Everybody loves birthday cake! And why not? A birthday cake means there is a celebration, and someone is being honoured, and best of all if that person is YOU!
My birthday is May 8th, falling very near or sometimes right on Mother’s Day, so there are now two reasons to bake a cake. The question is: what type of cake to make? You’ve seen me make every possible type of cake, but are you curious which are my favourites? Here are a few things about me and my love of cake, and some guiding tips that I follow:
Cake vs. Cupcake
Cupcakes were always my choice growing up, and ballerinas were my “thing”. My Mom had a set of plastic ballerina figurines that she would top each cupcake with for years.
Remember regular layer cake batters don’t always adapt well to cupcakes. Often wet batters will stick to the paper liners on cupcakes instead of peeling away easily. If you want a cupcake, choose a cupcake recipe.
Tip: When baking cake layers, whether round or square, use cake pans with sides that are a straight 90° from the bottom. Some cake pans have angled sides (for the only reason that they nest well for shipping) but when layers are assembled, the cake won’t have straight sides, and the angle is noticeable when the cake is sliced. I’ve designed my Anna Olson Kitchen cake pans specifically with this in mind.
Choosing Your Cake Flavour
I love the classically named cakes, with their defined flavour & filling combinations:
Dobos Torte – thin layers of nut sponge with chocolate buttercream and a caramelized sugar “fan” on top
Opera Torte – sponge, ganache and mocha buttercream
I also like watching cake flavour and decor trends, including “naked” cakes, confetti cakes, and I am going through a serious waffle cake phase right now.
I don’t repeat birthday cakes – I change it up every year, and I rarely choose a chocolate cake.
When to Bake Your Cake
Because I’d like to be a guest at my own birthday party, I plan on baking the cake layers two days ahead (or baking and freezing further ahead) and making the fillings and frosting the day before, and assembling then.
Tip: Cake layers are less crumbly and easier to slice when baked a day before frosting them.
Tip: Unfrosted cake layers should not be refrigerated (it would dry the cake out. If baking a day ahead, wrap them well and leave them on the counter. Once assembled, the frosting seals in the moisture, so it can be chilled and stay fresh.
How Long Will Your Cake Sit Out?
If the weather is nice (and you went to a deal of effort), you’ll want to show off the cake and let it sit out at room temperature (out of direct sunlight).
Tip: Frosting and fondants that have food colouring added fade when exposed to direct sunlight. Take care where the cake is placed for display, and adding a little glycerin (available where you buy cake decorating supplies) to your frosting or fondant will help preserve the colour.
So you need to choose fillings and frosting that suit:
Out for under 30 minutes: mousse fillings and whipped cream frostings are fine.
Out for 30-90 minutes: Curd fillings, fruit fillings, cream cheese frostings and chocolate ganache can handle sitting out for longer.
Out for 90+ minutes: Swiss buttercream cakes, fondant covered cakes, and cupcakes can sit out longer. Italian buttercream is the most stable frosting, which is why it is a favourite choice of pastry chefs for wedding cakes.
Anna’s Birthday Cake
So now that we’ve talked about all types of cakes, what is my choice for a birthday cake? And the winner is:
Lemon cakes are ideal in spring, and I’m also thinking about Mother’s Day – I’ll be celebrating with my Mom then, and she loves a good lemon cake as well. The silkiness of the Swiss buttercream is sweet, smooth and stable, but is not overly rich or cloying. I’m not certain that I’ll replicate this hatbox style – I may go for piping spring flowers on top to suit the season. Now that the Anna Olson Kitchen line carries a box of 100 reusable & recyclable disposable piping bags, and a piping tip set, there are no limits to my decor stylings.
And if you are baking a birthday cake for yourself or someone else, remember that delicious memories are made in the kitchen – enjoy the time spent baking as much as the time spent eating!
The Anna Olson Kitchen collection of 48 items of bakeware, baking tools and décor tools are available exclusively at The Hudson’s Bay Company and www.thebay.com