I made a birthday cake over the weekend. This is a big deal. Even my kids don’t get homemade birthday cakes and here’s why.
When I was a little girl, I remember my mom going to great pains to make birthday cakes for my sister and I. By most reasonable standards, they were whimsical and delicious. Birthdays were one of the only times I was allowed to have sugar, so I should have been grateful. Instead, I was pissed. The cake didn’t look at all like the ones at the grocery store, or the ones at every other birthday party I attended. I felt cheated.
(What a little shit.)
Now, that I’m a mom, I’m familiar with the desire to surround my children with only the best that life has to offer, even if I only end up indulging them in a wee percentage. So, naturally, for those special times, I turn to our local grocery store for the celebratory confection, or, if they say they love me better than daddy, I’ll go to a real bakery. This proves how much I love them back because, surely, what I wanted as a kid is exactly the same as what they want.
This will backfire on me someday, I’m sure, when one or more kids call me from their college dorm to say they flunked biology and it’s all because I didn’t love them enough to bake homemade birthday cakes when they were little. And that I can make it up to them by making one RIGHT NOW and, by the way, can I do their laundry while I’m at it. But, in the meantime, I’ve saved myself a lot of aggravation.
I do make homemade birthday cakes for my husband, however. It may be the only nice thing I do for him all year, so I try to make it count. He always requests a carrot cake. I just assumed it would be the same this year, but he threw me a Wakefield knuckleball last week by requesting a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Why, I demanded to know? I already have the carrots picked out. What about the cream cheese frosting I was planning to lick right out of the bowl while you weren’t looking. In other words, I responded to his crazy-assed pitch as if I were Jason Varitek.
But I’m anything if not flexible, so after trying to talk him out of it several times, I finally realized that the word he said before frosting was chocolate. And there ain’t nothing wrong with that word.
Here’s the cake.
And here’s the frosting recipe. It’s fudgy and delicious. Lent is almost over for you devout types who gave up chocolate, so file it away for a week. My husband gave up baseball, so he’s in luck, too (though, maybe not judging from the score of today's season opener). Happy birthday, Husband. You can just call me Mirabelli from now on, since you’ll be married to the TV, anyway.
I’ve taken the liberty of doubling the recipe since the barely-enough approach doesn’t cut it for me. If you can’t live it up on your birthday, I don’t know when you can.
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate (I used Síríus Icelandic chocolate because I saw it in the store and wondered what it tasted like. It tastes like chocolate.)
6 Tbsp. salted butter
6 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup milk
In a double boiler* over simmering water, melt chocolate with the butter, stirring often. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, blend confectioner’s sugar with the chocolate mixture at low speed. When it resembles chalky beads, add the vanilla and blend. Pour the milk, about a tablespoon at a time, blending well after each addition at medium speed. Once it reaches a spreadable consistency (add more milk if necessary), beat at medium-high until fluffy. Frost cake right away as it firms up in about 20 minutes.
*If you don’t have a double boiler, don’t sweat it. Fill a small pot with an inch of water and bring to a simmer. Set a large bowl on top of the pot for the butter and chocolate, preferably one that can rest comfortably up there while you stir. Also, did you know you can melt chocolate in the microwave? You totally can. Just use low power in 20-second increments, stirring in between, until the butter and chocolate are melted.
Source: Adapted from Lynn Kearney of the Food Network Kitchens. Original recipe here.