Big Mountain's daughter turned six last week, so I of course made her a birthday cake! You can read more about the story of her birthday here. I'm sharing the recipe with you just in case you have similar ingredient constraints (maybe you're baking in rural Panama, I don't know!) or maybe you're opposed to butter (I'm sorry) for health reasons. The cake is really good, for what it is. But it doesn't compare to, say, my Classic Yellow Cake with Chocolate Malt Frosting.

Putting the second layer on:
The cake recipe I used is from Seasoned to Taste. It's really simple and it doesn't call for any exotic ingredients. The only thing I did differently was to chop up a bar of white chocolate and add it to the batter instead of adding orange zest.

To form the smaller second tier, I simply halved the recipe and used a smaller pan.

The frosting is Betty Crocker chocolate. It was actually pretty good, although as you probably are aware I'd much rather have made my own.

The finished product:
Sheet cakes are probably the simplest kind of cake you can make. There's no layering involved, no scary moment of truth where you discover whether or not you greased the pan well enough. They are casual cakes, begging to be taken to a school or work function, a picnic, or (in my case) a potluck dinner. Everyone will know and appreciate the fact that you made something with your own two hands, and you can smile secretly to yourself because you didn't have to work all that hard.

This sheet cake in particular was a great find for me, because I was trying to accommodate one friend who doesn't like chocolate (I know! Horrors!) and one who prefers fruit-less desserts. Not only were they pleased, but so was everyone else!
Recipe for Walnut Cake with Praline Frosting
Adapted from Cooking Light
Makes 16 servings.

For the cake:
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
7 tbsp butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted; divided
Cooking Spray

For the frosting:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
6 tbsp milk, divided
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp light corn syrup
Dash of salt
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9x13 inch baking pan with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. 

Place 7 tbsp butter, sugar, and brown sugar in a mixing bowl; beat at medium-high until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in egg white. Beat in vanilla. Add flour alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Fold in 6 tbsp walnuts. Scrape batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 28 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

For the frosting:
Place brown sugar, 1/4 cup milk, 2 tbsp butter, corn syrup, and dash of salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook two minutes. Scrape brown sugar mixture into a bowl. Add remaining two tbsp milk and powdered sugar; beat with mixer at high speed 2 minutes or until slightly cooled and thick. Beat in 1/2 tsp vanilla. Spread frosting in an even layer over cooled cake; sprinkle with 2 tbsp chopped walnuts. Let cake stand until frosting sets; cut into squares. 
My mom turned thirty (for several years in a row now!) on July 25th, and this was her birthday cake. It was very rich, especially with the frosting, and very lemony. And did I mention that it was also very, very tasty?
Recipe for Lemonade Layer Cake (Scroll down for frosting recipe.) 
Adapted from Cooking Light
Makes two nine-inch round cakes, or approximately 16 servings.

1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
6 tbsp butter, softened
1 tbsp grated lemon zest (about 3 medium lemons)
3 tbsp thawed lemonade concentrate
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt 
1-1/4 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two nine-inch round baking pans. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. 

In a large bowl, beat first five ingredients (through vanilla) with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add eggs and egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour and beating well after each addition.

Pour batter into prepared pans; sharply tap pans once on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes; remove from pans and cool on a wire rack. 

Lemonade Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from Brown Bag Specials
Makes enough frosting for one nine-inch two-layer cake or 12 cupcakes. 

3 cups confectioner's sugar
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
2-3 tbsp thawed lemonade concentrate

Mix all ingredients at medium speed until well combined. Spread onto cooled cake and allow frosting to set before cutting.
Since making it for the first time in the summer of 2009, this cake has become my go-to recipe when I need (or want) to bake for something important. It's simple, dependable, and it tastes wonderful every time. I know I can make it when I'm short on time, or in an unfamiliar kitchen, or when I really, really don't want to mess up.

So when I went to Columbus to meet my boyfriend's parents for the first time, I knew this would be the perfect thing to make for them. They loved it! They even asked me to make them another one before I left. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to do that. But I did give Matt's mom a copy of Molly Wizenburg's book, A Homemade Life. Next time I visit, I hope we can make it together. 

