Confession: Baking cakes sort of terrifies me because I don’t get to taste-test the finished product before EVERYONE taste-tests (or I guess just tastes) the finished product. Eep! I also don’t have any go-to cake recipes (other than Ina’s Coconut Cake), so every time I bake a cake I go through a cycle of panic, anxiety, and let’s-just-cancel-the-party. It’s really lovely.
Brett and I planned to have friends over for drinks and cake to celebrate his birthday. I’ve somehow gotten out of making Brett a birthday cake the past two years — I substituted homemade chipwiches once, and a donut cake at last year’s brunch party, but the time had come — Brett needed a birthday cake! During part of my panic cycle, I asked if I could make a cheesecake instead (for some reason that seemed less daunting, even though I’ve never made one), but he said he preferred cake… and whatever the birthday boy wants, the birthday boy gets, so cake it was.
(And those same New Year’s sugar cookies too, because a) I had some Brett-themed cookie cutters that I’d been waiting to use, b) in case the cake was a disaster, I’d at least have cookies, and c) cookies are delicious! Some pictures below, because they turned out to be pretty stinking adorable.)
I decided to try Smitten Kitchen’s “Best Birthday Cake” – figured with a name like that, it had to be good. And it was! I think I overcooked it by just a few minutes, and might double the vanilla extract next time but! there will definitely be a next time, which is a good sign for the future of me and cakes.
I didn’t alter the recipe at all, so you can find it here. A quick note, though: I had a bit of trouble with the frosting the first time around — I didn’t wait for the sour cream to warm up OR for the chocolate to cool down, so my “frosting” was just chunks of chocolate in sour cream, and I threw it out. Don’t worry, one meltdown and one trip to the grocery store later, I tried again. The second time, I poured myself a drink while I waited for the sour cream to come to room temperature (and even put it close to the fireplace at one point – ha!), and I also let the chocolate cool down before I added it. The whole “pour slowly, stir quickly” confused me, so the second time I had Brett pour the chocolate in slowly, while I stirred quickly… not sure how else you accomplish this one : )
So, Happy Birthday Brett! I love you so much and I am so happy every day that you are my bean.