Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Classic Birthday Cake for James

It is a family tradition for me to make any cake (within reason and realism) requested by a family member for their birthday. For Sophia, last year, it was a peanut butter-and-jelly cake decorated with pink flowers. And, Brian chose a Boston Cream Pie for his birthday last year. Since James can't make his requests known yet, I decided to go with a classic: a tender-crumbed yellow layer cake with semisweet chocolate frosting and a classic message piped in blue icing! As you will see below, James was very pleased with the results.

Moist Yellow Cake
adapted to suit 9'' cake pans, from The Well-Decorated Cake by Toba Garrett 

3 c. flour

1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 c. sugar
5 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 c. buttermilk or sour milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9'' round cake pans. Line pans with parchment paper rounds and butter rounds. Flour pans, knocking out excess. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Cut up the butter into 1-inch pieces and in bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat for 3 minutes on medium-high speed until the butter is light and creamy in color. Stop and scrape the bowl. Cream the butter for an additional 60 seconds. Add the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each, and scraping bowl down with each addition.
  4. Reduce the mixer speed. Stir vanilla into the buttermilk. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. Mix just until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.
  5. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a knife. Lift up the pan with the batter, and let it drop onto the counter top to burst any air bubbles, allowing the batter to settle.
  6. Center the pans onto the lower third of the oven and let bake 40 minutes or until the cake is lightly brown on top and comes away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool completely in pans on cooling racks.

Chocolate Frosting
taken from Williams-Sonoma Kids Baking by Abigail Johnson Dodge

1 1/2 c. chocolate chips

4 T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
2 1/2 c. confectioners' sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
2 T heavy cream

  1. Melt the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water in a saucepan, stirring often with a wooden spoon until smooth, about 4 minutes. Turn off the heat. Using oven mitts, remove the bowl and set aside to let the chocolate cool slightly.
  2. In a bowl, using the electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium-low speed until the mixture is smooth and no lumps remain. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl with the rubber spatula. Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla and salt, and beat on low speed until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Add the chocolate and cream and beat on low until well blended. Frost and decorate the cake as desired.
* Apple Cider Mama's Tip: Set aside a portion of the frosting before step three. Dye it whatever color you like (I used Wilton Delphinium Blue for James' cake) and use it to pipe a message or decorative border on the cake. You may need to thicken this mixture with a little more confectioners sugar or lighten it with additional whipped heavy cream to get it to pipe properly.


  1. He looks so small in that chair! Oh mister james! Hope you had a wonderful time! Looks good!

  2. Your cake looks delicious! Sugar Plum's Cake tasted okay yesterday, but it looked absolutely horrible! Some of it stuck in the bundt pan. So frustrating!

  3. What concentration as he experiences the full sensory joy of sweetness. Happy first birthday, my sweet baby James! Love, Grammie (oh, great looking cake!)

  4. beautiful cake---and James certainly looks to have enjoyed it! Thank you for sharing the recipe, I have tried your moist chocolate cake and Hungarian coffee cake with great results, so I look forward to trying this one as well! Any other tips on celebrating simply and meaningfully for birthdays and other holidays would be wonderful! (I am anonymous that asked about how you celebrated yesterday, just forgot to sign my name!) Glad to see James had a happy first birthday--he looks precious enjoying his cake! Blessings to you all, Holly Norris

  5. How cute!! It looks like he's trying to see exactly how much he can fit in his mouth at once!! Soooo sweet!

    Don't they grow sooo fast?! Can hardly believe my little one will be doing the same thing in 4 short months.

  6. The last picture of James is so, so, so cute!! And the cake looks delicious! :)


  7. It looks like you had excellent results! Happy Birthday, James, and Happy Birth Day, Apple Cider Mama! Enjoy!

  8. Bethany,

    I think that it's neat that you make a special cake for your family members. I'm sure this is much more pleasurable than buying a store bought cake. :)

    Anyway, I think I am going to try this cake. I'm not really a"cake maker" but this one looks good. I mean, your little angel Jame sure enjoyed it. What further proof do I need? :)

    ~Mrs. Lady Sofia~

  9. Soooo cute! (both cake and child♥)


Hello! I'm so glad that you have come here to share your heart and thoughts. One quick word from me before you comment:

I ask all visitors to respect this as a place of peace. Disagreements are welcome, but please refrain from posting any ungracious comments. Thank you, and God bless.