I usually make it in a round baking pan, but it's such an adaptable recipe that a square one works just as well. It would probably make good cupcakes, too! I'll be posting a recipe for a different lemon cake (it's my mom's' favorite kind of cake, so I'm constantly trying different variations) that has a lemonade buttercream frosting. That would go well with this, too . . . Hmm . . . 

Recipe for French-Style Lemon Yogurt Cake
From A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenburg
Makes one 9-inch round cake.

For the Cake:
1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
Zest of one lemon
1/2 cup well-stirred plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil

For the Lemon Syrup:
Juice of one lemon
1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted

For the Lemon Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
3 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan. In a large bowl, combine yogurt, sugar and eggs and mix well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and lemon zest. Add the flour mixture in with the yogurt mixture and blend. Mix in the oil and stir until well combined. The batter should be very smooth.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 20 minutes and then turn out onto a cake rack or serving plate to cool.

While cake is still warm, mix together lemon syrup ingredients and spoon over cake. Let cake cool completely.

For the lemon icing, whisk together ingredients and spoon over cooled cake. Wait until icing has set, about one hour. Serve. 

(If you can't wait, don't. Who cares.)
This cake, dear readers, is a birthday cake classic. The person lucky enough to receive one of these from your kitchen for his or her birthday will thank you. So will everyone at the party. 

This is not a "light" cake. (In case you were wondering, cakes aren't really supposed to be in that category to begin with.) This one is particularly rich, with a generous coating of chocolate malt frosting to round out the moist, yellow cake inside.
I made it for my best friend from college, Katie, who turned 24 on June 2nd. It may have taken me nearly two months to get this posted, but I wasn't about to forget to share it. No-way-josé.
Recipe for Yellow Cake with Chocolate Malt Frosting
From She Wears Many Hats
Makes 2 9-inch round cakes.

For Cake:
2 3/4 cups flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature 
1 cup milk, divided
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

For Frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup malted milk powder
7 tbsp milk

For cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two nine-inch round baking pans and line bottoms with parchment paper. In large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add butter and 3/4 cup milk to the mixture and beat until just combined. 

In a separate bowl, lightly beat eggs, remaining 1/4 cup milk, and vanilla extract together. Gradually add to the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Do not over beat. 

Divide batter into prepared pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Allow cake to cool completely before frosting.

For frosting:
Beat butter and vanilla extract together until smooth. Add in powdered sugar, cocoa powder and malted milk powder; lightly mix. Add in milk, one tbsp at a time, until smooth. 

Note: When I frost cakes, I line the cake stand with strips of wax paper. After the frosting has set, I just pull the strips out, and the cake stand or platter is free of errant icing globs. Voila!
First of all, let me apologize for the poor photo quality. It was nighttime, and my father's birthday, so I didn't want to make a fuss about taking cake pictures before the man got to eat.

Over it? So am I. Moving on. My dad's all-time favorite dessert is carrot cake, and since I'm finally in town for his birthday, I got to make him one from scratch! It turned out really well--the right texture (thanks to the carrots, walnuts, golden raisins, coconut, and crushed pineapple) and the right amount of sweetness, thanks to the cream cheese frosting. Honestly, there could have been more frosting in my book. But I always want more frosting. So maybe that's just me.

While the coconut paired well with the carrots in terms of texture, it didn't add much in terms of flavor. There was general agreement that the amount of coconut should be increased for next time. If you do end up adding extra, let me know how it turns out!

Mmm, frosting . . .
Recipe for Carrot Cake
Slightly adapted from Simply Scratch
Makes 2 9-inch cakes (for one layer cake).

2 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup butter, softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
2 cups grated carrots (I used two jumbo-sized carrots)
1 cup shredded coconut
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup golden raisins
1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple

1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 16-oz. package powdered sugar

For the Cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9-inch cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper.

Whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg until combined. Set aside.

Beat butter and sugar together in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one and a time, and mix well. *Alternating,* add flour mixture and milk, beating well after each addition. Mix in carrots, coconut, pineapple, raisins, and walnuts; mix well. Pour evenly into prepared pans.

Bake for 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.

For the Frosting:
With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla in a medium bowl until well combined. Gradually sift in powdered sugar, beating well after each addition.

