Thursday, September 10, 2009

Birthday Sheet Cake

Barefoot Bloggers must have it in for me this month, because they chose not just one, but two cakes as September projects. This makes my baking-challenged soul quiver, let me tell you. I am Baroness of the Box Cake.

However, this time I couldn't cheat, so I raided the baking aisle at the store and bought foreign items like chocolate chips, baking soda and vanilla. You know, stuff that most normal people just always have on hand? I even had to buy a disposable cake pan, and this one was a whopper.

The recipe I made was for Ina's Birthday Sheet Cake, and that sucker is a cake. Ever seen a 12x18-inch cake pan? When I saw it in the baking aisle, I almost mistook it for a luge.

A couple of notes before I get into the details:

*Ina insists that the key to a light and fluffy cake is that the eggs, butter and sour cream are at room temperature when you start. Ina says she usually just sets them out over night... Okay, does this give anyone else the heebie-jeebies?

I mean, don't eggs and butter and sour cream spoil if not refrigerated? Isn't that why we *keep* them there in the first place? Still, Ina sure bakes more that I do, so I let them sit out on the counter for three hours before I started.

*Ina's Birthday Sheet Cake is basically a vanilla cake with chocolate frosting. Except. She adds the zest of an entire lemon to the cake batter. This also seemed a little weird to me. Lemon cake with chocolate icing? I wondered if Ina'd been sniffing glue when she came up with that combination, but, like a good girl, I followed orders.

*This cake is ginormous, and Ina instructs us to use a mixer with a paddle attachment to make the batter. Translation: Ina assumes that everyone can afford an industrial, 12-cup Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer, which is a few hundred little dollars.

This is no problem for Ina, in her little crib in the Hamptons, but it's a pretty big assumption that an average Joe has a Kitchen Aid kickin' it on his counter.

However, when I married my husband almost 9 years ago, my Aunt Pat, who happens to be both generous and an amazing cook, sent me one of those suckers as a wedding gift. Shamefully, I rarely bake, so the thing had gathered some dust...I know, I am lame.

Anyways, enough yakkin.' Here's the Birthday Sheet cake, from The Barefoot Contessa Family Style.

For the Cake:

18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
6 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
8 ounces (about a cup) sour cream, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

For the Frosting:

24 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

M&M's chocolate candy, for decorating

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 12x18x1 1/2-inch sheet pan.

To make the cake, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. On medium speed, add the eggs, two at a time, then the sour cream, vanilla and lemon zest, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Mix well. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt and baking soda. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until just smooth. Finish mixing by hand to be sure the batter is well mixed. Pour evenly into the pan, smooth the top with a spatula, and bake in the center of the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan to room temperature

For the frosting, place the chocolate chips and heavy cream in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chips are completely melted. Off the heat, add the corn syrup and vanilla and allow the chocolate mixture to cool to room temperature. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the chocolate mixture and the softened butter on medium speed for a few minutes until it's thickened.

Spread the frosting evenly on the cake. Have the children decorate the cake with the M&M's.

Serves just about the whole damn neighborhood. Which is basically what I tried to do. I stood at the corner bus-stop yesterday, shamelessly pimping it out to eager schoolchildren. We still didn't finish it, but we gave strong effort.

And guess what? Those little taste testers didn't notice the lemon zest--or at least they had the good sense not to complain...because they know in a couple of weeks, the Cake Pimp will be back on that corner, saying, "Psssst....guess what I got?"


  1. Ha ha, I think you coined a whole new name for yourself! ;) What fun. Eggs and butter can hang out on the counter for days but sour cream...yeah that makes me cringe a bit. I've seen that stuff take on very weird colors when left to its own devices.

  2. Looks positively de-lish! Now, I just have to come up with an excuse (and the amount of people it needs to serve) to bake it. Yummy! But when you say you (or your taste testers) didn't notice the lemon zest are you saying you could leave it out? Or did you find it worth the effort?

  3. Baronness of the Box Cake? Awesome!

  4. I'm actually a big Ina fan, as almost everything I've made of hers (except brownie pudding) comes out like it's supposed to...and tastes v. good. I've wondered about her talk about Kitchen Aids, and her overabundance of expensive ingredients...but at least she doesn't flaunt her cleavage, or say EVOO until you want to start flailing. A girl's gotta take what she can get.

