I love birthdays. Love them. Not just mine, but friends', family's - they are the perfect excuse to bring a group of people together for a moment of pure frivolity and jubilation. And possibly an overly emotional expression of love or two? I've always loved my birthday, because I got to see and spend quality time with the people I love, and there wasn't really anything they could do about it. And the food? Oh, the food. That's the hardest part. Go anywhere, eat anything; the choice is mine, and in a city like Toronto there are countless options. What if I choose the wrong restaurant, make the wrong cake? These are clearly life altering decisions. But year in and year out, the restaurants are always wonderful, and the cakes are always delicious.
A few years ago, Max became fast friends with a coworker named Jake. Jake came with a wonderful group of friends, who had been mishmashed together over the years but were tightly bonded. The surprise? Jake and I had the same birthday, and as he and Max soon became best friends, celebrating together became inevitable. At first, I was (incredibly selfishly) distraught. Did this mean I would have to give up the choices, compromise on the one time a year I could do whatever I liked? I talked to him, worked with him, tried to find something to do that all of our friends would enjoy and a cake that he would love too. But in the end, it couldn't have been more obvious - he could not care less. He just wanted to see his friends, and have a drink and a laugh, where or how he did so was not important. I was still concerned, and continued to be concerned, attempting to compromise and coordinate at every step along the way.
Fast forward about four years, and this group of friends has become something of an extended family to us. We go camping together every year, exchange Secret Santa gifts, celebrate birthdays and holidays and drink and eat and bowl and are merry. I can't be grateful enough for how they've embraced us in their fun and traditions. There's something fairly huge and important to be said about having a guaranteed crowd of people to share both light and monumental times with. And the birthdays are everything to me, because all I want to do is spend time with a bunch of people I love, and they're all there. These friends, and old friends, and new friends, and there are drinks and cakes and meals with family. And oh, it is so wonderful. And nothing else matters.
Well, some things matter - food is definitely one of them. Luckily, Jake loves a light and easy cake as much as I do, and is just happy to partake in a slice. One of my favourite foods in the world is a strawberry trifle my mom would make in summers, and I've carried on the tradition. It reminds me of warm breezes and time spent in backyards, and with the heavy Canadian winter finally subsiding, I wanted to find those flavours in my birthday cake. This one is light, spongey, and creamy, with bright pops of flavour from the berries, and I would make it again in a heartbeat. In fact, I'm planning on making it again for my celebration with Max's family next weekend.
Before you bake it, a warning to the wise: This cake dries up quite a bit when refrigerated. If you have to make it in advance, I would keep the frosting and the cake separate and wrap each of the baked layers tightly with cling wrap. The cake can be kept at room temperature like this for a day or two, while the frosting can be refrigerated separately. If the frosting re-liquifies in the fridge, you can just blend it up again before putting the cake together. Once it's on the cake, it won't fall, and the cake can be kept out of the fridge like this for the duration of a day or evening.
Layered Butter Cake with Whipped Cream Frosting and Berries
Makes a three or four layer cake.
Cake recipe modified from Chow.com. Frosting recipe is my own.
-3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for coating the pan
-1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
-3/4 teaspoon fine or table salt
-1 cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for coating the pan
-2 cups granulated sugar
-4 large eggs
-1 cup milk
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese
-1 tablespoon sugar
-2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
-1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-1/2 cup icing or powdered sugar
-About 2-3 pounds mixed berries of your choice
- Preheat oven to 350°F and ensure there is a rack in the middle. Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with butter and flour, tap out any excess flour, and set pans aside. You can also use 8-inch cake pans, but may need to adjust your baking time accordingly.
- Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl, and whisk together to combine; set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat butter on medium high until light in colour and fluffy. The softness on the butter will affect the length of time, which may take 1-5 minutes. Add sugar and continue to beat on medium high until white in colour and the texture of wet sand, about 2-3 more minutes.
- Add eggs one at a time, fully beating in each before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
- With the mixer on low, add about a third of the flour mixture. Mix until just incorporated, and then half of milk. Add another third of the flour mixture, beating until just incorporated, and then vanilla and remainder of milk. Add the rest of the flour mixture, continuing to beat until just incorporated.
- Depending on how many layers you would like, pour the appropriate amount into your cake pans. I created three layers, so I poured 2/3 of the batter into one, and the remaining third into another. If you would like to create four thinner layers, you can pour 1/2 of the batter into each pan, although you will need to adjust the baking time accordingly.
- Bake until a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean, about 35 minutes for the pan with more batter and 25 minutes for the pan with less. Transfer to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
(If you are making four layers, you should increase this recipe.)
- Place cream cheese in large mixing bowl and beat until soft and smooth. Add granulated sugar and mix until well incorporated.
- Pour in half of whipping cream and mix on high until it begins to stiffen. Add vanilla and sifted powdered sugar, and mix until incorporated. Add remainder of whipping cream and beat frosting until it is fully stiffened and does not fall.
- With a large knife, carefully cut the large cake (from 2/3 the batter) in half horizontally, creating two layers. If you are making a four-layer cake, do this with both cakes.
- Spread about 1/3 of frosting onto bottom layer from cut cake. Cut berries into bite-size pieces, and place them evenly over frosting. Place the small cake (from the 1/3 portion of batter) on top, being careful to centre it, and repeat frosting and berry layers. Place top layer from large cake on top.
- How you frost the outside of the cake depends on your preference! You can add the final 1/3 of frosting on top and leave it as a beautiful "naked" cake if you'd like - you can see the berries in each layer this way. I decided to make mine a "half-dressed" cake, giving it a rustic-looking crumb coating and then spreading the remaining frosting on top. I then piled some whole berries on the cake and around the sides of the plate.
Serve and enjoy!
(Please note: Be careful not to put your elbow in any leftover cake you're bringing home at the end of the night.)