To assemble, remove parchment paper and place one layer upside down on a serving platter and spread a layer of frosting. Cover with remaining cake layer (upside down), remove parchment paper, and spread top and sides of cake with remaining frosting.

Store in the refrigerator.
I made this cake for my family as a treat after they came home from Florida. It was such a big hit (with my mother especially, who as you might recall is a citrus-dessert-fiend) that I will be making it again for Easter brunch.

This photograph is slightly misleading. I took it before I added the final glaze, so you can see the toothpick holes from where the lemon syrup went in--those get covered up with powdered sugar glaze. But it was dark by the time I got around to making the glaze, and in the morning, there wasn't enough left to photograph . . .
Recipe for Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Cake
From Sweet Pea's Kitchen
Makes 1 9 x 5 inch loaf.

For the Loaf:
1-1/2 cups + 1 tbsp flour, divided
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher aslt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp grated lemon zest (about 2 small lemons)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed

For the lemon syrup:
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 small lemons)
1/3 cup sugar

For the lemon glze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla, and oil. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet. In another bowl, gently toss the blueberries in the remaining 1 tbsp flour and fold them very gently into the batter.

P:our batter into prepared loaf pan and bake 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove.

While the loaf is cooling, make the lemon syrup. In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the lemon juice and sugar until the sugar has completely dissolved. Continue to cook for 3-5 more minutes or until mixture thickens slightly.

Using a toothpick, poke holes in the tops and sides of the warm loaf. Brush with lemon syrup. Let the syrup soak in and then brush again. Cool cake completely.

For the lemon glaze, whisk the powdered sugar and lemon juice together in a small bowl. The mixture should be thick but pourable. Pour the glaze over the cake and let it drip down the sides. Allow glaze to harden, about 15 minutes, before serving.
Sometimes, I read a recipe and it is love at first sight. It might be that the recipe has rave reviews, or a beautiful picture accompanying it, or that it contains ingredients or combinations of ingredients that I haven't seen before. In the case of the mango cake, it was all three. As soon as I saw Biren's cake on Pinterest, I knew I had to make it. First of all, it's a quick bread (read: it's easy to make), but the addition of the cream cheese frosting dresses it up into a cake fancy enough for a dinner party. Which is exactly what I needed a few weeks ago.

If I make this cake again, I think I'll add some shredded coconut to the batter. Mango and coconut go so well together, and the mango flavor in the cake was quite subtle. Coconut might help bring it out, and would give it an even more tropical flare.
Recipe for Mango Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
From Roti n Rice
Makes 1 9 x 5 inch loaf.

For the cake:
1-3/4 cups flour
1 tsp powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup (one stick) butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup mango puree*

For the frosting:
8 oz (225 grams) cream cheese
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup powdered sugar
Dried sweetened mango, for decorating

Grease and lightly flour a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and baking powder.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in eggs. Add in flour mixture, mango puree, and milk. Stir with a spatula until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely before frosting.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Gradually beat in powdered sugar until smooth and creamy, another 2 minutes. Frost cake and top with dried mango slivers.

*Mango puree is an unusual ingredient. I found it unsweetened in the frozen section at Global Foods Market. There was also a canned version, but it had a lot of added sugar.
These are the first cupcakes I have ever made. A momentous occasion indeed! Ah, life in the first world.

As such, I am going to take this opportunity to discuss the relative advantages and disadvantages of cupcakes. A cupcake editorial, if you will. There is a serious cupcake craze in this country that has been going on for quite some time now. Cupcake boutiques have sprouted up in strip malls, Food Network has entire shows dedicated exclusively to cupcakes, and world records in largest cupcake and largest cupcake tower have been broken. (By the way, the world's largest cupcake contains two million calories. Yeah. Two million.) Not to mention the cupcake flavors that are out there these days! In the name of research, I consulted the universe's guide to trendy of course. I looked through twelve pages of cupcake photos, and here are some choice results I thought I'd share with you: Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes with Guinness Cake, Jameson Ganache and Bailey's Frosting, Audrey Hepburn Cupcakes (that's when you know you've made it big--someone's named a cupcake after you), Doughnut Cupcakes (bring on the clogged arteries and type two diabetes!), Fig, Goat Cheese, and Caramelized Onion Cupcakes (also known as a disappointment), and my personal favorite, the 'Cupcake Inside a Cupcake' Cupcake. On my "Things that are Unnecessary" list, that last one may have bumped celebrity gossip down to number two.

