A bittersweet birthday cake anyone can make

Birthday cake for my kids' birthday
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I take baked goods very seriously.  I’m not always very good at chemistry, or measuring or even following directions very well, so I truly appreciate how magical it is when a bunch of ingredients come together in an oven and make something spectacular like a birthday cake. I know birthday cakes are special and every year I try and make a cake for my kids for their birthday and every year I buy a back-up cake just in case my birthday cake doesn’t turn out.

Trophy cupcakes fancy cupcake

I was really lucky this year because Trophy Cupcakes had a coupon special around my guys’ birthday and I was able to pick them up some over-the-top cupcakes for their day.  I loved the way these cupcakes were packaged-it was easy to transport them up to the cabin and they survived perfectly.  My kids loved all the fun candies on top of these cupcakes-their usual favorite is the triple chocolate and they loved these ones just as much.

Fancy cupcakes from trophy cupcakes in Seattle

I also decided to make a chocolate cake to eat with family.  I used a recipe from Add a Pinch and the only thing I changed was that I had Nespresso not espresso powder, so I made a shot and added boiling water until I got the cup of water that the recipe called for.  Other than that, I managed to get everything measured and mixed and dumped into pans to start the baking process.

Everything was going perfectly until my husband peeked into the oven.

“Is your cake supposed to be boiling over like that?”

Birthday cake disaster

It turns out that I forgot to check what size pans to bake the cake in and the ones I used were far too small.  And for the record, cakes do not “boil over” and evaporate. Unbaked cakes ooze up and over the sides of pans like lava and keep oozing until they harden into a concrete-like substance wherever that ooze decides to fall.  Thankfully I’ve learned from past experience so I always keep a baking sheet under anything I make in the oven.  And one good thing about having cake turn out like this is that because it looks like a disaster, you can’t tell if you sample a taste: this chocolate cake recipe was moist, rich and delicious.  The coffee enhances the chocolate flavor perfectly and I will definitely make this recipe again.

Birthday cake disaster

Making ganache for birthday cake

I’ve also learned that frosting is something magical that can fix anything-it’s like makeup for cakes.  I whipped up Savory Sweet Life’s buttercream recipe and Ina Garten’s ganache recipe which were both unbelievably easy to make.  I took the two uneven and broken cake layers and sandwiched them together using a mix of whip cream, yogurt and raspberries.  I used the buttercream to make a ‘crumb coat’ and then I put the whole thing in the fridge to rest a while. Then I drizzled the ganache on top and especially on places where uneven cake was peeking out.

And voila.  This lop-sided, near-disaster attempt at birthday cake is like my past 9 years with my guys; filled with love and full of try.  My guys are 9 and they’re starting to understand the world a whole lot more than they did when they were 1, 2 and 3.  They’re going to figure out pretty soon that half the time I have no idea what I’m doing as a parent and I’m figuring out that half the time it’s the recipe, ingredients and frosting that help make things okay.  I have no idea how all this time has slipped by so quickly and how these years that feel like minutes have disappeared into memories that are thankfully preserved on my photo wall and in the abyss of the thousands of pictures on my phone.  Baby faces have grown into the silhouettes of young men and shoes lined up at the door are nearly as big as mine.  I have no idea what the next years bring, but the years behind have let me know to keep a baking sheet under the messes that might happen and that everything usually turns out all right in the end.  (Happy birthday my sweet boys-I’m so lucky to be your mama.)

Flowers from Mercer Island Florist and Bloom Nation to go with my Birthday CakeFlowers from Mercer Island Florist and Bloom Nation

(PS. The flowers in the picture are the sweetest thing ever.  I was sent a bouquet from Bloom Nation who uses a local florist Mercer Island Florist as one of its vendors.  This exquisite creation was for ME for my kids’ birthday.  I can’t imagine a better gift for a mom on a day like this and I might start a tradition of sending myself flowers on my kids’ birthday, especially as they get older…..thank you Bloom Nation!)

(PPS. Seriously, if I can make the above recipes they are practically fool-proof…do you make cake or do you prefer store-bought?  Have you ever had a birthday cake disaster that turned out okay in the end?)


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