It takes just two to make a birthday party—two people and a cake! Here are five triple-tested tried-and-true birthday cake recipes—each worth a chorus of ooohs and aaahs.
Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker's man,
Bake me a cake as fast as you can!
A birthday cake, dedicated and sung over, is a big deal. It may be the magic of icing and candles that people remember best, but a birthday cake is crucial for the celebrant. Homemade cakes are not only better-tasting than store-bought, but easy to make and fun.
By the way, birthday cakes have been a requisite part of birthday celebrations at least since Roman times, when the emperors offered cake all around on their birthdays. Ritual feasting is an expression of solidarity; by the Middle Ages, the rite-of-passage honey cake was surrounded by burning candles in a protective fire circle, lit to attract good spirits and bless the event. Lighting the birthday candles is still a hushed moment—and don't forget that birthday wish, invoking powers beyond.
Cake Baking Tips
- Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature to incorporate air for rising.
- Prepare cake pans with butter and flour. Fresh-baked cakes are delicate and must fall neatly out of the pan for cooling. And don't keep the batter waiting; prepare the pans first.
- Sift those dry ingredients. It's not just a matter of mixing; sifted flour makes it lighter and easier to incorporate into other ingredients. It's OK to cut a corner by fork-sifting or using a wire whisk, however, the confectioners' sugar must be sifted. The results are worth the trouble.
- Know your oven. Take your oven's temperature with a thermometer to make sure it corresponds with the dial. If your oven has hot spots, gently turn halfway through baking. Bake cakes in the lower third of the oven.
Cake Decorating Ideas
- Fresh flowers lend an easy, natural elegance. Or, use sweet-ripe berries or chopped nuts.
- For instant glitz, pile on store-bought candles and cookies—particularly for children's cakes.
- Use a candy bar and vegetable peeler to easily create chocolate shavings—either dark or white.