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It’s All About The Cake



It’s birthday week: T was born just 3 days before Alex’s 3rd birthday, Budd’s (the dog – RIP) b’day was the day before Alex’s and the cabbage patch doll’s official b’day was the day after T’s. Not kidding. April 20, 21, 22, 23 – all BIG days here chez Dodgelodge.

Here’s Alex holding T when she was barely 1 day old. He was a good big brother from the get-go.

When they were young, birthday week was crazy-time. Imagine this: 60 + cupcakes for school classes, hundreds of paper plates, & party hats, 2 birthday cakes for family party (some years we had TWO family parties), more hats/plates & napkins, 2 more BIG cakes for 2 kid’s parties, more hats/plates & napkins, presents for each and, inevitably, Easter was plunked right in the mix of all this celebration. (And I’m not even mentioning the dog and doll celebrations – big fun. lots of cake.) This is in the course of ONE week.  Needless to say, my easy-bake oven was on full blast, my kitchen was coated in a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar and I was ever grateful for my dishwasher.

Now that they are all but grown, I miss the chaos of those days. Kid’s parties are a thing of the past.. at least parties that Mom would be invited to…ahemm. I’m no longer bringing cupcakes into the classrooms – not cool to have mommy show up in the college chem lab, right? Right. Nowadays, family celebrations happen over the phone, through snail mail or, on a rare occasion, during a quick college visit (like last wk’nd) and Easter comes and goes with UPS playing the role of the bunny. The one thing that has never changed is the cake. Alex will expect one waiting for him when he returns from college (as a graduate!) and lucky T had hers delivered a few days before her b’day.  Regardless of setting or timing, the cake  must be Banana and it must have Vanilla filling and Fudge frosting. Dodge tradition. Period. End of discussion.

Chris started this tradition when we were first together by stating that it was his fave combination ever. And, because I have been known, on occasion, to be a good wife (don’t get the wrong idea here.. Donna Reed I am not.),  I set about developing the perfect recipes and we have celebrated with this cake for birthdays ever since. Well, I take that back. The cake and the vanilla filling recipes are practically tatoo’d on my heart but the frosting, well, let’s just say that I’ve been known to monkey around with the recipe – much to the chagrin of my family. “Oh Mom.. Did you experiment with the Frosting AGAIN?” is the familiar refrain.

The fam likes loves the frosting I published in The Weekend Baker. Here it is on the 2, yes TWO, cakes I made last year for T and her pals.

Glossy and thick but.. Could it be better? Chocolately? Thicker? Richer? That is the question. You see, I’m always searching for the next great fudgy frosting.

As T’s luck would have it, we planned to visit her last wk’nd just a few days before her b’day and she “suggested” that it would be ‘really nice’ if I brought up “The Cake” for her to share with her friends. Well, OF COURSE I’m going to do that – don’t need to twist my arm. Made the layers. Made the filling. Sandwiched them together. And then took to Twitter to seek out the next great fudge frosting. Now, I don’t mean a ganache frosting.. I want fudge.

I saw Alice Currah’s recipe – good but straight up ganache so not what I was looking for – and Jennie Perillo chimed in with hers which looked really good. So I started with Jennie’s version but couldn’t leave well enough alone… I added butter. Everything’s better with butter, right? The result was a thick and fudgy frosting that tasted delicious but it wasn’t as dark and glossy as my original – but still really, really good. The true test would come when T tasted it.. Would she notice? Would she like it? Cake time came and T LOVED it.. Then I asked her how she liked the frosting and she shrugged smiled and said “Mom.. Did you experiment with the frosting again?” (see, I told you she’d say that)

I wonder if Alex will notice…

And please let me know if you have a favorite fudge frosting for me to test drive!!

Here’s hoping you end every day sweetly


ps.. artsy shot.. channeling their inner Zoolander..”BlueSteal”.. or maybe they’re just sick and tired of me snapping shots of them or maybe they’re just mugging for the camera… Happy Birthday babies!

and now.. the recipe. As I said, It’s All About The Cake

[print_this]The Dodge Family Birthday Cake
Make 12 or more servings.

For the Cake
2 2/3 cups (12 ounces) all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 medium very, very ripe bananas (about 14 ounces total weight including peels)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk

For the Classic Vanilla Filling
4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon table salt

For the Thick, Fudgy Chocolate Frosting (makes enough to fill and frost, if you like)

Inspired by and adapted from Jennifer Perillo

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup Lyle’s cane syrup or light corn syrup
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 ounces (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into pieces

Colored sprinkles or marshmallows, for garnish, optional

To make the cake:

Heat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans. ( I like to line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper circles to ensure easy and clean removal but it’s not mandatory for this recipe.)

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda and whisk until well blended.  Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add both the sugars and continue beating until well combined and light, about 3 minutes. Peel the bananas and add to the butter mixture along with the vanilla. Beat until well blended and only small bits of banana remain. Add the eggs, two at a time, beating well after each addition. (The mixture will look curdled and a bit lumpy – worry not as it will all come together.)  Add half of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just blended. Add the buttermilk and mix until just blended. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix on low speed until just blended.

Scrape the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake until the tops are light brown and a pick inserted comes out clean, 28 to 30 minutes. Set the pan on a rack and cool about 15 minutes. Run a knife between the cake and the pan to loosen the cake. Invert the layers onto a rack and lift off the pans. Set the layers aside to cool completely.

To make the filling:
In a medium bowl, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla and salt with a hand-held mixer until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes (it will take longer is you are using a spoon and man-power). Cover the frosting and set aside at room temperature until the layers are completely cool and ready to be assembled.

To make the frosting:
In a large heat-proof bowl, combine the chocolate, heavy cream, and sugar.  Heat over simmering water or in a microwave , stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the cane syrup, vanilla and salt and stir until well blended. Add the butter and stir until well blended. Fill another large bowl with ice and a bit of water and set the chocolate bowl in the ice bath. Cool, stirring frequently, until the mixture is cool and thick enough to spread.

To assemble the cake: (For more cake frosting tips, see Fine Cooking Video tutorial)
Set one cooled layer, topside down, on a flat serving plate. To protect the plate from smears and smudges, slide small strips of foil or parchment under the bottom of the cake to cover the plate. Using a metal spatula or the back edge of a table knife, spread 1 cup of the frosting evenly over the layer. Place the second layer, topside down, on top of the frosting. Make sure the sides are lined up and press gently. Apply a very thin layer of frosting over the entire cake (this is a ‘crumb coat”). Spread the remaining frosting over the sides and top of the cake. (Don’t fuss with this too much — “perfect” is way over-rated.) Garnish the sides with with colored sprinkles or marshmallows.[/print_this]