Category Archives: birthday

90 Years of Cake.


This past weekend, I attended a birthday party for my Aunt, who is turning 90 (how awesome is that???). I was tasked with baking her a cake. As you know, I love baking cakes, so I was thrilled to get a chance to do it. At the same time, I was a little nervous. Here was a woman who in her prime was an amazing baker herself (she’s the one that gave me all the baking pans, including the infamous Lamb Pan), and she has had 89 other cakes to compare this one to. I had two pieces of knowledge that could give me an edge over at least some of the previous cakes – I knew she loved chocolate, and that her favorite color was purple. So, I went with that, and here’s what happened.

90th cake

Because the cake was for a party, it was kind of big (a half sheet cake). We had to clear out the entire bottom row of our fridge to make a space for it!

that's one big cake.

that’s one big cake.

I did have a lot of fun making all the flowers though. First, I mixed the icing until I came up with the perfect shade of purple.

and it was all...purple.

and it was all…purple.

Then, I started piping flowers. As I went along, I mixed in some plain white, so they wound up being varying shades.



My aunt loved it. I really don’t know how it stood against the 89 other cakes, but really, that doesn’t matter. She loved this one, and she was happy on that day. And that’s really what life’s all about, whether you’re 90, or 38. :)


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Two Cookie Cakes, One Recipe.

I’m all about saving time and reducing waste. So last week, when I realized I had to make not one, but two cakes for two entirely separate events, I started thinking of ways I could somehow lessen the work and the waste, while still pleasing both cake recipients. Event #1 was my anniversary; the recipient of this cake being my boyfriend. Now at first I thought maybe I would just make him a batch of cookies – he absolutely adores my chocolate chip cookies. Event #2 was my dad’s birthday; the recipient of this cake being (obviously) my dad. My dad is not a dessert fan, but he does have a few things he enjoys – gingerbread, lady fingers, cookies.. COOKIES! There was the common thread. But I had really wanted to make my dad an actual cake that I could write on….COOKIE CAKES! And so it was written.

My standard chocolate chip cookie recipe made two cookie cakes – one 10″  and one 8″. As they cooled, I started mixing up some colors for the decorating portion of tonight’s show.

the colors of the wind (or icing).

the colors of the wind (or icing).

I decided to use the larger cake for the anniversary, for two reasons: 1. like I said, my dad doesn’t eat too many sweets, and 2. I wanted to eat some too. I went with the blue theme for this one.

i guess that's why they call it the blues.

i guess that’s why they call it the blues.

I went with a complimentary dark purple for accents and writing.



Don’t for a second think that I wasn’t thinking ahead here. For my dad’s cake, I chose light yellow.

they call me mellow yellow.

they call me mellow yellow.

Which also looks great with a dark purple.

purple planning.

purple planning.

Both cakes were a hit! My boyfriend liked his so much, he ate a piece for breakfast.

the breakfast of champions.

the breakfast of champions.

And then asked me to marry him. :)

must've been something in the cake...

must’ve been something in the cake…

I guess it’s true what the say about the way to a man’s heart. ;)



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The Making of a Birthday Cake: One Cake’s Story on How it Became a Birthday Sensation.


So, I made a birthday cake for my mom – her birthday was yesterday. As I was making it, i took a ton of photos and documented it’s progress from generic un-decorated cake layers, to celebrated birthday star. Here is one cake’s journey, in photos, from average unknown plain jane, to birthday stardom.

Stage 1: assemble the layers.


Top one layer with buttercream, spread it out evenly, and place the other layer on top.


Stage 2: Ice the entire cake.


Smooth it out, but be sure to save some icing to color for decorating.


Stage 3: adding shell border and flowers.


Color your icing as you see fit. I chose a kind of mauve-y tone for the flowers and border, and a light green for the leaves.


Stage 4: Personalize.


This cake was for my mom, so I added the appropriate message.


Stage 5: eat and enjoy!!


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More Fun With Chocolate Pumpkin…

pumpkin cake

I was so pleased with how the Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins turned out, that I decided to use the same recipe to make a birthday cake for a friend (minus the cream cheese filling). I made a small 6 inch cake, cut into two layers, and iced it with a chocolate buttercream. I went extra light on the chocolate in the main icing, and used a more chocolate-y darker icing for the piping details to make them stand out, giving it that kind of two-tone effect.

it's deeper shade brown.  yeah, yeah.

it’s deeper shade of brown. yeah, yeah.

Being that the cake was, in fact, made with pumpkin, I thought I’d add some pumpkin-themed decorations as well. So I crafted a small pumpkin out of fondant, and surrounded it with fondant leaves in fall colors. I forgot just how much I love playing with fondant…it’s like edible Play-Doh. I guess in theory, actual Play-Doh is edible. At least, I think most kids have eaten it at some point. But either way, it’s not as tasty as fondant.

fall fondant fun.

fall fondant fun.

So, The cake turned out pretty close to the way I had envisioned, and I proudly presented it to my friend on his special day. And then we cut it, ate it, and lived happily ever after (for at least the rest of the day).


