Birthday cake icing

For years I have owned a checkerboard cake pan and finally decided to attempt to make this layer cake.  First and foremost, I want to emphasize–this takes time.  I planned two days to prepare the cake, chill the cake, and make and decorate the cake.

And by no means, am I any sort of expert.  I call myself a cooking and baking enthusiast.  But, over the years, I have developed confidence in trying many new recipes and experimenting with my own recipes and modifications.

This icing recipe is not an experiment.  It came directly from the pages of Martha’s American Food cookbook.  It was made exactly as she recommended.  And, it is an amazing recipe.  Although she does not say to chill the cake after icing, I highly recommend that step.

The icing is perfect consistency for spreading on a layer cake, but needs to firm up for serving.  I also feel that by chilling the cake prior to icing, allows the cake to firm up as well.  There is nothing worse than a layer cake that is sagging, tilting, or falling over.

If ever thinking of making a layer cake, consider this recipe, it is delicious. This recipe made 7 1/2 cups of icing.  I had about 1/2 cup left over after frosting three layers.  Certainly, the quantity could be changed based on your cake size.


1 1/2 pounds semi-sweet chocolate, 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder, 1/2 cup plus 1 cup boiling water, 4 1/2 sticks unsalted butter SOFTENED, 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar, pinch of salt

Heat and melt the chocolate in a double boiler.  Remove from the heat and allow to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.  Combine the cocoa with the boiling water in a bowl. Dissolve.  Beat softened room temperature butter in a stand mixer, with the sugar and salt until fluffy.  Add melted chocolate slowly and then add in the cocoa mixture.

Use immediately.  The icing will be soft and free-flowing and covers the cake very well.  To firm up the icing, chill in the refrigerator.

And about the cake itself, the pan is the key to the checkerboard cake.  You can use any two types of cake mixes, or any of your favorite cake recipes.  The pan does the work.  I baked the cakes for 25 minutes, chilled, and leveled the tops prior to assembling the layer cake.  These pans provide an easy release and there were no worries with the results. I used a Chicago Metallic checkerboard cake pan, but many others are also available online, including one from Wilton.

I always have a nice feeling when I bake a cake for the one I love.


birthday cake — texas sheet cake



may is birthday month around our home.  so, for the 8th this year, i made Martha’s recipe for Texas sheet cake, from her cookbook titled Martha’s American food.  the cake is made in an old-fashioned rectangular pan, and is probably a recipe that has been made for 60 or more years.

it is a super easy recipe to make, but be certain to bake the cake thoroughly until well done.  i think i may have baked according to the directions, and the cake was more of a brownie texture in the end.  still delicious, still sweet, but maybe would be more light if baked longer than suggested.  

i used a 9 by 13 pan as suggested by Martha, but i know i have had this cake made by others baked in a true sheet pan, so it is very thin and not as high.  perhaps that is the secret to avoiding the brownie texture.

to make the cake: preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  spray butter the pan.  whisk together the following:  2 cups flour, 2 cups sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.

next, melt 2 sticks unsalted butter in a saucepan, and add 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, then add 1 cup water and boil.  add to the flour mixture.  

then in a mixer, add 2 eggs, 1/2 cup buttermilk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. pour batter in the pan and bake until the sides come away from the edges.  Martha says 12-14 minutes, but i think longer.  pour the icing over the cake while it is still warm and sprinkle with pecans which have been chopped.  cool before serving.

Boiled icing recipe

1 stick unsalted butter, 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 2 teaspoon vanilla, 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar.

bring butter, cocoa and cream to a boil in a small saucepan.  stir during this process.  remove from heat and add vanilla and sugar.  use while warm.

coconut birthday cake

 for my mother’s 89th birthday this year, she asked for a coconut birthday layer cake.  one of the best decisions i made for this cake was to purchase this brand of unsweetened flaked coconut.  the large shaved coconut was perfect for the cake and added excellent flavor to the frosting. 

by having flat shaved pieces of coconut, compared to the fine wisps of coconut that i typically purchase at the market in the baking aisle, we experienced a much better tasting icing for the cake.  for this two layer cake, i used almost the entire bag of coconut.

in order to make this cake, i did not make the cake from a recipe, but used a white cake mix, and then my own icing recipe that i have published on the blog under maple icing  for this cake, however; i used vanilla flavor rather than the maple flavor on that posting.  once i frosted the first layer, i added coconut flakes to the center of the cake, and then continued with the frosting decoration.  after the cake was frosted, i added the coconut to the top and exterior of the cake, being very generous in the application.

birthday cake

for more than thirty years, i have always purchased a birthday cake for my husband brian. this year, i decided to make him a cake from martha’s stewart’s cooking school book. i made her white cake with easy chocolate buttercream. instead of making two layers, i divided the batter into four smaller layers, baking them for only 17 minutes each. the buttercream frosting was made with frango mint chocolate baking cocoa, so it has a distinct minty taste. the coconut decoration was my personal addition, since brian likes coconut. this frosting is not a glossy ganache, but a richer and sweeter buttercream. i believe it is labeled easy, since cocoa is used instead of melted chocolate, which would need to be incorporated into the mixture. the layers added height, and i had just enough icing, about five cups to decorate the cake. by using only two layers, i would have had additional icing to pipe decorations onto the cake. since this cake was well received, i am going to continue my baking attempts for future family celebrations.