HAPPY BIRTHDAY PATCHWORK PRESS!
We have a tradition in my family that my mother started and I’ve carried on for my own kids. Birthdays are a big deal and we always pull out all the stops and create a homemade cake for the celebration.
The famous unicorn cake for my sister’s seventh birthday. Surprisingly, my dad decorated it.
I would be the cutie in the blue dress.
Some of my more recent celebratory confections…
So what better way to celebrate Patchwork Press’s birthday, than an original cake creation? I asked the other members of our fledgling publishing company to contribute favorite cake flavors and ideas and this is what I came up with.
Neapolitan Birthday Cake
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
2 1/4 cups flour, plus more for dusting the pans
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp table salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup chocolate chips, melted
1/3 cup strawberry preserves
1/3 cup vanilla curd
1/3 cup sugar
5 tsp cornstarch
1 vanilla bean, halved, split and scraped
10 oz milk
1/3 tsp vanilla extract
½ lb strawberries washed, hulled and sliced into quarters
pinch of salt
½ cup sugar
1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter
1/3 cup chocolate chips
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
1 stick butter (8 Tbsp), softened
2 cups confectioners (powedered) sugar
1/8 tsp table salt
4 Tbsp milk or heavy cream
¼ cup vanilla curd
Take heart, I’ll be walking you through it.
Vanilla curd first. This is actually an old family recipe that’s really versatile. It can be used for vanilla pudding, ice cream, served warm over blackberry cobbler (my favorite use), or added to cakes.
Place milk, sugar, vanilla, and egg in a saucepan on medium heat. Whisk together.
Add a few teaspoons COLD water to the cornstarch, stir until smooth, and whisk it in too. Take the vanilla bean, slice open, and scrape out the insides. Add that to your pot. Cook for ten minutes until thick. It should look something like this.
See the lovely vanilla beans speckling the curd? Yum!
Set that aside and let it cool. Now to the cake.
The key to light fluffily cake, is the creaming of the butter and sugar. So put the 1 1/2 sticks of butter and 1 3/4 sugar in a bowl and beat for three minutes on medium high. I have a stand mixer and it makes this process so much easier.
Next, dry ingredient always go with dry, wet with wet. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir those together.
In another bowl, whisk the buttermilk and vanilla together.
We’ll be adding the wet and dry ingredients separately and alternately, starting with the flour mixture. With the stand mixer running slowly, pour in half the flour mixture, let it combine, then add half of the buttermilk mixture. Repeat until everything is together. (Except the chocolate, strawberry preserves, and vanilla curd. We’re getting to that.)
Next, prepare your melted chocolate. Place the chips in a microwave safe bowl and heat on high for 30 seconds. Take out and stir. Put back in for an additional 30 seconds. The chocolate should be smooth now.
Here’s where the neapolitan flavors come into play. We’ll be doing what’s called a marbling effect to combine the chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla into one cake.
Divide the batter equally into three bowls. Add the strawberry preserves to one bowl, the chocolate to the second bowl and the vanilla curd to the third.
Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by covering them with cooking spray and sprinkling flour into them. Gently tap the pan to spread the flour around. This will keep the cake from sticking.
Carefully, starting with the lightest batter (the vanilla) pour about a fourth of the batter into the center of each of the 9-inch cake pans. Pour the strawberry directly on top of the vanilla, letting the batter fall and spread naturally. Then pour the chocolate, repeating with all flavors until all the batter is used up.
It should look something like this.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the center is firm to the touch.
And while that’s baking… the filling.
Take your 1/2 pound of strawberries and run through a food processor until chunky. Slowly add the sugar while the food processor is running until you get a smooth strawberry puree.
Pour your puree, butter, eggs, and salt into the top of a double boiler. If you don’t have one, like me, a glass bowl on top of a pot of water works just fine. Boil 2 inches of water in the pot, place the ingredients over it in the glass bowl. We’re still cooking things, just on indirect heat.
Whisk the puree for 10 minutes, it should thicken slightly. Add the chocolate chips and stir slowly until they’re completely melted. The mixture should be a good spreading consistency (and completely delicious!)
In the mean time you should have two beautiful round cakes that have come out of the oven and cooled completely.
See the pretty marbling effect?
*Tip: Remove the cakes from the pan while they’re still warm, but not hot, they’ll comes out easier. If your impatient like me for them to cool, stick them in the freezer for about 30 minutes.
If your looking for a more professional finish to your cake, you’ll need to level the two round cakes. If not, forge ahead with me.
Spread the strawberry/chocolate filling on top of one layer, gently centering the second cake on top.
On to the icing!
Buttercream is an easy to make, easy to use icing. We’re going to enhance the vanilla flavor and make it our own by adding in the vanilla curd we made earlier.
Cream the softened butter why whipping on medium for several minutes. Again, there are fewer sore arms in the process if you’ve got a stand mixer.
When the consistency is nice and smooth, slowly add the powdered sugar with the mixer running on low. It will be pretty stiff, which is where the milk comes in. Add that along with the vanilla curd and salt, whip until it is spreadable. You may have to tweak it with a little more milk or powdered sugar to get it just right.
There’s several different theories on getting a well frosted cake. Some say to freeze it, some say do a crumb layer, let it set, and then do another one. I’m not patient enough for either of that, so I just take a spatula and tackle it.
Not too shabby!
Here is where I fail almost every time. I cannot really decorate a cake, which is why so many past creations features coconut and fruit on the top. But I came across a new way to do lettering, so what the heck. Let’s try it.
All you need is a ziplock baggie with melted chocolate chips. The words you want to say printed off the computer (script fonts are easiest) and wax paper.
Tape the wax paper on the table so things don’t slide around. Clip the tiniest corner off the bag. You’re going to use this like piping. With a steady hand, trace the letters in chocolate.
You can also add sprinkles while the chocolate is still melty. Place in the freezer for about ten minutes so it hardens up. You should be able to peel the chocolate right off the wax paper and place on top of the cake.
*Note: I found this method okay. The chocolate was pretty delicate and kept melting before I could get the whole thing on the cake. I had to keep sticking it back in the freezer.
The finished product!
Honestly, one of my prettier cakes. I was really curious to see how the marbling turned out.
Looks good enough to eat.
And I do keep my own taste testers on hand. This is what they had to say about it.
Welcome to the family Patchwork Press!