Birthday Cake

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Birthday Cakes are special – “your” cake is there only once a year, complete with all the trimmings. Although in our family every birthday-kid (grown-ups and children alike) gets that special cake for their birthdays, “your” cake seems to taste just that much better, because, well, it’s yours, candles and all.

In our house it’s a marble bundt cake with chocolate ganache frosting and M&M’s in all colors, except brown – brown on brown, that’s just not happy enough; we clean them up (read: eat them) as they come out of the bag, so there’s no chance they hit the cake by accident. There seem to always be enough volunteers on hand for that job…

When Felix was born, we lived in California and were somewhat removed from much cultural baggage or input, and so I made the arbitrary birthday cake decision and started the chocolate covered, M&M encrusted, marbled bundt cake tradition. By now, this cake is Birthday Cake and everybody gets it – except for Martin, who is a free spirit when it comes to birthday cakes and will answer both “big” and “beignets” and everything in between when asked what his cake is supposed to look like. After all, he reasons, a birthday cake is just a cake, made specially for you on your birthday. Exactly. I rest my cake case and hope that my children will continue eating the brown M&M’s as they emerge from the bag while decorating future birthdays’ cakes.

This is a very simple recipe that has been yielding good results for 13 years by now. You’ll be rewarded with a just sweet enough, slightly moist cake. I’m sure you could jazz it up by adding chopped nuts to the batter, or change the decoration (rainbow sprinkles, anyone?), or leave it off altogether, if you were just looking for a reliable marbled bundt pan cake and dust it with powdered sugar instead. It’s yummy regardless.

Birthday Cake

for a 23 cm / 9 in bundt pan

250 g (1 cup + 1 tblsp) butter, room temperature
250 g (1 ¼ cup) sugar
1 tblsp vanilla sugar
½ tsp salt
4 eggs
400 g (3 cups) flour
100 g ((⅔ cup) cornstarch
2 ½ tsp baking powder
150 ml (½ cup) milk
3 tblsp unsweetened cocoa and a little more milk

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C / 375 F.

2. Cream butter, sugar, vanilla sugar and salt.

3. Add the eggs, one at a time. Wait until incorporated, then add the next. Beat until creamy and whiteish.

4. Stir together flour, baking powder and cornstarch. Carefully add this to the butter mixture – first half of the flour mix, then the milk, then the rest of the flour. Mix until well incorporated.

5. Butter a bundt pan of your favorite design and fill in about half of the white cake batter.

6. Add the cocoa to the remaining cake batter and mix thoroughly. If it seems too thick, add a little extra milk at a time, until it feels like the white mix in consistency. Add it on top of the white batter.

7. Stick a fork into the batter and swirl the two colors, turning the pan as you go, until you arrive at the point where you started. Smooth the top with a moist spatula.

8. Bake for about 50 to 60 minutes on the middle rack, testing for doneness after 50 minutes with a wooden skewer. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.

9. Remove cake from the oven and let it sit in the pan for 5 minutes, then invert it onto a plate. Let cool completely before decorating

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