Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Taking My Chances: Striped Birthday Cake

I've entered my first-ever baking contest (well, excluding that 4th grade chocolate chip cake I made for a day camp baking contest, the first cake I ever made, which actually earned a blue ribbon!).  As an AAB (amateur adult baker) I've never taken a chance on putting my recipes up against anyone else's, until now.  A friend sent me a link to The Today Show's "Best Birthday Cake" contest, suggested I enter, and I decided it was time to throw my spatula into the ring.  The rules are simple, and at the same time, not, requiring one original recipe and one photo.  Starting tomorrow, June 14th, finalists are chosen based on recipe, taste, and originality.  The winner will go to The Big Apple June 27th and 28th.  I thought, "What the heck? I've got nothing to lose." and started thinking about what a "best" birthday cake could be.  It seemed a classic cake would be perfect, so I decided on an 8" round, 2-layer cake.  I can imagine that size with a ring of birthday candles just waiting to be wished upon and blown out.  Then the recipe - how do you come up with an original recipe, one that no one has ever made before?  Well, I did it, but wasn't sure my experiment would be up to snuff.  It had to be tested out with real subjects.  Since I bake almost every Sunday for my son-in-law Bill's co-workers (he brings the goodies with him to work Monday mornings), I figured them to be my perfect taste-testers.  So instead of the typical muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls, or coffee cake, this week they were treated to the Striped Birthday Cake, and it wasn't long before the reviews came in:  thumbs up all around.  No suggestions to change a thing.  They even wrote their reactions on the company white board!

Bill (real name "Millard") sent me this photo of
his co-workers' reactions to the cake!

Newly confident that the recipe was good, last night it was submitted on-line, as instructed.  There are no contest rules about not sharing the recipe, so I am posting it for you here.  It's simpler than it looks.  If you read through the recipe once or twice before you make this cake, it will seem even easier.  I hope you make this cake, and enjoy it, and even if The Today Show doesn't choose it, the Striped Birthday Cake may earn you your own "Best Birthday Cake" award!

Oven 350 degrees F
Prepare two 8-inch round pans:  grease and flour or spray with cooking spray and line with waxed paper rounds.

In bowl, combine dry ingredients:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Set aside.

In large mixing bowl, beat:
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup sugar

Add 2 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add 1 cup sour cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Mix well.

Add 1/4 cup buttermilk (or 1/4 milk soured with 1 tsp. vinegar. let sit 5 min.)
Mix well.

Add dry ingredients and beat until smooth, scraping sides as necessary, about 2 minutes.  Divide batter in half, placing half the batter in one 8-inch round pan.

To the remaining batter in the bowl, add:
1/2 cup cocoa powder
4 tablespoons brewed coffee
Mix completely and spread the chocolate batter in the other 8-inch round pan.

Bake for 28 minutes or until cake tests done, springing back in the center when lightly pressed.

Cool layers in pans on rack for 15 minutes.  Remove from pans and cool completely.

Freeze layers for an hour or more, and when frozen, with serrated knife, remove any domes from layers to even them out.  Then, with same knife, split layers horizontally in half.  Insert the knife half way up and rotate the layer as you move in with the knife.

Place first layer on serving platter.  Spread with 1/3 of the cream cheese filling.  Alternate dark and light layers, with cream cheese filling between 2nd and third layers as well.  The top layer will be frosted with chocolate frosting, as will the sides.  Here are the filling and frosting recipes:

Cream Cheese Filling:
4 ounces cream cheese
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat cream cheese with confectioners sugar, add vanilla extract, and then just enough milk to make it creamy and spreadable (a tablespoon at a time).

Chocolate Frosting:
4 ounces unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 lbs. confectioners sugar
1/2 cup brewed coffee
up to 1/2 cup milk, more if necessary

Melt butter in microwave.  Place butter in mixing bowl and add cocoa powder, vegetable shortening, vanilla,  and salt.

Add all of the confectioners sugar to bowl,  Very slowly, start mixing together, adding brewed coffee slowly as you mix, then add up to 1/2 cup milk and beat very well (adding more milk, a tiny bit at a time, until the frosting is smooth and spreadable).  Don't add too much liquid.  You can always add a bit more if you need it, but you can never take it out.  You want a nice, thick, but spreadable frosting.

Frost top of cake and then sides.  If desired, add a border or rosettes to the top of the cake with left-over frosting (you'll have a lot).  To make it a true party cake, add sprinkles around the bottom and top edges of the cake.

Now, celebrate!

Taa Daa!!!!  


  1. LOVE that you entered this! Congrats on giving it a shot!! :) My fingers are crossed for you! And also, this looks like an awesome birthday cake. I'd vote for it. ;)

  2. Oh I love cream cheese filling in a cake .I think you have a winner. A blue ribbon once again! and a trip to NYC......keeping all fingers and toes crossed Cindy June

  3. Classic with a twist...sounds like an absolute winner to me! Crossing my fingers and toes (and wondering how I get to be a judge for a contest like this)??!!

  4. Sounds delish! Fingers crossed!!!

  5. Good for you for having the confidence to go for this. As you know your cakes are favorites in my family and you have been a part of many of our special celebrations.

    I wish you luck. In our minds, no one holds a candle to you when it comes to cake baking. May your ribbon cake win the blue ribbon!

  6. Good luck Aunt Jeanne!! Sounds and looks fantastic :o)

  7. Heard anything yet? Keep us posted! I think you should win!!! Lynnie

  8. It looks does everything you bake! Best of luck!

  9. That looks like THE perfect Birthday cake to me! I love chocolate frosting and I almost never make it.