desserts

birthday cake (aka the sunday night cake).

November 4, 2011

I happened to catch Matt Lewis (of Baked) on the Martha Stewart Show today. It was a repeat, and I’m happy I saw it. The topic of the day was birthdays, and evidently the Baked SuperDuo made the cake for Martha’s most recent fête (could this woman be any luckier? No. She also has unicorns wandering around her home helping her with her gardening). But I digress. He was on the show making a cake I have looked at in their cookbook I can’t tell you how many times and haven’t attempted yet. But if it’s good enough for Martha…well. 

The Sunday Night Cake (as it is originally called) draws you in just simply because of the name, right? It’s descriptive and not, all at the same time. To add to the mystery, there’s no photo in the book of what it’s supposed to look like, so you’re kind of flying blind with it.

The Sunday Night Cake is cake, pure and simple. it’s not too sweet, it’s not too finicky, it’s not too anything. There’s no vanilla, but there is cinnamon, which gives it a snuggly warm flavor but stops short of actually tasting like cinnamon. And the sour cream seals the deal, making it moist but not at all heavy.  It is an absolute essential for birthday parties, especially those involving children. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have an exceedingly (and I hate to even admit this) picky toddler, and it’s almost painful to me what she doesn’t eat. She turns up her nose at everything from roasted couldn’t-be-sweeter sweet potatoes to fun little peas, and it’s a source of endless consternation for me. But this cake? tonight while we were “testing” the finished product, she took her chubby little starfish hand and helped herself to a nice little hunk. Approved.

She seems to enjoy watching me in the kitchen, and this particular birthday cake day I let her hang out with my frosting bowl. She loved that too. I know you’re probably saying “really. she loved it. it’s sugar and chocolate.” But oh no…not my child. she doesn’t just love things because it’s normal; it really takes something to get her to come back for more. This frosting had that something. unlike the sugar shock of a buttercream, the cream cheese in this frosting gives it a slight tang that most frostings really miss (and it’s a shame). For kids, it’s a win-win: they get cake they’ll love that won’t have them hanging off the ceiling. For adults, this is a welcome change from the omnipresent store-bought sugar slab usually present at birthday parties.

Just look at how inviting this cake is. Don’t even wait for a birthday party. Sunday night is coming up, and I bet you have all of the ingredients for this cake (and probably the icing, too) in your pantry. If you don’t have what you need for the frosting, Mr. Lewis recommends dusting it with powdered sugar. Truly, it doesn’t even need that.

As a side note, if you added an extra 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to this recipe, you’d have a great base for a coffee cake. maybe make yourself some struesel topping…morning-to-night possibilities.

Cake taken from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. The frosting in the book is slightly different than the one they used on the show, so I tried the Martha Stewart Show option that’s listed on her website.

Sunday Night Cake/Best Birthday Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

for the cake:

  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, room temperature, plus more for pans
  • All-purpose flour, for pans
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream

for the frosting:

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate, melted and cooled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans; line with parchment-paper rounds. Butter parchment paper and lightly dust pans with all-purpose flour, shaking out excess.

In a large bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until just incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with sour cream and beginning and ending with flour mixture, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.
Pour batter into prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Set pan on a wire rack to cool for at least 20 minutes before loosening sides of cake from pan and inverting onto a wire rack. Remove parchment paper and reinvert; let cool completely.

time for the frosting:
Beat butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until smooth. Add cream cheese and beat until well combined. Add 2 cups confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat until smooth. Add chocolate and mix until well combined. If frosting seems too loose, add additional confectioners’ sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it becomes firm. Do not over-beat. Frosting can be made up to 1 day in advance if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator; let soften at room temperature before using.

Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes to make even. Place 1 layer on a cake plate; frost top with 1/2 cup frosting and top with remaining layer. Frost top and sides with remaining frosting to cover. Cake can be kept in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 3 days. Let come to almost room temperature before serving.

 

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