The exact year escapes me, but at some point in the past, I started baking my mother’s birthday cake. Her birthday was this past Sunday and I had a wonderful time with my family. Each year, I appreciate the gift of still having her in my life more and more. Especially since this time last year, it was touch and go for a while. Strangely enough, the more I bake and blog about baking, the more nervous I get about baking her cake. My mom is an amazing cook and baker herself.
I know I’m putting the pressure on myself, but I feel like I should be making her the most super perfect birthday cake of all birthday cakes that ever existed in the history of all birthdays. I think I fail more miserably each year.
Part of the problem is that she always wants the same cake - chocolate with vanilla frosting. I want to bake what she wants, but I want to find THE best chocolate cake, so year after year I search. The first few years, before I was blogging, I used cake mix and canned frosting, but I wanted to do more. Duncan Hines is really good, but wasn’t that really the lazy daughter’s way of baking? Then I found another recipe that was fine for a few years, but I started getting bored and it was sticking to the pan and falling apart when I took it out. So I keep searching.
This year was no different. And before you get all excited, I still haven’t found the perfect cake. I barely prevented one of the worst of all cake disasters. If you need some homemade bread, muffins, scones, even babka, I’m your girl. A layer cake – not so much. I really need to take a class. Oh and to top it off, one of my Christmas gifts from my mother was a cake decorating kit! I didn’t even use it in the midst of my cake freakout!
Okay, I don’t want to bad mouth anyone’s recipe, but the one that I picked this year appears to have a problem. There was no milk or water in it. I kept reading it over and over again thinking I must be reading it incorrectly, but figured that it would work out in the end. The description sounded so wonderful. The perfect chocolate cake! I used the cookbook Chocolate Cake, by Michele Urvater.
I still leave open the possibility that I read something wrong, but when I put all the ingredients together, it was like floury dusty Play-Doh. So I started adding rice milk, then vanilla yogurt in different amounts to get a normal consistency. I’ve made dozens of chocolate cakes and this just wasn’t right. I also improvised by using regular sugar instead of superfine. From what I could find out though, I needed less regular sugar when converting the amounts. I ended up adding some light brown sugar, which actually worked out well.
I’ll give you the recipe with changes for the cake. Oh and it was supposed to be two layers and ended up being three layers, because it seemed like too much batter for just two pans and I didn’t want to risk it. I was already having a minor freakout when I was fixing the cake and in no mental condition to make frosting, but I did anyway. It ended up being okay after doing the kinds of emergency measures which would have impressed Congress, but I’ll spare you the frosting recipe details.
Overall, I ended up enjoying the cake. It was very moist and chocolaty. My mom said it was good, but she acknowledged that I’ve made better. Oh well. This cake is my submission for Meeta’s Monthly Mingle – Comfort Foods. I figured this would be good, because birthday cake is pretty comforting. The freaking out part is just my particular quirk.
Devil’s Food Cake
(adapted from Linda’s Quintessential Devil’s Food Cake)
Grease and flour three 9” round cake pans. Put wax paper on bottom of each pan to prevent cake sticking to pan. You might be able to get away with two pans, but I didn’t have time to recover from this if the cake rose over the top and bubbled over.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 ½ cups vanilla rice milk
1 cup nonfat vanilla yogurt
1 stick unsalted butter (softened)
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
In large bowl, combine butter, sugar, eggs, yogurt, and vanilla extract with a large wooden spoon. In reality, I don’t think the order really matters as long as you add everything. You can add them however you like. I’m just giving you a guide. Add baking soda, baking powder, and cocoa powder. Stir. Add flour alternately with rice milk. The batter should be liquidy and not too thick, but not thin or runny.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out dry. Let cakes cool, then remove from pans. Frost cake with the frosting of your choice.
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