Sweet Summer Birthday Cakes (and a Texas Sheet Cake Recipe)
Texas sheet cake (with walnuts)
Jennifer Reed is a pastry chef based in South Florida and owner of the Sugar Monkey. Every week,
she'll share her insights about life, local food, and the people who
Summer birthdays are kind of a drag. Yeah, you could take your cupcakes to school on the last day. But so could four other kids who also had summer birthdays. And a birthday party? No way. My birthday parties consisted of my aunt, my grandma and grandpa, my mom, and myself. I don't even recall my brother being there. It was summer, and he was having real fun, not pseudo-party fun. The actual celebration part lasted only about ten minutes. Like the family was getting together and then -- "Oh shit, we have to light the candles and open the Barbie clothes so we can finish talking."
cake boss. When we were little, he would make ladybug-shaped cakes and monkey-shaped cakes -- really fun cakes. But as I got older and my
palette became more refined, I developed a taste for cherry chip and
funfetti cakes. I loved the color of the cakes. I loved the fact that
you could go to the store and pick out the cake mix and then a frosting to
go with it. Cake in the colors of the Care Bears -- ingenious!
mixes. She would let me have them on the condition that I make my own
birthday cake. Hell yeah, at least I knew that part of my party
would be rockin'! I would wake up early on the morning of my birthday
to start my cake. Soon the kitchen would be filled with the "scent" of
cherries. At this point, I had already licked the beaters and tested out
my frosting on some graham crackers. It was my birthday, and I had free
reign in the kitchen. By the afternoon, my beautiful
rainbow-chip-covered cake was sitting on the counter, topped in sugar
letters, tempting me to eat it.
evening, my family would sing to me and let me blow out the candles. I
would cut one slice of cake for myself. Then my mother would bring in
her birthday cake from the week before and the adults would eat that
one. Her cake was (and still is) Texas Sheet Cake -- dark chocolate cake
with boiled chocolate frosting made from scratch -- not picked off grocery
store shelves. None of us ever imagined I would end up where I am,
shuddering at the thought of boxed mixes and preservatives. I was home
last month for my nephew's eighth-grade graduation. There was a
reception after with cake and ice cream. I ate the cherry chip cake
with the fluffy white icing. I would never make it for myself again,
but it sure takes me back!
for my mom's birthday cake. She says it's best made the day before you
are going to eat it. It's sad since I am a professional baker, but I've made the cake for her
only once. The honor has been passed on to my
sister-in-law, who lives much closer. And whose sons love those cherry
and funfetti cakes just as much as I do.
1/4 cups butter -- my mom uses 1 stick of butter and 1/2 cup crisco
1/2 T cocoa powder
t baking soda
10x14(or 15)x1 cake pan. Mix the sugar and flour together in a bowl.
Combine the butter, cocoa powder, and water in a saucepan and bring to a
boil, stirring constantly. Add to the flour/sugar mixture and whisk
in. Combine the buttermilk, soda, vanilla, eggs, and salt. Whisk into
the previous mix until the ingredients are combined. Bake for
approximately 20 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes
start to make the icing. The cake should be iced while it is still
1/2 T cocoa
the butter, milk, and cocoa to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove
from the heat and stir in the confectioner's sugar and vanilla. Pour
over the cake while both are still warm.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.