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Celebrate with Eggless Coffee Cake.

coffee cake4

So, around my office, I’m kinda known as the dessert queen – and I’m ok with that. I’m always testing out new creations on my very-willing-to-be-taste-testing coworkers, and they always give me honest feedback, so it’s a win-win. I’m also always making the goodies when someone’s birthday rolls around. Well last week, someone in my office conveniently “forgot” to tell anyone that it was his birthday, until we found out accidentally later that afternoon (when the HR rep delivered his birthday card in front of all of us – ha ha). But no one gets off that easy. I decided that I would whip up a quick better-late-than-never birthday cake that night, and surprise him the next morning.

I flipped through my recipe binder, and decided a small coffee cake would be perfect. I had all the ingredients (so I thought) and I even had some leftover cinnamon chips that would be an excellent addition to the batter. I started going to work. Three ingredients in and I suddenly realized – I was all out of eggs. Yikes. I really didn’t feel like running out and getting them – I already started the whole cake making process!

running on empty.

running on empty.

But then, I had an idea. I’ve made vegan cakes in the past, and they sometimes use white vinegar in place of eggs. I did have white vinegar, so I figured, what the heck, I’ll give it a tray. I guesstimated that two tablespoons of vinegar per egg would be sufficient. I definitely didn’t want to go too heavy on the vinegar and wind up with an overpoweringly gross vinegar cake.


my hero.

Well, once again, those two years of pastry school paid off – the cake was delicious – I dare say even better with the vinegar!

eggless and proud of it.

eggless and proud of it.

I guess it’s true what they say – never settle for the same old cake.  (Ok so no one really ever said that. But it does seem to be true.) Change really can be a good thing, my friends. Even good ol’ eggs can be replaced by something better, if you look around a bit. :)


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Cake of the Living Dead.

My friend recently had a birthday, and I wanted to make him a cake – not just your everyday cake either. This is a friend I’ve known for quite some time, and who is fully aware of what I can do in the kitchen. So, I couldn’t just slap something together and call it his birthday cake – no – this cake needed to be….different. It also needed to be personal. I wanted it to be something that reflected my friend’s interests…something that he’d cherish always, and think back on for years to come. “Remember when you made me that awesome blah blah blah cake in 2013? Best. Cake. Ever.” Yeah, I wanted him to be able to say that. I wanted him to look at this cake and feel like he was looking in a confectionery mirror of his own life…

the baking dead.

the baking dead.

Yep. It’s a zombie cake. Not only is there a zombie on top of the cake, but the cake itself is strawberry – so it’s like you’re taking a bite of mushy brains – just like a zombie would.

cake or brains?

cake or brains?

My friend loved the cake, and I do believe it will be one he’ll always remember. After all, not many people can say they ate a zombie.


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Shimmy, Shimmy, Coconut Cake (with Lemon Buttercream).


My Mom’s birthday recently passed (she share’s her special day with Abraham Lincoln, as a matter of fact), and of course I did what I do best, and baked her a birthday cake. Last summer, I had made a Lemon Coconut Cake that she was particularly fond of, and went as far as saying that I should make that cake for her. So…that’s just what i did. I used my recipe for the cake (you can find it here), but I did something a little different for the frosting this time. Instead of using lemon juice or real lemons, I used lemon extract. I know, it sounds like cheating; but if you had tasted this icing, you’d cheat too. It may have been my favorite icing to date, and I’m not even a big fan of lemon desserts! If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself – the recipe is at the end of this post You can thank me later.

baked birthday bliss.

baked birthday bliss.

Once I had iced the cake with the lemon buttercream and covered it with fresh coconut, I felt like something was still missing. It needed a topper. The cake I made last summer had a cherry on top – that looked great! But I didn’t have any cherries…so I began scanning the kitchen for something that could work. Being it was just before Valentine’s Day, I had a container of conversation hearts just sitting on the table. I scoured them all, in search of the perfect message for the top of my mom’s cake. And there it was: “For You.”  Because, that’s what is was, after all.

pure and simple.

pure and simple.

My mom loved the cake, and just as I  had hoped, she sent me home with about a third of it. Don’t worry, I shared it with friends – only after eating a large piece myself, of course. :)

Anyway, as promised, here is the new Lemon Buttercream recipe. Enjoy!!

Lemon Buttercream (new and improved version!).

What you’ll need:

8 oz butter (room temperature)

4 oz shortening

1 lb 6 oz confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp lemon extract

1/2 oz water

What you’ll do:

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, and sugar until light and fluffy, using the paddle attachment. Add the lemon extract and water, mix until shiny. If you want a thinner consistency, just add more water.



Posted by on February 24, 2013 in birthday, cake, Recipe Sunday, recipes


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The Curious Incident of the Red, Red Velvets.

I have a funny story to share, and all you bakers our there will really appreciate this having, I’m sure, been there and done that at some point yourselves. The other night, I was making red velvet cupcakes for a dear friend’s birthday, as red velvet is her favorite. I planned on topping them with a sour cream buttercream I had made once before, that was uber delicious. So I got to work.

i hope i didn't just give away the ending.

i hope i didn’t just give away the ending.

