It’s daunting trying to come up with birthday cakes to satisfy a whole country, but I think I have three options today that cover all the bases.
with cream cheese icing
Here’s the alternative for people who don’t want a traditional layer cake for their birthdays — a tiny bit of work but well worth the trouble. The pineapple adds a moist, sweet note but the cake doesn’t taste like fruit. The frosting is tangy and creamy, perfect for those hard-core cream cheese lovers. Feel free to stir in a cup of raisins or chopped nuts if that appeals to you.
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1-1/4 cups vegetable oil
3 cups finely grated carrot, pressed lightly into the measuring cup but not tightly packed
1 cup crushed pineapple, taken out of the can with a slotted spoon but not strained until dry
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. each ground allspice, nutmeg and cardamom
Cream Cheese Icing:
1 8-oz. package and 1 3-oz. package softened cream cheese
1/2 cup soft unsalted butter
2-1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
2 tsp. vanilla
Beat sugars and oil until light and creamy — it won’t be fluffy like sugar and butter would be. Beat in eggs then stir in carrot and pineapple. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cardamom and stir all at once into creamed mixture. Pour into two greased and floured nine-inch cake pans and bake at 350 F for 45 minutes or until a tester in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely in the pans.
For the icing, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add icing sugar and vanilla and beat on high speed until smooth and completely combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl often.
To assemble the cake, place one layer on a serving plate, flat side up. Top with a generous amount of icing. Place second layer, also flat side up, on top and frost the top and sides generously with remaining icing.
Chocolate layer cake
with whipped chocolate frosting
If you are a novice in the kitchen but want to take one step past a cake mix for a special birthday celebration, then this recipe is for you. It’s the best one-bowl cake recipe you will ever use. If you’d rather a buttercream style icing, then by all means, go for it, but this creamy, mousse-like frosting, served chilled with an icy drink, is perfect on a summer holiday. If you have instant espresso powder in your cupboard this is the time to use it. One more thing: unsalted butter is definitely better in this recipe, but if you use salted butter or margarine, cut the salt in half.
2 cups flour
1-2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup cocoa
1 tbsp. instant coffee granules or powder
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup softened unsalted butter (must be quite soft)
1-1/3 cups water
1 tbsp. vanilla
3 cups whipping cream
16 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, instant coffee, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the middle and add butter, eggs, water and vanilla. Beat four minutes or until smooth and thick. Pour into two greased and floured nine-inch round cake pans and bake at 350 F for 30 minutes or until the cake is pulling away from the sides of the pans and a tester in the middle comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in the pans then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. For the frosting, bring whipping cream almost to a boil in the microwave or on top of the stove — watch out because it boils over quickly. Pour all at once over chopped chocolate and stir gently until melted and smooth. Refrigerate two hours — it should be like chocolate pudding. Beat on high speed to a light, fluffy consistency. Spread between cake layers and all over top and sides just before serving. Refrigerate any leftovers.
Easy coconut cake
And finally, here’s the cheat. This could not possibly be easier to make. Opt for light coconut milk because you don’t need any of the solid layer that rests on top of the full-fat variety. Add whatever is left in the can to a curry dish or freeze for your next occasion.
You didn’t hear this from me, but if you stir one cup sweetened flaked coconut and 1/2 tsp. each vanilla and coconut extract into a can of store-bought icing instead of making your own, it would be almost as delicious.
1 2-layer white cake mix
1-1/4 cups canned light coconut milk (liquid only — don’t use the solids if there are any in the can)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup soft butter
2 cups icing sugar
2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. coconut extract (optional but really good)
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut (plus more for garnish)
Beat cake mix, eggs, coconut milk and oil about three minutes or until creamy and smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl often. Pour into a greased 9” x 13-inch baking dish. Bake at 350 F about 35 minutes or until a tester in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan. For the icing, beat butter and sugar to form a stiff, pasty mixture. Beat in milk, vanilla and coconut extract on low speed until combined, then on high until mixture is fluffy and smooth. Stir in coconut and spread on top of cake. Sprinkle on a little more of the coconut and serve. If you really want to tart things up, toast the coconut in the oven for a few minutes until golden brown before garnishing the cake.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram,
P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, N.L., A1E 4N1.