Before we know it, normal-sized cakes will be phased out in supermarkets and bakeries across the globe in favor of their tinier counterparts, Pinkberry will carry cupcakes made with frozen yogurt, and the Girl Scouts will begin peddling Thin Mint and Samoa flavored cupcakes every spring. Is that where society is headed, people? Is it? Is it?!

Obviously, I've been slow to jump on the cupcake bandwagon. Sure, I can enjoy a fancy dessert from Jilly's (they won on Cupcake Wars!), but to be honest, I just don't get what all the fuss is about. To me, cupcakes seem like a cop-out. Just make a real cake, people! Why is that so hard?

It is a bit funny that I've been so cupcake resistant, because I am a huge fan of muffins. In fact, my first blog post ever was on bran muffins, and since then, I've posted two other recipes. Maybe that's because muffins are acceptable breakfast fare, even though they taste kind of like dessert. But cupcakes have frosting, so it's generally looked down upon to consume them in the morning, which relegates them to dessert. But if I'm going to eat dessert, I'd rather have a piece of real cake, or a slice of real pie, or a scoop of real ice cream, instead of a carrot cake cupcake (37 recipes on Foodgawker), or an apple pie cupcake (7 recipes on Foodgawker), or an ice cream cupcake (25 recipes on Foodgawker).

So that's my opinion on cupcakes. But sometimes, the world demands that you make a double chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream frosting. And by the world, I mean my mother. She is 100% on the cupcake bandwagon, and I can't really refuse a request to bake something. Especially if it's something I've never tried to make before. And because I am an honest person, I will tell you that I really liked these cupcakes. They were very delicious. And my mother, who by all accounts is a cupcake connoisseur, called this recipe "a keeper." And that, dear readers, says it all.

And by the way, the frosting on these cupcakes is incredible. If you want to just take the frosting recipe and use it on something else (like a real cake, or the back of a spoon--no judgment here), that's fine with me. I won't tell.
Recipe for Chocolate Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting
From Sing for Your Supper
Makes two dozen cupcakes.

For the cake:
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

For the frosting:
1/2 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the cakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line two cupcake tins with liners.

Whisk the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat at medium speed for about 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water. The batter will be absurdly thin, and will probably end up all over your hands, face, counter top, and muffin tins. Totally worth it. But wear an apron. Also, don't forget to put in the sugar. But if you do, and you get all the way to the end of the recipe and then wonder why the batter isn't thin, and then taste it, and realize you left it out and that the resulting batter is one of the worst things you have ever tasted, you can add it in at the end. The cupcakes will still turn out just fine.

Pour batter into muffin cups. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in the trays, and then cool completely on wire racks.

For the frosting: Combine cocoa powder and melted butter in a medium bowl. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add a small amount of additional milk if needed. Stir in vanilla. (Makes about 2 cups frosting.)
In a complete 180-degree turn from the types of recipes I have been posting for the last month, I present to you a decadent cake containing all kinds of ingredients I have shied away from during my Whole30 Challenge. (Flour! Sugar! Yogurt! Butter! Red Wine?!) My reflective post on the Paleo Diet is on its way, but I wanted to get this out to you so that if you are so inclined, you can make this dessert, impress all of your friends, and recognize it as one of the most perfect endings to a dinner party, ever.

It is as good as it sounds. And the whipped cream is one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted in my life. I am not exaggerating.
Recipe for Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Honey Mascarpone Whipped Cream & Berries
From The Pastry Affair
Makes one 9x5 inch loaf

For the cake:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
3/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp cornstarch
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghiradelli)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt).

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together with an electric mixer. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until smooth. Beat in the wine and yogurt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

For the whipped cream:
1 cup (8 oz.) mascarpone cheese
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup honey

In a medium bowl, whip mascarpone, cream, and honey until soft peaks form. Spoon on top of cooled cake and serve with fresh raspberries and blackberries. If you are so inclined, sift a bit of powdered sugar over the cake for a more elegant look.