  5. Box cake was invented for a damn reason, says me.
    My stepmother is also an Ina fan and has made many of her desserts for us over the years. This past Easter I had a hard eating the cake, however, because I saw that the eggs, butter, cream cheese and some other fancy dairy product stayed out over night. Uh - ICK.

  6. Okay, I have to admit it; I am a box cake snob. I will use it in a pinch but I HATE them. In the early years of the man cubs childhoodage I was the weirdo mother on the block who made most stuff from scratch and I think the lemon zest just makes the cake pop more. I don't think you get an overwhelming lemon taste. But then I'm weird.

    And my grandmother was Southern so i don't blink an eye about leaving the butter or the eggs out. However, I don't think I would leave the sour cream out more than a few hours. Just gets funky.

  7. Your cake baking skills are probably way above mine since I've only made one cake from scratch in my life and it suuuucked!

  8. You gave me a lot of great laughs. I made this cake, too. Silly me, I thought I'd outsmart Ina and make a three-layer cake. What a chore!
    Overnight to room temp? No way! I leave mine out for, like an hour, unless you live in Siberia. OLD trick, put eggs in warm water to bring to room temp. Anyway, kudos to you for trying scratch cake. Sadly, I thought this recipe was a bust. Funny about pimping out cake. I sent my husband to work with half of mine and froze the rest. I ate 1/2 a slice. If I'm going on a carb frenzy, it has to be really worth it. This

  9. Interesting....I will have to try it!!

  10. Cake Pimp! Ha! This cake is pretty rockin'! I've never left my milk or sour cream out, just my eggs. Never overnight.

    My in-laws gave me one of those Kitchen Aid mixers for Christmas a few years ago. It's Cobalt Blue. I would never have gotten one for myself!

  11. Yum! But yeah...ginormous!!! Hmmmm...cake's got a certain ring to it.

  12. I would mention the eggs and butter, but I've been beaten. I would have halfed that sucker. I also would have "forgotten" the lemon zest because I'm a rebel. Now what neighborhood are you pimping out cak?

  13. I want a Kitchen aid!!! Cake sounds yum - and the thing with leaving the ingredients out - I agree but they would probably be okay after just one night...well you'd hope....they are going to bake so it should be ok. xxx

  14. Does your KitchenAid mixer hang out with the bottle of Jack Daniels like mine does?

    So what did you think of the cake? Be honest. I love Ina, but I am digging those Funfetti box cakes, not sure if it's Betty or my man Duncan, but...yummy. And the eggs can be cold!

  15. I love that you are now the "cake pimp"! Hilarious! Did you like how the cake tasted? I would never make a cake that big, at least in my current childless situation, but I wonder if you could do a 1/2 or 1/4 recipe pretty easily? It does look yummy... did you get some satisfaction knowing it was made from scratch?

  16. The image of you with the giant cake at the bus stop "pimping it" to the school children -- just made me laugh! I agree with you that leaving out stuff like butter & sour cream overnight is a little creepy. I wouldn't do it...a few hours of thawing will do =)

  17. Can I help finish the rest? I'd kill for some cake right now...

  18. Hey all, thanks for the comments and sorry it took me so long to get back to you...I'd explain, but you don't wanna know.

    -the lemon zest is barely, if at all, detectable. I guess because it's such a huge-ass affair. I think you could leave it out. It cuts the richness just a teeeeeeeny bit, but not enough for any real "emergency" trips to the store for a lemon.

    -Final verdict: fluffy, airy, light cake. She may have a point about those dodgy warm dairy ingredients. Icing: yum. But the whole thing together...kind of too much. Kids and dessert lovers would go for it, but just too sweet, too rich, too MUCH for me.

    PS: Next Cake Pimp-Out--bus #111, my corner, Wednesday, 9/23. there, or be...cakeless.

  19. Room temp ingredients are fine, but overnight? I guess if you have kids and overnight is four hours like it is here...

    can't get the image of a luge full of salmonella and chocolate out of my head...

    i'm gonna send you some cake recipes, easy-ass ones, and get you off the box mix.

  20. Nap...oh dear, I think a luge of salmonella and chocolate might not agree with you, huh? Sorry, girlfriend!