Anyone who knows me knows I like birthdays. A lot. A lot as in this might be a bit unhealthy for a twenty-something like myself. In general, I have a countdown going about three months out for mine, and I always get a DQ ice cream cake (the crunchy cookie in the middle keeps me coming back). Yes, I know, I love to bake. However, baking my own birthday cake is not top on my list. Eating a mediocre one someone else made for me is right behind it (because you know how picky I am). For my special day, I go with DQ.
My birthday falls in the summer, so in grade school I never got to bring in treats on my birthday. We weren't in session and most of my friends were on vacation. Heck, I was almost always on vacation. Because my mom is awesome, she had me celebrate in school on my half birthday. For her this meant THREE of her children bringing in birthday (and in my case, half-birthday) treats within two weeks of each other. Poor Mama Fierce. This is probably why I distinctly remember bringing in jello-jigglers (red ones). I'm not sure what grade I was in (though it probably fell around Jell-O 1-2-3's market dominance). I remember the coolness of the squares and how they left my hands a little red after I played with them for a while. Mom probably walked them the two blocks to the school during lunchtime, carrying them on that plaid lucite tray we all loved. Hey mom, if you're reading (because we know you're our biggest fan) let us know if that was just one instance or multiple.
Birthdays are so special because it's your very own holiday... one you don't have to share with any of your three siblings. Besides, I'm a Leo, so of course its all about me to begin with. How could a birthday not be fun?
A few things pointed me to the cupcake last week. After getting accosted at work by my coworker thinking my foil-wrapped lunch (pizza) was Valentine's day baked goods (she was so excited, I felt bad letting her down), I said I'd bring in something later in the week. Then I realized two of my coworkers have birthdays coming up. All signs pointed toward "bake."
My workplace is very unlike that of my sister's. There is no conference room in which to take unflattering photographs of cake on paper plates. The pace is too quick and work is too independent to gather my co workers together, light candles and sing songs. Sit down and eat a piece of cake? No time for that, either. Not that I want to make a cake for 40 people. The obvious choice was mini-cupcakes. I left them in the one room we all have to be in at some point in the day (a room that can't comfortably fit more than three people, only two of whom can sit), and left a note that one should be eaten per employee. When you're baking for that size crowd, it's the only economical option. Luckily, I had a few more than that at home during the process (you know, just to make sure they were good). Read on after the jump for the cutest little cupcake ever ...
These were hands down the lightest cakes I have ever made. I mean, ever. These things are amazing. Because you can't spell Fierce without pie (there is a silent P in there, right after the F), I have always preferred a pie to a cake, but these little guys are giving pie and all its flaky fruity goodness a run for its money. The one thing I did differently this time? I weighed my ingredients, gram for gram (if you're curious, I used the ounce measurements below). And I set a timer. When the recipe said to beat each egg for a minute after adding it, I hit start and waited. I followed that thing to a T. It certainly paid off here. Mini-cupcakes are my favorite because they're easy to eat. Its a one-bite stop. I even only just threw out the extra 6" cake I left unfrosted (sacrilege, I know) because I never got around to it. And two weeks later? After being in a tupperware? It was still springy to the touch. This cake is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Devil's Food Cake from Williams-Sonoma: Mastering Cakes, Fillings, and Frostings
unsalted butter, flour for preparing pans (if you do not make cupcakes)
2 1/4 cup (9oz/280g) cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8oz/250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (7 oz/220g) firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup (6oz/185g) granulated sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 oz (125g) unsweetened chocolate, chopped and melted
1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
Preheat oven and prepare pan. You will want to use two 9" round layer cake pans. Or, if you're me, 48 mini cupcakes, 6 regular cupcakes, a 3x5" loaf pan, and a 6" round pan. Set the rack in the middle of the oven, with the temperature at 350.
Sift the dry ingredients. Suspend a fine-mesh sieve over a small bowl and add the flour, baking soda, and salt. Lightly tap the rim of the sieve to encourage the ingredients to pass into the bowl. Set aside.
Make the batter:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and both sugars.Beat on medium speed until the mixture is light and airy and lightens in color, about two minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for one minute after each egg. After all the eggs have been added, add the vanilla extract and beat 1 minute longer. Ad the melted chocolate and mix on medium speed until the batter is a uniform color. Reduce mixer speed to low. Add dry ingredients in 3 batches, alternately with the buttermilk in two batches, beginning and ending with dry ingredients and mixing each time until it is incorporated.
Bake, unmold, and cool the cakes.
Pour the batter into prepared pans and smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake for 30 minutes (my mini-ones baked about 15 minutes, just until the top had set). Once a tester inserted in the center of your cake comes out clean, take out and let cool on wire racks for 15 minutes. Invert cakes, removing them from baking pans and let cool about 45 minutes longer.
Use or store cakes.
My mish-mash frosting:
This frosted the 48 mini and 6 regular sized cupcakes. I did not have any left over. I would increase it by double or use your own favorite frosting for these.
10 tablespoons butter
4 oz cream cheese
3 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon buttermilk
First, I sifted together 2 cups of confectioners sugar with the cocoa powder. Then I beat the butter and cream cheese together, adding the cocoa mixture to it. Then I added the vanilla, a little more confectioners sugar, and finally a splash of buttermilk to bring it back to frosting consistency. To pipe the adorable starburst-ribbon-like patterns, I used a #7 wilton.