Everything was going along well – I’ve made red velvets from this recipe a handful of times, so I knew what results to expect. I started measuring, mixing, pouring, and beating. When all was said and done, I added the red food coloring and mixed well. At this point, I realized something was amiss. It looked very red – too red. This was a clown-nose red, as opposed to a deeper almost maroon red – the color red velvet batter should be. I tasted the batter, and it tasted good – a little sweeter than previous batches, but still a good batter. Did I use too much food coloring? No, the bottle is always the same size! Maybe there was something wrong with the food coloring and it was heavier on the dye. I convinced myself that must be it and lined the pans with cupcake papers. I grabbed my trusty scoop and was about to dip in for the first cupcake, when I paused, and contemplated the extreme redness one more time. “What would make the batter darker?” I silently questioned. Then, like a bolt of chocolate lightning from above, it hit me – I forgot to add the cocoa powder.

nearly lost you.

nearly lost you.

Hoping that it wasn’t too late, I quickly added the key missing ingredient, and tasted the batter again. This time, it looked and tasted like a red velvet should. The mystery of the red, red velvets was solved. I scooped, baked, iced, and served. And all was once again right with the world.

simply red.

simply red.


Posted by on December 6, 2012 in birthday, cupcakes, Indulgences


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Cake, Rattle, and Roll.

Cake rocks.

Especially when it’s in the shape of an electric guitar. I made this bad boy for a friend’s son’s 2nd birthday. It was one of those cakes that’s just so much fun to make and even more fun to eat. Plus it gave me another chance to use my new DSLR camera, which did not let me down.

Now I own a guitar-shaped pan, which I actually purchased over 10 years ago, before I was even really that into baking. The guitar cake was the first shaped cake I ever made. The first one was ok – I mean, it looked like a guitar, albeit a messy brown one. But it’s the thought that counts. Anyway, this time, I had a lot more confidence in the results. I started off with my best vanilla cake ever, and coated it with buttercream colored red.

stripped down.

I added a few details crafted out of fondant, strung it (with chocolate icing), and voila!  I believe it’s time for a cake solo.

Eddie Van Halen would be proud.

Anyway, If you or someone you know is looking to rock out on his or her birthday this year, don’t fret! This cake’s sure to set the tone and amp up any party. It even goes up to eleven.

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Posted by on July 1, 2012 in birthday, cake, music


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Recipe Sunday: Reese’s Pieces Cookie Cake.

I used to eat Reese’s Pieces for lunch. Yep, that’s right – the same girl who now counts every calorie, reads the ingredients on everything, and runs 6 miles every other day, used to sit down at her desk at work for lunch with a bag of Reese’s Pieces and a smoothie/milk shake/other type of frothy fattening drink and eat half the bag. And I wondered why I felt sick all the time.

lunch of champions.

Anyway, I still love these little pieces of chocolate and peanut butter heaven, but I rarely eat them these days, since the major diet overhaul of 2010, which included a huge cutback on candy. But last week, I was out shopping, and there they were, just sitting there, as always, mixed in with all the other candy I never get to enjoy anymore…and before I knew what happened, I grabbed the bag, and threw it in the cart, and headed straight for the checkout before I could change my mind. The problem then became that I was eating them. And because I still count calories, it was torture – 51 Reese’s Pieces sounds like a lot, but it’s really hardly making a dent. I had to do something, quick. It was my friend’s birthday, and he loves cookies, so I was going to make him a cookie cake anyway, and as I assembled the ingredients on the table, there they were again, right in front of me. It was an “Aha!” moment – I’ll make a Reese’s Pieces Cookie Cake and decorate it with Peanut Butter Buttercream! so that’s exactly what I did.

And now, I’ll share the recipe with you.

reese’s make a birthday happier.

Reese’s Pieces Cookie Cake.

What you’ll need:

5 oz. shortening

8 oz.   sugar

.25 oz.  salt

3 oz. (about 2)  eggs

.25 oz.  vanilla

10 oz.  flour

.25 oz.  baking soda

7 oz. Reese’s Pieces

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  In a large bowl, cream together the shortening, sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs and vanilla, and add to the shortening/sugar.  In another bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda. Fold that mixture into the other ingredients until evenly mixed. Fold in the Reese’s Pieces. You will be very tempted to eat the dough – do so at your own risk. I have built up a tolerance for raw dough/batter over the years, so I enjoy it freely with no consequences. I’m still not sure if this is a good thing.

just when you thought cookie dough couldn’t get any better.

Spray a 10″ round cake pan. Take 2/3 of the dough, and press it evenly into the bottom of the cake pan. It should be about an inch high. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Note that you still have 1/3 of unbaked dough – do with it what you wish! I’m saving it for another project, which I’ll post later this week!

I decorated it with a complimentary Peanut Butter Buttercream – the recipe of which you can find here, under a previous Recipe Sunday for White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes.


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