 8 oz) unsalted butter, softened
⅔ c brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature

Directions

Combine the raisins, wine, and brandy in a bowl and let soak while you make the rest of the cake.

Next, make the sponge. In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, combine the yeast and milk. Add 1 cup flour to a medium bowl and pour the milk/yeast mixture over top. Add the molasses and stir with a silicone spatula until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap until doubled, 1 to 2 hours.

Once the sponge has doubled, preheat your oven to 350° and line two 8″x3″ pans with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon, coriander, allspice, salt, and pecans.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream butter and brown sugar until light and fairly fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to combine between each. Scrape down the bowl, then add the sponge (the yeast mixture) and mix until fully combined.

Add the flour mixture and mix on low until just roughly combined, then add the raisins and any alcohol they haven’t soaked up and mix until fully combined. (This last step may be easier with a spatula.)

Divide dough into prepared pans and bake for approximately 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve warm, with butter.


“Election Cake”

Adapted, liberally, from the 1887 edition of the White House Cookbook

1.5 packets (just over a tablespoon) active dry yeast
1 ½ cup milk, warm (100° to 115°)
1 cup (120g) flour
1 cup (200g) brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks, 8 oz.) butter, softened
2 eggs
¼ of a whole nutmeg, grated (or 1 tsp ground nutmeg, if you must)
½ T cinnamon
½ cup (60g) flour
¼ cup brandy
1 ½ cups (8 oz) raisins; we used a mix of golden and regular
1 cup (100g) toasted and chopped pecans, walnuts, or a mix

First, make the sponge. In a medium bowl, whisk together yeast, milk, and 1 cup flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for about 2 hours.

Once 2 hours have passed, preheat the oven to 350°.

In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter and sugar until combined and creamy. Add eggs one at a time and beat until combined. Add the nutmeg and cinnamon.

Add the brandy, sponge, and flour and stir as best as possible using a silicone spatula. Stir in nuts and raisins, and pour into a 9”x5” loaf pan. It will come fairly close to the top, but don’t worry, as it doesn’t rise much in the oven.

Bake for approximately 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out free of batter. Let cool most of the way in the pan before serving.